Thursday, August 22, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Kent, CT To Great Barrington, MA

Three more days on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and three more days I considered quitting.  It's hard not thinking about it when you are hurting all over and still have miles to go.  I keep going but I wonder why sometimes.

A dense forest along the trail.
Day 138 - My trail angel picked me up from the B&B and dropped me off at the Appalachian Trail trailhead where she picked me up a few days earlier.  I thanked her for her kindness and said my goodbyes.

The trail follows the Housatonic River and is relatively flat at the beginning.  Once you move away from the river the trail climbs the ridge.

My goal for the day was a campsite seventeen miles ahead.  Soon after I started I realized I wasn't going to make it that far.  I started  later than normal, I was tired, and struggled most of the day.  I ended up stopping at the Pine Swamp Brook Shelter which had been my goal the day I had my accident.  I hiked 12.3 miles (19.8 km) for the day.

I was alone in the shelter that night.  A few thru-hikers came and went as I chilled in the shelter.  A couple of them I'd not seen since before the Smokies.  Crazy.  They all moved on to campsites farther down the trail.  Later that night it poured rain.  I stayed dry.

The Falls of Fall City, CT.
Day 139 - Since I'd hiked a short day the day before, today had to be a longer one.  I was aiming for just under twenty miles.  I doubted I would do it.

You pass near Fall City, CT and past the waterfall that gives the town its name.

The last part of the day was dry.  I filled up at a source after passing several dry streams.

I ended up at the Riga Shelter just over a mile short of my original destination.  The Riga shelter faces east and has an unobstructed view.  Few shelters have views so this makes Riga special.  I thought I may be alone at the shelter but Clemson, who I last saw before the Smokies, showed up and kept me company.

A beautiful sunrise to start the day.
Day 140 - I woke up to a thin red line on the horizon.  Skies were clear and I expected a gorgeous sunrise. It was a good start to another long day with no option to shorten it.  I was going into Great Barrington, MA.  I had to hike some eighteen miles that summited three peaks along the way.

The first peak was Bear Mountain (there are a lot of Bear Mountains).  The climb was relatively easy.  I talked to a southbounder at the top.  I mentioned thinking about quitting and she said there was so much beauty ahead of me.  I left feeling more positive.  The climb down was steep, rocky, and difficult.

At the bottom of Bear Mountain the trail follows a stream with waterfalls.  It was peaceful.  Along this stream I crossed into Massachusetts. Ten states down ... four more to go.  They seem to be dropping like flies though not like the flies constantly buzzing around my head as I hike.

The second peak was Race Mountain.  You climb up a ridge with views along the way.  Parts of the trail were uncomfortably close to the edge of a cliff.  The climb down was steep, rocky, and difficult.

The third peak, Mount Everett, was steep, rocky, and difficult going up and coming down.  I found a rock on the way up to lay down for a nap.

A nice stream near the state border.
About two thirds of the way down from Mount Everett the rocks became fewer and the trail became pine needles covered dirt.  The trail comes out in a picnic area where a large number of water jugs and a cooler full of Gatorade waited for thru-hikers.  I drank a Gatorade while I ate some lunch and talked to a couple of thru-hikers.  One gave me the number for a shuttle driver in Great Barrington.

The next eight miles were relatively easy, dry, hot, and tiring.  I should have drank more water while I had the chance.  I don't always keep up with my water needs. I struggled a bit until I finally came out on the road to Great Barrington, MA.

I pulled out my phone to call a shuttle.  I had three bars but T-Mobile would not let me call.  I guess they didn't have an agreement with the local provider.  I sighed, put my pack back on, and started walking the two and a half miles into town.

When I got to the hotel my legs and feet were throbbing.  Going downhill on the rocks really banged up my toes.

Day 141 - I'm starting to think one zero day isn't enough and two zero days are too many.  Today I resupplied (I had to walk a mile to the grocery store), did laundry, and tried to rest my sore feet and legs.

A southbounder I talked to said the attitude of the northbounders was fifty-fifty good and bad.  I am squarely in the bad attitude group.  Now I just need to find a way to switch teams.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,522.8 Miles (2,450.7 km)
Section Distance: 50.0 Miles (80.5 km)
Section Elevation Up: 9,871 ft (3,009 m)
Section Elevation Down: 9,560 ft (2,914 m)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Fort Montgomery, NY To Kent, CT

There is a saying about the Camino de Santiago.  The first third breaks your body.  The second third - the Kansas-like messeta - breaks your spirit/mind.  The third part - beautiful Galicia - takes the pieces and puts you back together a better person.  The Appalachian Trail (AT) has put my body through the wringer and thoroughly broken my spirit.  I am ready for the rebuilding part please.

An early morning on the Appalachian Trail.
Day 131 - I left the town late because the zoo didn't open until 10:00am.  The hotel owner shuttled me and Shine (another thru-hiker I hadn't sent since Hampton, TN) to the South end of the zoo. Admission to the zoo is free for thru-hikers and the AT passes right through the zoo.  It was modest but nice enough.  In front of the bear enclosure the AT hits its lowest point around one hundred and twenty-four feet above sea level.   I got a stamp for my AT passport.

About five miles out of town you pass a deli/convenience store right by the trailhead.  I stopped and had a double decker burger, a pint of ice cream, and refilled my water bottle.

I was going to stop at the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center, a Franciscan Monastery where you can camp in their baseball field pavilion.  The problem was it was too early.  The next day was going to be a long one so if I kept going my next day would be easier. I hiked a few more hours cutting nearly five miles off the next day's hike.

I ended up putting my tent up in a clearing near a Brook.

The maintainer for the RPH Shelter has a sense of humor.
Day 132 - I was the only person at the stealth site.  I left early and headed north.

The one interesting thing along this part of the trail was a side trail to a beach area along Canopus Lake.  You are allowed to camp there and there are showers. Since it was the middle of the day I skipped the side trail and kept moving.

I ended the day at the RPH shelter which was very nice.  I spent the night alone.  This is the third time I was alone in a shelter.  It never feels right.

The largest oak tree on the AT.
Day 133 - My first stop of the day was a deli in Stormville, NY where I got a breakfast sandwich, a pint of ice cream, and topped off my water bottle.  Water was a bit scarce in this part of the AT.  Many sources were either dry or too small to get water out of.

I ended the day at the Telephone Pioneers Shelter with a southbounder and a strange northbounder who thought he heard Sasquatch on the trail.

Near this shelter the little free libraries began appearing at the shelters.  Not sure how many thru-hikers would carry a book when an ebook or audiobook is a bit easier to carry.

Day 134 - I left the shelter and headed north.

My first rest stop was the Appalachian Trail RR Station.  The station consisted of a bench and trash cans.  I emptied my trash and ate a snack.  The sign above the bench said that one direction took you to New York City.  As I snacked I thought how easy it would be to wait for a train to show up, ride to New York City, switch to a commuter train to Newark Airport, and catch a non-stop flight to Omaha.  I got up and continued North.

These rails could have gotten me home in twenty-four hours.
I reached the Ten Mile River Shelter as it began to rain.  I sat out the rain with another thru-hiker and I ate lunch.   The rain stopped and I continued on.

I crossed into Connecticut, back to New York, and back into Connecticut on my way to the Schaghticoke Mountain Campsite.  I ran low of water as I passed one dry stream after another.  There was water at the campsite but it was a trickle and hard to get water out.  I managed to get enough out for the night.

The campsite was a rare one with a privy.  I had nicknamed some privies in the south Microprivies because your knees hit the door when it was closed.  In Connecticut they fixed that problem by not including doors ... or walls.  The privy was simply a wooden box with a toilet seat in a clearing.  Yes ... I used it.

The not so private privy.
I climbed in my tent and changed out of my wet clothes.  I have to admit that even I could smell the stench on my pants.

Day 135 - An eventful day.  I left the campsite and headed north looking for water.  After two more dry streams I arrived at a running brook where I drank up and filled my bottles.  I passed a group of northbound thru-hikers at a shelter.  I didn't know anyone.

I continued on past the turn off for Kent, CT and continued North.  It was going to be a twenty mile day and my body was dragging.  I reached the top of Caleb's Peak and laid down to nap on a rock.

Another thru-hiker showed up as I started to move on.  I got twenty to thirty feet down the trail when I tripped on something and hit the rocky trail hard.  I took stock of myself.  My glasses were bent but intact. Then I felt the blood dripping.  I took my sweat rag and wiped off a lot of blood.  I left my stuff on the trail and walked back to the thru-hiker and asked him to look at it since I couldn't see myself.  Turns out his trail name was Doc.  He helped me clean it up.

Other hiker showed up soon after and every one pulled out first aid supplies.  A pair of section hikers called one of their moms who lived in the area and asked her to come meet us at a trailhead.  We hiked just over a mile down a steep rocky slope.  I was still running on adrenaline and I surprised everyone by how fast I got down the mountain.

The section hiker's mom showed up and she was a saint.  She drove me to a hospital where I was cleaned up and glued back together.  It took four hours to get seen by a doctor.  She then took me to B&B in Kent, CT where I could heal up.  Before leaving she asked when she could pick me up to take me back to the trail.  What a nice woman.

There is a lot of art in Kent, CT
 including this thru-hiker sculpture.
Days 136 & 137 - The doctor told me no hiking for forty-eight hours so I took two zero days in Kent.  I have to say it is a comfortable place but everything seems expensive.  I am looking forward to getting back on the trail.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,473.8 Miles (2,371.8 km)
Section Distance: 70.0 Miles (112.6 km)
Section Elevation Up: 14,191 ft (4,325 m)
Section Elevation Down: 14,016 ft (4,272 m)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Greenwood Lake, NY To Fort Montgomery, NY

🐻 x 6
The past few days have been ... different.  I had a four day plan to get to Fort Montgomery, NY that was sort of a hiking vacation.  Every day was relatively short miles.  That plan went out the window on the first day.   I deviated from the plan and totally winged it.

On the horizon - the New York City skyline.
Day 128 - When I climbed down the hill into Greenwood Lake, NY I seriously considered not climbing back up.  I would skip the climb up and get a ride back to the Appalachian Trail (AT) skipping about two miles. When I woke up after my zero day I came to my purist senses and walked from the hotel to the Village Vista trailhead and climbed up the ridge.

I reached the goal for the day, the Wildcat Shelter.  It wasn't even 10:00am yet.  I checked out the water source and found it nearly dry.  The puddles that remained were looking at me ... well the frogs in the puddles were watching me.

I went back to the shelter, grabbed my pack and kept going.  This was not my usual reaction.  I usually stick hard to my plan.  The next shelter was fourteen miles away so it would be a twenty mile day if I got there.

I used the AT Guide to estimate where I was. I estimated I was two miles from the shelter. I was totally off.  I reached a highway and realized I was still four miles from the shelter.

I reached a hiker's parking lot and ran into Ruckus.  He was considering quitting due to money issues.  When I first met Ruckus he was in a linen dress with a floppy ladies gardening hat with a ribbon.  He was bummed when the dress ripped when he was taking it off.  He is a partier and as he said, he brought the ruckus to the AT.  I hope he finds a way to continue.

I left the parking lot and reentered the forest where I promptly saw a campsite.  The tent went up.  It began to rain an hour later. My tent has been getting used more often since I left Pennsylvania.

This was going to be a 5.6 mile (9.0 km) day but it turned into a 15.9 mile (25.6 km) day instead.   I have to admit I felt pretty good.

As an extra bonus, I saw my first flying wild turkey.  Its flight was quite graceful.

The highlight is an AT symbol.  Is the trail going into a cave?
No, it's going into the Lemon Squeezer.
Day 129 - The first thing I ran into this morning was the Lemon Squeezer.  The trail passes through narrow passages and up a wall.  To get up the wall I had to take off my pack and toss it and my poles up ahead of me.  This would have been a nightmare in the rain.

I passed the shelter I had been heading to the day before and passed a group of noisy camp kids and a leader with a bullhorn.  I was lucky not to get there the night before.

At this point I was heading for a shelter that was 0.6 miles off of the AT.  The shelter has no privy and the water is poor and a half mile from the shelter.  What it did have is a view of the Hudson River and the New York City skyline.  When I arrived at the turn off for the shelter I reconsidered.  I'd managed to see the skyline from another mountain earlier in the day.  I made the bet that I would see the lit up night skyline farther ahead so I passed the turn off and kept hiking.   I lost that bet.

I kept going with no real goal anymore.  I crossed two roads and climbed two ridges.  Finally I turned a corner near the top of Bear Mountain and saw a bench facing west toward the sunset.  Not far from the bench were several flat spots.  I set my tent up on a flat rock. Since this was not an official campsite this may have been my first stealth camping.  I was joined by a south bounder (SOBO) who put up her tent in the area and watched the sun set.

It wasn't going to rain so I left my rain fly off so I could see the stars.  Being close to New York City, and the east coast in general, the stars were a bit subdued but I still saw many through the mesh of my tent.

This day was going to be a 13.5 mile (21.7 km) day but it ended up being a 16.3 mile (26.2 km) day instead.  The last three miles were probably the best of the day.

It's hard to see but it says "< 800".
Sometime today I passed the one thousand four hundred miles.  I didn't see a marker but I did see a "< 800"  mile marker.  I guess we are now in count down mode.

Day 130 - I finished the climb up Bear Mountain.  At the top is a fire tower, a trash can, a port-a-potty, and vending machines.  I drank a Powerade and used the potty.

The rest of the day was down hill.  I passed an ice cream vending machine which I indulged in.  Yes, breakfast was ice cream and Powerade.

The sunrise over the Hudson River.
The trail goes through a zoo here and is free for thru-hikers.  Sadly it was not opened yet.  I will figure out how to get to the zoo before I leave.

I walked into town and arrived an hour before the Post Office opened.  I went to the surprisingly well stocked convenience store and bought some food to compliment what would be in my mailed resupply box.

I got my box and swapped out my shoes.  New Shoes baby!!!  I boxed up the cold weather gear in the box along with some food I didn't need and mailed it to myself farther ahead.  It wasn't quite ready for cold weather clothing yet but in a week or two that may change.

With my box in hand I hiked a half mile to a small hotel where I got a room.  I got some brunch, showered, got my laundry done.

I was going to take a zero on day 131 but instead I will leave late, go to the zoo which opens at 10:00am, and then hike a short day to the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center where they allow you to sleep at the monastery's ball field shelter, use their privy and shower, and have water.

After Graymoor I have several long challenging days ahead of me that will take me into Connecticut.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,405.6 Miles (2,262.1 km)
Section Distance: 36.3 Miles (58.4 km)
Section Elevation Up: 7,599 ft (2,316 m)
Section Elevation Down: 8,001 ft (2,439 m)

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Delaware Water Gap, PA To Greenwood Lake, NY

🐻 x 6
I broke down this week.  A bunch of things came to a head all at once and I felt overwhelmed.  I had a mild anxiety attack.

I'm starting to wonder if my plan is too aggressive.  I hope I'm wrong.  I know of three people who have told me they are confident in finishing when they see me because they heard I had a plan.  If they are even with me or past me then they know they will get to Katahdin.  But ... what happens when I begin to doubt my own plan.

A tranquil pond.  Do you see the Butterfly?
Day 122 - I left Delaware Water Gap, PA and, while crossing a bridge over the Delaware River, crossed into New Jersey.  The seventh state was behind me. 

The trail climbed back up the ridge.  There were rocks in New Jersey too but there was also dirt.  Logically I knew that the rocks would be just as bad as in Pennsylvania but it still felt less rocky.  I think it has to do with how the trails are maintained.

Somewhere I passed the one thousand three hundred mile marker but I didn't see it so no picture.

I ended the day at a campsite near Rattlesnake Spring.  This was my tenth tenting on the Appalachian Trail (AT).

Another state behind me.
Day 123 - I woke up to a dry tent which made me happy.  I packed up and headed out.

My energy levels have been extremely low lately.  This day was no different.  I have been slowing down and taking more breaks during the day.  Even with the extra rest stops I'm often exhausted at the end of the day.  I think the AT is making me weary.

I came to a road crossing and realized there was a restaurant not far away.  I stopped at the Mountain House Tavern and Restaurant and relaxed in the air conditioned space, drank some lemonade, and ate my first good Mountain House meal.

In the first half of the AT I would have known about the restaurant because I would have studied the guide book.  Since Harper's Ferry I've been paying less and less attention to the guide book.  The results are I am surprised by restaurants and other points of interest along the trail.

I drug my way away from the cool air and finished the short climb to the Gren Anderson Shelter.

Day 124 - The surprise of the day was how close the trail went to
High Point Tower.
High Point State Park headquarters.  Turns out if you are a thru-hiker and sign their log book they give you a soda.  I ran into a few thru-hikers taking a break here.  I also took a short nap before I moved on.

The trail passes a place where you can see the tower on the highest point in New Jersey.

I reached a road crossing that would take me to Unionville, NY.  I started to walk the three quarters of a mile to town when a car pulled up.  In the passenger seat was Salamander.  She had recognized me and asked the driver to pull over. I squeezed in between the two car seats and they took me to town.  Salamander said she was going to a drive in movie theater.  She asked if I wanted to go too.  I decided not to go.  I was concerned I would have difficulty getting out of the town and back on trail.  Looking back now, I should have gone with Salamander.

Unionville offered free camping in the town park.  I ate a good meal at an Italian restaurant and had a rather restless sleep.

Day 125 - I packed up and bought a breakfast sandwich at the general store before walking back to the trail and heading North.

The trail follows roads, skirting a nature preserve where I saw a flock of egrets, before heading back up the ridge.  Part way up the ridge you pass a vacant house where the guide suggests getting water from a spigot.

Farther ahead the trail was a boardwalk through a swampy area.  The boardwalk stretches nearly a mile and incorporates a suspension bridge over a creek.  The only bad thing about this is there was no shade on his part of the trail.  I did manage to find a rare bench in a spot of shade and took a short nap.

The flattest part of the Appalachian Trail.
I found another surprise when I ran across Heaven Hill Farm.  I stopped here and bought ice cream and watermelon.

I ended the day at the Wawayanda Shelter.  I was alone at the shelter.  I looked at the guide book and realized the next resupply town didn't look very good.  I became frustrated.  I had a mini breakdown.  The difficulty of the trail, the lack of substantial social interaction, and the difficulty of making my plan work all reached a peak.  I called the Wife so she could talk me down.  The AT is not getting easier for me.

Even another state behind me.
Days 126 & 127 - I hiked eight miles, across the boarder between New Jersey and New York, to a side trail that took me sharply down a ridge into the town of Greenwood Lake, NY.

The first hotel was full.  The second had a room.  The town has little resupply resources available but they have restaurants and there are some convenience stores and a drug store to scrape together supplies for the next few days on the trail.

I think I'm the only hiker in town.  It feels very lonely.  I looked at the next few days and I added stops to shorten some days.  I'm giving myself a sort of hiking vacation.  Today I will hike only five or six miles to the next shelter.  The changes I made will eliminate a few twenty mile days but add a few days to my AT hike.  Shortening the next few days will not help me feel less alone as the thru-hikers I know will very likely pass me up and once again I will be behind the bubble.  That is the hardest part of this endeavor.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,371.7 Miles (2,207.5 km)
Section Distance: 79.8 Miles (128.4 km)
Section Elevation Up: 11,860 ft (3,615 m)
Section Elevation Down: 11,222 ft (3,421 m)

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Port Clinton, PA To Delaware Water Gap, PA

🐻 x 6
"Pennsylvania is trying to kill us."  That is what one thru-hiker wrote in a shelter log.  That sentiment is shared by a lot of hikers, myself included.  The rocks, heat, humidity, rain, lack of water sources, and insects all conspire to make Rocksylvania the place where many thru-hikers reconsider why they were hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT).

Rock, rocks, and more rocks.
Day 116 - The day before I left I ran into Choo Choo, another thru-hiker I'd met a few times along trail.  We decided to coordinate our stops for the next few days.

This day gave us Pulpit Rock and the Pinnacle.  Near Pulpit Rock was an amateur astronomy park.  I spoke with a few of the members doing maintenance.  They shared cold bottles of water.  One of them who does trail maintenance warned me about the next section I would be crossing tomorrow.

The stop of the day was Eckville Shelter.  This shelter has a caretaker and sports a solar shower.  By solar I mean cold.  I chose not to partake.

A pair of buzzards sitting on Balance Rock.
Day 117 - This day was a long day as were all days in Pennsylvania.  As promised the trail was rocky with interspersed boulder hops.

I prefer the boulder hops.  The little rocks on the trail are all evil ankle turners and trippers.  Having said this, the boulder hops also have the most risk of real damage if you fall. They also slow you down as you consider every step carefully. This day had the Knife Edge, the Bear Rocks, and the crazy decent from Bake Oven Knob.

I stopped for water at a closed restaurant which had a spigot.  The water was disgusting and I filled two bottles before I noticed the smell and taste.  Fortunately at the base of Bake Oven Knob some trail angel had left bottles of water.  I refilled my bottles and dropped a chlorean tablet to kill any possible contamination in the bottles.

The day ended with a stay in Bake Oven Knob shelter (I keep wanting to say easy bake oven).

An AT marker.
Day 118 - After a long and gruelling day this was was going to be shorter.  I figured it wouldn't be to bad then I began climbing out of Lehigh Gap.

The climb was a thousand feet over just under a mile.  The top third or so was a rather technical rock hop.  I got to this point after already hiking eight miles and it was during the heat of the day.

I was passed by Ruckus, Salamander, Lunchbox, and Jaywalk as I huffed, puffed, and wheezed my way up.

I reached Little Gap road and waited for Choo Choo before calling the Filbert B&B. The house was pre-civil war and beautifully decorated.

We arrived rather late for me so I had time for a shower and a quick meal before going to bed.

The red and black bird wonders if this is really a trail.
Day 119 - Despite wanting to get back in trail by 7:00am we didn't get going until 8:00am.  Neither Choo Choo nor I were very enthusiastic about hiking.  The terrific breakfast didn't give me the energy that I expected.

I was dragging early on.  At the one third point of the day I came across the perfect flat Rock and took a thirty minute nap.  At the half way point I reached a Gap where I layed down on a barrier for fifteen minutes.  At the Leroy A. Smith shelter I took another thirty minute nap.  Rocksylvania was wearing me down and I found each day to be a little bit harder than the day before.

I ended the day at the Gateway motel outside of Wind Gap, PA.  The place was a dump and overpriced but the AC worked, the shower was hot, and the toilet flushed.  It was also within view of the AT.  It was definitely not the Filbert B&B.

Less than nine hundred miles and going down each day.
Days 120 & 121 - The last day in Pennsylvania was another day of rocks.  The state threw everything at me. The last boulder hopping at Wolf Rock.  Miles of rocky trails.  And as I neared Delaware Water Gap it poured rain.

As I was descending the last hill into town I slipped on a wet rock and came down hard on my left upper arm.  I'm sporting a nasty bruise but no other damage.  I was lucky.

I walked to a hostel in the pouring rain but it was full so I walked to a hotel and got a room.  I had a restless sleep.

On my second day in Delaware Water Gap, and the last day of Pennsylvania, I took a Lyft to Walmart to resupply.

The next five days in and out of New Jersey are going to be tough.  The rocks will diminish with time and distance but I have some long days planned.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,295.4 Miles (2,084.7 km)
Section Distance: 81.8 Miles (131.6 km)
Section Elevation Up: 10,453 ft (3,186 m)
Section Elevation Down: 10,920 ft (3,328 m)

Note: This post is late because the hotel WiFi was down and my cell reception was spotty at best.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Duncannon, PA To Port Clinton, PA

I am tired of rocks and mud.  That is what I'm struggling with in Pennsylvania.  Despite passing one thousand two hundred miles - i.e. less than one thousand miles to go - the trail is getting harder for me.  I would have sworn that the rocks and mud were slowing me down but in fact I was hiking at my normal speed (roughly two miles per hour).  The days just seem longer and that just confirms that hiking this trail is a mind game.

Welcome to Rocksylvania!
Day 110 - I left the Doyle Hotel at 5:30am to beat the heat. The Appalachian Trail (AT) passes through Duncannon, PA and crosses the Juniata river before crossing the mighty Susquehanna.  The sun started to rise when I was half way across and the river was lit up with color.

Sunrise over the Susquehanna River.
The trail crossed a train track and then climbed up the ridge.  Progress was a bit slow due to all the rocks which force you to be careful with foot placement.

I arrived at the Peters Mountain Shelter before noon when the temperature was approaching the 90℉ (32℃) mark.  This was my stop for the day.  There were four thru-hikers napping here planning to night hike once it got cooler.

I napped a little before going down to get water. The water in Pennsylvania seems to be a long way off trail.  The water at this shelter was two tenths of a mile down three hundred stone steps.  I needed another nap when I got back to the shelter.

When I got back to the shelter we had been joined by a day hiker who seemed friendly enough.  Then things went South.  He was a bit religious.  He was a doomsday prepper.  After smoking weed with some of the other hikers (weed is ubiquitous on the AT) he offered everyone oxycontin and ritalin.   Then he began to get a little hyper, sign of a meth head.  One of the thru-hikers packed up and left after he noticed the man had a service revolver on his hip.  Soon afterwards the guy left.  We were a bit freaked out by this encounter and we all slept with one eye open most of the night.

Day 111 - Having survived the night I headed out early.  A ways down the trail I ran into the hiker that had left last night.   He had been spooked when he saw the gun.  He also had called the police to report him.  The police seem to be taking the call very seriously.  After the machete weilding Sovereign murder earlier this year everyone is on their toes.

I arrived at the Rausch Gap Shelter just ten minutes before it began to pour.  People crowded into the shelter until it slowed enough to put up tents. I would guess we had at least an inch of rain.

A full beaver dam with a lake on one side and mud to hike through on the other.
Day 112 - For some reason I really hiked fast today or at least it felt like it.  I was going into the town of Pine Grove, PA to pick up some resupply.

The first part of the hike took you by a huge beaver dam.  Since it rained so much the night before the water was overflowing the dam.  I waded through mud until I got past the worst of it.  There was a bypass path in case of flooding but the beaver dam was cool and the mud washed off.

I arrived at a pass where I hoped to get a lift.  I checked Uber and Lyft but there were none available.  I checked Google and it said if I left right away I could walk to the post office and get there only five minutes before it closed.  If I tried to hitch, which I've never done before, I would lose the chance to get my package.  So ... I started to walk. Fortunately for me it was cool, overcast, and all downhill.  I also walk faster than Google predicts and got there twenty minutes before the post office closed.

Purple come flowers along the AT.
It was a big box and the hotel was not close so I called the hotel, something I should have done in the first place.  They didn't have a shuttle but they gave me the number of one.  He picked me up and dropped be at my hotel.  I arranged for him to pick me up he next morning.  It would have been a lot easier to call the shuttle from the AT.  Oh well.  My walk to town turned a seventeen mile day into a twenty mile one.

The twelve hundred mile marker ... done in rocks of course.
Day 113 - This day was supposed to be easy but the rocks and mud slowed me down.  Where there were no rocks the trail went through a swampy mess of mud.  My butt was dragging and my feet were throbbing from all the rock walking.

I was really tired when I got to Eagle Nest Shelter.  I napped a bit and sluggishly did my chores.  I decided I would listen to my body and consider taking a zero day in Port Clinton or nearby Hamburg.

Days 114  & 115- The way down to Port Clinton was rocky and steep and sucked.  I got into town, found the Port Clinton Motel and, while waiting for it to open, considered if I wanted to say one night or two.   When it opened I sayed I wanted a room for two nights.  It kind of just came out.  I guess my body had spoken.

There's not much in Port Clinton.  The motel, a candy store, and a motorcycle dealership.  All the services are two miles away in Hamburg.  Fortunately the motel has an awesome restaurant (where the smallest burger is twelve ounces) and I resupplied in Pine Grove.

Today I climb out of Port Clinton, back onto the ridge line, and back into the rock fields.  I have nothing against Pennsylvania but I an done with Rocksylvania.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,219.6 Miles (1,962.8 km)
Section Distance: 74.8 Miles (120.4 km)
Section Elevation Up: 9,106 ft (2,776 m)
Section Elevation Down: 9,549 ft (2,911 m)

Sunday, July 21, 2019


Some time is the next few days the page view counter on Homer's Travels will pass one million!!!

Who would have thought that this little blog would be viewed, however briefly, a million times.  It took nearly thirteen years to reach this number.   Onward to the next million.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

I Interrupt This Appalachian Trail Hike For Another Year Passing ... And Heat Of Course

I thought it was tough to hike the Appalachian Trail while I was fifty-five.  After today I have to finish nearly half while I'm fifty-six.

Oh yeah, and it's going to be very hot today so the hiking is on pause until tomorrow morning.

Happy Birthday to Little Hill ... err Me!


P.S. I've met many thru-hikers older than me doing just fine on trail ... and I hate every one of them! 

P.P.S. Just kidding.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Harper's Ferry, WV To Duncannon, PA

🐻 x 6
This felt like a long time between zero days.  The heat and humidity has become my kryptonite.  They make each day seem that much longer.  I eat less even though I should be eating more.  My discipline is slipping and I am bending, if not breaking, rules I have set for myself.  That is where I am as I push my way through Pennsylvania.

This stage got me half way to Maine, past the 1,100 mile mark, and through another state.  I skipped an ice cream challenge but for once skipping ice cream was the smart thing to do.

The War Correspondents memorial.
Day 100 - I gave the Wife an anniversary kiss and left Harper's Ferry.  You cross the Potomac river on a footbridge that also marks the West Virginia - Maryland border.  I didn't see a sign and a Canadian thru-hiker named Fastball actually back tracked a few miles to find the non-existent sign.  After the bridge the trail follows the Potomac before heading into the mountains.

I stopped for water at Gathland State Park with its empty grave and a large War Correspondents memorial.

I did a 15.4 mile (24.8 km) to a shelter where I met new people like High Pockets, Scribbles, and Lone Bear.

It was starting to heat up and the humidity was high making the day tough.

The Washington Monument.
Day 101 - This was a day full of history or at least it felt like it.  It started with the early morning encounter with a memorial for two dead generals - one Union and one Confederate.

I passed a nice campsite where I topped off my water before flinging my glasses into the weeds.  I'd walked into a spider's web, had a spider hanging from my hat, and I whipped off the hat to throw off the spider.  My hat strap must have caught my glasses and flung them off my face.  It took me a few minutes to guess the trajectory of the glasses and find them in the weeds along the trail.  That is one of the jobs of the early riser.  Spiders weave webs across the trail during the night and early risers clear them as they hike.

Past the campsite was a nice restaurant that, sadly, was not open for breakfast.  Across from that was a nice chapel and historical plaques describing local civil war battles.

Not far past there was the first monument to George Washington completed.  The trail passes right by it.  I climbed the squat tower and took in the view and cooling breeze.

The breeze didn't last long and the humidity and heat were back.  I did about the same distance as the day before but it felt harder.

Entering the North and Pennsylvania - the Mason - Dixon line.
Day 102 - This was going to be one of several long days ahead for me.  The terrain wasn't terrible and the humidity had dropped so it wasn't going to be too hard.

One minor highlight was High Rock with its view and high school graffiti.  Another bigger highlight was the Pen-Mar park and the crossing of the Mason - Dixon line.  I crossed into the North and left another state behind.  I was now in Pennsylvania or, as hikers like to call it, Rocksylvania.  The rocks on the trail would be getting worse as I headed North.

At the end of the 18.1 mile (29.1 km) day I ended in Tumbling Run Shelters which have a snoring and non-snoring shelters.  The one thing that made this place special was the privy which actually had toilet paper.  The lower humidity made this day easier than the prior fifteen mile days.

Day 103 - Another long day with lower humidity.

The first target of the day was the concession stand at the Caledonia State Park pool.  Unfortunately it was not open because they couldn't find a company to run it.  A nearby restaurant was also closed permanently.  A few hikers were depending on those places for food.  Fortunately I wasn't but they would have been a nice treat.

I made a brief rest stop at the Quarry Gap Shelter.  It was a great place.  A couple guys were doing maintenance.  There were flowers and benches. The porch swing would have been nice to rest in but I had more miles to do.

I reached the Birch Run Shelter at 19.6 miles (31.5 km) and was a bit tired.  I met Executioner here.  She discovered a Timber Rattler on the way to the privy.  We all started to take alternate routes to the privy.

Day 104 - Finally a short day.  I hiked a quick 9.8 miles (15.8 km) to Pine Grove Furnace State Park.   On the way Iu passed several markers for the Appalachian Trail (AT) mid point.  The AT varies in length due to detours and additions so the mid point changes every now and then.  If I were them I would make a portable marker and just move it when necessary.

Half Way Baby!!!
At the park general store they hold an ice cream eating challenge called the half gallon challenge.  It's kind of hokey since you have to pay for the ice cream and all you get if you complete it is a wooden ice cream spoon.  I'd planned to do it for many years but over the past few days I convinced myself that getting sick eating ice cream wasn't worth it.  Instead I watched Baby, Storm Chaser, Fish, Salamander, and Little Debbie compete instead.  Baby threw up but the others completed the challenge.  I ate a pint of cookie dough ice cream and was quite satisfied.

Hey!  A view!
Red Bush and Choo Choo showed up and I spent some time with them before they hiked on.

I stayed at the Ironmasters Mansion Hostel and visited the nearby AT Museum.  The hostel was part of the underground railroad.  There was a lot of history here.

I actually saw some stars here before I went to bed.  This had been a relaxing day with trail friends and felt ... nice.

Day 105 - The humidity returned as I left the state park.  In the guide book the terrain looks easy but I always struggle on the ascents.  I stop so many times while climbing hills.  It doesn't matter how little the hills are.

The small highlight of the day was a couple of rock mazes the trail has you crawl through - a sign of things to come in Rocksylvania.

Climbing through the rock mazes.
I reached Alec Kennedy Shelter which was my target for the day.  That is it was until I started thinking about the next town only four miles ahead.  I took a short nap at the shelter and woke up determined to go to Boiling Springs, PA.

I left the shelter and started over the last small hill.  No more than fifteen minutes had passed and I heard thunder.  I reached the top of Center Point knob the original mid point of the AT.  As I started down the knob the skies opened up and it poured rain.

The trail comes out by a corn field and follows fence lines until you arrive at the backpacker's campsite just outside of town.  I called a few B&Bs but they were full and there wasn't a hotel or hostel in this nice little town.

While I was in Boiling Springs there was always fog on the lake.
I put up my tent and walked into town for dinner.  I ran into Little Debbie and The Goat at the bar.  They were in the town B&B.  I ate a very slowly delivered pasta carbonara before I headed back to my tent.  Oh, did I mention that the train tracks pass twenty feet from the campsite?  Trains are very loud when they are that close.  Fortunately the last one I remember was at 10:40pm.  Apparently I slept through one around 3:30am.  I guess I was tired.

Day 106 - The 5:00am train woke me up.  I must of been tired since I got a pretty good night's sleep.  I got up, packed up my tent, and headed back in town.  I bought some minor resupply at a convenience store before hiking on.

Am I hiking Pennsylvania or Iowa?
This was by far the flattest part of the AT I've been on.  It was also the most exposed with walks along roads, fence lines, and across pastures.  This was a relatively short day on easy terrain and my butt was kicked.

Our first Appalachian Trail tunnel.
I ended the 14.7 mile (23.7 km) day at the Darlington Shelter with its Taj Mahal privy.  It was nice but not that nice.

Days 107, 108 & 109 - It had rained overnight and it was drizzling when I left the shelter.  It started to pour shortly after.  I met Mojo and her dog Stella Grace.

I arrived in Duncannon, PA soaking wet.  This was becoming a bad habit.  I'd entered the last three towns soaking wet.  I checked into the Doyle hotel.  This place is very interesting.  Opened in 1909 it has hardly been upgraded.  The food in the restaurant is excellent.  It costs $25 a night.  It has no air conditioning.

I was already planning a zero day in Duncannon.  The forecast pushed me to take another day.  They had heat indexes over 100℉ (38℃) forecasted.  I hate weather delays.  I always wonder if I'm being too cautious.  I do know that once again I caught up with people I like and once again I am going to be behind with a new group of strangers.

When I restart on Sunday it will be hot, humid, water will be scar e, and they say the rocks make an appearance in earnest.  And still I will hike on.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,149.0 Miles (1,849.1 km)
Section Distance: 128.4 Miles (206.6 km)
Section Elevation Up: 18,433 ft (5,618 m)
Section Elevation Down: 19,049 ft (5,806 m)