backpacking the A.T. and caregiving 

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Every March, hordes of folks leave Amicalola Falls State Park heading to Mount Katahdin. That’s over 2000 miles. It’s estimated that anywhere from 7 to 15% go all the way. The average time for the backpacking journey is estimated to be 6 months. The weather is wide-ranging and many a mountain must be climbed. Folks sometimes get hurt and/or sick. What I’m saying is, there can be a lot of adversity.

For several years, on weekends, I would be there. I would watch, listen and give my opinion, if asked. 

On one occasion that has stuck with me, there was an elderly gentleman in attendance. Folks seemed to be crowding around him, asking questions. When he spoke he sounded sure. A young man asked him what was the most important piece of gear. Without hesitation the elderly man said it was “attitude” 

He went on to say that if you leave with the thought that you will go as best you know how, and let the trip advise you, and adapt, you will make it, if it’s important. 

Back with mom in Roberta  . . . . . 

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Mom was good. I was sharpening the saw. I’m a caregiver that, because of family and friends, gets time off, on occasion. Many caregivers do not have that luxury. 

Spent time with family and friends. 

Spent time at Amicalola Falls. 

– – – – – – – – – – 

For the first time, I burned energy on an elliptical machine. The time was good. My daughter has a well equipped gym. 

My visit back to where “Across the Land” really started 


I left the intensive care unit and ended up 59 miles north of home. I’ve never been able to figure out what led me to Amicalola Falls, but I remember standing at the bottom of the falls, that afternoon, and looking up and telling myself “one day you will run up those stairs” 

I did run up those stairs. I went to the park as often as possible. I wasn’t doing well managing my life. Everything took a back seat to improving my health. I lost, in total, 118 lbs. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was training for an Epic Journey. From June 1, 2012 until today, April 1, 2017, I have ran, jogged or walked almost 17,000 miles to raise awareness concerning alzheimer’s disease and raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. 

I visited the park yesterday, and today for a few hours. I saw old friends, and made new ones. I relived some of the past. I rarely make it there anymore. I am a caregiver for my 88 year old mom. 

The kindness exhibited to me from park personal is a big part of my story at Amicalola. 


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Should we maintain or train as competitors? Matt said competition is important. I do find that I feel more alive when I am competing. Further, I have realized that I enjoy competing with a past me. Maybe, on occasion, something will come up that draws me to compete against others. As a general rule I do like competition.


Hunter’s Run
A few years back I was standing at the top of Amicalola Falls looking out over the valley from the observation bridge. I had my phone and I wondered how long it would take me to run down the 604 stairs, over the trail, around the pond and touch the telescope. I set the stop watch and took off. Time elapsed around 8 minutes, and it was fun. From time to time I would try again. The last time I ran it, it took 5 minutes and 31 seconds. That was my best time. It is amazing how much excitement “Hunters Run” provided me with.

I wonder if someone ran it in 5 minutes and 25 seconds, if I would want to give it another go . . . . .


Saturday, September 5th, 2015 blog post

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14,355 miles for the total project in 1189 days

I met Mark Lein at the Lodge at Amicalola Falls State Park. We chatted a few minutes and then left the lodge. We were ready to run. We got on the trail beside the lodge and headed to the Len Foote Hike Inn parking lot. Across the lot and down to the top of the falls. We probably paused there for a bit and then got on the stairs. We walked on the stairs for a bit and then started jogging them. We got to the end of the stairs and jogged down the paved trail, went by the reflection pond and across the parking lot and got back on the dirt trail. The trail crosses the road and continues on, but we got on the paved road and jogged to the visitor center. From the visitor center we headed up the paved road to the top of the falls. That is 1.2 mile long road that gains about 1200 feet of elevation in that distance. Then back down the stairs again. We ran into Andrea Buzeta near the pond. We made arrangements with her to meet her at the lodge for lunch. We repeated the first run back to the top of the falls and then on up to the lodge for lunch.

Mark, Andrea and I had lunch in the lodge. They both very graciously let me talk with them about the Facebook page and this blog.


Andrea Buzeta at Amicalola Falls State Park.

After lunch, Mark headed home and Andrea and I walked and jogged out about a mile on the Len Foote Hike Inn Trail. Dirt trail all the way. Lots of roots and rocks. We continued with our talk about this blog and of the importance of staying fit.

Mark is the young man that provides the web site for “across the land” He is a trail runner and mountain biker. Mark told me of the motto of the United States Navy Seals. “The only easy day, was yesterday

Andrea has become an adventurer. She goes all over the world hiking.

Physical fitness is a tremendous way to keep your immune system strong. A strong immune system can fight off a lot of diseases.

After Andrea headed home, I went out for a few more miles. I spent a lot of time speaking with folks about alzheimer’s disease and not jogging. That’s a good thing.

I received a return phone call from an alzheimers research scientist I met in 2013. He was heading to participate in a triathlon that will benefit muscular dystrophy. He has answered a lot of questions for me.

North Georgia Mountain Outfitters, in Ellijay, Georgia, made a contribution to “across the land” today.

This was a good day. Worked at keeping myself fit and talked with a few folks about alzheimer’s. Lots of folks saw the car.

I spoke with Mark about the overwhelming success of this blog. It is a WordPress blog. Flyline Search Marketing designed it and the format has been very easy to use.

I am pretty tired and when I was coming up the road near the end of the day, one of the park staff saw me struggling and offered a ride. I accepted. Sure appreciate that ride.

I wore my veterans cap. Several folks thanked me for my service. Veterans are important to me.

I hope you get to live your dreams.

Jack Fussell

A short walk down High Shoals Rd

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Mark and I ran into each other at the top of the falls parking lot. He was chatting with two folks about the park.

We headed down the East Ridge Trail. We both held back and we decided to go elsewhere. The East Ridge Trail is extremely rocky for about the first 1/4 mile. The rocks are not enjoyable.

We headed back across the top of the falls and headed to High Shoals Rd. We went out into the forest. We had gone about 1/2 mile and Mark stuck his hand out to stop me. It was an extremely beautiful copperhead. It was in the road. We knew it would not be safe there. We looked around, found a stick and picked up the snake and moved it out of harms way. He possibly might have went back out in the road after we left, but we did our part.

We kept a watch and turned around when we knew we would end up back at the lodge at the perfect time for lunch.

We had a great lunch, with great conversation, and then Mark headed home.

We didn’t run, didn’t jog, we walked.

Amicalola Falls State Park in North Georgia

August 21st 2015

7.18.2015 blog post – at Amicalola Falls today

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I drove from Holly Springs to Amicalola Falls early this morning. The breakfast buffet was on my mind. During the time I was enjoying breakfast my friend Mark was driving to the park from Roswell, GA. Just a few minutes after I finished breakfast Mark arrived and we left the lodge for our walk and talking session. We went head on into this beautiful group of folks. The young lady next to me in this picture noticed my shirt. On the back it says ” for alzheimers” … She asked me what that entailed. I explained my mission to her. She listened intently. She then told me she had a connection to the disease and had been a caregiver.


When you visit Amicalola Falls go towards the camp ground and take a right on High Shoals Rd. Travel about a mile to High Shoals Baptist Church. The door is never locked.


We turned around at the church and walked back to where we started, at the lodge. We went in the lobby to talk and cool down. While we were talking a friend of ours came in. Her name is Andrea and she does a lot of backpacking. It was good to see her. I talked them both in to letting me have this picture taken.


The lady on the left in the picture below is always encouraging. I appreciate her. She introduced me to the other lady. These two were here to sample the buffet.


This is a picture of a group from Kennesaw College in Kennesaw, Georgia. Mark and I had witnessed their arrival in their bus. They spoke with me and I explained my mission to them. I asked if they would mind having this picture taken and they did not mind.


We had lunch and Mark headed home. I walked a little more. I still feel a little tired from doing to many miles recently. I soon packed up things and headed towards to the house.

Mark and I talked a lot today. We talked about my trip around Georgia. We talked about losing friends as they pass away.

I focus on alzheimers disease. I read everything I have time to read about it. I narrow my focus a little more and try to learn what I can do or say that might help caregivers. That gives me purpose and keeps me going.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Bill S. at Amicalola Falls

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There was an accident recently at the park. A gentleman with a broken leg had an accident right near the start of the ADA trail. Emt’s  had to be called. He had to leave the park. He did not get to see the waterfall.

About a week later I ran into Bill s. again. He had a power scooter that you sit on. He saw me and he said “jack this time I will see the falls” He made it.

Braving the Elements. #ENDALZ

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If you ever need help concerning alzheimers disease, please call:

1-800-272-3900.    Anytime

Are they hiking the Appalachian Trail?

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Who knows, maybe. I know they were all so kind.


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