Appalachian Trail: Pennsylvania Section 10

Over the last weekend of June, we were geared up to do a 2-night/3-day backpacking trip to kick off Vermont. However, a swollen knee for Fielden almost took hiking off the schedule completely. She was limping and using a walking stick for days because of this inflammation and I was sure it was a done deal. To be honest, MY knee had also flared up on the last long downhill on last month’s hike. I have since been doing my daily planks a lot which really helps.

Luckily, over the next few days her knee did come back online, and with only minimal swelling and pain. We were feeling better about getting out there for our much needed forest therapy. But I still didn’t feel like it was wise to do the Vermont section in these circumstances. There are several large ups and downs, and it was a 17-mile section, and we had 2 nights planned. I felt it would be too risky to do this section and then have an injury come back miles in (and up), and have to be rescued out. The trail isn’t going anywhere, and we will be back for that section.

Instead, we picked a totally flat section in Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley, and decided to cover the 12 miles in two day hikes and a hotel overnight.  This worked out great, especially since it was in the 90’s both days, and despite my new OR sunhat and shirt helping me keep the sun’s effects at bay, we were happy to be back in the hotel pool after each day’s mileage.

Our planned start point got screwed up because I used an old version of AWOL’s guide and the hotel we planned to stay at so we could walk back to it from the trail, had been demolished and moved 1.5 miles down the road on the other side of the highway overpass. (That guide has since been discarded in favor of my 2019 White Blaze guide… lesson learned! ) Yes we could have walked the extra miles, but 2 miles on a busy road in 95 degrees was not of interest.. So we adapted, and decided to start in the middle and hike to the southern end on day 1, and then on day 2 pick a starting point farther north of originally planned, and hike back to the middle point. With the help of UBER, which was very active here, we got both sections done without a hitch other than me slipping on a muddy spot and wiping out! No matter, I had real hiker cred when we rolled into Boiling Springs and I had dried mud all over me! I’m sure they thought I was a thru at the ATC Mid-Atlantic regional HQ and the outfitter.

A great little town, we loved the walk along the Children’s lake and seeing the old furnace, as well as the chatty geese and ducks who surely know it’s THEIR lake. We ate at an old tavern in town and got recommendations for some other places to check out. Though by the time we were done eating, we were eager to get back to the pool to cool off. The tavern were very hiker friendly, you just have to leave your packs outside.

We also enjoyed roaming and dining in Carlisle’s historic downtown, including a cool vintage shop, a great hard-cider brewery for a tasting and seeing where George Washington visited.

This section’s walk through fields and pastures over many stiles was bucolic, save for the three highway overpasses. It was nice when we got a little shade in the forested sections.  We saw many thru and section hikers, though most of the earlier-start thrus are past here now. We saw some bear scat and tracks on the second day, but no bears. With all the berries out in bloom, its not surprising the bears are active.  We enjoyed visiting the ATC’s Scott Farm trail crew work center which the trail passes right by. It’s said this facility may be closing and there’s currently an effort to keep it active. I hope they do, as the section of trail a few miles in either direction from it was very well maintained and had lots of beautiful boardwalks. So their efforts are palpable and appreciated for hikers. We were short about 1 mille of this complete section but I decided on this on purpose as there is overnight parking at Sherwood Road and not at 944, so this was necessary for doing the next sections north as overnights.

Now that we’ve started Pennsylvania (our state #6!), we may just focus on this state for a while, as the difference in drive time compared to Vermont will dwindle the more we complete headed back towards home. We may work on completing the southernmost bit to the Maryland border, as its only about 60 miles from Boiling Springs to Pen Mar. Then we can head from Carlisle back to DWG next year.  I’m excited for Pennsylvania, except for that climb out of Lehigh Gap. But I’m sure we can do it when the time comes. Just DON’T. LOOK. DOWN! Pennsylvania is one of the longest sections at around 225 miles, so it will take us a while unless we hit the lottery and can take several weeks off to finish it all. I am also considering still doing that Vermont section next and trying to complete the 14-state challenge (do a section in each of the states the trail traverses) and doing sections in the 6 remaining we haven’t hiked in at all yet… but I am such a completist that knowing me, we will continue to check off one state at a time. While we have done 4 miles in North Carolina, they were just day hikes when in the area that didn’t complete a whole section and will need to be re-done to connect the dots. It’s fine for the 14-state challenge though. I don’t know, the jury’s still out.

Anyway, you can watch the video I made of this hike here. Hope you enjoy it! Please subscribe to our channel if you do.

I’ll be back out this weekend ridge running in Connecticut as the bubble is definitely here. As I have some time off this week I may go out a day early and complete the northernmost 10 miles of the Mohawk trail I have yet to complete. This trail used to be the A.T. in the area, and this bit is the steepest and most difficult part of that trail. But also the most scenic, featuring Dean Ravine, and the view from Lookout Point. I almost made it to that point a few autumns ago but there was a lot of leaf cover and the trail on the north side of Barrack mountain was steep and eroded, and I ran out of time allotted because it was so slow going. We will see, but it would be nice to get that done and have an extra night on trail for a change.  Photos below.

Miles day 1: 4.7

Miles Day 2: 7.3

Total Miles: 12

Trail miles: 11.7

— Linus

Day 1 plan

Day 1 plan

Testing my hitch pose in case no Uber

Testing my hitch pose in case no Uber

Starting point

Starting point

Crossing the stiles in style

Crossing the stiles in style

Arriving at the road into Boiling Springs

Arriving at the road into Boiling Springs

Lots of berries out!

Lots of berries out!

Waiting for the ATC regional HQ to re-open from lunch break

Waiting for the ATC regional HQ to re-open from lunch break

At the regional HQ Mid Atlantic ATC office

At the regional HQ Mid Atlantic ATC office

Using this here mud remover!

Using this here mud remover!

A nice stroll along Children's Lake

A nice stroll along Children’s Lake

The old furnace in Boiling Springs

The old furnace in Boiling Springs

Day 2 plan

Day 2 plan

This section along the creek is lovely and well maintained

This section along the creek is lovely and well maintained

Boardwalkin!

Boardwalkin!

The creek, which had kayakers and canoers too

The creek, which had kayakers and canoers too

Lovely trumpet flowers

Lovely trumpet flowers

Scott Farm ATC trail work center

Scott Farm ATC trail work center

Turnstiles decked out with Thistle and Chickory

Turnstiles decked out with Thistle and Chickory

Center Point Knob in the distance beyond Boiling Springs

Center Point Knob in the distance beyond Boiling Springs

Hiker dirt

Hiker dirt

Back at the lot, all done

Back at the lot, all done

 

 

 

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Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Weekend #2 – Schaghticoke and Algo – Kent, CT

Over the Father’s Day weekend I made it back out to the trail for my second ridge runner weekend. The weather was perfect. I think at one point there was a drop of rain and a storm cloud off in the distance but it never materialized beyond that, and I also had several friends old and new in the picture. Always a fantastic way to spend trail time.

I decided to cover the wild ups and downs of South Kent, Connecticut known as Schaghticoke Mountain and Mount Algo. It’s a section that’s a rollercoaster of rocky ups and downs, but with views of the level of reward to match the terrain, and long tunnels of mountain laurel. I knew they’d be at or reaching peak at this time of year and it’s one of my favorite times to be on the trail. It’s not too hot yet, but the laurels are out in force and its so beautiful. Also at this time the bubble is starting through Connecticut. The faster ones at least. I saw over 25 thru-hikers that weekend, and spent the night at the campsite with at least 10 of them. I recommended JP Giffords in Kent for lunch what 5 times to thru hikers who asked me on the trail for a recommendation – I really need a referral commission! And our new visitor center in Kent.  And the Cornwall Country market Deli in Cornwall Bridge. I told them about the high water at Guinea Brook and to take the detour.

My friend Brian and I chatted with several thru hikers at Algo shelter. Raven, One Step, Stray Cat and the others I saw earlier on the trail that day. Brian hiked in later in the day to meet me after work. While I was happy to have seen 3 snakes, he saw the timber rattler as he came up the trail around 5pm that day. I saw a milk snake (which I thought was a copperhead at first!) and 2 large black racers. Rattlers do love Schaghticoke Mountain, but I guess they don’t love me. I just want to SEE one.

We saw my friend (and other weekend ridge runner) Jay on top of Schaghticoke as we were getting back to the start on the second day and chatted with him for a while. I was hoping for these two guys to meet!

Brian borrowed my Quarter Dome 1 tent so he could try it, and I think he liked it.  One Step also really liked my tent as she’s looking for a new lighter one and mine would be a huge weight savings for her as she’s carrying a half dome!

My knee has been acting up (especially on the steep downhills), and I think its cause I’ve been lazy with my daily planks, and my knee compression sleeves are worn out. Fielden’s knee has been iffy too the last week so we changed our plans to start Vermont this weekend with a pair of day hikes and a hotel overnight in a flat section of Pennsylvania from Boiling Springs to Carlisle. Boiling sounds about right as it will be 90, but our hotel has a pool. And at least we can still get a lot of trail miles in, and the experience, without having to worry about limping out miles from a campsite at 3,000ft!

The Vermont section will happen in a month or two when everyone’s healed up. This one is better for the current state of things. And, look at that we ARE starting Pennsylvania after all!. It would actually drive me a bit nuts skipping the whole state and doing Maryland first so maybe its good we’re finally starting Pennsylvania. I know there’s lots of nice sections, its just the real rocky bits I’m looking less forward to.

As an added bonus, Fielden Stream and I were out for the day in the Falls Village area the following week and ran into our favorite thru-hikers at the Mountanside Cafe! They were the ones I was hoping to run into on this weekend’s adventures. But I am glad for the new friends I did make on the trail and at the shelter. And looking forward actually to hiking some of Pennsylvania. Heck, half my family comes from there! Photos below.

Miles Day 1: 7

Miles Day 2: 7.3 (with campsite cleanups)

Wildilife: 1 Tanager, 3 snakes (4 if you count the one Brian saw)

Hikers: A LOT – Thrus especially

— Linus

View South from Scaghticoke

View South from Schaghticoke

Our favorite farmer's market from Indian Rocks

Our favorite farmer’s market from Indian Rocks

The first black racer I saw

The first black racer I saw

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel Tunnels

Mountain Laurel Tunnels

Kent from Scaghticoke Mountain

Kent from Scaghticoke Mountain

My campsite at Algo shelter

My campsite at Algo shelter

Algo shelter

Algo shelter

Eastern Milksnake on Schaghticoke Mountain

Eastern Milksnake on Schaghticoke Mountain

Me and Jay on Schaghticoke Mountain

Me and Jay on Schaghticoke Mountain

The last snake sighting

The last snake sightingThe last snake sighting

Fielden Stream, Linus, Underdog, Magic Mike and Tractor

Fielden Stream, Linus, Underdog, Magic Mike and Tractor

Solo Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Weekend #1, Kent to Cornwall, CT

Last weekend was my first solo ridgerunner weekend of the season.  It was full of wildflowers and wildlife. This includes bald eagles, deer, frogs, mean-looking spiders (including one IN my tent!), hummingbirds, scarlet tanagers, robins (and robins’ eggs), fleabane, bamboo, violets, thistle, clover, the rare pink lady slipper, and buttercups. These are just a small fraction of what’s out there to see on the trail in June. I met lots of day, section and thru-hikers, boy scouts, paddlers on the river, and enjoyed a warm, beautiful weekend one of my favorite sections and favorite campsites on the Connecticut section. I was feeling a little under the weather from a cold, so I took it easy and picked this mostly easy section so I wouldn’t over exert myself when slightly compromised. But the fresh air and exercise did it’s magic.

I saw a few of the thru-hikers we’re following on YouTube in the trail register at one of the shelters which was cool, too bad I missed them. I cleared a fire ring and cut a blowdown with my new saw, the Silky Big Boy 2000, which made quick work of it.

I did a sketch at the campsite, and wrote two nature poems. I’m no Thoreau but I think they’re decent and it was fun. I composed them while walking and wrote them down in my journal when I took a break. I want to try and do at least one sketch and one poem each time I’m out there, besides just my usual trail reports and personal journals.

It was supposed to rain but other than a drop, it never came, which I can’t complain about. One of these days I’ll get to wear my rain kilt so I can do my best Outlander impression! I sat at a rock bench in front of an old Indian marker tree, which filled my heart and mind with history and reflection.

I heard owls chatter all night at the campsite, including one moment when I could swear they were laughing! As always, a great weekend. I will be out again in 6 days for weekend #2, as the thru-hiker bubble is moving in now, and I am eager to see the mountain laurels reaching full bloom — probably my favorite sight on the trail. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 6.2

Miles day 2: 6.2

— Linus

Misty morning along Liner's Farm-no filter

Misty morning along Liner’s Farm-no filter

Frog on the trail

Frog on the trail

The deck and porch swing at Pine Swamp Brook Shelter

The deck and porch swing at Silver Hill

Pink Lady Slipper

Pink Lady Slipper

Paddlers on the Housatonic

Paddlers on the Housatonic

Name that flower

Name that flower

Brook emptying into the Housatonic

Brook emptying into the Housatonic

Fleabane

Fleabane

Robins Egg

Robin Egg

New ridge runner and LNT training overnight

Last week I joined the new crew of seasonal summer ridge runners as well as the coordinators for a trail training overnight. We had four main goals: LNT (leave no trace training), set up the caretaker tent at Sages Ravine, replace the shelter registers, and learn the job. That’s why I was there, to show everyone the job. We worked hard and they learned a lot. We cleared a lot of water bars, over seven fire rings, cleaned shelters and privies (and filled the duff buckets) and packed out a lot of trash. As this was the real season kickoff for this role, a lot of these issues like the fire rings may have been left over from winter.

We had a great night at the campsite, and a lot of great hiker interactions. They were glad to have me along to show them the ropes, and I was glad to have a great crew who were eager to learn. I loved learning the LNT lessons too and getting certified.

I will be out again this weekend for my first official solo ridge runner outing. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 4

Miles day 2: 8

  • Linus
Mountain Azalea

Mountain Azalea

Bear Mountain, CT from the Paradise Lane Trail

Bear Mountain, CT from the Paradise Lane Trail

Entering Sages Ravine

Entering Sages Ravine

Setting up the caretaker tent

Setting up the caretaker tent

Sages Ravine

Sages Ravine

My campsite

My campsite

Red efts

Red efts

Trillium

Trillium

At the top of Bear looking north

At the top of Bear looking north

On the tower at the top of Bear

On the tower at the top of Bear

Looking south from Bear Mountain

Looking south from Bear Mountain

The famous Riga view

The famous Riga view

Appalachian Trail: New Jersey Section 1

I am going to be shortening the format on the blog entries for a while as my season is picking up and i won’t have as much time to blog every outing. Plus, for the section hikes I do with Fielden Stream, I’ve been making videos, which capture the experience easily as well if not better than words. So head on over to our youtube channel (under links) to see the latest installments. This hike should be up there by the weekend. I’ve also just spent the last two days out training and meeting with the new seasonal ridgerunner team, so that will be a coming blog entry too.

In short, last weekend we finally finished New Jersey! It was a fantastic section including the famous “Stairway to Heaven” in Vernon, and the Bearfort Ridge along Greenwood Lake as we came to the state line finale. We met some great section and thru hikers, and hiking dogs. We witnessed two marriage proposals (they both said yes!) and were treated to beautiful weather for a change. We wrapped it up with a shuttle ride from our favorite shuttle driver in the area (and former trail builder and maintainer) who as always recommended the best spot in the area for a post-hike meal.

We were so pleasantly surprised by our experience on the New Jersey section, I highly recommend it. Despite all the bears known for the area, we didn’t see one in all of our hikes through the 72 miles of New Jersey over the last few seasons.

The question remaining is where to next? We are thinking of starting Vermont, or trying to get out for a week to do all of Maryland sometime this summer.

I will have my hands full as always with at least 6 more weekends of ridge runner weekends, but we will definitely try and get in one or two sections elsewhere this season, and maybe a third in Pennsylvania with friends. Stay tuned. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 5.2

Miles day 2: 5.4

— Linus

Approaching the stairway to heaven

Approaching the stairway to heaven

Beginning the stairway

Beginning the stairway

Fielden going up the stairway

Fielden going up the stairway

Linus at Pinwheel's Vista

Linus at Pinwheel’s Vista

Linus and Fielden Stream at Pinwheel's Vista

Linus and Fielden Stream at Pinwheel’s Vista

Trail magic box at Wawayanda Mtn summit

Trail magic box at Wawayanda Mtn summit

New footbridge

New footbridge

Tree bench magic

Tree bench magic

Rita the backpacking dog

Rita the backpacking dog

Home for the night

Home for the night

A nice pond

A nice pond

Name that flower

Name that flower

Fielden stream climbing Bearfort Mtn

Fielden stream climbing Bearfort Mtn

Linus at the state line - NJ is done!

Linus at the state line – NJ is done!

 

Great Garlic Mustard Pull at Bull’s Bridge, Appalachian Trail, Connecticut

On Saturday our AMC Connecticut Chapter held one of our big annual volunteer work days, “Give a Day to the Appalachian Trail.”  Like the volunteer round-up, we start with recognitions of any volunteers who were not at that event. We then went through the different work parties going on that day. One was a shelter roof replacement, one was doing waterbar clearing. There was also a boundary maintenance group and a trail relocation/switchback that was being started.  Our overseer of trails did a demo on how to use and carry the large tools required for some of the jobs, as there were a lot of new volunteers this day.

Last but not least of the work party options was the garlic mustard pull down by Bull’s Bridge. This is an invasive that really can take over fast, and alters the soil composition enough that native species can’t grow well.  This is the group I went with as I had pulled something else – in my back –  the previous week, and heavy labor would not have helped it heal. I need to be uninjured as I have lots of ridgerunning to do as the season is upon us.

We’ve been doing this work party for a few years now, so we had far less to pull this time around because we’ve been steadily warding off lots of new growth. You can cook with garlic mustard apparently, but I haven’t tried it.

We split up to cover different sections of the woods, and I went off with my friend Ray from the Bull’s Bridge task force. We spotted a lot of new Columbines and Jack in the Pulpits along the river and the trail. Also on our loop we met a hiker who Ray met at Trail Days in Damascus last year. He had to get off farther north in Virginia last year so he was out again finishing the trail from Bear’s Den hostel in northern Virginia this year and had already made it to Connecticut after 47 days.  We all chatted for a while. What a small world it is on this very long trail!  I see that phenomenon almost every time I’m out…

We also saw our local blue heron “Jim” flying above the river. I see him often down at the campsite at Ten Mile when camping there.

Tomorrow Fielden Stream and I are completing the New Jersey section including an initial steep climb up the “Stairway to Heaven”. After we’re done with this state (#5) we are thinking we will start southern Vermont. Or if we can somehow find a whole week to take off, we might do all 44 miles of Maryland.

But next week I also start my ridgerunner duties in full, and have a multi-day hike and work party to repair a privy with the new ridgerunner team. And the first weekend in June will be my first official solo ridgerunner weekend of the season. I will be doing that at least once a month through October. So we will see how many other weekends Fielden and I can manage. We do have a tentative plan to hike with our friends from Pennsylvania again, in their home state. Though not one of the really rocky bits! Not when I have a choice anyway!

More to come… photos below.

Miles: 1

– Linus

Housatonic rapids below Bull's Bridge

Housatonic rapids below Bull’s Bridge

Jim our local blue heron

Jim our local blue heron

Jack in the pulpit

Jack in the pulpit

Columbine

Columbine

Our hiker kiosk at Bull's Bridge

Our hiker kiosk at Bull’s Bridge

My favorite carvings

My favorite carvings

Housatonic rapids below Bull's Bridge

Housatonic rapids below Bull’s Bridge

Stewart Hollow shelter register replacement, Appalachian Trail, Kent, Connecticut

I painted this blaze!

I painted this blaze!

On Saturday I was back on the trail to swap out the last year’s shelter register at Stewart Hollow Brook shelter. Since I was in the area with my wife for another visit, I was pleased to have her come along with me. This is the first section we ever backpacked together, about 5 years ago, and a very easy pleasant walk along the Housatonic River. We spotted a lot of wildlife, including a bunch of turkey vultures, and one who flew right over our heads. So I got a very good in-air shot of that big bird!

Since we parked at the south gate on river road, it was only a 1.2 mile hike in to the shelter. I posed for a picture in front of a blaze that was one of many I re-painted along this stretch several years ago.

Stewart Hollow Brook

Stewart Hollow Brook

The water sources here are plentiful, with many brooks crossing the trail as they flowed into the Housatonic. Please note that the water in the Housatonic is not fit for drinking, even with a filter. Many years ago it was unfortunately polluted with PCBs from a GE plant upriver in Massachusetts. It is fine to swim in, but get your water from the brooks, a bit upstream from where they meet. And then always filter it, to be safest.

Signing in the new register

Signing in the new register

Even though it was a short walk today, we met several backpackers and day hikers. Because of the easy terrain and scenic beauty, this is a popular one for day hikers of all ages, and well-appreciated by the thru-hikers as this stretch provides a few miles of flat terrain before the climbs begin again. We met some women who were birding, six section-hiker backpackers, and one who looked like a thru-hiker, though we didn’t get a chance to speak with him.

We chatted with 3 of those section hikers as they arrived at the shelter shortly after us.  But first we had to dismantle a large bushcraft shelter someone made in the woods on the side of the trail. While that’s in impressive skill, these are not your woods to do with whatever you desire.

Fielden Stream at the shelter

Fielden Stream at the shelter

This has become an increasing problem lately, especially since many of these folks have actually been cutting young saplings with an axe for their timber. Luckily that was not the case here. I was glad to have Fielden Stream along to help with the task, and get her some volunteer hours.  I also refilled the duff bucket in the privy, and checked the campsite areas. I had to clear some kindling left in one site, but it doesn’t look like they were successful in ever starting a fire. Which is good, because its not allowed here. Please follow the rules so that we can still have the trail through here to enjoy. We have many campgrounds nearby where you can have a campfire.

Turkey Vulture Overhead

Turkey Vulture Overhead

I enjoyed reading last year’s register entries on the trip home and more when I got home, including my own entries from my overnight and drop-in visits to check on the shelter and campsite conditions. It immediately brought me back to those times and gave me some joy. And I got to be the first entry in the new register which I left for the upcoming year’s use.

Tomorrow we have our annual Give-A-Day to the Appalachian Trail volunteer work day, with many different work parties from shelter repairs, boundary maintenance, and trail improvement.  Details can be found here.

Miles: 3

  • Linus