Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wheww... that was a long walk

back in Baltimore,

The campfire smoke is still stuck in my hair, and that red Georgia clay is hiding underneath my fingernails. I find myself still waking up with the sun and lone bird call, tempted to turn in early at days' end. But hiker midnight <9PM> is left in the dust with these newfangled light bulbs and friends to catch up with. The victory lap will continue through the holiday as I still need to catch up with my new hometown Trail friends Bobwhite, Powder River, Happy Camper...

Reunion back in Baltimore.. at the end of our lunch, we all got into our respective motor vehicles and drove away instead of tying our shoes and walking south on the single-track.... this was a novel experience amongst our group, but how cool is it that I have 'trail friends' in my hometown?
(l to r) Powder River, Bobwhite, T-Mello, Happy Camper on Dec 22, 2011

 it's a celebration on Springer Mountain on December 18

the "Bubs" <Rogebo, Marbo, and Pistol Pete> came down last Friday to meet me at Neel Gap where Pirate and Lumpy greeted us at the Walasi-Yi hiker center, the old stone-CCC-built hostel featuring the only breeze-way in a building through which the white blaze leads. The Bubs travelled 12 hours and 700 miles by rubber and asphalt on the same day I walked a largish 20 mile day from Helen, GA through the Mark Trail Wilderness and the Raven Cliffs Wilderness.

At this point I had been going since Hot Springs, NC without single day of rest. The final stretch helped me find consistent 16-18 mile walks each day. While I once lived the philosophy "don't let hiking get in the way of your hike" in the summer days of my walk, it was time to focus and find the rhythm to drive me home for Christmas jubilation. While rest days in town were joyful, the discipline of daily consistent excercise made the walking seem automatic and effortless.

back home with CousMike @ the start of my "24-hour couch challenge"
December 19

 The family we had cultivated during the long, strange trip grew stronger. Teenie stepped in as an integral addition for the last leg. She had walked with all of us in Maine and New Hampshire, and then got off the trail to work a little and be at home with her man Dana in the Atlanta area. Then she found Bobwhite's phone number on her desk at home and decided to meet us at Cow Camp Gap, Virginia. Teenie and Bobwhite stayed ahead of us slackers for a good while. We <Eddie, Bogart, Tag>caught up to them in Damascus, VA and then fell behind once again until after Thanksgiving... When Coach's family had provided him with a personal turkey off-trail for yet another food challenge, Eddie and I rendered our own "TurDuckIn" at the best shelter on the trail... the old Red Barn at Overmountain pass. We didn't quite have all the ingredients, but stove top stuffing and turkey gravy served as a topping over our 'pigs in a turkey blanket.' The vegan Bogart stuck with his 'dusty bars' and healthy food.

 Along top of the Smoky Mountains from Newfound Gap to Fontana Dam, foggy dream-like days led to identically designed stone shelters known as the Nantahala style with fireplace and transparent corrugated plastic roofing. Dusk blended with dawn as life in the clouds stagnated time and light with only space change as a constant. Then the weather turned foul, and I wasn't in the mood for walking in the wet. So I posted up in Mollie's Ridge shelter all day, knowing full well that I probably wouldn't catch up with the Bogart and Teenie unless I did some crazy miles or yellow blazed <see glossary for definition of yellow blaze ---- Trail Talk>.

A 175 day chapter in my life is complete. And it is sweet to be finished. My body is tired, it wants to sleep, but I'm still running on adrenaline from the journey. I've already applied for jobs at the grocery stores. Hmmm, maybe I want to be close to food resupply after starving in the wilderness for 6 months.

 had one last picture on that disposable camera to document peak griz

I spent Christmas night at my sister's house, and practiced Math Skills with Moj my nephew who is in 2nd grade. T-Mello "So if I walked 3 miles per hour for 6 hours, how far did I walk?" Moj "Wow you walked 18 miles?" Good job Moj! He's always been a smart cookie.

The next morning I woke up and walked through the back yard and down the road towards the NCR trail. NCR is Baltimore County's premier "Rail Trail" providing opportunities for outdoor recreation. I walked about 7-8 miles south on the Northern Central Rail Trail to Monkton station. The "Natural Brothers" vegan deli was closed, and I didn't really feel like walking another 9 miles to the Light Rail commuter train, so I decided to try an experiment.... I tried Hitch-hiking in Maryland. This was an interesting study, as I positioned myself along the road crossing where the popular biking/hiking trail might be an appropriate location to examine the good will of motorists on the day after Christmas. The wait for a ride was the longest I had ever experienced in my life. I half expected this, remembering that I had to get down to that WholeFoods and put in a job app. But finally Dan Capozzi picked me up and dropped me off in Cockeysville, MD where I took the Light Rail from it's northern terminus.

So off I jumped from the train @ the Woodberry stop on the outskirts of Downtown Baltimore, and stopped by to see if anyone was stirring at cousin Peter's pad. Dylan lent me a vintage Raleigh bicycle which I rode southward along the final stretch of JonesFalls that sees daylight. Could I really live in a place where toxic water flows all around me after months of drinking straight from the soil source? Many questions stirred in my head, where to go from here, would it be time for a career change. Baltimore obviously lacks jobs in the way of trail building, a profession I have loved for 8 years. What the hell do I do next? There's a lead on a job in SC working on the "Palmetto Trail" with my buddies Speaks Little and Scout.

But I'm tempted to settle for living as a Baltimoron for a while. It is exciting to begin a new chapter, to turn the page.... but a bit overwhelming. Dark Star Orchestra is playing their annual new year's show tonight at the Rams Head Live venue downtown. The Baltimore Raven's NFL team better set the tone in Cincinatti on Sunday. A victory would promise a home playoff game for the murderous purple and black.

The Baltimore Ravens won their Christmas Eve home-game! I'm so glad I'm not stuck in a NASCAR bar outside of the Ravens network. Last week I got to go to my first Raven's game of 2011.... After the game I stepped out of Fielder's corner bar in Pigtown. Suddenly I heard "Ted!" I turned around just in time to see my head-banging truck-driving hollywood cousin Pete ride up the street in his buddy's car. Irish Abe and I had roosted pre-game in the Purple Sea with Captain Offense and the Barrett bros. I brought a WhitetaleDeer tenderloin maranadn in a ziplock bag and placed it on the grill. We met up with another friend of mine from high school and then walked towards the stadium. Looking for someone to give the rest of the cooked venison to, we walked during the "prime pan-handler's season" in search of the hungry and homeless... I met a man who looked like he could use it. "I want to visit the soup kitcken downtown, Our Daily Bread," I thought.... would be great to catch up with my friends down there and offer to volunteer in the future. The Jeffster aka Waldo and I used to go downtown to help serve the needy and less fortunate on Thursday mornings. To immerse in the spirit of caring for one another is good for the soul. After such a long time on trail having to take care of only myself, it sure would be nice to join forces with the charities once again. I now have a new understanding of what it means to be homeless and hungry.

Monday, November 21, 2011

stove top stuffing makes good backpacking food

hello from Boone, NC

damascus to hampton to KINCORA to Boone to Erwin to Hot Springs to Smoky Mountains and beyond <423 miles to go.

Thanksgiving at KINCORA? Otto offerend to slack pack us to Roan Mountain/19E. Hike the Roan highlands next day after turkey dinner.... should hit davenport gap <north entrance of Smoky Mountains> by next friday... it's gonna be cold, looking forward to fireplaces in shelters, not the swarm of hungry black bears.

In 1991, Virginia Tech learned that William Addison "Add" Caldwell tramped 26 to 28 miles across two mountains to reportedly become the first student of Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (VAMC, today's Virginia Tech) 

Add grew up near the Appalachian Trail's crossing in Craig valley outside of Blacksburg, VA.

 brush mountain / craig valley

Abscission (from the Latin ab meaning away and scindere meaning to cut) is a term used in several areas of biology. In plant sciences it most commonly refers to the process by which a plant drops one or more of its parts, such as a leaf, fruit, flower or seed

 Tag running the ridge

falling leaf frozen in motion

coach sittin on the fence

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Virginia is for Lovers

October 28

Punchbowl Shelter to Thunder Hill Shelter

Bogart "It's supposed to snow tomorrow," says the ThruHiker from Miami. Downwards to John's Hollow Shelter, a familiar place with a story....... stayed here during a 2 night backpacking trip with some friends from Blacksburg..... Johnny Fight the Pants Kilroy and Jeff Mr Intense Curtis in spring 2008. Here I watched Jeff eat Ramen noodles dry like a cracker, then he mixed flour and water with ramen spice packet 'O MSG. The previous night we had torrential downpours while camped atop the Devil's Marbleyard. JKilroy walked naked for a better part of the day. Buck wild in the BigW. This was a great shakedown trip and reality check for my obese pack weight.

Continuing downwards along a nice little stream with the  Bastards3 in single file up ahead with Coach leading the charge. We break out across road to the William T. Foot bridge. This is quite a coincidence....the foot bridge across the James river is named after Mr Foot himself. William Foot was a member of the Natural Bridge ATC and the first one to ThruHike the American Discovery trail from coast to coast in '98. Mr Foot worked tirelessly to acquire funding and permission to construct this bridge. Soon after, he died and never did get to see the finished product, but we remember him as we walk across. More memories here....Konnarock trail crew summer 2008....watched Big Daddy Duck Tape jump 30 vertical feet from the top of this bridge; a naked plunge into the James. Big Daddy Duck Tape sure brought the party.... hailing from Dundalk <a section of east Baltimore> he wears a NattyBoh tattoo rimed with the words "Charm City." A diehard Baltimoron through and through.

The next mile stretch takes us upstream along the James for about a mile before we follow Matt's Creek drainage to begin the big climb from the bottom. We reach the shelter for lunch where we meet section hiker Nuge from Pittsburg. Matt's Creek is a cool shelter because it has a wooden shingled roof. More Konnarock memories here.... yoga led by Blacksburg friend Elijah Morrison after our crew bailed off the high and dry ridge above during a mid-July heat wave. It was so hot we had to share the tiny swim hole with watersnakes and frogs....... lunch break over, onwards and upwards towards the Konnarock trail project site. This was great to see how our trail installations had held up to several seasons of tramping. Long, graded straightaway ascent ..... poor water drainage on this section of trail, so here our crew had attempted installing a few undulations to promote some off-trail watershed. This was a different strategy than the typical quick fix waterbar, you know those annoying slippery logs running diagonal across the trail? I reach the undulations.... it appears that foot traffic is confused at this location. Sorry to say that our efforts are not really benefiting the trail's drainage or aesthetic quality. Ahhh forget about it. Onwards to our durable Chestnut Oak steps. Large boulders placed across stream for stepping stones. It appears here that our work has served well to protect sensitive riparian areas from human feet.

 PawPaw tree tunnel along the James
I still haven't found a fruit!
The native tree produces a fruit with a Banana/Mango flavor

Next eleven switchbacks up to the ridge where Konnarock set up camp for several weeks. Here is where we learned the hard way that it's really tough to set up a backcountry camp for a large group of 15 where there is no running water. No room for crew to camp at worksite/watersource. There is no flat, previously denuded forest floor to be found near the water for two miles. This meant we had the pleasure of carrying ten gallons of water up eleven switchbacks at the end of each work day. On the brighter side of things, scenic vistas abounded 360 style. Starry domes and rainbows between sunset and sunrise made for an ongoing light show......Such are the trade-offs one has when camping dry. This ridge-top campsite we used had been created in 2001 when two wildfire-fighters got stranded high on a flaming ridge....they used chainsaws to cut trees and create an emergency helicopter landing.

The Heli-pad wore a different dress on this day the 28th of October 2011. Sleet and snow above 4000' elevation. Nothing to do but continue....keep the blood flowing and lean into the cold wind until the next shelter is reached. At this point I'm still 5 away and the hill climbing makes me huff and puff. The climb up High Cock Knob and down to Petite Gap was a thing of misery. Trail of slush makes my feet wet...I'm thinking about new gore-tex footwear and neoprene socks. I stayed relatively warm most of the day until camp was reached, but the 20 minute period of settling into shelter, dry clothing, and warm sleeping bag was a bit cold. Water was attained immediately following the walking excercise since I sure as hell wasn't going to fetch it after I curled up in that bag 'O goose feathers. Familiar voices coming from Thunder Hill Shelter....I hear the laughter of a Quail. Bobwhite, Vallerie, and Daks and Spoons are here already. Bobwhite on cell phone with Powder River... she turns to me "can I interest you in a warm hotel room for the night?" Mello "That sounds pretty good right about now."

Well it turns out NO DICE. Powder River <NOBO 2008> is on his way, but the nearest road crossing .5 downhill is closed due to ice. Oh... well maybe we are in a Wilderness afterall. It turns out that we shared a cold night in the shelter with the best possible SOBO's on the trail this year. Daks from Ontario and Spoons from New Brunswick are used to the cold weather. Having spent time in the Northwest Territories, this wild couple KNEW THE COLD. They began their SOBO hike at the northern terminus of the International A.T. where the Appalachian mountain chains drops off into the Atlantic ocean. "Make sure to pee before bed. You'll sleep warmer," says Spoons. Coach and Tag used their tarps to block out the cold wind. Nuge pops his head in, "Can I come in?" Vallerie tells him to check out the privy: "The pit toilet actually has four walls." We make it work with a cozy 9 hikers inside of a 6-person shelter. The space was cramped, but the body warmth was appreciated.

October 29

Thunder Hill to Bryant Ridge Shelter

This one turns out to be the most spectacular day of the hike. Today is the most visually stimulating light since Katahdin. Icy Maple red and yellow forest. Cloud windows spotlight frosted ridges; below sepia slopes of copper forest lead my eyes still lower to warmer hayfields still vibrating verdant green. Large trees freshly uprooted and grounded under weight of ice. <I thought I heard some big ones crashing down last night, but this didn't top the large snag I watched tumble in the Shennie's.>

 Frosty Oak leaves

 Sassafrass and White Pine

 Frosty Maple

 Here is Bogart from Miami, Florida popping his snow cherry

Many trees large and small just could not bear the icy weight

Downwards through the sugar-coated multi-color forest that would inspire Willy Wonka to set up shop. Curving undulating trail freely forms a gentle downhill grade. Powder River, Happy Camper <Margot completed the 100 mile woods with Quail> and the Baltimore gang are coming up to meet us for Halloween. Today, Powder River is General Sherman of the Union Army. He comes charging up the hill at me with plastic sword in hand. Happy Camper: "Say 'trick or treat'!" Me: "Trick or treat?" Halloween has begun....Reese's and Little Debbie  OH BOY! Powder: "Tag is already warming up in my car at the end of the blue blaze with Yuengling and Doritos." I run the remaining 1.5 downhill all giddy and sugared up like a pink power ranger at the start of her annual sugar binge. Tag, Bogart, and T-Mello ravin out to techno music in the Jetta blasting full heat.

Group trip to town for Cracker Barrel, Kroger resupply, and gear shop...Party back at Bryant Ridge Shelter later that night. Happy Camper gets her wish... I tell the Mafia Motel story 'round the campfire.

October 30

Bryant Ridge to Bobblet Gap Shelter

Happy Camper sweet talked our waiter for some free Maple syrup at Cracker Barrel yesterday. Goes great on campfire-cooked pancakes to start the day. But really I should be on my way if I want to catch the Kickoff. Eleven miles to go to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hitch a ride around 2pm. My driver "I hunt them mountains you come out of... plant ginseng too. That dark dirt on the north slope what we lookin for." Buchanan, VA at the Good Times Cafe where the local patrons walk behind the bar and serve themselves. NASCAR on the tube. Ravens/Cardinals NFL football not on the local network. Have to watch the ticker at the bottom of the screen: 27-27 with two minutes left. Boring Redskins game finally over....Ok here's my chance to at least watch the important part.... maybe the network will switch over to my game. NO DICE. Instead they change to a fresh game with 11 minutes left in the first quarter. Well maybe I'm just OK with NASCAR for now. I watch the bottom-screen-ticker change: Arizona 27 Baltimore 30 FINAL. "Wear your Orange on Saturday!" yells Darren as I head out the door. Virginia Muzzleloader Deer season is coming.

 Bobblet Gap sunset

October 31

Bobblet Gap to HOJOHalloween

Twenty one miles mostly downhill to Daleville, VA. Howard Johnson where General Sherman has reserved us a room. We are all slack-packing today. I run a large portion of this trail. At the bottom, the trail breaks out of the woods and across a private-land-easement. I meet a Roanoke ATC trail maintainer fighting back the weeds. Mello "Did you know Charles Perry?" Bill: "Oh yea you know we had our difference of opinion, but we were good friends. He always kidded me that he was older, yea only six months older." Mello: "How old are you?" Bill: 69 Me "How long have you been active with the trail club?" Bill: "Since 1987. I think about Charles a lot.We'll never have another Charles Perry."

Dogwood delight, state tree of Virginia


Red Maple

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

putting a shoulder to the wheel

the only thing blue in virginia is the ridge

Apparently NOBO hikers often pick up an unwanted case of the Virginia Blues. I could understand their trouble while crossing during the heat of the summer. Afterall, there are more than 500 miles of A.T. in VA, so the sense of accomplishment of crossing a state line is long gone for a while.

But Virginia in the fall-time is amazing! There's nothing blue about it! Autumn's peak foliage came around October 20th while passing over the rolling ridges of Shenandoah National Park. The higher elevations have since turned brown and wind-blown, while the drainages near the valley floors begin to display their fall color. Bob Ross would have a field day out here! The diversity of colors across a forest presents the viewer with a revealing landscape. I love it when I can spot a mono-culture of Tulip-polpars or even a single Maple tree from miles away! The golden hues of the Ash trees are speckled with burgundy Oak. Magenta stalks of pokeweed rise through red stripes of Virginia Creeper. Orange is best displayed by our beloved Sassafras tree. The ripe Spicebush buds have made nice flavor additions at the camp stove.

                          Time for Tea

Reunion with the BassTerds

On the morning of October 14, I woke up in Manasas Gap shelter with a wet sleeping bag. There was an electric storm the night before, but Foxtrot <NOBO '97> and I stayed mostly dry. But later as I fell asleep the drizzle-cloud-mist must have lightly blown in far enough to dampen my sleeping bag and extra clothing. So the pack weight to start out the day was uneccessarily 4 pounds heavier just from water weight. Early in the afternoon I reach the road into Front Royal to find success hitch-hiking while donning a blaze-orange hat and bright-yellow rain jacket. It sure is nice to be visible on these high-speed corridors. Front Royal ended up serving my needs for laundry and cheap Mexican food at Jalisco's.

I hadn't seen the Bastards3 since parting at the Watermelon park on October 1st. Not only did they all successfully complete the Harper's Ferry marathon, but Bogart formerly known as SpecialEffect took 8th place overall. The young bucks had become the most popular people in Harper's Ferry overnight. While handing out awards and delivering final anouncements at the end of the marathon, the man behind the microphone brought attention to the boys from the A.T. "I want you all to know that these guys here are thru-hiking the whole Appalachian Trail and without any training for this race they decided to run... If you see them tonight be sure to buy them a beer!" sooo......Well let's just say that Denim Chicken and Coach got nice and 'sauced up' that night. After the marathon, the bastards3 retured to Port Clinton, PA to complete the missing gap in their thru-hike. Then, after reaching Caledonia SP near Gettysburg, Powder River provided the car ride back into Virginia where I eventually met up with them.

Outside Front Royal..... Back on trail on up to Floyd Shelter... "Is that T-Mello?" says Coach. I turn around to find the 3Bastards climbing the hill below. Tag said "I knew it was you when I saw those crazy socks!" We exchanged hugs right on the trail, and there happened to be some trail magic just up the way. A flip-flopper by the name of SweetTea happened to live directly on the trail outside Front Royal. She left all hikers a cooler holding a pitcher of SweetTea and some other goodies. The next day we decided to take a 'zero day' at Floyd Shelter and wait up for our companion Bobwhite. This gave us some town time to run errands and reconnect with family and friends. I got to meet up with Susan, United Plant Savers coordinator, and talk about the "Penny a Mile for the Plant Savers" fund-raiser. Susan took her three kids, the three bastards and I to Spelunker's burger joint. I got a chocolate milkshake and french fries. Here we met up with trail angel Mitch <NOBO '98>. She and Skylar dog hiked with us up to Floyd Shelter for the night. Next day Mitch slackpacked me into Shenandoah and made sure I wouldn't miss my weekly ritual of watching the Ravens play football on the TV.

Here I am crossing into my home-state...the MD barefoot challenge was short lived
(October 7th 2011 was 18 miles from Caledonia to PEN-MAR)

A great sunset from PEN-MAR county park

 This is Maddison aka ChillsonWilson signing into her first A.T. register

Now that I am close to my hometown of Baltimore, I have been so lucky to have back-to-back days with visits from family. Big sister Debbie, niece Maddie, and nephew Reilly aka TigerBlood got to go hiking with their Uncle Ted. This photo was taken at PotomacATC's Blackburn Trail Center in Virginia on October 11th 2011.

October 26th 2011
We <Tag, Bogart, Coach, and Bobwhite and I> have been cranking out the miles, averaging 18 a day. A walk through Shenandoah National Park took us 6 days. There is going to be a large gathering of hikers for the upcoming Halloween weekend. Powder River and more friends from Baltimore will join us for this festive weekend. Two days ago we all met trail ledgend Warren Doyle, who claims to have walked the entire A.T. 16 times. He is now a professor of the A.T. teaching at his AT Institute based in Mountain City, TN near Damascus, VA. With Warren Doyle was Jean, a prospective 2012 NOBO from Baltimore. She is learning the ropes from the master himself. Mr Doyle used the 5 of us seasoned SOBO's as teaching examples. "Notice Jean their footwear... running shoes, not boots" Warren had a well worn style about him. His hiking pole was a vintage 1980's white ski pole with dayglow splashings up and down its length. For water Warren carried only a small tin cup, not a plastic water bottle. I've seen the old black and white videos of Myron Avery and others using a similar dipping method for drinking water. This means they must "water up" at the source, instead of carrying the bottle with cap long distances for no reason.

The view off of Hanging Rock deserved a long hang-out session atop Three Ridges mountain. I hurried down the mountain switchbacks which included a Konnarock Trail Crew 2008-2009 relocation at the MauHar trail junction. I see a light at the bottom. It's gotta be them. My favorite drinking buddies. Rogebo and Marbo were waiting for me with a cooler of beer and a pack of cigars at the Tye River suspension bridge. Rogebo said he saw my headlight through the dark woods tracking left to right / right to left as I descended the switchbacks. And finally here I was hanging out with the Bubs about 30 minutes before kickoff.

Slackpacking is always a touchy subject for fellow thru-hikers. Generally, if one person in a group decides to slack-pack, then he or she should rightfully recieve a raft of shit from the rest of the group. Roegbo and Marbo offered slackpacking services the next day, Tuesday October 25, and this time all accepted the slackpack minus Bobwhite. Without a good map, I wrote down the A.T. road crossing on paper for the Bubs trusting they would get good directions from a local townsman. Rogebo and Marbo ended up going to the wrong crossing that day. When me and the bastards orginally laughed at Bobwhite for carrying a full pack up and over the Priest we didn't know that our packs including warm clothing and sleeping bags would not be recovered until we had all hovered around a campfire for 4 hours in the dark cold night. But all was recovered, and we will all think twice the next time someone offers to slack pack us.

Saturday, October 15, 2011



A boardwalk stretch outside of Front Royal installed by Mid-Atlantic AT Crew in 2005

 The Bastards hangin out in Central Park, NYC

 Prayer flags and flames

I often get the question: "Are you alone on the trail?" Well this evening we weren't alone. Our neighbors last night were a high school group of 25 people from Alexandria, VA. That's Bogart and Tag in the front with group leader Dave holding up arms all the way in the back by the shelter. There were many a song sung around the campfire, and our 9pm "hiker-midnight" was not in effect. The thru-hikers sang Big Rock Candy Mountains

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

ride da rainbow rollacosta

two polesprings under the pressure of a recent blowdown across the trail. this will certainly present a hazardous cleanup job for chain-sawyers with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club PATC. but I would just leave it be, since it looks cool.

Hammin it UP at the AT HeadQuarters Oct 10, 2011
Harpers Ferry HQ keeps photo albums of all Thru Hikers from 1970's to present day

October 11, 2011
great to be back in Virginia for a while

Music on Mountaintop August 2010

LtoR Scout aka El Crowster, T-Mello, Curly 

2008-2010 Trail Projects Revisited 2011

konnarock trail crew at Overmountain shelter, TN July 2010

In 2009 I got to be part of the crew to install this LLBean-funded boardwalk project in Pawling, NY
Chris and crew finished this project last week! Thank you Mid Atlantic Trail Crew!

I had to take a moment and enjoy this unique trail experience. This photo was taken during my 2011 SOBO thru-hike after zeroing in Brooklyn with the Young Bucks. The boardwalk meanders through 1/2 mile of phragmites, goldenrod, and loosestrife. Every weekend when the weather is nice people from NYC take the commuter train to the Appalachian Trail stop in Pawling, NY. Here the boardwalk leads visitors southbound towards the Dover Oak "supposedly the largest Oak tree on the A.T. Hikers can now keep their feet dry and experience a wetland environment without trampling it. Thanks to hard work of AT Conservancy staff and volunteers, we now have a wheelchair accessible path for nature observation.

Sand Spring, VA October 2009
MidAtlanticTrailCrew dug a newly relocated section of Appalachian Trail between Blackburn Trail Center and Bears Den Hostel. I got to walk this stretch today......I remembered the white blaze that Chiara SantaMaria painted on that tree,  the rock that Chris Brunton <PATC> placed for a step, and the gargoyle that Katherine Kellerher <PATC> set along the path. I even got my Dad and Rogebo to volunteer one week at this location. So I also remembered the stones moved by the Bubs.

 Here we see Mira (left) Noland (center) +2 using Pick/Mattocks and Rockbars to set a stone (October 2009.) Today, October 11th, 2011 I hiked through this here Sand Spring Relo. and can tell you with much confidence that rock has not moved an inch since.

 Johnny the Knife aka MarBo knows that trail work doesn't come to an end when the tools are dull. Grinding a fresh 45 on the mattock blade will help the next trail digger.

Social Networking on the Appalachian Trail

 Hello again, its T-Mello
While I gotcha cornered....I want to plug in an info-mercial....
I now have 1000 miles of Appalachian Trail remaining 
And I have received an overwhelming, exciting # of pledges for the
"Penny a Mile for the United Plant Savers"


simply click the link below...
so far I have walked 1,178 miles and raised 11dollars 78 cents to be received from each participant

i will make sure to determine the most up-to-date mileage of A.T. as this number changes every season

The official mileage is 2181 miles from Katahdin, ME to Springer Mountain, GA


Benefits of Becoming a Member of UpS:
  • Receive your Membership Package
  • Receive annual Journal and biannual Bulletins
  • Opportunities to participate in Spring and Fall Give-away seeds/plants for replanting purposes
  • Receive a directory of nurseries, seed sources and farms that supply “at-risk” herbs
  • Receive discounted registration for Planting the Future conferences
  • Become eligible for Community Grants and other benefits.
  • Post messages and participate in any one of the UpS forums

oh yeah social networking...

 Aside from the Trail Registers at each shelter, there are other ways us hikers keep in touch....

Really there are quite a few technology junkies tout here on the trail. We stay in touch via Text messaging or Cellular telephone. As signal fades in and out along the mountain ridge, the cell phones are usually kept turned off until we reach a clearing in the trees or a road crossing. Although surprisingly the signal is sufficient from most shelters in the deep forest. 3G cell phones: stream internet radio, read digital trail maps in PDF, episodes of "Survivor Man,"  and provide mindless YouTube videos like "cake farts" and so forth. "Woooww dude it's a double rainbow! What does this mean?"

But the trail registers are a fun way to leave encouraging words for your friends behind you. Or to see when your friends ahead of you were at that location. For example, on October 2nd I reached Darlington Shelter <maintained by Mountain Club Of Maryland> and the Trail Register inside the mailbox provided me with this information...the following are SOBO's whom I've met and are now ahead of me:

September-23 Carnivore and Purple
9-24 Roarshack 9Lives and Framework
9-25 Phenix
9-26 Sponge and Splake
9-28 Stickbug
10-1 Pinch

The trail register at the Halfway Point near Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA was a popular book to write in... my fellow SOBO's are pullin some ground!

8-31 Pilot
9-20 CheapBastard
9-22 Columbus
9-25 Right Click
9-26 Phenix
9-26 Carnivore and Purple
9-26 Framework

I phoned Zach the other day. He's with Achilles about 4 days behind. There's talk that he might get off and skip ahead to join us...
  LtoR Easy, Moose, T-Mello, Coach, and Tag pointing to the Pseudo High Point of Connecticut

<the peak of Bear Mtn Connecticut is the highest free-standing mountain in CT, but the actual HP along the CT/MASS border on the flank of a larger mountain >

A random trail register entry by Denim Chicken at Tagg Run Shelter:
10/?/2011 Denim makin haste towards Georgia! I watched 9Lives use up one of his lives last night, when he came off a rock ledge; his body entered the fetal position in mid air. When he landed he was twisted around with his face in the dirt and all he said was "I'm fine but I'm just gonna stay right here a while."

Tagg Run Shelter outside of Boiling Springs, PA was a party...
While talkin to brotha Marcus, a local family man and river runner, I learn Tagg Run sparks fond memories in Marcus' mind. Apparently many nites o' partynhardy were had up here. Well I guess Possum, Hops and I gotta carry on the torch.... Possum and I hike .5 down to the road and meet Smiles Not Miles aka Mama Danks <NOBO GAtoPA 1999>. Trail Angel Mama Danks hooked us up.... "Cheers, and Happy Halfway T-Mello" with bottles clinking in the dark forest. And would you guess the beer she hand selected happened to be Troegs "HopBack" Ale? Possum and I nite-hiked the .5 back up to Tagg Run to roust Hops. I said "Hey buddy wake up, you got some bottles 'O Hops to drink!"

Powder River and Bobwhite...Baltimore Represent!

Got a text message from Bobwhite yesterday October 10 when she crossed MasonDixon line into PENMAR park.
Hope to catch up for the glorious fall victory lap

Powder River and I on our Housatonic Aqua Blaze

The 3 BassTerds (LtoR Tag, Special Effect aka Bogart, Coach)

I have not seen them since Ralph Stanley's bluegrass hoedown at Watermelon Park Sept 27th. After 3 days of music we said goodbye and Powder River dropped the BassTerds <Coach, Tag,  Special Effect AKA Bogart> off in VA to hike north to Harpers Ferry for the marathon, Bogart took 8th place overall with no training other than shouldering a heavy pack at a swift walking pace for three months. I remember Coach saying "Well I'm in the best physical shape of my life now, so I might as well run a marathon." So Tag, Effect, Coach and Denim Chicken all finished the 26 miles in under 5 hours. They were the Town Heros! 

While slack packing out of Scott Farm I met some new SOBO's (or new to me but not to them).... Daks and Spoons started their hike in Canada on the International A.T....... I met Possum and Hops outside of Duncannon and Brothers 3 and Captain caught up with me in the Cumberland Valley. Scott Farm Caretaker Mitch <NOBO '98> and I were digging up Burdock root  for a stir-fry dinner when we met Brothers3 from Connecticut. Bros3 and Captain tried to get me to join their "4-state-challenge" which involves crossing 3 state lines in twentyfour hours. 41 miles from PA through MD across the Potomac into Harpers Ferry, WV and then across the Shenandoah into VA. I wanted to take some time in my home state. 

The MD barefoot challenge would be insane by the way. I walked Maryland in TWO DAYS wearing shoes. I think I could walk Maryland in 4 days without shoes. But would have to build up a good callous over the summertime first. Maryland took me 23 miles to Boonsboro and Washington Mounument for glasses of wine with Mitch at South Mountain Inn. Day two took me 18 miles to Harpers Ferry,WV. At the end of day 2 I came running down the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath to finish the final 3 along Potomac in longstrides.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bear Mountain, New York

September 9th, 2011...Free lodging and shower for hikers is found at the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement. I get an ass-crack-of-dawn start from here... gearing up for a big day over Bear Mountain. Breakfast burrito at the deli, then 8 miles to the Hudson River.

Crossing the Bear Mountain Bridge I was ecstatic! I was shouting to the ship workers down below as I watched the huge barge float upriver towards West Point Academy. A big ol' American flag hung from the bridge tower. It was a glorious day, and views downstream to Peekskill and across to the Bear Mountain were amazing.
I had been waiting for this day for quite a time. Another familiar place with fond memories of hard work <on the trail> and hard play <state park's Oktoberfest with fellow trail crew>. I get to climb the east face of Bear Mountain via a brand new trail relocation opened on National Trails day June 5th 2010. Working with the Mid Atlantic Appalachian Trail Crew, I had worked here for a total of 8 weeks over the fall seasons of 2008 and 2009. Reminiscent of the WPA's CCC construction projects of the 1930's, Bear Mountain's trail relocation is a modern marvel using some primitive technology with 800 hand-hewn granite steps and over one mile of "stonewall cribbing" that will last for generations. This project is still ongoing, but probably the most exciting one-mile stretch is fresh and open.

The magnificent granite boulder field through which path travels becomes the setting. During the construction, care was taken to do minimal damage to the surrounding environment by using a series of cables suspended upwards of 60 vertical feet in large trees to move the stone material. Tools, resources, and people power used to reach completion were many (see photos...)

Eddie Walsh with NY/NY Trail Conference and Lester Kenway with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club were the master-minds behind the design process. The A.T. Conservancy in addition to hundreds of volunteers were called upon to do the work. This is how we get the work done = PEOPLE POWER!

Neal uses a sledge hammer to drive stone splitting wedges

Tools included: rock hammer drills with 7/8'' carbide drill bits, feathers and wedges to split stone into 'cube-like' wall material, sledge hammers, rock mashers, pick mattocks, snatch blocks, griphoist machines rated at 2 tons with 1 inch thick wire cabling, 18 lbs rock lever bars.....the list goes on.
  Snatch blocks, or pulleys, used to rig cables for rock moving

 A final product sample

 After crossing the Bear Mountain Bridge, I reach the trailside museum and zoo, officially the lowest elevation on the Appalachian Trail at 130ft above sea level. A nice girl in the visitor center mails my postcards for me. The white blaze actually goes right through the zoo, where visitors may have a peek at animals native to New York. So after saying hi to the black bears and porcupines, I continue past Bear Mountain Inn to the start of the new trail.

I am standing on a boulder that weighs upwards of 2000 lbs which our crew moved and repositioned in 2008. This is part of the walking surface of the trail now. Onwards and upwards.... as I am nearing the site of 2009 work project, I see a large group being led by members of the NY/NJ trail conference. Here I see Chris, who is surprised to see me with backpack instead of sledge hammer, and he offers the group an introduction. All of a sudden I am speaking in front of a large group explaining how great this project is and how they should join forces to help along with the project's completion. Next I approach a family going up the mountain for a day hike with hopes to see the NYC skyline 35 miles away. There is a fresh-Irene-deposited blowdown across the trail. The family members must scramble along the steep hillside to avoid the fallen tree. It involves some trick manuevering for mom and dad, which brings about laughter and good fun. This is where I am overcome with emotion. I finally get to see first-hand the way people are benefiting from this nature walkway. Our hard work has indeed brought much enjoyment for the public. I am so happy I want to cry. 

Chris told me below to look for the Mid Atlantic Crew up near the top of the mountain. I reach the "Danger DO ENTER CONSTRUCTION SITE" sign and continue past. Just around the corner are several familiar faces. I hear the familiar sound of hammer on stone. Some one is busting stone into gravel. Here they are! I get to see an old friend from Virginia Tech and assistant crew leader Jeff 'Mr. Intense'; crew leader Chris who just came down from a summer season on Saddleback Mountain, Maine; Neal and Pat, the dynamic stone-stackin duo and long time trail veterans, and other faces new to me. This was a real pleasure so see my trail people, even if it was just for a short minute. I thanked them all for their hard work on the trail, and told them what a great adventure I was having. 

Onwards and upwards.... Perkins tower lunch and look to NYC Skyline through haze. Better get going, I still have 12 to camp and it's early afternoon. The rest of the day was spent walking and reflecting on my time working with these great people of the AT community. There was certainly a large measure of commarraderie involved when we were out there. And the physical structure left behind serves as a monument to our accomplishments. I hope so see some of these guys later on in Carlisle, Pennsylvania when I cross by their basecamp.

12 miles later Fingerboard shelter reached well before dark. Full moon happenings: extremely friendly deer in hunting-free Harriman State Park, pilieated woodpecker searching for insects in down rotted log, racoon scurries and climbs the trailside tree looking back at me, pure black squirrels with pointy ears race to gather acorns, hawk sweeps low overhead and takes a nearby perch. The animals are not phased by my presence. They are enthralled in the waxing gravity of the moon's cycle. Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that the (number of times a cricket chirps in a 14 second period) + 40 = the current temperature?