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. 

Shanendoah National Park… 

Tom hiked into the northern boundary entrance to Shanendoah National Park with Bill and me.  The AT trail in the  Park is one hundred plus miles following Skyline Drive as they both weave southward through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a beautiful stretch of the AT with relatively “easy” hiking with lots of good rewards (nice views). 

Just after we entered,  the rains started. 5-7 inches in a one day forcast. Tom had already made arrangements to go back home to Cooperstown. Bill and I decided to take a “zero” day, so we called for a shuttle down to the town of Luray to stay at the Open Arms Hostel. Met an interesting guy, Eric Masterson, who was also staying the night at the hostel. Eric is an ornithologist who is following radiotagged Broad Winged hawks as they migrate from northeast United States down to South America. He’s following them by bike as he peddles the entire journey himself! You can follow him on his blog at ericmasterson.com 

MThe The

rains let up the next day and Bill and I started hiking in earnest. First nice views on Pass Mountain 

Later that night we camped at the Pass Mountain Hut with an interesting looking tree right in front of the campsite. 

heMore vistas the next day and ended up staying at the Skyland Resort and Restaurant. Met my first bear! 

That night we tented, and the next morning as we parted our campsite, we met our second bear:

Apples and honey the next night to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. HAPPY NEW YEAR! 


More hiking through pretty scenery. Next night I met three health care workers/hikers at the shelter. Trail names Trail Witch, Imagine and Funsize: they were respectively a Respiratory Therapist, a cardiac cath nurse and a neonatal nurse Specialist. 

Next day was very foggy and misty along the mountain trails 


Yesterday had a stop at Sawmill Overlook followed by a nice campfire at night. 


Today was our last day in the Park. We summited Little Calf Mountain and on top there were three tractor seats cemented on posts right on the summit crest. I took a brief rest :

As we finished our hike down the mountain into the town of Waynesboro VA, we took a break alongside  a fence. Bill is studying the map to plan our day tomorrow.  A prize to the first person who can decifer what that word is before”eveything”. 

Tomorrow we start hiking further south along more of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Keep you posted. Thanks again for following!  

Back on trail… 

The second half of my AT hike started just where the first half began at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harper’s Ferry WV. On May 1st, I came out the front door turned north and ended up at Katahdin Mt, Maine on August 3. My Cooperstown hiking buddy Tom and I left Harper’s Ferry on September 20 and started southbound. Just out of town we hiked over the Potomac River. 

Within a few hours of hiking we were in Virginia. There’s more milage of the AT in Virginia (about 500 miles) than any other state. Day two we entered the “Roller Coaster ”

The Roller Coaster is a 13 mile stretch of what hikers call” PUD’s” or pointless ups and downs. 600 feet up, then 300 down, then 700 up, then 500 down over and over and over . It certainly helped me get my trail legs back after my August rest back home. Occasionally there was actually a great view :

The next night was at a nice shelter, but with the recent drought, water was hard to come by. We had to filter our water out of this marginal mud hole shared by three frogs 

My other hiking buddy Bill (Adventure) shortly joined us. I plan to hike with Bill though Virginia. 

This was an interesting shelter called “Dick’s Dome” :a small but comfortable octagon structure. Dinner was shared at the table with two visitors from Maryland :

Soon we entered Shenandoah National Park. Beautiful, fairly easy hiking along 100 miles of mountain ridgeline paralleling Skyline Drive. Day one had nice views 

Unfortunately yesterday the weather turned and we have 4-8 inches of rain forcast for the next 24 hours with flash flood warning. Took a shuttle to Luray and stayed at a nice warm, dry hostel. Dinner and company were awesome. We’re taking a zero today. Park Ranger warned against hiking. Hope for better weather tomorrow to get our hike started. 

Halftime… 

Can’t believe I’ve been home now for over four weeks! After summitting Katahdin with Ed and Ben, I returned home for a planned “respit” of working at the hospital 3 days a week to reconnect with many of my patients and also to let my very sore knees and toes recover. Time has flown by and in three days I’ll be driving back to Harper’s Ferry to start my southern AT hike. 

Some midway thoughts… 

* First,  very pleased and greatful I’ve been able to hike successfully for the first three months. A major reason for this, I think, is that I started slow and GRADUALLY built up my endurance. Started at 6-8miles a day in the beginning and by the end of Maine I was comfortably in the 12-15 mile range. My 65 year old legs needed a real rest in a hotel or hostel every 5 days or so. I believe some of those stops have been well documented in my blog pics! I broke up my hike with a few very short trips back home to recharge myself with family and friend connections. And finally, I was just very lucky not to have injured myself. Not quite every day I (and most hikers) would trip, stumble or actually fall over roots, rocks, boulders. No matter how carefull you try to be, it happens. I had a lot of bad bruises but fortunately no hike ending injuries. Four weeks later and my right hip has finally fully recovered from a nasty slip on a wet slate rock in Maine. 

*Although I started the hike “alone”, hiking the trail for three months was hardly a solitary experience. The end of most hiking days was usually at a shelter where any where from 5 – 15 fellow hikers would share tenting spots and stories. Even if you decided to hike the day “alone” there are always people passing you from the opposite direction. If you stopped for a 30 minute break to rest or have a bite to eat, some recognizable hiker friends would eventually catch up or pass you. The only time I really had that feeling of being out there alone was in parts of northern Maine. By then I felt I was a “seasoned hiker” and was quite comfortable being truly solo. 

*Sometimes it’s easy to get into the trap of working so hard to get work hiking done:going up and down the mountains that you don’t get to appreciate what’s going on around you. Climbing up and over rocks, boulders, streams etc takes concentration most of the time. About half way through my hike I started to make it my practice that no matter the weather, my hiking situation, how I felt or where I was… I would just STOP every hour for about 5 minutes… be still.. look around, enjoy the scenery and try to appreciate the moment. That’s a lot of moments in time. Most of them have come and gone in my memory challenged brain but I truly feel the process has great value. (it’s also nice that I take LOTS OF PICTURES with my cell phone to jolt my memory in years to come).

Best parts of the hike so far… daily interactions with so many interesting hikers on the trail… making some great new friends…getting in much better physical shape (also loosing 15 pounds)… learning new hiking skills (first time alone in the woods in a tent was just this past year for me)… sharing some hiking days actually on the trail with family and friends and…  enjoying the sights and sounds of the outdoors. 

I haven’t been on the couch this entire month. Here are some pics of highlights the past few weeks :

First day back to work 

Went on a three day AT hike with Stephanie and friends Leslie and Tom from Great Barrington MA to Lee MA. Ten miles a day was a good intro for AT hiking for Stephanie. 

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Hereare some Cooperstown views from a hike to local Star Field  yesterday. A week from today I should be somewhere in Virginia mountains hiking southward. 

Thanks everybody for following me on my blog. I always enjoy your comments and good wishes. I’ll try to keep these posts coming! 

100 Mile Wilderness and Katahdin 

My friends Jan and Chip continued hiking on into southern Maine after we “crushed”  the Presidentials. I had to shuttle ahead (about a three hour drive) to start my solo hike through the Maine hundred mile wilderness. It’s the final portion of of the northern AT before the final ascent of Mt Katahdin. There are no public roads through this final portion of the hike, so in the past you had to carry enough food to last for the entire trek. Since I planned a reasonable “old man’s goal” of about 10 miles a day, that’s a lot of food. Fortunately, now there are private adventure companies that can meet you in the middle on one of the many logging roads and give you a prearranged food drop. That was my plan for day five. 

Ready to begin :

Here are some views of the first few days. A bit disappointed that I didn’t see any moose but I did have to fight off a killer 3 foot toad climbing up a tree along the way. 


One of the more memorable stops was camping on Jo – Mary Lake on Antlers campsite. I went swimming, fishing and woke up to a beautiful sunrise. 


Five more days in the Wilderness :


Finishing up with katahdin in the background :

I ended the 100 mile at Katahdin Stream Campground, hitched a ride into the nearest town, Millinocket, which was about an hour away. There, I was to meet my boys Ed and Ben to plan are ascent of the big one :Katahdin. 

Wednesday morning we left Millinocket at 5 AM to be ready to start at the base of the mountain by 7 AM. 

This was by far the biggest physical challenge of my AT hike. I was certainly glad to have my boys help their dad up, down and around some of the tougher climbs. Here are some views and moments:


I’m home two days now writing this post. Still with assorted aches and pains, but not unexpected. Great to be back close to family and friends. I’ll follow up with a post shortly to share some general thoughts and “insights” after my initial three months on trail. 

The Presidentials… 

Tuesday, July 12 began one of the real highlights of the hike. This was the several day stretch of hiking the “Presidential Mountain group in the NH Whites. 

Started long uphill from Franconia Notch (Notches or ” Gaps “are low elevation spots between mountains that have roads and trailheads where hikers can begin their uphill climbs). About a 3500 ft elevation climb over 4 miles (ie long and steep), but great views at the top of Mt Lincoln and Mt Lafayette 

It was about a 5 mile mountain ridge walk above treeline. 

Hiking friends Tom, Katherine,, Chip and Jan. Hiked down Mt Garfield at the end of the day and found a stealth site for the night 

Whenever you go down, you know you have to go back up! Next day no different. Up Mount Webster and Mt Jackson… A long day of hiking to get ready for the summit to Mt Washington the next day. 

Here are some views of our summit up to Mount Washington. The highest peak in the Whites at 6288ft. They say that clouds preclude any view from the top 300 out of 365 days a year. Needless to say, we only saw fog, but it was still quite and adventure, hiking from cairn to cairn in very strong winds. 

BBy the end of the day we had hiked over 12 miles, more than my limit for the Whites, and I treated myself by staying at one of the Huts for the night. 

Next morning morning up  and down Mt Madison. Very rocky, need special care going downhill. 

 

Nice to have hiking partners Chip (Clothesline) and Jan (Jangogh) watching out for me. 

Made it to Pinkham Notch that evening. Final three Presidentials the next day :Wildcat, Carter and Moriah Mts:

 Fortunately, muscles are getting stronger every day. 

Made it to Gorham NH with Jan and Chip last night. I’m taking a Shuttle tomorrow to Monson ME to begin my final trek through the “Hundred Mile Wilderness” section of the AT in Maine. This should be completed by summiting Katadin. 

I’ll miss Jan and Chip on this last stretch. New lifelong friends I’m sure Stephanie and I will get to see again. 

The journey so far has been fantastic. Definitely stretching my physical (and sometimes mental) capabilities to the limit. Making new friends. Enjoying the outdoors immensely. Hiking with family has been great. I really miss Stephanie, grandpa, kids, friends from home. I’ll see you all soon. 

The Presidentials… 

Tuesday, July 12 began one of the real highlights of the hike. This was the several day stretch of hiking the “Presidential Mountain group in the NH Whites. 

Started long uphill from Franconia Notch (Notches or ” Gaps “are low elevation spots between mountains that have roads and trailheads where hikers can begin their uphill climbs). About a 3500 ft elevation climb over 4 miles (ie long and steep), but great views at the top of Mt Lincoln and Mt Lafayette 

It was about a 5 mile mountain ridge walk above treeline. 

Hiking friends Tom, Katherine,, Chip and Jan. Hiked down Mt Garfield at the end of the day and found a stealth site for the night 

Whenever you go down, you know you have to go back up! Next day no different. Up Mount Webster and Mt Jackson… A long day of hiking to get ready for the summit to Mt Washington the next day. 

Here are some views of our summit up to Mount Washington. The highest peak in the Whites at 6288ft. They say that clouds preclude any view from the top 300 out of 365 days a year. Needless to say, we only saw fog, but it was still quite and adventure, hiking from cairn to cairn in very strong winds. 

BBy the end of the day we had hiked over 12 miles, more than my limit for the Whites, and I treated myself by staying at one of the Huts for the night. 

Next morning orning up and down Mt Madison. Very rocky, need special care going downhill. 

 

Nice to have hiking partners Chip (Clothesline) and Jan (Jangogh) watching out for me. 

Made it to Pinkham Notch that evening. Final three Presidentials the next day :Wildcat, Carter and Moriah Mts:

 Fortunately, muscles are getting stronger every day. 

Made it to Gorham NH with Jan and Chip last night. I’m taking a Shuttle tomorrow to Monson ME to begin my final trek through the “Hundred Mile Wilderness” section of the AT in Maine. This should be completed by summiting Katadin. 

I’ll miss Jan and Chip on this last stretch. New lifelong friends I’m sure Stephanie and I will get to see again. 

The journey so far has been fantastic. Definitely stretching my physical (and sometimes mental) capabilities to the limit. Making new friends. Enjoying the outdoors immensely. Hiking with family has been great. I really miss Stephanie, grandpa, kids, friends from home. I’ll see you all soon. 

Starting the Whites… 

After a brief 2 day return to Cooperstown for July 4th, Ben drove me back to Hanover NH to start the final portion of my northern AT hike. Starting around 1 pm, I began hiking alone up Smarts mountain. As planned, I reunited with hiking partners Jan and Chip at the Fire Wardens Cabin on the summit 

Next morning, down Smarts and then up and down shorter Mt Cube. Around 3 pm that afternoon, we reached a road and the map told us to hike right on the road for a bit to find the trail on the other side. We missed the AT trail sign and kept on walking. Eventually, we knew something was wrong but just at that moment, we were right in front of a small local lake. Went for an impromptu swim

Stayed at Hikers Hostel that night. Next day they helped us slack pack our first “real” hike up a NH white Mountain. 

This was Mt. Mooselauke, 4800 ft peak. Biggest, hardest challenge yet. Made even tougher buy having hike in the rain. 

Read above sign 

E

Next day was an even tougher climb up Kinsman mountain. Also raining. 

Today is a rest day in town to resupply and do laundry. 

Tomorrow is exciting because we are starting the trek along the “Presidentials” which are  the classic white Mountain peaks. Also glad for excellent weather forecast! 

Legs are in great shape so far. Getting stronger. I’m also still loosing weight! Will look like Dr. Edmonds soon. 

Will keep you posted. Thanks for following. 

Bob joins the trail… 

After having a lunch at Qu’s Whistle Stop Restaurant that included steak and eggs, home fries, three sodas and a cup of ice cream, my new friends Jan and Chip continued hiking on. I waited a few hours for Bob to be dropped off to begin our hike. It was about 5 PM and heavy rains were forcast so we roughed it up in a local hotel for the night. 

Early next morning we started at the suspension bridge just outside of Rutland VT. 

Long hard hike about 9-10 miles up to the summit of Killington. Did some steam fishing on the way up. Finally arrived around 5 just before a brief thunderstorm. Quickly pitched our tents followed by dinner in the adjacent shelter. 

Early next morning we hiked the final 200 yards up to the summit. Nice views all around. 

Then started hiking down. All day… Along the way, just outside of Killington VT, the trail branches off. The Vermont Long Trail continues northward to Canada and the AT veers off to the east towards NH and the white Mountains. 

reached VT state Park late afternoon. Hiked into town to local deli for dinner. 

After dinner some more fishing 

Next morning started off with more of the same… Fishing along the way. Had lunch at a shelter just before it started to pour. 

Need day was a mostly downhill walk back to the Bob’s car near Woodstock VT 

Along the way we stopped for lunch at a Tower Cabin.  Look at the tower on top that we were able to climb up. 

. Bob had some usual hiker blisters and achy knee by the last day, but did an awesome job keeping up with his “semi pro” hiker father. 

Taking a very brief 2 day detour to Cooperstown for the 4th of July but will be back on trail early next week to begin hiking the Whites in New Hampshire.