Appalachian Trail – NY Section 3

Great Swamp Boardwalk

On the (Great Swamp) boardwalk

And now it’s my turn…

This is Fielden Stream speaking – I let Linus write the first few posts but now I want to share my perspective on our backpacking adventures.  Also so you can hear the differences of what it’s like to backpack as a woman.

Dover Oak

Dover Oak

As you may know we recently went hiking on the AT, section 3 of NY.  What you might not know is that we almost didn’t make it and that was completely because of me!  The day before our hike my knee started feeling stiff on me – this has happened before but only once a year or so – and it usually goes away if I stay off my feet and keep my knee elevated.  Which I did.   However the morning of our hike I woke to discover my knee the size of a grapefruit (a large grapefruit) and I was unable to walk without a cane.  The first time that this had happened I had gone to a doctor and he had removed the excess fluid in there and I had been much much better.  So this time I did not panic (although Linus was about to have a conniption fit) and I called the doctor, got an appointment at 9:20 AM, and was out of there at 11:00 AM walking perfectly fine.  In an hour we were on the AT.  I think this proves the point that I, and many women, can tolerate a whole lot of pain!!!!

Two-pack rocks

Two-pack rocks

As for the hike itself, we had a great day 1 as the weather was nice and a bit cool, but sunny.  This section also has a lot of wildflowers growing alongside the trail as it goes through a few swampy areas and quite a few fields.  I like wildflowers – in fact, you will see in upcoming posts from me a lot about all the flowers I find on the trail and my process in discovering what they are!  I have posted a photo of some pink honeysuckles we saw that were just starting to bloom, but we also saw columbine, wild geraniums, wild violets (hundreds of those), and a few that I haven’t figured out yet.

We also walked by the biggest oak on the entire trail – it’s called the Dover Oak and it’s over 20 feet wide and at least 300 years old.

Lounging at Telephone Pioneers

Lounging at Telephone Pioneers

I took a photo of Linus being silly in front of it.  We also ate a lovely sandwich here although I don’t suggest anyone else do that as the tree is right on a heavily trafficked road.  Linus had a whole lot of road dust get blown on top of his lovely sandwich by a mack truck going 60 down the road.  Let’s just say he was NOT happy, LOL.

I am also going to comment in these posts on the campsites a bit more than my husband Linus.  The quality of the campsite is very important to me as I like to be a little bit comfortable in where I camp and also I like to enjoy our time at the campsite.  That being said, Telephone Pioneers Shelter was only an ok shelter.  I have stayed at much nicer ones.  However, I have also stayed at much MUCH worse.  ‘

Cat Rocks

Cat Rocks

This shelter has an enclosed mouldering privy.  That is already a big step above than some other shelters!  But it does not have very good tentsites as we could not find one that was actually flat.  I think we got the best one but we were still slightly tilted all night.  My only other comment on this campsite was that it was rather buggy – but a nice fire stopped the pesky critters from becoming too annoying.

Nuclear Lake

Nuclear Lake

We got to the shelter a little early in the afternoon so we went up about a half mile to the view on top of West Mountain which is called Cat Rocks.  It’s quite a view up there – I recommend it to anyone and everyone!  It would be nice to go up there in the morning and watch the sun come up – that is if you want to get up that early…

A mini squeezer

A mini squeezer

When we came back to the shelter, we were treated with guests!  About 9 different hikers – all going various different distances, but mostly hiking for at least a month – arrived to camp at the shelter.  Trail names were Phase 2, Shebeast, Meadowlark, Alabama, Puck, Nightcrawler, Better than Expected, Zack and Josh.  Everyone was great and it made for a fun evening swapping hiking info and stories of life on the trail.

Rain came overnight, but we expected it so we were properly prepared.  Had to wait it out a few hours in the tent though as the rain didn’t stop until around 8:30 or 9 AM.  Then we packed up our stuff and off we went to climb back up to the top of West Mountain, see the view again, and then down about 4 1/2 miles to civilization.

Honeysuckle everywhere!

Honeysuckle everywhere!

A few other interesting landmarks on this section were Nuclear Lake – a nice big lake which looks very pretty for swimming and is supposedly cleared of radioactive activity although it used to have a research facility there in the 70s.  Let’s just say I was not jumping in!  Also there was a fun “lemon-squeezer” type rock that you had to walk through, although it is not as narrow as the actual lemon-squeezer which is farther south on the AT in NY.

All in all a nice hike, with medium to easy level of difficulty.   I had a great time (as usual!) with my husband and I look forward to our next one, finishing the Connecticut AT!  And it’s going to be quite a closer as this is the highest point in CT.  Wish us luck and no-bum knees!

 

 

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Appalachian Trail – NY Section 2

CT/NY state line, Hoyt Rd

CT/NY state line, Hoyt Rd

We are finally back on the trail for overnights! I have been waiting for this moment since October when I did a quick out and back to the shelter in this section, because let’s face it, I needed down time from a pile of responsibilities. The woods are where I get myself balanced again. That time in October was me, my pack, and mother nature. It was easy. Add a few coyotes, owls, a new trail friend, and a couple rowdy late-nighters enjoying a fall Friday night, and it did the trick – even if they didn’t get ‘hiker midnight’. But the real humor was me not setting up my new 1-person tent BEFORE I left, and being that guy – who figured it out at the campsite.

Rolling hills of NY

Rolling hills of NY

It was a long, long, long winter and it was the end of April before it was warm enough – or so we thought, for this first outing on what seemed like surely late enough – April 25.

Sure, it had warmed up to 60, even 70-degree days by now. Only for this trip it decided to be the coldest night of the month. Schedules being what they are for us, that was the weekend, like it or not. And it was awesome.

First A.T fire, ferro-rod style!

First A.T fire, ferro-rod style!

We had originally planned to finish CT this time – Salisbury to Sages Ravine, Mass. But there was literally seven feet of snow here this winter. Just thinking of what was left at 1500 ft and above was not comforting. Even if most of the snow was gone, there were still icy patches to be found, and the ravine would be flowing high from run-off, maybe impassable. This was not an easy section of trail to begin with and these were not factors to be taken lightly. I had already trudged through enough snow in my spikes on winter hikes to not want another this season, especially fully loaded for 2 nights of backpacking.

The experienced hikers at whiteblaze concurred. Besides that, it had been 8 months since we did a backpacking trip of any substantial challenge together. This was a trip better planned for later. So off we went to New York.

Camping on the ridge

Camping on the ridge

From my October trip I knew it wouldn’t be a tough first day out to Wiley Shelter. From the CT/NY state line it was only about 1.3 miles, and no more than a gradual 350 ft elevation gain up there. The next day, new trail to me, was only 5.5, and really once you’re up on Hammersly Ridge, you’re up there till you come down. It was a perfect starting trip for the season. Really only the overnight temperature was a challenge. But the good news is you’re allowed to make campfires on the trail in N.Y.

Early morning sunrise reward

Early morning sunrise reward

We arrived around 4, and believe me that first 1.3 of the season with full packs on felt hard, even though it was easy trail. We set up camp and made our first fire on the A.T, and my first successful one using a ferro rod — even if I had the drier lint to help. We roasted hot dogs, drank some wine, and made our mountain house meal.

For these short sections, a platy full of wine isn’t too much to manage, so I guess we’re a little spoiled in that regard! But despite the 60-degree temps during the day, we were prepared, and experienced the 29-degree low that night like champs. We only have 30-degree bags, but we layered and we had the win. I brought along my new lightweight fleece, my new beanie, my patagonia capiline skiing long johns for my base layer bottom, and I even put my sawyer filter in my sleeping bag to keep it from freezing. I was proud of that one. Though really, I had just learned my lesson from freezing my other one on a day hike in February up East Rock and the Giant Steps in New Haven. I didn’t even use it. Oh well, glad they are so affordable.

Heading out of camp

Heading out of camp

We had no company besides a few families doing a day hike because of the temps. We had picked a great tent site right on the ridgeline, and hunkered down after dinner for the night. No coyotes this time, just a few owls.

At 5:45 I was up filming the amazing sunrise on my gopro, doing some yoga stretches on an unused tent platform, and boiling water for coffee. Once the sun was up, things warmed up quick. We were on the trail by 830 and were shedding layers within an hour.

New bovine friends

New bovine friends

We made it to the end of the ridge by noon. The end of the section goes through the Pawling Nature Preserve and some muddy puncheons, through some lovely meadows, wooden turnstiles and a field of cows — one of which had her eye menacingly fixed on my wife. It all turned out alright though. We passed our first trail magic of the season, but left it for those who would need it as we were just finishing. We headed to the hiker-friendly Native Landscapes garden center on Rt. 22 to stamp our A.T. passports and call our ride back to our car. We then went to check out the one and only Appalachian Trail train station. On weekends, you can catch a train from NYC right to the trail crossing. It’s quite a contrast, and something I think would be a fun way to get some of our city slicker friends to join us on the trail.

The train to the trail

The train to the trail

For our post-game meal, we went to Darryl’s House (the club and restaurant run by Darryl Hall of Hall & Oates) and were treated to soundcheck by that evening’s performers. Then it was time to go home and plan the next trip out.

This section is about 7 miles from end to end, and a successful first one of the year for Linus and Fielden Stream.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Lower Town Trail

Lower Town Trail

We went here in March for our 5th wedding anniversary to hike, relax, and enjoy the local wineries and the civil war history everywhere. We are also fascinated by that subject, and this is where the famous revolt of John Brown and his abolitionists occurred, eventually leading to the civil war. We didn’t backpack this time as we were staying in a lovely B&B to celebrate the anniversary right!

Loudoun Heights

Loudoun Heights

We were treated to snow one day, and late-spring/early summer temps the next day. It’s evident in the photos that the lower elevations were snow-free, while the mountaintops were not!

For this trail adventure, we decided to hike down the Lower Town Trail to the A.T. from the Park headquarters, across the Shenandoah up to a snowy Loudoun Heights on the West Virginia/Virginia border, and then back down to the other side of town and over the Potomac to the Maryland border. All in all, about 6 miles and change.

Crossing the Shenandoah

Crossing the Shenandoah

As you may or may not know, Harpers Ferry is also where the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is located. Just about .2 miles from the trail in the upper town, it is also known as the ‘psychological halfway point’ of the trail, though the real halfway point is about 30 miles away, just north of the Pennsylvania border. It is here that all thru- and section-hikers can register with the ATC and get a photo in their book, with their trail names and start dates. We weren’t sure this was something we could do as we can only get out in small sections several times a year. However, they were more than accommodating and it was a thrill. It is also the site of ‘Jefferson Rock’ – a balanced stone along the Shenandoah with views of the confluence of both rivers where Thomas Jefferson exclaimed “This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”

Registering at ATC HQ

Registering at ATC HQ

At the headquarters, we also got to enjoy the hiker’s lounge, look through the hiker boxes (boxes where hikers leave things they don’t need for other hikers) and get some great new books, A.T. swag and rest our feet for a bit. There’s also a great topographic map of the whole trail I loved, since I am a map geek as well. I don’t mind spending a bunch here because it all goes to support the conservancy, who take care of the trail. To that end, I am a card carrying member of the ATC, as well as the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club). We also got me a cool A.T. earring, which has gotten a very enthusiastic response from other thru and section-hikers on the trail.  And A.T. happens to be the first two initials of my name — convenient!

Jefferson Rock

Jefferson Rock

On a side-note we also made a nice donation to the ATC to have an engraved brick on the new walkway in Damascus, Virginia. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was just yesterday morning at the annual ‘Trail Days’ event, where thousands of past and current hikers come together in this trail community to meet other hikers and ‘trail angels’ and meet representatives of top gear companies who are educating everyone on their latest advances for hiker gear. A goal for all hikers, and manufacturers alike, is to get the lightest gear with the strongest most durable materials. Every ounce counts, especially to ‘gram weenies’, aka ‘ultralighters’. I don’t have the best back either, so this is worth the extra investment these products will cost, and to anyone hiking hundreds or thousands of miles with it all on their back. When I think back to how heavy my external frame scouting pack weighed when it was fully-loaded in the early 80’s, I’m amazed at what 20 years of tech has resulted in. I am much happier with my lighter gear, even if my wallet is empty.  Thank god too for my REI membership — my dividends pay me back in more of the light gear I want.

John Brown's Fort

John Brown’s Fort

Some terms here to explain for the non-savvy:

Trail angels are people who are either former thru-hikers or just hiker-friendly and will set up along the trail and provide free food, rides to the nearest town to resupply and catch a night off (a ‘zero’), or will leave it out along the trail like the cooler you saw in my first entry. And a Trail community is a town that is along the trail where the businesses are friendly and cater to hikers. These usually include shops and residents who run hostels or cabins or allow hikers to camp in their yard, use their showers and bathrooms, and will give you rides back and forth to the trail for minimal fees. We have really enjoyed those services so far in Kent, Falls Village, and Salisbury, Connecticut, as well as Pawling, NY. Damascus, Virginia, where they hold trail days is one of the most famous.

 

Welcome to Happy on the Trails

First overnight - at Silver Hill

First overnight – at Silver Hill

So I’ve finally been talked into doing a hiking blog. Well, i wanted to of course, but let’s just say life is a little busy! Plus, all my free time I like to spend on the trails, natch. But after spending hours after each adventure emailing photos, stories, posting them on my social media, and filtering through every photo anyway, it just seemed the logical thing to put everything in one place. To kick things off, here’s a little background…

The Mighty St. John's Ledges

The Mighty St. John’s Ledges

My wife and I have reconnected to our past love for backpacking and hiking. As a teen I found solace day-hiking the Presidentials of New Hampshire on outings while at summer camp on Lake Winnipesaukee. I learned many of my skills and a life-long love for camping as a Boy Scout, and while I didn’t go all the way to eagle, it was part of me forever and I am very grateful for those experiences. I like most, found it way too easy to get caught up with and comfortable with the conveniences of modern life. And after a few decades of that, I was ready to go back to the woods for more purity and peace. Though I will use today’s technology to share with you my stories, images and video of these experiences.

My first year making journal entries at the trail shelters

My first year making journal entries at the trail shelters

Though from Florida, my wife did many trips with her family hiking the Appalachian and other trails in the mountains of North Carolina and Maine.

After re-discovering our shared love for nature a few years ago via car-camping and day hikes with my kids on local trails in Connecticut (where we live) New York, and Massachusetts, we were ready to try backpacking again. We have also done many day hikes with local hiking groups such as the AMC and some meetup groups, but found ourselves less and less interested in keeping pace with hikers just focused on covering distance and less on stopping to smell the roses most of the time. And you will find pictures of flowers, birds, mountains, and streams here.

Our first trail magic

Our first trail magic

On the right are a few photos from last year’s re-initiation to backpacking, and our first 45 miles of backpacking on the trail.  Most of the entries here will be about our A.T. adventures, as we are now focusing on these multi-day trips vs day-hikes. But there will be some day-hikes in here as well; sometimes just me on solo adventures. This is now our second season on the Appalachian Trail as section hikers.

One of my favorite views - Rand's View

A favorite view

The trail is only an hour from home and as a result we’ve been able to cover all but 6 miles of the trail in our state of Connecticut – and that will be completed next month.

We’ve also begun working on the northern sections of New York as it is also an easy hour-plus drive. Then, we will start making longer journeys to farther sections.

Welcome. I hope you enjoy the adventures as much as we do.

— Linus and Fielden Stream