The Journey Begins

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible: and suddenly you are doing the impossible.   -Francis of Assisi

          Jesse has been reading about,studying,researching,dreaming and planning this journey for about 6 years now. March 20,2019 his dream will become a reality.
        Researching equipment,safety issues, food prep and learning from past hikers experiences has been a huge part of his preparation process.
           Jesse purchased 2 copies of “2019 Northbound: The A.T. Guide”, which is a handbook for hiking the trail written by experienced AT hikers. He will be taking a copy with him and the family has another copy. This guide is an amazing tool. It shows hikers where all their needs can be met along the trail. It shows water sources, shelter options,altitudes, bear areas, resupply areas, post offices where resupplies can be mailed to thru-hikers, contact for shuttle services that will drive hikers to nearby towns, maps of hiker friendly towns, places that will allow hikers to work for their stay,etc. It is an absolute must for thru-hikers.
      Jesse will be sending pictures and video home periodically so we can post them and fill everyone in on his progress, his trials and tribulations, and most of all sharing stories of the people he meets along the way and an insite into his spiritual journey.
       While carrying his winter gear at the beginning of his trip he will only be able to carry a weeks worth of food at a time so we will be mailing lots of packages out at the beginning. Once warm weather is here to stay he can send back his winter gear and free up much more space for food. Post offices will hold packages for hikers for up to 30 days. Also,if a hiker is not needing a care package at that time they can bump the package up one time to the next post office at no charge.
      Freeze dried and dehydrated foods will be his staple for the entirety of his trip. He has worked hard on dehydrating and packaging foods as well as purchasing foods from Mountain House such as canisters of dried chicken and beef. This will be our biggest responsibility back home…making sure his food supply stays plenished.
      During his journey we are encouraging him to periodically stop in small hiker friendly towns to rest, rejuvinate and resupply. This is an added expense but one that we feel is needed to keep his spirits up as well as giving his body much needed time to heal. This is where he needs to splurge on some good,nourishing,hot food. Through the guide book we will be able to post where he is as well as where his next stop will be.
       There are many ways that supporters can help Jesse fulfill his dream. We have set up a GoFundMe account for those wishing to make cash contributions. I also have posted links to Mountain House and PEI which are his sources for food and gear. Both sites have gift cards for purchase. For those wishing to purchase food from Mountain House, those items can be mailed directly to our home where we can add them to his care packages as needed.
         Phone and internet service will be iffy for much of his journey but as he reaches towns he will check in with us as well as look on this site for messages from supporters. I can not emphasize enough how much encouragement and hellos will mean to him. So please, if he pops in your head, please take the time to just send him an “atta boy” and some love. He has heard many stories from past hikers who have made it clear there will be some really bad days. One hiker mentioned the word “cryking” (cry hiking). Jesse is adament that if he decided he can no longer go on he will not do it on a bad day as there will be many. These bad stretches will be  when encouragement from home will be most needed and appreciated.
      There will be several of us working on this blog through out this journey. Andrew is the video genius who will help edit and upload items sent back by Jesse. I (Momma) will be perfecting my skills at blogging. This is a new format for me so please be patient.
       We , along with Grandma and Grandpa McLaughlin, will be dropping him off in Georgia the morning of the 20th. Grandma has been one of his biggest supporters. They live within 2 hours of the AT during his hike through Georgia and North Carolina so he will have the peace of mind knowing that family is close during the beginning stages of his hike.
       Feel free to ask questions. He is more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Please check in often and by all mean feel free to share this blog.





#49 part 2:Partnership Shelter

Jesse ended the day at mile 534.2 and at an elevation of 3220. This is also the southern point of the area where the trail was closed after the attack. The attack happened at mile 544.8. If not for him having to turn around and hike back to a town for a care package pick up recently ( 6 miles back and then rehike it) he could have very easily been right in that spot. Jesse is getting horrible reception in this area. I hope when he goes into Marion in the morning to pick up another package he will be able to call and talk to me.

#49: tragedy on the trail

Sadly this post is not a cheery post. I was informed, late last night, that the machete guy had attacked a group of 4 hikers. The group split into 2 groups with 2 hikers running in one direction and 2 others heading in another direction. Sadly one male hiker has died and the female hiked 6 miles with horrible defensive wounds and bleeding. The male was able to send up an sos which allowed the sheriff to locate him. They found the suspect and took him into custody with no other incidence.

I was unable to get into contact with Jesse until mid afternoon today. I knew he was in the general area but not sure how close. I did a lot of pacing back and forth until I got his call.

Sovereign is a paranoid schizophrenic who had 2 previous run ins with law enforcement on the trail. A man who was a past through hiker gave this guy money for food and a bus ticket to get off the trail. Clearly he decided to hop back off the bus at some point and back to the AT.

What I can not wrap my brain around is the fact that the last county he was arrested in gave him a TWO day jail sentence and probation. He was also given his dog back…a dog he repeatedly put a 20″ knife to it’s neck and threatened to kill him in front of people. He was also given the 20″ knife back. He was clearly completely out there mentally and a danger to everyone in his path. Absolutely senseless and irresponsible. The FBI is involved now and an 18 mile stretch of the AT was closed and considered a crime scene. That area was reopened later Sunday. He will be off the streets for a very long time.

What the victims families are going through just makes my heart ache and tears flow often thinking about them. To send your child off so they can have a peaceful, life changing, spiritual journey and then to get that call. Please keep those families in your thoughts and prayers.

Below is the link to the most updated story:

#48: Wise Shelter

Jesse ended his day at mile 504.1 and at an elevation of 4409. Today was another big milestone. He hit the 500 mile mark. The weather is gorgeous. He also hiked through Grayson Highlands State Park. This area is known for the many wild horses roaming the area. They are not shy and walk right up to hikers. They like licking the salty sweat off the hikers. They will also steal a hiker’s pack if they take it off. I am anxious to receive pictures of this area.

Jesse also had a very up close and personal run in with a bear and her cub. Hikers were laying in the shelter when one hiker said “Bear”. Everyone sat up at once and collectively said “bear”. Momma was snooping around the fire ring just outside the shelter.

Bears are very active in this area. They also have become smart about reaching bear bags that hikers hang in the trees at night to keep their food safe. The cub climbs the tree and rests on the tree branch which lowers the branch low enough for Momma Bear to reach it. He knows of 2 hikers who have had their food stolen.

#46: Broken Fiddle

3 states down. Hello Virginia!

Jesse had another great day ending his day in Damascus, Va. at mile 470.3 and at an elevation of 1924. The weather was beautiful so he only stopped twice for 2 5 minute breaks.

Jesse found the Broken Fiddle Hostel and he said it had a great hippy vibe. Jesse also said that the town was really cool and he would love living there. This town also has trail days the 16th-18th. Slim’s wife is going to drive up to where ever the tramily is and shuttle them all back for the weekend and then shuttle them back to where they stopped at to continue on. He also found an opportunity to work that weekend so he can earn some trail money.

Jesse hit town and ate a 1 pound burger, all his fries and a big basket of fried pickles. He then grabbed a footlong sub from Subway to take back and eat. He says the trail food takes away hunger pains but he just never feels full. Hikers burn off an average of 7,000 calories per day.

#45: A new hostel on the AT

Jesse is loving the waterfalls on the trail

I am unsure of the name at this posting but I will see if Jesse remembers the name when I talk to him next. It also is run by past thru-hikers and the stay in the bunk house was a great deal at just $15 a night including shuttle service, shower and laundry. He has caught back up with the hiking vikings and skunk is a day behind. He slowed down for a bit so his dad, who decided to join him on the trail, could hop on and catch up. I follow them on Instagram and let Jesse know their location.

some chick-fil-a trail magic for the night

Jesse ended his day at mile 455.3 and at an elevation of 3384. At the rate he is going he should finish the AT by early September. He is excited to be putting another state in the record books tomorrow. He finally hit Virginia after bouncing back and forth between Tennessee and North Carolina. And he should be hitting the 500 mile marker by the end of this week sometime.

I have been following a number of thru-hikers on Instagram for Jesse. I saw that a fellow hiker had thought he had the flu for several days. He finally went to the ER and he has some issues with his liver due to a waterborne illness. Hoping he recovers quickly and with no permanent damage. Water filters are an absolute necessity. But, it just doesn’t filter out all the bad stuff. Water has caused illness very many people since the Smoky’s.

Another thing hikers are needing to do to maintain the shelters along the trail is to be sure to add items to the outhouses as they are compost toilets. The privies also don’t offer a whole lot of privacy. The doors are just big enough to cover the necessary parts so the hikers sit there and can watch everyone and vice versa. A little uncomfortable at the beginning of the trail but the hikers quickly get used to it and folks avoid glancing in the direction of the occupied privy. It is a fun adventure,just not always a very glamorous one.

The hiking Vikings have a great vlog on youtube. This episode features Jesse joining them in a game of bocce ball off a fire tower. These guys are fun to follow!

#44: Vandeventer Shelter

Jesse ended the day at mile 437.6 and at an elevation of 3558. Another big mile day. He got to the shelter late and in pouring rain. The shelter was full so he had to set up his tent in the rain. Days like these are never too much fun.

Jesse is so upbeat once again. So many people have donated to his gofundme. We can never express enough our gratitude in helping him fulfill his dream. Grandma McLaughlin is helping him with ideas to budget money and she will be covering his care packages for the time being as work is getting into the busy season for me.

He is still physically doing really well. His tooth has quit hurting for the time being. His knee is taking a bit of a beating. With the rocks and mud from all the rain he has slipped and cracked his knee 3 times at last count. He ices it and it seems to be doing ok.

#43: Big Bear Hostel

Jesse ended his day at mile 420.9 and at an elevation of 2105. Some good miles put in today. He got to the hostel about 5 minutes before the heavens opened and the sky poured. Great timing.

Word on the trail is that “sovereign” the machete guy was released from jail and was back on the trail. He pled guilty to drug charges but hikers who were witnesses didn’t want to get off trail a week or more to testify against him. He arrived at a hostel Jesse had stayed at about a week before and the owner had some words with him. He decided to buy the guy a bus ticket to Nashville where he said he was staying. Being a past thru-hiker himself he understood the fear of the other hikers and decided to just get the guy off the AT.

Carver and Bambi, a few new members of his tramily took a break at this hostel as well. Carver cuts hair so he was cutting and trimming some hikers and Bambi went all in and shaved her head. When they told Jesse it was his turn he said it would took everyone at camp and a whole lot of alcohol to get him to cut his hair!

Jesse is slowly getting tired of certain foods. He will surely never eat tuna or spam anytime soon after getting off trail. The new sweet treat is honey buns. Lots of calories in those.

Jesse found his rain cover for his pack. It slipped into a different pocket in the pack. Good thing he found it. More rain coming this week.

#42:Mountaineer Shelter

Sorry for the delay in posting this past week. Been a busy week with Momma starting a new job and Brendan and Amy’s wedding.

Jesse ended his day at mile 404.0 and at an elevation of 3183. He had to back track over some of the same trail after having to go back to get a care package that was at the post office. Word his most of his tramily is within a day either ahead or behind him. He is hoping they will be all together again in the next couple of days.

Jesse hitched a ride from the trail to the post office from an older couple. He was driving and she was pouring another adult beverage into her husband’s cup. She told Jesse, “I may be old and an alcoholic but we still know how to be nice to people”. Oh the people he is meeting! lol

#41: Jones Fall

400 mile mark

Today Jesse had a long,short day. His shuttle dropped him off at the post office this morning. As it turns out,he was dropped off at the wrong post office. (the area he is at has a town on either side of the trail). So he called home when he hit the 400 mile marker. I called the post office and the boxes were there. He soon discovered the problem. So he hiked 11 miles total just to get back to where he started. He also fell and hurt his knee trying to rush back to the post office. But,he can get a shuttle tomorrow that will drop him off at the 400. So,one mixed up, aggravating day. But all is well.

Jesse has been stressing a lot about money. The hike has been more costly than he had anticipated. So, he’ll hike as far as the money from his gofundme will stretch and then he will exit the trail. He is worried about disappointing his supporters. I told him that what he has accomplished is amazing in itself. There is nothing to be disappointed about. This is his dream and his journey. The most important thing is that he continues to find joy in each day on the trail. And when his heart tells him to stop he needs to listen. This is not a sad ending. This is the experience of a lifetime and this is a learning experience. And he is super pumped up to make the attempt again in 2 years. He has hiked further than the majority of those attempting this feat and we are all very proud of him. We will see how the coming weeks go for him. For now, I told him to relax and enjoy the day and tomorrow will be a whole new day. He has enough funds to get him through the next several weeks, at least so he needs to breath and relax.

Tomorrow he is looking at least a 14 mile day. At this pace he is really starting to fly through milestones. He has the ability now to hike 100 miles a week. That is very impressive and I am so very proud of him.

UPDATE: Donations are starting to come in and Jesse is very overwhelmed. He said it’s a real moral booster and he now feels like he may just be able to make it to Maine or at least much further than he has been feeling. Thank you to all who are donating. We are all so grateful and overwhelmed.