Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Winter Backpack

Hiking in the Dead of the Year

For a few years now, I have been wanting to get out on the trail during the winter months.  Not for anything too long.  Just to experience the challenges that hiking in the colder, darker time of the year present.  

In February of 2016, I went out and spent the night up on the trail.  There was a lot of snow and I used the road to get near my camping spot instead of the trail, since that would have been a lot of post holing, but I had just hurt my back that day shoveling snow at the Museum (which would be the beginning of a months long back issue) and I was hurting some.  I set up a very small backpack tent on about eight inches of packed snow and spent the night.  It was fun, but there was no trail hiking involved and it was only one night.

This year, I decided to head out after the New Year and do a Yo-Yo of the state of Maryland.  After heading out on Jan 2nd in six degree weather, I ended up hiking about 4.6 miles before heading back to the truck.  It just seemed a little more dangerous than I was willing to risk. That plan evolved into a four day, 45.7 mile trip that covered most of MD and let me spend a night in Harpers Ferry.  This is an account of that trip.

20 degrees warmer, but still below zero

1.  Date: Skysday, Afteryule 18
2.  Day 1
3.  Morning temp: 26 (Noon)
4.  Weather: snow, sleet
5.  Time start: 1206
6.  Time stop and miles: 1531/6.8
7.  End point: Rocky Run shelter
After heading back to PA to pay my respects to my Uncle and cousins after the passing of my Aunt, I spent the night at my brother's house up in East Brady, PA. I woke up around 06, even after staying up way too late and drinking way too many beers. After laying around until after 07, I got packed and hit the road before 08. 

I felt good as I made my way down Tom's snowy driveway as snow, mixed with sleet ticked off my windshield.  It was a three and a half hour drive to the trailhead.

The snow stayed with me until I moved over a ridge, then was dry until I pulled into the parking lot. Large flakes were falling still mixed with the sleet.

I grabbed my pack and headed to the trailhead.  I felt cold at first after being in the warm car for over 3 hours and was doubting my decision to start the hike without my base layer on, but realized I had chosen wisely as I warmed up after a few uphills. 

The trail here is really nice and I ambled along at my usual pace.  Before too long I came to the Washington Monument and checked it out. 

Frosty Washington Monument

No water at the pump, which would be the theme of the day. Still too cold for even the frost free faucets. 

Next was the Dahlgren church and Turners Gap.  I entered the area of the civil war battle of South Mountain and checked out some of the info plaques along the way.

The Battle of Fox's Gap

No water at Dahlgren Camp, but I was doing fine with my two liters and still had plenty when I rolled into camp with an armload of firewood.

I set up the hammock, checked the spring, which was flowing nice and gathered some more firewood. 

Rocky Run shelter

I ate dinner and then made a fire as dark settled into the woods  After I burned all the wood I had gathered and processed, I headed to the hammock.  I had put my neo air in between my layers of my hammock, but it wasn't comfortable. It swings out of the way or something. I deflated it, but left it and the space blanket in place. I'm sorta warm, but can feel some cold spots below me. I have most of my clothes on and lots of things in my pockets to keep them from freezing.  We will see how the night goes.

Heading Into Town

1.  Date: Seasday, Afteryule 19
2.  Day 2
3.  Morning temp: 20s
4.  Weather: clear, cold
5.  Time start: 0738
6.  Time stop and miles: 1525/16.6
7.  End point: Harpers Ferry - Towns Inn
I slept pretty warm last night. A few times I recall waking up feeling down right toasty. But, alas, after almost 12 hours in the hammock, it was time to roll out and start the day. I started the day in the dark as I started packing up. There was a nice coating of ice on the rocks and it still felt like it was below freezing.  I was on the trail a little after 0730.  

A cold sunrise

The day started with a climb of course, that warmed me up fine. I made my way past remembered waypoints from past hikes and stopped for lunch at the Garvey shelter. The day had been warming up and it was very pleasant sitting at the shelter.

A woman (Jersey Badger) and her dog Shadow came by and we talked a bit. I was seeing more people today. Mostly day hikers and dog walkers. I met a guy at Weverton Cliffs that is planning a Thru this year. 

Classic view from Weverton Cliffs

I made my way down off the ridge and walked the C & O path for a couple miles before crossing the bridge into town.  

I found the Hostel and secured a bunk. It is an interesting place in an old building. 

Town's Inn Hostel and Cafe

I walked up to the ATC for a visit and talked with Mountain Laurel for a while before coming back to the hostel, showering and then having a good dinner.

I earned a free breakfast by carrying some wood pellets and rock salt up to the second floor for the owner. I am tired and sore from the day, but I did the chore no problem.

After dinner at the Inn's Cafe, I took it easy in the Hostel living area and hit the bunk around 2000.  

Tomorrow I will retrace my steps back to Rocky Run for one more night outside.

Heading Back North

1.  Date: Earthsday, Afteryule 20
2.  Day 3
3.  Morning temp: 26
4.  Weather: cold, overcast
5.  Time start: 0710
6.  Time stop and miles: 1556/17.3
7.  End point: Dahlgren camp
I slept good in the bunk in the Towns Inn Hostel.  It is a unique place amd I enjoyed my stay. Hasmig the cook and Karen the owner were fun to talk to. 

I ate my earned breakfast and then hit the road/trail.  It was a chill morning and the wind coming off of the river was biting cold. I got across and onto the towpath and the wind wasn't so bad. 

After the C & O, the big climb of the day is up to Weverton Cliffs. I made my way up slowly and started along the ridge. I stopped in at the Ed Garvey shelter and met a few hikers. Two I had seen yesterday. Before that I had met a hiker with a small dog who said he had done 3800 miles so far and had no food or money. I had some cheese in my pocket, so I pulled it out and gave it to him. 

Moving along I leapfrogged the other hikers a couple of times and stopped at Crampton gap for lunch. 

War Correspondents Memorial - Crampton Gap

I was making good time and my feet felt ok, so when I got to Rocky Run at 1420 I decided to go to Dahlgren after getting water. 

I arrived with some daylight left and set up. A fire, some good dinner and then to bed.

Dahlgren Campground

Tomorrow I finish.

Winter Backpack Complete (January Edition)

1.  Date: Starsday, Afteryule 21
2.  Day 4
3.  Morning temp: 30s
4.  Weather: calm, overcast
5.  Time start: 0725
6.  Time stop and miles: 1002/5
7.  End point: Rt 70 overpass

I was warm again during the night and was ready to roll out a little after 06. It was going to be a short day.  I took my time breaking up camp as a dim light slowly moved into the campground.  As I sat at the table heating water for my morning coffee, a Red Tailed Hawk screamed and slowly flew past me at the height of the nearby trees.  It was a very peaceful sight.  

I was all packed up, fed and ready to go before 0730 and I continued along the path I had walked a few days before.  The last five miles were nice and easy and I made good progress.

I took a few detours along the way to see things that I had not seen before in my hikes by here, like the miniature Washington Monument that sits at the entrance to the real thing just up the road.  When I checked the pump once again at the Monument area, it was now working.

Small replica of what is up the hill some.

Before I knew it, I was walking up the blue blaze towards the parking lot as the AT continues northward.  I threw my gear into the truck and started it up.  I headed to the nearby McDonald's for a second breakfast, then it was an hour or so until I was home again, putting my gear down in the basement "gear area" as I start thinking about what to do next.

I'm hoping to get out every month this year for at least an overnight.  I need my Outsider time.  It has become very important to my continued sanity and happiness.  


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Some Vital Statistics of the Quest Thus Far

Tracking and Sharing Our Journey

One of the things that I find important is taking good notes and recording the things that happen to me when I am out on a hike.  

If you have read my trail journals, you will see that I follow an interesting calendar and keep track of things like the temperature and weather.  I also record how many miles I hiked and how long it took me to get there. I tried to include event things like Views of the Day, interesting flora and fauna. The smells, sounds, Highs, Lows and Hopes of the day.    

I tried to write every evening and was pretty good at accomplishing that.  From time to time, I would be too exhausted or not in the mood to write, but I always caught up before the memories grew fuzzy or started to fade.  

How Much Does It Cost?

I also tracked our spending.  You hear over and over again that it takes "this much" dollars per miles on a long distance hike.  I wanted to see which "this much" matched my actual spending.  It appears that mine averaged out to about $3 a mile and was of course higher when I was alone and not splitting the cost of a Hotel or meal with LoGear.  

I didn't want funds to be a problem during the hike and luckily I had my military pension coming in each month which definitely helped us to maintain our home and also afford our hike and the occasional stay in a Hotel or Hostel.  

Some of our expenditures were due to how our Quest had evolved.  There are transportation costs that were a part of breaking up our hike this year that added to that category.  Some of the lodging costs were also due to waiting in town at a Motel until our bus was ready to leave.  Also, some of our restaurant spending was us paying it forward by treating some of our Tramily as we were treated by Cool Breeze way back in Franklin, NC.  All these extras resulted in our cost per day, per person sliding up the scale a bit.  

When I go back through the numbers and remove the spending that was due to us changing our plans, things like lodging, shuttles and bus rides, the total comes out almost $1000 less and comes out to an average of just under $2 per day.  

The Numbers

I (either with LoGear or alone) spent 74 days on the trail this year during the Quest.  Two of those days were zero days where we/I hiked no miles (except town miles).  I covered a total of 910 new AT miles.  LoGear's mileage was around 477.5 for the year.  

We/I spent $3,817.27 from April through August.  I tracked our spending in eight categories.  Lodging, Restaurant, Resupply, Transportation, Alcohol, Misc, Gear and Shipping.  Here is what I considered for each category and how much was spent on each. 
Breakdown by dollars

Lodging:  This included Motels, Lodges, pay campsites and Hostels.  We spent $1,055.90 or 28% of our total.  This was our highest spending category.  If you remove the stays in places that were due to our evolving Quest, the cost went down to $819.62.  As with just about everything, lodging was a little cheaper down south as compared to up north.  

Restaurants:  This category was for food that we ate, usually in town, that wasn't considered a resupply purchase.  Besides restaurants, delis and roadside stands fit into this category.  Also, things like a coffee or ice cream were included in this category. 

Having real meals cooked for you are an important part of keeping your sanity out on the trail.  We spent $1,029.45 on this category or 27% of the total.  This was the second most costly category, but I think it is pretty necessary for us.  I guess one way to lower this is to purchase food items at a grocery store and cook a meal or two yourself using Hostel kitchens if they were available.  We could have lowered this also if we didn't treat our Tramily to a couple of meals, but I'm very happy to have done this.  Treating others makes my heart glow.  

Resupply:  Everything we purchased and carried out with us was resupply.  Not only the food we needed, but the other consumables like fuel, lotions and creams, tape, etc. are included in this category.  We spent $669.02 on resupply which was about 16% of our total.  Our resupply strategy was what I call "Living off the land".  What that means, is we relied on whatever was available when it was time to fill our food bags again.  Sometimes that would be a nice grocery store in town, other times it was a gas station next to the trail that had enough of what we needed to keep going.  We did not rely on mail drops for resupply with a few minor exceptions.  

Transportation:  Any time we weren't walking to get somewhere, we were using transportation.  Sometimes it was free, other times not so much.  Luckily we used our credit card miles to purchase our flight down to Atlanta, everything after that is included.  We spent $608.70 on transportation, which comes to 16% of our total.  This number would have been a lot lower (more like $33.70) if we hadn't needed shuttles, ubers and bus rides when our plans changed.  

I was pleasantly surprised down south, at the beginning of our Quest that a lot of the rides into towns were free or included in the cost of staying at certain establishments.  We did use our miles to erase two of the three bus rides, but I still included them in this accounting.  

Alcohol:  I wanted to break this out from restaurant or resupply just so I could get a good idea on how much I spent on this part of our Quest.  We, (mostly I), spent $180.25 on beer along the way, which was only 5% of our total.  

That is most likely less than I would have spent during the same time at home.  I found that when I did drink, it was just a few beers.  Over drinking would have hindered the hike, I believe, so I usually kept it easy.  Also, the beers in Shenandoah were real cheap.  When I was up north, I started buying a tall boy or two and humping it out of town to enjoy later after I set up camp for the night.  Out there, even mostly warm beer tastes real good.  

Misc:  I needed a category that would cover all the miscellaneous things that cost money out there.  Here you will find our laundry costs, sodas, ice cream, tips, showers, donations for misc things and permits for the Smokys.  We spent $162.80 or 4% on these items.  

Gear:  There are always changes to your gear out on the trail.  Luckily for us, we made very few changes to our kit.  We $73.05 of gear during our hike which comes to 2% of our costs.  We only bought five things that qualify as gear.  A space blanket for my hammock at Top of GA, Trekking poles in Erwin (to replace one of my walmart poles that broke during a fall on the way to Erwin), headphone replacement in NY and replacement of my hat and a tent stake that I had lost and broke along the way.  That was it.  

Shipping:  As I stated before, we didn't rely on a lot of shipping during our hike.  We sent a box to Fontana Dam where I picked up my sleeping pad and some of the food after we heard that resupply is more expensive there, but we probably would have managed fine without it.  We also shipped our travel bags back home once we got to Atlanta.  These bags made it less stressful checking our packs for the flight down.  We also sent a box home with some items that we weren't using, but didn't want to hiker box.  We only spent $38.10 on shipping or 1%.

Breakdown by percentage


So there you have it folks.  Yes, this Quest continues, but I have learned a lot about where the money goes when you are out there.  Let's see if I can put any lessons learned into practice as we continue the Quest.  

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Few Hostels of the AT - Part 1

Some Hostels of the Trail

In this article, I will talk about all of the Hostels LoGear and I visited on our trek this year.  This article won't be anywhere near all inclusive of the Hostels that sit near the Trail and serve those who walk it, but it will cover the ones we visited as we headed north.

I like Hostels and the unique experience each provides.  I mentioned a lot while hiking, that the Hostel visit is an important part of the Long Distance Hiking experience for me.  It adds flavor to the hike and can give you a break from the Outsider way and also provide relief when the weather challenges you and your batteries need recharging (both literally and metaphorically).

The List

Here is a list of the Hostels we (or I) visited, where they are and when we stayed there, plus my ratings of how they did:

(With LoGear)
Len Foote Hike Inn, GA, Day -1
Walasi-Yi, Day, Neels Gap, GA, Day 4
Top of Georgia Hostel, Dicks Creek Gap, GA, Day 8
Standing Bear Farm Hostel, Davenport Gap, NC, Day 23
The Hostel at Laughing Heart, Hot Springs, NC, Day 26
Uncle Johnny's Hostel, Erwin, TN, Day 31 and 32

Mountain Harbour Hostel, Day 36
Boots Off Hostel, Hampton, TN, Day 38
Crazy Larry's Hostel, Damascus, VA, Day 41

(Phase II-b, still solo)
Church of the Mountain Hostel, Delaware Water Gap, PA, Day 98 (just spent the day here)
Bearded Woods Hostel, CT, Day 112 and 113 (slack packed on day 113)
Upper Goose Pond Cabin, MA, Day 117 (not actually a Hostel, but close)

Len Foote Hike Inn - Day 1

The Hike Inn is so unique in so many ways.  It was our jumping off point and a great experience before starting our adventure.  Technically, this would be our first (and only, so far) "work for stay" of the Quest.  Also, we arrived at the Inn in a special way that all of the other guests are unaware of.  

Our adventure started on this day.  We flew into Atlanta from Baltimore, arriving just after noon.  We rode the MARTA up to its northern terminus and were picked up by Richard "Peregrine" Judy.  A good friend, double 2000 miler, Author and President of the Board at the Hike Inn.  

After gifting us some fuel and stopping at a post office so we could mail our travel bags home, Peregrin took us through a Chic-Fil-A drive-through, to Amicalola Falls State Park to check in and then along some crude, winding, gated roads to the secret parking area at the Inn.  For us, it was the Len Foote Ride Inn.  

A collection of old packs in the main lobby

This place is amazing.  They are all about conservation of resources and ecological conscience and education.  You are encouraged to turn your phone off (not much signal anyway) and each morning, if the weather is pleasant, they walk through the bunk room area, lightly tapping on a bongo drum, to let you know that the sunrise may be nice.  

They compost all their garbage (with the help of red worms) and promote a clean plate goal at every meal.  The food is very good so cleaning my plate wasn't a problem at all.  They use composting toilets and solar energy to heat water and provide electricity.
My clean plate after a wonderful meal

The cost of a night here is quite a bit above the usual Hostel price, but it is totally worth it.  We were lucky to be able to sing for our supper (not literally, that would be a disaster), but I was able to do a 45 minute talk about the Appalachian Trail Museum and also talk a little about what LoGear and I were doing there.  Starting our own long distance hike, our Quest.  Our one night stay and the meals were a part of the deal. Of course we through what we could in the tip box to try and express our gratitude.  

The accommodations are rustic, with bunks in a small room, but there is a place to put your stuff and the mattresses were fine for the night.  The showers were warm and the toilets soothingly caressed your buttocks as you sat, with the positive pressure the composting toilets use.  

Our simple bunk room

I hope to someday get back to the Inn as either a guest or a volunteer.  It was quite an experience and I would love to spend more time there.

The morning was perfect as the bongo announced and we were able to enjoy our first sunrise of the Quest at the cool stone henge they have set up on the hill side.  

The henge thingie. The Summer Solstice casts a circle of light into the grotto.

Our first sunrise of the Quest

LoGear enjoys the sunrise

Price: $$$ - $122 per single, $175 for double.
Remarks: Boxed lunches for $
Website: http://hike-inn.com/
Value: 8
Amenities: 9
Overall Rating: 9 out of 10.

Walasi-Yi Center - Day 4

The Walasi-Yi Center at Neels Gap, GA was our first actual Hostel experience of the Quest.  We arrived early in the day after an easy nero day and were the first to check in.  Rain was in the forecast and we were happy to pick our bunks, use the shower and do some cowboy laundry.  We also did our first resupply here at the Mountain Crossings outfitter.  

The Hostel is a simple affair.  It has a kitchen area, a sitting area, one bathroom and a bunkroom with about 12 beds.  By the end of the day, we were full and we got to learning the names of those we have been hiking around for the last couple of days.  The guys were actually outnumbered by the gals in the Hostel, which is always a good thing.  

Our bunks were sufficient and although there were a couple of snorers, no one was exceedingly loud.  Most of us had done some sort of laundry, but the Hostel doesn't provide any laundry service as their well is nearly dry and it can't handle 20 hikers trying to wash all of their clothes.  We all did our best and there was a nice breeze moving through the gap that helped dry our clothes quickly.  

Drying clothes in the breezy gap

As I lay in my bunk, playing with my phone, using the spotty Wi-fi that was there, I could hear the rain falling outside.  It was good to be inside for the night.  The night indoors, gave us what we needed to start the next Push of the Quest.  

The famous boot tree on a misty morning

Price: $ - $18 per person.
Remarks: No laundry service (when we came through). Resupply on premises. No Pets.
Website: https://www.mountaincrossings.com 
Value: 6
Amenities: 6
Rating 6 of 10.

Top of Georgia Hostel - Day 8

As we arrived at Dicks Creek Gap, rain was once again in the forecast.  Just as we walked into the parking lot, the van from the Hostel pulled up.  Odometer, the volunteer driver, confirmed that there were a couple of bunks left, but they were filling fast.  This was the time we realized that you can call ahead to these places to make reservations, which a lot of hikers behind us were doing, so I guess we were lucky that we were able to get bunks in the main rooms.  

We were whisked down the hill about .5 to the Hostel.  We met Bob and Carrie and checked in.  We were put in separate rooms, but it was no biggie. We got our showers and put on the provided scrubs so we could get all of our clothes laundered by the staff for $5 each.  

The bunks were soft and roomy and their hiker box had a lot of goodies in it and we did a lot of our resupply from there.  Saving some money for when we would shop later in town.  

The Hostel also provides a shuttle into Hiawassee that we took advantage of, looking like an OR staff as we walked around town in our blue, gray and green scrubs.  After eating a good town meal and doing some resupply, we were picked up and taken back to the Hostel.

I have developed a "clean your plate" habit.

The Hostel once again filled up with people trying to get away of the upcoming weather, but we would be off in the morning, come rain or shine.  The place was very nice.  Along with three rooms in the main building, they had some small cabins that will also accommodate a dog if you had one.  This is a nice sitting area with a couple of guitars for those who dabble and they also have a decent outfitter where you could resupply if you wanted.  The gear selections are small, but if you needed something, they probably have it.  

In the morning, you get to listen to Bob talk about his Thru Hiking theories as you eat the included breakfast of all you can eat cereal, with coffee and juice.  Afterwards, you are whisked back to the trailhead to continue your hike.  Refreshed and enlightened for what is ahead.  

Price: $$ - $25 per person
Remarks: Laundry $5. Resupply on premises. Breakfast included. Pets Ok in outer cabins. Free shuttle into town.
Website: http://www.topofgeorgiahostel.com/
Value: 8
Amenities: 9
Rating 8 of 10.

Standing Bear Farm Hostel - Day 23

We strolled into Standing Bear after an awesome week in the Smokys with super nice weather.  But of course, now there was rain in the forecast and everywhere along the trail was buzzing with "Trail Dayz" fever.  We grabbed our choice of empty bunks in the bunkroom as the van, driven by a crazy looking dude, headed out full of hikers going to the festival.  

I like to describe the Hostel as Unique.  It has a very interesting layout.  There are several buildings at the farm.  Each has its own special use and also I found that each had its own unique smell.  There was the bunk house and next to it, the kitchen.  The laundry building was where you washed your own clothes using a scrub board and double sink.  There was a dryer though and that helped.  

The Hostel had a decent supply of fresh, frozen stuff and they had beer.  They had a store building that had plenty to purchase.  Just about every item was past the expiration date, but that didn't really stop us from doing a full resupply (it was only for two or three days).

Those of us who were foregoing Trail Days hung out around the fire pit and LoGear and I each had our own frozen pizza for dinner.  

The caretaker was Clark.  Clark was a skinny guy that hung out on the porch of the bunkhouse, sitting in his rocking chair and propping his foot up on the porch post.  Clark had a nice long beard and an ever present pack of Marlboros in his shirt pocket.  He told me he was dying of lung cancer.  (I recently learned that Clark passed away not long ago).  Clark was the one who would get your pizza out of the freezer and your beer out of the locked beer building.  Everything else at the Hostel was done on the honor system.  You got a piece of paper and a pencil and you recorded your purchases. Settling up with Clark before you headed out.  

Clark, the innkeeper

I really liked this Hostel stay, mainly due to the way the place was.  It was AT culture at its finest.  Nothing was 5 star and that was ok.  It was AT 5 star though.  

Price: $ - $20 per person, $15 pp, tenting.  
Remarks: Primitive laundry. Resupply on premises, although most stuff out of date. Beer!
Website: http://standingbearfarm.tripod.com/
Value: 7
Amenities: 9
Rating 8 of 10.

The Hostel at Laughing Heart - Day 26

When we rolled into Hot Springs, rain was once again in the forecast.  We arrived at the Hostel early in the day and were able to quickly secure a private room.  The Hostel was guaranteed to fill up tonight as the rain came and came hard.  We showered and got in line for laundry.  Along with the communal bathroom and laundry, was a kitchen you could use.  Outside, there was some covered areas with seats where we could hang out and stay dry.  

All the bunks filled up and there were a few tenters.  I think there is also a lodge type accommodation behind the Hostel, but I don't know the details of it other than it was more expensive.  

The Hostel is basically right on the trail at the edge of town.  There are a number of restaurants, an outfitter and a couple of decent resupply stores a short walk away.  We did the walk, but in the middle of the heavy rain, so we were a little drippy when we walked into the Spring Creek Tavern for lunch.  

Rain filled AT symbol in the sidewalk in Hot Springs

After we completed our town chores and the laundry, we just hung out and drank a few beers.    

The next morning, my back felt not too good and I spent the next three days trying to get it re-aligned and pain free.  I guess the mattress in the private room didn't agree with my back issues.  

Price: $ - $20 for a bunk, $30 for single occupancy private, $25 semi-private and $45 for private. 
Remarks: $5 laundry.
Website: http://www.laughingheartlodge.com/index.php/accommodations/hostel/
Amenities: 8
Rating 6 of 10.

Uncle Johnny's Hostel - Day 31 and 32

After a very challenging Push, that had us dealing with the harshest string of weather so far, we made our way into Erwin to once again find a Hostel next to the trail on the edge of town.  We had stopped early the day before to fight off hypothermia so we arrived later in the day than we usually had so far.  The place was already full as far as the bunkroom and the many small cabins due to once again approaching rain and I think it was the Memorial Day weekend too.  

Heading down into Erwin, the Nolichucky River 

We weren't there for the cabins though as I only wanted to sleep in my hammock from then on if I could, after my bach issue with the last Hostel.  Fortunately there is a fairly new hammock pavilion at the back of the property and there was only one other person in there at the time.  I think you can hang at least six hammocks in there.  It was covered, with a table and an electrical box with four outlets. Each hammock area had an overhead light too.  It was a perfect setup for us.  We could hang, and not need our tarps and everything we needed was under the pavilion, with the restrooms a short walk away.  

Pixie, hanging out in the hammock pavilion

Since we had not taken a zero yet on our Quest, we decided to take one here. The free shuttle into town was very convenient and we used it three times to eat and resupply.

I slept great in the hammock area and when the rain did come in the night, we didn't care at all.  

Mileage sign outside the Hostel

Price: $ - $20 per person in the bunk room. $30 - $95 for the private rooms and cabins. $15 Tenting/Hammock.
Remarks: $5 laundry. Resupply/gear on premises, but Walmart was better. Free Shuttles.
Website: http://www.unclejohnnys.net/
Amenities: 8
Rating 8 of 10.


Part 2 will talk about the Hostels I stayed at when I was hiking solo, both down south and up north.  Stay tuned.  

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pamola's Quest - Push 20 - The Push to Williamstown, MA - Part 2

Push 20 - The Push to Williamstown, MA - Part 2

The last four days of Push 20 were a pleasant finish to the Phase.  I had a pond to swim in and Mt Greylock to climb, but all would come in good time.  

Day 112 - 8.9 miles - W Cornwall Rd - Bearded Woods Hostel
Day 113 - 16.4 (slackpack) miles - US44 - Salisbury, CT
Day 114 - 13.1 miles - Glen Brook Shelter
Day 115 - 14.3 miles - Tom Leonard Shelter
Day 116 - 11.2 miles - Shaker Campsite
Day 117 - 9.9 miles - Upper Goose Pond Cabin
Day 118 - 17.6 miles - Kay Wood Shelter
Day 119 - 16.9 miles - Mark Noepel Shelter
Day 120 - 9.6 miles - Williamstown, MA - End of Phase II-b of Pamola's Quest

Upper Goose Pond Cabin Adventure

Only a couple other people showed up at the campsite for the night and the morning was dry, but cloudy and breezy.

I ate breakfast with the three students and said my goodbyes as I headed out early as usual.  I didn't have far to go today, but I wanted to arrive early, so I could enjoy the pond and what it had to offer.  

Early in the day, I came to a road crossing.  To the left there was a little shack that said AT Trail Stand.  Next to it, was a young cow, just munching on the grass in the front yard, next to the road.  It was an interesting sight.

Young cow, Mooowing the lawn

After climbing Baldy Mountain, the day was rather easy as I made my way towards the pond and circled around it.  I ate an early lunch and just before Noon, I came to the turnoff to the cabin.  

I arrived at the cabin and saw it was locked and no one was around.  I explored a little and found that the outside door to the upstairs bunk room was open.  I went in and explored the place a bit.  I found a bunk and stowed my gear.  It was time for a swim and some cowboy laundry.

As I was heading down, I met Harvester, a girl who had been doing some hiking on both the PCT and the AT this year, but had gotten off-trail for an injury.  She was from nearby and was there to meet her "hiking partner" who was a sobo, due to arrive soon.

I went down to the pond and went for a swim.  I rinsed the sweat out of my hiking clothes and enjoyed the fresh, cool water for awhile.  I guess I forgot to take the bugnet out of my back pocket and sometime during my swimming and cleaning, it came out and floated away.  Oh well, Karma was still screwing with me.

Calm morning on Upper Goose Pond

The rest of the day I just lounged on the porch of the cabin.  After a while, the incoming caretaker arrived with his wife and a friend.  Also, I few more hikers showed up.

One hiker, Simpleton Extraordinaire and his dog Jameson came in. He had a lot of goodies in his pack including the ingredients for S'mores, which I don't like.  He did give me a bar of chocolate which I really enjoyed as I tried to put a dent in my constant hunger. He also gave me a sip of his whiskey, which gave me a very pleasant glow for a while.  Jameson was pretty cool too.

I took another swim, later in the day and had a decent night's sleep up in the bunk room.  It wasn't my hammock, but it was comfortable enough.

In the morning, the promised pancakes and coffee were served and I left a decent donation to help them continue their service.   

Some Days Are Just Days of Walking

I was able to get on the trail pretty early still, even after the served breakfast.  I had over 17 miles to do today. Today's walk would be just that.  I pretty much just stayed in my head all day and put one foot in front of the other.  There weren't any long climbs or anything.  The one note of the day would be a stop at the Cookie Lady's house.  If she was there, the possibility of cookies and blueberries would be a nice break.

When I arrived at the Cookie Lady's house, there was no one around.  I filled my water, which had a strong sulfur smell and taste, ate a few blue berries that were in a container on the table and relaxed in some nice chairs as I ate a snack.  No cookies, but a good break nonetheless.  

I arrived at the empty shelter area and set up behind the shelter.  I needed water so I headed down the short trail to the source.  While I was down there, I heard lots of voices coming from the shelter.  When I went back up, the shelter was full past capacity.

A freshman orientation group from Yale had arrived.  I had encountered one of these groups, a couple years ago during a day hike in PA and thought it was a good way to get the kids out in the woods before they had to hunker down in their studies.  Now, I had a few other thoughts out here as we were sharing the same resources now.  

The group seemed a bit larger than the recommended 10 people, and they were noisy and clunky.  They put all of their cooking gear (and it was a lot) in the bear box, filling it up.  Luckily, my food bag was already in there, but I did have to dig through their heavy bags to find mine in the morning.  I would encounter other college orientation groups these last couple of days and they all seemed large and clunky.  But, it's all good out here.  We share the forest and there is plenty to go around.

I had some good conversation with the group as I ate my dinner then headed to my hammock for the night.  They had actually asked if there was a certain time that they should be quiet and I told them to just do what they wanted.  That is what ear plugs are for.

They did stay up into the night, with a fire, but it wasn't bad at all.  No one was loud or rowdy and I was able to fall asleep as usual.  

Town Stops are The Bomb

The next morning I had a spring in my step as I packed up and got ready to go.  Today, I was heading into Dalton, MA, which the trail went through and it was only about 2.5 miles away.  I was looking for food, a free shower, a library visit to print my bus ticket and my final resupply of the Phase.  

The town was still waking up as I strolled down its streets. The first stop was at a Cumberland Farms store for some coffee and chocolate.  As I walked through town, heading to the breakfast place on the other side, Mary Jane, a hiker I had met at Upper Goose, stuck his head out of a coffee shop to say hi.  I continued on and went into the Dalton Restaurant for a huge second breakfast.  While I was there, I made a reservation at the Williamstown Motel for my last night and bought a bus ticket home.  It was time to finish this Phase.

When I finished breakfast, I went out front to get my gear and out came Blaze.  The last time I saw him was in Erwin, TN at Uncle Johnny's Hostel.  It was good to see that he had made it all this way.  I crossed the street and entered the Community Center.  I signed in and received a towel.  I went down to the locker room and enjoyed a nice hot shower.

My next stop, was just down the road a bit to the Library.  I needed to print my bus ticket, so I went in and asked if I could use a computer.  I saw one that was a little out of the way, but there was one other guy on the computer next to me.  Now, after my shower I had just put my hiking clothes back on and not my town shirt for some reason, so even though my body was a little cleaner, I still had the smell of adventure all around me.  When I came up to my PC, they guy next to me, made a concerted effort to move all his stuff and himself as far away from me as he could.  I giggled at his Muggleness and went about my business.  He really seemed sensitive to my stench.  Oh well, there was nothing I could do except finish my business and move on.

I printed my ticket and left the library, imagining the huge sigh of relief the Muggle must have heaved when I left.  My next two stops were to pick up a nice sub for lunch/dinner and a couple of 24 oz cans of Genesee Cream Ale for the walk out of town.  Those items would add about 5 lbs to my pack, but were worth the weight in my opinion.  

I bought the last of my resupply and headed out of town, feeling happy and full.  After finishing town and heading back up into the wooded hills, I came upon Fairy Baby and Cave Bear who were taking a break and drinking their own beers.  I figured I had carried one of those beers long enough and joined them for a nice beer break.  

Looking down to the Cheshire reservoir 

With a slightly lighter load, I moved on towards Cheshire, MA.  I leaped frogged the couple once or twice and we rested again at an ice cream store on the edge of town.  After some ice cream, I moved on.  The trail goes through town again, but as I walked the streets, my attention wavered and I missed a turn of the trail.  I had no worries though, as I quickly used my phone to find my way back.  I did get to pass an interesting house on my "reroute" though.

Interesting house in Cheshire

The last part of the day was the start of the climb up Mt. Greylock.  It did get a little intense as I went along, but I just soldiered on and before too long, I was walking into camp.  There was rain in the forecast, which always makes the shelter areas crowded and there was another orientation group at this shelter.  The whole area is kind of on a slope, so I just walked around a bit, passing the tent spots already taken until I could find two trees that would work.  I went up above the shelter and saw an area with two tents set up and a fire going.  I said hello and asked if I could set up next to one of the tents, where two good trees waited.  Dave and his two sons, Collin and Connor welcomed me into their camp for the night.

The threesome were very nice and kept offering me stuff.  They were out for a few days, but were ready to head home as the mountain had been a little more than they could handle.  They were planning their exit of the mountain in the morning. I set up and hung out with them as I ate the last of my sub and drank that last beer.  The rain arrived as darkness fell and we all retired to our shelters.  

Completing the Push and the Phase

The next morning dawned windy and drippy as I packed up for the day.  It was time to finish the climb up Mt. Greylock.  I walked the 3.3 miles to the peak where a large war monument stands.  It was a little foggy as I reached the monument, but the wind was moving the clouds fast.  I climbed up to the top of the monument and looked out all around.  It was clear enough to see pretty far.  

First foggy view of the monument

I came down and started down the mountain.  It was a little slippery from time to time and I did another slip and fall, but it was into soft mud with my shoulder and I only got a little of the Greylock mud on me.  I came off the mountain with my ipod singing in my ear and came to MA Route 2.  The ending point of this Phase.

Williamstown from the sides of Mt Greylock

I walked a little bit more north to find one more treasure hunt item form AWOL's Guide and then started walking towards Williamstown.  It was early and I had only gone 9.6 miles so far, so the 1.5 to the Motel would be easy.  

I stopped at a pizza place and ate some lunch before crossing the highway and checking into the Motel right at the 1400 check in time.  

After a shower, I walked another 1.5 into town and had a beer and some fries at the Purple Pub then picked up a six pack for back at the Motel.  On the way back I also stopped and bought a sandwich for the next day and a stick of deodorant. 

The rest of the evening was spent converting my pack into bus mode and watching TV shows on my phone.  I decided to retire the old Half-Crocks at this time.  One of them had snagged on a tree and ripped off one side of the heel strap and I figured it was time to get something new.  They had served me well enough, but my cutting them had compromised their structural integrity without very much weight savings.  

Time to say ba-bye to the Half-Crocks

It had taken me 24 days to hike 334 miles and tomorrow I would travel that distance and then some in about 10 hours.  It was time to complete the Phase and re-enter the Matrix.  The Other World.

Back to the Matrix

I was up early the next day as usual and after a quick breakfast in the lobby, I started walking to the bus stop.  As I started walking down the road, I saw a group of four hikers heading the same way.  Eventually, I let them catch up to see who they were.  They had been out for a couple of days and were taking the same bus down to the first stop.

I arrived at the Hotel where the bus stop was and had some time until the bus arrived, so I sat in the lobby and caught up on some trail journal entries.  Before I knew it, the bus was here and I was on it as it started on its way to New York.

It was interesting watching the changing scenery outside the bus as we went from rural Massachusetts town to the busiest city in this hemisphere.  I had fun doing a lot of people watching from the bus as we worked our way down into Manhattan.  Of course, the bus arrived at the Port Authority Terminal, well after the time my second bus was due to leave.  I went up to the ticket counter to see what I had to do and was shown where to go to catch the next bus.  

I headed down to the proper gate and grabbed some food for dinner.  Before too long, there was a bus at the gate and I'm not sure if it was the right bus, but it was going to the right place, so I boarded and soon, we were out of the city and starting through New Jersey.  

Leaving New York

The ride back to Baltimore was uneventful.  I finished the last book of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy that I had been listening to the whole Phase and not too long after dark, we were pulling into the bus station once again, like I had in June when I finished the first Phase of the Quest.

LoGear was in the parking lot waiting and 20 minutes later, I was back at home, where all the comforts of the Matrix are.  Within a few hours, I was already thinking about when I would complete the last two Phases of the Quest.  I will be a part of the Class of 2018 on the Trail.  I'm not done hiking this year just yet, but I won't be doing new train again until the winter snows have melted and a new spring has arrived.  

I'm torn between wanting to get my first traverse of the Trail complete and taking my time to be able to keep enjoying the journey.  But, if all goes as planned, next season will see me completing this Quest and then I will start looking for the answer to the question every Hiker has...  What's next?

I think my next article will be about the Hostels I stayed in during these journeys.  Stay tuned.

EarthTone and LoGear