Monday, August 7, 2017

The end of one hike and the start of another

Our final days on the Superior Hiking Trail were a little less messy and more fruitful than previous parts of the trail. For Bill and I, thunderstorms became less frequent ensuring less mud on the trail (note I said "less mud"). We did get one major storm overhead one night that provided a continuous light and thunder show powerful enough to make us pray there wouldn't be an accompanying tornado. There's nothing like sleeping in my rain gear INSIDE my tent because the rain is hitting the ground so hard that it splashes up through the mesh under the rainfly. It was a wet night with very little sleep. Lucky for us, that storm didn't hit us before camp... although that was a close call. Bill and I found our first huge blueberry patch worth spending an hour picking for snacks. It was towards the end of our break when we noticed the thunderstorm coming in and we still had 3.5 miles to go before we got to the campground. It was a very fast hike to the end.

Berry picking in the last week became a popular event whenever we came across a large patch of berries. We found blueberries, raspberries, juneberries, thimbleberries, salmonberries, and wild strawberries along the way to the end of the trail. That's a lot of berry picking. We spent many hours bent over with our packs on, picking plump berries... Unplanned fun!

One of my planned stops on this trail was the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. As it turned out, the trail had to be detoured towards the park because of a bridge that was knocked out by a storm. Split Rock Lighthouse is near Split Rock, a rock formation a couple miles up the trail. We took a side trip up to see the rocks and take some selfies. This was definitely one of my favorite spots on the trail.

As we hiked south on the SHT, I thought that getting to Duluth, the biggest of the cities on the trail, would be disappointing. It was actually just the opposite. The trail walks into Duluth and goes right into a lake walk in the Canal Park area. There was so much to see and do, I wish we had more time. It was a beautiful walk!

Leaving Duluth, we only had 2 days of hiking left, and 1 more stop at the end of the trail southeast of Jay Cooke State Park. The end of the trail had recently been moved to the Wisconsin border adding some miles to hike. As the organization that oversees the trail told us, the North Country Trail will eventually connect to the SHT via a spur trail. That North Country Trail is over 4600 miles long stretching from New York to North Dakota.... No thanks!

So apparently I can't do any hike without doing at least one stupid thing... On the SHT that had to do with a McDonald's iced tea. On one of our last nights on the trail, we camped at Spirit Mountain campground, the only camping spot for over 20 miles in either direction. Well as we came out of the woods and arrived at Spirit Mountain, we noticed a McDonald's sign fairly close to the campground. Google said it was 1.2 miles away. I told Bill I was ready to get an iced tea and possibly some fries. So I walked down the road for my well needed rewards. When I walked in the front door of McDonald's, I realized I walked all that way without my wallet... so back to the campground I go... another 1.2 miles. When I got back to the campground I just couldn't let it go... so back to McDonald's I went to add another 2.4 miles to my log book for the day. The total 4.8 miles I hiked for iced tea and french fries seems silly now, but I remember being pretty happy about it at the time.

Bill and I finished the SHT trail on Wednesday, 26 July. We parted ways the next day as I got on a bus to the airport to make my way to Denver and my next adventure... The Colorado Trail!

I spent a few days around Denver to get acclimated, and drive into the Rockies to hike over 11,000 feet, a first for me.

I took a few good pictures while on my test hike, which included wide open views and a few marmots.

Now I'm on the Colorado Trail, able to put in big-mile days and dealing with daily thunderstorms. But so far, this is turning into one of my favorite hikes. I'm posting photos on Facebook... There will be many more as I can't get enough of this trail. More to come...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Welcome to Minnesota and the Miles of Mud

Getting on the trail
I almost had to fake my own death. I landed in Chicago from the first leg of my flight to find that my second flight to Minneapolis was cancelled. This was a major problem for me since my backpack was checked luggage and my buddy Bill was on his way to pick me up at the airport in Minneapolis. The airline had already booked me for a much later flight. As I talked to the agent about how my bag will supposedly make it to Minneapolis without me, I began to realize my options were thin. I needed my bag and I had to rent a car to get there. I didn't want to hold Bill up in town a full day waiting for me to arrive. So I asked the agent if I could get my bag since I had packed my insulin in it... And I really needed my insulin. The agent sent a simple request down to baggage to have it pulled from the luggage racks and delivered to baggage claim. I had my bag in 10 minutes and I was on my way to rent a car. Easy! I drove up to Duluth, Minnesota, met Bill, and we got to our campsite for the night. The next morning we met the shuttle and got on the trail.

The Superior Hiking Trail
We decided it would be best to hike this trail south bound since there is no cell service up north... it's very remote so it would have been hard to call for a shuttle pickup if we finished on the north end.

We learned quickly that the trail had some rugged spots mixed with tree roots, rocks, and mud... all the things I intended to miss in Vermont. The Appalachian Trail has many views, but over a long stretch, you may go days without a view. On the Superior Hiking Trail there are views around each corner. That includes views of Lake Superior, mountain ridges, water falls, and wild rivers. The weather here is also cooler by about 10 to 20 degrees. All pluses in my book! But then there's the mud, making it tough to get to these views. More on the mud later.

Another plus here is the wildlife. On the first day we saw our first bear, on the second a moose, on the third some deer, on the fourth beavers and loons... plus we've seen all sorts of animal tracks in the mud. We can tell there are also linx, bobcats, coyote, and wolves in the area. We know we'll see more. Then there are the mosquitoes... apparently the Minnesota state bird. I was also hoping to leave them behind in Vermont.

The towns along the trail seem real nice... touristy really. Some good food to be had here and the towns folk all seem to have a love for this area... and the outdoors. Every weekend here, the towns are packed with visitors, so we have to plan our stops accordingly so we don't have a problem getting a room somewhere. We also have to plan our camp spots since most of the good campsites are taken on the weekends... that just makes us hike to a more remote site. The problem with remote sites are.... The mosquitoes!!! They are so loud at night all I hear is a constant buzzing over my tent. I swear I have more bite marks than money in the bank.

Let's talk about mud
I don't even know where to begin. There is more mud here than all of the Appalachian Trail put together. Granted the mud season has been extended this year due to lots of rain, but that doesn't mean I need to walk through miles of mud... Oh yeah... It does. There have been sections where the mud makes up over 70% of the trail. In the other sections it's more like 65%... No really. It's been bad. I've taken several spills due to slipping, my shoes and socks all now have holes after only a week, and I got stuck really bad...up to my waist!!! My feet got sucked into about 3 feet of mud...then just to make the whole experience complete, I did a face plant.

On the lighter side, I've had many opportunities to take dips in the rivers and creeks... with all of my clothes and shoes on. This is a mess.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

What was I thinking?

Deja vu
As most of you know, I hiked the AT in 2012.  That included New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont.  Part of the reason I decided to hike this section again was because I don't remember some parts of Connecticut and forgot about most of Mass.  Why not do it again?  And I love hiking in the Bear Mountain and Harriman State Park area, so it was only fitting to start there.  And yes I wanted to spend the first couple hundred miles before the Long Trail (starts at the border of Mass/VT) to get into trail shape.  Well I did it!

But along the way I figured out why I like hiking that area of NY, why I couldn't remember CT or MA, and why I should have waited to do the Long Trail in the Fall.

The Appalachian Trail in NY is a bit unique in that there are many different views to be had.  The trails in Harriman SP are so beautiful, even with some of the climbs that tend to tear my knees up.  Even after you leave Harriman, the views don't stop.  I got another set of views across the Hudson from Anthony's Nose along with knee damage that sent my pain receptors into maximum overdrive during the climb.  After that there are more views over Fahnestock SP and Canopus Lake, where I got to rest up before pending thunderstorms rolled in.

In addition to the views, I can't forget about the occasional deli that the hikers run into.  Always fun to be had when a bunch of hikers roll in on the deli for food and drinks. Against my better judgement on minimizing pack weight, I carried a huge can of blackberry flavored malt liquor for 10 miles until I could make camp.  It was so good that I got the hiccups after two big swigs and had to go lay down in my tent for the rest of night.  New York was fun.

Connecticut was a different story.  I had remembered that the climbs really started again in CT.  The AT has minimal climbs from North Virginia through NY.  Once hikers hit CT, they tend to get reacquainted with the never ending ups and downs.  CT still has the rocks like PA and NY, but it adds tree roots in the way and presents hikers with more challenging climbs and descents down steep rock faces... all while being chased by the southern New England mosquitoes.  It was in CT that I suddenly remembered that the biting insects really start to pick up.  Deet is not my friend, but on this trip it was a critical item.

CT did also provide some really nice towns to stop in while hiking though.  Falls Village was probably my favorite little spots.  I stayed in an Air BnB there and treated myself to dinner and a couple drinks while I took in a history lesson on the town itself, which includes a deep history in car racing.  Also little known fact, there are several well known actors/actresses that have second homes in Falls Village for both its distance from city life and its proximity to the cities themselves.

Massachusetts was the state that made me stop and think more on my 2012 hike.  I wanted to hike in Mass again because I couldn't remember most of the state besides Upper Goose Pond and Mount Greylock.  When I looked back on my hike of the AT I realized that I didn't remember most of Mass because there was nothing to remember.  Actually I had blocked it all out... the rocks, the roots, the mud, the mosquitoes, the deer flies, the humidity, and the constant wet sweaty feeling that didn't go away because I was hiking in the middle of the summer.  The worst part is that were not many views to sit and enjoy.  Mass did me no favors other than getting me back into trail shape.

Constant thoughts of the trail getting worse in Vermont were now on my mind.  But wait, I'm supposed to be getting ready for the Long Trail.  That was my goal.  Actually my goal was to hike long distances to enjoy myself and help get me back into shape.  I wasn't sure of the Long Trail was going to just push me to succeed or push me over the edge.

I decided to call a friend to have him either encourage me or talk me down, Bill, my hiking partner I met 5 years ago on Springer Mountain.  He laughed at me and said, "I wondered why you were doing that crap all over again."  Then he mentioned another trail in Minnesota, the Superior Hiking Trail that runs along the north shore of Lake Superior.  It's longer than the Long Trail by about 40 miles, not as tough, but still has all the elements of a tough but rewarding hike with lots of views.

Now I had a decision to make... stay on track for the Long Trail and not be so happy about it or do another trail that may be even more rewarding.

I opted out of the Long Trail and in for the Superior Hiking Trail!  And why shouldn't I? It's my time on the trail and I want to enjoy it.

That said and despite some rain, I did have some good days on the trail... and off.  The weather on some days that followed the rain were cool and breezy (my favorite).  There was one big day of hiking (20+ miles) that got me into Dalton, Mass where the biggest Prime Rib waited for me, as well as a needed day off from hiking.

After getting of the trail for few days, I'm headed out west to Minnesota for the next leg of my trip. When I get done with the Superior Hiking Trail, I'm off to Colorado to do the biggest hike this year.

This will be fun!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The first big week

Reliving New York

I always loved hiking around Harriman State Park. So I set out on my hike the ridge before Bear Mountain with the goal of getting up Anthony's Nose, across the Hudson. It was a great day to hike...I had just forgotten what it was like to carry 30 pounds on my back.

Most of my first day was uneventful, until I started climbing Anthony's Nose. I don't know if I was sick of seeing thruhikers pass me by up the step climb or if it just was over doing it. Probably thce latter.  By the time I got to the top I had sustained several injuries, mainly my right knee. Great, as if I don't go slow enough.

I managed to camp not far from Anthony's Nose and rested up.

The next day was another nice day. I managed to pull a long day over 17 miles (which didn't help my knee at all) and camped with some hikers I met earlier in the day. My knee pain had then moved up to my hip... Not good. I'm keeping my eye on it at this point.

The next couple days, I hiked shorter distances in hopes of the knee and hip feeling better. It seemed to work.

I've only hiked about 67 miles or so, even shuttled up a bit to try make sure I stick with my schedule. I would like to be at least in Vermont by Wednesday next week. Right now I'm in Connecticut headed for Mass. I hope to be there on 2 and half days.

What I've learned so far
Lentils are tricky when you don't measure the water. I spent some time before my trip preparing to try out food on the trail. Lentils soaked in cold water took about 45 minutes to get least during my tests.

On her the other night, I was camped by myself and had open the lentils meal I prepped. First thing I couldn't help but notice was that I put WAY too much garlic salt in the mix. My bag of food was stinking up EVERYTHING. This makes me a little nervous because I didn't know what the bear situation was like around here. All I wanted to do was eat this smelly mess before I had to worry about bears.

Well needless to say my lentils would not work with me. They refused to soften up.  I waited for about 2 hours before I put the crap meal into 4 different ziplock bags to cover the odor.  The garlic was stuck in my nose, even while I tried to sleep... With one eye open all night.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Hiking We Will Go

New found time for a needed break
Here it is Mid-June already.  I’ve managed to save up some vacation and can afford additional time off.  Initially I had hoped to do a long trail this year, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  However, taking that long off (4.5 months) seemed risky work-wise.  Let’s face it, leaving a good job is not easy.  So, after an honest conversation with my bosses on my plans, they agreed I could take the time off, with the potential for being back with the company in October in a different location.  That is all good news for me.  I will be taking a good amount of time off to hike then.

So then why not the PCT this year?  Well the total time off was not just a problem for work, but for the costs associated with that time off.  I still have bills to pay.  The least amount of time off the better on the costs.

Then there’s the third reason… it’s the snow!  It would seem that California received more snow along those mountains than…. EVER!  Record snow falls.  Well that just means that I’d be taking more than 4.5 months to finish the PCT and it would probably cost more money.  It would also cost more in gear and possibly training in snow hiking skills.  That is not how I plan to hike the PCT.  I’ll do one day, just not this year.

So, the question remains, where we going?
I have scoured over maps, websites, blogs, guidebooks, and more websites to discover several trails that I would love to do.  Some have different requirements that others as far as time of year to start or the logistics in resupply options.  Others had few towns in between the greenways or dirt paths. 

My plan required that I layout my criteria for trails to hike in order to make a decision on where.  The first and most important criterion was that I can finish the trail this season in less than 4 months (16 weeks).  The second criterion was that I hike trails that have hostels or cheap hotel options in towns.  This all about hiking on a budget.

After going over several options, the vast part of my plan includes hiking a couple hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail up to Vermont where the Long Trail starts (first 100 miles coincides with the AT), then continue along the LT until the end at the border of Canada.  After that, I’ll be getting ready to fly to Colorado to hike the Colorado Trail.  One of my hiking friends from the AT in 2012 (Rainbow) is planning on meeting me there so we can start at the same time.  We’re both excited.

Since I’m not sure about the in-between time from the LT to the CT, I may have an extra week or so to do another small trail or two.  On the hit list are the Cranberry 50 and the Northville-Placid Trail.  Keeping my fingers crossed I get done in time with the Long Trail.

Prepping gear, going ultralight?
My backpack has been packed and repacked, and repacked again and again and again.  I’ve made so many changes to the way I’m packing it hurts.  I’m using a new backpack that is an ultralight pack, however the weight in the pack is not quite ultralight.  I think my base weight is right around 18 pounds.  I’m not carrying anything that I would call extra… maybe except for a down pillow I made… and a razor and some blades (I did cut the razor handle down to save weight)… and my hiker’s umbrella… and a small sit pad… yes, it all adds up.  I’ll eventually figure out what I’m using over the first couple weeks and will ship it back home to save a pound or two.

Again, it’s mid-June.  I should have started a few days ago but since I got sick last week with Strep Throat, I decided it would be a better decision to wait until I knew I felt 100%.

That takes me down to tomorrow… my new start date.  I will be northbound going over some of the terrain I either slept through on the AT in 2012 or I just can’t seem to remember much about.  There are some highlights I remember from this section of the AT that I can’t wait to see again, like Bear Mountain, the Ten Mile River, Upper Goose Pond and most of MA, Stratton Pond, Bromley Mountain, and Killington Peak.  I may even end up in a familiar town somewhere in VT (READ A PAST BLOG).

No matter what comes at me this time, it’s time for that adventure to begin.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Cliff Notes

I have been a delinquent! I have not been able to provide any blogs while I was in some of the towns during the last half of my trip. Getting internet was just too difficult.

I’ve had some friends asking what happened. And still, I have yet to get any more information out there, other than posting some pictures on Facebook. I’m sorry to those who have been waiting to hear more about my trip. Here’s the quick version:

I finished the trail on Wednesday October 7th. I arrived in Altamont, NY at around 12:30 in the afternoon after hiking 15 miles that day. The day before, I hiked my biggest day putting in about 27 miles so I could have a short day to finish and travel back to NJ.

The time in between my last blog: I hiked through the Central Catskills, which hurt like #@%&, and made it Palenville, NY where I had to stay for a couple days due to weather. I feared the hurricane was going to end my hike, but it didn’t, so I pressed on. I had many road walks with beautiful weather and good terrain…nothing to complain about except that the trip was coming to an end.

I’ll write more on how I managed to keep going and the folks I met soon. Each blog will have more pictures posted to make up for I didn’t post before.

More to come…

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Beautiful trail from the Shawangunks to WHAT THE...

So how do I say this?

What was I thinking!?!?!?  I've been in the Catskills for a few days now and it has been great, good, bad, tough, and a flat out nightmare. I remember hiking the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains and it not being THIS hard. Southern Maine was tough...this feels a little like southern Maine...looks like it too from time to time. I am now convinced that the "trails" in NY are ALL placed over all the rocks in the state. I feel like I've spent the last couple days rock climbing instead of hiking.  It's been a slow moving trip through here.

On the AT, there were many rewards in a hard days hike, such as the cool breezes and many overlooks to sit and look out on.  In the Catskills, most of the mountain tops are wooded and have no views. I've already hit some of the hardest and highest peaks so hopefully the workload will get easier... I HOPE. I do have the Devil's Path ahead of me. It looks and sounds hard, but there are a great many views to be had there.  I'm expecting good things no matter how hard it is.

Before the Catskills,  I spent a few days in the Shawangunk ridge areas. BEAUTIFUL! All of it! My favorite parts of the trail so far are in that area, the best being Sam's Point Preserve. Another area I loved was the Basha Kill Rail-to-Trail. Most rail-to-trails are paved over for bicyclists. This one remained a trail near swamp and marshy areas. 13 miles into my hike I found the Basha Kill Winery across from the trail...hence the picture of the glass of wine. :)

I had a bonus visit form Lindsay this weekend. She picked me from the trail yesterday and will be dropping me off again today. Last I saw here was in Highpoint, NJ.  About 20 minutes after seeing her, I saw a bear on the trail. He ran off before I could get a picture however.

I haven't seen too many other bears on this trip in NY, but the trip is not over yet. I did have a visit at my tent the other night by a black furry little kitten, then by a stray beagle the next morning.  Both were cute and a welcome surprise.

OK I'm off for more fun (work) climbing these mountains.