AT: Pinkham Notch to ME-17

Sunday, June 19: Pinkham Notch to Carter Notch Hut

Maple and I got up at 4:30 and, an hour later, after having a Mountain House breakfast and packing up, we left Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch. It was a cold morning, threatening freezing rain in the mountains. Since we weren’t at all sure how long our hike would take, we decided to get a very early start.

The Lost Pond Trail, which brought us to the Wildcat Ridge Trail, was only a mile long, but already it gave us the sense that this was going to be a very difficult hike. Later we would learn that there had been a decomposing moose at the pond, but fortunately for us the temperature was too low to allow for much of an aroma, and we passed the dead creature without ever realizing its presence.

Once we got onto the Wildcat Ridge Trail, the uphill scrambling began immediately. Soon we were climbing the steepest mile on the AT. It brought us to some precarious sections, which prompted no little anxiety. One section, called “The Chimney,” had me doubting my ability to climb for a moment. There were no easy stretches on the two-mile ascent to Wildcat Mountain, Peak D, where the ski resort’s gondolas rested. By the time we arrived there, four hours had passed. The temperature was now 34 degrees, not counting wind chill—and there were gusts up to 50 miles per hour. Maple and I found a spot protected from the wind and had a snack.

Two further miles of constant ascents and descents separated Peak D, at 4,050 feet, from Peak A, at 4422 feet. It took us another three hours to traverse the distance, although we did stop for lunch shortly before summitting Peak A. The Wildcats exhausted us. This was our first day out on our hiking adventure, and our muscles were feeling the old familiar strain.

From Wildcat Peak A there is a descent of over 1,100 feet in .9 mile. After a long day of hiking, we had to take our time and be extra careful on this descent. Finally, we arrived at Carter Notch Hut, after a strenuous hike of eight-and-a-half hours.

We were sent by Bailey, the hut manager, to our room, Number 3, in the lower bunkhouse. After having coffee and conversation with other guests, Maple and I retired to our bunkroom to await dinner time.

Monday, June 20: Carter Notch Hut to Imp Campsite and Shelter

Last night Birch and I had a marvelous time at dinner. We sat with three guys (“Tin Cup,” “Bush,” and “Stoolie”) who began hiking the AT together back in 2005 and are now this far north. The men had great stories about their adventures, and we shared a lot of laughs. The hut had a guest lecturer for the evening, a geologist from the University of Maine Farmington. But as much as we wanted to hear his talk, we just couldn’t do it. By 7:30 we hit the bed and were out—so tired!

Birch and I had the small cabin to ourselves. We awoke early and had a huge breakfast at 7:00. We were on the trail by 8:00. The ascent up to Carter Dome was very steep the first half mile, then became much more manageable. We were thrilled to get to the dome by 9:35.

The day was beautiful, with bright, sunny skies. However, it was very windy. The hike to Height Mountain was easy. The views from the summit were spectacular; however, gusts reached 50-70 mph, and it was tough to even stand! The descent was steep.

We saw a lot of day hikers. Many were trying to knock out some 4,000 footers.

The stretch of the Carters was a bit tougher than I expected. We were thrilled to complete North Carter, but the descent from the summit was extremely steep and very unsafe. I think we spent about a half mile of the descent on our butts! While we had heard so much about this section, I’m not sure anything could have prepared us.

Unfortunately, Imp Shelter was .3 mile off the trail. We decided to sleep in the shelter. It was large, with an upper and lower section and plenty of room for a dozen hikers. We were sore and tired but also thrilled to have successfully navigated our descent. Again, we saw the three guys that we met at Carter Notch Hut, and it was nice to affirm that we were all in one piece after a tough day of hiking. The views did not disappoint!

Tuesday, June 21: Imp Campsite and Shelter to US-2

Maple prepared, for our dinner last night, a wonderful, dehydrated meal of macaroni, beef, vegetables, and herbs, to which we added parmesan cheese. After cleaning up and finishing whatever other chores we had to do, we slid into our sleeping bags and were soon asleep.

I arose with the dawn and made us both coffee. Maple soon joined me and we had our oatmeal breakfast before packing up. We were on the trail at 6:45.

Mount Moriah gave us a rocky climb, with many slabs of granite to ascend. Along the way, at intervals, we were treated to views of the surrounding mountains. The sky was clear, and we could easily pick out Mount Washington. Near the top of Moriah we had a snack, enjoying the views all around us. When we reached the highest point of the AT on Moriah, we discovered that there was a side-trail of .1 mile to the summit. Maple and I both felt that we had already had summit views, and we did not want to add to our 8-mile day.

Our descent from Moriah was 6 miles long. We had to be careful of our footing, but there was nothing very precarious to make us pause on our way down.

When we reached the first crossing of Rattle River, we stopped for lunch. Maple had brought salami and cheese for the occasion. She rolled up several slices around the cheese, and on her first bite something went terribly wrong. The peppercorn in the salami cracked her tooth in several places, as we would later learn. Fortunately, she wasn’t in much pain, just discomfort.

Upon reaching the Rattle River Shelter, the trail evened out, and we had a smooth walk for the last two miles to our car, parked about 3 miles to the east from Gorham.

In Gorham we checked into the Rodeway Inn, and Maple got an appointment to see a dentist that afternoon.

It had been a beautiful, 80-degree day to finish the Whites. We both agreed that the Whites are one section of the AT that, while beautiful, we would never want to repeat.

Thursday, June 23: US-2 to Trident Col Campsite

Birch and I enjoyed a quiet day in Gorham yesterday. The town has a fantastic coffee shop called Dermody Road. We hung out there, reading and drinking coffee. We also went to a fun gift shop. Unfortunately, the dentist was not able to repair my tooth, so we’re hiking at some risk but hoping for the best.

Dan from Trail Angels Hiker Services met us at the Rodeway Inn at about 6:30 and we followed him so we could drop our car off at Grafton Notch. By 8:10 he had dropped us off at Rattle River on US-2 and we began our hike. After a short walk on a road, we began our ascent of Mount Hayes. This was pretty easy. We then descended and had lunch by a very unreliable water source. We ascended again up Cascade Mountain, and this was not as easy, with rock faces more like what we had seen in the Whites. As usual, we clung to tree roots and tree trunks and pulled ourselves up the trail. At least we had some nice views.

This area of the trail was not well maintained, and we found ourselves bushwhacking a bit!

At Trident Col Campground we found a spot in easy walking distance to the privy. After setting up the tent, we went about 100 yards down to the water source; it was weak, at best. We had gotten in early enough to have a bit of a nap before dinner, which was more of cheese with pulled barbeque pork. As we finished up our meal, a SoBo thru-hiker, “Bard,” came into camp. Bard is from Quebec and carries a disassembled guitar with him on the trail. He had fallen into a deep moat of mud and warned us to be careful as we navigated the upcoming bogs. By 6:45 we were ready for bed.

Friday, June 24: Trident Col Campsite to Gentian Pond Shelter

Maple and I were on the trail this morning by 7:00. Even though we had only 4.9 miles today on the AT, we knew that they were going to be rough miles. The forest was so dense that it overlapped the trail, and the branches and leaves that stretched across our path, soaked from the rain of the night before, got us totally drenched.

Our hike involved crossing over many bog boards and navigating around or through numerous mud pits. Maple and I both had falls in the mud, but no significant harm was done. Our clothes, on the other hand, were no longer clean enough to sleep in.

Along the way we met one other backpacker, an AT SoBo thru-hiker named “Re-run,” although, he said, his friends call him “Claus,” on account of his white beard. This is his third thru-hike of the AT.

We arrived at Gentian Pond Shelter at 12:30, glad to have the rest of the day to relax—especially having such an incredible view of the mountains from this shelter.

After eating lunch, we napped for ten minutes, dried out our tent, and went to fetch water from the pond. Afterwards, four NoBo thru-hikers stopped by—a group of three older hikers (about our age) named “Strawberry,” “Double-Time,” and “Fillin’-In,” and a solitary young hiker named “C.C.” (because she was hiking the trail for college credit). C.C. hiked in from Gorham this day, and she was on her way to Carlo Col Shelter. Oh, to be young and fit! The other three put up their tents on the wooden pads.

Saturday, June 25: Gentian Pond Shelter to Carlo Col Shelter

Birch and I were up by 5 a.m. having coffee. It was a beautiful evening, with a sky full of stars. The early morning view was wonderful. We were on the AT by 6:15, the first ones from the shelter on the trail. Our goal was Mount Success. After one miniature ascent—just to get us going—we started the big ascent. In many ways, it was like Mount Webster, with lots of long slabs of granite. We would strategize about what side to go up and what trees to hang onto.

The summit of Success was beautiful, with 360-degree views. We were so excited to make it to the top! Unfortunately, the descent was not easy. The hardest parts were in the gap right before the Maine border and along the .1 mile before the side-trail to the Carlo Col Shelter.  The gap before the border had serious boulders and a precarious descent. As you can probably imagine, we had eagerly anticipated reaching the New Hampshire/Maine border. To some extent, though, it was anticlimactic. It was hot, humid, and incredibly buggy. We took a quick photo and then moved on. Descending the ledges was the most precarious section of the day. At first, I wasn’t even sure that it was the trail.

Once in camp we were disappointed by the water source, which was barely flowing. The shelter itself was big, but it had no views. Perhaps we’d been a little spoiled by our New Hampshire campsites.

This night, there were a ton of people here, mostly SoBos. We got into camp about 2 p.m. and now, at 5:45, we’re ready for bed! Camp life makes us tired!

Sunday, June 26: Carlo Col Shelter to Full Goose Shelter

I got up this morning at 4:30 and made coffee for myself and Maple. As usual, Maple asked for another half hour of sleep, but the coffee got her up, and we were on the trail by 5:45.

We enjoyed the trail today, for the most part, but the going was still tough, and it took us six and a half hours to go the 4.4 miles between shelters. I ran out of energy before 11:00, and we had to stop for an early lunch.

Rebar and wooden ladders made impossible inclines and precipices manageable. The alpine bogs were difficult to traverse, without sinking into the deep mud pits.

As of 2:45, Maple and I were the only ones in the shelter. We filled up our water bottles and dromedary from the spring 100 yards downhill from the shelter. We were both so thirsty when we arrived, as we had to conserve our water while hiking.

At about 5:45 in the evening, as Maple and I were enjoying a dinner of loaded mashed potatoes with bacon, in strolled three backpackers our age, a married couple from Ohio named Karen and Ken, together with their friend Mark. Ken was on a mission to complete the last forty miles of his section hike of the A.T. We had very pleasant conversation, not entirely about the thunderstorm in the forecast for tomorrow.

Monday, June 27: Full Goose Shelter to Speck Pond Campsite and Shelter

Birch and I were up by 4 a.m., excited and nervous about the day ahead. The weather forecast kept changing all week. Now, it forecast showers from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The good news was that thunderstorms seemed out of the picture.

We left camp at around 5:45 a.m. and hiked for about 1.5 miles. There were a few stairs to help us along, and I was glad that, although the trail was rocky, we made good time.

At last we saw the sign for Mahoosic Notch. To our left was a jumble of downed trees. Then, I saw our first major obstacle, a large boulder about four feet high that we had to climb. I had no idea how to get up! Birch and I soon developed a system where he would either help push me up an obstacle from behind or give me a hand from ahead or above. That did the trick. After getting through one spot, we scanned the environment to determine our next move. The ”path” was rarely evident and required some strategizing.

It wasn’t long before we had to duck into a cave and crawl our way to the other side. Several times, Birch had to take his backpack off to squeeze through a crevice. At one point, his leg went right through a gap between rocks.

About halfway through, it started raining. We put on our raincoats and that helped. However, now we were dealing with wet, slippery terrain.

Finally, we saw what we knew (from watching videos) was the last cave. Birch was doubtful about going over a rockface since to fall from it would be catastrophic. He went around and down, then threw his pack up onto a ledge, and climbed up and into the cave. I took the rockface approach. Finally, we climbed up and out. Before long we were on a “normal” trail. In all, it took us four hours to go one mile.

Next was Mahoosic Arm. This was about a two-mile ascent of 2,000 feet. Most of the Arm consisted of long, smooth, slick slabs of granite that sloped sharply up. At one point I tried to switch over to a different side of the slab to avoid some moose poop, when I fell and slid down the granite. I got a bad gash right above my left eye. Birch got out the first-aid kit and tried to clean me up, then we continued. Eventually the rain stopped, and that helped brighten our mood.

At last, we saw Speck Pond below. We got to the shelter about 3:15 and set up our tent on a platform. The shelter had a dining area where we made coffee and dinner. Water was easily accessed just beyond the dining area.

Our friends Karen, Ken, and Mark arrived in camp while we were setting up our tent, and it was nice to catch up with them.

Tuesday, June 28: Speck Pond Campsite and Shelter to Grafton Notch

I slept like a rock after the exhausting day, and Maple and I awoke in our tent at about 5:15. We packed up our things, and then went to the cooking area to prepare our oatmeal breakfast. There we chatted for half an hour with Ken, Karen, and Mark, before returning to our camp to pack up our tent and depart.

Going up into the alpine zone on Old Speck Mountain was a unique and disconcerting experience. We rose into the clouds by grabbing hold of roots and branches and pulling ourselves upward. The clouds were so dense that we could not see more than ten feet around us, so it appeared that, if we fell, we would fall through the cloud, however far, to earth below. The gusts of wind made our ascent even harder and dropped the temperature into the thirties.

The descent was much more gradual and kinder to us, and soon the clouds dispersed, allowing the sun to brighten our day. We encountered several day-hikers on their way up to the summit, and after crossing a stream, we found a beautiful cascade.

Upon making it to Grafton Notch, we drove to a first-aid station at a ski resort in Newbury to have Maple’s injury treated. It was beyond the 24-hour window for stitches, but the ski patrol staff did a great job of cleaning the wound and applying butterfly stitches. Afterwards, we drove up to the Rangeley Inn, where we had a reservation for two nights.

Thursday, June 30: Grafton Notch to Frye Notch Lean-to

Birch and I had a great zero day at the Rangeley Inn. This inn is majestic, with huge rooms of various shapes and sizes. The bathrooms were luxurious. We enjoyed the common area and the large porch. The staff couldn’t have been nicer.

Rangeley is an interesting town. It caters to tourists, with lots of little gift shops. However, for some reason most restaurants were closed on Tuesdays! We were very excited to find a delicious ice cream shop that also sold hot dogs and fries.

Before 6:30 a.m., Birch and I were packed up and ready to hit the trail again. David, from Pine Ellis Lodge, picked us up at 7:00, and we had wonderful conversation on the one-and-a-half-hour drive to Grafton Notch. David was in the Army Special Forces, lived in the Yukon, and now lives in a small town (Andover) with only 600 people. You can hardly imagine the stories!

We were able to get on the trail by 9 a.m., but it was not well marked and, at 10 a.m., we found ourselves off the AT by about half a mile. We backtracked and marveled at how easy it was to miss the trail.

The ascent to Baldpate West Peak was steep but manageable, with steps to ease our way. We met a woman full of energy and enthusiasm for our hike. She told us that the Baldpates were “sticky” today, making it a bit easier to climb, but she cautioned us about the wind. In fact, several people coming down warned us!

West Baldpate was beautiful and very easy to navigate. We descended and came to the bottom of East Baldpate. It looked very intimidating! It was one large granite mountain. Cairns guided our way up and, although windy, it was much better than some other mountains.

The descent was time consuming. The top half of the mountain was steep, with ladders to help. Finally, the trail became easier. We arrived at the lean-to at 4:15 and decided to stay in the shelter. NoBo “MEGA” set up his tent, and we enjoyed chatting with him. Other thru-hikers soon arrived, the tenting areas filled, and before long we had company in the shelter.

Friday, July 1: Fry Notch Lean-to to East B Hill Road

Maple and I slept in a bit this morning, and we didn’t get onto the trail until 6:45. Our intent was to hike the 4.5 miles to the brook just below East B Hill Road, but the trail was so easily hiked that we arrived at the brook at around 11:30. So, instead, we called Pine Ellis Lodge and rented a private room. David, who had shuttled us from the Rangeley Inn to Grafton Notch, picked us up and drove us the six miles into Andover.

While crossing the wide brook, I stepped on a rock that shifted under my foot. I lost my balance and could see that I was going to end up in the brook, but I somehow managed to pivot, so that I fell, instead, on the rocks that I had just traversed. My right knee took a beating, and I expressed my pain with a choice word or two.

Saturday, July 2: East B Hill Road to Sawyer Brook

Birch and I had a nice “nero” yesterday at Pine Ellis Lodge in the town of Andover. The big hang-out spot was Mills Market. We had a private room and a nice sleep. At 5:30 a.m. we walked over to Mills Market for breakfast—breakfast burritos. It was quite the busy spot even early in the morning.

At 7 a.m. David drove us to the trailhead. We began with an ascent up Wyman Mountain in the rain. Fortunately, the trail was easy. By 9 a.m. the rain had stopped. We made good time up to the peak, then descended to Hall Mountain Lean-to. There me met Jeff, who had his things spread out to dry. We joined him in the lean-to and prepared lunch. Suddenly the sky darkened, and it began to pour! Birch changed into his fleece, and we had a cup of coffee while we waited out the rain.

The showers ended quickly, and as we packed up “Laps” came into camp. He informed us that a large group of NoBo thru-hikers was also going to be staying at Sawyer Brook.

Birch and I had a 1.4-mile steep descent into camp. We went as fast as we could safely go, so that we would arrive before the group. Although we each had a few slips, the trail was pretty tame. Once at the brook, we crossed, thinking that tent sites were on the other side. Nope! We had to cross over the rocks again to find a site near the water.

As we filtered water, Laps came to camp with “Juice Box.” We enjoyed sitting with them as we cooked dinner and learned that Juice Box (Jenny) went to American University! Soon a group of about eight other hikers arrived, and the noise level rose. Birch and I ducked into our tent for a quiet evening of sleep.

Sunday, July 3: Sawyer Brook to South Arm Road

I was the first one up this morning at Sawyer Brook and quickly had a couple cups of coffee prepared for Maple and myself. My big surprise was finding my Sea-to-Summit trash bag missing. I forgot to pack it inside the food bag before retiring and, instead, left it on top of my backpack. Apparently, some animal larger than a squirrel carried it off. I hated the thought of leaving it somewhere in the wilderness, but it was nowhere to be found.

The weather was beautiful but humid this morning, and Maple and I were on the trail by 6:15. We had Moody Mountain to climb, and I was soon drenched in my sweat. When we got to the summit, I called Pine Ellis Lodge to arrange for a shuttle into Andover. Maple and I arrived at South Arm Road at 9:30 and were picked up, as requested, at 10:15.

Monday, July 4: South Arm Road to Bemis Mountain Lean-to

Birch and I got up at 5 a.m. and walked over to the market for coffee. David shuttled us to the trailhead, and we began the hike at about 6:25. We had heard from SoBos that Old Blue Mountain was a “beast,” so I was apprehensive about the plan to go 8.7 miles. However, the difficult portion never really materialized. Yes, there were a few granite slabs and scrambles, but nothing we hadn’t seen before. We made it to the top in about three hours.

The trail this day was sometimes easy, sometimes taxing. For most of the day we were on a ridge. After talking with several SoBos, we learned that the water situation at the lean-to was pretty dire.

About three miles before the lean-to was a stagnant water source. We took it, loading up with two extra liters. The last three miles were tough, mostly because I was tired and because Birch was now carrying added weight. We arrived at the lean-to just before 4 p.m. and decided to tent for our last night out. The weather was beautiful this evening.

Tuesday, July 5: Bemis Mountain Lean-to to ME-17, “Height of Land”

Once again, Maple and I were the first up at the shelter and campsite. We arose just before the sun, and I made coffee, as usual, bringing Maple her cup to enjoy in the tent.

There’s a lot of granite slabs on top of Bemis Mountain, Second Peak, and the trail is often marked by cairns. We met at the summit a thru-hiker who had cowboy camped there, hoping to catch sight of some fireworks. Although disappointed, he had no regrets.

The trail down Bemis’s Second Peak was sometimes steep and rocky. At one point Maple lost her footing. “Maple!” I exclaimed. “No! Oh shit! Fuck!” I was sure I was witnessing a tragedy in the works. Even so, somehow, rather miraculously, she regained her balance, without ever having lost her composure. Apparently, I alone thought a fall was imminent.

I had carried my sandals with me, strapping them to the outside of my backpack, under the presumption that I would need to wear them when fording 100-foot-wide Bemis Stream. When we got there, though, we found the stream quite shallow and easily crossed it on rocks. Afterwards, we climbed to ME-17, walked over to the “Height of Land” overlook, and there awaited out shuttle driver, Kim Spats, from Rangeley.

Our original plan had been to spend this night at Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to and to get off trail at ME-4, a day later, but Maple was able to set up her dental appointment in Maryland, which necessitated that we get on the road one day earlier than planned. So, here at ME-17, at the spectacular “Height of Land” overlook, our section hike came to its end.

AT: Hanover, NH, to US-93, Franconia Notch.

Sunday, June 13: Hanover to Moose Mountain Shelter.

                Last night, Maple and I stayed at Hikers Welcome in Glencliff, where we finally, after two years of planning, met the owner, “Packrat.” This morning, the residential caretaker of the hostel, “Acadicus,” shuttled us to Hanover, dropping us off at the Circle K on Main Street. (Yesterday, Maple and I stopped at Hanover, and walked from the Vermont/New Hampshire border on the Connecticut River to the Circle K, so we weren’t missing any steps to complete the state of New Hampshire on the AT.) He took our photo and left, leaving us to begin our trip. We leaned our backpacks against the front of the store and entered to pick up breakfast sandwiches and coffee. On my way out, with my hands full, I propped open the door with my right elbow. The door swung open, I lost my balance, couldn’t regain it, flew off the concrete steps, and landed on the unforgiving asphalt. Fortunately, I suffered only bruises and abrasions. Maple assured me that I now had my big fall of the trip over with, but my confidence was shaken.

Hikers Welcome Hostel, Glencliff, New Hampshire

                We had planned to go only as far as Mink Brook on our first day, but because of the forecast calling for rain all day tomorrow, we decided instead to push on up to Moose Mountain Shelter. We did, nevertheless, stop for nearly an hour at Mink Brook to procure several liters of water, since there is none at the shelter, and to cook our lunch—a bowl of Maple’s home-cooked trail chili.

Filtering water at Mink Brook

                Having left Hanover this morning at 6:30, we arrived at the shelter early, at 2:30, but we were exhausted. Maple and I both left Mink Brook carrying extra water, and thus the climb up Moose Mountain South was particularly tiring. At 3:45, as I wrote this, we still had the shelter to ourselves.

Monday, June 14: Moose Mountain Shelter to Trapper John Shelter.

                Birch and I woke up by 5:00 and were on the trail an hour later. We were joined at the shelter last night by “Renegade” and “Faithful,” older hikers from Texas who had to stop their thru hike last year when Faithful suffered a bad break of her ankle in Vermont. They’re out to finish the trail this summer.

                We managed to leave the shelter before it started to rain, but we soon experienced drops and got on our rain gear. The descent from the north peak of Moose Mountain was quite slippery.

                After crossing Goose Pond Road we were excited to see a smooth and beautiful trail. This was not to last long. We navigated across a swampy area with bog boards in dire need of replacement. Then, we trudged up an unnamed mountain over 1,000 feet high, stopping to catch our breath along the way.

Bog boards in a fern meadow

                By the time we began down the mountain, the trail became easier and we were at Trapper John Shelter (.3 mile off trail) in no time.

                The rain was intermittent all day, and at the shelter we wasted no time getting into dry clothes. Birch got soaked!

Tuesday, June 15: Trapper John Shelter to a stealth camp at South Jacobs Brook.

                After Maple completed her blog entry last night, other hikers came into the shelter. First came “Saltlick,” an older flip-flop thru-hiker who began his journey at Harper’s Ferry. Then came a nice, young married couple, “Temper” and “Snacks,” who hail from the St. Paul area. Maple and I were glad to meet up with them again today at the top of Smarts Mountain.

                From the Lyme-Dorchester Road, the hike up Smarts Mountain was 3.8 miles, with an elevation gain of 2,100 feet. What really made the climb difficult, however, was the wet granite slabs that we had to push ourselves up over.

On the trail up Smarts Mountain

                South Jacobs Brook is at the very bottom of Smarts Mountain, on the north side. We were informed that there was a stealth campsite with a fire-ring across the bridge and to the left. Maple and I couldn’t find it, and it wasn’t until after we had set up our camp next to the trail that we discovered that, for NoBos, the stealth site is on the right, before you cross the bridge. Oh well!

                After eating our Mountain House lasagna dinner, it began to rain for the second time this evening. So, we are now in the tent, listening to the sounds of the near brook and of rain hitting the leaves above us.

Wednesday, June 16: South Jacobs Brook to Ore Hill Campsite.

                Birch and I got up a little later and moved a bit slower this morning. We had oatmeal for breakfast, then packed up the wet tent, since it had rained overnight.

                After South Jacobs Brook, the trail ascends about 600 feet to Eastman Ledges, which afforded us some amazing views. We descended to Hexacuba Shelter and bypassed it to climb Mt. Cube. This was about 1,500 feet—a climbing over rocks, rock fields, and slabs of granite. The weather was perfect and the views were spectacular.

                After summiting, the descent down the north side was more tedious than technical. We had a long break, with a hot lunch at Brackett Brook. There we first met “Aches” and “Pains,” a section-hiking couple from Vermont. We filled up with water, then hiked about four miles through lots of mud and muck to the Ore Hill campsite.

On Mount Cube

                Well, we set up our tent and snuggled in for the night on a site that used to be the shelter area. We never saw the numbered tent sites, at which signs had urged us to set up our camp.

Thursday, June 17: Ore Hill Campsite to NH-25 (Glencliff).

                 The night passed without rain, and our tent had completely dried by the morning. Maple and I rose early, had our coffee and breakfast, and were on the trail by 6:15. We soon made it to the top of Ore Hill, descended, and then ascended Mist Mountain. The hill and the mountain were about equally difficult. The major obstacle for the day was mud. Bog boards and rocks helped. When coming down Mist Mountain, we were passed by thru-hiker “Gidget,” who was packing a fluffy white little dog trail-named “Sleeping Beauty.” Gidget had carried her dog ever since she was north of the Smoky Mountains.

                Maple and I arrived at NH-25 at about 10:30 and from there walked to Hikers Welcome, where we checked in and picked up our car. We would be spending this and the following night in Plymouth, before tackling Mount Moosilauke.

Sunday, June 20: Kinsman Notch to NH-25.

                After a couple of zero days, Birch and I were excited to get back on trail. We stayed overnight at Hikers Welcome, where we met up once again with Aches and Pains. In the morning, we had fun chatting with the early riser hikers (mostly on the 50-plus side!). We were then shuttled to Kinsman Notch so we could slack pack south to Glencliff, over Mount Moosilauke.

                The first 1.5 miles were very steep, but steps and rebar made it very manageable. The Beaver Brook, with its tall waterfalls, gave us spectacular scenery as we hiked. In 3.9 miles we were at the summit. The views above the treeline were stunning! We stayed at or above treeline for about a mile, and then took a right turn and began a steep descent on a rocky trail. After a couple of miles the trail became more manageable, and the last two-to-three miles were more like a typical AT hike.

Beaver Brook beside the AT
At the summit of Mount Moosilauke

The adventure ended by crossing Oliverian Brook in our flip flops. 

Tuesday, June 22: Kinsman Notch to Eliza Brook Shelter.

                Acadicus picked up Maple and me at the Liberty Springs trailhead, where we had parked our car, at 6:00, and then shuttled us back to Kinsman Notch. About a half mile into our ascent, I realized that I didn’t have our car keys. Not knowing where I left or lost them, we had to have a spare key sent from our home to Hikers Welcome.

                Maple and I were hardly able to keep up a mile-an-hour pace today. We had to very carefully select our footing, and we had to use our hands in climbing more often and more consistently than ever before. Maple tripped over a root this morning and had a good fall, but fortunately without notable injury.

Carefully evaluating my footing on a granite rock face.

                As I write this, it is 4:30 p.m., and we are not alone at the shelter. There are three other hikers here, all residents of New Hampshire: “Crash,” situated to our left, has already thru-hiked the trail four times, and has section-hiked it twice. Situated to our right is an aunt and niece couple. The aunt has worked as a retail manager for Eastern Mountain Sports for a decade, while her niece has made her living as a veterinarian assistant and dog-sitter. They were not shy about sharing a pipe between them.

Wednesday, June 23: Eliza Brook Shelter to Lonesome Lake Hut.

                Everyone was up early this morning, but it was tough to get out of our sleeping bags because it was so cold, in the 30s. Even so, by 6:45, Birch and I were finally ready to go.

                Crash warned us that the Kinsmans were difficult, but I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the vertical climbs we did today. Lots of grabbing trees to pull ourselves up over sheer rock faces. At one point we had to pull ourselves up a vertical rock face, then swing our body around a tree, holding on for dear life, to get us to firm ground. And this type of “hiking” pretty much describes the day.

                That said, the views from South Kinsman were stunning. We had bright blue skies and cold temperatures. As we approached North Kinsman peak we began to see some day hikers, who had come up an easier and more direct trail.

Victorious on the summit of South Kinsman

                The descent down North Kinsman was tough, but made easier, by a few carefully placed stairs. Lonesome Lake Hut was a welcome sight!

                It turns out that there are only two parties—five people total—staying here tonight. Covid has led to a very “soft” opening at the huts.

Thursday, June 24: Lonesome Lake Hut to Franconia Notch.

                While Maple slept in till 6:00, I got up at 4:00, walked over to Lonesome Lake to watch the sunrise and take some photos, and anxiously awaited the brewing of the coffee. This took place just before six, so I brought a cup of steaming, fresh brew to Maple, hoping thereby to get her moving. We packed up as we drank our coffee, and then went to the hut to await breakfast–oatmeal with chocolate chips and craisins, scrambled eggs, sausage patties, and hot apple bread.

                Immediately after breakfast, we took our leave of the “cru” and fellow guests, donned our packs, and walked over to the lake, looking for signs for the AT (or Cascade Brook Trail). We found our direction, and began our walk, waiting for the trail to become steep and technically difficult. It never did, although we did have to cross the Cascade Brook twice by rock hopping. We made excellent time, and soon arrived at the Pemi Trail, which took us under I-93 and, ultimately, to the Liberty Springs parking trail and lot.

                I should preface what follows by saying that, on my way down on the Cascade Brook Trail, I got a message from Acadicus, saying that he had found our keys in the Hikers Welcome van. Good news! So, I expected to find our car still in the lot, and so it was. However, we found the trunk of our car completely empty—everything had been stolen: gear, clothing, electronics, . . . everything. We were devastated! We had nothing left but what was on our backs. Could we have continued our hike, if we were determined to do so? Yes. But our hearts were not in it. Our thoughts would have been with our loss, rather than with our gain. For, as I said, we were devastated. As a retail clerk, the loss amounted to a full year of savings. To the thieves, no doubt, little of what they stole was of value, but to Maple and me, it was very hurtful.

                We stayed that night, as planned, in Gorham, but on the following day we began our drive home. During that drive, to revive our spirits, we discussed future hikes and our return to New Hampshire and Maine in the next June.

AT: NY-55 to Hoyt Rd.

Birch and I were excited to get back on the trail this Labor Day weekend. A trail volunteer named Donna picked us up at the Hoyt Rd. parking area and gave us a ride to the trailhead. While traveling, we learned that Donna is an amazing volunteer. She is someone who actually supervises volunteers and is active in the work of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. She also volunteers for Hike for Mental Health (

The weather couldn’t have been better. It was cool (in the 70s) with just a hint of a breeze. The beautiful weather was matched by a beautiful woodland. The lack of elevations made for quick hiking, but we immediately noticed that water was going to be an issue. Each of the water sources that were marked on our map as being “plentiful” were, in fact, bone dry. Thus, when we found a low water source we took advantage of it and filled our dromedary, even though we were only a couple of miles into our hike. This proved to be a very good decision.

Birch and I approached this hike as a casual one so we built in plenty of time to just enjoy camping. We stopped at the Telephone Pioneers Shelter, just four miles into our hike. The hike to the shelter was super easy and included views of Nuclear Lake (that thankfully ISN’T contaminated with nuclear waste!).

For most of the day we had the shelter all to ourselves. We set up our tent, had a delicious hot lunch, read, and took an afternoon nap. How relaxing! Around dinner time, a couple came into camp carrying a regular-sized “car camping” tent, a small cooler, a large bag filled with bedding, and other assorted items. They had hiked up from the road, about 1.5 miles. Even though we had only hiked 4 miles they seemed impressed. I think we were impressed too, or perhaps shocked would be a better description.

The next day we got up early, despite the plan to have a leisurely day. (Birch doesn’t really know how to sleep in!) After having coffee and oatmeal we soon hit the trail. About .5 miles from the shelter was another “reliable” source of water that was dry. Thank goodness we had enough water!

The hike to our car was 10 miles. Within an hour we came across the famous “Dover Oak”, supposedly the oldest oak on the AT. It didn’t seem any bigger than the Keefer Oak in Virginia, but it was definitely huge. Because it was right by a road, we had no trouble finding someone to take our picture together.

Just before the 3-mile mark we emerged from the woods to a nature preserve and wetlands area. The cottontails were huge! We walked long the boardwalk and were glad that we didn’t have to hike through the swamp. At the 3-mile mark we reached the Appalachian Trail RR station. Just as we got there, an elderly woman named Jane arrived. Jane was wearing a beautiful pink gingham outfit with an AT volunteer shirt and cap. She came to meet the 9:20 am train and was carrying AT maps just in case anyone needed assistance. It really made me marvel at how people of all ages can play an important role in helping on the trail. (The NYNJTC has done a great job maintaining the trail, by the way.)

After leaving the train crossing we proceeded to cross a huge field until finally turning into the woods again. About halfway up a hill Birch realized that his favorite AT buff had fallen out of his pants pocket. Bummer! But when we stopped for water and a snack a couple hiked along and asked, “Did either of you loose a head scarf?” Yes! She had found it! We enjoyed a long chat with the couple who was from Pennsylvania and section hiking, like us. They had a HUGE dog with them (think 4 ft tall) and were looking forward to doing some hiking in Virginia later in the fall.

As Birch says, sometimes hikes feel they’re taking forever and drain you of every once of energy, and sometimes they sail by. This hike, we sailed. In fact, we completed the 10 miles in much better time than we completed the 7 mile hike a few weeks ago. Weather and no elevation changes made a big difference. With the next hike not scheduled until October, I’m hoping that cool weather will continue!

AT: NJ 94 Vernon to NY 17a. Belvale, NY

This past weekend Birch and I went backpacking so that we could finish the New Jersey portion of the Appalachian Trail. Getting to NJ 94 wasn’t easy. There were very few shuttle options from our drop off point to the trail head. For this reason, we had to settle for a taxi service with a late pick up time.


As we waited for the taxi the wind began to blow and the flurries began to fly. This was not going to be a warm weekend! The first part of the trail is known as the “stairway to heaven”. It is a short (1.4 mile) but steep ascent up Wawayanda Mountain that is fortunate to have many sets of stairs that make the hike interesting. There were a ton of day hikers who went up to enjoy the beautiful views. We, however, had mileage to make!

Unfortunately, our late start and the early sunset made it impossible to get to Wawayanda Shelter as we had hoped. Instead, we filled up with water at a stream just south of Barrett Road, crossed Barrett Road, made our way into the woods, and resigned ourselves to setting up camp. The sun was low, so we only had time for a cup of coffee and a cold sandwich before hitting the sack.

In the morning, we quickly made our way past Wawayanda Shelter and through a beautiful wooded area. After lunch, we began our climb up to the ridge. This included several places where I had to scramble and one area that had a very cool ladder that took us up to the ridge and across Prospect Rock to the highest point on the AT in New York. Again, we saw some day hikers who had come up to the area from a side trail. Once on the ridge we came to the New Jersey – New York state line. Another state complete!

This section of the New Jersey/ New York AT was surprisingly challenging. Although there is very little change in elevation, the ridge requires lots of short climbs, up and down, over a series of rocks. This slowed us down considerably! Another challenge was that the leaves had recently fallen on the trail, making following the trail very difficult at times. Thank goodness for the great job that the New York New Jersey Trail Conference did with its blazes. It saved us!

Instead of making up time from the previous day, we resigned ourselves to stopping short of the next shelter.  Given our time constraints, we agreed to end our hike at New York 17a the next day.  Weather throughout our trip was cold. After a warm dinner we tucked ourselves in for the night and when we awoke our water bottles were frozen. However, we had plenty of warm weather clothing, sleeping bag liners, and other gear that made us able to enjoy the trip despite the cool temps. The last day we had a very short hike to make it to our destination. Once off the ridge, the hike was very easy. We look forward to coming back when the weather warms up a bit.

AT: Culver Gap to High Point State Park

It is the last weekend in September and we were excited at the prospect of hiking in sunny weather! Our trusty shuttle driver, George, dropped us off at Culver Gap early in the morning and we were able to make quick progress from Culver Gap to the fire tower, about two miles away. The view from the top was basically non-existent, given that it was very foggy. But it was beautiful nonetheless.

This section of the AT is flat but rocky. The biggest challenge was not the trail itself, but the incredible amount of water that turned the AT into a swamp. There were places where  we had to navigate way around the trail in order to avoid moats. The first day we had the pleasure of seeing the Sunrise Mountain pavilion, an enormous stone structure with beautiful wood beams and breathtaking views.

The highlight of the hike was an amazing encounter with “Maps.” We first met Maps at Guyot Shelter in New Hampshire, the day that Birch had terrible knee pain. As we turned the corner on the New Jersey trail, we saw him sitting on a rock taking a break. “Hey, I know you guys,” he said! What were the chances of us meeting up with him again? Maps had completed the northern part of the trail and had flip flopped in Connecticut. We wished him well and hope he makes a ton of progress this Fall.

We stayed overnight at Mashipacong Shelter. Built in the 1930s by the Conservation Corps, the shelter itself is kind of dark and low to the ground. It had a nice lawn in front of it and it is here that we decided to set up our tent (not realizing that we probably could have gone into the woods for more private tenting options.) This shelter does not have a water source, so Birch carried 6 liters of water with him so that we would be set. However, the shelter caretaker supplied the shelter with gallons of water, set in the bear box. We enjoyed a restful afternoon at our tent spot, reading and drinking coffee. We were amused to see many dogs, in all shapes and sizes. Two stayed at the shelter, including “Millie” (or Mildred when she was in trouble), an affectionate boxer with a bright blue coat that kept her warm.9-30_0742

It was a chilly night but we slept well and were up and out of camp before 8 am. The remaining part of the trail was just as wet but it offered some beautiful views. The mile just south of the High Point State Park office was about as muddy as it gets. All in all, it was a great fun and we look forward to completing New Jersey soon!



AT: Delaware Water Gap to Millbrook-Blairstown Rd.

Last weekend Birch and I resumed our northbound progress on the Appalachian Trail. After so much time going south to complete Virginia, we were happy to be back in New Jersey.

We dropped our car off at a parking area on Millbrook-Blairstown Rd. and were shuttled to the Dunnfield parking area by a shuttle driver named George Lightcap. George was a wealth of information, super helpful, and very encouraging.

8-25_1131The trail starts near a stream and then winds up a gradual incline for about 3 miles before reaching the top of a cliff and the Campground #2 tentsite. There are a ton of tent spots here, many with impressive views of the the Worthington State Forest, the river, and the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border. The site includes bear boxes and a couple of privys.

Birch and I set up our tent under a tree and had the entire afternoon to relax.  Each of us brought our Nooks so that we could read and we even brought a luxury item – a camp chair! As you can tell, this wasn’t a heavy hiking day. This was a day to just enjoy the trail and the outdoors.

The next morning we broke camp and continued north on the AT. It was flat and not too rocky. Before long, we reached the south side of Sunfish Pond. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1970. The trail around the pond was very rocky but it was fun to be by the lake and to see the frogs jumping into the water as we approached. About halfway around the lake there are sets of really cool rock sculptures.8-26_0826

After leaving the lake we hiked onto Raccoon Ridge. Here, we came to the Herb Hiller Overlook for hawk observation. Two men had binoculars glued to their faces. What were they looking at? A broad-winged hawk, we were told. This area is an ideal spot to watch the migration of hawks, we learned. This will happen mostly in September. One neat thing about this area is that it has an owl decoy perched on a long pole. Why? Who knows!8-26_0947

About 11 miles into our overall hike we passed the road to the Mohican Outdoor Center where there is a beautiful stream. Then, we ascended up to a ridge where we stopped for lunch and had some incredible views. After a few miles we reached the Catfish Outlook Tower. Here, the trail becomes more like a fire road. It wasn’t long before we were back to our car.


AT: Harpers Ferry to Gathland State Park

It has been a very wet spring and summer in Maryland! Birch and I decided we couldn’t wait for nice weather to hit the trail so we planned a short hike from Harpers Ferry to Gathland State Park. We had done this hike before, only in the opposite direction.

Just as we got to the Harpers Ferry parking lot it began to rain. It was a gentle mist but we were ready with our full rain gear. As we crossed the bridge next to the railroad tracks, it was interesting to see just how fast the river was flowing. The heavy rainfall this spring definitely shows itself in the water below.

Before long we were on the smooth, wide C&O canal path that is also the AT. It was a very easy hike for the first couple of miles but the rain didn’t make it easy. It POURED! We heard thunder in the distance but never worried that it was dangerous. The real challenge was navigating all the huge puddles that formed. We zig-zagged along until we got to the point where we crossed the railroad tracks and began ascending the mountain.

I remembered this section of the trail as being very steep. I was really glad to see that our latest workouts seem to be paying off because Birch and I never even had to stop to catch our breath. We just scurried up the hill! Once on “top” we still had to contend with areas of puddles but it didn’t take long before we were at the Ed Garvey shelter – the only ones there!

Before long, folks started gathering at the shelter. By the end of the evening, there were probably 40 people staying either in the shelter or in a their tents or hammocks. Wow! I think we’re in the “bubble”.  We met many nice people, including Pac Man, a thru-hiker. When I mentioned to someone that we were going to have to go without coffee because we didn’t pack it, a nice young man immediately dug through his 55 pound pack and offered us some of his. (Not surprisingly, at 55 pounds he had a lot of extra stuff!) For dinner, we had kung pao chicken. (I was testing my recipes for our next long hiking trip.)



Our tent, among a sea of others!


One feature of this location that is a real bummer is the water access. The guides put the spring at .4 or .5 miles away from the shelter. This is true. The tough part is that it is a very steep trek down to the water source. Many people decided that it was easier to wait until they got to Gathland than to load up with water here. The water source was really good, though.

The next day we packed up and quickly traversed the 4 miles back to our car at Gathland State Park. I really like this part of the AT. It may not be super strenuous, but it provides an excellent opportunity to get outside.

AT: I-70 to Pen Mar

We awoke at 5:00 on Saturday, May 5, expecting rain, but finding that the forecast had delayed rain until 1:00. We hustled out of our home with two cars, parked one at our destination at Pen Mar Park, and then retreated to our beginning point where the AT crosses I-70 near Greenbrier State Park.
The first flip-floppers that we met were Kool and Kats (pictured ahead of us on the trail), who had spent the night at Pine Knob Shelter, close to I-70. Having just begun their hike at Harper’s Ferry, they were full of determination. “Where are you hiking to tonight?” Maple asked. “Maine” was the answer. “I hope you are planning to spend the night a little closer than Maine,” Maple delicately responded. “Maine” was again the retort. “We have to keep our sights on our destination,” was their explanation.

We would leap-frog with them several times during the day, as we and they rested. When they shared with us that their destination was Raven Rock Shelter, my first response was, “That shelter was dismantled two years ago,” but then—upon checking AWOL’s guidebook, it confirmed that the shelter was still there. As it turned out, the old Raven Rock Shelter was, indeed, dismantled and moved to the new AT museum to be opened at Damascus, VA., but a new, two-level shelter has been erected in its place.

I should mention one other thru-hiker that we met at the creek a mile south of Ensign Cowall Shelter. “How are you doing?” Maple innocently asked. “That’s just one question that everybody asks out here: ‘What does your pack weigh? How much food are you carrying? How are you doing?’ Let me tell you, when you are on the CDT, there’s nobody to bother you for days on end.” I laughed, and Maple persevered, “Where are you headed to tonight?” “That’s another question that people ask. I’m going as far as I’m going.” “Fair enough,” Maple responded, “What’s your trail name?” “Well,” said this stranger, “I’m not going to tell you. What does it matter?”

Maple and I filled our dromedary at the creek, and proceeded to Ensign Cowall Shelter, 8.6 miles into our hike. We were eager to set up our tent before the rain began. And surely enough, once we were set up and had introduced ourselves to those at the shelter, the rain set in—not to stop until about 4 a.m. We moved our cooking equipment and food in order to prepare our dinner at the picnic table under the overhang of the shelter. There were a couple of other flip-floppers there, one extremely talkative older man who just loved to hang out at shelters, and—later—one father with his two children, aged eight and ten, who were hiking 20+ miles a day and deciding whether or not to hike the whole AT.

5-6_0853At 5:00 the following morning, it stopped raining. Maple and I got up as soon as there was daylight, packed up our wet tent, prepared oatmeal for breakfast, and were on our way two hours later. We had a couple of engorged streams to cross that posed a bit of a risk and got our boots wet, and two and a half hours later we arrived at the new Raven Rock Shelter. The wood was new and beautiful, but the interior had been irreparably scarred by someone with an alcohol-burning stove. What a shame!

Just before we got to Raven Rock Shelter we met the sullen man we had the privilege of meeting the day before. “Hi! How you doin’,” Maple asked. The mysterious stranger mumbled something under his breath, and we passed on by. I think that this man was the most unfriendly person we have ever met on the AT. The AT is an especially social trail. It intersects with towns at so many places that you cannot reasonably expect to hike an entire day without meeting people. This sometimes happens, but it is rare. Maple and I have met the most friendly people on this planet on the AT. They are people who not only expect to meet other people, but who look forward to it. There are even people on the trail who do not hike it, but who are on it with the sole purpose of offering “trail magic”—that is, food, drink, transportation into town, or some other kindness to those who are hiking the trail. For many people, hiking the AT has been a way of renewing their faith in humanity, because of all the many kindnesses that they receive upon their way. So, this unfriendly person was an anomaly, a rare species, and because he was so rare I thought I should mention him.

5-6_1042But, moving on, Maple and I came to High Rock, where we had to descend rock and boulder after rock and boulder for 650 feet. We had to be quite careful not to slip upon the wet rocks and tree roots along our path. When we got to the bottom and had 2 miles yet to go, the rain commenced again. Maple and I donned our rain gear. We could have complained, but we were grateful to have made it so far without it raining. Soon, we were in our car; we turned up the heat, got out of our wet clothes and into dry ones, and were on our way back home.

AT: Elk Garden (VA 600) to Damascus, VA

Day One: Elk Garden to Lost Mountain Shelter

2-10_1030Birch and I were shuttled to Elk Garden this morning, starting a three day backpack trip to Damascus. Throughout the week, the weather forecasts were dismal. Tons of rain! Thus, we were pleased to be able to start our ascent up White Mountain in dry weather. The trail leading up to White Mountain was very icy and – in some places – covered with snow. The crampons that we left in the car would have come in handy. Once on the top of the mountain we were quite pleased with ourselves because we assumed we had experienced the worst of the weather. Then….the wind! The area near Buzzard Rock was exposed to the elements and practically blew us over.

As we began the 200+ ft. descent we found the south side of the mountain to be warm and gorgeous. There were a few showers here and there but it wasn’t a challenge. The last mile before the shelter was not difficult but we have not hiked in 3 months so my body was complaining all the way.

Lost Mountain Shelter is huge. The water supply was great. It had a big overhang which sheltered us as the rain finally came.

Lost Mountain Shelter

Lost Mountain Shelter

Day Two: Lost Mountain Shelter to Saunders Shelter

Wow! It poured last night! By morning it was drizzling. Birch and I made quick work of the first part of the trail but, once again, I complained about all the ascents. At times it was pouring but it was fairly warm out (for February) and we were sweating in no time. I’m not sure if the inside or the outside of my rain gear was more wet!

Saunders Shelter is 1/4 mile off the trail. It is not as big as Lost Mountain but well built, with a nice large overhang to protect us from the rain. By late afternoon it stopped raining and we slowly dried out. But it took a while! By the way, we have not seen a single person on the trail so far.  I guess the weather isn’t for everyone.

Saunders Shelter

View from Saunders Shelter

Day Three: Saunders Shelter to Damascus, VA

By our third day, it was drizzling just enough to convince us to wear our rain gear. Fortunately, we really didn’t need it. it was a cloudy and foggy day but relatively dry. A two mile, 1000 ft descent brought us near Whitetop Laurel Creek and the Creeper Trail, a nice bike trail that paralleled much of AT in the area. This is a beautiful area worthy of a day hike. The creek is beautiful.

We were told that a brand new bridge opened near the Rt 58 crossing and so we were excited to be one of the first to use it. After crossing it and Rt 58 we were surprised to find a swollen creek that had water running well above the rocks. We were disappointed to realize that we were going to have to remove our boots, take off our rain pants, and hike up our pants in the cold weather. Birch crossed then realized that his boots were still on the other side. Thus, he had the joy of crossing three times.

We hiked up to Cuckoo Knob (about 700ft in 2.5 miles) then came down into Damascus. The Creeper Trail, the AT and Rt 58 all merged together for the last leg of our journey. How sweet it is, after 550+ miles in Virginia, to walk into the ultimate hiker town and the southern most part of Virginia!





AT: VA-16 to VA-650

October is a beautiful month for hiking. Birch and I met up with Sabrina from Eller Taxi Service early Saturday morning.  Sabrina is friendly and knowledgeable. She helped us to drop off our car at our destination (that had a very nice parking lot) and take us to Mt. Rogers Visitors Center for our start.

IMG_0440Birch and I breezed through the first four miles. The trail is level and easy. We stopped for a snack at VA-601 and continued on.  Both of us carried extra water. This area has been pretty dry and we were worried that the spring at Trimpi Shelter would be dry. There were promising signs along the way, however. A stream listed as “intermittent” in AWOL was running just fine.

About 3 miles before Trimpi Shelter we walked across a field. By now, the day had warmed up and Birch and I were soaked with sweat! Luckily, it was only another mile to the shelter. Up we climbed until we reached the turn off to Trimpi.

Trimpi is a solid stone shelter with a fireplace. We set up our tent and ended up having the place all to ourselves.  Although the day had started off cool, there was no need to make a fire so the beautiful shelter went unused.  One of the best things? The spring was running (yay!) so we didn’t need to worry about water. We relaxed, read (using our Nooks), drank coffee, and enjoyed watching the falling leaves.

The next day, we had a 4 mile hike back to our car. The first 2.5 of it was a steep 1,000+ ascent. It was a perfect day, with cool weather, a nice breeze, and plenty of sun. The leaves were dropping like crazy so I don’t expect us to see these beautiful colors again for another year.