Monday, November 3, 2008

500 Trail Miles....!

This is the lovely view from our warm toasty room in downtown Stroudsburg, PA on Saturday morning. Cute Husband and I were meeting our shuttle, the famous George Lightcap for a 25 miler in the lovely state of New Jersey for one of our coldest hikes to date.

And, meeting George was the best way to start any hike!

George is an A.T. section hiker, a literature teacher at Vernon High School and the guardian of Murray, The Tin Foil Ball.

If we didn't have a hike to do, we would have loved spending hours chatting with George in a warm coffee bar.

Oh, the Vernon High School students are soooo lucky to have this man as a teacher!George presented us each with a string of Murray beads (named for The Tin Foil Ball) for good hiking karma and dropped us at High Point State Park.
Apparently, they had gotten a little snow up this way.

It was actually perfect day hiking weather.
Highs in the low 50s, crystal clear with patches of snow that had already melted on the trail.
It was not perfect sleeping weather.
We landed at the Gren Anderson Shelter an hour or so before darkness fell.
And, then it got cold.
Really cold....

We crawled into our tent at the outlandish hour of 7PM and were actually quite cocooned and somewhat warm.
But, after drinking gallons of water through a Camelback all day, there was no way we could make it through the night without using the facilities.
Breaking the tent seal.
Bad idea when the temperatures were in the 20s.
Cold can actually feel like a creepy finger that sneaks into your sleeping bag and runs down your spine.
How, how, how do people sleep in temperature below zero?

Condensation build up from a lot of heavy breathing in the BirdCouple tent.
Nothing warms up the body in the morning like a cup of Cute Husband's instant coffee and some hot cereal.

And reading the local news in the trail journal format.

The shelter journal had lots of mention of the fabulous privy at the Gren Anderson Shelter...

We packed up and headed out enjoying another clear day and the last pieces of fall in New Jersey.
We ended the day stumbling over rocks, searching for white blazes with our head lamps on in cold complete darkness.
The perfect adventure!
The perfect way to knock off our year goal of 100 miles and bust through the 500 mark!
Already hungry for our first 2009 hike...

Monday, October 6, 2008

BirdCouple Walked Across PA!

Cute Husband and I were really looking forward to finishing Pennsylvania.

Not that we don't love our neighbor to the North.

We are just not crazy about the rock pile that is the AT in PA.

The foot bruising, punishing rock pile that is PA.

A good chunk of PA would have been impossible without the help of our shuttle, Scott of Ye Olde Backpacker .

His shop is full of hiker goodies if you are in the Port Clinton area.

And, if you need a ride and good laugh, he is dependable for both.

Ask him to tell you the story of his chicken farm...Warren and I had perfect weather with the first signs of fall in the air for our 2 day 25 mile hike.

We started hiking North from Fox Gap with six miles left to reach the New Jersey border.

Ha! Goodbye sharp pointy Pennsylvania rocks!

It felt like we were running to the border, the anticipation was so great!

The white blaze led us over the Delaware River where if you looked to the right you saw this:

And, if you looked left: After a scenic mile of diesel fumes it was time to celebrate!
New Jersey! A new state!
And, as odd as it sounds, the trail did change drastically as we headed over the border. Cascading streams welcomed us as we made our way up to the Backpacker's site. Views of the Delaware Water Gap. And, I quick shout out to my gal pal Vencka who grew up near this wonderous area!Bears are plentiful in NJ.
That added a bit of drama to each turn in the trail and each noise off the trail.

But, when we landed at the backpacker's site, we found pure luxury.

Most of the tent sites have spectacular views. Bear safes and poles for hanging are throughout the area.

And... there was actual grass instead of rocks to sleep on!

We found the perfect spot and had a few minutes to lounge and watch a warbler feasting above us.

Then, what looked to be a Merlin, swooped in missing our almost identified warbler by millimeters.

What a show!

Cute Husband sets up the traveling LoveNest on the soft grass at the ridge of the mountain. Cute Husband filters water. Cute Husband prepares dinner. I honestly have no idea what I did during this whole period of time.

We slept like babies, despite a non-forecasted rain shower and woke to fog and clouds breaking.

On to Sunfish Pond!Sigh.
Praying Mantis.
Middle of the trail.
Stood his ground with dukes up as we passed.

To add to the perfection of the hike, we randomly came across a hawk watch in the middle of the AT!
This is the view from the Raccoon Ridge Watch and the dedicated counters were just getting started as the day heated up. The owl decoy allows for some up close raptor sightings as the passing hawks will dive bomb the owl as they migrate through.

Oh, it was hard to tear away from the clear views off the mountain, the constant bird talk and bins everywhere.... But we needed to keep moving ...10 miles remained before sunset. New Jersey is gorgeous!

Bogs and ponds and lakes and clear vistas with views of forest canopy for as far as the eye can see.
Tasty berry waiting for Mr. Bear.

Warren got a quick glimpse of a bear on the run.

It is such a treat to see one of these amazing animals. The habitat and miles of woodland along the trail in NJ gives these creatures some much needed elbow room.
Catfish Mountain Fire Tower.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Apparently there are A LOT of Rocks in PA

Fox Gap to Lehigh Gap.
30 some miles in 2 days.
BirdCouple's biggest hiking challenge to date!

This is a picture of the trail with very little rocks.
In fact, the rocks in this picture are rather smooth and flat.
We could have laid down and napped on these wimpy little smooth rocks.
We didn't get many pictures of the sharp, jagged, toe busting rocks. Probably because we were too focused on avoiding taking a header on them.

Cute Husband summed up the AT in North East PA.... "I don't mind rocks in the trail. I do mind when rocks are the trail."But, we are doing the WHOLE trail. All 2175 miles of it, with a goal of 100 miles per year. So, there will be no skipping the painful parts.

With Warren's perfect planning, we headed North on Friday evening, crashed in a hotel and met our shuttle driver, Scott, of Ye Olde Backpacker at Lehigh Gap Saturday morning for the drop at Fox Gap.

If you are near Port Clinton and need gear, Scott is the man to see.

We love his motto:

Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave in a well preserved body, but to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, wow what a ride.

Cute Husband. Checking gear.
Ready to skid in sideways.

And, we were totally worn out after 13 miles of continuous, unending, uninterrupted rock-ness.
Always rocks!
You would think (and I did) that there is no way that the Earth could possibly have 13 miles of sharp rock.
It does.
It is the AT going South from Fox Gap.

This is a simulation of what happened to my foot about 10 billion times walking to the Leroy Smith Shelter.

Did you know that you can actually walk on rocks long enough to cause a fist size blister on the bottom of your foot?
But once we offloaded our packs at the Shelter life was pretty good... That is until I couldn't find the spring to filter water in total darkness and we contemplated life without coffee in the morning.
Then we contemplated life without water for the next 4 miles of rock.

Cute Husband saved the day the next morning when he discovered the 3rd (and only running) spring a 1/2 mile from the shelter...

We re-hydrated, got pumped with caffeine and packed up the traveling LoveNest.

Day 2 was the real challenge.
16 miles ending with the climb down to Lehigh Gap.
The rocks seemed less abundant and perhaps a little less sharp as we journeyed South.
Our feet were hamburger-like but happier. It was a picture perfect day and the views traveling to Lehigh Gap were worth all those silly little stones that got in the way.
Poke Berry in full ripe. We went through a field of blooming golden rod and had the pleasure of meeting a non-BirdCouple honey bee.

Scott had warned us about the lack of water enroute to Lehigh Gap and we had stashed a gallon at Little Gap.

Good thing. No H2O at Delp Spring.

Cute Husband checks the maps and calculates water supply as I check out the amazing views.

The most random things happen on the AT.

For example, when this guy parasailed right by us at eye level as we were on the top of the mountain. And here we are on top of Blue Mountain.

Happily hiking through the remains of a barren Superfund cleanup site.

Note the setting sun.

And this is where it got a little dicey.

See, we still had to climb down the steep bald face of Blue Mountain.

A 1,000 foot rock scramble down with black toes, blistered feet, exhausted bodies, no water and very little light.

There was the white blaze that pointed to the sky as your next step.

There was the rock scramble where we threw our hiking sticks down the cliff so we could use every appendage to hold on to the mountain.

There was the part where a strap on my bag got wedged between two rocks. The more I pulled the tighter it got. I thought I was going to be Turkey Vulture food or cause a rock avalanche.

As complete darkness fell, we hit the tree-line of SuperFund mountain...

Totally worn out, shouting, WOW what a ride!
I love this guy.