2012 AT Thru-Hike

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New Hampshire – Maine

I first wanted to start out by saying thanks to all my friends and family who have helped support me this far along the way. This post is a little late and overdue but I figure late is better than never. I also didn’t realize that people were actually following; it was a great feeling to hear from people that  had been following the blog.

Currently I am en route to finish the sections that I missed due to the Stress fracture in my left foot. Up to this point I just have the latter section of Maine (Bear Mountain Area New York) and (Section in NJ)

New Hampshire

Since Vermont the trail had just gotten better. Leaving Hanover New Hampshire our party knew that we were on the cusp of something big, it was only days before we would be hitting the Whites. The White Mountains cover roughly 25% of New Hampshire. They are known by many to be the hardest and most rugged mountains of New England. In New Hampshire there are 48 peaks that are over 4,000 on the trail we do many of them and often we don’t summit each individual peak but hike the sides of them. IMO most of the peaks of the “white mountains” aren’t really mountains but high points on the ridge of a very spectacular and large Mount Washington.

Jake (Solisberry Hill) and I set out of Hanover, New Hampshire, the home of Dartmouth. While walking out we ran into 65. He is a 73 year old man who set out on his journey from Florida and had made it all the way to the Mahoosuc notch and called it quits. With knowing how bad the mountains had torn up 65s body I was a little nervous about what was to come. The first days out weren’t too bad we hiked over mountains but nothing that was going to be as tall, steep, and aggressive as the Whites. Our entrance into the White Mountains was signified by a large Mount Moosilauke, when you look at the elevation map you want to cringe, but Hair, Solisberry Hill, Octo and I started out in the morning we had no problems making it to the top. On the summit we were surrounded by the Dartmouth freshmen who joined their Dartmouth outdoor club. After Moosilauke we went into North Woodstock due to the nasty storm that was coming overnight. The next day Hook and I left out We made it all the way to Garfield pond. The next day we only went a short distance and stopped at Galehead hut. This section of the AT is unique because there is a system of huts usually six to eight miles apart, the huts are run and managed by Appalachian Mountain Club. These huts are rented out but when hikers come thru they often would let us do a work for stay and food. We had heard about the AMC Huts and decided to take a shot at getting a work for stay sure enough they had some work for us and gave us leftover Turkey Carvings, Gravy, and Mashed Potatoes.

You state fans will like this, that afternoon I just happened to talk to a guy who played high school football with Dan Mullen and also knew Chip. He is one of Dan’s buddies who surprised him last year at the Alabama – State game.

Over the next few days we covered a series of rugged mountains passed beautiful streams and waterfalls like none other. This is the point in the trail where things go from good to awesome. At this point our party is comprised of Hook, Gator, Sols, and me. We had no real problems or obstacles until we got to the beginning of Mount Washington. This was a stretch started off by Webster Cliffs, it ended up being a barrier for us to break, we took a zero day at the base of Webster, and then the next day we were pummeled by rain, finally after three days the rain receded and we started our journey up the mountain.

The hike up Mount Washington wasn’t easy but definitely ended up being much less of a challenge than expected. Like Mount Lafayette that we had previously hiked Washington was comprised of exposed ridgeline and heavy winds. I could let my poles hang from my wrists and they would almost be perpendicular to my body.

Side note* On the day we were making our final hike to the top of Washington we were split up. Hook was in the lead like he usually is, I was in the middle and Hair, Gator, and Rudy (The Dog) were behind. At some point Rudy had run ahead to check on Hook and I as he usually does and got slightly lost. Gator and Hair are hiking thinking that he had come ahead with me and they get to the side trail that leads to Mt. Monroe. A lady comes down and they ask her if she had seen a white pit bull, she immediately says “yes, I just passed him on the way up as I was hiking down Monroe” He ended up bagging Mt. Monroe. We like to joke around and say that Rudy wanted his own time on a peak all to himself.

Maine

The Beginning of Maine wasn’t what we expected; we get to Maine sick, wet, and tired of the trail. In our minds I guess we looked at the elevation chart and thought it would be a walk in the park, well contrary to what we thought the elevation in the beginning of Maine wasn’t ridiculous but all the muddy swampy areas were. It was almost felt as a daily task to keep your feet out of the quicksandish mud. We finally made it to Full Goose Shelter which is the shelter the day before the Mahoosuc Notch and Arm. These two features in Maine the Notch notably is declared by some the hardest mile on the Appalachian Trail. Not only did we dominate the Notch and Arm we made it into Grafton notch. Thank goodness for Maine hospitality as we were on the verge of darkness we walked out of the woods to hitch and sure enough the first truck that passes by stops and gives us a ride to town. The next day we were able to make it into Andover where had a friend who let us stay at his place for a night. That night we heard of good news, Big Red our long lost friend from the trail who had gotten off two months prior was heading up to Maine to help slack pack us and support us to the end. Once Red got there we did a few days of slack packing. It was great to have Red back because he helped to curve our pessimism. I hate to say it but it is a total reality of the trail, you’re near the end almost out of money and your body is experience new pains that you’ve never thought you could have. The slack pack made it to Caratunk, but once we got there Big Red had decided to get back home. At this point I had been off of my foot for a few days due to a stress fracture. I tried the day before we left to hike and I could only make it 5 miles, I was in pain and knew that I could probably keep hiking feeling each step but I would chance actually breaking my foot thus leaving me incapable of finishing. I made a decision to get of the trail let my foot rest for a few weeks and finish the AT well rested and healthy.

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New Hampshire

New Hampshire

Our crew arrived in Hanover, New Hampshire yesterday morning Friday the 24th of August. As of this point I have traveled over 1700 miles and only have 440 miles left along with a small section to finish in New York and Jersey.

A lot has happened since the last blog update. I was able to finish up Virginia just in time to make it to Washington DC for the 4th of July. After my Washington DC adventure I made my way back to Harper’s Ferry, WV. This ended up being a pivotal point in my journey. I made it about 40 miles outside of Harper’s Ferry only to become sick with Giardia. I won’t go into details but some symptoms include: explosive diarrhea, gas, and vomiting. I was bed ridden in a hotel for 2 days then more bad news came my way, I found out that two of the guys that I had been hiking with had decided to go home, one for financial reasons and the other for a potential job opportunity in Alaska. I was completely devastated sitting in a hotel sick with the feeling of knowing that the original crew of four that started together had dwindled down to only myself. I was able to get medical treatment the next day and started antibiotics, but now it was me back in the woods a day behind the rest of our party.

After a few days back on the trail two sisters, Veggie and Sarah, who I had been hiking with met a group of guys called the circus. The circus was  orchestrated by our ringleader, Crawdad, who has a truck and would slack pack people up the trail. (Slack packing is when you carry only water and food for the day and hike to a set destination where your pack is kept.) I was able to keep my mileage up while recovering from my sickness and dealing with the side effects of Antibiotics in 90 and 100 degree weather. The circus was fun and we were able to put in big days doing consecutive 20 + miles a day, our biggest day was 28 miles which wasn’t my best on the trail, but it was still a big day for us. One of the highlights while I was with the circus was when we reached Wind Gap. The owner of Beermiester a local bar and restaurant loved hikers, so he let us come in early on a Sunday morning and cook a  full breakfast. Grizzly, Shine, Brawny, and I cooked scrambled eggs, hash browns with egg, sausage, onion, garlic, and bell pepper.Reaching last 20 percent of Pennsylvania I was able to stay with Fudgy and Sancho at their home in Wind Gap, PA. From their house a group of us were able to slack pack the rest of the Pennsylvania and see the Yuengling Brewery which was amazing.

Next we got into Jersey, the home of the two girls, Veggie and Sarah, where I was able to take another side adventure, Sarah took Grizzly and I to the Jersey Shore for the day which ended up being pretty exciting. I didn’t get to see Snookie and the Situation, but it was still a worthwhile trip. I made my way deeper into Jersey then took a trip to visit my brother and some buddies in NYC. Manhattan was great I got to the city and realized how much I missed the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, I quickly re acclimated myself to the buses and subway and went about town visiting places that I didn’t visit on my first go around in the city e.g. 911 memorial, the Cloisters, and lady liberty. After a few days in the city I made my way back to the trail. I jumped ahead in New York and made my way into Connecticut.*

Once I made it into Connecticut I was able to spend a little time at Hook’s house in New Milford, CT. Hook was one of the original guys that I hiked with. While I was there I found out that Solsberry Hill’s job in Alaska didn’t work out. So just as quickly as we disbanded the crew was back together. We waited for the rest of our group to meet up in Connecticut then we all headed out back on that dusty trail.

It’s been really good since New York, Connecticut was beautiful, Massachusetts was even nicer and we also had some great trail magic in Massachusetts with Tom Levardi in Dalton Mass along with Buttons in Great Barrington, Mass. We made it to the top of Greylock which was the tallest mountain in Massachusetts. From this mountain you can see New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.

Vermont was the next state on the trail after we left Massachusetts and it was absolutely beautiful. The weather has been perfect and the lakes and ponds that we have passed in the past few hundred miles have been breathtaking, nearly every day we were by a swimming or fishing hole and it helps because I went thru a stretch for about 2.5 weeks where I didn’t not shower, so as you can only imagine swimming in a lake is the next closest thing to getting clean. A few days ago we made it into Woodstock, Vermont where one of Hooks buddies lives and owns a farm we were able to help him out at the farmers market and he recruited us for a day to help take care of all the livestock and produce. We also helped him process 31 chickens.

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*I plan on making up the section I missed in New York and Jersey once I finish in Maine.

Virginia Part 1

May 15 – 24

We left Elk Park, TN and spent the next two days working towards Hampton, TN which was our goal to get to Trail Days. We got to Hampton around 3 in the afternoon and the previous night we met up with Jam Session who we hadn’t seen in a while he let us know the he had a ride set up for us from Rock Ocean. The afternoon was spent at Icehouse Saloon were we all waited for Rock Ocean to come pick us up. Rock Ocean is a freelance Photographer and has been riding up and down the trail giving rides to hikers. He drives a cool blue Voltswagen Bus. Like we always manage to do, we were able to fit 8 people and all of our gear in the the VW bus. We got to Damascus, VA late than night which is the home to Trail Days. Prior to Damascus their has been a large outbreak of the stomach flu. Most of my party had to deal with it prior to Damascus, but this time it came around to me. I was tent ridden for the first day of Trail Days, but after that It was great. The next day, Saturday May 19, we attended the parade, went tubing down the river that runs thru the town, got our gear fixed, and hung out with many hikers that we had not seen in a while. They also had a talent show, food vendors and bands playing. On Sunday I left back to Hampton to slack pack. Slack Packing is when you only take the bear necessities eg (a few candy bars and water). I started at 4 in the morning and hiked 34 miles back into Damascus, it was pretty epic because prior to that I had only hiked 23 miles on my longest day. It really helps when we do 20 mile days now because it feels a lot shorter than it did in the past. I spent the next two days hiking to the Grayson Highlands to meet my group. We met up at Wise Sheter. Wise Shelter is a monumental point for us on the trail, it marks our 500th mile which is 1/4th of the trail. The Grayson Highlands are known for their wild ponies and luckily we were able to see them.

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North Carolina / Tennessee

Day: 38 Total Miles 391.9

The first night in North Carolina, April 16, was a great one. This night  at Betty Creek I met two new hikers, Byron and Hair. Bryon on first sight was slightly quiet, but after you get to know him he’s great, he is full of life and stories. We had a great campfire and were enjoying each others company but it got cut short because of rain. The next day we hiked to Winding Stair Gap and hitched into Franklin, NC. It was pretty amazing I was hiking with six guys, Hair, Gator and his dog Swamp Donkey, Hook, Solsberry Hill, Red, and we all fit into a tiny red Ranger. We took a zero day in Franklin and had a great time, which included a full meal at the Roadhouse which included hot wings, ribs and some beers. I also was able to go to Outdoor 76 which is an outfitter and look for new shoes. My feet grew almost a size bigger from all the walking so I had to get a larger pair. The next three days were spent trying to get to the Nantahala Outdoor Center which is 28 miles away from Franklin. The NOC is is a tiny little community based on fly fishing for trout and kayaking. During those three days we climbed two separate observation towers, being able to see the extended mountain ranges in a 360 was breathtaking. Our hike out of the NOC was breathtaking in a literal sense. We climbed over 3000 feet and hiked ten miles to Locust Cove Gap. This was a great spot and it seemed that everyone had the same idea as we did. In one tiny little gap we fit over 20 tents and 30 people which was pretty amazing. We pushed out 18 miles from Locust Cove and made it to Fontana Dam. The lake at Fontana Dam was awesome but “the village” wasn’t because we were low on food and were forced to buy overpriced Ramen noodles and Rice sides from the only general store within a 20 mile radius. We spent April 24, which was my birthday playing disc golf then spent the afternoon fishing, drinking a few beers and eating pizza. Towns and civilization are highlights for us, it’s always nice to eat food that not Ramen, or cereal bars.

The Smoky Mountains

The Appalachian Trail extends about 80 miles into the Smoky Montains, it stretches from Fontana Dam to Davenport Gap. The Smoky’s are full of wildlife and we found out first hand, on the first day in we went up to this out of service fire tower and while walking towards the stairs I heard this loud rattle, I immediately jumped up on the stairs and looked down to see a 4 foot Timber rattle snake. Hook, one of the guys hiking with me loves snakes so I called him down to check it out. Hook picked him up we checked him out for a bit and then let him go free. The second day in the Smokey Mountains was just as eventful. Our group had planned to have a long day and of course nature had a different idea for us. Solsberry Hill, Red and I were about a mile away from the closest shelter when we began to be pelted by hail. The hail wasn’t too bad just about the size of marbles but the rain made it worse. My last ascent into the shelter was epic, I was running to get there and completely busted and laid out all over the trail, with my clothes wet and soiled I immediately went to the shelter and made a fire. It was pretty amazing because I started a fire with a few tiny dry pieces of wood and the rest were saturated with water. The next day we hiked to Clingmans Dome, this is typically a great viewspot where people come from hundreds of miles away, but on this day April the 27 you could only see about 20 feet in front of you be cause of the fog.  On the hike towards Clingmans I got a surprise, looking over to my right I saw two bucks in search of food. They were literally 15 feet away from me, it was a  sight to see and so amazing that creatures that are normally hunted on private land have free roam in the Smokey’s. Upon arrival to Clingmans dome we hitched a ride into Gatlinburg, TN from a guy who had hiked the AT a few years back. We stayed at the Grand Prix Hotel which cost a whopping price of 32 dollars per room for 4 hikers. We took a zero day in Gatlinburg and hit some of the tourist spots. We hit up the free Moonshine tastings, and Coons place from Dukes of Hazard along with many others. The moonshine distillery had about 20 different flavors, raspberry, bubble gum, apple pie, just to name a few. Gatlinburg is full of surprises, it had a distillery, winery, and brewery. I was also able to catch one of the State/ Ole Miss baseball games while I was there as well. We headed out on April 29 and made it to Icewater Spring, the day was a little bit slower because one of my buddies Solsberry Hill was having shin splint problems. The next day out we took our biggest day which was 21 miles. The weather was nice and there were some cool spots along the way so it wasn’t too bad. We hit Charlies bunion around noon, got some great photos then made the journey to Cosby Knob Shelter. The last three miles were the hardest for me, I started having knee problems but finally night hiked into the shelter. On May 1, I felt a lot better and hiked 4000 feet downhill out of the Smokey’s heading toward Standing Bear Hostel.

Leaving Smokey Mountains

We arrived at Standing Bear Hostel at 4 in the afternoon, we stuck around to eat a few goodies, Pizza and Candy Bars. Solsberry Hill and I hiked a few miles in the dark to meet up with Red, Hook, Nemo and and Strawberry Moonshine. The next two days May 3th and 4th were epic, we hiked 35 miles into Hot Springs. One of the best spots during this excursion to Hot Springs was Max Patch. Max Patch is a giant grassy bald and you can see almost 20 miles in all directions.

We got into Hot Springs late in the afternoon on May 4th. Once we made it into the city we set up our tents on the French Broad, which is the river that runs thru the heart of the city. We spent 2 days in Hot Springs and they were well worth it. We were able to bathe, resupply, and hang out with fellow hikers. Hot Springs was hosting a blue grass festival all weekend which included the Gourds, and Willy Nelsons son. We attended the festival on Friday night and Saturday we listened to it from across the river where we were tenting. We left Sunday morning the sixth of May and went a few miles outside the city to a pond in the mountains.

The only way to describe the next week was “Rain.” we spent the next three days hiking in the rain. It was hard. We would put up all our gear and my pack would often weigh a few pounds extra because of all the rain and dew that had collected on my tent and bag. We finally got to Erwin, TN on May 10th and we were all ready for it. We stayed in town for a night to clean up and dry off. Finally on our second day in Erwin the rain receded and we were able to dry our gear off before we headed back out on the trail. We left Erwin, TN on May 12 and got to Beauty Spot, which is a grassy bald with exquisite views. Once we were on top of the trail we came across a thru hiker who had hiked in 2010, he greeted us with Pabst Blue ribbon, stuffing, and doughnuts. This was amazing and it was my first trail magic to receive on the trail. We met back up with Octo who I hadn’t seen much for a while on the trail. Octo and I met on the first and second day on the trail.  We all hiked the next day to Greasy Creek Gap. This day once again was filled with mixed weather of high winds and rain, finally we made it to our campsite at Greasy Creek and we set up shop for the night, we had a huge fire, and just sat around chatting  when a new character strolled up, his name was Shakespeare, and he could recite almost any poem that you could think of to request. We spent the next day in the shelter a mile away from where we camped. Hook, Red, Solsberry Hill and I spent the day at Clyde Smith Shelter playing spades and other cards games trying to wait out the rain. It literally poured all day and night. We got up the next morning May 14 and began the hike to Roan mountain. The top of Roan mountain used to house a Hotel in the late 1800’s and it was reached by a train that ran to the top of the mountain. Now there is just a road and a tourist center. The hike up to Roan mountain and over it was best defined by fog. The whole time other than about 30 minutes in the late afternoon we were only able to see about 20 feet in front of us. After leaving the mountain Octo, Solsberry, and I night hiked into Overmountain shelter to meet up with the rest of our group. Overmountain shelter was cool because it was a converted barn.

This morning , May 15 we left the shelter and headed up another mountain with great views.  We hiked for 4 miles and realized we could go into Elk Park, TN 7 miles away. We got to Elk Park after fighting thru some rain and made our way into town to grab a burger. On the way we met a sweet lady who owned an upholstery shop. Solsberry mentioned out loud that I could get my backpack fixed here, she heard us and offered to fix my bag free of charge. I accepted her offer and she did a wonderful stitching job on my pack, the top flap on my bag was falling apart. This really shows that there still are good hearted people in the world. I looked in the mirror today and realized that I have nasty and odd facial hair, it just grows in patches all over my face. I want to cut it but the crew thinks its funny so i’m probably gonna keep it. Sorry Mom.

I am going to add photos as soon as I get to a computer that will let me upload them.

North Carolina

 

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Georgia

Day 1 Total miles 8.8 Daily miles 8.8 (Approach Trail)

I began the approach trail on Saturday 7, 2012 with one of my buddies Rusty. We started the Approach Trail around ten in the morning and arrived on Springer Mountain at 3 in the afternoon. Halfway down the trail we met a guy name Chirpa, he was from Maine and thru hiked a few years ago, he gave me some good advice for the trail. Later that night on Springer we met a guy, Sean, who would later be called Leonidas because he came from a town of 300.

Day 2 Total miles 8.1 Daily miles 8.1

This was the first official day on the Appalachian Trail. We dominated about 4 miles in a little over an hour. It was easy because it was a gradual downhill. We got to Rusty’s truck midday and Leonidas and I finished at Hawk Mountain Shelter. That night I met some new folks, Big Red (aka Red Beard) who is from Hawaii and just got out of the Navy. We met a couple Cereal and Jill who have an awesome dog named Rooney.

Day 3 Total miles 15.8 Daily Miles 7.7

Today was a short day from Hawk Mountain to Gooch Mountain Shelter. We slowed our pace because five miles is considered a bear zone and you are only allowed to camp if you have a bear canister. I hear that if you get caught without a canister you can be fined up to 5,000 dollars. At Gooch shelter I met Hook from Connecticut, Salisbury Hill from Ohio, along with Chewy and Gator who are from Florida.

Day 4 Total Miles 24.3 Daily Miles 8.1

Lance creek was a good hike. I met up with Hook, Seminole, Pancake, and Many Moons. When we got to the campsite it started to rain so we all hastily set up our tents to avoid getting all of our gear wet. It was about ten tents in a 20 foot circle.

Day 5 Total Miles 35.4 Daily Miles 11.1

We left Lance creek at 4 in the morning and made it to Blood Mountain just in time for sunrise, It was ridiculously cold on the top of Blood Mountain so we decided to book it down the mountain to get to Mountain Crossings. Mountain Crossings is a hostel / store where people take showers and get new / additional gear for the hike. This was my first shower in 5 days. That afternoon we decided to push forward and went a few more miles to Wolf Laurel Top where we had a great view of the surrounding mountains.

Day 6 Total Miles 49.6 Daily Miles 13.8

This day was a particularly rough we had to climb two large mountains. Salisbury and I were tempted to head into Helen, but we decided to stay at the camp with the group. We spent some time during the day talking to Robo and Tink, Robo has thru hiked the AT in the past and gave us good advice on how to stay healthy. The big scare out here is Lyme Disease and giardia, Lyme disease is acquired from ticks and giardia is a virus that you can get from drinking bad water.

Day 7 Total Miles 58.6 Daily Miles 9

We got up around 9 and headed to Helen, GA. When we got to they highway we were immediately able to hitch a ride. This was my first time to hitch a ride and it was fun. We piled six guys, a dog (Rudy) and six large backpacks in the back of a little truck. Helen is like a little Dutch and German town, all the buildings have crazy designs. We went to Wendy’s to get some real food then went about the town. The town has many restaurants and shops and tourist attractions. We left Helen around four and took a nice long hike up to Tray Mountain.That night at Tray I cooked Virginia Ham by the fire, it probably wasn’t the greatest idea because I’m sure thats just asking for bears to come and instigate. Later on that night we heard a few tree limbs break and got a little nervous, we shined our lights to find two little bunnies poking around. We also had a real obnoxious mouse who wouldn’t quit messing with us near the fire.

Day 8 Total miles 69.6 Daily miles 11

The next day we made it our mission to get to Hiawassee. This was one of the longest days, by this point on the trail my legs and feet were really tired and I was ready to get to our motel. We all made it to Mull’s Motel by 3 and then took a trip over to Danny’s Buffet to destroy fried chicken, salad, and potatoes. When we got into town Clint Eastwood was filming a movie and for one scene they crashed a 66 Mustang. We spent the night hanging out and trying to get organized for the next day.

Day 9 Total miles 81.4 Daily miles 11.8

This day started out great, I made 6 miles in under two hours but I didn’t know what I was in for, the last 3 miles on this day was a steep uphill which drained me of energy I decided to skip two water spots and ended up hiking 4 miserable miles without any water. Water tends to be a trade off from time to time because it weighs a lot when your toting it around all day, luckily I finally made it to Muskrat Shelter. We also crossed into North Carolina from Georgia at 78.5 miles.

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The Last Week

The latter part of last week was spent with two of my buddies: Kyle and Joey, we went fishing on Wednesday and Thursday. We were all successful and were able to catch a few Crappie, Brim, along with two tiny Bass. Joey caught a 6 lb Bass, which had huge mouth on him. I spent this weekend in Lafayette, LA with two of my roommates from college who are now working in the oil industry. This was my first time to visit Lafayette and it was a great experience, my sister says Lafayette won an award for being one of “the best young cities of the South” and I understand why; this city is clean, many of the buildings are new, and there are many good local restaurants. Crawfish, shrimp, and oysters are a staple of Louisiana and luckily for me I love seafood because every restaurant we went to had crawfish for either an entree or appetizer.

This week has been devoted to spending time with the family, organizing and packing the rest of my gear. Last night we had stuffed bell peppers, squash, green beans, and French silk pie, it was great to have everyone around the table for dinner. I spent some time with my two Nephews: Grayson and John Robert who I know feel neglected because I have been so occupied with my final preparations. Today I’m finishing taxes, the last bits of my gear, and working on prototype alcohol burning stoves. This is my “Cat Stove” that I plan on testing out once my pot arrives in the mail. It runs off of Denatured Alcohol.