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....


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mud! Mosquitos! Mountains!

Cute Husband and I set off North for a 3 day, 38+ mile hike to finish off NJ and start our adventures in NY. We met our shuttle, Bob (trail name Shamrock), and his two golden retrievers at High Point State Park.

Shamrock was kind enough to share his knowledge of the area and trail crossings as he drove us to our drop off in New York.
We will have completed 1/4 of the trail after this hike!

BirdCouple's boots in a new AT state!

BirdCouple's wet boots in a new AT state...

As soon as we got our bags strapped on, I found one of these little guys just begging to have his picture taken.

This is a Red Eft, or Red Spotted Newt. They like wet forests. We were going to hike through a lot of wet forest.

Within the first couple of miles we came across our first thru hikers of the season heading North.

We love it when they have a few minutes to stop and chat.

We met Carpenter who packs about 80lbs on his back because he can not feel complete without his shampoo, conditioner and loofah.

After spending a couple of days in wet muddy woods, I understand the absolute need for a loofah.

Every hiker we crossed during the drizzly morning warned us of the wet slippery rock scramble up ahead.

Super slippery wet rocks.

And, every time we thought we had mastered them, another one loomed ahead.

This was a nice wet cliff that made for a gripping adventure.We took what the trail gave us, even if it meant taking our bags off and scooting down the wet rocks on our buns.

I may have scooted for a couple of miles on my buns for fear of taking a header with my less than hiker legs.

Hi Wet Boots.

The rock scrambles were followed by trail wash outs. We have had a lot of rain on the East Coast this year.

Cute Husband and I must have stepped through or in 20 or so wash outs, which soaked our boots through to our socks.
Sometime during all this morning fun, our cell phone went nutty from the humidity and the camera stopped cooperating.
I thought I was taking a snapshot of the border above, but apparently I was just cursing on video at the camera.

And, it was fun.
The birding was outstanding.
Warblers in their last efforts of breeding were still calling from the swamps and treetops.

And, it felt great to be back out on the trail.

Mostly it just felt great to be with Warren for days on end...

We also met a thru hiker named Iron Man who was walking the trail in memory of his wife. With a little over 900 miles to go, he had some great stories of his adventures and hiking mates.

Apparently, he hiked with a guy from Miami for a while who was less than the naturalist.

When he saw his first chipmunk, he thought it was a gerbil.

I think Cute Husband and I will laugh about that for the next 20 years of hiking....

We shacked up at the Wawayanda Shelter and finished dinner and got in our tent just as the first rain storm hit.

Our socks were banned from the traveling LoveNest tent, as they reeked so bad they would make one gag.

We are all about packing out what we pack in, but those socks...

They hung outside by pack for the remainder of the hike. Downwind.

In fact, the sock perfume scared away the one (very large) bear we saw on our way to get water.

He high tailed it once he picked up their scent.

We dodged ominous sounding thunder storms the entire next day, which made us rush through the boardwalk and bridge at Pochuck Creek.

We woke at the Pochuck shelter after a night of listening to early fireworks in the distance to a gorgeous dry 4th of July day.

The last day of hiking up to High Point was heaven.
Hiker's dream path after days of mud and rock:

We crossed cow fields full of butterflies And a peace sign in the middle of the forest.The High Point Monument from 5 hiking hours away. Five hours later, we missed the side trail up to the monument.
But, hey, we are purists.
We stick to the white blazes.
Besides, my legs weren't doing any more up with the car within a mile or so.
Cute Husband says off with the heavy bag as we reach the car on the best 4th of July ever!
The AT in VA is calling next...