Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Logistics and Another Wet Walk....

Oh, the plan was perfect!

Cute Husband was in New York to report on the U.N General Assembly.
And the plan was for me to drive up and pick him up at the Trenton Amtrak station on Friday afternoon and head back North and then start hiking.

Unfortunately, news kept my guy from meeting me until late Friday evening in Trenton and we ended up shacking up in a hotel in NY rather than a tent in NY.

Fortunately, our pal, Shamrock was able to shuttle us Saturday morning to the start of a 25+ mile walk to finish out 2009.

Dry cool weather and Fitzgerald Falls welcomed us on the first day... See, I'm still dry!

Do those look like rain clouds to you?

There were also the first hints of leaves changing and fall sounds as we climbed and appreciated the view.

As always, we come across the most wonderful things on the AT...

And happy surprises such as this trail magic left by the Tuxedo Trail Runners.

Yes, New York state is rugged.
The trail through this section of New York included loads of short, almost vertical climbs through some huge rock dumps.
There is a little rock pile with the lovely name of Agony Grind.
We tenderly negotiated down this giant rock scramble hugging huge boulders, clinging to pine saplings and shoving our hiking boots in tiny crevasses... thanking the hiking gods that it wasn't raining.
It also includes the famous Lemon Squeezer.
Pretty sweet entrance, right?
The path through the Lemon Squeezer is a one foot wide and three feet high.
We laughed as we literally squeezed through the passage with our packs.
We laughed and took pictures until we turned around and faced the 12 foot high vertical rock wall that followed being squeezed.
My heart pounding, I followed in Cute Husband's foot steps and managed to not topple on my noggin as we reached the top.
Dang, at least it wasn't raining!
Information is so important on the trail.
We get all excited when we see something in the distance that indicates information.
Too much information would feel bill board like... NY City like... but a little information... good.
Hey, Katahdin is only 793 miles away?!
We landed at the Fingerboard Shelter, which was a super fine accommodation which boasted not one, but two fireplaces.
The shelter was full to the brim with other section hikers, so we planted the traveling LoveNest on some high ground, enjoyed a quick dinner and climbed in just as the rain started.
I love rugged Cute Husband! He remembered the hand warmers!
It rained all night, but kindly stopped in time for us to pack up and eat a warm breakfast.

We also celebrated another great year of hiking and making our yearly 100 mile goal!

600 total trail miles!
I think we saw just a tiny bit of admiration on the faces of the thru hikers we passed going South when we bragged about passing the 600 mile mark.
There are few things more wonderful than achieving a goal!
And, achieving one with someone you love!
Even if you celebrate all day in the pouring down rain...
We reached the top of Bear Mountain and checked out Perkins Tower as we prepared for the journey down the mountain on tingey sore knees.
There has been an amazing amount of work completed by an amazing group of volunteers on the trails around Bear Mountain.
Erosion control and restoration by the New York- New Jersey Trail Conference is evident as you descend the mountain.
Thanks for all you do for us out-of-state hikers that enjoy the trail!
Cute Husband and I got to the base of Bear Mountain just as darkness fell.
We checked into the stone cabins at Bear Mountain Inn, showered and rushed to a great BBQ joint in time to chow and enjoy a few beers to celebrate.
We woke the next day to a beautiful dry day and strolled (pack free) around Hessian Lake at the base of Bear Mountain.

We summitted this guy...!

Now to wait for months for the hiking season to begin again...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Out Came the Sun and Dried Up All the Rain (Eventually...)

Change is often hard. Change is often sad. Change may require some intense therapy.

Cute Husband and I dropped off young Adam at Virginia Tech to begin his first year of college.


Oh, sure, he was excited and thrilled to start at the university of his choice. He unpacked his college life and created his dorm room as we stood watching and offering silly adult advice.

Maybe you should put your socks in the smaller drawer ----or if you put your computer here, you won't get too tangled in the wires--- or see these hooks? That is where you hang your towel.

After a few hours of this, Adam proclaimed himself adult and gave us the boot.

We walked out of his dorm room and across campus. See the duck pond, Honey? I bet he takes a girl for a romantic walk there someday.

I hope he remembers what a Mallard looks like, so he can impress her with his bird knowledge.

For the time being, little Adam didn't need us.

We drove out of the campus (searching to see if we could still see his dorm room window) and headed for the mountains.



Perhaps the best kind of therapy.

Cute Husband planned the perfect hike which started with a very short walk into the woods to the Thunder Hill Shelter. We (Cute Husband) unpacked and set up the traveling LoveNest while the sun was still high in the sky.

It was one of the few nights that we got into camp early enough to enjoy a few hours of daylight before dinner.

It was also one of the few hikes that packing a little extra weight seemed reasonable.

Pinot Noir from rubber-like camp cups. We clicked rubber and toasted Adam. We endlessly wondered what he was doing at that exact moment.

We enjoyed some lovely dehydrated food which went perfectly with the red I had selected.

We checked out the fine artwork in the privy.

Hail to you, Queen Becky!

Anyone that could spend that much time in a privy working on their art deserves a bow!

As the evening progressed, we were joined by other section hikers who decided to set up camp outside the shelter.

Possibly, because by this time, we had spread BirdCouple gear throughout and left very little inviting space in the shelter....

The rain started as night fell and continued almost until dawn. In the morning, our shelter mates were (luckily) mostly dry and unfazed and excited as we were to start hiking North.

See why I call him Cute Husband?

We put our boots to the mountain to start the 16+ mile walk to the John's Hollow Shelter and the rain decided to return.

A nice steady four hour walk in the rain.

I sang the Itsy Bitsy Spider song as we passed MovieTime, one of our camp mates at the last shelter.

Eventually, the sun did come up and dried some of the rain off our soggy gear.

The sun also gave us our first views of the James River from above.

We just needed to get down there, cross the river and hike up a tiny hill to the shelter.

Even this box turtle looked like he was over the rain.

Voila! The James River after 4 (or was it 6?) more hours of hiking.

It did feel like a huge achievement when we crossed the foot bridge over Virginia's largest river.

Oh, the places the AT takes us!

Teenagers were jumping from the bridge as we passed. One of the girls asked us where we had hiked from. We pointed to a mountain in the distance.

"Wow", she said in the cutest little Southern accent.

After we had completely impressed the teens hanging on the bridge with our exploits, we sauntered (ok, limped) across the bridge as an Osprey (a new AT bird!) flew over us and a train chugged by on the opposite bridge.

We made it to John's Hollow Shelter and peeled off wet socks and clothes and crashed.

The next morning was sunny and dry and gave us the opportunity to actually see what a lovely spot we had landed in the night before.

Cute Husband creates coffee.

Cute Husband explains to me the importance of properly caffeinating before climbing big mountains.
See why I call him Cute Husband? And, it was a climb.

Two big climbs with more views of the James.

All I have to say is that the map didn't lie.

Ok, this is not the actual map, but (divide by 2) it does have some similiar aspects.
Apparently, mushrooms can survive at these high altitudes without oxygen.
We passed the spot that marked where a 4 year old's body had been found in 1891 after she strayed from her school and we added a rock to her memorial.

We stopped at the top of our last climb and stared in silence and breathed deep.

We miss you Adam!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Guillotine, Apple Orchard Mountain and 99 Beers on the Wall...

Cute Hubby and I were thrilled when Adam selected Virginia Tech as his college of choice.

Not only is it an excellent and well loved university, but the campus is super close to miles of yet un-hiked portions of the AT!

We made the 5 1/2 hour trek last week to get Hokie oriented and then ... well... since we were in the neighborhood... we decided to put some AT miles on our boots!

Warren planned the perfect hike that got us on the trail after orientation ended and off the trail early on the 3rd day for the ride home.

20+ miles of fun that started with The Guillotine...
The trail leads under a very large boulder which thankfully remained suspended as the Cute One and I hiked through. Then up to the summit of Apple Orchard Mountain, the highest point on the AT from Chestnut Knob in the South to Mt. Moosilauke in New Hampshire.

Nope, the mountain wasn't named because of fields of apple orchards, but rather for the stunted appearance of the trees on the summit.

Harsh conditions and strong winds on top of the mountain prune the trees all winter long making a forest of dwarf trees.

The view was spectacular from the summit as we sang "Top of the world...."

In fact, this may have been one of our most beautiful hikes to date.

Walking through the George Washington National Forest with mature timber and moss covered rocks. Sigh....

The trail in this section is also beautifully maintained.
A big thanks to all the trail club volunteers that maintain and steward the AT, while keeping the trail natural.
In particular much thanks to, the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club for the superb work on this section.
And, while we are at it, a big shout out to Appalachian Trail Conservancy for all the work they do to protect the trail.
Without their hard work and efforts to conserve areas around the trail, there would probably be very little wild in the wilderness on the 2,175 mile walk.
We hiked the remander of the day passing Apple Orchard Falls Trail where we could hear a group of day hikers singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall.

They were on 34.

I'm happy!

We pitched the traveling LoveNest at Cornelius Creek Shelter and settled in for a short nap before dinner.
My guy loves his gear and his new shelter shoes.
Two Barred Owls serenaded us throughout the night.
The following morning, we stopped to admire the architecturally unique Bryant Ridge shelter, about 5 miles South.

This is the fanciest shelter we never got to sleep in.
Built in 1992, the shelter was designed by Catholic University architecture students and sports a second floor, windows and a lovely setting.

We then headed to Jennings Creek to filter as much water as possible, as the next shelter was dry.

Apparently, legend has it that a woman and her child were attacked and killed by a mountain lion while attempting to cross Jennings Creek.

We did not encounter mountain lion, but it did feel odd filtering water downstream from a group of hefty campers who were squatting in the creek smoking cigarettes.

We headed up to Cove Mountain Shelter as ominous sounding thunder rolled around over the the mountain and light rain set in.

A turkey ran down the trail ahead of us as we picked up the pace to the shelter.

The storm calmed in time for dinner and we decided to set the traveling LoveNest up inside the shelter, as we had the whole place to ourselves.
This turn out to be a most excellent decision.
As darkness fell, gail force winds blew up the mountain and lightening seemed to strike all around the shelter.
In between storms, we heard a pack of coyotes howling and barking as they hunted on the mountain-side.
So very super cool!

And, a testament to how wild this area remains.

The rain continued much of the night, but we woke dry to a clear cool day.

Cute Husband is even romantic when he is smelly and sweaty.

Note the bouquet he placed on the picnic table as he served up a delicious breakfast.

As we hiked out the next morning, we stood in awe watching the fog lift out of the valley.

It was also fascinating seeing the first green returning to this area which burned during a lightening strike wildfire last July.

The fire burned over 600 acres and closed the AT and surrounding trails. Fog.
Not smoke...
When we got to the car and prepared for the long ride home, we said what we always say after good long walk....