A Gay Man's Appalachian Trail Journey (Fall 2001)

By Douglas Dye (a/k/a "High Octane").


Hello to All!

WOW! Where to begin! Well, I am currently in Hot Springs, NC and this is my first opportunity to connect with the world via the internet. I started at Amicolola Falls, GA on August 31st and reached Springer mountain that evening for the start of the Appalachian Trail.

Here are some statistics first:
Number of days on the trail: 19
Number of miles hiked: 270
Number of rainy days: 5 (the first 5 were nothing but fog and rain!).
Most miles hiked in one day: 21
Average miles per day: 15

So, am I having fun? YES! But let me say the first week was really hard!!!!! Starting out in rain, being wet for 5 days, having boots that turned out to be too small, not knowing the importance of eating and drinking water frequently, hard trails to hike,...... it is amazing I got through that first week. But I did indeed and am now having a wonderful time. I've gotten into "trail life" and each day is a new adventure! I just finished hiking through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and boy was that awesome! The trails and view were unbelievable! I've run into some wonderful hikers along the way but much of the time I am in solitude with nature. Did not run into any bears but have seen many deer and other wildlife. Grouse seem to be very plentiful along the trail as I scare them often, thus scaring me as they take flight!

I could go on and on about what I've experienced so far but I'll not. I'll be in Hot Springs for one night and will hit the trail again tomorrow morning, North bound again!

Will send another A.T. when possible. In the mean time Peace and warm thoughts to all!


Hello to all from Damascus, Virginia!!!!!

Yes, I am indeed working my way North on the Appalachian Trail! I said good bye to Georgia, then North Carolina and Tennessee and am now in my home state of Virginia! So far I've hiked 455 miles of the AT but that does not include a bit here and there on side trails for extra sights. Last Monday I left Erwin, Tennessee and the weather changed quite a bit! It became real cool and windy, but the positive side was that I had bright blue (and clear) skies. Have had some totally awesome views from 6,000 ft. plus summits hope the pics come out. Most mornings the temp was around freezing, but that damn wind forced me to stay in my sleeping bag longer than I should have every morning. I try not to complain unless it is raining, then I complain like hell but there is usually nobody to listen. For the most part I'm hiking and tenting solo but there are times when I meet up with a hiker or stay in a shelter with others. Several nights ago I tented at a shelter with 12 kids from a treatment program (with 3 adults) and we had a blast! They actually made calzone pizzas for dinner and gave me one! Yesterday I did a marathon run and completed 26 miles before getting into Damascus and running for a hot shower at "The Place," a hiker hostel.

I am still having a wonderful time hiking on the Trail. Each day, each moment brings a new sight and experience so I am never bored. I have not decided if I will head out on the Trail tomorrow or take another day of rest (I'll have to ask my feet what they want to do!).

I want to send out a special thanks to my wonderful brother who is my "ground control" while I'm on the AT. He is sending my weekly food boxes, mail and anything I may need. I certainly could not be out here without his help! (It is so nice to have such a wonderful brother!!!) Thanks Derek!!

Well, I hope all is well with everyone. If you are receiving my s you can believe you are in my thoughts while I'm on the Trail!




Greeting from Pearisburg, Virginia!

My last was from Damascus, Virginia. I ended up staying there for 2 days and had a wonderful time in that "sleepy little Southern town." I met up with some thru-hikers, Troy and Carmen (aka "Journeyman" and "Carmen San Diego") from Canada who were the best to hang out with. They did their best to try to get me to head South with them instead of North but....Anyway, it seems I've failed to let people know my trail name so let me put that out there. It is........"Percilla, Queen of the Appalachian!"
No no no, that was only one of my fears! I hiker named "Cat Scratch Fever" gave me the name "High Octane" mainly because of the pace I hike at but also because he said I "look like a High Octain hiker. I did not want to ask what a High Octane hiker looks like so I let it go. That is that! AS for life on the trail...it seems each day, each week gets better and better! This whole experience is beyond words! I have now reached mile 617.

After leaving Damascus I went through the Virginia Highlands and Greyson Highland State Park. It was awsome! I never realized Virginia (or even the East coast) had that kind of beauty, and I'm from Virginia. I thought I was hiking through Montana. I continued on to Atkins, Virginia for a rest day before entering the Southern Shenanadoah Valley. Hiked several days along the ridge line of a mountain range on the Western side of the valley. Many wonderful views to enjoy and ponder the meaning of life (and where I may
use the bathroom for a #2). I've had continued perfect weather! Bright blue skies, mid/upper 60's hiking and 30's/40's at night. A few nights there were hard freezes....burrrrrr!

Have seen many deer, wild turkey, and other wildlife but no bears yet. I've also started running into bow hunters along the trail deer hunting (note to self: get bright orange and plaster it to my backpack!). Well, I could go on and on about my daily life and experiences on the trail but it is difficult to put it into words so I won't. I am still having the time of my life!

Peace to all! Doug (aka "High Octane) -)


Hello to all from good ol' Waynesboro, Virginia!

Yes indeed, I've just cruised through Central Virginia and am taking a day and a half off before hitting the trail again tomorrow morning. But first let me tell you what happened last night. I am staying at the YMCA here in Waynesboro (yes, it is fun to stay at the YMCA!). They have a free tenting area for A.T. hikers to use with full use of their facilities. Because of the beautiful weather I had set up my tent without the fly (rain cover to those of you who don't use tents). So, I was in my tent sleeping and I heard something. In the deepest of sleeps I thought "what is that?........RAIN!" I flew out of my tent and frantically started to put on the fly. When I was all finished I realized it was on up-side-down. So, I quickly retraced my steps and did it all over again. When I finished the second time I looked up to see stars reappearing! If this had been an actual rain emergency I think I would have failed. I, as well as all my things, would have been quite

Anyway, I am now at A.T. mile marker 842.6! Since leaving Pearisburg I've had a wonderful time hiking along the Shenandoah Valley. The first several days were very windy with some heavy (very nasty) rain to hike in. But I was a good sport about it and did not hide in a shelter like others did! Afterwards the weather turned beautiful and each day seemed to get warmer and warmer with the last few days in the low 80's(mid 20'C). How nice to hike in!!

It is also still beautiful Fall scenery! Fall! When the leaves turn beautiful colors and fall onto the trail, hiding all the rocks, roots, sticks, and holes, thus allowing the inattentive hiker to make contact with the hidden obstacles and FALL! Do I need to say anything about all the acorns!!! It is as if someone dumped millions of marbles on the trail (very tricky on steep altitude changes!)!

But, I am still having the time of my life! There are many times when I feel so at peace and alive, totally enjoying the moment, and think "wouldn't it be wonderful to always have this wonderful feeling!" The trail has been getting easier and easier. Several days ago I went over my last 4,000 footer until New Hampshire (I think). Also note worthy are the wild goats I past which followed me along the trail for quite awhile. They wanted to eat anything I had (or had on) including my pants and trekking poles. I also had to loose (wild?) hunting dogs following me one evening. I knew I'd soon be stopping for the day and starting dinner so I started to "shoo" them away. They finally left. I continue to see many deer and other wildlife but no bears! THay should change soon as many hikers have told me about all the bears they saw in the Shenandoah National Park, which I'll be entering tomorrow morning.

I can't say too much about all the beautiful things I've seen while hiking on the A.T. as one really needs to see and experience it for themselves. I will say that this continues to be an awesome, life changing, experience! I am really psyched about my next part of the trail, the Shenandoah National Park. This is where I grew up and I have many fond memories of the area. The SNP really is a beautiful park (with perfect trails!). Well, I guess that is all for now. I hope all is well with everyone. I want to thank everyone for their e-mails and support!

Peace, Doug... er ..I mean "High Octane"


Mike: Some people are wondering if you've "outed" yourself to anyone?
Doug: First of all, I am always out. I have a gay pride flag patch very visible on my pack. Few have asked about it but I know many others have seen it and chosen "not to go there" by the questions they DON'T ask.

Mike: Have you seen any cute boys? Have you had any "close" encounters with any cute boys?
Doug: I have met many cute guys but none that were out. I've also met many guys I suspected were gay but we didn't "go there." I am actually very surprised at the number of hikers that seem gay.

Mike: Have you run into any gay AT thru hikers?
Doug: I did meet several gay hikers in the Smokies...we had such a gay time hiking together for the day.

Mike: Do you think it's different hiking the AT if you're gay versus straight?
Doug: The whole "Gay" thing is really not an important issue while hiking. I am not sure if it is any different hiking as a gay guy then a straight one. As you know, long distance hiking is a whole different ball game and people are people...gay, straight, young, old, thru-hikers, section hikers...I do feel that in some way I may be breaking the image about gays when I talk to them about the distance I've done and I know they know I'm gay.


Hello to all!

Sorry it has taken me so long to send news from the Trail! I had a chance while in WV but was in too much of a hurry to get hiking and I thought I'd find another place with internet access. It seems that all points North are still living in the Dark Ages!

Anyway, I reached my goal and arrived at Delaware Water Gap, PA Saturday morning!!!!!!! Yahoo! 1,273 miles of the A.T. finished! Man, what a WONDERFUL time I had! I miss the Trail and really was not ready to leave it but it is nice to be with family and friends for the holidays. Since my last .......

I went at a nice slow pace through Shenandoah National Park. A cold front went through and I had a day of steady snow flurries and the evenings were cold but not too bad. The drought is very bad in the mid-Atlantic states and there was a complete fire ban in the park (a ranger seemed to think I looked somewhat intelligent and said I could use my cook stove if I stayed in the corner of the shelter to cook!). My brother and his family met up with me while at Big Meadows Picnic area. Due to the fire ban we had a pizza party instead of a cookout. During my last day in the park I finally ran into Bear!!! Four! I think I'll have a cool of one if it turns out. One of them was as interested in me as I was of it. Not sure what that was about but later I realized all my clothes (and pack) were black. Hum.... I wonder if there was some kind of attraction! Yikes!

After Virginia I flew through West Virginia (all 2 miles of it) and Maryland. I did not do the 4-state challenge (leaving Virginia, hiking through West Virginia and Maryland, and entering PA all in one day a 44 mile hike) as I was more interested in having fun. I finally entered PA and started hiking over the infamous rocks. At first I thought all the hikers who have complained about hiking in PA were babies. After several days I too started to get sick of the rocks and complained. Towards the end of PA I was getting VERY frustrated and sick of the rocks! So glad that I got through that section!

The weather has been superb! A few cool periods but mostly sunny, blue skies and temps. well above normal. The only problem was sometimes finding water as many of the springs were dry due to the extreme drought.I can't believe my adventure is over for now! It seems like yesterday I was in GA starting out at Springer Mountain in the rain. I can't (and will not even try to) put my experience into words. I will say I had an awesome time and can't wait to pick it up and head North next June and July! The 1,273 mile, 77 day hike has really been a "life changing" event! I hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving full of good food, peace, and joy!

Peace, Doug

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