Monday, July 23, 2007

BACKPACKERS!

Good Medicine.


That's how our shuttle driver, Rodney describes hiking.


Cute Husband and I were off for some good medicine and our first overnight of the season.

28 miles in the Shenandoah Valley.


I don't think we could have picked a better weekend for a hike in July in VA. Our longest day of hiking with 17 miles. Camp at the Pinefield Shelter with 11 miles to follow on Sunday.


This meant pedal to the metal. Boot to the mountain.



The only problem is that there are birds. And, always so much to see, to hear, to inspect.... No way could you just cruise right by this guy. Turk's-cap Lily (Lilium superbum).



Or this beauty. Jewelweed.



Jewelweed is also called Touch-me-not because its seed pods explode when touched. Jewelweed is used as home remedy to treat poison ivy rashes.

There is a saying that goes "Wherever poison ivy is found, Jewelweed grows close by". I don't know. We've seen a ton of poison ivy, but not enough Jewelweed.
The yellow species of Jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) is common at higher elevations.


Higher elevations.
That makes sense. It felt like we hiked up most of the time. Queen Anne's Lace or Wild Carrot. Tiger Swallowtail on the last blooms of Milkweed.


Monarch on Milkweed leaves. A beautiful Bald Faced hornet nest. The Bald Faced Hornet is actually a larger yellow jacket, and not a true hornet.
Ok, enough with the flowers.....


We also saw lots of scat!

If poop pictures gross you out, please stop here.

I happen to find it quite fascinating and we found several varieties right in the middle of the trail.

Bear scat. Scat from a pretty large bear.




According to this website, it may be important "to identify scat of bears that have been feeding on meat so that you can use this as a sign to leave the area, or at least to be very vigilant. When bears are feeding on meat, the scat is usually black and runny and there may be some hair visible."

We didn't see any hair.



A raccoon most likely left this berry filled scat on the side of the trail. Droppings are often left in raccoon restrooms which the raccoon will repeatedly visit and may be a way of staking out a territory.


I thought this was some sort of owl pellet. Owls swallow their prey whole and then regurgitate the indigestible parts such as fur or bones. I'm not quite sure, though... so any help would be appreciated.

And then we had lunch.


Trader Joe Wraps. The lunch of hiking champions. TJ Wraps eaten while digesting this view.


Cute Husband uses an AT map to verify that Highttop Mountain is appropriately named. I preferred to call it $%%^$%# mountain. Look! No urban sprawl in sight!




Hiking in the Shenandoah affords many beautiful overlooks. This view was also accessible by a short hike up a "blue" blaze and was crowded with day hikers and families.



As we trudged by a family, a girl yelled at the top of her lungs--- BACKPACKERS!!!! Talk about making us feel like superstars!

Yes, that's us... BACKPACKERS... sleeping on the ground...carrying all our needs on our back....making water potable.... living off the land..... for days and days.... (ok, for two days).


We met a section hiker with the trail name Rain Man from Tennessee. Rain Man was hiking the park with his daughter who had thru-hiked several years before, but chose to water blaze around the park. Meaning she canoed, rather than hiked through it.



We slept by the stream at the Pine Hut Shelter. A herd of deer were our alarm clock.


Honestly, Cute Husband had to chase them away so we could get out of the tent without being trampled.



I fought off 10 bears to provide a wholesome breakfast for Warren.



Well, I would have fought off 10 (teddy) bears if they had showed up.


We did see a beer later on Hightop Mountain (AKA $$%^%^ Mountain). He was traveling above us as the trail circled the mountain. It was our best look at a beer to date. He was traveling North as we traveled South and he wasn't the least bit frightened.

He stopped to stare at us. We stopped to stare at him.
We moved on before he could whip out his camera and take a picture of us.


Get off me backpack.

Look! Not a Walmart in sight.


Warren, King of the Mountain.



The view from Hightop was amazing and worth the aerobic workout. It was our last big climb of the hike. As sore, tired and smelly as we were, we found ourselves slowing down just to eck out the last bit of hiking goodness before we got to the car.


It will probably be weeks before we can get back on the trail.....






Oh, why must we work?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Have boots. Will travel.


Warren treated me to the best anniversary gift this year.

Cute Husband gave me Georgia!


We shacked up with the most fab Mom in the South, her cute husband and their creation (and my new best buddy) in Atlanta for a few days of Hotlanta sights.


And, if too much fun with Avery Lane was not enough to keep me floating, Warren also hooked us up for our first AT hike in the great state of Georgia.

We were unsure of what to expect from the trail, terrain and boiling weather in GA, so we (ok, Warren) planned a short 9 mile day hike.

Our plan was to drop our rental car at the Springer Mountain Parking Lot and find a ride to our hike start and travel backwards to the very beginning of the Appalachian Trail.

We found that ride through the AT Shuttle List. Leigh and her husband thru-hiked in 2000 and now run a hostel for hikers and mountain bikers.


It was perfect hiking weather and the trail was breathtaking. Ravines full of ferns. Valleys of blooming rhododendrons. The sound of a mountain stream and a lovely waterfall dropped right in the middle of it all.

Sigh.

The lush habitat also supported a healthy population of nesting warblers. Black and White Warbler, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green......


It was a treat to see these guys outside of migration and we were challenged by remembering songs and calls we hadn't heard since May.




Yup. I could live here.




Cute husband in the middle of the woods in the middle of Georgia.
Ok, this wasn't exactly taken on the AT. The Aquarium was also a super cool GA attraction. Seriously.
This is it.
This is the very first white blaze that marks the Appalachian Trail.
It was super weird not seeing another blaze further in the distance. The plaque reads "A footpath for those who seek fellowship with the wilderness"



That's us!

Our next walk in the woods is back up North. Warren is planning something fun for Virginia.




As a footnote: Despite what you read here, hikers do not like to "tie one on before hiking", but rather they like to properly hydrate before hiking.




Thanks to the Queen of Fun (oh, I am missing you Paige) for putting us up, making us insanely tasty jambalaya and introducing us to the love that is Avery.


We're going to make that child a nerdy birder yet....

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

We met a guy named Mayo

Mayo is a thru-hiker who really really enjoys mayonnaise. Apparently, his fiance sends him single serving packages (by the 500 count) for a squirt of nutrition along the trail.


Warren, Adam and I hiked the "Roller Coaster" in Virginia last Sunday and what a ride it was!



Straight up, straight down. Sharp turn left, bank right.



Adam carried all the "trail magic" (strawberry and blueberry organic cereal bars) for thru-hikers.

Northbounders hike from Springer Mountain to Katahdin in one continuous journey. We met so many Northbounders on this hike, that we actually ran out of treats.

Adam was deemed King of the Mountains by many a grateful hiker.

We also met a thru-hiker named Turtle. Turtle looked to be in his mid-sixties and in amazing shape. Each year we see more and more thru-hikers who are doing the journey after retirement and raising a family. I love that inspiration!


Eastern Box Turtle. Not thru-hiking, but climbing straight up the mountain. No switch backs for this guy. I am guessing this is a male. Male box turtles usually have bright red or orange colored eyes while the eyes of the females are usually dark red or brown. Male box turtles also have a slight depression in the middle of their lower shells while that of the female is flat. Cute Husband without his 50lb day pack.



Mile 3


Mile 12. When does this mountain end?


For all the ups and downs, the Roller Coaster was one of our most beautiful hikes to date.
Birdcouple is off to Georgia!
We are visiting the hippest gold lame wearing Mommy in the South and to meet the famous Avery Lane.
As an added bonus, we are going to step foot and on Springer Mountain! The southern tip of the AT!
According to our new Southern Half of the AT in the Chattahoochee National Forest Map:
"....some of the most challenging miles of the 14 state route. Do not underestimate the difficulty of the terrain and the possibility of sudden heavy rains."
We hear you. 8 mile day hike is the plan.
Oh, I can not wait!