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We are thrilled to share our third update from Rex and Gerry Leonard who are hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise funds and awareness of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) and the disabled veterans we serve. In this travel log entry, Diesel and Pony Express (Gerry and Rex’s new Appalachian Trail names!) highlight two new major milestones, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the AMC huts, and fellow travelers they’ve met along the way. 

They have now completed over 400 strenuous miles of the Appalachian Trail! Let’s show our support and wish Team Leonard our best as they continue with this courageous feat in support of the many disabled veterans whose lives will be changed as a result of their sacrifice.

Read all their dispatches from the AT here:  Gerry and Rex Leonard Hike to Heal Veterans

Greetings from Vermont! Team Leonard checking in with our 4th Appalachian Trail update. Since our last update, Rex and I have a number of major milestones to report. One, we passed the 400-mile mark! Two, we finished our second state…goodbye New Hampshire, hello Vermont! Three, we completed the White Mountains, arguably the most challenging and physically demanding portion of the AT. Four, we set a new personal best by hiking over 21 miles in a single day (our previous one-day high was 19 miles way back in the 100-Mile Wilderness). Each milestone happened between 24-27 July.  While the White Mountains were breathtaking and inspiring, we are looking forward to hiking over some less rigorous terrain in the near future. Here are a few highlights of our journey through the Whites:

– White Mountains.  Since our last report (Update #3), Rex and I climbed up and down 26 mountains and peaks. Of those 26 mountains, 20 were over 4,000 feet and 11 were over 5,000 feet and one, Mt. Washington, was over 6,000 feet.  Within the White Mountains, the climb up Mt. Madison and traverse across the Presidential Range was the most difficult and physically demanding hiking we’ve faced since our journey began. The ascent up Mt. Madison was steep and extremely difficult. There were times we could not see one another as winds whirled and clouds passed, but once we climbed above the clouds, we could see every mountain peak above 4000 feet and nothing below that. It felt like we were in heaven and could walk across the clouds from one peak to another. Breathtaking. The exhausting hike up Madison was worth the effort!  Once we peaked Madison, we cruised across the ridgeline to Mt. Washington. As we climbed Washington, the weather turned, temps dropped, and the winds whipped. When we finally reached the summit…we were dismayed to find it crawling with tourists who drove cars or rode the train to the top. The view from Washington was less than optimal (white-out), but the hot chili at the Mt. Washington cafeteria hit the spot! For those of you who want to visit Mt Washington, I hope you get better weather. Some say on a clear day you can see the reflection of the sun on the Atlantic Ocean as it rises! After the Presidentials, we climbed Franconia Ridge, which consists of Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, and Little Haystack. Franconia Ridge is apparently the most popular ridgeline to climb in the Whites.  When we reached the top of Lafayette, we discovered why…the climb was fairly easy and the views were simply magnificent. While I’ve never visited Scotland, I imagine Franconia Ridge–hiking above the treeline on granite rock–is quite similar to the Scottish highlands. We finished the White Mountains by climbing Mt. Moosilauke, which was one of the steepest and beautiful climbs because the ascent up ran alongside a never-ending waterfall!

 – AMC Huts. The Appalachian Mountain Club maintains the portion of the AT that runs through the White Mountains. In addition to maintaining the trail, AMC manages a series of huts (small, primitive, mountain hotels which cater to weekend hikers), but provide some services to AT hikers.  A highlight for us, was doing a “work for stay” at the Lake of the Clouds hut. In exchange for a free (awesome!) meal and a warm floor to sleep on, Rex and I cleaned an old dutch oven and washed a few dishes. Overall, it was a good deal and great break from tenting.

–  NOBOs. Over the last two weeks, Rex and I have crossed paths with large groups of northbound hikers who left Springer Mountain, Georgia (our final destination) in March and April. We believe we finally hit the NOBO bubble and will be competing for prime camping sites over the next month or so.  One fascinating observation…the NOBOs who have yet to hike the Whites keep warning us about Pennsylvania, which they refer to as “Rocksylvania”, but the NOBOs who have finished the Whites rarely mention PA. They tell us “it’s all downhill after NH!” That gives Rex and I confidence our miles are about to pick up!

–  Great surprise in Hanover, NH. My parents, daughter, and niece surprised us in Hanover where my nephew lives. My folks spoiled us for a day (we zero’ed)…we stayed in a real hotel with real beds, great food, and a hot shower.  Rex and I found some humor in my Mom’s reaction when she initially met us in Hanover. After picking us up at the trailhead, she held her nose, rolled the car windows down, and insisted we take showers at the hotel. Mom and Dad…sorry about the smell, but thanks for visiting us!

– New boots and shoes. Rex and I traded in our “trailrunner sneakers” for some good, old fashioned hiking boots. The impact on our ankles and knees was immediate. I am happy to report..my feet are no longer swollen and my ankles are starting to look normal! I will never wear “hiking sneakers” again!

Way Ahead. We are getting back on the trail today and expect (hope) to start knocking out big miles.  Knock on wood!

Happy trails,

Diesel and Pony Express

“We hope to raise as much money as possible to enable PHWFF to continue serving disabled veterans across the country and to increase the number of fishing and outdoor experiences they can provide”

You can support Gerry and Rex on their journey by making a donation today.