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

 

 

 

Solo Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Weekend #1, Kent to Cornwall, CT

Last weekend was my first solo ridgerunner weekend of the season.  It was full of wildflowers and wildlife. This includes bald eagles, deer, frogs, mean-looking spiders (including one IN my tent!), hummingbirds, scarlet tanagers, robins (and robins’ eggs), fleabane, bamboo, violets, thistle, clover, the rare pink lady slipper, and buttercups. These are just a small fraction of what’s out there to see on the trail in June. I met lots of day, section and thru-hikers, boy scouts, paddlers on the river, and enjoyed a warm, beautiful weekend one of my favorite sections and favorite campsites on the Connecticut section. I was feeling a little under the weather from a cold, so I took it easy and picked this mostly easy section so I wouldn’t over exert myself when slightly compromised. But the fresh air and exercise did it’s magic.

I saw a few of the thru-hikers we’re following on YouTube in the trail register at one of the shelters which was cool, too bad I missed them. I cleared a fire ring and cut a blowdown with my new saw, the Silky Big Boy 2000, which made quick work of it.

I did a sketch at the campsite, and wrote two nature poems. I’m no Thoreau but I think they’re decent and it was fun. I composed them while walking and wrote them down in my journal when I took a break. I want to try and do at least one sketch and one poem each time I’m out there, besides just my usual trail reports and personal journals.

It was supposed to rain but other than a drop, it never came, which I can’t complain about. One of these days I’ll get to wear my rain kilt so I can do my best Outlander impression! I sat at a rock bench in front of an old Indian marker tree, which filled my heart and mind with history and reflection.

I heard owls chatter all night at the campsite, including one moment when I could swear they were laughing! As always, a great weekend. I will be out again in 6 days for weekend #2, as the thru-hiker bubble is moving in now, and I am eager to see the mountain laurels reaching full bloom — probably my favorite sight on the trail. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 6.2

Miles day 2: 6.2

— Linus

Misty morning along Liner's Farm-no filter

Misty morning along Liner’s Farm-no filter

Frog on the trail

Frog on the trail

The deck and porch swing at Pine Swamp Brook Shelter

The deck and porch swing at Silver Hill

Pink Lady Slipper

Pink Lady Slipper

Paddlers on the Housatonic

Paddlers on the Housatonic

Name that flower

Name that flower

Brook emptying into the Housatonic

Brook emptying into the Housatonic

Fleabane

Fleabane

Robins Egg

Robin Egg

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!

 

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

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