Thursday, October 22, 2015

Yellow, White or Blue, the Blazes are Always True - Part Three

Day 1 of New Jersey:
We awoke after a fitful night's sleep and gathered our gear.  We headed down to the dining area for our free continental breakfast and I had my fill.  It was pretty good.

We headed to the meeting point where we would end the hike and waited for Age and Cathie to arrive.  We weren't waiting long before they pulled up.  We moved their gear to my truck and headed out to our starting point at Blue Mountain Lakes Rd.  

Day 1 - 7 Miles
We fiddled with our gear one more time, adding and subtracting until we thought it was right, weighed everyone's pack for fun and headed out to the North.  Age's pack was the heaviest at 36 lbs since she had dog food for Maya who was along for the hike.  Cathie's was the lightest at 30 with Lisa's very close to that and mine coming in at about 33 or so, a comfortable load for me.

Ready to go.  Age, Maya, Cathie, Joe and Lisa
It was almost 10 when we got on the trail and the day was a little overcast, but as we hiked along, it became one of those perfect hiking days.  Not too hot or cold and no precept to speak of.  We went at an easy pace.  This was our longest day at only seven miles, so there was no hurry and we ambled along, each at our own pace.  

Maya
The trial was really nice and pretty easy to traverse.  We had the usual issue of water.  Mainly we wanted to ensure Maya was well watered, but the sources we were coming to were dry as should be expected in September in New Jersey.  One source listed was nothing but a very dry creek bed, but the next, which was listed as intermittent has some nice potholes full of water.  
Taking a break
Saddleback Caterpillar on the trail
Cathie's pump filter came in handy as we filled our bottles with a tannin filled water that looked like tea, but tasted fine.  Onward we went.  I had forgotten that New Jersey doesn't allow fires and Lisa and I had collected some wood as we got close to the shelter, only to have to abandon it in a pile next to the path.  Oh well.

Wood, wood everywhere, but not a fire to burn
As the day went buy, we discussed Trail Names and what names would fit our two other hikers.  Age, who is at least six feet tall and goes by the nickname Stretch, became "Slow Stretch".  No one was hiking fast, but she was the slowest.  Cathie became "Wobbles", an apt description of how she made her way over the intermittent rocks we encountered.  

When we arrived at the shelter area, we found Mike with his tent and Joker's Wild resting in the shelter.  We all had our nice dinners together and I went and refilled all of our bottles with the awesome water from the spring that was just down a path across from the shelter.  This water was so much better looking and tasted great.  

We set up camp a little away from the shelter and I was going to sleep with my tarp half off, but as soon as I climbed into the hammock, I felt the spray of water coming across my face.  It did sprinkle a bit during the night, but everything was mostly dry in the morning.

Camp
Log Entry:
AT Trip 2015-6
1.  Date: 9/21/15
2.  Day 6
3.  Morning temp: 60s
4.  Weather: overcast, but nice. Some sun during the day.
5.  Time start: 0950
6. Time stop and miles: 1530, 7
7.  End point: Brinks Rd Shelter
8.  Events: trail names, view.
Log:
We were up around six and ate a good bfast at the hotel before heading to the meeting place. Age and Cathie arrived a few minutes later. We headed to the start point and found it after awhile. We settled our gear, weighed our packs and hit the trail. Age won the heaviest pack contest at 36lbs. Cathie's was the lightest at 30.
The trail was really nice and we took our time as we were only doing seven miles today. We had lunch at an overlook and made it to the shelter at 3:30ish. We had collected wood but you can't have fires in Jersey.
As our water ran low we passed a dry stream and worried a bit, but the next source had some puddles that we pumped out some tannin filled tea shaded water.
Had a nice dinner and met Mike and Jokers Wild
When I checked the water by the shelter it was much nicer and we refilled all our bottles
I was going to sleep with my tarp folded over, but as soon as I climbed in after seven, I felt water. I fixed my tarp and covered my pack with a piece of my garbage bag.
Tomorrow we do 6.6.

Day 2 of New Jersey:
Of course, I was up well before dawn at around 5 am and I had some good alone time.  I headed over to the picnic table and when I poked my light into the shelter, I saw that more hikers had arrived in the dark.

I made some coffee and sat in the dark, listening to the forest come awake for the day.  It is such a peaceful time, I don't mind being alone at all.  It would sprinkle from time to time, like it was trying to become a full on shower, but that never developed.

Before long, I could see the forest around me.  I took a little walk down to the road and explored it some.  I found where the spring up above crosses the road. As the dawn finished and my co-hikers stirred and arose, Slow Stretch earned her name once again as a good description of how long it takes her to get up and get going.

After a nice breakfast, we headed out at 0930.  An improvement on yesterdays start, but today was a little less miles than day one, so once again, there was no hurry to get going.  
Day 2 - 6.6 Miles

Yesterday's views were all to the west, but today we got a few peeks into the eastern side of the ridge.  We were above Culver Lake and were heading for our only down/up of the trip, descending into Culvers Gap.

Culver Lake
When we arrived there, we headed to the new Sunrise Appalachian Trail Deli, which used to be Joe To-Go, where a crabby hiker hating proprietor had made a legend for himself.  What we found in the new Deli, was two very nice hiker friendly people that came out and hung out with us for a while in the "Hiker Area" on the side of the building.  

Our special area at the Sunshine Appalachian Trail Deli
So, after lunch we had the nice climb out of the gap back up onto the ridge.  We eventually made it up there and started along the ridge again.  We came to the Culvers Lake Fire Tower and took a nice break.  From there it was a one mile down hill to the shelter trail.  
Culvers Lake Fire Tower
We arrived before 3:30 and found another nice place to set up camp.  The water in the spring wasn't flowing as good as at the last shelter, but it was still very good.  Cathie's filter had become a little slow flowing, so I resorted to my usual way to pre-filter my water using a cut up bottle as a funnel a bandanna and a small cup from the bottom of the cut up bottle.  Does not clog.  

After a while Mike came into camp and we all set up around each other for our last night.  It was another nice evening around the shelter and early to bed as usual after a good dinner.   

Queen Maya, or as I called her "Quiver"

Our second camp

Log Entry:
AT Trip 2015-7
1.  Date: 9/22/15
2.  Day 7
3.  Morning temp: 57
4.  Weather: Sprinkles in am, then nice.  Cool and overcast with some sun at times.
5.  Time start: 0930
6. Time stop and miles: 1517, 6.6
7.  End point: Gren Anderson Shelter
8.  Events: Deli at Culvers Gap
Log:
After an early night of hitting the hammock, of course I was awake and am ready to face the day at about 5 am. I really like this time of day. I rolled out of the hammock in the dark and gathered some gear then went to the picnic table below the shelter. I wandered up towards the shelter while I had some water boiling and saw that some hiker had come in after dark. There was also another tent down by Mike and Jokers Wild.
I made some coffee in the dark and sat and listened to the forest come awake for the day. It was eerily quiet in the forest. Nothing moved, nothing called. Just quiet...
I drank my coffee as the light slowly drifted into the landscape. It was going to start off cloudy you could tell by the muted light.
Eventually the camp woke up. Of course Slow Stretch was the last to crawl out of her tent. Truly living up to her new trail name.
After a breakfast and the other normal morning rituals, we headed back onto the trail around 0930.
We followed the ridge line for a while coming out to views of Culver Lake along the way. Eventually we descended into Culvers Gap and had some good lunch at the new Sunrise Appalachian Trail Deli (formerly Joe To Go) The owner was very hiker friendly and we had some pleasant conversation as we enjoyed our sliced sausage subs. We filled up on water and headed back up the ridge. At the top we saw Mike again and we moved on to the Culver Fire Tower and had a nice break.   We descended again a little to the Gren Anderson shelter and found our camp for the night. Mike came in after awhile and that was the group for the night. We had a nice dinner around the table and settled our gear for the night.
Again, we hit the hammocks as the sun sunk behind the ridge and it was time for sleep.
Tomorrow we would finish this section with a 6 mile hike.

Day 3 of New Jersey:
Once again I was first up, but a little later this time.  I could see a little better as I rolled out of my hammock on my 53rd birthday.  For the last few years, I have been heading out into the bush either on or around my birthday.  It just seemed to happen, I didn't plan it, but it has become sort of a tradition to myself.  As I noted in my journal, it was another birthday spent as an "Outsider".  Someone who spends time out doors.

Birthday entry in the shelter register
It was a cool morning, in the 40s and the coffee tasted fine.  Everyone seemed to get up and ready a little faster today and that always makes me happy.  

Day 3 - 6 Miles
We headed out the blue blaze to the trail.  Lisa and Maya taking the lead, Age and Cathie in the middle talking as the went and me sweeping up the back.  Lisa had gotten a little ahead of the other two and I guess the lost site of her.  I slowly walked behind the other two and watched them turn the wrong way on the trail and start heading south.  I know this has happened to me before (and lots of others too), but I got a kick of watching the walk the wrong way.  I came up to the AT and turned left, telling them to come get us when they get back to my car.  

The realized their error and turned to follow me.  The last day was a nice hike.  The weather was perfect once again and the trail was easy.  

Halfway through the day's hike we came to Sunrise Mountain Pavilion for a good break.  There were a couple hawk watchers there.  We took our packs off for a rest and I told the group about what I had heard about this shelter and Jennifer Pharr Davis' coming upon a suicide victim during her first Thru Hike.  

View from Sunrise Mountain
We finished up strong with a good pace to the end.  Maya and I took up the lead.  She did very good on this hike.  Not running off and always staying close to us.  Sometimes in the lead, sometimes behind me.  She would come very quickly when I had to call her and was very obedient.  

Almost done
This was a very nice hike and I really enjoyed this part of New Jersey that I had never seen before, except to drive through.  The trail was good, water was enough to stay alive and the company was very pleasant.

I have now hiked in 10 of the 14 AT states.  Now I need to find a way to get back up to New England and hike in CT, MA, VT and NH.

Log Entry:
AT Trip 2015-8
1.  Date: 9/23/15
2.  Day 8
3.  Morning temp: 44
4.  Weather: Another beautiful day
5.  Time start: 0930?
6. Time stop and miles: 1249, 6
7.  End point: Deckertown Turnpike
8.  Events: Wrong way, finished...
Log:
This morning I slept an hour longer and the forest was actually starting to lighten up an little when I birthed myself out of my hammock.
I still had some alone time to make some coffee and visit the privy. Mike was the first one up after me.
We seemed to gather and pack our gear a little faster today.
We walked out the blue blaze with Lisa and Maya in the lead and Age and Cathie in the middle, with me taking of the sweep.
There is a rule that whatever way you turn into the shelter trail at night you turn the same way when getting back to the white blazes and Slow Stretch and Wobbles completely ignored that rule as they turned south onto the trail. I asked them to let us know when they got back to my car and turned north chuckling. They corrected their direction and the day's hike was on.
Today would be a simple affair of following the ridge back to Cathie's truck to finish our hike. About halfway there is the Sunrise Mtn Pavilion. We all took a break there and I related the story of Jennifer Pharr Davis' encounter here with a suicide victim. It was a little spooky, but the day had turned beautiful and it chased away the shivers. There were a few people at the pavilion counting hawks as the made their way south on their annual migration.
We continued on and before too long were taking a break a the Mashipicong shelter before hiking the last two tenths to the truck.
We finished the hike in style and drove to the other car. We stored our gear, said our good byes and headed back down the ridge towards PA and Lisa's Father's house.
It had been a good hike and we felt good. The weather had been easy to deal with and we all had a great time.
So, what's next?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yellow, White or Blue, the Blazes are Always True - Part Two

After a night in a Motel 6 in Portsmouth, NH (They might leave a light on, but you have to get your shampoo from a vending machine), we hit the road again to finish our northern trek to Millinocket, ME.  This sleepy little town is "dying" according to the bartender in the Blue Ox Saloon.  The paper mill closed and there isn't much work around anymore.  I think the hikers are the only thing keeping the place alive, but we all know that most hikers don't spend a lot of money if they can help it.  

We arrived early in the afternoon and found the Appalachian Trail Lodge.  We saw Jaime aka NaviGator across the street and she took us up to our room.  The room was great.  We would be sharing a bathroom with the other upstairs tenants.  We brought our gear in then took the AT Museum Traveling exhibit up to the Community Center which is also know as the Bakery.  We went over to the Blue Ox for a couple beers then went to the Appalachian Trail Cafe for some dinner and happy hour.  

Appalachian Lodge - Millinocket, ME
AT Museum Traveling Exhibit
We listened to some of the musicians at the park then finished our own pub crawl by getting a drink at the Scootic In, then headed back to the room for a good night's sleep.  Tomorrow we would hike to the foot of The Greatest Mountain.

Lisa needed a puppy fix.  This little critter was hanging out in front of one of the stores
Log Entry:

AT Trip 2015-3, 4, 5
Headed north again to Millinocket, ME. Arrived around one.
Checked in at Lodge, set up exhibit in the community center then walked around down town doing our own pub craw and listening to some of the musicians.
Hung out in our room into the evening then hit the sack.
Left Lodge around 6:30 in the fog morning. Went to McDs for bfast then gas, then drove the 20 miles to Abol Bridge. Arrive Abol bridge 0720 . On trail 0730. Took Blueberry Ridges trail up into Baxter. Arrived Birches 0940ish. Relaxed for a while, checked out the campground and got our first view of the mountain as the fog had burned off and it was a beautiful day.
The trip down was very nice. The trail was perfect and we made sure we checked out the falls and ponds.
We got back to the car a little after 2:30 and drove back to Town. The total loop was 15 miles and my feet were feeling it. Lisa pulled ahead of me the last few miles as usual.
We showered and did laundry and talked to the other hikers at the Lodge. Most had finished already and were waiting for their rides and one, Slim was waiting for his girl friend to show up and was planning to summit Monday. We treated him to dinner at one of the local restaurants and had some beers back at the lounge area of the Lodge.
It was early to bed after that long day.
We were up and on the road around 8:30ish for a long drive to our next adventure. We stopped in Worcester, MA at 1 pm and found a sports bar to watch the Steelers beat the 49ers, then continued to the corner of NY, NJ and PA for the night. Tomorrow we meet Age and her friend and hike.

The hike was pretty awesome.  The foggy morning burned off into a bright clear day with clouds forming over the mountain.  We didn't get a view up the mountain until we were up by Katahdin Stream Campground.  The Blueberry Ledges trail was really nice.  After crossing the ledges, the trail entered a nice pine woods.  The trail was carpeted in pine needles and everywhere else was a thick green moss.  I felt as if I was in Elvis's Jungle Themed living room at Graceland.  It was cool.

A foggy morning as we travel through the birches on our way to The Birches

Blue Berry Ledges Trail - aka Elvis's Jungle Theme Room

Coming back down the AT towards Abol Bridge was great.  The trail was very nice and we got a nice view of Mt O-J-I and Mt Coe behind Grassy Pond.  Next we walked along the North end of Daice Pond.  From there we followed Nesowadnehunk Stream south, checking out Little and Big Niagara Falls along the way.

Lisa near Little Niagara Falls
Big Niagara Falls
Every once and a while we would pass hikers heading north.  Most were Thrus, finishing their long hike.  We would greet and congratulate them as we went along.  This was when Lisa started moving along.  I don't feel like I'm slowing down, but she steadily kept pulling ahead and I just ambled as best I could, not worrying about keeping up.  

We finished up around 2:30 and it felt good.  My feet were happy to get a break and we were both well hydrated during this hike.  The view from Abol Bridge was awesome as advertised and much better then the foggy nothing we could see in the morning.  

The Greatest Mountain - Katahdin
As the log states, we headed back to the Lodge, showered, did our laundry to prepare for the next leg of our adventure, then went down to the community center to take down the exhibit.  We had been talking to one of the hikers in the Lodge who was waiting for his girlfriend to arrive so he could summit and finish his hike.  Slim was ready to finish and told a story of feeling like quitting when he got to Pine Grove Furnace and the AT Museum and after walking through the museum, he felt much better about continuing north and here he was, ready to finish.

We treated Slim to dinner at the Scootic In and I guess my excitement from our day of hiking had me talking up a storm.  Lisa mentioned that she hasn't seen me talk this much... ever...

Gomer
We went to bed early as we would be on the road again early and had about eight hours of driving before us.  

The next morning we were up and out and on the road after another stop at McDs.  Two days in a row eating at McDonald's is unusual for us.  

It was Sunday and the Steelers were playing at 1.  We drove around five hours and started looking for a sports bar.  My phone had found a few possibilities in Worcester, MA.  We arrived just before 1 pm, parked and walked into the first bar.  Of course, all five TVs had the Patriots game on.  I talked to the owner and he told me he didn't have the ticket, but offered another place to try.  We drove another five minutes and parked again.  We saw the same thing at this bar, (all Patriots, all the time) and I had seen another Sports Bar just down the block, so we headed there.  

Steelers Nation is Everywhere, even in Pats territory
When we walked in we saw their list of games and saw our game was listed.  We found the TV that had the game and settled up against the wall with a beer.  There were three other Steelers fans in there and after a while we got two seats right in front of the TV and got us some cheap wings.  The day was good as the Steelers beat the 49ers with ease and we happily continued our drive to the borders of NY/NJ.

We arrived at a Days Inn after I had a little fun trying to make a reservation using my phone and accidentally booked the wrong night.  It got all fixed up after a phone call to travelocity and we arrived at the Motel in the dark after the GPS took us the most remote way possible down a country road.  

We settled in for the night and sorted our gear for the morning.
  
Tomorrow the adventure would continue.  We were meeting Lisa's sister, Adrianne and her friend, Cathie and hiking some more, this time in NJ.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Yellow, White or Blue, the Blazes are Always True - Part One

As the Trail's End Festival drew close, so did my anticipation.  Lisa started her week long vacation early on Wednesday morning of the 16th of September.  It was time to travel, hike and enjoy some time in the woods.

The truck was packed and ready to go and we hit the road around 10 am.  Our first stop on the itinerary was Bear Mountain New York.  My tentative plan was to hike about 7 miles or so to the second shelter area south of the mountain spend the night, then head back the way we came the next day and finish up back at the truck on the third morning.  That wouldn't happen.

When we arrived at the Perkins Memorial Observatory at the top of the mountain, it was around 1:40 pm or so.  We had eaten a quick breakfast before leaving, but nothing since, so we explored the tower a bit, then ate a little from our food bags.  It was a pretty cool place that you could tell has been around awhile form the pictures in the observatory.  We could see the New York City skyline from the top of the mountain.  Nice.

Perkins Memorial Observatory on Bear Mountain, taken from West Mountain
We grabbed our gear and headed out.  Since we were at the top of the mountain, it was all down hill to start with.  The day felt hot and the thermometer said high 70's, but the humidity would take its toll on us soon enough.  The first two miles were easy.  Descending the mountain on some very nicely built stone steps and coming out at views a couple of times that were large flat rock faces.  After about two miles, we were down and had crossed the two roads that we had driven up a little while ago.  

Lisa arriving at view up on West Mtn
Hudson River
Next quest was to climb up West Mountain.  The climb was only about 565 feet, but it still kicked our asses.  It was rather warm and humid and we realized we should have been fueling and hydrating on the four hour drive, so we bonked pretty much at the top of the mountain.  We did get a nice view back at Bear Mountain and could see the Hudson River, but it was starting to be time for plan B.

We continued on a bit and Lisa asked my why I picked the hardest trail to get back on to, but I had no answer.  The trail is the trail.  You take it as it is, it doesn't offer any apologies or explanations as to its ruggedness.  It just is.

Plan B turned out to be this.  We finish the days hike at the West Mountain Shelter area (which is .6 off trail, with unreliable water), but first we would need some water.  If we were going to potentially dry camp, we needed enough water to cook dinner and hike the beginning of the next day.  We would have to go down hill for the water.  

Water sources notoriously dry up each year, starting in August (sometimes July) and going into the fall quite a ways.  This wasn't anything new to me, but it is always a challenge when you hike in September.

We decided to stash our packs and take our bottles down the trail to a listed water source.  Both the AT Guide and Guthooks app showed water down the hill.  If we had to walk all the way to the Palisades Parkway and find the Rest Stop, we would.

We headed down and it went pretty steeply down, pretty quickly.  At the first possible source the grade became a little easier, but the water source was dry as a bone.  We dropped our trekking poles and continued on.  We came to the next source near a bike path and it too was dry.  I was ready to go further to Beechy Bottom Brook, when we came on a flowing piece of water that came from under the bike path (old road).

We filled up and started back, both being several pounds heavier now.  It wasn't easy getting back up the mountain, but we eventually accomplished that mini quest and got back to our packs.

Wiped out, out of shape Hiker
We started down the blue blaze to the shelter and found a nice place to hang our hammocks just about .1 down the trail.  We set up and started dinner as the sun moved towards the horizon and the sky caught on fire.

I had no appetite, but tried to eat some Ramen.  I only was able to eat a little, before I zipped it up and put it in my food bag.  Maybe I would eat it in the morning.

The sun went down and we both went to our hammocks.  I spent the night flexing my feet and legs as dehydration cramps ran rampant through my body.  Lesson #352 re-learned once again.  You should always hydrate, every chance you get. 

My TrailJournals.com Entry for the day.  

AT Trip 2015-1
1.  Date: 9/16/15
2.  Day 1
3.  Morning temp: high 70s
4.  Weather: hot, sunny
5.  Time start: 14:19 
6. Time stop and miles: 18:15 - 5.2 or so.
7.  End point: West Mtn Shelter trail
8.  Events: water run
Log:
We left M.D. at 10 and arrived Bear Mtn around 1:40. After looking around (could see NY City) we headed out. Going down Bear Mtn was easy but West Mtn kicked our ass. We altered the plan to staying at West mtn shelter which is .6 off the trail but needed water first. We stashed the packs and headed 1/2 mile or so down hill. After finding a running stream we had to head back up. It kicked our ass once again. We found some nice trees a little ways down the blue blaze and set up camp. I couldn't finish my dinner. Weak but no appetite. Darkness fell. I hung the food and crawled into my hammock. Lisa crawled in about 10 min before me. A hard day for this out of trail shape hiker. 

Sunset at hammock camp
We arose with the dawn the next morning and started breaking camp.  I was able to finish my hardly touched dinner for breakfast and the cold noodles were surprisingly tasty.  

We packed up and headed back the way we came.  Plan B now meant get back to the truck, drive another four hours or so and stage ourselves closer to Maine so we could arrive at a respectable hour for the Festival.

The hike back was fine. (as it always is when you know a vehicle or shower or food are at the end of it) and we made our way back down West Mountain in preparation of climbing back up Bear Mountain.

We took a little break before starting on the steps that climb up Bear Mountain.  


Once we got up to one of the views of West Mountain, we saw the blue blaze that I had spotted at the start of our trek yesterday that said AT Shortcut.  Guthook confirmed that it cut off about .7 of the wandering AT and since we had already walked that part of the trial, it was an easy choice to finish faster but steeper.  

Looking back at West Mountain.  The mountain that kicked our ass.
We got back to the truck, got some power aide from the gedunks and hit the road.  Yellow Blazing our way to Maine.  

Tomorrow: We arrive in Maine

Class of 2015 - And then there were none...



This will probably be one of my lasts updates on this year's class of Appalachian Trail Hikers that I met in January at the NoRuck.  

I plan on one more post that throws the numbers together and offers my summary of the six hikers that I followed along with this hiking season.

Previously on the Class of 2015:
Slingshot - Done
Clifford - Done
Treehugger - Done (injury)
Scoops and Iceberg - Off and on
Justin - Started, still in ME.

So just a few days ago, Justin had made his way through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and had announced that he was pretty much done.  He was able to do some awesome hiking along with several side adventures and was satisfied with what he had accomplished.  Here is his Facebook Post:

As all my friends and family know I started this amazing idea of a southbound thru –hiking the Appalachian Trail. I started at Katahdin on July 31st and have hiked through the state of Maine and into White Mountains of New Hampshire. I have met amazing people, seen beautiful wildlife, stayed at amazing camping sites, lean-tos and hostels, climbed crazy mountains, enjoyed the bonus miles (blue blazes & ‘yellow’ corridor/boundary blazes), and of course warm meals and ‘smile for miles’!

From the beginning I never really intended on hiking the Appalachian Trail in its entirety as a thru-hike, even though I stated I was. The reason I started in Maine and wanted to push through the Whites is I knew that it was the hardest 20% of the trail and I would have some of the most beautiful views and hardest mountains; thanks to the weather this has been true. Since I first had the idea of the ‘thru hike’, I always knew that the ‘thru-hike/section hike’ would be catalysis for something far greater. A journey of a life time!

I write to you now, letting you know that as of tomorrow I will take this show on the road for a bit. A fellow traveler will be picking me up and I will be heading toward Shippensburg, PA for the ALDHA Gathering next weekend. I have no clue what lines in front of me on this amazing Journey, but you can guarantee that I will keep on enjoying life, flowing with what comes my way, blazing my own trail and the white blaze of the Appalachian Trail is never too far! 

wink emoticon“Not all those who wander are lost”

I will be seeing Justin down at The ALDHA Gathering in Shippensburg, PA on Columbus Day weekend.  He did good.  Who else is coming?

Scoops and Iceberg went back out to the trail after my last update, finished NY and worked their way up into CT.  It looks like they have been back to the rat race a week or so now, as this pictures shows.


The season is turning and the leaves are falling.  There are still hikers on the trail, as there always will be.  This has been a fun ride.  I hope you all enjoyed peeking into the lives of real hikers and learning about their journeys.  

Saturday, September 5, 2015

New Gear, New Hike, etc.

As Justin works his way out of Maine, here are my thoughts on my latest adventures.
_________________________________

There is this sense of peace I feel, when I am starting to plan my next hike.  A shiver of calmness, mixed with excitement, goes through me as I check the mileage, the drive time, how many meals we will need and everything else that goes into getting quality dirt time.  

This next trip will be epic for me and will take me to places on the trail I haven't visited yet.  New miles towards my 2000 miler status and new places to explore; the holy grail of the trail included (at least a view of it, the mighty Greatest Mountain).  

The Trail's End Festival, in Millinocket, ME, is approaching in two weeks and will be the center point of our hiking adventures to come.  Happily, my bride will be with me for this trip and I am looking forward to hiking with her again along with her sister too.  Here's the plan.

Lisa must take a full week of vacation at a time from her Commissary job, so we will start heading north on the Wednesday before the Festival.  We will drive to New York, near Bear Mountain and hike an out and back to the nearby shelter areas.  Two nights out and then back on the road to Maine.  This will just be the start of our adventure.

The premise of this trip is the Festival.  Back in January, at the Northern Ruck, at Bears Den Hostel, I made plans to bring the AT Museum's Traveling Exhibit to the Festival and display it in a most prominent place.  We will be staying at Ole Man and NaviGator's place, the Appalachian Lodge, in Millinocket and will enjoy the festival for the weekend.  One thing we want to do while there, is drive to Abol Bridge and do a day hike up to the Katahdin Stream Campground and back again.  We hope to do the loop consisting of the AT and the Blueberry Ledges trail, which parallels the AT and leads right to the Birches Shelter.  

After we pack up from the Festival, we will head back South, out of New England and into New Jersey.  There we will meet up with Lisa's sister, Adrianne and her friend and hike some of the New Jersey AT.  

Adrianne is scheduled to take her own epic adventure to Australia in a few months and one of the things she plans to do there is hike some of their awesome trails.  She wants to get her feet wet and prepare by hiking here in the states and where else should anyone do that, but on the AT?  Of course she needed all of her own gear and one of my hobbies is to help other people spend their money on awesome gear.  Usually I recommend the gear I covet, but can't afford, so I'm a great friend like that.  I will help you buy the best gear, but it will cost you.

So as we were planning this latest trip, I saw an email in my inbox, announcing a Labor Day sale at EMS.  As I checked it out, I saw they were offering their Osprey packs at a very good discount.  I have wanted an Osprey pack for quite a while.  I passed this information on to Age and she bought a very nice Osprey Atmos AG pack.  

I had bought Lisa a decent Kelty pack a while back, but even though I had never humped it, I thought she should have a better pack and she agreed.  We decided to check out the nearby EMS store after seeing "A Walk in the Woods" at an Annapolis theater and we discovered that the fates where plotting against us in making the purchase.  We went into the store and looked around some as I always do when I go into any outfitter.  We noticed some plastic sheeting over all the backpacks and sleeping bags and discovered that workers were doing some structural maintenance in that area and we wouldn't be able to check out the packs. 

We left disappointed, but resolved to take advantage of the sale.  At home, we decided to buy an Aura AG for Lisa on line and after making the transaction, discovered the pack was on back order.  The next day EMS cancelled the transaction, saying the order couldn't be filled.  Bummer.  Our resolve stiffened as we planned a Friday morning assault on EMS.  I called ahead to ensure the construction was done and we headed there with mixed optimism.  We entered the store and headed straight to the packs.  There we saw a decent number of Osprey and other packs and stared checking out the Atmos that were there.  Before too long Warren came to assist us.  There was something interesting about Warren.  He was wearing a backpack as he made the rounds of the store.  We had seen him on our last visit and were wondering somewhat.  It all became clear when he mentioned that he was going to attempt a Thru Hike next year on the AT.  What better way to prepare yourself to wear a pack all day, then by wearing a pack all day as you went about your business?  What better place to do that, relatively unnoticed, than at an outfitter store.  I never asked him why he was wearing a pack.  It was just naturally understood.  

Warren, (trail name Ranger... something...), helped us size and pick our packs.  Oh yeah.  My birthday is coming up soon and Lisa "insisted" I also pick out a pack for myself.  It seemed only natural.  :)

So we pretty quickly settled on the Atmos, the exact same one that Age had bought (so we will be pack triplets on the trail).  We did some food shopping and then came home with our new purchases.  After putting away the groceries, I headed down to do some exploring with my new pack.

It felt a little strange as I took gear that is in the perfect place in my old pack and placed it in the new Osprey.  I sorta felt a little pang of sadness and a little bit of unfaithfulness, as I moved the gear to the new pack.  It was a little weird, but that pack, an REI Flash 65, had lugged my gear on every mile I have hiked so far, on the trail.  I felt a little like I was cheating on her.  

Yes, she is a her and she also has a name.  But that is a story for another day.

As I moved my gear and eventually hung up "Old Gray", I told her, that I would use her again or find her a new home.  Her smell will always be with me, since her smell is basically my smell.  

And there we are.  Standing on the precipice of a new adventure, with new gear and a sound resolve.

I'll let you know how it goes...

EarthTone



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Class of 2015 - Update

Time for another update on our six hikers.

Slingshot has completed his hike.  Congrats Slingshot!  Andrew summited on August 3rd.  He reportedly climbed the Big K in two hours.  Yes, two hours.  Amazing.  It looks like his hike took somewhere around 146 days. Very Impressive.

Although the Hairy Missile couldn't finish the last few miles with SS, he is just as much a Thru Hiker and anyone else.  Great Job you two.  


Andrew is now reintegrating himself with the World again and doing things like windsurfing and preparing paleo meals for Hannah.

Hannah on the board

Clifford was not too far behind and summited on August 11th I think.  162 days.  Also a very impressive time, especially when you look at the things he did like graduate from HS, visit his college and other visits to home.  Great job Sam.

Nice tie, always classy
Since his summit, Sam had moved into his dorm at University of Virginia.  Good luck on your next adventure Sam.

Move in day at UVA

Treehugger did make another attempt to get back on the trail in New England to try to at least get to Mt Katahdin, but her knees rebelled once again and she had to admit that this hike was at an end, for now...  

Kerry had her amazing picture at the Flip Flop Kick Off printed in the Summer AT Journeys magazine, which is pretty cool.  Kerry completed about 700 miles of the AT.  Not too shabby.



Scoops and Iceberg completed their latest sojourn into NJ and NY and are most likely planning their next visit to the AT.  

Scoops enjoys some trail magic
Justin is moving through Maine and appears to be "doin it right".  He somehow finds the time to do things like take a plane ride and go white water rafting, but he continues to move south towards New Hampshire.

The beginning...
His last update shows him at Mt Bigelow.  But in the mean time, there is always time for this.

Livin the life
Keep on hiking Hiker...

EarthTone

Friday, July 31, 2015

Long Awaited Class of 2015 Hiker Update



I have been holding off on doing another update until a certain southbounder has started his hike.  That time has come.  

But first:

Slingshot has moved ahead of Clifford and will finish VERY SOON!  Hannah's last update put Andrew on top of White Cap Mountain which is somewhere around 70 miles to Mt Katahdin.  She will be meeting him up there to take custody of The Hairy Missile and be there to celebrate with him afterwards.  His date with the Big K is August 3rd.  Great job Slingshot!

Clifford is not too far behind.  I think he is milking the last of his hike, because "real" life is waiting, but college doesn't start until late in the month, so why hurry.  

Clifford's last update had him improvising a shelter in the wilderness after coming a little short on a 24 mile day attempt.  Not a big deal for an Eagle Scout.  

Shelter?
On Tuesday I got a message from Deb, saying Clifford had left Rangeley, ME.  That left him with about 220 miles left to go.  

Treehugger is still at home.  Her knees have rebelled and she had to come off trail again and do some PT.  She has weened herself off of vitamin I and is planning on coming back to the trail up in Mass where she got off after taking her daughter to college and continuing north.  This trail isn't done with her yet.  There are still so many trees to hug.

Scoops and Iceberg are back on the trail.  They are calling this Phase III.  Phase II was in early July when they were waiting to close on her new house.  They headed to near the WV/VA line and hiked north to PenMar, the PA/MD border.  

So, today, they started Phase III.  They will take about 8 or 9 days, so they are starting at Delaware Water Gap and hope to knock off the state of New Jersey.  

Even though their hike is no longer a Thru, no one cares out there.  Hikers are hikers.  We all smell the same after a few days on the trail.  I can tell the bug has gotten a hold of them, just as it has for me.  The trail is now in their blood and it will Never let go.  

Their plan now is to see her son off to school in Louisiana and get back on the trail for as long as their bodies and money last.  Keep on hiking Scoops and Iceberg.

And Finally...


This is all you need to see about Justin...


Keep on Hiking, Hikers!

EarthTone

Friday, June 19, 2015

Class of 2015 - Update



It's that time again.

Sling Shot is now the leader of the pack.  Each is doing their own thing and (I hope) enjoying their hike.  This isn't a race and I'm happy to see that each of the hikers are taking the time (and the zeros) to visit with the special people in their life.  

Clifford:  Just moved into New York.  A thunder storm took out his phone a while back, so his updates became sporadic for a while.  

Five more states to enter
Sling Shot:  Is in Kent, CT.  He had his last visit with Hannah last weekend and is now just putting the miles under his feet.  Aramis is still having fun too. 

Tired Dog or Dog Tired
Treehugger: Has gotten as far as Stormville, NY, but was off trail at last check to attend her daughters High School Graduation and to get her knee checked for progress.  Her Merry Band of Flip Floppers is starting to fracture as all groups will do on the trail.  Some got off, others have things to attend to and others hike on.  It is all part of the experience.  

Scoops and Iceberg:  Still off trail.  Life continues to keep them in Delaware, but they still have hopes and plans to return to the trail.  Here is our exchange on Iceberg's facebook page when I inquired about their plans:

Me: So, How are things going with the house?  Is the trail still calling?

Iceberg: Well Joe, that's a loaded question. The trail is definitely still calling but at this point I'm wondering if its time to give up hope to thru. The house is still not finished but is getting closer to the point where we could leave and finish later with (most) basic services in working order for my kids living there. A cortisone shot to my shoulder last week helped a lot, but not completely (although it did wonders for my knees which were STILL barking) so I have an MRI scheduled for this week. Then, a few days ago Scoops dropped a chunk of concrete on his foot which is now bruised and tender. I am beginning to wonder if all these obstacles are being placed for a reason because OMG enough already! Sadly we've lost most of our trail conditioning so physically we'll be starting from scratch again. But I'm still hopeful we can get back ... but the question remains WHEN?

MeThanks for the update. There are many ways to hike the trail. A Thru is NOT the only way to hike the trail.  If you can, get out for a month or so or even a few weeks. The trail will always be here. Take care and keep on dreaming of getting back to the trail.


Justin:  This will be the last picture of Justin on this site of him not hiking.  His start day approaches.  Justin was able to attend Clifford's graduation late last month.  Soon he will be hiking.  
Clifford and Justin