The 82nd Airborne
Division Association

South Florida Chapter

Joe Pappacoda, Former Secretary/Treasurer of the South Florida Chapter
and his Significant-Other, Sheri, embarked on their assault of the
Appalachian Trail on April 1st, 2002.

Joe and Sheri at Hot Springs NC

Joe ( Airborne ) and Sheri ( Wild Iris ) Take A Break Before Returning To The Trail

Beginning at Springer Mountain in North Georgia on April 1st
- May 20th finds the pair well along and on schedule in Damascus, Virginia

Expected return to South Florida : Sometime around the end of September 2002
But not before having trekked the 2,100 miles through to Mount Katahdin, Maine !

From: "Joe Sheri" <>
Date: Wed, 04 Dec 2002 20:26:07 +0000
Subject: final chapter

Okay, okay, okay, okay!!!!! You are right, I have fallen down on the job! It has been a while and I have told some of you the story in person and others have written and asked about it. Well, here it is. After the fact and after much reflection.

The hike as a whole was definitely the adventure of a lifetime. To only know people for who they tell you they are and have names that reflect their significance and not their nationality is maybe the way it should be. Mouse Bait got bit by a mouse while sleeping in a shelter. BearScare was chased by a bear. Brogan stole a pair of shoes. Animal Mother was a Marine and an environmentalist. Scratch was going to start from there when he was finished hiking. Chrispy's brain was fried. Etc. Do we know where these people are from or what social status they held in the outside world? Not for the most part. It was all about how they related to the trail and the other hikers.

I think that I left off by saying that we were not going to put ourselves in danger again by hiking in hazardous conditions. Quite a lot of the 100 mile wilderness was flat. I fell and broke my nose during that time, so it isn't as though it was advisable to take your mind off of the trail. Luckily it was still in the right vicinity, so we just continued on our way.

We reached Baxter State Park on September 30th and camped at the base of Katahdin. That day was absolutely beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky and probably about 75 degrees. We approached the check in station and found the weather statistics. As we suspected, it was a class 1 day, which translates to clear, warm, and the entire park is open to all types of hikers. What concerned us, was the forecast for the rest of the week. The following day was predicted to be rainy and overcast. The weather was not supposed to clear until Friday. Unfortunately, this was Monday. It was too late to go for it on Monday, so we would have to wait until Tuesday to see what was going to happen. We arose at 6:30am and it was raining (as predicted). We decided to pack up and head for the ranger station. There would be another update on the weather and the day would be classed. Classes went from 1 to 4. As I said earlier, 1 was the best. The classification on Tuesday was 3 and the prediction for the rest of the week was dismal at best.

Our friends Loggerhead and Strong Fish were traveling with us and we decided to summit together. As we were thru-hikers, the ranger said that we were experienced enough that we would be allowed to go. We voted 3-1 in favor of finishing on October 1. If we didn't go, it would be 4 days before we had another chance. It was 5 miles up and 5 miles back. This was the hardest mountain of the entire trail, partly because the rules at Baxter State Park are meant to protect the environment and not to accommodate the humans who might enter the park. Where other places had ladders or rungs in the rock, Katahdin had only enough rungs to give the hiker a fair chance at getting up to the top. There was so much fog that we could not always see the lead person.

I cannot describe what it felt like when we reached the summit. After six months and a goal that seemed beyond reality, the best I can do is say that it was tearful, it was joy, it was the deepest sense of accomplishment that I could ever imagine. It was a goal that was so personal that we were the only ones who would ever benefit from it. Now, we were done and had to hike another 5 miles to finish our journey. When we turned around and started our descent, the weather began to clear. It was surprising at how steep and exposed the rocks were that we had climbed. The view was spectacular. We passed seven other people who turned back and saw 2 others who also made the summit.

When we got back to the ranger station, there were about ten people who were planning to summit on the 2nd. They were eager to hear all about it. It was then that the finality of the adventure hit us all. We were done. The people who were known to us only by their descriptive names and their adventuresome spirits were all going to disappear into the work-a-day world we had all left several months ago to become who we really are deep inside.

If you have not done so already, give yourselves a new name. Use it when you want to truly be yourself, even if you never share it with another soul. Remember your spirit and bring it out to play, if only for a short while.

Happy Holidays and thank you all for being our friends. After all that is what life is all about.

Love, Airborne and Wild Iris

From: "Joe Sheri" <>
Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2002 18:54:51 +0000
Subject: Last 100 miles

Hi everyone!

Well, we are about 99 miles from the end. The weather has been good for the most part, though it has made some of the trail quite dangerous.

Last week we started out with a sunny day, but with the promise of light rain and some wind. As the day progressed and we approached the summit of Saddleback Mt., the temperature dropped, the rain increased and so did the wind. There were 3.5 miles of alpine zone on this ridge (summit with exposed rock). The rocks were slick from the moisture and the wind was brutal. We were able to set up camp at about 4:30 that afternoon. All of the hikers were immediately bundled up and in their tents for the night.

Exposure is a big concern during this type of weather, but everyone was safe and was able to get warm shortly after dropping below the alpine zone.

This was the only time when anyone felt that conditions were life threatening. We all learned that you have to pay close attention to the weather report and not take chances where waiting one or two days can make the hike both enjoyable and safe. Katahdin (the end) is the only mountain left that could possibly have those same conditions. We have made the decision that we will only attempt it on a sunny day. Usually, it does not snow until after 15 October, so we should be able to finish in plenty of time for a great (and sunny) finish.

Best wishes to you all for a great fall. We hope to finish in a week to ten days.

Airborne & Wild Iris

From: "Joe Sheri" <>
Date: Mon, 09 Sep 2002 12:33:30 +0000
Subject: Update

Hello everyone!

This is just a quick note to let you all know that we are still out there.

We are in Andover, ME at The Cabin, a wonderful little (homey) B&B. We are on our way to the trail head to begin another day of hiking. It is beautiful here and the weather is unseasonably warm (should be in the 80s today) and almost too hot to hike.

A moose and her calf ran through our campsite the other night. They are huge!!! We have only seen 4 in total, but there is a promise to see many more.

I need to run as they are getting ready to leave. We have just about 3 weeks left if all goes according to the plans.

See you soon.

Love, Airborne & Wild Iris

From: "Joe Sheri" <>
Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2002 22:31:13 +0000

Subject: AT Update

Hi Everyone!

Just as you (and we) thought that we were off the trail for this year, we are getting back on. Due to injuries and running out of steam, we decided to end our hike at the summit of Mt. Washington in NH.

The day before we stopped, we hiked over very rugged terrain. NH is the toughest state and Mt. Washington has the most severe weather in the world. We hiked a mere 6 miles in fog, rain, and 60 mph. wind. We had to use our poles to remain upright. The poles were picked up with deliberation and firmly planted to avoid being ripped out of our hands. We felt that we were close to the Lakes of the Cloud Hut, but could not see far enough to really determine where we were. A couple appeared in front of us going the other direction and we asked if they knew where the hut was. (The hut is a very large stone building, housing over 75 guests.) They turned around and then turned back and said "You're standing in front of it!" We took 2 steps and found ourselves standing at the front door.

As we entered the building people were scurrying about. Just before we arrived, a woman was picked up by the wind and dropped on the rocks where she broke her leg. Six people had to carry her to the summit (1.5 miles) to get her to an ambulance. Though it was only 11:30 am, we decided to stay at the hut for the night. The inn was full...but the AMC will not turn away thru-hikers, they have a basement for over flow (nick named "the dungeon") or the first two who volunteer to work for 2 hours are given free room and board. Since it was so stormy outside they waived the rule of waiting till late afternoon before accepting the volunteers. Again, the inn was full so we were given meals and slept on the floor of the dining room. Still this was much better than the dungeon (wet and cold). Our job was to lift up all the mattresses and sweep out the bed box.

Though we were entitled to stay for breakfast, we decided to start early if the weather was good. We were given some bread to eat and began the 1.5 mile ascent to the summit. After the first mile, the weather suddenly turned and we had a repeat of the day before. Before we got to the top, the rain turned to sleet and the temperature dropped. This was where the adventure ended. We took a shuttle to the bottom of the mountain and took some time to heal our stiff knees, numb toes and Joe's water on his knee.

We have taken about 3 weeks off and are now ready to finish New Hampshire and Maine. If you remember, we skipped most of Virginia, and we will probably wait till next year to hike that section. We have about 330 miles left to get to Mt. Katahdin, ME. It should take us another month or so.

The time off has given us a fresh outlook and healthy bodies for the last section of our hike.

Thanks for your continued support. I am happy that things are going well for our friends and relatives. Please let us know that you are still out there. We care about your lives too.

Best regards, Wild Iris and Airborne

From: "Joe Sheri" <>
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 2002 18:57:33 +0000
Subject: We are still out there!

Hello everyone!

It has been a while, but we are still here. We are in Vermont today and New Hampshire tomorrow.

I guess you would like to know what a typical day is like for us.

Yesterday we got up late as the day before was long and difficult. I pack up the inside of the tent and then get breakfast ready. Joe gets the food down from the tree (bear bagging) and then packs up the tent. We eat breakfast, take our vitamins, salt pills, and ibuprofin, and then set out for our morning hike. We got about 4 miles yesterday when we stopped for raspberries and then another snack of potato chips and coke. We ran into another hiker who let us know about a free shower and we decided that we would go for one. Again we started out fresh and clean. We got about another 4 miles and decided to go for ice cream and ate it under a bridge during a thunderstorm. At the end of the day, we got to a remote shelter and set up camp. Joe sets up the tent and I do the inside. We built a fire, made dinner, and settled in for the night. No one else showed up and we were lulled to sleep by the symphony of wild life in the area (owls, coyotes, cows, and other harmonizing wild things).

Today we are in a small town enjoying a deli and a library.

I hope that you are all well and enjoying the summer as much as we are.

Love to you all,

Wild Iris and Airborne

From: "Joe Sheri" <>
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2002 19:02:55 +0000
Subject: We have surfaced again!

Hello everyone! Check out the website that our friends Bob and Bettye Wirt have set up. It contains pictures and newsletters. It will be a good place to check for updates.

It has been a while and so much has happened. I will start with the day we reached the summit of Mt. Rogers. The tallest mountain in Virginia is Mt. Rogers. We began ascending the mountain in the early afternoon and it soon began to snow. It was light and the temp. was around 35 degrees. We continued walking until early evening when we reached the summit. The temperature dropped and the snow continued. As this is an ecologically sensitive area, there was no camping or campfires permitted. What was available was a shelter that has 3 walls and one open end. We and several other people put on every stitch of clothing we had and got down inside our sleeping bags for the night. In the morning it was still snowing and a blanket covered the ground. We waited until about 10am to leave. The overnight low was about 20 degrees, but it had risen to about 35 again just before 10am.

Not far down the path was a herd of wild ponies. They were so beautiful that we forgot for a moment that we were cold. We knew that they were close by and that they would eat salt out of your hand, but we were too cold to fish it out of the pack. Soon we walked by another herd, and again just enjoyed the view. A third herd saw us coming and ran up to us to see if we were going to feed them. There was no getting by these guys. There were about 30 of them and they just mobbed us. After the salt was gone they stayed and let us pet them. It was such a great diversion from the weather that we really began to enjoy the day.

This one day made us consider the fact that we were taking a big chance of ending our adventure in the snow in Maine. Maine is the most difficult section of the AT and after mid September, hikers can either be caught in storms or find the park closed and are unable to finish. With that in mind, we got on a bus in Marion, VA and headed for D.C. We then caught a cab to Harpers Ferry, WV and hiked north from there. Our calculations show that we should arrive in Katahdin, ME around the end of August. Then we will return to either Marion or Harpers Ferry to do the easy section last.

We are now in Palmerton, PA and will be in NJ next week. Pennsylvania is very rocky and difficult. The people are so friendly and helpful that they sometimes chase us down to try to help us with getting around and just doing nice things like one man brought us each a bowl of Teaberry ice cream. Others have offered rides to the grocery store or other places. In Tenn. they just chased us down.

We saw our first bear the other day. It was only about 15 feet away. We looked at it, it looked at us, and then it wandered away. Magnificent animal. That same day we saw a ruffled grouse, and a deer. We have seen 6 different colors and patterns of newts. Snakes are plentiful, but most are harmless. The only venomous ones that we have come across were (2) copperheads.

We are looking forward to New England and getting out of the rocks. We plan to take a couple of days off to visit with Joe's family, then back on the trail. Melany will be in New York over the 4th of July and we hope to see her and Anthony as well.

Take care and thanks for all of your email. We both love to hear about your lives as well.


Airborne and Wild Iris

From: "Joe Sheri" <>
Date: Sat, 18 May 2002 15:08:13 +0000
Subject: The rush is on!

Another tale of the hikers!

On Thursday evening we were 10 miles out of Damascus, VA. Friday begins the "Trail Days" weekend. A town of about 5,000 suddenly becomes 25,000. YIKES! Many of the thru-hikers are on a budget and want to arrive exactly on Friday; therefore, they arrive at the 10 mile shelter, get a good night's sleep and make a mad dash in the morning. Since hiker's midnight is 8:30, all was quiet at 9:00. Many of the hikers vowed to be hitting the trail at 7:00am. We awoke at about 7:30 and didn't really see where many had left.

We arrived at about 12 noon, which gave us an all time record of about 3 miles per hour. The first day was wild with a drumming circle that didn't end until the downpour at 3:00am.

I will update later today.

Love, Wild Iris and Airborne

From: "Joe Sheri" <>
Sent: Monday, May 13, 2002 12:54 PM
Subject: A day off

Hi everyone!

We are taking the day off due to severe weather in this area. We have lightened our load by over 10 pounds and keep searching for ways to get the weight down. It is funny that all you read says that the hikers should consume over 4,000 calories per day. The fallacy in that is that you can't carry that much and enjoy the hike! Anyway...

We have had very little encounters with the wild life. Last week, we heard about Daisies going into the woods to pee and running into a bear. The next day we were in a restaurant and overheard her tell the waitress. The waitress interupted her with "...yeah, yeah, I heard that story two days ago." News travels fast with this grapevine. You don't get to tell your story but once, and then it is repeated back to you more times than you care to hear.

The day before yesterday was a great day. We woke up in an old barn (turned shelter for hikers). There were wild turkeys roaming in the field. We crossed about 3 balds (bare topped mountains) and the fourth bald was a range for Texas Long horns. They were pretty docile and didn't seem to mind. They are huge and very intimidating. Later we went through another field with cattle, horses, and a burro. It was a 16 mile day and we were exhausted when we set up camp. We bought a new tent (saved 6 lbs of weight) and needed to seam seal it. There are a few leaves in stuck to the tent, but it isn't going to leak. It is much smaller, but it fits and is worth the weight difference.

Again, thank you for all your emails. If they are not personally answered, it is because we are limited on time and resources. They are; however, very much appreciated.

Much love, Airborne and Wild Iris

P.S. I finally was able to send the pictures, but I am not sure that they were intact. Mel will let me know and then maybe she can give it a shot, if it fails.

From: "Joe Sheri" <>
Date: Mon, 13 May 2002 16:24:32 +0000
Subject: Re: Greetings From The Beach

How wonderful to hear from you. We miss you too. The Air&Sea Show sounds like it was one of the better ones. We were struggling in the fog and driving rain up a very steep incline when Joe says "Gee honey, everyone we know is sitting on the beach with alcohol and 85 degree weather. They are..." and I said "Don't even finish that sentence. I don't want to think about how much fun everyone else is having right at this particular moment." For the most part we are having fun; however, I can't say that they all have!

We stopped to resupply and since it is raining again, with severe thunderstorm warnings, we are staying put for the day.

Take care. Love, Sheri & Joe

From: "Joe Sheri" <>
Date: Mon, 06 May 2002 19:13:25 +0000
Subject: One Month on the Trail

Hi again. It has been one month since we began this adventure. Our feet have healed and we are gaining both strenght and endurance. We thought that there had been lots of sunshine and very little rain during this time, but when we looked at our journal we discovered that it had been quite the opposite. I guess we must be having a good time inspite of the weather. It really isn't bad to hike in the rain, it's just hard to set up and tear down the campsite in the rain. It's no fun to carry wet gear.

This past week we have had the most severe weather and have managed to meet our goal of 13 miles every day. Yesterday was probably our best day. We started hiking at around 9am in slight fog and temperatures in the mid 50's. It soon warmed up and the sun took the fog away. By lunch it was near 70 degrees and great for a lazy lunch on a large rock in the middle of a small creek. There was a tiny trout hanging out a few feet away looking for any food that happened to float by. We tossed in som cheese and crackers, which the trout devoured in no time. We enjoyed the sun for a while and then began our afternoon hike. We reached a shelter at about 4pm and decided that it was too early to stop. We continued on and stopped at a nearby spring to get some water for the evening. At about 5:30 we found a great spot at the top of the mountain for camping. There was lots of firewood around, so we gathered enough for a small campfire that would last for just about 3 hours. We hiked 13 miles and still had enough energy to enjoy the evening. This morning we got up and hiked into town to rest for a day and resupply for the next part of the journey.

All of our injuries have healed and we are making the miles without getting too exhausted. We are approaching the 25 percent mark for our trip. Woo hoo!!! It is getting easier and more fun every day.

Thanks for all of your support and the emails that you have sent letting us know how you are doing.

The second email is pictures that were taken by Dale ("Big Al") and Carol ("Honey Graham")Vogel. They met us in Hot Springs for a wonderful breakfast together and to take our packs 6 miles down the road for us. This really helped as it is much easier to hike without all that weight on our backs. Thanks Big Al and Honey Graham.

Take care!

Airborne and Wild Iris

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