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

Appalachian Trail: New Jersey Section 4, Part 2

View of the Pennsylvania Poconos from Culver Ridge

View of the Pennsylvania Poconos from Culver Ridge

Last weekend we finally made it back to the trail in New Jersey to knock out the rest of one of our last two sections in the state. We planned it as a backpacking trip, and did all the prep, including shopping for a few missing items, getting out our tent and anticipating the bad weather, with our new gaiters and my rain kilt added to the supply list.

The plan was an overnight at Gren Anderson shelter, and an evening start. I got out of work early so we could make the trail head by 5:45.

View of Culver Gap from Culver Ridge

View of Culver Gap from Culver Ridge

That part of the plan at least was successful. But when we got in the car and the weather began to destabilize, the new plan was to make the call at the trail head. If it was going to be worse, we stay at a hotel and day hike all 9 miles when the weather cleared in the morning. If we thought it was manageable, we stick to the original plan of the overnight at the shelter. It was only 2.8 miles in, and the initial climb out of Culver Gap wasn’t too bad.

Sunrise Mountain Pavillion

Sunrise Mountain Pavillion

The further south we drove, the worse the weather and the forecast became. Lighting was visible, and tornado watches were added. We made the call to stay in town for the night and hit the trail in the morning. As we drove away from the trail head to the hotel, the heavy weather hit, and we were relieved to not be out in it. While we have had many a very wet weekend, lightning and tornado watches are a different ball game, especially when hiking with metal poles and setting up a tent that has metal poles.

Sunrise Mountain Pavillion

Sunrise Mountain Pavillion

We found a lovely old historic inn in nearby Milford, Pennsylvania. It was built in 1852, and has a fancy restaurant and slightly less fancy French Bistro in the basement. We ate there and enjoyed all the photos of the many very famous people who have stayed there over time, from Diplomats, US Presidents, poets, authors, foreign dignitaries, actors and actresses and more.  We celebrated a belated anniversary dinner in the bistro and enjoyed talking about and trying new wines with the somm. This area used to be the recreation capital of the northeast, hence all the famous visitors. It was a nice quaint little town, matching the ambiance of the old inn.

Culver Lake from Culver Ridge

Culver Lake from Culver Ridge

The bad weather stuck around until almost 11pm, and we were again relieved to have made this choice. We chose to do the hike southbound so we could maximize miles over the time allotted. We stayed very much on schedule, and the almost 9 miles was still quite a workout for us for our first section hike of the season – even with day packs. In the morning we were up and out early, skipping breakfast in favor of an on-time trail start. Just .2 in from the road is Mashipacong shelter.

Culver Fire Tower

Culver Fire Tower

This is probably why there’s no overnight parking allowed here. Too easy to get party groups in. Its a nice shelter with a bear box that the rangers apparently fill with water for hikers. Though I did not check. There was a ‘no fires’ sign in the shelter, and a big fire ring right in front of it. Always…

There was also a painting of the shelter hung in the shelter, done by an artist who has been doing these of New Jersey and Connecticut shelters recently. This one was new, according to my maintainer friend. We signed the register and then carried on along the spine of Kittattiny Mountain. It was a chilly 48 degrees and the winds were strong and shaking the trees above.

Linus on Sunrise Mountain

Linus on Sunrise Mountain

But it was not raining and the views were glorious. We stopped and talked to a maintainer and his friend for a while, and passed a few boy scouts and leaders as well as a few section hikers on our way up to the old CCC pavillion on Sunrise Mountain.

There we encountered several locals who drove up for the view, and took some pictures. This is the second highest point in New Jersey on the trail, and a very popular tourist destination because of the stone pavilion and road to the top.

Linus and Fielden Stream on Culver Ridge

Linus and Fielden Stream on Culver Ridge

People get married here as well. You have long views of the Poconos and Pennsylvania on one side, and New Jersey on the other. We could see all the way to the end of Culver Ridge, where the fire tower is, and where we were headed. After a snack we headed on our way down, passing at least 20 more hikers making their way up.  We were grateful to have the place mostly to ourselves for our break. We encountered a few swampy areas with boardwalks, and some swampy areas that were much larger because of the heavy rain the night before.

Linus at Mashipacong Shelter

Linus at Mashipacong Shelter

This would not have been easy crossing in the previous night’s weather. And all the brooks were high too and took a little extra negotiating to cross. But there wasn’t much challenge in the terrain otherwise, and we soon passed the side trail to our original planned home for the night, Gren Anderson shelter.  As it’s .3 down a side trail or so, we continued on. Turns out we got a great view of it from Sunrise Mountain road on our drive back to our car. Its not far from the road.

We had a small but very gradual climb back up to the Culver ridge, and arrived at the fire tower and radio tower. We had another snack and took some photos of a group of boys and leaders hiking, and they took some of us. From there, the trail followed the southern side of the ridge looking over Culver Lake. There was a lot of new green coming in, and the trail was quite scenic. We reached the crest of the ridge, which had its own lovely views of Culver Gap, and north to the Poconos of Pennsylvania.

Fielden Stream descending Culver Ridge

Fielden Stream descending Culver Ridge

The descent was not steep or long, but it was rocky, and I’m sure we wouldn’t have enjoyed scrambling over those in a heavy downpour. Those are slippery little ankle twisters. We reached the lot at Culver Gap at the same time as our shuttle driver, about 30 minutes early, though I had also given him a heads up from the fire tower that we would be early.

We have already planned our next section overnight to complete New Jersey in 3 weeks, and arranged for him to pick us up, so that’s settled. Hopefully we will get nice (or nicer at least) weather, as some of the best views on the New Jersey part of the trail are on this section.

I did not get to try my rain kilt, so stay tuned for my Highlander moment in the rainy future. I also didn’t use the gaiters as there’s some sort of velcro attachment system you need to put on your shoes and let cure for 24 hours before use. So for the next one…

You can watch the video here.

We’re looking forward to finishing New Jersey, and have loved how beautiful it’s been. It’s certainly changed our ideas of New Jersey. Also I will be out many times this month with our Connecticut AMC chapter doing more trail jobs, and meeting the new seasonal ridge runner staff for some of their training events at the end of the month. Then my weekend ridge runner season kicks off in earnest at the beginning of June.  Fielden Stream and I will still get some sections of trail in, though perhaps less than usual. We will be doing a section of Pennsylvania with our friends from there again this June, and may start either Vermont, or take a 4-5 day trip to do all of Maryland. We will play it by ear as there’s a lot of things going on for us this summer.

Miles: 8.7

  • Linus