daniel & kooper



Posted Apr 17 2011 23:37 GMT to Posterous-

...and 2179 miles later I flew home.

I've been meaning to write a summary of my thru-hike since I got back about 6 months ago, but I found that I can't really do it justice with words or images.  Some have tried (read the books As Far as the Eye Can See or the A Walk in the Woods or look at these photos) but you can only truly understand once you are a few months in.  A commonality I found amongst all my fellow hikers was that we couldn't really explain it, but we felt compelled to do this.  The trail called us there.  A thru-hike may not be for everyone, but it was definitely for me.

My reasons for walking through the woods for five and a half months were varied... I wanted to challenge myself physically and technically, I wanted to clear my mind, I wanted an adventure, I wanted to know what is truly essential, I wanted to discover more about myself and this planet, I wanted to raise money for Abby and awareness of Mitochondrial Disease, and I wanted a fresh beginning... to hit the reset button on life. I achieved all this and more (like growing an epic beard).

Now that I'm back in the "real world" I feel I have a sharper focus on life.  In the six months since I returned I've changed jobs, moved into my own place, met new friends, and even implemented an idea or two.  Stripping down to the bare necessities of life gives you a greater understanding of what is truly important.  I understand the power of taking one step at a time. I know I have the patience, determination, and support to accomplish anything I dream.

I want to thank everyone for the support I received. I don't think I would have made it without: My parents who traveled thousands of miles to help me.  My friends who joined me, left comments on my site and on facebook, and donated to the Fitzpatrick family.  My fellow hikers I met along the way.  All the countless trail angels who provided food, drink, shelter, and encouragement.  And most of all, my incredible dog Kooper, who was my constant companion through it all.

I can hear the calling.  What's next?  Anyone up for Patagonia?  The PCT?  Te Araroa?

Obi-Wan & Kooper


Some stats:

We raised $5350 for Abby!

I averaged 13.3 miles per day, over 164 days (Apr 17th - Sep 27th), including 13 zero days.

I spent $4267.30 while I hiked.  This does not include buying gear before or flying back home (or loss of income from not working)

This spreadsheet shows where I was every day and where I resupplied.

A compilation of my best photos & videos.

A dump of all my (1000) photos.

Me speaking about my hike at church.

All my trail-journal posts along with a map at onahike.com (I'll have it viewable in oldest to newest post order soon)

• I came across your video of your AT hike, and was transported to the trail through your photos and video footage. I am an avid hiker, but live life with a traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis---so my dreams of taking on such a feat lie in living them vicariously through folks like you.
I am partnered with a service dog, so I can also relate to the aspect of the canine-human bond, and was especially drawn to your accomplishment with your canine friend, Kooper; what a GREAT trail dog! My service dog, Nadja loves to go hiking with my daughter and I when I am blessed enough with the good health to do it, but I can't imagine taking her to the heights (literally) that you did with Kooper---wow!!
I can also relate to learning how to live simply and finding out what's really important. Although, this lesson wasn't taught to me through getting back to nature, but by losing my home with my little girl after a brutal home invasion caused us to lose our entire family/home in one horrible night. I learned that living with so much less frees you up to discover new pathways in life---ones that are usually covered up in clutter (mental and physical).
Thank you for sharing your journey with the world---and for folks like me, whose bodies can not handle the rigors of the trail, but whose spirit desire it. ;-)
God bless you and Kooper----please tell him that K-9 Nadja sends him a great, big doggie shout out ;-)
• just ran across your youtube video. i too love to go hiking with my dog Tiger. lost my border collie, Sadie in may of 2011. she had developed health problems over the last 3 years of her life. we used to go mt. biking every weekend and then she just got old and sick. i tell people we both got old and fat the last 3 years she was with me (i got over 300lbs.). when she died i took a personel inventory and decided it was time to get back into shape. so i went to the shelter looking for the most obnoxious dog i could find. my plan was to save him and he would save me. june 12, 2011 was the day. that day i couldn't go 2 miles without killing myself. a year later i was down over 50lbs. and doing 10-15 mile death marches on sat and sun and 3-5 miles on week day afternoons. This year i started keeping a mileage log and Tiger and i will break 1500 miles by year end. we did a small portion of the AT in may by NOC. My son was so impressed with Tiger he rescued Koda who now has joined the hiking team. She had issues too but happy to report that in a year of rehabilitation she has completely come out of her shell and even learned to play.
i'm not a religious person but there is something spiritual about hiking in the woods with your dog. there is a bond i have with Tiger that i could never have with a human. my wife even gets jealous sometimes. since i got Tiger he has missed only one 5 mile hike due to a minor leg injury and i had to confine him to keep him in. he would have done the hike with a bum leg.
if anyone else needs motivation to get out hiking more, may i recommend a dog. any dog will do too. the shelters are full of them. it took me a few months to train Tiger but between obedience and agility classes we created a lifetime bond. i use to smoke 15-20 cigars a week and drink lots of bourbon. i still enjoy an occasional smoke and drink but lets just say the local cigar shops and liquor stores have seen a major decrease in income thanks to the Tiger Dog. when i do stop by them i usually have Tiger with me and they laugh about it and comment on the weight loss. my day used to revolve around getting done at work and heading to a bar or poker game (aka the smoke filled rooms) and now it revolves around my afternoon hikes with the dogs. every afternoon they are waiting for me to put on the hiking boots and get on the trails behind my house. if i'm not on the deck they start barking letting me know its time to go. on weekends i can't even get to the van without them jumping in because they are worried i might leave without them.
so again, if you need motivation just go rescue a dog. they never say no to a hike in the woods.

Posted Jan 28 2011 01:48 GMT to YouTube-
Images and Video of my 2010 AT thru-hike with my dog. In mostly chronological order. See more at http://onahike.com Music: Worn out shoes from perpetually walking on a dream. "Worn out Shoes" by Joe Purdy "Perpetuum Mobile" by The Penguin Cafe Orchestra "Walking On A Dream" by Empire of the Sun (The Tremulance remix)
• Best Video Ever, Congratulations!!!
• Just watched your video again, will always love it. I envy you so much, and only wish I could hike the Appalachian Trail too. How is little Kooper?
Posted Sep 30 2010 22:39 GMT to Twitter-
• Do you think you could email me? I am thinking about hiking the AT with my dog Huck (he's a vizsla too). I just wanted to talk to some one who had gone through it with a dog. Mainly, what you did on the sections where dogs are not allowed. Thanks, Jeff jeffcfuchs@gmail.com
• Great to hear from you. Tredd, Stacy, and Titus.

Posted Sep 27 2010 20:14 GMT to Flickr-
• Congratulations!
• Wow! Found your note from 6/13/10 at Bobblets Gap in Va. http://ow.ly/i/4n4P
I see you just finished. Congrats! Awesome accomplishment!

Posted Sep 27 2010 19:30 GMT to Flickr-
Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, finishing our journey on Katahdin's Baxter Peak.
• Good to see you and Kooper romping over the AT. Was a terrific time out there! Our best to you and a huge hug to Kooper!!

Posted Sep 27 2010 19:05 GMT to Flickr-
Posted Sep 27 2010 16:18 GMT to Twitter at view on map-
• congrats?!
• Congrats Dan !! Stacy and I been following your journey since we met you before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the trail.. well done Dan, well done !!
Stacy, Tredd and our little dog Titus
Posted Sep 27 2010 11:42 GMT to Twitter-
• Congrats Daniel, I'm proud of you!
• Just spent of week with a mutual friend of yours Roy Darden. So glad for you Daniel this has been an amazing journey for you and Kooper. A lifetime of memories has been made. Thank you for allowing All of Us to Live this out with you as you progressed in the Journey. May all of your Joys become complete in the one who holds all in His hands.

Posted Sep 25 2010 23:22 GMT to Flickr-
He will be with me at the top in spirit.
• Yeah, but with all the out and back that guy did I'm sure he has done 1.5 ATs. Good job Koop.
• was there only two [arks the dog couldnt go and one you can like hick around or have a service take him around
Posted Sep 23 2010 22:47 GMT to Twitter at view on map-
• Go you two! Had a great time sharing the trail with you. best of luck in your future adventures. Dutch and Cabana Boy

Posted Sep 23 2010 20:32 GMT to Flickr-
Katahdin from Pemadumcook Lake
• Good rock scrambles ahead! It's You, God and
Sky up there.

Posted Sep 19 2010 17:29 GMT to Flickr at view on map-
• Guess it is a good thing I forgot that last pack of freeze dried ?

Posted Sep 15 2010 01:47 GMT to Flickr-
View from Little Bigelow

Posted Sep 15 2010 01:14 GMT to Flickr-
view from Little Bigelow

Posted Sep 14 2010 20:41 GMT to Flickr-
Lunch break on the Bigelows
• Looks like Kooper has a buddy. Does he like hiking with another dog?
Posted Sep 14 2010 19:54 GMT to Twitter at view on map-
• Picture?????
• Pics or it didn't happen.

Posted Sep 14 2010 01:20 GMT to YouTube-
Beautiful day above treeline. I think I could maybe see Katahdin waaay off in the distance.
• Keep going strong Sims! Hoping these days/miles at the end of your NOBO journey are some of the best yet.

Posted Sep 11 2010 15:01 GMT to Flickr-
In the Piazza Rock privy

Posted Sep 07 2010 16:34 GMT to Flickr-
• this is great

Posted Sep 06 2010 18:23 GMT to Flickr-
Had to drag my pack through. Turns out I could have just gone around.
Posted Sep 05 2010 19:04 GMT to Twitter at view on map-
• Good now get back to Florida so you can attend to your slowly decaying user-base

Posted Sep 04 2010 13:53 GMT to Posterous-
The White Mountains of New Hampshire are home to some of the most
difficult terrain on the Appalachian Trail.  That combined with "the
worst weather in America", you can understand why I was feeling a
little nervous going in.

The weather turned out to be perfectly clear and sunny the whole way
through.  All the heavy and bulky winter gear I lugged around was
mostly unused, but I am grateful for staying dry and having daily
breathtaking views.

Moosilauki was first, known for its steep and slippery north side.
Kooper and I had no problems.  Going down is much easier for Kooper
because he has no fear of jumping or sliding down the rocks.  I, on
the other hand, take my sweet time to avoid any knee injuries.

We stayed at Chet's hostel in Lincoln, then got back on the trail
carrying 5 days of food.  Chet is an avid outdoorsman that opened the
hostel (which runs on donations) after he was wheelchair bound due to
a fuel canister explosion.

Soon after I began my hike out of Kinsman Notch, I realized I left my
denatured alcohol (cooking fuel) at the Glencliff hostel.  So I
hunkered down and commited to hiking the full 17 miles to the next
roadcrossing back to Lincoln.  Turns out the climb up south Kinsman
Mountain was the hardest climb yet.  Every 10 feet was like a puzzle,
trying to figure out how to get Kooper and myself up the cliffs of
rock. Without a pack it would be fun, with a fully loaded pack it was

As I neared the Franconia Notch roadcrossing late in the evening, I
came across the first AMC Hut, Lonesome Lake.  The huts are large bunk
houses that provide a bunk, dinner, and breakfast to guests (for about
$90 a night).  They function totally "off the grid", so aren't as
nature-destroying as you might think.  So I asked if they had
denatured alcohol and they did!  They also asked if I wanted to
work-for-stay, where I would clean out their fridge and they would
give me dinner, breakfast, and a secret tent spot behind the building
(you are not allowed to tent near a hut, in fact you are only supposed
to tent in designated places in the Whites that charge $8).  So I
didn't have to go back to town afterall!

Next up was Franconia Ridge which is a thin above-treeline ridge
providing amazing views all the way up to the top of Mount Lafayette.
Lots of scrambling up rocks, but you don't care because of the views
and cool strong winds.  Even though it was a relatively short day
(12ish miles?) I was happy to pay 8 bucks to collapse at the Garfield

The next day was more alpine hiking amongst short pine trees,
waterfalls, and a nice flat stretch to a stealth camp spot (avoiding
the $8 fee at the offical spot a few miles back).  The next day I
originally wanted to stay at Lakes of the Clouds hut, but from what I
was hearing from various caretakers, forcing them to take in Kooper
(dogs are not allowed in huts) would not be good.  So I took a short
day, hung out at the Willey House, and stopped at the Mitzpah
Hut/campsite along with 12 other through-hikers and all of us got WFS.

Up next was the Presidential Range, an entire day above tree-line.
The views were once again amazing, especially of the Great Gulf
valley, Grand Canyonish in its vastness.  As I passed Lakes of the
Clouds Hut, the top of Mount Washington (second highest peak on the
AT) was engulfed by a dark cloud.  I hiked up anyways and the skies
cleared just as I reached the top.  Not much of a view up there due to
all the touristy buildings (you can drive or ride a train to the top).
 Interesting that candy bars are cheaper at the Huts than on Mt.
Washington, even though the Hut croo have to carry everything on their
backs over miles of rocky terrain.

Speaking of rocky terrain, the trail from Washington to Madison was a
brutal field of rough rocks.  We got to the hut but were denied WFS,
so we went down a very steep side trail to a stealth camp spot (right
next to a no camping sign >_> ).  Another exhausting day down.  In the
morning we went down the Pine Link side-trail (there are hundreds of
trails in the Whites) that goes straight into Gorham, NH.  Spits you
out convieniently next to Burger King :)

To finish out the Whites, I left my gear at the White Birches
Campground hostel and attacked Wildcat, Carter, and other peaks
carrying only water and food for the day.  Without a 35-40 lb pack,
steep climbs can actually be fun!  Even still, the rough terrain can
wear you down.  Kooper plopped down a few times, forcing me to take a
quick break.  We took another side trail to get back to the road
before it got dark and rainy (I forgot to bring my headlamp).  18
miles of hiking through the Whites takes a long time, even without a
full pack.

So, I made it out of The Whites alive and well.  I will miss the
scenery, huts, and abnormally sunny weather.  In a few days I'll be in
Maine, which is as rugged but probably won't have quite the views (and
a cold front is coming).  The desire to reach the finish line may be
all that keeps me going from here on out.

• Stunning views! Loved the post, too. Man... it must be suck to forget something when you're hiking, but that's awesome that the hostel had denatured alcohol!
You're almost there!

Posted Sep 02 2010 20:35 GMT to Brightkite at view on map-
218 State Route 2, Shelburne, NH, United States
[view mobile-site]
My Progress
2178 miles
2178 *estimated based on the location of my last post
Hike for Abby