Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to School

Okay, so if you are still checking the blog due to habit. Here's one for ya! " A man without eyes saw plums on a tree. He neither took plums nor left plums, now how could this be?"

Friday, August 24, 2007

We made it!

Hello! This is Bandanna Ben blogging from the Embassy Suites Hotel across the street from the Portland, ME airport. Warpzilla and I are officially AT Thru-hikers!

We finished up the 100-mile wilderness on Wednesday night doing 38.6 miles and then 33.0 miles for our final two days. We met up at the Katahdin Stream Campground with Tim Harrington and our families on Wednesday night and set up camp for the final time. We got up at 5:30 and were all packed up and signed in the Katahdin Register at 7:00 sharp. The 5.2 mile climb to the summit was unreal. Huge boulders, a stream down the middle of the trail, re-bar hand holds on rock faces, and windy conditions made our ascent all the more challenging (and rewarding!). We reached the summit at 12:30 and spent 45 minutes on top taking photographs and taking in the fact that we were done with our 2,175 mile thru-hike.

Just before we left the top we opened up the bottle containing Steve's ashes for the first time since Georgia. It was extra special for us because on Tuesday I talked to my mom via cell phone and found out that Tim (Steve's dad) was trying to get up to Maine to join us for the end. Well he did and the scattering of ashes was a definite scatter with the 15-20 mph winds up there. Hiking this whole way truly is a great tribute to the man that we remember as Steve Harrington, our goofy outdoorsman friend that was always up for an adventurous hike.

We made it down the mountain 15 minutes faster than our ascent despite the fact that it was painstakingly slow due to the incline and realization that the huge boulders we had struggled to climb over now were what we were sliding down. We reached the cars at 6:30 and drove to Millinocket, ME for a real meal and then headed back to Shaw's Hostel in Monson for a final trail-type night and that scrumptious breakfast one more time.

Today we drove from Monson to Freeport and then to Portland and checked in to our hotel and went over to the coastline part of the city and met Spencer's roommate's parents for dinner. This roommate Jason is the same one that met us to deliver a food re-supply in Gorham, NH. Spence and I ate our 'Surf and Turf' celebratory dinners of Filet Mignon and lobster and finished the course off with homemade Maine blueberry cobbler a la mode.

All of our flights take off from the airport between 5:45 and 7 tomorrow morning and we will arrive in Raleigh, NC during the morning. We are having a celebration with family, friends, and our scout troop BSA Troop 215 at the Harrington's house tomorrow night and then on Sunday morning Warpzilla and I will part ways for our fall semesters. My mom and I will drive back down to Jacksonville, FL and he will head over to Charlotte, NC.

Ok so now for the BIG THANKS! area of this post. First and foremost we could not have done this trip without the support of our families which i thought of so often this summer as our "pit crew." It was quite a race (95 day thru-hike) and wouldn't have happened without their help in coordinating re-supply points, food boxes, new trail runners, etc. It really would be the longest post of all time for me to list all of the great people that showed us kindness and incredible generosity this summer. From old friends, to family friends, to friends of friends, to complete strangers; we truly have been amazed at the "Trail Magic" that goes along with the AT. If you are reading this, you know who you are, and we really are grateful for what you've done for us.

Well, time to get up the final batch of pictures and update the mileage one last time. We hope this website as Garrett originally posted will continue to be a resource for hikers doing long distance hikes on the AT, even though our posting will stop and tracking our trip will no longer be an option (though I am thinking PCT now, but in sections :-). Also, if you have specific questions about trip planning, gear, re-supply, etc. or any other question or comment send us an e-mail and we'd love to help out if we can! Thanks again for everything folks, the phrase "the people are the trail" truly is more than just a maxim.

Happy Trails,
Ben "Bandanna Ben" Burchardi (
Spencer "Warpzilla" McKay (
Garrett "Footlocker" Dixon (

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Last Stop

Writing to you live from Shaw's Lodging in Monson, ME on Sunday morning of the 19th. Spence and I had a great breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, sausage, french toast, home fries, and orange juice. The catch was you had to give them a number. I started with 2 and he started with 3 and that is what we got: 2 and 3 respectively of everything listed above. Round two was another 2 for me and a 2 for Spence. Now we're packed up and headed down the road to the General Store for some supplemental food for the 100-mile wilderness and off we go. Averaging 27 miles a day we will arrive at the base of Katahdin on Wednesday night and climb the mountain on Thursday. We will post a final write-up, the rest of our Maine photos, and the final trip mileage upon completion of our trip. Signing off for the final time on the trail as we leave the last trail town for all northbound hikers.

-Bandanna Ben and Warpzilla (grr)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Only 109 Miles to the Base of Mt. Katahdin

On Saturday, August 18, Ben and Spencer hiked a wopping 31 miles in yet another day of cold rain reaching Monson, Maine just after 7:00 P.M. (At several peaks along the way, they got their first glimpse of Mt. Katahdin.) They were so very glad Shaw's Lodging had a vacancy and wasted no time in getting cleaned up in time to go eat some supper. Needless to say, all their clothes were soaked and in great need of a visit with the washing machine. What to do? What to do?

Well, the wonderful owners / operators of Shaw's Lodging, Dawn and Sue, had the perfect solution and invited Ben and Spencer to a closet within the lodge where "extra" clothes are stored. Ben and Spencer quickly accepted the offer to "borrow" a shirt / sweater and britches so they would be presentable at a nearby restaurant as well as warm. For all of you who know Ben and Spencer, you can only imagine how this impromptu selection of clothes quickly went from let's look our best... to hey! let's see how creative we can be!!! Oh my...from Spencer's description, it sounds like the two were quite a pair...Let's just say that they were so "colorful" and "misfitted" that Dawn and Sue could not pass up the opportunity for a photo session before the guys departed for the restaurant. It sounds memorable, doesn't it? Hopefully, visitors of this blogspot will eventually have access to the photos as well. This, we've all gotta see!!

So what was the BIG surprise in Monson for these two hikers? It was a special dinner at the Lake Shore House Eatery compliments of Mr. Tom Wells and Mr. Jim Sherrer and their staff at Design Development in Raleigh, NC. (This is the architectural firm with which Spencer was employed during the summer of 2006. Obviously, Spencer wasn't employed there this summer because he decided to take a little hike from Georgia to Maine instead!!) The guys had told me they were planning to eat there (AT thru-hikers' favorite); however, they were elated upon learning someone else was picking up their tab. Thank you to the Design Development Staff for the scrumpdillyumptious meal you furnished Ben and Spencer. They said that the food (lobster rolls and steak and cheese wraps) were fabulous and they enjoyed it so very much. At least they were "dressed" for the occasion. ;-)

All of the "Trail Angels for the summer of 2007" have been so wonderful to these fellows! You ALL have certainly had an integral part in making this mission so successful for them whether you met them on / off the AT, bought them a meal(s), furnished their lodging, sent them a package, supplemented their expenses, planted Trail Magic or initiated it, made phone calls, sent e-mails, or from home kept them in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you so much from the boys' families. We are all most appreciative of your kindness and generosity.

As far as Sunday, August 19 goes, Ben and Spencer feel the need to stick around Shaw's Lodging long enough to check-out the Sunday breakfast spread. They hear it's fantastic! (I love the AT "networking" that obviously takes place up and down the Trail. It's great!) Their plan is to hike 20 or so miles on Sunday. When asked about the weather forecast, Spencer reported that the next several days should be cool, yet clear. Sounds great!

Unless Ben and Spencer are given access to a personal computer while in Monson, they probably will not be able to post a blog themselves until after their completion of the AT. Their families will keep everyone posted. I'm taking Spencer's laptop with me to Maine this week. So, hopefully they can post a blog as soon as possible upon their completion of the AT but before we depart from Portland.

Stay tuned...
Zoe (Spencer's Mom)

Approaching Monson, Maine and Doing Well

Whew! All is very well with Ben and Spencer. I finally received that long awaited phone call from Spencer (Saturday, August 18 at 1:15 P.M.) with an encouraging report. They are within 17 miles of Monson, Maine. Their plan is to stay in a lodge on Saturday night in Monson. They will be so grateful to get a hot shower to thaw out, eat a hot meal(s), do laundry, sleep in a warmer environment, and re-supply their packs with food for the remainder of the hike.

Even though it has rained every day this week and the temperature is unseasonably cold (hovering around 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, but of course even colder after sundown), their spirits are not dampened...only their shoes, clothes, packs, etc.

The countdown has begun, folks...this time next Saturday (August 25 by mid-afternoon) Ben and Spencer will be in Raleighwood, North Cakalacky!! YIPPEEEE! It'll be a happy, happy day!

Safe and happy trails to those hikin' boys!!
Zoe (Spencer's Mom)

Where Are Those Hiking Boys???

Well, to the best of our knowledge, Ben and Spencer are approaching Monson, Maine. If not Saturday (August 18), then hopefully Sunday (August 19) is when they will arrive in Monson to shower and re-supply with the VERY LAST food box that the families sent. The boys will also have the opportunity to eat a fabulous lunch or dinner in Monson, for they have a BIG surprise awaiting them in Monson. (More later...)

Thank you to everyone who has called and e-mailed inquiring of the boys' health and whereabouts. Your concern means ever so much. As soon as Spencer calls home, I will tell them of all the fine folks who have checked on them and posted comments to the blog. They will appreciate all the support and encouragement.

Meanwhile, stay tuned...
Zoe (Spencer's Mom)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On the Trail again...

Spencer and Ben departed from Rangeley late Tuesday afternoon, August 14, and hiked several miles before reaching a shelter for the night. They are feeling considerably better especially since the doctor in Rangeley changed their medication. They are both being treated for Giardia Infection, even though the lab results remain outstanding. (The doctors will call the respective families with the report when determined since cell phone signals are few and far between at this point on the AT.)

When Spencer called home on Wednesday morning, August 15, they had already hiked 4 miles since sunrise. The skies are semi-cloudy with that typical summertime chance of T'storms later in the day; however, they still had a spectacular above-the- treeline view of Maine on the top of Saddleback Mountain. Their goal is to hike at least 20 more miles before sundown on Wednesday. As always, the determination and drive continues to be evident in Spencer's voice, as well as Ben's.

The revised plan is for Ben and Spencer to arrive at Baxter State Park in one week, unite with
their families, and do Mt. Katahdin!!! Needless to say my hiking boots, Nalgene bottle, Cliff Bars and BSA Troop 215 flag are packed and sitting by the door. This Momma (along with Ben's Momma, too) is so-o-o ready to see these guys and hike the summit! We can hardly wait!!!

Zoe (Spencer's Mom)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On the Road Again

After 4 zero days here in Rangeley, Spence and I are going stir-crazy to get back on the trail. Our battle with this stomach parasite has been up and down and the results have not come in yet of what exactly it is.

But we are getting a new prescription today at 2:00 (5 minutes from now) at the pharmacy on our way out of town to the trail. Our new Katahdin summit date is August 23rd (my 1st day of school and spencer's 4th) and we are going to give it our all between here and there to make it on time. Thank you for your support and we'll update further up the trail!

Bandanna Ben

Sunday, August 12, 2007

News & Observer Article

Good Morning. I welcome all of you that are visiting the blog upon reading this morning's News & Observer article about our trip. For those of you that are unable to read the article in the print edition you can find the article by following the hyperlinked items in this post.

If you are visiting the blog for the first time please check out our pictures and other helpful information that can be found by following the links on the right of the webpage. In addition, one can also find an archive of our earlier progress on the trail and read more about the trip from earlier this summer by clicking on the months in the archive on the lower right of the page. Thanks again to the News & Observer for writing about our trip to honor our dear friend Steve, and thank you to all of you that are visiting the page today.


Friday, August 10, 2007


We've got pills! Warpzilla and I were able to get in earlier than we anticipated to the clinic and the doctor gave us a prescription for Metronidazole, which should attack the parasite living in our stomachs and help us out. We are going to stay here in Rangeley for the rest of the day and decide if we will go back to the trail tomorrow pending how we feel. We are so close to the end (1954 miles down, 220 to go!) but we know that it isn't wise or safe to leave a town where we have access to medical support, gatorade, rest, help, etc. and attempt to finish the rest of our trip until we are physically ready.

I updated the actual mileage and was able to get all of our recent pictures online just now as well. We greatly appreciate the services of the Gull Pond Lodge, the hiker hostel in town, and moreover its owner, Bob O'Brien. Bob picked us up from a local restaurant last night at 7:30 and took us 2 miles out of town to his home/lodge on a gorgeous lake where we showered, did laundry, and got a great nights sleep. We left all of our stuff at the Lodge today and Bob shuttled us back into town this morning so we could to go the Medical Center. Once we are done here at the library and make a decision about how we'll spend the rest of our day, we'll call Bob and he will pick us right up. What a stand up guy!

Thanks again for everyone's thoughts and prayers. We hope to get passed this hurdle soon and get back on the trail and finish the race to Katahdin. 5 miles up the trail from here is a mountain called Saddleback and on a clear day, one can see all the way to Mt. Washington in one direction and then turn around and see Mt. Katahdin way in the distance. We hope to be able to do the same once we make it to that summit.

We'll update via ourselves on the blog or someone else will post regarding what we end up doing and when we leave town.

-Bandanna Ben

Wrangled in Rangeley

Ben and I, as you may have already read, have come down with a stomach virus of sorts. We have arranged for a medical appointment for 2:00 this afternoon and will not be hiking today. Though slightly weakened by this, we are still confident in our approach and completion of Katahdin and the Appalachian Trail. It is a shame that we have to endure this at this point in our journey, but it is only going to slow us down and not stop us! Thank you to everyone thinking of us and hoping that our condition improves. Stay tuned for further developments. We sill also try and update some pictures for you as well.

Rangely Maine

Spencer and Ben arrived in Rangely late yesterday to re-supply, try to catch their breath, and focus. In addition to the not so pleasant weather, they have both been struggling with some type of stomach virus. It could have developed from a water drinking source. Let's keep them in our thoughts and prayers as I know you will in these last days of their awsome journey.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

40 degrees, 20 mile per hour winds, and heavy rain

Spencer checked in today to report that maybe some of the most challenging miles on the trail had awaited them until Maine. It's hard for most of us to imagine, especially those in the south enduring a massive heat wave, that they could be experiencing 40 degree temps, wind, and rain. While we were speaking he said, "they were walking in clouds literally." The extremely rocky and root filled trail was slowing their pace considerably. On Monday he and Ben hiked for 14 hours straight only to travel 18 miles. Completely pooped they realized it would not be possible to arrive ontime for their next supply. Rationing their food a bit would allow them to make it the next drop on Thursday. The plan was to begin hikng at 5:00AM for 20 miles, hitch into town, re-supply, hitch back to the trail and hike another 6-8 miles. This was the first time I could hear in Spencer's voice any degree of frustration or discouragement. The sound of discouragement quickly disappeared when Spencer stated, "don't worry Dad, we're making it now! '

Monday, August 6, 2007

Onward to Maine

Today we cross the New Hampshire-Maine border. Maine is the second biggest state of all that we travel through. We will certainly face challenges harder than anything we have faced the entire trip. Nevertheless we are not even close to giving up, in fact, we wish the trip could continue. It's hard to believe that we've come this far. My roommate (Jason L'Heureux from Portland, ME) met us in Gorham, NH and this morning he is going to be taking us back to the trail and then heading home. It was a joy to see him and we appreciate his visit. Thanks again for everyone keeping in touch.

Warpzilla & Bandanna Ben

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Under 300 Miles to go!

The White Mountains of New Hampshire are in the bag! Beautiful weather over the past five days made our 100 mile stretch through the White Mountains of New Hampshire easier than most people have it. South Bound thru-hikers complained of wet and slick thus dangerous hiking in the Whites, but we were blessed with sunny skies and a wind at our backs (for the most part). We came across some Trail Magic planted by the Paige Family (from Troop 215) which got us up a +3,000 ft. climb at the end of a long day on Friday. Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range was a huge milestone of the trip, which we passed over yesterday. Though it is nice to see others while hiking, the massive amount of day-hikers in the Whites made for speed bumps more than anything. Southern Maine, which we will enter tomorrow afternoon, will continue to challenge us as much as the White's. However, with only eleven days left on this amazing journey, we will push on and get to Katahdin. We have also uploaded pictures from the past few days. Some of the most incredible views of the trip were witnessed on this stretch. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did! Thank you to everyone keeping us in your thoughts and for keeping up with us these last few days.

-Warpzilla Out