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: