Sunday, November 19, 2017

Bear... Finally - Nov 17

After 2700 miles of AT hiking over the last 13 years Pappy 12 actually saw a bear. Beautiful sight. With all the leaves off the trees the view is clear, deep into the woods making a bear's body easy to spot. It's black body stands out nicely against an all brown background. The bear in the photo below was actually the second one we saw, that time on Skyline Drive from the car. Now I'm expecting to see a bear behind every other tree.

We day hiked several days since I wrote last, from Snickers Gap, Rt 7, south to Rt 522 at Front Royal. We then took a four day trip hiking south from 522 into Shenandoah National Park.

This time Best Wife and I took two cars so we could credit card (motel) camp. Each day we drive one car to the beginning of our hike and hike to the other car. Then drive to a motel (Front Royal or Luray) for dinner, hot shower and a bed. The next morning we drive to the beginning of that days hike and hike to the other car. Then repeat for as many days as we want.

Hiking with only a day pack and credit card camping are a great way to go in cold weather. The downside is we miss the trail society in the evenings. Except that in cold weather there is little trail society available.

The sixth picture is of a large White Oak that I first saw about 6 years ago. As we approached Front Royal I was looking forward to enjoying this giant again, but it wasn't meant to be. The Big Boy has given up the ghost.

The picture of the group of kids on the trail is a school class from Locust Grove, VA on a field trip. They had hiked up to Mary's Rock just south of Thorton Gap. The teacher leading the charge was also the bus driver.

Check out the privy with a fancy Dutch door at Floyd Wayside Shelter. Bottom closed for privacy. The top open so you can do your business and enjoy nature at the same time.

We have 86.9 miles to go from the middle of SNP to 30 miles south of Waynesboro through beautiful woods on relatively easy treadway. Most of the hiking in SNP so far has been on dirt, well graded trail. It's going to be a real fun finish.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Back in the Groove - Nov 2

Summiting Katahdin seems like a dream. Still hard to believe Best Wife and Pappy 12 lived in a tent for six months. It's good to be home, but we miss the woods and the trail culture.

Since we left Maine we played with grand babies for a few days in Boston. Then flew to Utah to see those grand babies (who had asked months ago if they could shave my beard) for two weeks before they moved to Paraguay. (Our son-in-law works for a general contractor who was awarded a project renovating the Mormon temple in Paraguay). As soon as we returned from Utah we got back on the AT to finish up the 200 miles we skipped.

My cousin, John Taylor, met us in Waynesboro, VA and drove us south to VA Rt 60 to start a week long hike back to our car in Waynesboro. The night before we started hiking strong winds had blown many ripe apples off the tree. For three days we were treated to delicious crisp apples laying all over the trail.

The first night out Best Wife discovered her sleeping pad would not stay inflated.

One of the aluminum stays in Best Wife's pack had broken into three pieces (somewhere in Conn or Mass). We didn't know that the sharp end of one of the broken pieces was sticking inside her pack. This sharp stay end had cut a hole in her sleeping pad so she slept on the hard wood shelter floor. How she hiked 500 miles through New England without the stay damaging any equipment in her pack is beyond me.

The next day after we hiked 10.2 miles to Seeley-Woodworth Shelter, I located the hole and tried to patch it with duct tape. It didn't hold so she slept on the somewhat not so hard, but still hard ground as we were tenting that night.

The third day we hiked another 10 to the summit of, and 3000 vertical feet down, The Priest to the Tye River. As we hiked that day Shauna decided that she was not sleeping without a sleeping pad for the third night. It worked out that a hiker friendly guy was able to pick us up and drive us to the outfitter in Waynesboro where we bought a patch kit for the sleeping pad.

During this whole three days we were stressing a little about our daughter, Page because we had little cell service. Page was 17 weeks pregnant but was likely to lose the baby as the baby had developed a huge cyst on her neck. While we were at the outfitters parking lot we figured it was too late in the day to fix the sleeping pad and get back on the trail and set up camp before nightfall. So we drove home with the plan to day hike closer to our house the next day. On the way home Shauna said that maybe the damaged sleeping pad was the event that caused us to be closer to home and in good cell signal range in case Page needed us.

Two hours into our day hike the next day (where we did have good phone service) we got a call from Page saying the doctor had just determined that the baby had no heartbeat. She asked if we could drive to Columbus, GA that day to stay with her four kids while she delivered a dead baby. We turned around and hiked the four miles back to the car, drove home, packed our bags and headed down I-81 to GA.

After a week in Columbus, GA playing with four grand babies we will get back in the woods. 160 AT miles to go.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Can't Stop - Oct 10

Back on the trail. Arrived home in VA on Friday, Oct 6. Awfully good showering whenever we want to. Snuck in a day hike on the AT from Snickers Gap (Route 7) to Ashby Gap (Route 50), 13.5 miles. Temps weren't bad but the humidity about killed us.

Best Wife dropped off Pappy 12 at Bears Den and then drove to the Ashby Gap parking lot. She hiked north to Bears Den. I hiked south to where she left the car and drove back to Bears Den to pick her up. We ate lunch together at the midpoint. We would rather hike together, but at least this way it's fun to compare notes afterward.

Met a northbound hiker who said the night before he had stopped for dinner at Rod Hollow Shelter and then hiked on for two or three miles before tenting in the woods. He got up the next morning and continued hiking "north" two or three miles until he ran into Rod Hollow Shelter. I don't get these U turn hikers. He confessed this wasn't the first time. Later in the day Best Wife found him sitting in the middle of the trail dehydrated. She verbally slapped him around to take better care of himself.

I talked to a guy laying in his hammock at 1 in the afternoon. He said he fell out of it the night before so was resting up. Ooooookay. It takes all kinds.

It was fun to give Scar and Bud (SOBO thru hikers) an apple. I wish I had brought more to give them. With the humidity they were dying. I felt deeply for them.

Off to see Utah grands, then back to VA for more hiking. Looking forward to both.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

It's All Katahdin - Oct 2

Our daughter Mackenzie (NOBO 2012) pulled into Millinocket, Maine Sunday evening right on schedule. So did the awesome weather. Best Wife and Pappy 12 are so glad that we did not push our schedule to summit Katahdin on Friday, Sept 29. After talking with hikers who did (and a few who tried but turned back) we want no part of 55mph winds. Saturday and Sunday were better weather days but we knew the summit would be full of day hikers, plus Mackenzie wouldn't be there anyway to summit with us anyway, not to mention three days rest at Appalachian Trail Lodge (hostel) was much needed. 

We got up early on Monday, Oct 2. Packed breakfast sandwiches, ham and cheese sandwiches, a ton of snacks, Poweraid, and chocolate milk. The three of us drove 40 minutes to the Appalachian Trail at Katahdin Stream Campground at the base of Mt Katahdin in Baxter State Park. 

The Penobscot Indians named this mountain Katahdin, which means "The Grestest Mountain". Best Wife, Progress and Pappy 12 were in great spirits and full of excitement to finally be climbing The Greatest Mountain. 

The first mile was relatively easy hiking through beautiful firs, but the wind was much more stiff than was forecasted. Being protected by the woods, we don't feel much wind. But it's roaring sound at the tree tops is a constant reminder of what may be in store for us above treeline. The second mile got good and steep to get us warmed up for the fun part. But as windy as it was I was worried we were headed for trouble ahead. Once out of the forest, above treeline, we climbed boulder after boulder, some included steel rods drilled into rock to make climbing without ropes possible. My concern for Best Wife having to endure strong winds above treeline ended abruptly as the wind simply vanished. Winds the rest of the day were as calm as they could be. 

The reward for climbing the steepest of the boulders was a rock path along a stunning ridge (see the last picture). The ridge led to another steep, mildly technical rock scramble that ended at a tableland about a mile from the summit. 

At this point we could just make out images of the folks at the summit. I had a tough time with the tears as the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail was within sight, physically and emotionally. Even though we still have 200 miles to trek in VA to complete our thru hike, reaching the summit of Katahdin will be the end of our six month, day in and day out, 2000 mile adventure. I'll explain the last 200 miles later. 

As we hiked that last mile I was back and forth minute by minute shouting with excitement, followed by a flood of tears as the summit drew close. 

When we were within 20 feet of the Katahdin sign at the summit, a guy my age, with a beard as full (and desirable) as mine, was standing on the sign for his photo shoot. There were 15 or 20 other hikers around, some quietly celebrating their accomplishment, others out for the day watching this parade of thru hikers. While this old guy was on the sign, he bellowed out for all to hear, "I've got a tent and sleeping bag for sale. I'll even throw in a slightly used Jet Boil."  Very good timing for a good laugh. 

He climbed down so it was our turn. As I grasped the sign, like a preacher grasps his pulpit, I read the words: KATAHDIN  Northern Terminus Of The Appalachian Trail. My fingers felt compelled to trace the white letters routed into wood. With my arm around the best wife I can imagine, together we tried to soaked it all in. It felt very good. 

As the three of us made our way down The Greatest Mountain we knew we had accomplished what we set out to do. Even though we are hiking to a car and headed home it still doesn't compute. I'm sure in a few days it will. 

The three of us will drive to Boston tomorrow where Mackenzie will fly home and Best Wife and Pappy 12 will spend a few days with two grandsons. We will be home in Virginia for only a few days before we fly out to Utah to spend time with those grand babies. 

We will have a great time hiking the last 200 miles in VA in November, no crowds, great temps, only fair weather days for us. Maybe even trade the tent for a motel on occasion if we feel like it. Then finally head down near the Chattahoochee River in GA to see more grand babies.  

Life is good. I am blessed way more than I deserve.  

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