Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Weekend #3 – Up and Down the Trail

Last weekend I saw a lot more of the Connecticut trail than one section. It started off by running into ridge runner Lizzie at the Cornwall Country Market. We hadn’t seen each other since the training days in late May, and I was stopping in to pick up some breakfast sandwiches for Brian and I. He was already out on the trail and planning to join me at the trailhead in Falls Village shortly after my stop here. Lizzie and I caught up for a bit and talked about our season so far. She was on day 6 of a 10 day stretch and was excited to be meeting friends at the market. She had met Brian on the trail earlier so she knew we were meeting up to hike later. She thanked me again for all the training I gave them, which felt nice of course. It was an honor, and a lot of fun!

I headed up to the trailhead lot in Falls Village. Set up there were a family doing trail magic out of their truck. With them they had both their daughters, and one was currently thru hiking the trail but had actually been in the Bear Mountain, New York area. They picked her up so she could join in providing the trail magic and see her family who were from Michigan. They were planning to drive her back to where she left off in New York on the way back.  They had coolers of water, gatorade, chips, sandwiches and some sugary treats. I spoke with them for a while about ridge running and then with a few other thru hikers who were arriving, and we’d see a bunch more of later on the trail.

Brian finally arrived (he got sidetracked by some other nice hikers we’d see several more times). Apparently he walked right past a large rattlesnake the other hikers saw right after their conversation by Belter’s Bump. I gave him the egg sandwich, which he had in addition to a fresh sandwich they made him. We enjoyed more conversation with hikers before finally setting off on the trail. It was getting hotter and I was ready to get into the shady covered woods.

There was a small issue here as an entry to the tracks was right next do a turn blaze on a pole. Only this wasn’t the entrance to the trail, it was about 50 ft farther. But the sign was covered by overgrown brush. Once I realized what was going on, I used some large sticks and branches to create a fence of sorts. Hopefully this will work for the time being while we can address it with the club for a more permanent solution. I’ve already raised it.

Once that was resolved it was a quick mostly flat few miles to the base of the Great Falls. We also made a stop to fill up our bottles at the power plant faucet. At the falls we ran into the trail magic family as we had recommended they come here to see the falls. They were surprised we were there already. Well, it was flat and we move at a good pace when hiking. We opted to enjoy the falls more properly and cool off on our return tomorrow. For now we wanted to get our miles down.

The long slow climb up Prospect Mountain is luckily almost all in the woods save for one short strip through a steamy meadow. We took a long break at the top and spoke with some day hikers and then two thru hikers we saw at the trail magic lot. He had left his phone in a shuttle driver’s car so Brian was helping him communicate with family who could help him make arrangements to get it back. It was a clear, bright, warm day and the view was long and clear from the summit.

We marched on, headed for the Giant’s Thumb on Rabbit Hill. I also wanted to take in Rand’s view, a glorious panorama of the Taconics and the trail ahead. There was indeed a stealth camping area here. A few of the thrus asked if they could camp in this area when at the trail magic and I said only at designated sites in Connecticut. They did comply and we saw them later at the campsite. But we had to address this stealth site. Once we made sure it was cleared of any fire evidence, I built another structure of sticks and vines to create a fence. Let’s hope it lasts. A more permanent solution is needed. But it seems people know about it and camping in the field from Guthook. Nevermind that it’s not allowed I guess a nice camp spot is more important to hikers these days than LNT.  Well, not all. And this IS one of the main reasons I’m out here. I’m hoping my fence solution sends the message without being offensive. I was certainly happy with it.

The Giant’s Thumb is a glacial erratic on Rabbit Hill that sticks straight up and resembles a thumb. It was only .3 farther up trail and mostly level so we decided it would be nice to visit it as our turn around point for the day. After nearly walking right by it, we stopped for photos and then headed back to the campsite. The big steep climb down to the campsite and shelter was next. I cut some branches hanging in the access trail and Brian taught me about how to cut tree branches so the tree keeps growing in a healthy way.

As steep as I’ve ever remembered it, we took our time getting down to camp. Once there, its a lovely campsite with a piped spring, a nice breeze, and a shelter and several platforms. We got set up and I answered questions and spoke to all the hikers as they streamed in, grumbling about the descent. I assured them we are working on a solution for that. Re-routes take a lot of meetings and surveys of the land and then approvals so once we get all that done, a re-route should be in place. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

The hikers from the trail magic that asked me about camping at the field were there, as were about 8 others, including 2 section overnight hikers. And one thru-hiking poodle. We enjoyed speaking with all of them at dinner at the picnic table and I helped the two overnighters arrange to get their little sportscar out the river road gate as their GPS took them down a very treacherous road to the other side of the gate and they were afraid the car wouldn’t make it back up. We met thru hikers from Australia, and one who’s waited his whole life to retire and do the trail. It was a dry, clear, moonlight quiet night, save for an owl and some fisher cats (I think they were mating?). Even the bugs eventually left.

In the morning we all seemed to be up and heading out at the same time so it was nice to not have to wait to see that the campsite was in order. We made quick time of the steep ascent and got back to the summit of Prospect Mountain. Those two climbs would be about all of it for the day except a few 50ft ups and downs along the train track section. We spoke with the hikers Brian had chatted with on Belter’s Bump as they were just making it to this section today. They are neighbors who have already done 1,500 miles of the trail but they do it all in day hikes and stay in hotels at night. We also saw a few members of another family who were taking their dogs up to the summit. We stopped at the falls and got to the edge of the water this time to cool off and splash a bunch of cold water on our heads. We spoke with a few thru hikers here and passed about 8 more on the way back to the car including Arrow and Nav, who I’ve been following on Instagram. Nav is a little miniature Collie. It was fun to run into them and was not sure I’d see them because the car show at Falls Village was drawing a lot of hikers because of the many food vendors.

I have also been followed and was following another hiker named Lightning McQueen. My friends at the Bulls Bridge informed me they’d be barbecuing and doing some trail magic, and to come over after we got off trail. So we planned on that in the morning and I told Lightning to meet us there if the timing was right. As I got on the road I was updated that she had already come by looking for me and had gone to the store. I reached out and she was still there and said she’d be back at the trail shortly. We really enjoyed meeting and talking and having lunch with her. I also met a National Park Ranger who is working with our chapter on educating locals on the trail and rules here, as well as addressing other issues along our section. So I was able to provide her with some information on the status of issues in the section of trail we just hiked.

It was perfect weather all weekend, and I got to make a lot of new friends, and meet up with some hikers I was hoping to meet, and as always, take care of the trail and the hikers the best I can. And my planks have paid off because it really minimized my knee pain and I had a long descent to test it out! I will be back out in a few weekends to do more ridge running. I am also planning a 3 day section in North Carolina to do with Fielden Stream as we will be in the area in a month for my son’s graduation. Can’t wait. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 7.5

Miles day 2: 5.9

— Linus

 

My fence to block a fake trail entry

My fence to block a fake trail entry

Almost 1500

Almost 1500

The one and only Rand's view

The one and only Rand’s view

Brian at Giant's Thumb

Brian at Giant’s Thumb

Camping at Limestone Spring

Camping at Limestone Spring

Lilly the hiking dog

Lilly the hiking dog

On top of Prospect Mountain

On top of Prospect Mountain

Spotted Wintergreen in Bloom

Spotted Wintergreen in Bloom

The Great falls, from the side

The Great falls, from the side

Below the Great Falls

Below the Great Falls

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