Smoky Mountains and more…

After three seasons of AT hiking, my life has gotten into somewhat of a “routine”. Hike some in the Spring, a bit during the Summer and now finish up with a nice Fall AT hike. I was lucky to sign up my longtime hiking buddy Tom B. as well as his daughter Kate (aka Bright Side) for a two-week hike starting Sept 18 at the northern border of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We had two weeks to start hiking southbound and our goal was to cross the Georgia border.

It’s a long 12 hour drive from Cooperstown to Davenport Gap NC. We reached Standing Bear Farm hostel around 7 PM and early the next morning started our hike up our first Smoky Mountain peak. We were met but an ominous sign at the trailhead but fortunately our trek through the park was a few days after the hurricane and we actually had great weather for almost the entire two weeks:

We always had lots of energy early in the morning:

20180918_1444171

20180918_1358191

20180918_1534001

After three days and nights we were finally getting our trail legs. We kept looking for bear but this was the closest we every came to one:

img957331

At this point, also needed to go into town for a resupply. Gatlinburg TN certainly offered us this. Bellies full, we hiked the next day to the peak of Clingman’s Dome. This is the highest peak on the entire AT. It’s also a popular tourist destination accessible by car. On a clear day you can walk to the top of the lookout for great views.

Hiked another three days and night to reach the southernmost entrance to the Smokies at Fontana Dam. Nice rhythm of hiking up and down a few peaks each day. Always making sure to eat some of the necessary food groups each day! One of the great aspects of hiking is that you can eat anything and as much as you want and still be guaranteed to lose weight. ( just don’t try this at home )

One of the ways you know you are “on trail” is by passing these remarkable “indian trail markers”. Trees that were bent while thy were sapling to grow into distinctive shapes to tell us hikers and forest wanderers that they are on an established trail.

img951969

We hiked another week through the National Forests south of the Smokies through North Carolina. Kate went home briefly to pick up our new hiking companion Bruce who rounded up our new foursome nicely and led our pack through the woods.

20180928_130619

Kept hiking south… soon our guidebook said “pass by the iconic twisted oak tree at Bly Gap and just south of here is the NC:Georgia border. Sure enough…

We made it ! Hiked another few miles to Dick’s Creek Gap with Kate and Bruce waiting for us at the truck. Fourteen hour drive and now back home in Cooperstown. We were all proud of our successful 174 mile adventure.

Getting close to becoming an official “AT 2000 miler”. That means completing the entire 2180 miles of the AT. Still need to complete 69 miles in Georgia, 240 miles in Tennessee and about 60 miles up in southern Maine. These are my 2019 hiking goals. Plan for a few weeks in May, a hike in Maine in August and final completion in the fall. Looking for partners… come join me on the AT in 2019.

Best wishes for all to have a nice winter where ever you may be. Happy Trails.

img951979

Southern Maine 2018… Mahoosuc Notch

I last left the AT in Damascus VA late May. Spring and summer have been passing by quickly in Cooperstown. Working at the hospital three days a week in Pulmonary Clinic. Hard to call it “work”:

 

Had a great vacation with Stephanie visiting Kate and Steve in Boulder CO in July:

Celebrated with our son Bob (with his brothers Ed, Henry and Ben) and his new bride Michelle at their Cape Cod Wedding:
With all this excitement, the pull of the Trail persisted. In order to complete the entire 2181 miles, I still have a 100 mile stretch to hike in southern Maine as well as the final 350+ miles to hike down South in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. Hiking weather should be perfect this time of year in Maine… So I’m off after the wedding…
My plan was to start in Gorham NH, just south of the Maine border and head north as far as I could go in 1-2 weeks. Hoped to do 10+ miles a day. What I didn’t remember was that southern Maine is the toughest hiking on the entire trail. VERY STEEP ups and downs. Not getting any younger as well.
The hiking is beautiful. Maine woods are lush and green: Can you actually see the trail here?20180808_104242

20180808_104423120180808_1018112

 

 

 

 

It quickly became apparent that 5-7 miles a day was more realistic.
This was shelter I spent the night after the first hiking day. The view is from inside the shelter:20180808_181303
20180808_123238
After passing the NH-Maine border, the hills get higher and the hiking harder. Views are awesome.20180809_122302
20180809_125700
A few days later I approached the Mahoosuc Notch around 2 in the afternoon. It’s common lore on the trail that this is the “hardest mile” of the entire trail. The Notch is a one mile long gorge between two steep cliffs on each side. The bottom of the gorge is strewn with huge bus size boulders that you have to climb under, over and in between to cover ground. I was hiking alone and the going was slow. It took about 2 1/2 hours to make one mile. These pics may give you some idea of the terrain, although without me in the view, its hard to get perspective on size. These boulders are each 20-30 feet high!20180810_16120620180810_15242920180810_145847
Hiked another 2 days and started to run out of food. I thought is would take three days to hike up to and through the Notch, but it was approaching day 6! Running out of food.
The next morning I hiked up “Mahoosuc Arm” which is one of the steepest ascents on the AT.  Over 1500 ft elevation climb in less than one mile. It seems like you are hiking straight up, and you almost are. Didn’t break any speed records but my theory to hike slow and steady. Here are some other nice view of the peaks:

 

20180810_13465020180811_114100

 Finally made it to Grafton Notch parking area on Saturday afternoon. Only one Kind Bar left in my pack. A nice couple from Montreal gave me some cherries from their pack to keep my going.  I was still hungry and broke my hiking record for not having a shower for over 6 days. Time to go into town for a break. As is common, there was no cell service so I had to hitch hike back to Gorham for a night in a motel room with a welcome hot shower.
Rain forecast for the next several days with some possibility of flooding. It’s time to come home. Typing this blog post the day after returning to Cooperstown. A short but great hike. Seventy five percent of the time you’re admiring the beauty around you and are feeling so greatful to be out in the woods. Twenty percent of the time you are huffing and puffing and really working hard. At those moments, you’re just struggling to get through it. Five percent of the time… when you are climbing on your hands and knees up those steep boulders or holding onto a tree limb to prevent yourself from falling, I say to myself “What the heck am I doing here?”.
It’s nice sleeping in my soft bed now. I know when I’ve fully recovered from my most recent outing when I stop dreaming every night about hiking and more hiking. Usually takes about a week.
Next planned expedition is down to Georgia for some AT hiking next month.
Until then… thanks for viewing the AT blog.

 

Damascus

Had a great time at Bob’s graduation at Duke in Durham, NC.

Still about 100 miles of hiking planned to reach my goal to Damascus. After a four hour return drive, I started back where I left off. Within a few hours of hiking, I was face to face with wildlife in the middle of the trail. I was going South and he was going North. A game of chicken… He won and I walked around him.

It seemed like it rained at least part of the day, every day for the remainder of the hike. There’s an expression on the trail that goes “No pain, no rain, no gain, no Maine”.

Although it was getting hotter, hiking elevations were also getting higher keeping temps in the 70-80 degree range.

Glade Mountain hike in the rain was actually very pleasant.

Within a few days I reached one of the highlights of the hike at the Grayson Highlands. At elevations of greater than 5000 ft there are several “Balds” on the southern VA mountain tops. These are several acre expanses if grassland and rocks on the mountain tops. Groups of wild ponies roam and live along the trail.

Hiking through Elk Garden was a treat.

Made a push of 5 days of longer hiking (about 15 mile days) at the end. After 5 weeks I seemed to be finally in “hiker shape”. That usually means that although your legs might be aching at the end of the day, when you wake up in the morning, they feel fine and you’re ready to go.

As you may know, I’m currently hiking south. I reached my goal of Damascus VA yesterday. This is the southernmost town on the AT in Virginia. I started this section hike with John in Buena Vista (mile 806) and ended at Damascus (mile 470). Mile 0 is Springer Mountain in Georgia,which will be the”final” destination for the completion of the hike. Still quite a ways, but almost in sight. Another AT truism, that certainly can be taken to many other aspects of our lives is: ” It’s not the destination… It’s the journey”. Hope to continue the journey for a few weeks this Fall. Until then, best wishes to all of you. Thanks for your support. Have a great summer!

Hiking in and out of Spring

After John left the Trail, I took an hour shuttle ride down to Newport VA, mile 675 from the southern terminus at Springer GA. Started hiking solo. Hiked 120 miles these past 11 days. Ten+ miles a day is a modest pace for an old guy. Somedays I’ll hike 15, others only 6-7,usually depending on the weather. Young “kids” typically hike 20+ miles a day.

Homer shuttled me down to mile 675. He is a well known local AT celebrity who is now 72 years old. When he was 60, he and his wife and their 10 and 11 year old children all competed a one season through hike on the AT.

One of the best parts of hiking these past two weeks has been the daily sight of coming in and out of Spring scenery. Typically, each day you climb up and down at least two “mountains”. The “gaps” or lower elevations are about 1000-2000 ft. Mountain peaks are currently 3500-4400 ft. As I climb, trees are just budding up high. In the gaps, everything is in full bloom. I’m also hiking South and days are passing by. I suspect in a few days mountain peaks will be in full bloom as well.

My hiking friend Jan joined me for four days on trail. One of those days we were hiking through several miles of trail where there had been a “controlled burn” just the day before. All the ground cover was black. None of the trees themselves were damaged at all. Rangers assured us that this was good for forest ecology.

By the end of the day, we left the burn area and camped at Dismal Falls”.

Every four days or so I’ve been sleeping at a hiker hostel. These are inexpensive (typically $20 a night) bunk beds where you can also get a hot shower and clean your clothes. Each hostel has its own “vibe”.

Some offer message chairs:

This one had more of a “party feel”:

This place was a great hostel with yoga/meditation flavor:

My night yesterday at the Bear Garden Hiker Hostel was hosted by Bob and Bertie. He is a retired high school science teacher and she’s a retired ICU nurse from Michigan. They decided to open a new hostel on the AT this year as part of their mission committment:

Here’s some more picture highlights of the past two weeks:

Hiked a few days with Rhino. A great guy from Stuttgart Germany. He hiked most of the AT last season and plans to complete his hike this year:

Typing this blog post from Durham NC. Just came off trail, rented a car and drove three hours to spend the weekend with Bob and family. Bob is graduating from Duke University Physician Assistant Program this weekend! Congrats Bob, we’re all very proud of you.

Nice to get a little hiking break for a couple of days. I do feel like I’m finally getting into hiker “shape “. It definitely takes a good 3-4 weeks. I miss family and friends from home and work. Days go by quickly though and soon I’ll be back in Cooperstown.

Thanks for following along.

AT 2018 : Season 3 !

I finished my second AT season last October 2017 with an 80 mile hike in Northern PA. A long Cooperstown winter is finally winding down and the hiking bug has returned. My Season 3 goal is to complete as much of the AT from Buena Vista VA, heading south to Georgia as I can. I’ve figured about 800+ miles and this journey should be ended.

Tried to stay in shape this winter by going to the gym several days a week. It’s still tough actually walking up your first hill with a 30+ pound pack. John Rowley and I left Cooperstown early on April 20 and arrived late afternoon at the Buena Vista tailhead parking area. Short two mile hike to our first night camping at Brown Mountain Creek shelter.

everyone is smiling before we take our first steps. “This is easy!”

My sturdy Cooper Spur 2 tent is still holding out after two years.

Lot’s of rain lately so no problem finding drinking water in these small streams.

First full day of hiking was a fairly easy 9.5 walk in the woods to Punch Bowl shelter. We arrived by 1:30 PM and decided to call it a day. We’re breaking in our hiking legs:

You can decide if you want to sleep in the shelter or in your tent. With the sunny weather,we tented. First night was COLD… Around 30 degrees.

Checking out my new sleeping pad. VERY COMFORTABLE !

View up to sky from the sleeping pad.

Picking up the mileage for a 12.7 with lots of uphill climbing the next morning:

Early Spring here. A few weeks ahead of Cooperstown. Lower elevations it’s very green on the ground.

Getting up higher with some nice views.

Two foot lizard attacked John.

Crossing the Saint James River

Woke up sunrise the next morning. We had a 12 mile uphill climb to Thunder Ridge Overlook with a shuttle to take us into Glasgow for a dry night at Stanimal’s Hiker Hostel. Big rainstorm coming in.

Rain has started. We’re glad to have a dry bed tonight.

So far, a great start. John will be with me for a week then he’s headed back home. I’ve got the month of May to keep heading to Georgia.

AT Part II : Northern PA

Last time I left you all was mid August when I returned from my southern Maine AT hike. The end of the summer went by quickly. To keep in shape we did some nice family hiking up to Star Field in Cooperstown NY. This is one of our favorite local family outings… a pleasant 3 mile hike up and down with a view of Lake Otsego from up high. Michelle (Bob’s fiancée and Mattie the dog) are joining some of the Bauer crew.

20170904_122214[2].jpg

Enter a caption

20170904_122524[1].jpg

 

Shortly after Labor Day weekend I had a Cooperstown reunion with three of by oldest and best doctor friends. We go back over three decades  to Rochester NY where we trained together to be lung doctors. We’ve been pretty good at getting together almost every year: Mike-Tony-Gary-Dave

IMG950660[1].jpg

This is our classic picture pose

Had to put in some tough days at work before my final fall hike:

20170905_095725[1].jpgMy last official AT section hike was a one week solo adventure in Northern PA. It was starting to get a bit chilly in October, but once I could complete this last 80 mile section, I will have done every last bit ( minus a small stretch of southern Maine) of the AT from southern Virginia up to Mount Katahdin, Maine.

Stephanie dropped me off in Port Clinton PA, the heart of coal country.

20171006_124536[1].jpg

Most of PA hiking is ridge walking along the crests of the mountains. At elevations of about 2000 feet, I would really call them high hills. Although not as spectacular at the sight up in NH and Maine, there are still some awesome views:

20171007_091714[1].jpg20171010_083046[2].jpg

PA is most know for its continuous rock filled trails. The AT in PA is nick named “Rocksillvania” by hikers. Not too much difficult ups and downs, but lots of stress on you feet as you manage walking over rocks and rocks. Some are small and some are big:

20171010_091130[1].jpg

BIG BOULDERS here

20171012_080353[3].jpg

small rocks here

This was the only stretch of the AT where I was actually attacked by wildlife. Well, not really wildlife… but I was bitten (unprovoked) by a pit bull. It was accompanying his owners on trail (was not on a leash) and started to bark as I approached. The owners said “He doesn’t like hikers that are using hiking poles”. Well, OK.. I quickly went back about 30 feet, put down my poles and started walking away. Next thing, he had two front teeth in my foot. I survived, wiped away the blood and took this picture to document my war wound.

 

20171007_154933[1].jpg

As the years go by, the dog bite may morph into a bear bite as my memory fades.

Some more views during the next few days:

20171010_175348(1)[2].jpg

Taking your shoes off at the end of the day is always a great feeling

20171010_103343[1].jpg

High School science class looking hawk watching from a PA peak. Lots of hawks in this area.

20171011_101713[2].jpg

More rocks climbing up Lehigh Gap.

20171011_100121[2].jpg

View of Lehigh River from up top. That’s another rocky trail.

Last day of hiking was the most memorable. Around noontime, hiking from the opposite direction was Greybeard. He is/was a legend on the trail this season and I didn’t know he was in my neck of the woods. He is 82 years old and is competing a one season thru hike in 2017. If successful ( and I know he was at the time of this typing) he will be the OLDEST individual ever to have hiked the entire 2189 miles in one season. A true inspiration for us all.

20171012_112155[2].jpg

As I type his last blog post of 2017 I am already day dreaming about 2018 hiking.

When I first starting this adventure in May 2017, I thought I might finish the entire hike in one season. That changed into a two year trek this season and it looks like 2018 will make it a three year challenge. I’ve got about 500+ miles to go in Georgia, North Carolina and  Tennessee. Mixed feeling about actually ending this hike. Hard work most of the time but every day something different to see and usually new interesting people to meet. I’m thankful to have support of family and friends. I know good health is something not to be taken for granted as I get older. Hiking the AT has made me realize more and more that it’s always good to have goals. Try to complete old ones you may have on your list but also think of new ones. They don’t have to be profound goals. My new goal of winter 2018 is to learn how to swim. I’ve been off to the local gym pool several times a week so far and seem to be getting the breathing down a bit easier!

Best wishes for a great New Year in 2018.

More posts coming next April !

 

 

AT Part II: Southern Maine

Better late than never! It’s been about four MONTHS since my last post and YES, I did keep on hiking. I’ve had two somewhat brief hikes since I last signed off and I would like to update you all on my life on the AT.

As planned, my 2016 AT hiking buddy Bill AKA “Adventure” joined my in Cooperstown just after Hall of Fame Weekend and we drove together up to Gorham NH and spent the first night getting ready for our hike at the White Mountain Hostel. We took a 150 mile “shuttle” (cab ride) the next morning to Monson Maine where our real hike began…

20170801_090610[1].jpg

20170801_081540[2].jpg

It was good to finally get our packs on an start, what we knew would be a tough section of the AT. The woods, rivers and lakes of Maine are some of the prettiest of the entire trail.

20170802_093907[1].jpg

20170802_100206[2].jpg

20170802_140432[2].jpg

First night out, and it seemed my tent still was looking good. (It did leak a bit a few nights later in a hard downpour !). In addition, so far this is the closest I’ve been to a moose in Maine:

20170802_184537[1].jpg

20170803_082337[1].jpg

Bill hiked with me for the next few days, up and down some of the southern Maine peaks:

E

20170802_084125[2].jpg

20170804_094602[2].jpg

Eating these made hiking easier going up the hills


20170805_105757[1].jpg

Fields of lichens

20170806_093815[1].jpg

20170805_170337[2].jpg

20170803_103034[1].jpg

Early in the Spring this is a raging torrent. Not so tough now.

Bill left the AT at Caratunk a small town where the Kenebec River flows. From this point, I was hiking solo for the next several days. The water is too deep to ford, so the only way across is via canoe for a short ride across:

20170808_102627[1].jpg

One of the highlights of this part of the trail for me was discovering Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camp. An old rustic lodge where I spent the night right by the river:

20170809_073855[2].jpg

20170809_073925[2].jpg

Within a day or two I had reached the spot on the AT that was exactly 2000 miles from the southern most starting point in Georgia.

20170810_092703[2].jpg

Maine has some of the largest fish I have ever seen and caught: (look closely)

20170812_164955_001[2].jpg

This brook trout was a fighter

As I hiked on, the hills (now real mountains) were getting higher and tougher. It was slower going than I planned, so I make the decision to call it a “half completed” section that I would come back to next August to finish. I’m looking for a hardy soul to hike this really tough section with me in 2018. Any taker’s? About 80 miles or so which should take about 7-10 days.

20170813_094513[2].jpg

20170812_173745[1].jpg

View from the floor of my shelter early evening

20170811_124851[2].jpg

It’s now mid August 2017 and Stephanie will meet me back in Gorham to take us both back to Cooperstown. I need to work for a month with plans to tackle northern PA to complete an 80 mile section in October. Look at those amazing mountains in the background: summer 2018.

Appalachian Trail Adventure: Part II 2017

When we last left the trail, it was early November 2016. Getting colder and colder in southern Virginia. Decided to take a winter detour back to Cooperstown. Still have a little less than 1000 miles of hiking to do to “complete” the entire 2190 miles of the AT. It was cold in Cooperstown this winter:20170314_141704.jpg

Did manage to see some warm weather this winter: Great vacation with friends at the Grand Canyon. Not quite the AT, but something to behold:

First order of AT business this year was to “clean up” some the miles I had to skip on the northern section last year:

Small stretch of the trail in early spring from Dalton to Cheshire MA… a pleasant day hike with Henry and cousin Dan.

Next was a Memorial Day hike up to Vermont – New Hampshire border where Henry and I hiked three days/two nights on the AT. A nice way to start some overnights for the new season. Note the first “trail magic” of this year’s AT hike.

 

A few weeks later John and I hiked a stretch of the AT from Woodstock VT to Great Barrington MA. My legs are getting into better hiking shape by now.

 

Its now July and Stephanie and I took a one week hiking diversion to the following scenery:

Glacier National Park in Montana is awesome.

My hiking buddy Bill, aka “Adventure” is driving up to Cooperstown today from Virginia. We plan on driving to Gorham NH on Monday for a 3-4 week hike in the AT mountains of southern Maine. Hope to keep you posted with further pics. We are looking forward to the adventure.

1108 miles . . . 

I’ve just completed another week of beautiful hiking in Virginia with Bill. Hiking “into fall season ” with leaves coming off the trees, all colors, from morning to night during our walk in the woods . Even if we doubled our daily milage (it would have been impossible with shortening days and I don’t think our bodies could have withstood 20+miles a day ) we realized we couldn’t reach Georgia this season . We mutually decided that we would end our hiking this year with plans to tackle the remainder next,  2017 hiking season . Starting this past May 1st , with several breaks in between , I’ve hiked 1108 miles of the AT thus far!

Hiking this past week brought us to several memorable mountain peaks .

Thisis McAfee Knob , one of the most photographed spots on the trail . For someone “height challenged ” like me, I was glad I could get out towards that edge:

After a night at Fort Pines Hostel , we trekked up and down some modest hills with big rocks:The latter is named Dragon’s Tooth .

O

On top of Brush Mountain we came across a monument to WW II  hero Audie Murphy :

Our week was winding down . Some final wiews of Southern VA :

Bill’s wife Jan picked us up at the end of the day on Sunday . Good timing, as we were out of our food and water supply . Not to worry , after a two hour drive back to my car, we celebrated in our hotel room and had a real meal at a local restaurant .

Next morning I had a ten hour drive back to Cooperstown . Will be raking leaves after posting this blog.

Great to be back to the three loves of my life:my pillow , my piano and Stephanie . I mean, Stephanie , my pillow and my piano .

I really am happy to be home , closer to family and friends , whom I all missed these past several months . I actually am looking forward to getting back to work (PART TIME ) . Need to figure out an alternative exercise plan for upcoming winter months . Can’t keep hiking 6-8 hours a day .

I’m grateful to have been able to complete a significant part of this recent challenge . One lesson learned by me this past year is how important it is for all of us to try to have dreams and goals in our lives:they can be short term /long term goals and they can be easy ones or harder ones. It’s not critical to complete all of them, but rather to try,  day by day, to put forth  efforts to accomplish them.




 

More Virginia… 

Rockfish Gap marks the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Park. Bill and I decided to stay at Stanimals Hostel for two nights. The bonus for that included a high milage day of slackpack hiking. More than 14 miles of almost all downhill walking… hiker heaven. Look what awaited us at the end of the hike.. 

Next day we were hiking down Three Ledges Mountain, planning to meet my former VT, NH hiking buddies Jan and Chip who were going to join us for a few days. As we were navigating the rocky decent, can you see what Bill encountered right in the middle of the Trail? 

Met Jan and Chip at the base of Priest Mountain. Long 3000 foot acent followed for the afternoon. 

Tradition has it that you are supposed to confess your sins at this rock on the summit of Priest Mountain :


Our foursome had a great time the next four days:

Jan and Chip left the trail to return to their West Virginia home on Sunday. My son Ed was visiting friends in local Tennessee this weekend, so he came by to pick me up and we both headed home to Cooperstown for me to take a brief “break”. I’ll be headed back to Virginia in a week to rejoin Bill on the trail.