Trail Maintenance Hike, Schaghticoke Mountain, NY/CT Appalachian Trail

I was really missing the trail since I got back from Georgia so I thought I’d go up last Saturday on a favorite section of ours and check out trail conditions. Turns out, trail was in great shape, so there really wasn’t much to do except enjoy the hike!  My friend from our AMC chapter joined me. The weather was perfect for February hiking. Clear, sunny, warmish, and as a result there were a lot of hikers out! I made a video you can watch here, and there are photos below.

Miles: 5.8 (2.9 out and back)

— Linus

The climb up Schaghticoke Mtn

The climb up Schaghticoke Mtn

Stream crossing

Stream crossing

Glacial erratics

Glacial erratics

More Glacial erratics

More Glacial erratics

The southern view

The southern view

Linus at The southern view

Linus at The southern view

Where the trail goes back into CT for good

Where the trail goes back into CT for good

Linus on Schaghticoke mtn near dusk

Linus on Schaghticoke mtn near dusk

Georgia Appalachian Trail Section Hike Days 4-6

As per the previous entry, my text is coming from my trail journal and my reflections at the end of each day or the following morning before breaking camp. If you’d like to see the video, it’s here.  Photos down below.

Miles Days 4-6: 28.6

Day 4: Henry Gap to Neels Gap (Slackpack). 7 miles

We had a lot of fun with Donald and Mary of Further Appalachian Shuttle at their new hang the Grateful Hiker and at the Seasons Inn in Blairsville, Ga.  We did the $6.99 pizza AYCE buffet next door and I had two plates! We dried all our stuff out .We packed our slackpack stuff and after an awesome breakfast at Hole in the Wall we got up to Neels Gap to drop our packs and went back to Henry Gap and it was cold and clear.  A great hike up and over Blood Mountain and met a lot of folks including a dog who’s trail name was “Misdemeanor”! We also met Sarge up there.  The north side of Blood was like the north side of Bear in Connecticut, but was dry and fun! Resupplied from the shop at Mountain Crossings and got some food and just enjoyed it in the bunk room and hostel, while meeting some new friends and hikers including a guy from France who had just done the 40 miles from Amicalola to here in 36 hours! We will never see him again. We will be off to Low Gap shelter tomorrow and should see Oso again, he’s at the cabins nearby tonight. Gonna get a shower now at the hostel.  We watched Moby Dick and Last of the Mohicans and talked to thru hiker Neal and Mountain Crossings manager “Worldwide”. He had a lot of cool stories.

Day 5: Neels Gap to Low Gap shelter. 11.8 miles (including shelter trail)

(written the next morning, the morning of day 6)

A good climb out of Neels Gap on a brisk morning. 11.8 tough miles with lots of views before arriving at Low Gap shelter.  Cowrock mountain had great views as did the next one. Since it’s winter we have views all day long when it’s clear. There were a lot of people out enjoying the holiday weekend. There were lots of really steep ups and downs especially out of Tesnatee Gap. We met some maintainers out on the trail before Low Gap. There was a great creek there and a great crew. We caught up with Oso just after Neels so he was there plus about 12 others. Thru, weekend, and other section hikers and 3 dogs including Molly or “weezy” who we followed up trail. We met Neal again at the shelter and he made a great fire. I really enjoyed that night until it got so cold and despite my extra pad and layers my bag just did not cut it so I made the call to end at Unicoi Gap the next day so as not to risk another dangerous night with the wrong gear. I let everyone know I would be getting off at Unicoi and arranged my shuttle and ride to Atlanta. We also met Woodstock from Alabama at Low Gap and I learned some Appalachian Talk like “Djeet” and “Mayonaise” from him! Lots of laughs.

Day 6: Low Gap shelter to Unicoi Gap. 9.8 miles, FINALE

(written the next morning, the morning of day 7, my return day)

Much or almost half of this was level and nearly and the locals and maintainers all said this was the “flat” section. But lots more rocks and the hills that were there were still good climbs and descents but it was only 1,880ft of elevation over 10 miles. Hiked my last day with my friends Rockflipper and Oso and had some goodbyes at Blue Mountain shelter. Neal too. Also met Odin. Then it was my turn to do my first real miles alone.  It was another 300ft up then a 1,000ft descent, luckily a long gradual one. Mary met me coming down the hill then we spent some time at the Grateful Hiker before heading down to their friend Whittle’s (a GATC maintainer) in Atlanta for the night and he will take me to the airport soon. My second toe on my right foot is pretty banged up and probably would be losing a nail. I miss everyone already but am fulfilled. I never did catch up with Fresh Ground though. No mind, I got every part of the experience I really wanted, and felt strong! All that working out and winter hiking was good prep for the strenuous nature of this trail.

If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on why I ended the hike early (and considering the recent A.T. news and weather forecast, I’m still good with that choice), I posted another video discussing it all here.

Thanks for following along. I look forward to hiking with my new friends when they reach my area, and if I’m able maybe I will even hike with them a bit up north or down south again if time allows. For now, I am content with having such an incredible experience. Warning there is a picture of my blue toe! Also I included my sketch of Blue Mountain shelter.

— Linus

Drying out at the Seasons Inn Blairsville

Drying out at the Seasons Inn Blairsville

KT tape to the rescue!

KT tape to the rescue!

Resupply planning

Resupply planning

Breakfast at Hole in the Wall Blairsville

Breakfast at Hole in the Wall Blairsville

The profile for the climb over Blood Mtn

The profile for the climb over Blood Mtn

Ice needles, when its really cold

Ice needles, when its really cold

The stone shelter on Blood Mountain summit

The stone shelter on Blood Mountain summit

Inside the stone shelter on Blood Mountain

Inside the stone shelter on Blood Mountain

Linus on Blood Mountain

Linus on Blood Mountain

Meeting people on Blood Mountain

Meeting people on Blood Mountain

The view from Blood mountain

The view from Blood mountain

Fun rock formation gag on Blood Mountain

Fun rock formation gag on Blood Mountain

Mountain Crossings

Mountain Crossings

Quick fuel up at Mountain Crossings

Quick fuel up at Mountain Crossings

The abandoned boot tree at Mountain Crossings

The abandoned boot tree at Mountain Crossings

Arriving at Mountain Crossings

Arriving at Mountain Crossings

The bunkroom at Mountain Crossings

The bunkroom at Mountain Crossings

Blood Mountain sign at Mountain Crossings

Blood Mountain sign at Mountain Crossings

View north of Neels Gap

View north of Neels Gap

Hog Pen Gap

Hog Pen Gap

Low Gap shelter

Low Gap shelter

At Low Gap shelter

At Low Gap shelter

The 11.8 day from Neel Gap to Low Gap shelter

The 11.8 day from Neel Gap to Low Gap shelter

Icicles everywhere

Icicles everywhere

Oso en guard!

Oso en guard!

Linus at a cascade

Linus at a cascade

Climbing the rocks up to Blue Mountain shelter

Rockflipper Climbing the rocks up to Blue Mountain shelter

Linus and Oso

Linus and Oso

Blue Mountain Shelter, drawing by Linus

Blue Mountain Shelter, drawing by Linus

Linus on his final steps into Unicoi Gap

Linus on his final steps into Unicoi Gap

Blue toenail!

Blue toenail!

 

 

 

Georgia Appalachian Trail Section Hike Days 1-3

Last week I had the privilege of backpacking the Georgia Appalachian Trail. While I planned for up to 2 weeks, the weather was quite erratic and the cold temperatures bested my sleeping bag and all the warm gear I threw at it. I made the call after day 6 to end early as I couldn’t drop $600-800 on a zero degree bag (and wouldn’t for a section hike) and will come back to finish Georgia and make it up to Deep Gap, NC as planned when it’s warmer and the crowds have gone through. I was at the very front end of the bubble so I still found shelter space and had the honor of accompanying some new thru hikers for their first 53 miles north.

My format for this will be to copy verbatim from my trail journal that I wrote when arriving at camp or a hostel or town each day. I have already completed the video, and you can find that here, if you prefer that format. Everything in italics is an afterthought or comment I made that wasn’t in the journal itself. Photos are below the journal entries.

Miles Day 1-3:  25.7 (including the mile southbound up Springer Mountain before heading back north.

Day 1: Springer Lot to Springer Summit to Hawk Mountain shelter. 9.1 miles

Heavy rain at start, until back at the Springer lot, met Jarhead and his dog, I think they were heading into town because his dog popped his inflatable pad. Mostly downhill and flat until long climb up Hawk Mountain from Three Forks. Missed the turnoff to Long Creek Falls. Started to downpour about 2 miles before the shelter. Here with a crew of 5 and local day hiker Jamie Hiikes. We tried (or rather Paul did) to make a fire but its all wet and windy and is starting to rain again. Going to have dinner soon then sleep — was up early at Donald and Mary’s (Further Appalachian Shuttle) so I should sleep ok.

Day 2: Hawk Mountain Shelter to Gooch Mountain shelter. 7.6 miles

Got out around 9, with Rockflipper – and I got ahead of him on Sassafras, which normally would kick one’s ass-afras but I felt strong and crushed it. Too bad the view of Atlanta and the Marietta owl towers was a whiteout. Got a few views before the rain. Justus was mercifully re-routed but I still had some climb up it, plus a few more, and 2 exciting creek crossings including Justus creek. I took my boots off for both, and that’s actually good as clean feet also means less blisters. The water was warmish and felt good but I did tear a sock so I’ll get another pair at Neels Gap. Beautiful hike and I saw Mary who was shuttling out the hikers I shared a bunk with the night before, as one of them got sick. People left water at Horse Gap and Cooper Gap

 Afterthoughts: (not in my journal)  … and I found out later it was two hikers that joined us at the shelter this night: Lefty and another gentleman who didn’t have a trail name yet. They had a lot of extra so they dropped it there before hitting the trail themselves.

I just got to the shelter and had lunch and rockflipper is here now. Time to hang and have fun. And roll my muscles out.

 Afterthoughts: (not in my journal) : I picked that up from Early Riser, and with that and eating banana chips daily I didn’t have a single charlie horse! I also learned later from Whittle that I could use my trekking poles to do that too — just gotta do it before I set up my tent if using my tent as they hold it up!

Day 3: Gooch Mountain Shelter to Henry Gap. 9 miles

It was torrential rain all night and thunder and lightning in the early AM. It all got wet, some rain blowing in sideways.  Lefty and his friend had came in to camp later last night as did Oso who is one of my friends now. He hikes with Sleeves and knows him well. We made a video in the AM before McGyver and Snuggles (Paul) and everyone left.  The two late arrivals headed for Neels Gap then Blairsville and Snuggles and McGyver are taking a few days in Dahlonega to switch out some gear. Rain stopped shortly after leaving camp and rockflipper and I headed up Ramrock and Big Cedar — both big climbs but we did get the views on Ramrock before it socked in at Preacher’s rock, where we met some nice local hikers. We checked out Woody Gap and took pics there too. Some pretty cascades on the trail south of Henry Gap where we got off. Mary came out to get us on the trail and we went back to get a room at the Seasons Inn in Blairsville and hang at the Grateful hiker. Then the AYCE (all you can eat) pizza buffet smash! Now we just finished organizing all our stuff for the day/slackpack to Neels Gap tomorrow and tomorrow’s resupply and stay at Mountain Crossings. Enjoying the warm room, hot shower and toilet and town food. Did laundry too and dried out our stuff in a yard sale all over the room. We leave at 10 tomorrow and hope to hit Mountain Crossings by 330. It’s 7 miles, much of it uphill. Bringing my spikes in case it’s icy but starting late so that can melt off a bit.

— Linus

The weather wasn't promising

The weather wasn’t promising

At the Atlanta airport - it's like they knew!

At the Atlanta airport – it’s like they knew!

The Further Appalachian Shuttle and Grateful hiker are awesome check them out- based out of Blairsville

The Further Appalachian Shuttle and Grateful hiker are awesome check them out- based out of Blairsville

At the Springer Mountain lot

At the Springer Mountain lot

On top of Springer

On top of Springer

A shoutout from my shuttle

A shoutout from my shuttle

Refilling my water

Refilling my water

Three forks - all the creeks were super high

Three forks – all the creeks were super high

Hawk Mountain shelter

Hawk Mountain shelter

Paul and Jamie trying to make a fire but everything was saturated

Paul and Jamie trying to make a fire but everything was saturated

Rhodendron tunnels

Rhodendron tunnels

Justus creek crossing

Justus creek crossing

Creek crossing in my water / camp shoes

Creek crossing in my water / camp shoes

Linus on Ramrock Mountain

Linus on Ramrock Mountain

Resting in Blairsville at the Seasons Inn

Resting in Blairsville at the Seasons Inn

KT tape to the rescue for hotspots that almost became blisters

KT tape to the rescue for hotspots that almost became blisters

Linus and Rockflipper at Preacher's rock, Big Cedar Mountain

Linus and Rockflipper at Preacher’s rock, Big Cedar Mountain

Linus at Henry Gap

Linus at Henry Gap

 

 

 

Mohawk Trail: Northern Terminus to Lake Road (Southbound)

Pointing to the beast, Barrack Mtn, WAY worse than it looks

Pointing to the beast, Barrack Mtn, WAY worse than it looks (Click to englarge)

Last weekend, the weather gods were very kind. It was in the 60’s both days, and just shy of that overnight. My first instinct? Go backpacking! I got Brian on board quickly and before we knew it we were meeting in Falls Village to tackle this last 9.6 miles I had to complete. Only there was a reason I hadn’t done it yet. (Mostly, it’s just the northernmost 1.2 miles that struck fear into my and many hearts, but at that distance it was going to be part of a longer hike). This was the portion over Barrack Mountain. A bald Eagle flew just over me as I drove to the trailhead that morning, and I was hoping it was a sign of strength and that this time I’ve got this.

Once part of the Appalachian Trail, the Mohawk was created in the late 1980s (’88 I believe) when the A.T. was rerouted across to the west of the Housatonic.

Brian at a view halfway up Barrack Mtn

Brian at a view halfway up Barrack Mtn (Click to englarge)

This meant features like Mohawk Mountain, Cathedral Pines, Dean Ravine and Lookout Point would be no longer part of the national scenic trail’s beautiful surroundings. Tornadoes in 1988 did a lot of damage to the cathedral pines and the trail in the area in general, which was also part of the reason it was relocated. Some of my trail and AMC chapter friends joke that they are glad this is no longer the A.T., because it is a beast. This made me feel a little better that I found it so strenuous and steep. A friend who thru-hiked back in the day reminded me that most of the A.T. in the old days was like Barrack Mountain, that is straight up and straight back down both steeply, with long road walks in between.

View from Lookout Point on Barrack Mountain

View from Lookout Point on Barrack Mountain (Click to englarge)

I had attempted ascending Barrack via the southbound route a few Novembers ago as well, in similarly leafy and damp conditions. I turned around half way up. It is extremely steep, and with wet slippery leaves everywhere, it was downright dangerous. There are scant few if any actual switchbacks here folks. Same on the way down. And there are a lot of precipitous ledges that you were climbing up and along. Even with Brian there who had done this section and was spotting me, it felt just as sketchy as last time. Though I was glad he was along because as I felt last time, if I fell there, no one would hear me or find me for days. My arms are still sore; I did a lot of hand over hand work on the way up. The view up there is pretty amazing, and I noticed there’s an easier trail coming up the gentler side from a Jewish retreat center, I’ll have to see if it has public access, I imagine it does.  We’re friendly people!

Good blazing and signage here, trail could use some maintenance

Good blazing and signage here, trail could use some maintenance (Click to englarge)

Heavy wind gusts barreled across the mountaintop as we took in views of Lime Rock Park raceway and Sharon Mountain beyond. We knew we would have rain and wind overnight and were worried it moved in early, at the worst time. Going down was very steep rock faces topped with millions of slippery pine needles. Wet that would have just been life threatening. It felt close as it was. The rain did not come thankfully, and I did some butt-scooting down where necessary. No shame at all. I like living thanks very much. I’m here to hike not scale cliffs. Sometimes they throw that at you though and you gotta manage. A cool highlight along the way was an old A.T. geological marker like we found on Red Mountain a few years ago.

Also luckily Brian made the best suggestion ever — bring spikes, even if just for the wet leaves. SO we did. Let me tell you, I’m not sure how I would have done Barrack with a full pack and not just slid off the mountain. It was a game changer. Also when we had to cross large wet slippery blowdowns of which there were many. And stream crossings. We stayed off rocks as much as possible so as not to wear them down, but it’s worth keeping an old pair around when you replace or upgrade them because it really made us feel much more confident and sure-footed.

Day 1: The left shows Barrack Mtn and Dean Ravine, then Music Mtn

Day 1: The left shows Barrack Mtn and Dean Ravine, then Music Mtn (Click to englarge)

Dean Ravine was everything I expected — stunning. This whole section was. I have around 25 pictures this time because it was even impossible to get it down to that few. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. There is nearby parking access and a short hike down to the bottom of the falls and I recommend it. Breathtaking.

We started around 1:30 and it was a tough hike into the shelter (see the GPS grab though just the red lines because the bit above is not the topo for this bit, i moved it by accident when taking the screenshot). We got in just before dark and hung our bear bags. We knew heavy wind and rain were coming in overnight so we decided to sleep in the shelter… my FIRST time!  Good call. Besides, its hardly used because this trail is hardly hiked so not much food around to attract mice or worse. It was very clean, and the shelter log was nearly empty. Someone had a geocache in there but it looks pretty neglected too. This shelter was built in 1988, the same year they moved the A.T off here, just months later I assume. We had the place to ourselves. Some people do the Mohawk as a loop with it’s replacement A.T. portion so I’m sure some people stay here once in a while.  It was great. We had dinner and then talked in the shelter till around 9pm.

A view looking up the north side of Barrack Mtn.

A view looking up the steep north side of Barrack Mtn. (Click to englarge)

Overnight heavy winds and rain rolled in. It was heaviest and worst just before dawn, and was still going when we were getting up. But within 30 minutes as we made breakfast and packed up, it began to clear into another beautiful day. I felt safe and warm (if not too warm) in my sleeping bag in the shelter. I may be doing that more, at least when out solo with friends. As a ridgerunner I won’t take the shelter. And my wife isn’t interested in them, unless we are alone. I kind of feel the same way, though I am excited to have more shelter stays now. I got to try the loaded mashed potatoes for a dinner and it was the best! I will be redoing that one, it hit the spot. and you can throw some shredded jerky or meat or cheese you have in there to snazz it up. I brought a little olive oil. Good calories and fat and light.

Old A.T. geological marker

Old A.T. geological marker (Click to englarge)

As we hiked out on day 2, it was much more gentle terrain I dubbed the mercy miles. My arms and legs were shot from day one’s climbs and descents. We did have a few climbs this morning too but it was about 58 degrees, clear and breezy and beautiful hiking weather. We were treated to a large pond full of beaver lodges and dams and handiwork you can see in the photos below.

Driving around this area is also absolutely beautiful. The bucolic views of farms, country houses, pastures, rivers, mountains and covered bridges to postcard-worthy old towns are a treat of their own. We spotted many a home in the mountains that we’d live in ourselves!

A shot of the steepness on the south side

A shot of the steepness on the south side (Click to englarge)

We stopped at the Cornwall Country Market in Cornwall Bridge on the way home for what thru-hiker Underdog and his friends call a “hiker smash”. I had a bacon-egg-and-cheese, tater tots, a gatorade, banana and a coffee. You can fill up to 20oz of coffee for $1 at the market if you have a container. As if I wasn’t already a huge fan of their amazing food. Last time Brian and I had breakfast on the porch was after one of my ridgerunner weekends last July or August. I love having so many great hiking friends. And it was an absolute dream to be able to backpack in the middle of January. Sadly it’s pretty much guaranteed a result of climate change.

I am now done with the Mohawk, and I just received my Mattabessett completion patch! I think next I will focus on the New England Trail again and finish the bits of the Menunkatuck and as much of the Metacomet as possible before my A.T. season starts again. I am also just 1.5 miles off from finishing the Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s CT Blue-Blazed 200 Mile challenge!  I am continuing my role as a weekend ridgerunner in Connecticut and southern Massachusetts again this year so from late April to Mid-October I will be mostly on the A.T. working or doing section hikes with my wife. I should be able to finish the Connecticut portions of the N.E.T. in the next season or two if I stick to it!

Miles day 1: 4.8 (.5 road-walk from parking)

Miles day 2: 5.3

— Linus

Many more photos from this hike below.

The brook below Dean Ravine

The brook below Dean Ravine

More of the brook in Dean Ravine

More of the brook in Dean Ravine

Linus looking up at the waterfall in Dean Ravine

Linus looking up at the waterfall in Dean Ravine

Wickwire shelter at Dawn

Wickwire shelter at Dawn

Breakfast at the shelter

Breakfast at the shelter

Packed up and ready for day 2

Packed up and ready for day 2

Horsetail, an invasive but pretty

Horsetail, an invasive but pretty

The pond with all the beaver activity

The pond with all the beaver activity

Beaver handiwork

Beaver handiwork

More beaver handiwork

More beaver handiwork – the water on the left kinda looks like the left half of Connecticut!

Walking through young forests full of stone walls from a different time

Brian Walking through young forests full of stone walls from a different time

Mossy moonscape

Mossy moonscape

Linus on Pond Hill at 1450ft through old pastures

Linus on Pond Hill at 1450ft through old pastures

Appalachian Trail: Pennsylvania Section 1

The last two days we spent backpacking another section of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Err.. ROCKsylvania, as its known. And it’s for real. Really real. Lots and lots and lots and LOTS of rocks. Big ones, little ones, medium ones, pointy ones, slippery ones, foot squishing ones, sideways ones… you get the picture. We knew in advance, we’ve been warned for years! ALL A.T. hikers pretty much know this, in fact.

We did the flat section in Boiling Springs in July when we were nursing wounds and it was 95 degrees as day hikes but I wanted to get a good, challenging overnight in in case this was the last overnight for us together of the season. Mission accomplished! (still sore).

I also had to make it to my son’s soccer game in Kent yesterday at 330 so I didn’t want to be a 4-hours-plus drive away. Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap was 15.5 miles, with a shelter 9.1 miles in. The forecast was for 40’s-50’s temps at night and rain most of Monday. We have done our share in rain and that’s fine, but at those temps it becomes a risky combo that we had the luxury to avoid. Plus it was FIelden Stream’s birthday so we usually do a backpacking trip with one night in an inn and one on trail. So we did this again. And since Monday was actually her birthday we had an even better excuse to stay at the inn that night and wait out the rain.

We got a room at the old Deer Head Inn, right on the trail. It looked really cool last time we were in town. We loved it. The only downside was the live jazz and the restaurant weren’t open on Mondays. We will be back for that experience. We can still stay there after another nearby section. The family that run it were very friendly and we got a great rate. We had a really nice room (no TV at least in our room, but who cares!). I sat on the porch with my sketchbook, drawing the beautiful scenes from the porch while it rained, and listened to jazz on my iphone and had a glass of wine.

We got some great dinner suggestions all around the area but we were supposed to meet with a southbound thru hiker for dinner so we picked a place right on the main strip where the hostel and our inn were. As it turns out he was unable to make dinner, so we could have gone somewhere new. But we went to the Sycamore grill last time we were here when we finished New Jersey and liked it a lot. So we were just fine being there again for dinner.

We had a nice dinner and got to bed early after watching some videos on our phone. See, who needs a TV in the room these days!  We were up early to get coffee and donuts at the village farmer, and had fun taking our pictures in the pie slice and hot dog portrait sign. We also got a fresh loaf of raisin bread and cider donuts to have for breakfasts before and during the hike, and got an Uber to Wind Gap right on schedule! We had a nice talk with the driver who was also super friendly and helpful and then it was a quick climb up out of Wind Gap.

While it was a brisk ascent it was gentle on the feet here still, and it wasn’t long because we were already at 1,000ft coming up this way to the ridge. The other end is a much longer climb, and we even felt that going down it at the end!

Soon after we reached the ridge, the fields of rocks began. And kept going, and going… Elevation-wise this day was almost entirely flat once we reached the ridge. Wolf Rocks was a fun scramble, with much, much, larger rocks that formed the spine of a rocky ledge, with drops about 30 feet down on the mountain side. The views north were very nice, and we met a few day hikers here (and one backpacker) who were also taking the tricky scramble slowly. We got a few photos here and then finished the challenging technical walk as we re-entered the forest. I’m glad we waited for it to be dry, this would have been tricky and I did not want to miss it and take the bypass!

We had two more miles to go after Wolf rocks to the shelter and thankfully 1.5 miles of it was along a jeep road. We passed Fox Gap at the top of the ridge line and then it was only .5 to the shelter. We were told by lots of folks to camp at Nelson’s Overlook just beyond, and clearly many do as we found many fire ring sites. But I’m a Leave No Trace educator, and not about to break rules I teach, as lovely a spot as it was. We also met 3 southbound thru hikers at the shelter, when we thought we might be alone. And we really enjoy talking to the thru hikers, having a picnic table and shelter roof and privy when possible. So we set up on the hill behind the shelter and the water source was very close. It’s a spigot on the grounds of a religious retreat right on the same mountaintop. Wow what a view they have! Anyway the spigot is on seasonally and I called and asked on forums in advance to make sure it was still on, as that’s the ONLY water source on this entire 15.5 mile stretch except Eureka Creek at 1.2 miles south of the start. So I recommend checking that its on before you go, and if not pack in a bunch of extra water.

We had a nice night at the shelter. We spoke to the thru hikers a bit at dinner, did our best to catch the sunset over the retreat, and then retired very fatigued to our tent. It was cold, but we were close together and warm and all bundled up and tucked in so we stayed mostly comfrotably warm. We needed the rest so getting to bed at hiker midnight was no problem. We slept almost a full 12 hours.

We were up early the next morning and spoke briefly to a man who was staying at the retreat and came out to check out the view at Nelson’s Overlook. We then made our way out of camp before 8 am, as we had 6.4 miles to do before noon so we could make it to Kent in time.  The thru hikers had said it was easy and had a long flat road section and the ascent wasn’t bad at all (so our descent shouldn’t be).

Nelson’s Overlook was a wonderful view for sure. Apparently it’s popular with the hang gliders too. We moved on a bit further to a place called Lunch Rocks, where we had breakfast! It too had a great view, including our day’s hike laid out in front of us to the east. The ridgeline ahead stretched south and then east to Mt Minsi, on the Pennsylvania side of the gap. You could see Mount Tammany in New Jersey just behind. We also passed the 900-mile mark to Katahdin, which the thrus make out of little rocks. Always neat to see. From here, it was much less rocky but several uphills caught us off guard because I didn’t have a look at the profile in much depth. They weren’t bad or long but we were tired from the tough first day. But we did eventually reach that long flat stretch of road along the spine of the ridge, and it took us all the way to the summit of Mount Minsi. There was an incredible view south of the Delaware River, and we met two other SOBOs who were friends with the ones we were at the shelter with, and they were planning to meet up. That’s why the thrus were up late and still sleeping the night we were there – they were waiting to catch up with each other as they hadn’t seen each other since New Hampshire.

Just past there was the eastern view directly of the Mount Tammany summit and the gap below. We did that hike last fall. It was so fun to be on the other side of that view. It’s very dramatic from either side.  We began the descent that would take hours. While only 2.4 miles, it felt like double that. Now it had MANY incredible views of the gap all along the rocky rhododendron-lined descent. At several points it was very close to the ledge, and the leaves and acorns made it a little sketchy at times. Again I’m so glad it wasn’t wet. It really felt more like northern New England here. There were several scrambles, and it pushed some of our limits as we were getting low in energy. But the views…

Eureka Creek was flowing, and very pretty. I saw a juvenile bald eagle flying above me on the final lookout but didn’t succeed in getting him on camera. Once we reached the road to Lake Lenape and the parking lot, we were happy to have flat ground. The towering rock ledges on the side of the trail featured a big overhang cave with a steep path up to it. I got as close as I was comfortable climbing up while filming and then headed back down where Lake Lenape was and from there it was about a half mile out to the lot and the road and back down to the Inn. We did it in 4 hours which was my long estimate, but we didn’t anticipate how slow the descent would go. We fueled up at Taco Bell on the way back to Connecticut. Hiker hunger is also very real.

Another great hike in the books. We are at 400 miles now. With luck, we will get one more in this season if we get a warm weekend before Thanksgiving. Its always so hard waiting from October until April to go backpacking again! Photos below.  Watch the video here.

Miles Day 1: 9.1

Miles Day 2: 6.4

Bald Eagles: 1

Spiderwebs in the face: too many to count, a lot!

Rocks: WAY too many to count, a whole lot!

Views: Plenty of great ones!

SOBOs we met: 5

Spent a nice night at the Deer Head Inn

Spent a nice night at the Deer Head Inn Pre-hike

The A.T. goes right up that road

The A.T. goes right up that road

The Village Farmer in DWG, PA

The Village Farmer in DWG, PA

Fun at the Village Farmer

Fun at the Village Farmer

Starting at Wind Gap

Starting at Wind Gap

Rock town!

Rock town!

Rocksylvania

Rocksylvania

More rocksylvania

More rocksylvania

Aaaand more rocks

Aaaand more rocks

Even MORE rocks!

Even MORE rocks!

Frog Friend

Frog Friend ( a break from rock pics)

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Linus on Wolf Rocks

Linus on Wolf Rocks

FIelden Stream on Wolf Rocks

FIelden Stream on Wolf Rocks

Nelson's Overlook

Nelson’s Overlook

The 900 Mile mark from Katahdin

The 900 Mile mark from Katahdin

The Delaware from Mt Minsi summit looking south

The Delaware from Mt Minsi summit looking south

Mt. Tammany, NJ from Mt Minsi PA, DWG

Mt. Tammany, NJ from Mt Minsi PA, DWG

Delaware Water Gap from Lookout Rock

Delaware Water Gap from Lookout Rock

Another view of the gap from Mt. Minsi

Another view of the gap from Mt. Minsi

Delaware Water Gap from Mt Minsi

Delaware Water Gap from Mt Minsi

Lake Lenape

Lake Lenape

Cave near Lake Lenape

Cave near Lake Lenape

Hiker hunger is real

Hiker hunger is real

 

Ridgerunner Weekend #5, Bear Mountain and the Riga Plateau

One of my favorite sections (and everyone else’s) of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut is Bear Mountain in Salisbury, our highest peak. Most of the day hikers take the 2-mile Undermountain trail to the Appalachian Trail at Riga Junction. From there, the summit of Bear Mountain is just .9 miles higher.  On this trip, as others, I encountered many hikers heading up for a quick out-and-back.

I was still getting over a bad cold, so I chose to take the undermountain trail to Lion’s Head and then back to Riga shelter, so my daily mileage would not exceed 6. I didn’t want to push myself too hard. Usually I do a much longer loop up here.

I was planning to meet my friend Brian again at Riga and he would be starting after work. I had about 6 1/2 hrs to cover the 5.7 miles I did, so I took several breaks, including a long one at Brassie Brook shelter, and at Lion’s Head. Lion’s head is about .6 farther in this direction than the shelter but its easy miles and its views are not to be missed. There are actually two great lookouts; a northern one AND a southern one.  I love them both.

I knew from the register at Brassie Brook (and our chapter water reports) that the water source at Riga was dry, as were most of the others along my route, except for at Brassie Brook. So I loaded up there with another 3 liters so I was covered for the night. While this made my load heavier. these miles after the initial climb from the undermountain trail head were primarily flat with one small climb up to Lion’s Head itself.

I had a lovely break there, laughing as turkey vultures circled overhead, cawwing loudly (or whatever you call their sound) and discussing how tasty I might be. I met a northbound thru hiker along the way and a few southbounders.

When I arrived at Riga there was also a southbounder there with her dog. I also encountered yet ANOTHER fire ring against the rock under the NO FIRES sign. People can really be stinkers sometimes. Its disappointing that people can be so purposefully disrespectful. So I got to work cleaning that up and then I got a reward when looking through the register. The thru hikers we were following online and that we met in June in Falls Village had left us a note here thanking us for recommending they stay here, and how great the view was indeed. (It turns out later that we realized they also gave us shoutouts in their videos of both those days!)

This hike was an overnight on Friday the 13th, and the first Firday the 13th with a harvest full moon in over 20 years. We were thrilled when it materialized in all its glory that night. And because we never did get the famous sunrise the next morning as a storm was moving in. The wind howled all night, as well as a chorus of livestock sounds from the farms below. In the morning, the weather was moving in quicker and rain was now scheduled to come at 11. We had a quick breakfast and headed up to the top of Bear, cutting and clearing a few blowdowns on the way.  ( I had also cleared a large one the day before on Lion’s Head.)

There was still a little bit of a view and we got some photos and then hussled back down to Riga junction and the undermountain trail, passing 24 hikers and several dogs. My cold was also starting to come back a bit, so I was glad to have had another easier than usual day.

We stopped at the Cornwall Country market for some breakfast and just as we sat down it started to pour. I don’t mind hiking in the rain, but when I’m sick, and its cold and wet, that’s a bad combo. The timing worked out perfectly.

It was another great season as a weekend summer ridgerunner, and I hope to be back again for a 4th next year. Until then I will knock out a few more sections elsewhere with my wife, and do some volunteer work on our section. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 5.7

Miles day 2: 5.5

— LInus

Stickbug!

Stickbug!

Brassie Brook

Brassie Brook

Large blowdown I cut

Large blowdown I cut

Some kind of seedpod

Some kind of seedpod

Heading up Lions head southbound

Heading up Lions head southbound

Lions Head

Lions Head

Lions Head south view

Lions Head south view

Me on LIon's Head Northern view

Me on LIon’s Head Northern view

Turkey vultures overhead

Turkey vultures overhead

The great view at Riga shelter

The great view at Riga shelter

Friday 13th Harvest Full moon at Riga

Friday 13th Harvest Full moon at Riga

Some cool mushrooms

Some cool mushrooms

Beautiful oak - a blowdown we had to cut

Beautiful oak – a blowdown we had to cut

Autumn hobblebush

Autumn hobblebush

Pointing back to Lion's Head from Bear Mtn

Pointing back to Lion’s Head from Bear Mtn

Me and Brian on top of Bear before the storm

Me and Brian on top of Bear before the storm

Mts Race and Everett (MASS) from Bear Mtn summit

Mts Race and Everett in the clouds (MASS) from Bear Mtn summit

The twin lakes of Salisbury, CT from Bear Mtn

The twin lakes of Salisbury, CT from Bear Mtn

The remains of the stone tower on Bear's summit

The remains of the stone tower on Bear’s summit