Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Trail Journal 07.31.02

My back was considerably better this morning and I walked well.  Was a bit sore ans stiff (it still is) but not painful like yesterday after my fall.  Walked all of 11.4 miles:  10.5 into Salisbury, Connecticut and another 0.5 to Plateau Campsite.  Morning was a bit cooler and less humid.  Trail was wonderful--some very pleasant, prettty road walking through Canaan and along a nature trail that paralleled the Housatounic River.  Crossed a graceful iron truss bridge near a hydroelectric dam.  Had one clomb to work up a sweat.  Once on top of the ridge, walking was pretty flat--until the steep drop into Salisbury.  Ended up spending the day in town--eating and just hanging out.   Met an Episcopal priest who talked of providing services for hikers.  Visited his ver beautiful church and got a used book  Don't know if the town wants to encourage hikers.  It's a picture-perfect New England town where hikers loitering on the grass may not be welcome.  We loitered anyway.  Left town around 6:00 for the short walk to the campsite, which is pretty marginal.  Met Minnesota Mike whom we last saw at Tray Mountain in Georgia.  Kutsa and Montreal are here and a section hiker named Jessica who was with us last night at Belters Campsite.  We had beer from town and a lively conversation.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Trail Journal 07.27.02

Long day, late night.  Hiked 20.8 miles to catch up with Red and Gary at Algo Shelter.  Got out of Pawling, NY at 7:30 after a eating a great breakfast sub sandwich.  Made it back to the trail in 30 by 8:00 after two rides.  Found a note from R&G saying they went on to Wiley Shelter instead and would leave a message for me there.  So off I went under overcast skies.  The woods were dark and gloomy but the walking was good.  Got to Wiley in just over three hours (8.3 miles).  R&G's message said they were heading to Algo tonight, which means another 12.3 miles.  So I pushed on.  Did pretty well--even the climb up Shaghticoke Mountain where I met Bill and Ursula.  But the last three miles were hard--up and down over what seem like endless piles of rock.  Reached Algo around 6:30 and found R&G.  Even found a cool beer in the creek.  I'm whipped but I'm here and it's less that half a mile into town for breakfast tomorrow.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Trail Journal 07.25.02

Another late day into camp.  Didn't get in to Morgan Stewart Shelter till 7:30.  Hadn't planned to come this far today but the trail was good, weather nice, and we felt good so here we are.  Did some climbing this morning--over Shenandoah Mountain and again coming into camp but none of it was hard.  We crossed  great slabs of rock that made me feel like I was walking on he back of some great beast which in a way I am. Had lunch at RPH Shelter which is a former four-sided building that has one wall removed to make it a shelter meeting National Park Service requirements.  It's pretty nice--even has a mowed lawn for tent space.  The water from the pump is awful, though.  Tastes like rust.  We hiked on to Stormville Road where we went in for pizza.  Met Hollywood and Pop Tart there.  Also met a section hiker, Orion, who split a large pizza with me.  Got back on the trail around 5:45 and pushed hard for the shelter.  Trail was good, climb not too hard, and the evening light was exquisite.  Got in just in time to set up before dark.  It was a long day.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Trail Journal 07.23.02

Today was one of the ugliest days to the hike so far.  Maybe the ugliest.  Started out hot and just got hotter.  No water where it was supposed to be.  And to top it of, finding a place to sty and resupply in Fort Montgomery, NY was very difficult.  We found a place but it's expensive so we three are sharing a room. Not an ideal solution but one that works.  Hiking today was another in a series of rocky climbs and descents.  Mountains in this area run north-south and the trail runs east-west so we scrambed up then down over Black Mountain and Bear Mountain.  Water was scarce.  The only running wather wa in Beehy Bottome Brook but that came early in the say so I didn't need any then  Expected to find water at he top of Bear Mountain according to the Companion but the water at the park there was turned off.  The soda machine worked and we had cash.  By the time we got off the mountain we were thoroughly beat, tired and ready to pull in and chill.  Which proved difficult.  Not many rooms or places to stay in this town o options were limited.  Finally got into the Holiday Inn Express.  We are sharing a room so I am in the lobby now, leaving the room to Red and Gary.  Kutsa and Montreal showed up to use the laundry here--they're staying nearby--so we spent some time with them earlier in the evening.  I'm watching their laundry dry now. 

Ugly it was, but even today wasn't all bad--I walked eye level with turkey vultures as they soared alongside me in the open sky off Black Mountain and I saw a tremendous thunderstorm from the shelter of a motel room.  Hell. I even, got past four lanes of rush-hour traffic--on foot, with a pack-- at grade level on the Palisades Parkway.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Trail Journal 07.21.02

Low energy, hot day.  Managed to eke out 13.8 miles but it was an effort from the start.  Last night's camp was swarming with mosquitoes even when we woke up.  Getting breakfast and packing up was an ordeal.  Once we got going the trail passed through dark, swampy forest so the bugs were constantly on us if we stopped.  Finally climbed up a rocky ridge and got some breeze but it was still hot and humid.  We crossed into New York, leaving New Jersey behind for good.  Walked along the ridge for a while before dropping back into the forest.  Trail got better at that point.  Pulled in for lunch at NY 17.  A couple of former thru-hikers showed up with cold soda, which sure made the day better.  Kutsa and Montreal joined us, as did Zues so we had a good crowd for lunch.  Pushed past Wildcat Shelter to Fitzgerald Falls which is almost completely dry.  Found enough water in a pool to make camp so we were in by 4:00--nice change from last night's late camp.  Not a bad day but tiring.  This heat is really getting to me.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Trail Journal 07.16.02

First day back walking with Red and Gary.  Walked 17.6 miles to a YMCA camp where the guide said a shelter was available for thru hikers.  Found the shelter but it is pretty grim so we are camped near one of the residence halls which like the rest of the camp is deserted.  He hall is open so we have access to the toilets and --best of all--a shower.  Being clean a the end of the day feels so wonderful.

Walking today was pretty good--very rocky in places but no long climbs.  Crossed the Delaware River on a freeway bridge with morning rush hour traffic rumbling by.  I felt like a kid--very happy to be back with Red and Gary.  The river look funky from the bridge--lots of scum on the water.  The woods were cool for our climb up the ridge.  Hiked with The Noodleheads for a while but they dropped decided to bail because of Rigatoni's injured foot.  Had lunch at the Mohican Outdoor Center oprated by the Apppalachian Montain Club.  That was our original destination but we deiede that we would push on to here.

Weather was warm bu not as humid as yesterday and there was a slight breeze so I was reasonably comfortable.  Wes stayed on a long ridge that offered views of the Delaware to the west--looking much nicer than from this morning's freeway crossing--and forest to the east.  New Jersey looks quite pretty from the AT.  Walking with Red and Gary felt quite natural--as if a month had not passed since we last walked together.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trail Journal 07.15.02

Early morning at the Church on the Mountain hostel in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania.  I'm camped in the grass out back since all the bunk space is full.  Got in yesterday around 4:00pm after my day-long, cross-half-of-Pennsylvania bus ride.  The bus station was twenty minute walk away from the hostel.  Nice.  Even better, I learned when I got to the hostel that Red and Gary were not far south on the trail and would likely be here by morning at the latest.  They walked into town around a few hour later, well before dark.  I was so happy to see them.  I'm back with my family.  I'm amazed at the good fortune that actually landed me right on top of them.  I did well.

Met many other old friends here, too:  The Noodleheads, Southpaw, Now or Never, Kutsa, Cheetah, Fullmoonwalking.  I do feel a bit inadequate (if that is the right word) among these veterans of the Pennsylvania rocks but, in the end, it won't make much difference.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Trail Journal 07.09.02

Raining hard now and I'm taking a little water.  This spot isn't the best for drainage so I have water running under my tent.  Also getting some backsplash for the falling rain.  But in all, I am still quite dry.  Managed to get all my camp chores done before the heavy shower cut loose so all my gear is stowed under cover.  A cold front is moving in which will be very welcome so I am not at all unhappy about the rain.  I hope it will play out and move on but my tent is already we wet so I guess it keep on, although I would prefer a gentler rather than harder shower.  Right now it's not too bad and the air is much cooler already.

Good walk on my first full unfettered day in two weeks.  Was out of Garvey by 5:30 this morning and covered 19.9 miles.  Passed through Gathland State Park, the home of George Alfred Townsend, a noted Civil War correspondent.  The park includes his never-used tomb and a great stone arch that Townsend commissioned as a memorial to war correspondents.  Also passed through Washington Monument State Park which is the site of an 1827 stone tower built to honor George Washington.  The Trail took me across South Mountain, site of a Civil War engagement leading to the Battle of Antietam  in 1862.

The day was hot but not like last week.  I showered (!) at Dahlgren Backpakers Campground.  I felt great until I started climbing South Mountain when I added a new layer of sweat and grime to replace the one I just washed off.  Got to my planned campsite at 2:30 but it didn't look particularly attractive so I pushed on to Pogo Campsite where the best site was occupied by two teenagers so I set up in this marginal spot.

Saw Nigel, an Englishman, and Turtle Soldier in the late morning but no one else until later--mostly day hikers.  Sloopy, Razz, Hoss, Little Bo Peep and Uncle Jesse slackpacked past on their way to Cowal Shelter.  Nigel was at the spring here and I met Greasepot, whom I first met near Bland in late May.  Still the trail felt lonely, kind of like an arena after the crowd had departed.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Trail Journal 07.08.02

Now it's Monday morning and only two of us--Maggie and me--remain.  I am packed, ready to hit the trail on my own to find Red and Gary.  And I'm sad to be leaving my friends and Maggie.  The past three weeks have been fun and I will treasure the memories.  But now it's time to get back to the trail and continue this odyssey.  I look forward to meeting new people and seeing old friends.  So off I go.

Evening:  Made it to Garvey Shelter by 7:00 pm.  Left Sandy Hook at 5:00 after spending a few hours trying to decide if I should try to catch Red and Gary now or later.  Decided on later, my original plan.  Was sad to leave Maggie but our time together was great.  Had a steep climb up Weaverton Cliffs but still made the 5 miles in under two hours.  Sharing the shelter with Hi-Tech.  The hiker horde is definitely past this point.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Trail Journal 07.05.02

No sooner had I written those last words on July 4 when a trail angel arrive with water for hikers.  Then my crew arrived.  We rigged out and started in on the last six miles to Bears Den Hostel.  And what an awful six miles it was.  Lots of ups and downs on The Roller Coaster.  Very, very hot and humid.  Reached Bears Den around 5:30 totally blasted.  Had a burger and beer at the Fourth of July cookout but my stomach was too wasted from the heat and a head cold for me to eat more.  Good crowd at the hostel for the Fourth, including many acquaintances:  Ruby and her dog Jane, Sloopy, Razz, Buzz, Werewolf and Chigger, Gucci and Pooch.  I had as much fun as I could before crashing.

Yesterday was much better--a bit cooler and a whole lot less humid.  Walked with  Bev and Norma north from Bears Den to Keys Gap.  We took it easy and took lots of breaks, made 14 miles in nine hours.  We left Virginia, sort of since we're walking the Virginia-West Virginia border.  Walking was easy after a few early climbs.  Had great views from Crescent Rock--could see all the way to the Massanutten Mountain.  Much of the forest was fairly recent growth--stick trees with few even moderate diameter ones.  But it was pleasant and green.

Stopped at the Blackburn AT Center for lunch. It's a substantial hewn timber structure with a wonderful screen porch.  Read The Noodleheads' account of their Hike Naked Day adventures.  Also tooka late PM break at David Lessner Shelter which had a very nice porch and gazebo with a bench swing.  Got into Keys Gap to find  Maggie and Pat Doyle just arrived.  Fixed chilli cheese dogs and salad for dinner.  Chigger and Werewolf came by and we fed them as well.  Pat and Norma shuttled vehicles for tomorrow's hike into Harpers Ferry, Maggie cleaned up from from dinner while Bev and I set up camp about a quarter mile up the trail from the road.

Harper's Ferry tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Trail Journal 07.04.02

Successfully linked up with Maggie last night and camped with her near Sky Meadows State Park.  Very hot evening, though.  I was sweating just laying in the truck.  Bugs were thick so we could not leave the tailgate down.  Even after the bugs abated and we could open the back window, it made little difference since there was absolutely no breeze.  A cop came in around 1:00 am but left without bothering us.  I got up around 5:30 and left an hour later to hike the 10 miles to Route 605 to meet Bev and Maggie who will catch up with me there.  It was hot even early and only got hotter as morning progressed.  Saw Del Doc mapping the trail with his assistant at Ashby Gap and a couple of day hikers north of Rob Hollow but no one else.  Got to 605 at 11:30.  Found shade, ate lunch and napped.  Now I'm just waiting.  Hope they show soon.  Between Bev and Maggie, late is a real possibility.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Trail Journal 07.02.02

Back on the trail.  Hiked in to Denton Shelter from Route 522.  Started at 2:30 with Maggie.  She hiked in about a mile along the Smithsonian Conservation Area before heading back to the truck.  Walk in was not bad but he day was godawful hot and humid.  I was sweating just sitting on the tailgate eating lunch before I started walking.  Got into the shelter about 5:00.  Felt strange walking--kind of light-headed and disoriented.  Didn't see anyone on the trail and felt lonely. 

But there were people at the shelter.  Hi Tech, whom I met farther south in Virginia, was here when I arrived.  So were a couple of people I met at the trailhead--Hoss and Mira.  They left but three others--Sloopy, Buzz and Razz came in, plus a section hiker named John. 

The shelter is very nice,  has a large porch with benches and a well-made three person Adirondack-style chair.  I'm tenting nearby.  Thes i also a shower a the ater source--very cold but on a hot day like this it feels wonderful. 

So now I'm back on the trail and I'm very happy.  Not missing Maggie yet--just spent a week with her and will see her over the next few days.  All is right with my world.