Every spring, thousands of hikers step onto a 2,183-mile
(give or take some) footpath known as The Appalachian Trail that travels from Springer Mountain,
Ga., to Mount Katahdin, Maine. If they start at Springer Mountain, their mission is to reach Mount
Katahdin in Baxter State Park before Oct. 15, when the park closes.
addition to completing the mammoth undertaking, Josh Lindamood, 27, of Lynchburg, Va., stepped onto
the trail April 4 with another mission: serving other hikers along the way as Holston Conference’s
first chaplain commissioned to “The A.T.”
Adopting the trail name of
“Hardtack,” Lindamood began his journey on a rainy day with a temperature of 34 degrees and winds at
30-35 mph. He was joined in those first days by four other hikers — including a Daily Times
reporter and photographer — who had planned to accompany him for about a week, but left the trail
on the following Saturday after two them began experiencing knee
“I had really looked forward to doing that first week with you
guys,” he said by phone recently while doing a couple of zero days at Hiawassee, Ga. “I hadn’t
intended on hiking along without you. I just went on to set up
Asked about the most difficult experience during that first week,
Josh struggled to come up with an answer.
“It’s all been really nice,” he
said. “I’ve just been trying to stay hydrated, which hasn’t been too difficult with all of the
streams (being full). After that start on Thursday, it’s been
That first day on The A.T., Lindamood and everyone else
hitting the trail at Springer Mountain experienced wind, rain and ice. That night, they
reached Hawk Mountain Shelter, which sleeps 12, but found it to be overflowing with hikers even
gathered in the crawl space beneath the shelter. There was an estimated 50-plus hikers in and around
the shelter, which has a privy, bear cables, and water available at a stream several hundred
The days that followed offered much improved
using a tarp for shelter, Lindamood’s itinerary includes picking up “food drops” by supporters
along the way, his first being at Neel Gap, about 31 miles from Springer Mountain. The problem: it
added to his backpack weight because he had not yet consumed all of the first week’s
“I think that’s what led to the blister,” he said, referring to a
small blister on his left foot.
Lindamood met a hiker at Blue Mountain
Shelter, 18.8 miles from Dicks Creek Gap, who didn’t have enough food to make it to his next food
“I gave him about a day-and-a-half’s worth of food,” he said, which
not only helped the hiker, but lessened his own load.
“I was gonna come
down Tuesday night and hitch into town (Hiawassee), but I went ahead and stayed a night in the
shelter,” he said.
His longest day in that first week was from Woods Hole
Shelter to Low Gap Shelter, a distance of about 15.1 miles, if you include the side
His high point in the week?
“It was kind
of cool. I had a real God moment up on Tray Mountain. I was going to listen to my iPod, which I
hadn’t listened to all week and I couldn’t get it to working. So, I thought, ‘Well, God, I guess
there’s something you want me to pay attention to or something. So, I just stuck it back in my
pocket and at some point I started singing a song by Mercy Me, ‘I Can Only Imagine.’ I haven’t
listened to that song in years.”
Hardtack said while singing on top
of Tray Mountain, he was overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s Creation.
Energized by the experience, he hiked up the trail, knowing there
were more mountains to conquer before reaching Maine.