2018 Ridgerunner Kickoff weekend

It was great to be back out on the trail again in my ridge runner role! I really love the job, I wish I could do it year round! I met several thru hikers, many of them flip floppers who started mid trail and are heading north to Katahdin first, then back to do the southern half in the later months of summer and early fall. They do this to minimize overcrowding at Springer in Georgia and have the quiet walk in the woods experience intended. And also to not have to worry about hitting Katahdin too late in case of an early winter in Maine.  I also met a few Northbound (NOBO) thrus and a Lasher (Long-a**-section-hiker) doing a several-hundred-mile portion in New England. Of course there were many day hikers out enjoying the trail, especially on Saturday. Saturday was hot and humid but I took my time and enjoyed a break at all the scenic spots along the way. All the brooks were running strong, and the rain held off until Sunday afternoon so didn’t have to deal with it much. I did have a log I stepped on roll under my foot when crossing Guinea Brook, so my left foot/sock/shoe got soaked, but it was quite refreshing in the heat.  Sunday was cool and overcast with strong breezes bringing rain around midday.  I saved the easier portion of trail for Sunday should the rain hit early and I was hiking all morning and early afternoon in the rain. Steep rocky surfaces are not as fun or safe when wet.

I took the Mohawk Trail up Breadloaf Mountain to reach the A.T. Saturday morning.  When I was a boy scout in the 1980s this was still the A.T. and it is still a quick steep climb! But it had amazing views from the top like Pine Knob. Both were worth the effort.

I camped with many great people at Silver Hill campsite, and my first freezer-bag-cooking test with a Knorr rice sides (a half portion) was a huge success as was my peanut butter and Nutella tortilla wraps for breakfast! And my new (used) tent’s maiden voyage with me was also a success…. It’s so light to carry and had plenty of room. I need to work on my pitch a bit, and though my feet were touching the end wall, I looked it up and realized I didn’t extent my trekking poles to 130 cm as advised which probably explains that!  I saw a doe grazing on the banks of the Housatonic River early Sunday morning, as well as a family of Geese. It seemed to be mating season as the chipmunks were frolicking in pairs throughout the forest.

Day 1 miles: 5.5 (1,834ft elevation)

Day 2 miles: 8 (335ft elevation)

  • Linus
One of our beuatiful new signs

One of our beautiful new signs

Pine Knob

Pine Knob

Silver Hill from Breadloaf Mtn

Silver Hill from Breadloaf Mtn

Linus on the trail

Linus on the trail

Hatch Brook

Hatch Brook

My Lightheart Gear solo

My Lightheart Gear solo

Freezer bag cooking - using the pot as a cozy

Freezer bag cooking – using the pot as a cozy

Knorr Rice sides w/Sriracha

Knorr Rice sides w/Sriracha

The "trail" up Silver Hill

The “trail” up Silver Hill

Doe on the Housatonic

Doe on the Housatonic

Liners Farm

Liners Farm

Name that flower

Name that flower

 

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Appalachian Trail Massachusetts: Section 1

Over the weekend we did get back up to the trail in Massachusetts, but opted for the shorter section to the VT border from North Adams instead of south from there over the Greylock range. We did it as an out-and-back and did not venture further into Vermont as the Green mountain club requested people not hike the muddy trail until after Memorial day. Doing this section turned out to be a wise decision on many fronts. But most of all, the all-day heavy rain combined with cold temperatures predicted for Saturday did come, just minutes after we got off trail in the morning. We lucked out with nice weather Friday so the climb up the Pine Cobble wasn’t too sketchy and the view from the top was grand.  This was the longest and highest uphill we’ve done together, gaining about 1800’ from North Adams to the Vermont and Long Trail border.  We felt it the rest of the weekend in our legs.

We had a bit of excitement on the hike! One of the hikers at the campground called in for a midnight rescue as he was having abdominal pains, and so we met some EMT’s and firefighters who had to hike the 1.8 miles uphill to the campsite in the middle of the night and direct them to the bear box to get the hiker’s food. I was treated to a view of the bright starry night as I was out there chatting with them…  and many Barred owl calls… Also my fellow weekend ridgerunner from CT AMC came up to the campsite at 7am to meet us for coffee before his daughter’s lacrosse tournament in nearby Williamstown that day, so that was cool.  And I got 2 nasty black fly bites. Those little bastards got me at the end of the day when I was tired and filling up water and rolled up my sleeves where I had no bug juice on…. Duh!  They still itch and hurt so much I’m putting on cortisone regularly. I was warned about May in Massachusetts!

We saw only about 3 other hikers on the trip, including two girls staying at our campsite. It’s a really pretty walk along Sherman brook for the first few miles up out of North Adams. On a really hot day that would be paradise. I trekked it the extra mile south from Rt 2 on the way out Saturday morning to Pattison road. This way we could start there next time and not have to park in town and have a steamy concrete road walk before the long climb up the Greylock range.  After we got off the trail we spent the rest of the weekend exploring North Adams and Williamstown. We will come back to do the last 13 miles of the A.T. in Massachusetts in a month or two. It will still be there. Besides, then we get to enjoy the Bascom lodge….

I start ridgerunning in Connecticut this weekend over Memorial day, and then Fielden Stream and I are doing another New Jersey section in about 3 weeks with our Pennsylvania friends.

Trail miles: 5.1

Total miles hiked: About 11 (out and back, side trails)

  • Linus
Fielden Stream at the VT border

Fielden Stream at the VT border

The Massachusetts side

The Massachusetts side

Pine Cobble bad weather trail

Pine Cobble bad weather trail

View from Pine Cobble

View from Pine Cobble

CT AMC Ridge runners

CT AMC Ridge runners

Walking back into North Adams

Walking back into North Adams

Sunset over Bald mtn

Sunset over Bald mtn

The great view from the bad weather trail

The great view from the bad weather trail

Cairns on Pine Cobble

Cairns on Pine Cobble

Pine Cobble trail jct

Pine Cobble trail jct

My chipmunk friend and I had a nice chat

My chipmunk friend and I had a nice chat

Linus at the Long Trail

Linus at the Long Trail

First VT sign

First VT sign

Give a Day to the Appalachian Trail: Connecticut Chapter

Ready to lop!

Ready to lop!

A cold, rainy day for trail work, but still better than the office! Saturday was our annual “Give a Day to the Appalachian Trail” for our Connecticut chapter.  While we have many annual work parties, this is the big one, where we have several different projects happening at once. We start with a volunteer recognition. I got a carabiner cup for 200+ hours so far, which I gave to Fielden stream as I have one already. This year we also recognized a volunteer who recently passed. He had been involved for decades all around the region. Maine, VT, CT and on his passing has been memorialized by more than a few organizations he was part of as well as publications in the places he lived. His widow was there today to join the work party.

waterbar clearing

waterbar clearing

One of the projects was a stone staircase in her husband’s honor and which was her specialty. However given the cold, wet conditions that was substituted with some waterbar upgrades. She was very nice and I enjoyed spending time with her on our project and learning more about her husband’s many accomplishments. After the recognitions we split up to the various project locations. This year included lopping, kiosk replacement, and the ‘great garlic mustard pull’ in addition to the waterbar project.

My friend Brian and I chose to do the “Loppa-palooza” and waterbar project on Bear Mountain, our state’s highest peak. This was led by our Chapter Chair Dave. Several other of my friends in the chapter came along, as well as a 2011 thru hiker from the area who was volunteering with us for the first time.

the trail winding up bear

the trail winding up bear

Luckily a road took us up to just below the summit and we only had about 300 ft to climb vs the 1600 or so feet should we have started in town.  It was raining the whole time but luckily it was light for the work part of the day. I didn’t have rain pants or boots on so I was grateful for that.  At 40 degrees, rain can get dangerous quickly.  I just find rain pants too clammy and your sweat just gets them wet from the inside. And on slabs of rock my trail runners are much better traction-wise. Its supposed to rain on much of our hike this weekend, so I will make a judgement call on boots vs trail runners before we head up there. If there’s lots of mud too, the boots will win.

among the summit pitch pines

among the summit pitch pines

We enjoyed hiking up to the summit despite the lack of views. I am up there often and it is one of my favorite views but I’ve seen it plenty of times. Its still a beautiful summit with all the exposed rock and pitch pine and the old stone tower up top. We made quick work of it as spring came late and most of the bushes hadn’t grown in much yet. I’m sure we will need to revisit in June when everything is leafed out. Then we will have a better sense of what needs cutting back.

The summit tower

The summit tower

We got back to the meeting spot around 130 pm and spent some time enjoying snacks and refreshments before heading home. It’s always great to be out on the trail, and it feels even better when I’m volunteering to help preserve it. The bonus is I get to do it with friends old and new in the chapter. And today, one of them was the woman who got me involved with volunteering with the club several years ago. It was a treat catching up with her and doing some trail work again together.

This weekend Fielden Stream and I are headed back to Massachusetts to knock off another section as we close in on completion of the state. We will do either section one or section two depending on how miserable the weather wants to be… either way I can’t wait.

Miles: 3.2

– Linus

Appalachian Trail Massachusetts: Section 3

Fielden Stream climbing up the gulf on North mtn

Fielden Stream climbing up the gulf on North mtn

Last weekend Fielden Stream and I finally got out for our first overnight backpacking trip of the year. What a long winter that was – the wait was tough. The few winter day hikes did not stoke my need for time in the woods enough, and I got quite out of shape. Well, we both did.

We picked up where we left off in Massachusetts, and did the section over North mountain from Dalton to Cheshire. We had already done 1 mile of it, and had to stop ½ mile short of the end due to parking areas. So overall it was about 8 miles. We stopped at the Shamrock Village Inn on the way to the trailhead so I could get a stamp in my A.T. passport. The lady who ran it, Laura, was very nice and let us also use the bathroom. She had cute dogs there that we enjoyed meeting. They get a lot of hikers there. I’ll get another stamp at St Mary’s church In Cheshire as we head out of town in 2 weeks.

Fielden Stream making a campfire

Fielden Stream making a campfire

We had a beautiful day on Saturday – perfect conditions to hike. Mid-60s during the day was mild enough to make the first climb of the year more manageable. It was about 1000’ up to the campsite but mercifully gradual. The woods were full of Trout Lilly and Trillium and there was a pleasant breeze as we reached elevation and walked along the ridge. Because the trees were just starting to leaf out there were nice westerly views of Savage Mtn and the range that extends north to Greylock. My new poles worked great on their maiden voyage. Though I did manage to lose one basket before I even used them so Fielden bought me a replacement set when getting her new trail runners – more on that later.

Sunset from Crystal Mtn Campsite

Sunset from Crystal Mtn Campsite

Of course when we reached the campsite trail it was UP .2 but it was a nice campsite, with a clean privy, a nice fire ring and a bear box. I had watered up before the campsite so didn’t need to do the hike downhill to the stream there. Fielden loved my Klymit X pillow so I let her use it and went back to my special clothing bag with the soft pillow side which works great for me. I tried using my neo air pump sack to inflate my sleeping pad but it wasn’t really working. Maybe I’m doing it wrong or maybe it was a great idea that needs more work.

Vesitbule cooking in the rain

Vesitbule cooking in the rain

After we were setup, we made a nice fire and chatted with some section hikers who arrived a bit later after a much longer day.  They retired to their tents early and we made dinner and enjoyed the fire before doing the same. We were treated to a nice sunset to the west and calls from a barred owl and another owl which I didn’t recognize. The day was complete.  We knew rain would come soon but were ok with it. This is part of the experience. And it wasn’t too cold.

The rain came later than expected – around 7 am. We were so happy to be out there we embraced the suck and did our first packing of our packs in our tent and my first cooking of the water for coffee at my vestibule.  We got packed up while remaining mostly dry and hit the trail by 815. I filled up at the first stream, to be safe.

Linus at Gore Pond

Linus at Gore Pond

Turns out there were about 5 more rushing streams between here and the Cheshire cobbles, not to mention the lovely Gore pond. Though with all its beaver activity I tend to avoid those sources. The extra weight was good training. The rain stopped for a while until we got to the Cobbles 3 miles north. We negotiated several blowdowns which I know the Mass crews will be up here in 2 weeks to address.

Beaver dams at Gore Pond

Beaver dams at Gore Pond

A slight mist of rain started as we reached the cobbles, a beautiful series of rock ledges on the northern end of the mountain, with commanding views west and south over Cheshire and Greylock and its sister mountains on the other side of the valley. The peaks were shrouded in mist, but it made the views all the more dramatic. We had a snack as we were getting hangry and then took a few photos and video for our Massachusetts video, which will be complete soon as we reach the end of the state. 19 miles to go!

Cheshire and Greylock from Cheshire Cobble

Cheshire and Greylock from Cheshire Cobble

It was a quick descent to Cheshire but with way more switchbacks than it appeared on the profile. So it was pleasant and easy. The cobbles hung over us for a bit of the descent and it really reminded me of Minnewaska State park and Sam’s point there. Once in Cheshire we got grand views of Greylock towering in the distance.  We were two and a half hours early for our shuttle. Our trail legs were alteady improving. We called her but could not reach her so we asked a friend who’s from the town where to eat and she recommended a spot half a mile down the rail trail. What’s another half mile on a flat surface?

Linus on Cheshire Cobble

Linus on Cheshire Cobble

The rain was starting again as was our hunger so we made for the restaurant and left a message for the shuttle to pick us up there at the original time. I completely demolished my plate and felt like a thru hiker! A beer or two made the meal complete (Fielden was driving!) and we got back to our car in a few minutes. We made plans for the shuttle for the next hike over the white whale, Greylock, and her sister mountains in a few weeks.

Greylock from Cheshire

Greylock from Cheshire

Fielden’s new trail runners were a tad too small so she got her first blisters in years. She will exchange them or return them and go back to her old shoes. I think she just needs to go up half a size and that should solve the issue.

I did not want to leave. I almost sulked as we drove home and I pretend-threatened-joked to Fielden Stream that I wanted her to turn around and go back with me and keep hiking after a nice stay in a hotel! Real life issues were suddenly coming back to me in force as they always do on the drive home and as I waited so long for this hike, I wasn’t letting go of it easily.

A great first adventure for the season. Luckily there’s much more ahead, and the next hike will push us to the highest peak and elevation gain we’ve done together, as well as the limits of our stamina. Can’t wait! It’s the best kind of hurt.

Hiker Hunger

Hiker Hunger is real

Miles day 1: 3.2

Miles Day 2: 4.6

Owls: 2

Cobwebs broken on trail: 6

-Linus