Ridgerunner Weekend #3 – Schaghticoke and Algo

This past weekend was another glorious one out on the trail. The weather was perfect for one thing. Never got too hot or humid, it was about 60 and dry and breezy at night, about 79-81 during the day. I hiked with my new ridgerunner friend again on Saturday and two of my friends from the AMC also joined me to hike on Sunday (one overnighted at Algo too) and we met lots and lots of great hikers. We found one thru hiker’s tent that dropped from his pack and reunited him with it, cut a blowdown, saw a few lizards, a scarlet tanager and a garter snake. I didn’t see but smelled (I’m sure of it!) rattlers in two spots on a mountain famous for rattlesnakes and almost convinced my friends to re-name me snake-smeller. I sadly saw the extent of the recent fire damage on the mountain, and got to push myself through one of the toughest sections of the whole state, twice. My friend from the Bull’s Bridge task force treated me to some BBQ when we got off trail, and I got to dip my sore feet in the Housatonic at the end of the hike.  I’m off for the next few weeks for a few family-scheduled events but will be back on trail in the beginning of August. I hope you’re not minding the new short format too much; I will try and write longer entries from time to time when such luxuries are available! This section was shorter than last weekend but much more strenuous as a whole.

Meanwhile, enjoy the photos!

Lizard life

Lizard life

Ridgerunning Pals

Ridgerunning Pals

Sunrise at Algo

Sunrise at Algo

Red Eft sighting finally

Red Eft sighting finally

Blowdown work

Blowdown work

View east from Schaghticoke Mtn

View east from Schaghticoke Mtn

View from Indian Rocks

View from Indian Rocks

Coral fungus

Coral fungus

Chilly Cheeks on Schaghticoke Mtn

Chilly Cheeks on Schaghticoke Mtn

Linus and Brian on the state line!

Linus and Brian on the state line!

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

Blueberries!

Blueberries!

Weekend miles total: 14

– Linus

Ridgerunner Weekend #2 – Kent to Cornwall

Last weekend was my second weekend out as a staff ridgerunner on the Appalachian Trail with the AMC. I covered a ten-and-change-mile stretch out and back from Kent to Cornwall including the never boring St. John’s Ledges (more fun up than down for me), the scenic Caleb’s Peak, the bucolic river walk and one of my favorite campsites, Silver Hill.  I don’t bother to show pictures of the ledges anymore because cameras never capture how crazy they are, you’ll just have to hike them yourself and find out!

I met many great thru, section, and day hikers along the trail on my 21 mile weekend, got to hike and camp with one of our other ridgerunners, and discovered I really liked a new brand of dehydrated meals I picked up in Harper’s Ferry a few days before at an outfitter. All the hikers I met heading northbound Saturday and who I had recommended push on to Silver Hill were very pleased when a large thunderstorm passed through just minutes after we all congregated in the covered pavilion there.

Nobody left me any fire rings or huge piles of trash to clean up and all were respectful and thanked me for what I do out there. One even said “you’re not so bad for a ridgerunner!” A lot of great conversations were had and a few new friends were made.   There was a bright full moon after the rainstorm and things were thankfully cooled off for a bit on Sunday morning thanks to the rain. I enjoyed some nearly-ripe blackberries, met some trail dogs, frogs, a snake, heard some more barred owls as I slept, and got my first almost-blister. Below are some photos from the adventure. This weekend I am out again in Kent, maybe our paths will cross!

Rocks from the start!

Rocks from the start!

Fuller Mtn view of Kent

Fuller Mtn view of Kent

On Caleb's Peak

On Caleb’s Peak

Berry nice

Berry nice

Indian Pipe seems late this year

Indian Pipe seems late this year

Lean on Me ... after that climb!

Lean on Me … after that climb!

Goin up Caleb's Peak after the ledges climb

Goin up Caleb’s Peak after the ledges climb

Good camo on this frog

Good camo on this frog

Fossilized dino print? Maaaybbbeee

Fossilized dino print? Maaaybbbeee

Miles Day 1: 10.5

Miles Day 2: 10.5

  • Linus

 

Appalachian Trail: Massachusetts Section 6 (and end of 7)

The Tyringham valley

The Tyringham valley

Just got home from another great weekend on the trail in Massachusetts. Luckily the rain came at all the right moments for us. We had specifically planned to do the section southbound so we could spend Saturday afternoon at Upper Goose Pond and cabin and wake up to the hiker pancakes and coffee. So that would not have been as much fun in the rain. We set up a shuttle with one of the local A.T. community shuttle drivers to pick us up where we left off at the Tyringham Cobble lot and drive us up to Rt 20 in Lee around 2 so we could hike into the cabin at primetime — around 4pm. We planned to hike from here back to the Cobble lot, with 2.1 miles on day 1 and about 9.3 on day 2.  We would be up early on day 2 and could crush those miles and get back to the car by 230 we figured, finishing off section 7 as well as doing all of 6.

More wild Iris

More wild Iris

As we drove up I realized we would get there more like 115 pm. I knew us and I knew that last 1.7 miles from the bottom of Baldy Mountain would be likely be just enough to be too much. So I got an idea. We would park at the main road and do the 1.7 miles from there to the Cobble lot by our 2pm pickup time and finish section 7 before we got the ride up to Lee.

The hike planned for day 1 was only 2.1 miles and only the first 1/3 of it was uphill. We found a spot at the lot and hit the trail as fast as we could.  I almost rolled an ankle on the first .1 on a root because I was rushing and not paying attention. Classic. This section went through some bogs and meadows on many planks with very high grasses on either side and lots of mud between the planks. Though thankfully it was very flat.

The A.T. logo carved in to a tree

The A.T. logo carved in to a tree

We then went into the woods a bit and started climbing the eastern shoulder of the mountain. We climbed over two stiles around a farm, complete with barbed wire. A mis-judgement or a slip here could mean a trip to the hospital. But the cows couldn’t be bothered and as we made it over the second stile we noticed a farmstand down the road. Or rather Fielden did. More on that farm stand later. We cranked up the speed to reach the cobble loop trail and raced down to make it to the lot by 2:05. A young family on the trail in front of us said another hiker they met just saw a bear and its cub on the way up the other side of the cobble.

Trail sign!

Trail sign!

We received word at the cabin that there were bear sightings at Shaker campsite just west of where the hiker saw the bears. And something about how they should have put their pizza boxes in the bear box? Hmmm….

We had a quick pleasant ride up to Rt 20, passing all the big outlet stores in Lee and the Massachusetts turnpike, arriving at the trailhead by 230. The first part of the trail was easy and went through some swampy bits over boards as well, then climbing up to two bridges that crossed the busy turnpike. Fielden did the arm honk and got a passing truck beneath to honk Always fun!

Fielden on the Mass Pike Overpass

Fielden on the Mass Pike Overpass

Then it was right up. It was fairly steep but not too challenging or long. And as we reached the top, passed two naked hikers. That’s right. But naked hiking day was 3 days before! I grinned and kept moving and the man made pleasant small talk as they passed Fielden stream to remove any akwardness. We had a good laugh and signed the register atop the ridge.

Trail Register

Trail Register

The trail followed the ridge down through laurels and we passed several more day hikers. This is also a popular day hike. As we reached the half-mile side trail to the cabin, we met the first of many thru hikers of the trip.

We headed down the side trail passing a few thru hikers who had clearly waited out the morning rain and enjoyed most of the day at the cabin and pond. They were likely heading only the 2.1 miles to catch a ride into Lee to zero and resupply.

At the cabin side trail

At the cabin side trail

We arrived at the cabin and scoped out the tenting sites before introducing ourselves to the caretaker and taking a tour of the rest of the grounds as she spoke to some day hikers at the cabin. The heavy rain was originally forecast to last until 4 or 5 and I was very happy to see it was ending before we even got to the first trailhead. And while it was in the high 70’s the humidity was low and it was very pleasant out. So while we set up our tent in our chosen site, we pondered a swim and a canoe ride. We were going to leave the rainfly off as it was a beautiful clear day now, but that just doesn’t ever seem like a good idea to me so we put it on and opened all the doors and vents.  Then we checked out the docks.

Love the A.T. logo carved into the privy

Love the A.T. logo carved into the privy

I was about to put my foot in the cold water at one dock to soothe my sore ankle when some of the other visitors on the dock pointed out the largest spider I’ve ever seen in the wild. A gigantic fishing spider. I mean 3 inches in diameter easy. While it was minding its own business, I didn’t want to get it wet by wobbling the dock and upset it. We took a quick look at the canoes and went to the other dock.

HUGE fishing spider

HUGE fishing spider

While there were one or two more spiders on this dock they were not radioactive sized so I moved to nearby rock to cool my ankle. There were lots of fish in the water and they didn’t seem to like my stinky foot in their water too much. At that point I wanted to just go back and eat some dinner as we were getting hungry. So we enjoyed our meal at the picnic table in our campsite and headed to the cabin to meet the many more thru hikers passing our tent site as they headed in to the cabin.

The canoes!

The canoes!

Overall there were about 10 that came in before nightfall. We spoke with them a bit to hear some of their stories until we got tired, and then retreated back to our campsite for bed. About an hour or so after we fell asleep, the rain started!

Fielden Stream at camp

Fielden Stream at camp

I remembered our packs and shoes were on the platform outside the tent so I quickly pulled them in and zipped up the vestibule doors. The group in the next site had not put on their fly and were scrambling to get the fly on and keep as much rain out as possible. It picked up quite a bit before finally tapering off an hour or so later. I love when I’m in the tent in the rain at night, it lulls me right to sleep.

The Cabin from the back

The Cabin from the back

The next morning we woke with the birds and the sunrise and headed to the cabin for the 7am pancake call. A few more thru hikers had come in overnight, including two dads and their teenage sons. We enjoyed sharing more hiking stories over breakfast. One thru named Monkey (he’s a tree surgeon) had bought some eggs at that farmstand in Tyringham and the caretaker also cooked those for him. It was nice having this special breakfast with all the other hikers and the caretaker was great.

Calm Upper Goose Pond

Calm Upper Goose Pond

We hit the trail around 8:20 after packing up our tent. The trail skirted the pond for about a mile, passing an old cabin chimney from an outdoors club once on the location who later donated the land to the National Park Service. Soon the trail headed back up into the woods through a series of hemlock groves, bog bridges, and beautiful brook crossings. Not to mention a few boulder piles to scramble over. We started passing the stream of thru hikers headed north from their last campsites about two hours into our 7.5 mile hike.  We took several breaks along the stretch and met other thru hikers at our stopping spots and chatted with them briefly. We also hiked with one of the guys who stayed a the cabin. He was also doing a southbound section hike, albeit his was 4 weeks not 2 days.

Pancake breakfast

Pancake breakfast

We were disappointed to find the view listed on the map atop Baldy mountain was now grown in. We had a tough but quick little climb up it from Webster road, but glad as we began our 2 mile descent down to Tyringham that we didn’t choose to come up this way. The knees groaned on the long downhill, some parts quite steep though never dangerous.

Old chimney

Old chimney

As we reached the bottom we remarked to our section hiker friend that it felt like rain might be coming and let him know about the farmstand about a mile ahead where Monkey got the eggs.

Club site plaque

Club site plaque

As we got to the car to head to lunch at an old 1700’s inn and restaurant, the clouds turned black and opened up a torrential downpour of rain lasting a good 30 minutes. I couldn’t help but feel for our new friend as he was clearly getting hammered with rain and we made it out just in time.

Some laurels were blooming

Some laurels were blooming

But at the same time, I was envious he got to continue on for weeks while I had to go home and back to day jobs, bills, and stress. Hiking in a downpour suddenly sounded great. I am sure though that I will get my fair share of that in the future!

Miles day 1: 3.8

Miles day 2: 7.5

— Linus

Appalachian Trail: MA Section 7

Fielden Stream hitting the trail

Fielden Stream hitting the trail

Last weekend we finally got back and did the rest of section 7. Well except the last mile because of where we parked and we will tack that on to our section 6 hike next weekend. We meant to do this section in early May but the rains were epic, so we opted for some R&R at an inn and sampled a small scenic portion of this section on a day hike over Tyringham Cobble via that park’s loop trail with the A.T. We will pick up there next weekend and hike north in to the one and only Upper Goose Pond Cabin for the night – with its hiker breakfast, lake views and canoes. Here’s hoping for nice weather! It’s about 8.5 miles from the Cobble lot though only one really big climb at the start up Baldy Mountain. There’s supposed to be a nice view up there at least. The next morning is only 2.2 miles out from the cabin to the endpoint.

Ready for climb #2

Ready for climb #2

Just before the hike I had a ridge runner meet and greet in Egremont and rather than sit around waiting, Fielden decided to get a head start so I dropped her at the trail head on the way. I hit the trail in Great Barrington almost three hours later, armed with lots of good information from her on the climbs, the water sources, and knowing camp would be set up and waiting for me. (We shuffled our pack contents around when dropping her off so she had the whole tent and the food kit.)  My friend and former thru hiker and CT AMC Patroller coordinator (Patrollers are our local chapter version of a ridge runner and what I do the rest of the year) followed me over from the BBQ to drop off my car at the endpoint in the Cobble lot and drove me back to the start at Rt 23.  Someone had stolen the map on the kiosk and had literally cut it off the rest of the information placard. Really, folks, this is NOT how you acquire a map!

The climbs began immediately.  So did the bugs!

Benedict Pond from the A.T.

Benedict Pond from the A.T.

There would be 4 climbs before reaching the shelter. Just before the third climb you reach the beautiful Benedict Pond, which sits at about 1600ft in Beartown State Forest. It has a beach and a campground and a loop around it that connects with the A.T.  though the A.T. is at the opposite end and its a half mile walk to the beach area. Still the A.T. has a nice little rock area along the lake where you can sit and drop your feet in to cool them off or sooth some sore spots. A small brook flows into the pond here so I stopped to fill up my water. Incidentally I heard something crashing down from a tree just before reaching the pond, and being in a place called Beartown State Forest you can imagine where my imagination took me.

Approaching climb #3

Approaching climb #3

Next came the third climb up “The Ledges”. You don’t really climb any ledges you just skirt the rock wall to get around to the top where you then follow the edge of the giant rock walls on the edge of the mountain. There are many spots that seem very bear friendly in the massive jumble of rocks.  As I approached the ledges a small raccoon was in the path walking the trail and I followed it while keeping a safe distance in case it was sick. I spoke to it a bit in a soothing voice to not startle it or make it feel threatened. When I was a kid, raccoons were my favorite animal, and Ranger Rick my favorite magazine. Still, I’m aware of the risk of rabies, so I was cautious.

And now climb #4

And now climb #4

Then I took in the sweeping early sunset views from the ledges across East Mountain, Mts Race and Everett in the Taconics, and could see the distant peaks of the Catskills though I don’t think the photo captured it. The raccoon was still foraging just ahead and found an acorn in the middle of the ledges and was content on staying there so I negotiated around it carefully and carried on ahead. One thing I would NOT do is feed it as that would destroy its natural foraging instincts and likely cause it to follow me the entire last half mile to camp!

Rocky Raccoon?

Rocky Raccoon?

It was getting closer to dark and I wanted to see Fielden Stream and check out the campsite shelters and do the last climb before dark so I kept moving. I stopped at a brook to fill up as she said the water source at the campsite was a bit of a hassle as its in a small hole in a jumble of rocks.

View west from the Ledges

View west from the Ledges

I made the final short steep climb up to the Wilcox South shelters which sit on the edge of the ridge. Fielden Stream had a cup of wine waiting for me and the tent all set up so I threw my sleeping gear in the tent and toured the old CCC (Civil Conservation Core)-era shelter and the new 2007 shelter with her, also making note of the privy and bear box locations. There was one other person there, a thru hiker who was already asleep in the new shelter by the time I got there around 8.

Be bear aware

Be bear aware

We went to sleep later than usual as we usually get into camp by 4 having started much earlier. Being June however meant the sun didn’t set until 9pm or later so I was able to hike the 3.3 miles up from the trailhead before dark and still have time to enjoy some time in camp before dark. I didn’t really eat anything though because my Burger King lunch and BBQ dinner just before 4 climbs in under 2 hours left my stomach not feeling its best. Some Vitamin I and wine helped relieve any remaining pain.

Potty humor

Potty humor

It turns out it was a full moon so it was pretty bright the whole night and I couldn’t sleep much until my body just decided it was time. I listened to my favorite Barred Owls hooting in the valley below and the various chipmunks scurrying about. There was a slight chance of rainstorms but they never came and we had a very nice night in the tent with the vestibules open.

In the morning we opted to just stick to snack bars and coffee and hit the trail early rather than make a hot breakfast. The digestion doesn’t seem to like a steep climb right after loading up on food.

Beaver work along a swamp

Beaver work along a swamp

I had been wondering if we would run into a thru hiker couple I had been following on Facebook as I saw they’d be in the same area at the same time and had commented on their page that we’d be at South Wilcox for the night. They didn’t turn up here for the night but I DID see another that I was following had been in the shelter just two nights before – Reddmage! So that was cool. It seemed like that was a busy night at the campsite, and one I would have liked to have been there for.

I filled up the water from the spiderweb-coated rock hole which while it wasn’t convenient and involved some crouching, was clear and cold. I signed the register and we headed up the hill, after the campsite side trail of course took us downhill a bit. As we reached the top of the hill, a couple was walking up behind us. And it was the couple I had been following – Poncho and Idgie!

Photo by Poncho and Idgie

Photo by Poncho and Idgie

I was thrilled and we made the connection right away and ended up hiking with them on and off for the next 5 miles, which helped all of us! We also ran into one of our DCR ridge runner counterparts on the trail who I had met at the BBQ the night before so we stopped and talked to him a bit and I reported the stolen map. We ran into Poncho and Idgie a few more times before we decided on a longer snack break before the last big climb. They were pushing for Goose Pond cabin so they had many miles more to go but from what I’ve read on their page, it was worth it. We were happy to have made these new friends.

Beartown bear condos?

Beartown bear condos?

Right before the last big climb was a steep descent down Wilcox Mtn through Fern gullies and what were without a doubt many bear caves on the steep side of the mountain. The last climb wasn’t much and we descended again into the valley past Shaker campsite, named after the former community here of Shakers (Google it!) and then through Hemlock stands and sunny open meadows with views to the North and West and their old barns.

Wild Iris in the Tyringham Valley

Wild Iris in the Tyringham Valley

The trail took us a bit farther up the side of the Cobble than we expected before the intersection of the loop trail which dropped us back into the open fields once more to the parking lot.

In hindsight it would have been almost the same effort and distance to just go over the summit of the Cobble once more and finish the section but it won’t be much to do next weekend. You can watch our video of the hike here.

Shaker barns

Shaker barns

Miles day 1: 3.3

Miles Day 2: 7.6 (with loop trail section to parking lot)

— Linus

Ridgerunner weekend #1 – Back in the Wild Corner

I am trying a new format here. I’m going to make the entries more brief and to the point going forward with exception of an occasional longer piece. It’s getting tougher to find the time to write in such detail so I promise to keep providing nice images and a summary of each hike without writing a book! Lets start with last weekend.

Officially a Ridgerunner!

Officially a Ridgerunner!

It was my second Memorial Day weekend up on the Riga plateau in the Northwest corner of Connecticut along the Appalachian Trail. And my first as an official Appalachian Trail Weekend Ridgerunner. The role is what I have been doing as a volunteer but with pay and some other nice perks. The job is for 5-6 weekends during the peak summer months. Fortunately, it was not 100 degrees this Memorial Day weekend. I stopped up at Kellogg Conservation Center in South Egremont, Massachusetts to pick up my uniform and rain gear and then headed back down to Salisbury.

Shortly after you head north out of Salisbury on the trail, you hit the 1,500 mile marker. We have a newish sign there and it sure adds to the excitement.

1500 miles

1500 miles

DAY 1:

The trail was packed with hikers. I met over 80 on day 1 between Rt 41 in Salisbury and the summit of Bear. That was Just the day hikers. Many take the Undermountain trail from Rt. 41 trailhead near the Massachusetts border. This 1.9-mile trail meets the AT at Riga Junction about 1,000 ft higher. That lot was full and I wanted to spend more time on the A.T. vs side trails so I kept driving down to the lot in town.

Riga Junction

Riga Junction

There were about 20 Backpackers on Day 1. Most were NOBO (Northbound) whereas on Day 2 there were a lot more SOBOs (southbounders). I met a marine on the summit on day 1 among the crowds and thanked him for his service.

On top I also met the caretaker of our Northwest Cabin. He’s summited Bear over 300 times now as he lives nearby and is at the cabin each week. It’s at the bottom of Bear near Sages Ravine and you can rent it with your family. I also met a lot of locals who do the hike often as well, even bringing up their lapdogs.

From a perch on the summit tower, I educated everyone on the different mountains in the views as well as about the stone tower itself and how Mt. Frissell’s shoulder is actually higher than Bear. Though Bear IS the highest SUMMIT in the state. We talked about how if Bigfoot can leave no trace, so can you. The kids loved this, but I confess I saw it on the internet and can’t take credit for coming up with it! It’s a fun and friendly way to breach the LNT subject without anyone feeling like I’m lecturing them!

Always a great view from Bear Mtn. Race and Everett to the North

Always a great view from Bear Mtn. Race and Everett to the North

I also found the elusive pink Lady Slipper. They love it on Lions head. The only other place I’ve seen them is near Hatch Brook down by Pine Knob Loop.

The rare Pink Lady Slipper

The rare Pink Lady Slipper

The other prominent flower was pink Honeysuckle which was blooming everywhere. Usually it’s the Mountain Laurel going wild up here. Their time is coming soon.

Pink Honeysuckle

Pink Honeysuckle

I met some great section hikers when I got to the beautiful campsite and shelter at Riga where I was staying for the night. We talked at dinner and played some fun charades games before everyone went to bed. There was another group too, and wow did their dinner smell like it tasted WAY better than mine. I was trying some new more organic lentil meal and i forgot to add my Tabasco and salt and pepper. Lesson learned.  I still enjoyed a great view for dinner though. The view (and the sunrise) are famous at Riga. It’s right on the edge of the cliff and is clear cut to show the view.

Vegan Camping Food - I'm not a vegan

Vegan Camping Food – I’m not a vegan

Gripes of the day: 1 ) campers leaving full sized pillows, and a bunch of trash and food they didn’t want to pack out in the bear box. That was about 10 lbs for me to pack out the next day, It was not appreciated. Pack it in, pack it out. It was nice to see another hiker (not a maintainer) rant about it in the shelter register because this way other hikers learn they are being disrespectful from their own peers.

2) Someone made a fire ring right under the ‘no fires’ sign again. Who are these people? I keep seeing this. Someone is out to make a point. So I cleared it.

There was a porcupine chewing on the Privy walls all night. It was about 50 yards from my tent so you couldn’t NOT hear it. It didn’t bother me that much though.

Miles Day 1: 8.2

Porcupines: 1

DAY 2:

I caught the famous sunrise and woke up some of my new friends to watch it come up with me. Then enjoyed breakfast with the great view. My Backpackers Pantry Granola with Milk and Organic Blueberries and my Starbucks VIA with a few mini moos I took from my office kitchen hit the spot.

The famous Riga sunrise!

The famous Riga sunrise!

My friend Brian was training for a White Mountains hike in a few weeks so he hiked up to join me at Riga and hike with me for much of the day. We hiked back up to the summit of Bear together. He met a woman in her 60’s from Tennessee who was doing a LASH (Long a** section hike). We saw her again when cleaning up remains of a fire at Brassie Brook shelter and had a nice chat with her.

Linus and Brian on Bear Mtn

Linus and Brian on Bear Mtn

Along the way up, we saw a young couple packing up a camping spot right on the side of the trail and I asked them to please stick to designated campsites as we are reforesting there and that’s the rule either way in Connecticut. They had been tired last night and didn’t know there was a campsite 1/2 mile ahead! I then saw them again when at Brassie brook filling up my water and gave them a map and helped answer some other questions for which they thanked me. We would see them again on Bear and Lion’s head before the day was over.

We met and hiked with some other of my new friends from the night before at Riga (the ones with the delicious smelling food!) and one of them was an entomologist. She taught me about some wildlife and plants as did Brian who is a tree expert. He showed me a lot of species I didn’t previously recognize. We also talked gear a lot, comparing and talking about our new gear upgrades and water/sleep and pack systems.

Bear, Race and Everett from Lion's head

Bear, Race and Everett from Lion’s head

Today was more overcast but still we encountered at least another 20 backpackers (most of these were southbound and a large group of them were wearing bug nets which was smart) . There were two thru-hikers including Captain Underpants, whose family was joining him for this section over the weekend. Most of the backpackers were section hiking this weekend. You can usually tell who are thru and who are section.

At Lion's Head

At Lion’s Head

There were about another 75 day hikers we met along the trail and on the summits of Bear and Lion’s head. We took in the views and a snack on Lion’s head after picking up the trash and the pillow from Riga so we could pack it out. (No point in carrying it up and down Bear so we came back for it).

There were lots of families with small kids on Lion’s head. Some asked if they could drink the water and I told them not without filtering and offered them water but they had enough.

We made it down to Rt 41 around 3:15 and Brian was then headed south to Limestone spring shelter for the night as he couldn’t overnight on Saturday.

It was a great weekend. Not too hot, no rain ever showed during my shift, and I met a lot of great people and pushed my personal weekend mileage goals.

Miles Day 2: 8.5

  • 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

Appalachian Trail Night Hike and Cold Winter Overnight

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

On Thursday, the much-delayed and much needed winter overnight finally fell into place. It’s been a rocky couple of weeks (pun intended) in the real world and as always, when things get tough, nature comes to my rescue. I was planning to do this the previous week. Some thought also went into doing it this coming week on my birthday, but that’s going to be a day hike with a more luxurious overnight to celebrate the occasion. Besides, the temperatures at night maybe something I will brave and did on this occasion, but are not enjoyable for most. Fielden and I have had our share of cold nights on the trail, but 25 is pushing it for her and this is now only my second time camping on such a cold night. I had been going back and forth on whether I was going to do it, but a trip to Bass Pro shops/Outdoor world that morning provided the final inspiration. Their new location in Bridgeport, CT is amazing.

Hitting the trail at dusk

Hitting the trail at dusk

I like knowing I can do it, so that if I do end up in these temperatures on a long section in the future, I am prepared. The last time was a very cold April night last year when I camped along the Housatonic River at Ten Mile River Campground. I also like doing these once in a while because it gives me a chance to re-test and possibly improve my layering and sleep system for the colder temps. I love testing gear. Like last time, the temperatures were around 25 degrees at the lowest.

I decided to go up to Wiley Shelter on the New York Appalachian Trail. As I’ve been there 3 times now, I know the layout, so finding my way around in the dark would be easy. And its a short hike out and its close to a road in case it was just too cold and I needed an emergency bailout . But I did not.

My layering and sleep system was as such:

Clothing bottoms: Long Johns (Patagonia Cap 3), fresh pair of dry wool socks (always have these!) and my hiking undies – REI synthetic briefs. (I took off the hiking pants to put on the long john bottoms. Sometimes I hike with both on.)

Clothing tops: (the bottom two were my hiking layers) Smartwool short sleeve base layer, Patagonia Dual Aspect hoodie (one of my favorite new pieces of gear, will also use for skiing and snowboarding), Marmot Precip rain coat.

Minus 33 beanie

Minus 33 beanie

Hat: Minus 33 beanie – finally I found one that fits my big noggin!

The final piece, the raincoat, was one I discovered and employed last time, because I just wasn’t at the comfort level I needed to be. Down is great but I didn’t want to sleep in my down jacket last time because once you do heat up it will wet out from sweat, and then become dangerous. I also don’t hike in down for the same reason, as I discovered on a day hike up Mt. Higby about a year ago.

Sleeping Pads: I combined two pads like I did last time. Was only planning on using the foam one but brought my inflatable because I thought that might be too close to the ground and conduct too much cold and I was right. the Thermarest z-lite foam pad does help add R-Value and protect from roots and rocks underneath, but on its own I quickly realized I needed to be further off the ground to be properly warm so I blew up my Thermarest Neo-Air Xlite, and voila, I didn’t feel the cold ground. The foam pad is a bit long for my modest height of 5’7″ so I did what many thru hikers do and cut off the top two panels and will use those as a seat. This also makes it easier to carry the pad between the body and brain of my pack.

Crossing Duel Hollow Brook

Crossing Duel Hollow Brook

Also one thing I’ve always read is to have a hot meal before bed as it will keep your body generating heat as it is working to digest the meal. So after a few failed attempts to get a lot of wet wood to light for a campfire ( a solitary mouse came by to watch and laugh at me failing before scurrying off), I got out my stove and had some Mountain House chili mac and washed it down with a little red wine. I did not bring a nalgene so I could not put a hot water bottle in my bag, but I didn’t end up needing it. I did put my Sawyer squeeze filter in there to keep it from freezing. I have frozen (or at least I think, don’t wanna find out the hard way) two Sawyer minis already because I left them in my backpack which I left in my car for a couple days after a winter day hike. They may be fine. But Guardia is no way to find out that its not. And at $25 each its really not a big deal to replace them.

Camping "essentials"

Camping “essentials”

Anyway I like the squeeze because its only an ounce or two heavier and the filtering flow rate is much faster. Since I usually hike with Fielden and or the kids, and I’m often in a hurry (i.e. impatient) I prefer the faster rate. In the future I’m going to get a Katahdin hiker pro, as my friend Ray recommended it to me and showed me his after the hike. I thought they were much bulkier and heavier but really they’re not. And being able to pump the water from low sources is a seriously good feature. I always bring back up tablets in case any of these filters fail or I meet hikers who have no method of filtration. This filter is more in the $60+ range so I will wait till the next sale at REI.

When I hiked in, temperatures were still in the mid 30s. The lowest point of 25 was around 3 or 4 am and returned to the 30’s with sunrise. But this is the time when are bodies are really at their coldest so its important to have the right amount of insulation from the cold so we are not at risk of hypothermia. My layering system and meal planning really succeeded in keeping me very warm throughout the night.

Sawyer Squeeze and Smart Water bottle

Sawyer Squeeze and Smart Water bottle

I also re-tested the whole smart water bottle with the Sawyer filter screwed on top. Thru hikers rave about this on their channels, as its so easy and convenient. My water bladder has sprung a tiny leak and so I figured I’d give it another shot. Still unimpressed. While it is convenient to just unscrew the thing, fill it with water and drink, every time you drink the suction compresses the bottle so you have to unscrew it partially to let air back in there. Secondly I don’t have a way to attach it to my pack straps and even then it would be awkward and bulky. So I had to put it back in my pack pocket which felt like dislocating my shoulder each time to reach back there. Since my pack has one large pocket, it also isn’t held in there securely and fell out once, which I worried about happening. If it did and there wasn’t a pump at the shelter (there is) I could be in real trouble. So I’m not doing that method again. Ill get a new bladder and that’s that.

A few other gear notes: I bought a sea to summit x-cup for solo hikes so that I could have my coffee in it in the morning and not have to use my pot which I will be using for my meal.  When I go with Fielden we have a cook pot with two cups… I did not end up using the x-cup though as my morning plans changed as you will see below. But I am looking forward to trying it. I was finally convinced on it when one of the hikers I watched, Homemade Wanderlust, mentioned how much she loved it.

Casio Forester watch

Casio Forester watch

Also, I have owned several hiking and outdoor watches. A few seasons ago I experimented with the Suunto Ambit GPS watch. I had some fun with it but not being able to charge it without USB led to it shutting off in the middle of a hike when I needed it. So I traded it for a Casio Pro-Trek. No GPS on board, but it charged by solar, has a barometer, altimeter and compass. A cool watch and everything but I never used any of those features, and I had a little of trouble reading the tiny numbers and dials at night. As the battery has since died,  I went to Wal-Mart and got a $20 Casio ‘Forester” watch. It has a face I can easily read (except the date window which is not crucial), a powerful backlight that is easy to turn on, and a fabric and velcro strap for durability and comfort. Honestly, this watch is all any of us need. I love this little watch and I don’t have to worry about banging it up or breaking it. If I do, I’m out $20 not $200 or $400 even.  A no-brainer. All those gadgets are neat, and fun to try out, but most are overkill. If anyone is interested in buying my Pro-Trek, let me know. just needs a new battery.

Dark Dark Night

Dark Dark Night

This was also my first experience night-hiking in earnest. I was a little surprised sunset was so early and sunrise so late, as its getting close to February. Sunset was slated for 4:58 and I knew sunrise has been around 7am lately. Lots of time alone in the dark! I was racing  the sunset as I drove up. I guess you can park just north of the shelter on Duel Hollow road overnight but I wasn’t certain so I parked at Hoyt Road which meant a 1.2 mile hike in. There’s some decent little ups and downs here and as I walked in the sun was setting fast. It was fully dark as I reached about a quarter mile in.  One owl swooped overhead as I followed the dark trail, and the howl of a coyote was heard in the distance. Definitely a good way to keep one’s senses active! There’s not a whole lot you can do if something out there has plans for you. Still i told myself I’d much rather go that way than dying suddenly at work or home from a stress-related heart attack! I’m 45, this is prime age for that so I have to take care of myself.

Arrived at camp

Arrived at camp

I reached the campsite at around 6pm . It was dark as can be. There was no moon, and no stars. I heard a barred owl hoot once in the far distance, but without a reply he must have moved on as it was silent the rest of the night. I slept like a rock undisturbed, only waking once or twice. I listened to a little Miles Davis while I set up camp. I did try and set up my tent on the platform but as its not fully freestanding it wasn’t working so I set up next to it and then went about attempting to make the fire…

Before I nodded off my friends and family checked in on me. My friend Ray, another maintainer from the Connecticut AMC who lives 5 minutes away, offered to meet me at the campsite and bring breakfast! How could I say no to that. He also offered to be my emergency bailout pickup if I needed it.

Sunrise view from the ridge

Sunrise view from the ridge

At 7am I let everyone know I was alive and didn’t freeze to death. In fact I was very warm!  Sunrise wasn’t really impressive as it was overcast, so no red hot fire ball burning over the ridge line like last time I was there. Ray came around 7:45 with Dunkin Donuts coffee and and egg and cheese and we chatted for a while. He gave me a lift back to my car and then we went to his house for a bit so I could warm up by the pellet stove.

I had a great time, faced some fears, braved the elements and learned a few things about myself and my skills.

View from the tent to the shelter

View from the tent to the shelter

For my birthday, Fielden and I have decided to check out Minnewaska State Park and or the adjacent Mohonk Preserve as many of my friends have been posting video and photos from there and I want to do a hike in a new place and where we only have to bring one car.

Miles: 1.2

— Linus