Brian Vaughan's Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

Phone calls from the Trail North Carolina/Tennessee

03/16/98 - Brian called today from Gatlinberg - he and fellow hiker Zeb got off the trail at Newfound Gap (203.5 miles) because the hiking was taking much longer than they expected, between the cold, the blowdowns, and the snow. They also would have run out of food before Davenport Gap. Brian had already been to an AYCE (all you can eat) restaurant, was planning to go back again for dinner, and for breakfast! "Trail Magic" really does happen - another hiker gave Brian a pair of fleece pants to wear in the Smokies and also lent him cash because of his ATM problems. Staying in a motel for a night, then back on the trail to Hot Springs. Sounds like summiting Clingmans Dome was a non event thanks to heavy fog obscuring any view. He really enjoyed all the mail he recieved at his last maildrop - said it was like Christmas - you never know what you're going to get!

3/22/98 - Hot Springs, N.C., 270.2 miles. Brian didn't know a thing about the recent devastation caused by tornadoes in GA and NC. Said he's been hiking in rain and mud, had one day of sun, then snow! Thanks to all the rain, it sounds like he may be a bit odoriferous. A shower and laundry should help. Staying at Elmer's doing the work for stay option to save money. Sounds like quite an interesting place - said Elmer is a former Harvard philosophy professor and there are all kinds of books lying around, and people playing musical instruments in the kitchen. Wasn't going to do the hot springs, said it's too expensive. Wrongfoot and Packrat just left ahead of him, and I think he said Sodbuster was a day behind him. Zeb (who is 61!) went on ahead when Brian developed a large painful blister that slowed him down. Has to take a day off, both to let the blister heal and to wait for P.O. to open to pick up mail drop. Sending back 2 person tent (bivy is in the mail drop). Is looking forward to hiking in Virginia, hoping for easier terrain and better weather. Was kept awake by a skunk who kept trying to get into his backpack. He tried shining a light in its eyes, and making noises to scare it off, but ended up being up half the night.

03/27/98 - Brian called from Nolichucky Gorge Campground, which is 339.2 miles from Springer Mountain, and 348 miles from Amicalola Falls State Park, at 8:45 p.m. He had already showered, done laundry, and eaten a Hawaiian pizza. The pizza was $5, the hostel was $10, and groceries cost $21. Brian is very concerned about the cost of visits to town, they eat up lots of his savings. The most interesting thing he mentioned was the butterflies! His large blister is almost healed, but there are a few small ones on his toes. The black fungus is gone [did I mention that last time?] Thank God! Weather has been beautiful! Next maildrop is Damascus "the friendliest town on the trail" where he may stay a day or two to rest and hoping some other thru-hikers catch up to him. Zeb is still a day or so ahead. Still hasn't seen any bears (there were tracks in the Smokies) or boars. Unhappy with most recent pack weight of 48 lbs. - that included 13 lbs. of food. Will be sending back 0 degree sleeping bag in Pearisburg.

03/31/98 - Brian called tonight at 9:25 from Dennis Cove, Tenn. We talked for an hour (can you tell we haven't got a phone bill yet?) He hiked 65 miles in 4 days and did his first 20 mile day yesterday - just to see if he could. He has 50.6 miles to hike to Damascus for a mail drop, and he wants to get there Saturday morning, so he can pick up his mail and go to the library to get email. His email address is nairbv AT yahoo DOT com. He plans to stay over a day or two and rest. Damascus is supposed to be "the friendliest town on the Trail." It's where Trail Days will be held in May - thruhikers often hitch back to be in Damascus for a huge celebration. This will be a big deal because it's the 50th anniversary of the first thru hike. Maybe Brian will summit Katahdin on August 5 (I could have this date wrong) which is I think the exact date. Brian is also talking about doing the "Maryland Challenge". I'm hoping he doesn't. Maryland is the shortest state so if he hikes 40 miles in 24 hours he'll have hiked three states in one day.

The weather is very warm, but Brian isn't picking up his 20 degree bag until Pearisburg. Conventional wisdom has it that winter gear shouldn't go back until after Mt. Rogers, which is after Damascus. Still seeing lots of butterflies. Has encountered groups of college kids on spring break at the shelters - he said Zeb goes on past, doesn't like the crowd, but Brian likes the company. They gave him pizza, and marshmallows, and cooked him pancakes in the morning.

Still absolutely obsessed with food. When I told him I was registering him for orientation at UMass in June and that we'd pick him up and bring him there then return him to the trail he said "cool - three days to eat". Last night he bought two pizzas, milk, strawberries and ice cream. I figured since this looked like a very small stop in the Data book that it would be expensive, but he's staying in a hostel run by a retired gentleman for only $4.

I haven't bought the Teva sandals at WalMart yet - they didn't have his size in the last time I looked. It's too bad, Brian said there are some bridges washed out up ahead, and he'll have to wade them barefoot. I don't want to think about that.

Still hasn't finished the Lord of the Rings (this is the second reading) and I ordered Phaedrus by Plato from and had it sent to Pearisburg. It was the Dover thrift edition - the book cost $1 but by the time I paid for shipping etc. it was $6! The reason he wanted Phaedrus is because the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance talks about it a lot and he wants to read it before rereading Zen.

Next maildrop - due approx. 4/16 Brian Vaughan c/o General Delivery - hold for AT hiker Pearisburg, VA 24134
After that: Brian Vaughan - due approx 5/1 c/o General Delivery - hold for AT hiker Waynesboro, VA 22980

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This page is being maintained by Brian's mother who will be updating and adding pictures as soon as Brian sends them.

For more information about Brian and his thruhike, you can email his mom at or his stepfather at
Last revised April 10, 1998.