Sunday, November 29, 2015

This is the story of Paul Goransson's (AKA TARman)  Thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail between October 20, 2014 and September, 26 2015.  The Appalachian Trail Conservancy ( defines a Thru-hike as follows: "A thru-hiker is a hiker or backpacker who has completed or is attempting to walk the entire Appalachian Trail in a 12-month period (not necessarily a calendar year)."  I have held this as a life-goal for around 40 years.   In particular, after my wife Helen and I bicycled across the USA in 1981, I felt certain that Thru-hiking the AT was something she and I would share before long.  Life, of course, intervened with careers and two children all forcing postponement of this goal.   Between my twenties and mid-fifties, I had managed to fit in over 100 marathons, many ultramarathons including the Leadville 100 trail run, 6 Ironman triathlons and had a mountaineering resume that included many peaks between 15,000-20,000 feet on 5 different continents. By the time life was opening up the free time for a AT Thru-hike in my late fifties, I developed crippling arthritis in my right ankle (caused by a motor scooter accident in Corfu, Greece on 5/1/2008) which brought my decades-long endurance running and triathlon career to a halt.  On December 4, 2013, I had an artificial ankle installed.

 This procedure is called a TAR - 'Total Ankle Replacement'.  Hence, my trail name, TARman.  At 60 years of age, I started my hike by hiking  the section from the Shenandoah in Northern Virginia to mid-Pennsylvania between October 20,2014 and October 30, 2014 and then hiked a number of sections of the AT in New Hampshire during November and December.   I then began heading north from Springer Mountain in Georgia on March 9, 2015.  Despite being retired, I have a busy life running two companies from my board seat on each and managing my 131 acre beef and hay farm in Eliot, Maine (  This latter activity would not be possible if it were not for the faithful support of our farm caretaker Bill Curtis, and my wife Helen.   Helen always hoped to do the AT with me, but waiting until your life provides the time for such an endeavor carries the risk of your body losing its ability for this kind of grueling day-in and day-out hiking with a heavy pack.  So, I have ended up in this situation of solo hiking the trail in bursts of a day, a week or 3 weeks, always in pursuit of the goal of finishing the whole trail in less than a year. I frequently returned to my farm in Maine for R&R and to catch up on my responsibilities there.  I hiked fairly fast, averaging over 20 miles per day on a full day of hiking.   If you wish to ask me any questions you can email me at Thank you for your interest in following my hike!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Epilogue - Nobo no mo

I want to close out this blog with some thoughts and photos about the end of my hike.

Some interesting statistics:

I hiked the entire trail in 122 days of hiking over 11 calendar months.  Many of those hiking days were half-days involving getting to or from the trail.  I hiked solo except for 1 full winter day with Jenny and Glenn, a partial (6 mile) day with very pregnant Jenny, one mile with Leslie (recovering from knee surgery), one 5 mile winter day with Ray and Kig, about 8 shorter or partial days with Helen (8-11 mile days), and the final day on Mt. Katahdin with Ray.  During most of the trail, a full day for me was somewhere between 20 and 25 miles.  My longest day was 29 miles and I probably did about 6 days over 25 miles.

I took over 5,000,000 steps in this process.

The most frequently asked question:  "Do you have a paving company?".

total elevation gain on the AT compared to PCT and CDT

Definition and other FAQs about AT Thru-Hikes:

Thru-hike definition and other FAQs

"How does the ATC define thru-hiking?
We define a thru-hike as a hike of the entire Appalachian Trail in 12 months or less."

I was very disciplined about recording every step I took on the trail on my Garmin Forerunner 910XT.  If you have looked at the individual blog entries, you will have seen that each one includes a link to the GPS points of that day's hike.  That linked page contains detailed information about the elevation profile, pace, etc.  Each of those Garmin web pages allows you to save the GPS points in a GoogleEarth format.  I have done so and can view my hike via GoogleEarth.  I will show the hike as it was put together, incrementally, month by month, in the following pictures.  Due to technical glitches, 3 days of my 122 day hike were not successfully recorded and appears as holes in the final image from September of 2015.  I did hike all of those holes :-)

October, 2014:

November,  2014:

December, 2014:

January, 2015:  [no progress]

February, 2015: [no progress]

March, 2015:

April, 2015:

May, 2015:

June, 2015:

July, 2015:

August, 2015:

September, 2015:

Or, seen from a global perspective:

I was northbound thru-hiker #748 to come through to Katahdin in 2015:

My granddaughter thought that was awesome:

Finally, thanks to all my friends and family that gave me support through this endeavor.  In particular, thanks my daughter Jenny and my sister Leslie who were probably the only close family members that supported my undertaking unconditionally and enthusiastically and for that I am forever grateful. Thanks to my best friend Ray Greenlaw who found a way of joining me on the final day on Mt. Katahdin.  And finally, deep thanks to my wife Helen who, while her enthusiasm for my thru-hike was weak at best, made the most sacrifices and provided more concrete help and support to me than anyone else, bar none.

Finally, finally - no, I am not contemplating ever doing the PCT or CDT.  I think the risks for the artificial ankle are just too great, the difficulty of keeping the farm going just too hard, and the sacrifices on family life too painful.

TARman - signing off.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mt. Katahdin!!! - Nobo 2185

This post is from September 26, 2015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

My walk in the woods is complete. I am awed and humbled by the experience and grateful to God for keeping me healthy, whole, safe and strong.

Thanks to my best friend Ray "WALL" Greenlaw, recent triple crown finisher, for being with me on summit day:

And Helen was there waiting at the trailhead to whisk us back to Millinockett:

This is my ceiling tile at the Appalachian Trail cafe in Millinocket:

It will be near my son Peters best man Mike Scarpa (aka KEEP WALKER):

Friday, September 25, 2015

Katahdin Stream Campground - Nobo 2180

This post is from September 25, 2015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:
I drove the Honda 250 to Abol Bridge this morning from my hotel in Millinocket,the Baxter Park Inn. I then hiked 10 easy miles to the Hunt Trail trailhead at Katahdin Stream Campground in Baxter. I could have just pushed on and finished the AT at that point but the plan is to summit and finish together with Ray tomorrow (and that would have meant getting down near dark and I am now hiking light without tent and sleeping stuff so I really needed to be wise and wait).  So, I was several miles into the park and started to walk out while hoping for a ride. In one hour 3 cars passed me and I had walked 3 miles when the 4th car picked me up. They gave me a ride not only out of the park but also the additional 4 miles to Abol Bridge where the motorcycle awaited. That was pretty good luck all in all. I was back in Millinocket at my hotel by 3:30. Five steep miles to go. I am looking forward to Helen and Ray's arrival around 9pm tonight. We will be leaving here around 5am for summit and finish day. Here are a few shots from today's little hike;

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Abol Bridge - Nobo 2170

This post is from September 24, 2015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Made it out of the 100 mile wilderness easily today with 15 miles by 1:15. I said goodbye to my little tent-home this morning when I packed everything up for the last time of this odyssey. I have never been so comfortable with such primitive accommodations nor do I expect I ever will be again in my life. So, packing was a tad bittersweet.

I had fantastic views of the terminus of my little walk in the woods from Rainbow Ledges six miles before the end:

And from Abol Bridge itself:

Ten easy miles tomorrow to the summit trailhead and 5 miles up on Saturday (or Sunday) with Ray to the end of my quest. For the moment I am enjoying my hotel in Millinocket while icing both ankles and both knees and a glass of wine!

Rainbow Stream Lean-to - Nobo 2155

This post is from September 23, 2015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

I was hiking by 7:05 this morning and had made 24 miles by 5:55pm. I am only 15 miles from exiting the 100 mile wilderness so I called it a day earlier than usual.

From the summit of Nesuntabut Mountain today I had an enticing view of Katahdin:

One of the reasons I stopped earlier today is that this was a particularly appealing site for the shelter. You can see that my campsite is beautiful:

There were a few thru hikers all sleeping in the shelter. I am the only tenter. One of them, a 23 year old man from Georgia, was named FOX.

Stealth tent at logging road - Nobo 2131

This post is from September 22, 2015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Made 25 miles today!! I can now see the light at the end of the 100 mile tunnel - about 39 easier miles to do in 2 days - piece of cake!

The terrain got easier after crossing over White Cap mountain around 11 this morning. I got up at 5:30 and was hiking by 7. This view of Mt. Katahdin - was afforded by descending from Whitecap:

In order to get the 25 miles today I basically hiked until almost dark and then looked for a place that would accommodate my tent. I was getting a bit desperate when I crossed a logging road and decided to set my tent up here and eat supper by headlamp on the bridge below:

Carl Newhall Lean-to - Nobo 2106

This post is from September 21, 2015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Made 21 miles today. The first 12 were  extremely slow. I don't remember it being  this rugged in 2007. I'm certain the mountains have changed, not me,

After fording (another ford!) Pleasant Pond  Stream the conditions eased up and I started to make better time, 

Since last night i have been in a mini bubble with 3 young men and a girl whose trail name is HOLLYWOOD, One of the men is originally from Presque Isle, Maine. His trail name is JAEGER.
I have enjoyed his stories about potato and broccoli farming.

I am near the Gulf Hagas trail. I want to make s point to come back and hike that 5 mile trail- sounds very interesting,

Long Pond Stream lean-to - Nobo 2085

This post is from September 20, 2015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

I only made 15 miles of progress today, the trail is not easy but this was primarily due to my late 10:40sm start. This in turn was due to leaving Milliocket at about 6:30 and then dropping my truck off at Abol Bridge (the end of the 100 mile wilderness) and then driving the Honda for 2 mud-splattered hours to Greenville via the Golden Road. This is a mostly dirt private logging road that's cuts a lot of miles off the drive between Katahdin and Mooshead Lake. I had breakfast in Greenville and 15 minutes later I was in Monson at the AT trailhead locking up the bike.

There were two river fords todsy. At the first another hiker arrived right behind  me. He had his arm in a sling. It was either broken or otherwise disabled. There were 3 other thru hikers putting their shoes back on on the other side. When one of them saw the one armed guy getting nervous about crossing with only one functioning arm, this young man came BACK over the river, picked the guys pack, and carried it across. Not having a pack to throw off his balance, the injured hiker made it across ok.

I was impressed by this act of generosity from a young person.

Note that when I did this 100 mike wilderness with Ray in 2007 I only recall a single real ford. We did it in August I believe. I think things are a lot wetter this month and the rivers are correspondingly more swollen. Each ford requires a whole operation of taking off boots and socks and tying them to your pack and walking across in something like crocs. I simply cannot get my leather backpacking boots soaking wet- they would take days to dry out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Start of 100 Mile wilderness - Nobo 2070

This post is from September 15, 2015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

I have made it to the start of the 100 mile wilderness!! I started very early today and made the 15 miles by 1:30.

This is a shot of me about to ford the West Branch of the Piscataquis River;

I have returned home to Eliot now until Saturday night.   I think I must be the only thru-hiker this year that jumps into an intense haying cycle every time I return from the trail for my 'zero' days.  They don't feel like zero days when trying to cut, tedd, rake and bale 1000 bales each time.  I knew it would be hard to get through this year of the thru-hike and hold the farm together.  I am almost there.  Just have to keep it going a little longer and things will become manageable again.

On Saturday night I will drive up to Millinocket.  Early Sunday I will drop my truck at the base of Katahdin and drive the Honda 250 to Monson and start the 100 mile wilderness.

Stealth tenting near Bald Mtn Stream - Nobo 2055

This post is from September 14, 3015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

After a hearty breakfast at Northern Outdoors lodge when they opened at 7, I tried hitching the 2 miles south on 201 to the trail. After I had walked one mile I finally got picked up so I saved a mileof extra walking at least. As far as trail miles go today was 21 miles. It started off rainy but the skies cleared midday. The problem was that I had to go over 2 small mountains today and in particular the first (Pleasant Pond Mountain) consisted of an infinite number of steeply sloped smooth stone ledges both on the ascent and descent. With the rock wet from the rain the descents were very difficult to execute without falling. Even though I try so very hard to never fall because of my artificial ankle I did and have the bloody knee to show for it.  I also had one fall where I absorbed the brunt of the fall with one of my trekking poles.  I bent the thinnest segment of the pole quite badly.  I managed to straighten it out between two closely spaced trees but I think it has been compromised and I really should get another pair before starting the 100 mile wilderness.

Here are some shots from the summit of the second mountain, Moxie Bald Mountain.  You can see that the skies have cleared by then and the rain has stopped:

Here is a shot of my campsites tonight taken while standing on the trail.  The stream in the background is the Bald Mountain stream:

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Northern outdoors lodge - Nobo 2034

This post is from September 13, 2015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

The terrain is getting much easier now. I am back to doing 25 minute miles most of the time. If the elevation profile I am looking at is at real good indicator I should make the start of the 100 mile wilderness by Tuesday afternoon with no problem.  I was done with today's 14 miles by 1:30 despite delays getting started due to last night's rain.

Part of today's trail was along the portage route used by Benedict Arnold when he led a 1000 man revolutionary American army to attack Quebec City:

The highlight of the day was reaching and crossing the Kennebec River- the only spot on the trail where there is no bridge but the river cannot be safely forded.  So they provide a ferry-canoe service:

West carry pond lean-to - Nobo 2020

This post is from September 12, 2015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:
Made 22 miles today,  I got up this morning at 5:45 and was hiking by 7:15 thinking that was plenty of time to make this campsite before dark. I was wrong. I ended up walking the last mile to this place with my headlamp the dark. Why? Because the Bigelow range turned out to be much harder than the elevation profile indicated and because there was this awesome trail magic with cheeseburgers at mile 15 which cost me 20 very tasty minutes. 

Though the Bigelows slowed me down they were some of the most dramatically beautiful mountains on the AT and I hope to come back to climb them when I have more time.

Here are some views from the top on one of those Bigelow peaks (in the 4 compass directions):

Flagstaff lake:

When I reached the top of Avery peak someone asked if I had seen Katahdin yet. I responded "on this trail or in my life?". They handed me their binoculars and pointed out where I should look and sure enough, about 180 trail miles to the northeast there she was - KATAHDIN!!

I Miscalculated my water today and ran out while high up on the Bigelow ridge. It was getting to be 3 patched hours without a drop of water so I ended up filtering from this lovely spot to relieve my thirst:

Met FINCH today from Kentucky She thinks she may also be finishing on September 26 like me, She said that she is actually sad that this experience is nearing its end. I can understand that feeling.

Cranberry Stream Campsite - Nobo 1998

This post is from September 11, 2015. The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Made 19 miles today crossing over a number of 4000 foot peaks and also Sugarloaf mountain which I think will be the last ski area on the trail. There have been many starting in Vermont. 

There were a lot of steep ascents and descents today in particular coming down off Sugarloaf to the crossing of the Carrabasset River and then up the other side.  From what I can see I have another 8 miles of difficult mountains tomorrow morning and then I think I can step on the gas.

Passed again a group of 3 female thru hikers today that I had passed just before Mahoosuc notch. One of them is named CINDERELLA.

Tonight at this campsite I am not alone for a change. There is a group of 5 female friends from Bangor doing a weekend hike together, it was nice having some company while I ate.

Stealth camp on woods road - Nobo 1979

This post is from September 10, 2015.The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

I only made 15 miles today mostly due to the late start of 10:50am.  This was due to the fact that while I got up at 5;30 in my motel in Skowhegan I had to drive to the start of the 100 mile wilderness and drop my truck and then drive almost 100 miles on rural roads back to Rangeley in order to resume where I left the trail last Friday.

Crossing Saddleback mountain was very pretty though the hiking was often difficult.

It was cloudy but dry until around 5pm when we started to get intermittent drizzle. It never got bad though so it was not that unpleasant.  I have gone back to my warmer sleeping bag. I am glad for that tonight. Nice and cozy as I write this.

Today I met a couple of solo female northbounders. The first was BONBON from Florida and the second was HAULIN OATS from Westford, MA.  Everyone is getting excited about the prospect of finishing soon.

It's the last hour of the night now and the drizzle  has turned into a downpour. Hard to imagine starting to hike in this steep terrain in this rain in the morning.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Route 4 Rangeley - Nobo 1964

This post is from September 4, 2015.  The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Hiked 17 miles today to my rendezvous with Helen.

Along the way at mile 4.4 of the day I passed this beautiful spot overlooking Rangeley Lakes:

My son Peter met his friend Mike at this spot 13 months ago as Peter joined Mike for 2 days of his 2014 thru-hjike.

This is a shot of me when I met up with Helen at the Rte 4 trailhead in Rangeley:

On the drive back to my truck which had been left in Shelburne, NH the previous Monday, we passed this sad site of a freshly killed black bear cub;

Bemis Mountain leanto - Nobo 1947

This post is from September 3, 2015.  The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Got a ride from Pine Ellis lodge to the trailhead with 2 other older thru hikers, BAZINGA AND PEEPAW. My shorter day yesterday worked in that I felt a lot more energetic today despite the challenges of the first 13 miles of this 19 mile day:

Here is a view looking North towards Rangeley as I descend from the summit of Mt. Bemis.

Water is quite scarce over the past 10 miles and I really had counted on getting water at this shelter when I pulled in at 6:45. The two section hikers from Georgia that were here simply said 'there is none'. After hunting a little more deeply in the woods I found a fetid little pool with bugs swimming on top but I was desperate so I filtered it with my new squeeze pocket filter and then chemically treated it and then made a milkshake 😃

Here is a shot of my tent site tonight:

Here is the same shot taken the next morning: