Appalachian Trail: Shenandoah National Park and West Virginia

Appalachian Trail to High top

Appalachian Trail to High top

Just got back from my second ridgerunner weekend, and can’t wait to share it but first — the family went for a vacation in Virginia and West Virginia over the holiday. We visited places like Monticello, some great vineyards, and some great BBQ joints! But since this is a hiking blog I will stick to the hiking bits!

On High top

On High top

We did two hikes in Shenandoah National park, a favorite place of ours for sure. The first one we took the kids to was High top mountain, in the southern district close to where we were staying the first few days. It was a 1,000 foot climb from either side of Skyline drive. (at least the road did the other 2,500 feet!).

No bears!

No bears!

We set off late afternoon to avoid the scorching heat and catch the dusk. It was not easy, and since we started out from the wrong side we headed the wrong way into the woods which added 1 mile round trip before i realized when we weren’t climbing up the whole way!). But when we reached the top, everyone thought it was worth it. We took lots of pictures and enjoyed the views before returning the way we came. This is one of the less popular hikes but certainly a great one. It’s not really steep just consistently uphill the whole 1.7 miles. We all sang songs the whole way down which was a lot of fun and a little embarrassing when a thru hiker appeared just after us at Skyline drive!

the other black rock, Big Meadows

the other black rock, Big Meadows

A few days later as we were heading northwest to the town of Luray where we would stay for the next night and enjoy the fireworks, we passed through Thornton Gap in the central district and stopped at Skyland to have lunch and visit the gift shop before hitting Stony Man summit so my daughter could see one of the best views in the park. That’s a short easy hike from the wayside.

Jiffy Pop

Jiffy Pop

But then I heard from some of my hiker friends who were also down in SNP doing another section and they had already left Skyland for Big Meadows, 10 miles or so south. The restaurant at Skyland still wasn’t open for lunch for another 30 minutes so we decided to head down there so I could meet up with them for a bit and we’d be just in time for lunch there.

Rain dancer

Rain dancer

We got to the lodge and sat down for lunch including their famous blackberry ice cream. Only problem was the wayside restaurant was a mile down the road from the lodge restaurant. I waited 45 minutes before I realized they might not have a signal so I drove over to the wayside and caught them just as they were heading out. We talked for a bit, took some photos and I headed back to the lodge to finish lunch. But where to hike here? Do we go back to Stony man? I wanted a nice view and no one wanted a long hike today. Turns out there’s a .2 mile trail to a fantastic view right behind the lodge! They also call it black rock but it’s not the famous one farther south in the park. The view WAS fantastic and we really enjoyed the minimal effort and rewarding views today. Jiffy Pop really helped me push my fear limit a little and be a little more daring about where I’d stand on the ledge!

We had a great stay in Luray and Fielden Stream and I visited a local outfitter where I got some speed laces for my trail runners (the laces always come untied when hiking!) and we chatted with the friendly staff there.

Nature's bounty!

Nature’s bounty!

The next day we drove up to Harper’s Ferry and while we were going to hike the next day before we left, weather was moving in and I was worried no one would want to hike in a downpour. So we drove right to the trail head at Key’s Gap, for this easy 4.5 mile hike along .the ridge saddling the Virginia/West Virginia line and down so we could finish our West Virginia section. I arranged our shuttle with the awesome HalfApp shuttle, my friend and awesome artist Rhonda Adams.

Fielden stream at 4 mile campground

Fielden stream at 4 mile campground

There was an abundance of blackberries though most weren’t fully ripe we did pick out a few and it lifted energy levels and spirits right away. About half way, the possible light drizzle turned into a full downpour with thunder ! I was waiting for the complaints but everyone wanted it to cool things off, and my daughter even did a rain dance and wanted a new trail name so we dubbed her rain dancer! The trail became a river but the hiking while a a bit rocky was easy and we all had fun. We got picked up by Rhonda and she gave us some of her special A.T. art pieces she makes from wood and leather including a very special yo-yo she had 30 years and recently also painted and give to Jiffy Pop. We then went to the hotel to unwind before dinner at a fun hibachi place.

A happy soggy hiking family

A happy soggy hiking family

The next day it was still pouring so either way we would have been hiking in the rain. I was really pleased by their great attitude about it. We walked around Harper’s Ferry and visited the ATC headquarters, spoke with some of the great people that run the organization and bought a lot of merchandise which helps support the trail. Including a West Virginia patch which is now done and Massachusetts which will be soon!

It was a lot of great hikes and I am so glad we all got to do them all together. Jiffy Pop had been to both parks before and loved them and Rain Dancer also fell in love with them so I was a happy dad. I am going to take both kids out individually with me on an overnight later this summer up here in Connecticut, and Jiffy Pop will join us when we do a New Jersey hike in the fall.

— Linus

Tyringham Cobble Appalachian Trail Loop

 

Fielden Stream at the trailhead

Fielden Stream at the trailhead

Well, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade! That’s what we did last weekend. We had our first backpacking trip of the year together planned for Friday the 5th. Leading up to that day It was perfect hiking weather. Not too hot, a light breeze to keep the bugs away, sunshine…  And then, you know how it goes. You find out days before there will be some rain. Ok, no problem, we’ve hiked and camped in rain many times. Its part of the fun. But then you hear the system is a really big one, having left tornadoes and major flooding in its wake as it blasted northeastward to us. Inches of rain predicted, for a full day of relentless downpour.

Signs signs everywhere signs

Signs signs everywhere signs

Now we’ve been caught in that many times. Just the week before I was caught in a thunderstorm on Sharon Mountain in Connecticut while doing some trail work with a friend from the club.  Once you’re out there, there ain’t much you can do but soldier on through it. Or get off the trail for a day and wait out the misery if its really necessary. But when you haven’t left yet, there’s room for modifications. Why be miserable if you don’t have to be.  I honestly don’t mind a lot of rain if its the middle of summer. But when temperatures are in the 40’s and 50’s, that’s when hypothermia can really be a risk.

We were planning to do the first section of New Jersey southbound.  I have a friend that lives near Vernon and was going to shuttle us and we picked the direction so that we were going to go down the infamous “Stairway to Heaven” on Wawayanda mountain. While that didn’t sound really fun to go up in the pouring rain, coming down was probably even more dangerous.  Time for a new plan. Even many of the thrus we were following on YouTube were opting for a zero mile day In town or at camp.

Bunny rock, Tyringham loop trail

Bunny rock, Tyringham loop trail

We re-focused our attention on Massachusetts where we left off there last year, and I looked into some nice day hike options in the area where we could do some of the A.T. and get some views but also could do some other relaxing things like stay in a favorite inn and luxuriate a little. We love the Red Lion in Stockbridge, so we got a great off-season rate room there and spent the drive up stopping into shops and taking our time. We arrived at the Inn for a great lunch in their tavern. The Inn goes back hundreds of years and was a carriage stop where the likes of George Washington stayed. I’m assuming this was on the route from Boston to Albany, now the nearby Massachusetts turnpike. This town also is the location of the Alice’s Restaurant song, and where Norman Rockwell began a long illustrious career.

Views from the Western shoulder

Views from the Western shoulder

I picked the loop of the Cobble and Appalachian trails in nearby Tyringham. While not a very high peak, Tyringham Cobble’s rocky top (where the word Cobble comes from in mountain lingo) provides a wide scenic view of the valley below, once farmed by the Shakers when Tyringham was called Jerusalem. Its about a 2.1 mile loop over the cobble in this state reservation and really not challenging at all. But it was perfect for the occasion and we had planned to hike it that day still should the rain let up a bit. It didn’t do that until dark. So as the rain kept pouring down, we headed to the Norman Rockwell museum to see his artwork as well as an exhibit on the cartoons of our childhood by Hannah-Barbera. It was a treat, and the Rockwell pieces were moving as well. They had brought his final studio from its former location onto this location a few miles away, and overlooking another scenic vista. Everything in the studio had been left exactly as he did.

I'm a ham

I’m a ham

We headed back to our Inn for some lazy time and then visited a local sushi restaurant and then saw some local talent in the pub in the basement.

The rain stopped around dinner time and I lamented a bit that we could have hit the trail late and hiked in to camp. But we were having a nice time. And even though the rain stopped, everything would be soaked when we went to set up camp in puddles. And, the hike out would be about 9 miles if we wanted to finish the section still, and we would not have had time for as we had to head home by 2.  Still, my heart is on the trail so In the future, I am just going to have the gear in the trunk in case things change on a dime again.  We’ve shot ourselves in the foot before doing the same thing only to have the rain stop well before predicted.

Hemlock grove

Hemlock grove

We had a nice breakfast at the local cafe after checking out and headed for the park. Some new storm clouds were moving through and the skies over Beartown forest were dark for a bit. But as we arrived, the clouds began to move. We hiked up the loop trail as the sun began to show. On this side of the loop there is a great view of the valley from a rock affectionately known as ‘bunny rock’. It is a a glacial erratic between the trail and the farmland beyond. Everywhere along this trail were special gates that livestock could not open. It began to then climb through Hemlock stands until reaching the grassy spine of the mountain’s eastern shoulder. We ran into three different thru hikers coming down the hill on the A.T. almost immediately. They did look a little damp and grumpy so to made me feel a bit better about not doing the overnight! The third one I stopped to ask if he knew one of the thru hikers I was watching, who had gone through the area just a day before and who I was sad we would be missing running into today. He didn’t know him but we had a nice brief exchange of words before heading to the summit.

I love this sloping hill

I love this sloping hill

We passed a family with their kids and dogs who went the other way around the loop and made it to the summit just in time for our own private visit there. We had a snack, took in the gorgeous views, and then followed the trail down into another hemlock stand on the west side of the mountain. When it was time to branch off the A.T. back on to the loop Traill my heart and legs tugged at me a bit, wanting to keep following the white blazes. But I knew we’d regroup shortly and I was already planning another first backpacking trip together for June.

If interested, the Exhibit runs through 5/29

If interested, the Exhibit runs through 5/29

I am going to be up here again in early June in a more official capacity so Fielden Stream is going to come with, and after the necessary meetings are done I am going to have a friend in the club help us drop our car and shuttle us back to Tyringham so we can cover the Beartown state forest section we had just skipped for this short day hike excursion.  I am hoping it won’t rain cats and dogs again for 12 hours straight, but this time we should have warmer temps, longer days, and a bit more resolve. I’d like to try and finish Massachusetts this season but with all my official trail commitments we may not until next summer.  That’s ok, with another 2,000 miles to go, what’s the hurry?

This hike is great for families with little kids or big kids alike. Its not difficult, its very scenic, and its close to many picturesque New England towns and other great hikes like nearby Monument Mountain and Laura’s tower.

Miles: 2.1

— Linus

Easter Trail Work on the Appalachian Trail

Streams are flowing!

Streams are flowing!

On Easter I was very happy to have an opportunity to again be out on the trail doing my thing. Usually we’re celebrating the holiday in some capacity with family but it fell right during my kids’ spring break this year so we were in Florida and returned late the night before. Since my parents went out of town for the family visit and weren’t around Easter morning, Fielden Stream and I did a quick exchange of baskets with the kids and then I headed up north for the woods.

Looking Southeast from Schaghticoke Mtn

Looking Southeast from Schaghticoke Mtn

It was a very mild weekend and had I returned one night earlier I would have done an overnight. Quite a few hikers had, especially those who had Good Friday off as it made a great 3 day weekend. My friend on the trail crew let me know that there were already several camping at Ten Mile so I planned to visit the campground as part of my hike in case there was any cleanup to do. Just two weeks before when we were out on a volunteer work day, we had to clear two very large fire rings (and a few blowdowns) and I was glad to have the extra manpower. This is one of the most popular camping areas around so we visit and patrol it and have to clean it up very often.  I wanted to also visit the southern overlook on Schaghticoke Mountain, so the plan was to go up there and then back down to the campsite and in the meantime check out some of the side access trails along the route for any issues.

New water system

New water system

I parked and started the .4 mile road walk where the A.T follows Schaghticoke road north before cutting into the woods for the nearly 1,000ft ascent. While there are several switchbacks,  its still a tough climb, but worth the view at the top. I noticed the map box was empty so I made a note to myself to put any spares I had in the box on the way down if no hikers I met on the trail needed one.  As I started up the trail a young hiker in his late 20s passed me and we chatted for a bit about his hike and the work I do. He was doing a 3 day section of CT, having done another a few weeks ago with his brother in the northern end of the state.  He works the night shift and was up all night before starting his hike.

Cleaning fire rings on the mountaintop

Cleaning fire rings on the mountaintop

The trail heals all though, and I admire his tenacity to hike 12 miles in the heat after working all night. Ah to be in my 20’s again… I’d probably have climbed a few 4000s had I the passion I have now for hiking and backpacking. At that age I was deeply entrenched in the NYC music scene trying to make a name for myself. It was fun but in vain.  I still play music with my friends but I find more relaxation and purpose hiking and preserving the trail.

Anyway just a bit farther on at the first stream crossing (which was raging by the way) , I met an older hiker who was doing a NOBO thru. He was hydrating and enjoying some shade. While it was raining that morning the sun came out and the temperature quickly approached the 70s. Without much leaf cover to shade, you could feel every bit of the heat that day. I wished him well and moved on.

Schaghticoke from the road below

Schaghticoke from the road below

I met the younger hiker again, enjoying a snack high on a glacial erratic – a great spot if I say so myself! We said hellos again and I carried on up and up and up. When I reached the south overlook I was immediately treated to a Bald Eagle AND a Red Tailed Hawk flying over the edge of the ridge. I had been trying for months to spot one of the eagles as many hikers had reported seeing them in the area. Finally one greeted me in its glorious flight.  I was so captivated by the view and the birds of prey that it took me a few minutes to notice the fire area on the rock face. There was no ring at that point, perhaps they scattered it with the ashes after. I checked that it was cool and went about cleaning it.  Much of the residue was tossed down into a depression in the hillside and as I headed down to clean that up the young hiker reached the viewpoint. He thanked me for my work and as we were chatting we spotted a large black racer snake about a foot from where I was working. He did not bother me and just watched, perhaps a good omen or spirit animal visiting me to thank me for taking care of what was once native land? I’m such a history nerd.

Forsythia gone wild!

Forsythia gone wild!

The hiker moved on after this break and I too headed off, back down the mountain towards Ten Mile. I passed the older Nobo thru hiker I had met at the stream below and gave him some advice on nearest water and campsites ahead as he was wanting more water and a break from the heat.

Speaking of water, I also made a short video on the mountaintop discussing my new water system. I am again revisiting because I still want an easier solution than filling up my reservoir in my pack and using that as the water for camp and sleeping as well. I tried the new Katadyn BeFree with .6L bag and a Smart Water bottle with an Aquaclip, one of many solutions I researched to hang the water bottle in front of me since my pack pouch doesn’t have stitched in side pockets.

With my aquaclip and SmartWater bottle

With my aquaclip and SmartWater bottle

While my day pack does, it still requires practically dislocating your shoulder to reach back for access. With the BeFree I can just fill up at a source, camel up, then refill quick and easily to filter into my smart water bottle, and a Nalgene if I need extra. This thing filters super fast and doesn’t require backflushing as far as I can tell. I always bring emergency purifying tablets just in case, for myself or hikers I encounter who have no filter or water left.

I tend to carry too much water at any one time and this system and solution that was in the product reviews seemed a good one to try next. The water sources have all been great lately with all the epic rainfalls and snowmelt since winter died and so for the time being at least I wont carry more than the beFree and the 1L Smart Water bottle (with sports cap). Though I do still hate how those bottles crinkle. I may go the shock cord and Gatorade bottle next if the Smart Water bottles start to bother me that much. I will post the video on the blog  (Please note that I was rushing on the video and said I’d chug it right after filling it at the stream but I meant only AFTER the filter cap was back on.. very important!

Name that spider

Name that spider

I dropped off the maps in the map box on the way down, and some litter that I picked up on the trail when I passed my car and headed back into the woods towards Ten Mile Shelter and Campsites. There are some beautiful new signs in this area both for the side trails and the shelter – great work team! The Forsythia is also blooming like mad. When I reached the campsite no one was still camped there and luckily for me this time, no fires to clean up. Though there was a massive spider in the shelter that I noticed when I went to sign the register. I just saw his long legs peeking out behind a piece of the lumber frame, but could easily tell he was 1.5 inches or more around and brown and black. I’m not the hugest fan of spiders but all the time on the trail has helped that a bit. Many a day I found one of these in a privy or even on my pack in the morning. They’re pretty terrifying to look at but also fascinating and I’m quite sure not harmful. I believe this was either a wolf spider or a fisher spider. Anyone wanna have a go at identifying it from the photo?

An unspoiled view from the top

An unspoiled view from the top

I made my way back along the A.T. as it followed the Housatonic River, which was also at very high levels complete with raging rapids. I passed about 25 day hikers out here in the recreational area at Bulls Bridge which the A.T. passes by. I checked that side trail and left my friends on the Bull’s Bridge task force a message in their kiosk register, then headed back to my car.  As the season is starting up around here, and water is good, I should have a busy summer. On that note I am also very excited as I have some new roles in the AMC that allow me to further my love for the trail and protecting it and our natural resources. More to come on that but you will see me out there over the weekends this season often anywhere between the NY line and southern Massachusetts! Maybe I’ll even be on duty at your campsite for the night and you can share stories of your hike.

Miles: 6.3

Snakes: 1

Birds of Prey:2

— Linus

 

First Hike of 2017: Video Blog: Herrick Trail/A.T. Out-and-Back

View from Amy's Overlook

View from Amy’s Overlook

A week ago I finally got out for my first hike of the year. It was a very cold day, and we had just had some recent snow, though not much. It was enough that on the ledges at the overlooks I needed my microspikes so as not to slip off! For the first time I explored the Herrick Trail, a short trail that connects with the A.T. along Ten Mile Hill. On my many journeys along the A.T. in this area I had always seen the trail sign, and one mentioning an overlook a mile away. But never did I take that path or realize just how great BOTH overlooks were, including the one they didn’t bother to mention just a quarter mile or less down the hill overlooking the Housatonic River! Wow! This is definitely my next family hike. I did a whole video blog which you can view here. Apologies for all the sniffling I’ve been getting over a bad cold or upper respiratory thing.  I’ll be back out on the A.T. for a longer stretch soon for my first patrol of the year.  We have a couple of unusually warm January days I want to take advantage of.

Family Holiday Hike to Pine Mountain

My nephew at the trailhead

My nephew at the trailhead

In 2016 we finally bought a house. While a stressful process, of course its been worth it and we love our home. It also meant that we were expected to host for the holidays. So for Christmas 2016, we had the whole family here including my younger brother and his boys who stayed with us at the house. We had a great visit and spent a lot of time together in the same space.

My brother and I

My brother and I

So when I suggested we do a family hike the day after Christmas to get some exercise and fresh air, my younger brother and his boys were as excited as I was to get out of the house for a while and have an adventure. They live in Colorado near Boulder/Denver, so mountains are not something they are missing. And I can’t wait to hike with them when we visit them in Colorado. But today I was taking them out in my neck of the woods!

While I wanted to take them to my favorite trail again (you know, the Appalachian Trail), time was limited and so I took them to the nicest lookout and section of trail I knew about in the area; and its about half as far a drive. Incidentally it’s where I did a hike around the same time the previous year! I guess this is my holiday hiking spot. A place to go and perch myself on the edifice and reflect on the year coming to a close.

My brother and his boys on Pine Mtn

My brother and his boys on Pine Mtn

Pine Mountain and its fantastic lookout are now part of the relatively new Ives Trail, named after a famous composer from Danbury who loved the outdoors and built a lean-to near this lookout so he could enjoy the view whenever he wanted and share it with his friends.

I’ve done the entire 20 miles of the Ives Trail from West Redding to Ridgefield, but this view and part of the trail is my favorite so I come back often.

Linus on Pine Mtn

Linus on Pine Mtn

The view is amazing and on a clear day you can see all the way to Long Island Sound. But on most days you can see the Ridgefield lakes below, and Seth Low Pierrepont mountain and state park in the near distance (you can see it in the distance behind me in the picture here). The rocky precipice at the Pine Mountain lookout reminds me a lot of my favorite ones on the Appalachian Trail, with a view nearly as good, especially considering you’re still in the posh suburbs of Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Old fireplace

Old fireplace

The hike was perfect for the amount of time we had and also good for smaller hikers. The distance from the Pine Mountain trailhead is only about half mile up to the lookout and with some fun little scrambles and great ridge walking views along the way. To reach the true summit is about another quarter mile so all said and done it was only about 1.5 miles round trip, though rewardingly scenic and fun. After taking in the view at the lookout we headed up to the fireplace (Ives’ picnic fireplace I believe) and then the true summit where a small cairn demarcates the otherwise wooded peak. On the way back down we stopped again at the overlook for one more view, before hiking back down to the car for a family lunch to follow. There was a small amount of iced over snow on the lower part of the trail near the road, but the rest was clear of any real hazards.

Me and my nephews at the summit

Me and my nephews at the summit

Pine Mountain reserve is its own open space but is tied together to the other trail systems of Hemlock Hills and Bennett’s Pond as well as by the Ives Trail. At around 1,000ft Pine Mountain is also in fact the highest point in Ridgefield. At this time of year we were also able to see the view to the northwest from a western shoulder of the mountain along the trail on the way up, because all the leaves were off the trees. Though it’s not a great view in that direction.

I look forward to my first hike of 2017, in a few days I hope… life has been making me wait a little longer lately.

Miles: 1.5

— Linus

 

Connecticut AMC’s Appalachian Trail Day – 10/15/16

CT AMC Appalachian Trail Day

Yesterday we got to do another section of the Massachusetts Appalachian Trail. It was a beautiful section with peak fall foliage, and that report is to come. But first I wanted to take an opportunity to talk about our wonderful Appalachian Trail Day last month.

This October was the 10th anniversary of this occasion. The foliage was just starting to hit peak in Kent a few weeks ago.

In the morning I stopped at the grocery in Kent and met a trail angel who one of my friends in the trails committee had met earlier in the week and posted a photo of. She had forgotten to invite him to our BBQ this afternoon, so I went over and introduced myself and chatted with him and a hiker he was with and then invited them both before picking up my groceries and heading to the trail head.

Trail Angel

Trail Angel

He travels up and down the trail in his awesome RV which he has adorned with the A.T. logo and some bear and human tracks. He does hiker feeds, shuttles and lets people stay in his R.V. when the weather is particularly bad or they just need some creature comforts to raise morale. I could not remember his complicated trail name; it was something very Lord of the Rings-like. But he did tell me his real name too. It was great to meet him and thank him for his taking such good care of the hikers. He had completely lost track of what day of the week it was. God I envy that.

Foliage on Pond Mountain

Foliage on Pond Mountain

Anyway, originally this day was called the A.T. ‘marathon day’. This is because members and maintainers would do a series of hikes to cover the whole Connecticut section in one day to find any issues. They even did it relay style at one time. At the end of the day they would gather to report all their findings and have dinner or a social hour. We still cover the whole trail each year as part of the day’s events and then celebrate after with a BBQ in Macedonia Brook State Park, where the A.T. once passed through. Learn lots more about this event’s long history on page 3 of our latest newsletter!

In addition to the A.T. hikes there are hikes in other parts of the state. There are also trail work parties, paddling trips and rock climbing lessons at St. Johns Ledges here in Kent.

Old Cabin near Pond Mtn

Old Cabin near Pond Mtn

In the past on A.T. day I have joined in work parties to re-paint the white blazes, and also assisted in trail patrol training. This time I joined members of our trails committee on an ‘A.T. history hike’ through another previous part of the trail through Pond Mountain natural area just east of Macedonia State Park.

We parked in the lot on Fuller Mountain road, having done a great deal of the climb on our drive up. From the lot the route we took dropped quickly back down to where the trail originally traveled, and then shortly but steeply along another road which the A.T. now crosses farther up and which we would cross once more from that direction on our way back. When we re-entered the woods, we were headed up the back side of Caleb’s Peak which has a favorite view in this area, with the Housatonic river valley stretched out below and the town of Kent in the center.

Trails Chair the Booneman!

Trails Chair the Booneman!

Years ago when we first finished Connecticut, we saw the purple blazes for this section and did not know what they were. In fact nobody knew who actually blazed them. But as of late, the AMC will be taking it over, maintaining it and making it an official blue-blaze trail.

On Caleb’s Peak we gathered for a snack to take in the views. Someone had made a very large fire ring and we saw a couple using a small wood stove in the fire ring. I asked them if they were responsible for the larger ring and fire and they said they were not but asked if it was ok to use their wood stove in there to contain any embers. Technically these are allowed. I reminded them that on their travels through the state that no campfires or fire rings allowed. We then went about the business of clearing the ring. It took several of us to lift the large rocks and some of the embers were still burning. Since I didn’t have my gloves I got a small burn on my finger. We decided it was best to leave them to cool as scattering them with everything so dry would have been dangerous.

The gorgeous view from Caleb's Peak

The gorgeous view from Caleb’s Peak

It seems people really like to challenge our rules here. This was a very large ring in a very visible spot, and they didn’t even make sure it was out before leaving. Just 1/4 mile south of here is the remains of a brush fire started by this exact type of behavior. You can see the scorched tree trunks and downed trees. How can you see that and then go and make a fire in an illegal spot right up the trail? People just don’t think about the consequences, even when they’ve just seen them.

Black racer snake

Black racer snake

After our snack we headed back down the A.T. towards Skiff Mountain road where we would then re-enter the Pond Mountain area. On the way down we spotted a very large black racer snake and all enjoyed watching him as he crossed the trail and headed back into the woods. He was at least 4 feet long!

We also passed that brush fire site which surprised many of the people on our hike. Seeing what happens from irresponsible behavior first hand is a very good way to learn why we have these rules in place. Luckily the forest seems to be recovering well.

We also went down the new stairs that our trails crews built over the last season and admired all their work. We talked about how they fly in and lower the rocks on cables to transport them. The stairs look great, thanks guys!

The BBQ at Macedonia Brook SP

The BBQ at Macedonia Brook SP

Once back in the Pond Mountain area, we followed an old carriage road trail until we re-connected with the trail up to the lot. It was steep, though wide and flat and a good last workout! Though our hike didn’t take us to the summit, there is a mountain trail which I will check out on another day.

We got to the barbecue and got the grills fired up. I ordered my usual ‘hockey puck’ burger and enjoyed a cold beverage. Our trail angel friend was there parked in the lot so I talked to him a bit more. We enjoyed hot dogs, hamburgers and lots of other snacks including these wonderful A.T. cupcakes made by one of our members. I caught up with some other friends from the club who were on different hikes that day and then eventually had to get going back to real life.

A.T. cupcakes!

A.T. cupcakes!

But this event is always a fun one. Whether you’re a member or not you are welcome to join and we all pay just $6 for the food and drinks. Its a great way to introduce people to our organization and share our love for the outdoors and for protecting it.

I hope to see you next year at A.T. day! There are also many other work parties throughout the year where you can take part and give back to the trail. Visit our website here. Click on the ‘trails’ link in the navbar up top to find a list of all of our upcoming work parties and see how you can get involved.

Miles: 4.5

— Linus

Appalachian Trail: NY Section 13 (and completion of NY!)

A.T./State Line junction

A.T./State Line junction

Saturday, we finished New York. I can’t say how thrilled I am. On the trail I asked Fielden: “when we started at the New York-Connecticut state line last April, did you think we’d actually finish the whole state by next year?”

Well the answer is neither of us knew for sure if we’d stay at it all the way to New Jersey. We did it though, and it feels great. Our life and schedules are hectic. So this was a big accomplishment. We stuck at it as many weekends as we could each season and got it done!

We did most of New York southbound, though the last few sections we did in reverse, just for logistical reasons based on pickups and trail head parking. We did from 17a north to East Mombasha road and Little Dam Lake in August (where we left off southbound hiking), and then from the New York/New Jersey state line north back to 17a on this hike. This one was a day hike where as the previous was a backpacking trip.

At the state line

At the state line

Since it was Fielden’s birthday I was treating her to a nice bed and breakfast instead of a tent. We tried that last October, at least for the first night. It was freezing. We can deal with that and have many times, but given the occasion, a nice bed to sleep in seemed the right way to go.

We drove down to the state line trail lot across from Greenwood Lake marina. The top level of the lot is specifically for hikers. I had read on many sources that this is only day hiking parking, but many of the locals we talked to seemed to think overnight wouldn’t be a problem. We wouldn’t find out today.

Fielden Stream at Prospect Rock

Fielden Stream at Prospect Rock

As we got to the lot there were a few cars and people getting ready to hike. Shortly after, 4 or 5 more cars showed up and filled the lot. What I thought was a group of backpackers was in fact either a meetup or a local yoga class who were hiking up to the ridge to do yoga. I think that’s pretty cool and I like my yoga, but in a lot this size, carpooling would have been better so that everyone had a place to park. We were lucky to arrive when we did.

Fielden Stream scrambling

Fielden Stream scrambling

We hit the trail immediately so that we could get ahead of the group. The state line trail climbs 800ft in just over a mile to its intersection with the A.T. It’s not too bad and switchbacks a lot, with only one or two steeper sections as you climb what is known as Bearfort Mountain on the New Jersey side. As you near the ridgeline you also pass the eastern spur of the yellow-blazed Ernest Walter trail that circles Surprise lake in Abram Hewitt State Forest. Once you reach the Appalachian trail you are just shy of the highest point of the hike, at almost 1,400ft. From here we headed north along the A.T. just a short distance to reach the state line. There’s the famous line painted on the rock with “N.Y.” one one side of it and “N.J.” on the other. We took what is a typical photo with one of us on each side of the line and took out the GoPro to get a shot for our video.

Mini Mahoosic Notch

Mini Mahoosuc Notch

After a short snack break we headed north along the rocky spine of the mountain to Prospect Rock. At 1,443ft it’s the highest point on the entire New York Appalachian Trail. There is also a large American flag here, and a sweeping view of the lake, the Ramapo hills and on this day, despite it being overcast, New York City’s skyline. I don’t know for sure why the flag is here. I assume it’s either to mark the highest point, or as a 9-11 memorial similar to the one on Shenandoah Mountain, since you can see the city from here. There is a trail register box but we were distracted by the great views and did not sign it. We did of course get many photos. I could see the rocky face of Bellvale Mountain in the distance. We would be climbing that soon enough.

A bit north, the Zig-Zag trail intersects with the A.T. and leads west to Warwick County Park. This short trail allows day hikers to take in the great views here without quite as much effort as climbing up from the State Line or the longer walk through Abram Hewitt State Forest from Warwick turnpike to the south.

Fielden Stream climbing the rebar ladder

Fielden Stream climbing the rebar ladder

From here the long rocky ridge walk continues for a mile or two before dropping into the forest. After a good distance in the woods we reached the bottom of the rock tumble and ledge on Bellvale Mountain. The first half is a pile of car sized boulders that you climb around and over and while you don’t go under or through any of them, I called it a mini Mahoosuc Notch. It was easy though. From there the trail twists sharply up a few more large rocks before depositing you at the bottom of a 20ft ledge. There used to be a metal ladder here similar to what you’d use to clean the gutters on your roof. Now there are several rebar stairs and handholds drilled into the slighter face of the mountain. This was something that at one point gave me some anxiety but upon doing it, It was a ton of fun and a piece of cake. That of course would be a different story had it rained.

Southeast view from summit of rock ledge

Southeast view from summit of rock ledge

The forecast originally had rain in the afternoon so we were in a hurry to get at least half way through the hike where the rocks stop before any rain. We ultimately lucked out and it didn’t rain at all until that night. And very heavily. This is not a hike we would have done the next day unless we had to, and even then we might have zeroed. Several miles of large wet rocks and ridge walks would have been sketchy, though I know many do it. When you have the choice though why take the risk.

View from Mt. Peter

View from Mt. Peter

As we reached the summit of Bellvale Mountain, we were greeted by several cairns and more broad views to the east and our first real views to the west. The trail continued along rocky spines and puddingstone outcroppings. It returned to the forest shortly and up one last smallish rock scramble just before the view on Mt. Peter. The back side of this mountain is actually a ski resort, and where the Bellvale Creamery and hot dog stand are, though its confusing because the next section of trail which we completed in August calls itself Bellvale Mountain, and the creamery takes the same name. So who actually knows.

Village Vista Trail to town

Village Vista Trail to town

There’s a broad view southeast over Greenwood Lake and the town of the same name. You also get a nice northeastern view from here. Shortly after this view the trail returns to the forest for the remainder of the section. Also ahead (nobo) is the intersection with the village vista trail which takes you right down to the town of Greenwood Lake and so it is very popular for backpackers to resupply as well as for day hikers from town who just want to get some excercise and a nice view in just over a mile walk. We saw many local hikers on the top of Mt. Peter and on their way up to the view.

Warwick hot dog stand on Mt. Peter

Warwick hot dog stand on Mt. Peter

The final 2 miles of the section was easy and mostly flat through young forests, reminding us of Shenandoah. We saw a blue blazed turn off about a quarter mile before we reached the road but didn’t know what it was for. Turns out it goes up to the parking lot where our target was: the hot dog stand. However, upon exiting the A.T. on 17a and walking west on the road to the lot with the hot dog stand, we realized if we had taken that trail up, we wouldn’t have finished the last bit of the section, so it worked out just fine. I wanted to note that every single water source on this section was dry. Some folks left jugs of water just north of the 17a crossing though.

CT AMC Appalachian Trail Day

CT AMC Appalachian Trail Day, Oct 15, 2016, Kent, CT

We were looking forward to those hot dogs and a soda and asked many of the day hikers we passed on the way if they were still open this late in the season. Luckily, they were! We scarfed down some hot dogs, chips and a soda and called our friends at Nite Owl taxi to get back to our car on the N.J. line. We celebrated our completion of New York by visiting several local wineries and doing tastings, followed by a delicious Italian dinner in Warwick.

We will likely continue working on finishing Massachusetts in the spring, and this Saturday is the 10th anniversary of our annual Appalachian Trail day with the Connecticut AMC. There are lots of hikes, trail work parties, rock climbing and even paddling events all culminating with our grand BBQ at Macedonia Brook State Park ($6 donation for the BBQ). Non-members and members alike are welcome and there are hikes for all ages and abilities. I will be there and hope to see you! I will be going along on a hike covering another past route of the A.T.

Oh, and lest I forget, the full video of our journey across New York is here. Two years in the making, I tried to make its 19 minutes entertaining as possible. I hope you enjoy it!

Miles: 7.1

–  Linus