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.

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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

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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.

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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:

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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:

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BIG BOULDERS here

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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.

 

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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:

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

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

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More rocks climbing up Lehigh Gap.

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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.

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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].jpgIt 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].jpg20170802_100206[2].jpg

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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:

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

 

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Eating these made hiking easier going up the hills

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Fields of lichens

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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:

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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].jpg20170809_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)

 

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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.

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View from the floor of my shelter early evening

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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 .

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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 

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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.