Holiday Time

December 27, 2007

We were at home for Christmas, with Louisa, Li Zhuang, Mabel, and little Bea visiting. Abby and Dennis spent the holiday with relatives in southern California.

The background is the Scottish Highlands from last June's trip; insets include Charlotte in Maine, Bob in the Smokies with his cellphone, gps, and ipod, and at the bottom Oscar with Bea on West Rock here at home.

I've been hiking regularly in Connecticut with the local AMC chapter, trying to stay in shape while dreaming of getting back on the trail in spring.

New Jersey's Pochuck Quagmire

November 13, 2007

As a side trip I re-visited the Pochuck Creek crossing, an area where suburban development has left only the swamp land free for the Trail.

Back in 2001 when I was hiking this area, I looked out from the heights trail north, and spied this tall suspension bridge in the distance. But alas, there was no path to get to it - so the AT then was a road walk detour.

In 2002 the connecting boardwalks were finished by the hard-working trail builders, so now we can stroll over a mile of walkways through the marshes, crossing the bridge in the middle.

You can see this route clearly on Google Earth as well.

View Larger Map

It seems a popular route for local aerobic walkers, bird- and butterfly-watchers.

This is probably the last new addition to my AT miles for 2007 - I'm up to 1557 miles total - can't wait for spring 2008!

Crossing the Great Valley (again)

November 12, 2007

This was a short hike, under 3 miles. At one end the Interstate with its diesel-belching trucks. Within 5 minutes, the Trail crossed railroad tracks and passed by this brick manufacturing facility with its own rail siding to load the pallets for transport. At the far end of the trip is the 1894 Lindamood School, part of the Settlers Museum. Traveling back through time ...

Big Walker Mountain

November 11, 2007

Getting an early start, deer in the pasture with the frost melting under the sun's rays.
Big Walker Mountain is the imposing wall blocking our way in the distance.

We cross several open pastures on the approach - here's my hiking buddy, "Tripod Trek-er" setting up for a shot.

At the end of the day, the southbound Trail reaches its 4th and final crossing of Interstate 81.

Bridge Out

November 10, 2007

As I was working on one of my bike-hikes, I met another section hiker with his camera gear, and offered him a ride back to his car. We teamed up and car-pooled for a couple more days and were both pleased with the extra miles we were able to cover.

Here at Laurel Creek, a bridge has been removed leaving only the sturdy piers, and the Trail is rerouted over a road bridge. Will this AT bridge ever be replaced?

Burke's Garden

November 8-10, 2007

Burke's Garden, nicknamed "God's Thumbprint" caught my attention because of its dramatic appearance on the topo map - a high oval valley surrounded on all sides by a high ridge. The AT travels the ridge along one side of the Garden - the best view is from Chestnut Knob, but it's glimpsed for several miles through the trees during the ridge walk. With the leaves off, I had good views on several days' hikes.

Virginia Ridge & Valley

November 8, 2007

Unable to settle into home life, I'm off to southwestern Virginia for one last fling before winter. Here is Chestnut Knob - after climbing through oak forests for a thousand feet, you emerge into this high meadow where old pastures are kept mown and open. Behind are expansive views of ridge and valley including Big Walker Mountain, a former route of the AT, and Mt. Rogers looming over it way off to the south.

Is She Making it All Up?

October 17, 2007

In case you'd like evidence that I'm really doing it, here's a snap taken by hiker Dave.

Earlier in the day I had met John, who told me he got separated from his two buddies the previous night and was trying really hard to find them.

Here on Baldpate, I found Dave and Ed, the missing pair. Dave revealed that he and John are brothers (!), and Dave hinted that his brother had actually "lost" them and opted to go on ahead by himself.

The view from the top of Baldpate extends north to Lake Umbagog - a place I plan to go canoeing some day when I've had enough of the ups and downs of hiking.

High Altitude Weather

October 16, 2007

Here I am at the top of Mt. Carlo in the Mahoosucs. It's "only" at 3600 feet but just going up a couple of thousand from the valley floor, the weather is completely different. Yesterday freezing rain fell here (though not down below) and this morning as the sky clears, the frosted tips of the spruces give me a preview of winter.
Luckily the ground did not freeze yet, so the path is drying quickly.
I love these ridge-top bog habitats!

The Working Forest

October 16, 2007

A reminder that the Northern Forest is a working landscape ... On this day the first couple of miles of the Notch Trail, an access trail to the AT from the north-west, picks its way through a logging corridor. A cloudy morning is clearing, so while up ahead the ridge line is in clouds, behind me the sun shines on the valley in all its orange glory. Nearby, big trucks are working, so my hike is accompanied by the sound effects of heavy machinery all the way to the Carlo Col shelter.

Maine Fall Foliage

October 16, 2007

Aiming to catch peak fall foliage several times, - here on the Maine-New Hampshire border I'm about to tackle my last missing section of the Mahoosuc Range.
I head out Success Pond Road from Berlin, NH for the Notch Trail to stash my bike and here, maybe 12 miles up a dirt logging road from the nearest pavement, I meet this guy (waiting for a ride?). At the end of the day he's still there.

Autumn in the High Meadows

September 27, 2007

My last day in southwest Virginia, I hiked up into the Grayson Highlands near Mount Rogers and spent a few hours in this gorgeous open meadowland. The blueberry bushes and blackberries had turned a brilliant red, and ferns were going shades of rusty orange. The sun warmed these rocks while a breeze kept the air cool. It's a popular area for horseback riding, but being mid-week I had the whole place to myself. I could hardly bear to leave, but it was time to start heading north toward home.

Camping around Mt. Rogers

September 27, 2007

Here's my campsite at the Grindstone USFS Campground - here they had a separate road loop for only tents. There was some thunder rumbling so I set up a little roof to sit under during my supper, but it never did rain. I loved the hot water shower at this place - with hot water, my camp chair, and my coffee maker, it was Eden.

Virginia Creeper Trail

September 25, 2007

The perfect bike-hike - the Virginia Creeper Trail is a popular rail-trail following the route of a former logging rail line in the valley of Whitetop Laurel Creek. Each morning, vans carry loads of riders to the high end on the Virginia-North Carolina border, and folks ride 30 or so miles down hill into Damascus, VA, where they can end with pizza or ice cream (or both). Well, the Creeper Trail also parallels the AT so for me it was the ultimate stream-side return trip after a hike over the mountain ridge. I had my trail lunch on the mountain, and chocolate-espresso ice cream in town at the end.

There are several excellent Forest Service campgrounds nearby (with hot showers too!) and it was the harvest moon at night - a great time to be camping!

More Smoky Mountains

September 21, 2007

Bob joined me for a few days of visiting the Smokies - we biked down the Clingman's Dome road and then hiked back up to the top. The summit was in a cloud - here is the World's Fair Spaceage-style tower built in 1960, with Bob doing email while he waits for me to go up and look out into the cloud.

Smoky Mountain Hiking continued

September 17, 2007

The sun came out around noon of the second day, so we all dried out nicely. We walked 9 miles Saturday, 13 on Sunday (feet were tired at the end), and 9 more Monday. Sleeping like sardines in the shelter was my least favorite aspect - it reminded my too much of the MRI machine - but everything else was fun.

Here is the group having snack time at the fire tower on Mt. Cammerer the last day. The tower was built in the 1930s by the CCC - it reminds me a lot of the ventilation tower for the West Rock Tunnel at home - same blend of Deco and Park Rustic styles.

After this we went down 3500 feet in elevation to the finish of the trip.

Smoky Mountain Hiking

September 14, 2007

The trek began on a rainy day - Hurricane Humberto brought us a day of rain, gentle in the valleys but gusty up at Newfound Gap where we started the hike. We walked mostly in a white-out but for one moment we had this glimpse out into the mountains.

My advanced planning for feet management - "flashing and counter flashing" with gaiters and rain paints - kept my feet dry successfully. We had a group of 6 tourists and 2 guides, and stayed the first night at Icewater Spring Shelter along with several other hikers (reservations required at these shelters).

South to the Great Smoky Mountains

September 13, 2007

I'm aiming to rendezvous with a guided group trip in the Smokies, but first I get a dose of civilization by touring Biltmore, the Gilded Age estate in Asheville. As my friend Patti says, if you've been to France and seen the real thing, you might not need to spend too much time here. But the landscape is by Olmsted, so it's fascinating to try and imagine what is natural and what he invented.

Fabled Mahoosuc Notch

August 30, 2007

No photo for this one - we were too busy doing it (besides I forgot my camera).

Phoebe Bressack and I made a quick trip to Maine. We started with an overnight at Louisa & Li Zhuang's new apartment in Cambridge, with a stop at Whole Foods for some "respectable lunch food," to quote Barbara Kingsolver, which we took along for hiking picnics.

For those of you who know the Mahoosucs from your camp days, we did two day hikes, Old Speck from Grafton Notch (the north end of the range), and then we did the infamous "hardest mile" of Mahoosuc Notch in a mini-marathon loop. We approached the Notch (by a lovely side trail from Success Pond Road) with trepidation. It took us over 2 hours to go the mile through the Notch with much scouting of routes, but it was not beyond our abilities, so we felt a great sense of accomplishment as we emerged at the north end. There was a dead moose among the boulders, as several hikers that I met earlier had noted. It was mostly decomposed, lots of bones, but the head was still recognizable and it was very stinky. Someone had thoughtfully put up Tibetan prayer flags over it.

Then after that we had a very steep up to Speck Pond and then about 5 miles more around the pond and down a side trail to get back to the car, all of which took us many hours. Also there was a thunder storm, and we had to walk the last hour in the dark with headlamps. At the end we got to the dirt logging road about a mile from the car and amazingly there was a truck driver who had seen our lights in the woods and thought we might be lost. He offered us a ride to the car - our Trail Magic for the day!

Phoebe is an incredible trooper - she actually claims that it was a rewarding accomplishment to be dragged on a 13-hour hiking trip including getting soaked by rain and walking in the dark. At the end we were happy to get back to our comfy B & B for the night.

Western Interlude

August 25, 2007

A week in the west included a visit with Abby & Dennis in sunny Bernal Heights, San Francisco, then volcano touring in the clunky red Mustang including the Newberry Crater National Monument near Bend, Oregon, Mt. Hood, Mt. Saint Helens in nearby Washington, and in Portland, the wedding of my niece Margaret (shown with her parents Katie & Gregory).

White Cap

August 10, 2007

Here I am on White Cap Mountain, 3644 feet. The white blazes mark the Trail.
This is the last major view north-east to the Katahdin massif. And it's the northern extent of the slate belt, so from here south the Trail crosses slate bedrock - sharp edges and slick faces make for tricky footing.

This trip ended at the Gulf Hagas trail head 11 miles south of here. I took a side trip (a zero mile day in hiker-speak) to explore Gulf Hagas, a canyon cut through slate by the West Branch of the Pleasant River. A recent thunder storm blew down lots of trees so getting around the Gulf was tricky.

For more pictures of this outing, see the photo album at:

Working Forest

August 9, 2007

Here's the working forest in action - when we see these guys coming, we get out of the way!

Moose Tracks

August 6, 2007

The AT crosses the outlet stream of Crawford Pond - look closely at the lower left corner for a big moose foot print.

I had several close encounters with the big girls, both on road and trail, but somehow the camera was always stowed out of reach at the critical moment.

Hairy Rocks

August 3, 2007

When I'm not admiring Mt. Katahdin across one of the many lakes, I'm wandering through forests full of old glacial boulders with ferny hair on top.

To see more check out this photo album:

More Lake Country

August 3, 2007

Here's Pemaduncook Lake on a hazy day - still our mountain dominates the horizon.

Lake Country

August 2, 2007

Here I am on Nesuntabunt Mountain, looking down onto Nahmakanta Lake with - surprise - Mt. Katahdin looming over the ridge.

Into the Wilderness

August 1, 2007

I'm working my way south into the fabled 100-Mile Wilderness. It crosses a land of glacial lakes, low granite hills, and numerous boggy in-between areas like this - plenty of mosquitoes here.

It's really not such a wilderness; it's a multiple-use area with logging roads where recreation is secondary to the working forest. The AT crosses these roads in 5 places, so I had plenty of access points for my 2-3 day trips.

Local Wildlife

... the sight of a moose which swam across the pond to our side and then wandered into the woods.

Nature Watch

July 28, 2007

Stopping at Sandy Stream Pond at the end of the day, we are mesmerized by ...

Trail Crew

July 28, 2007

After a week of working hard and learning about rock work, here are some of the crew standing on our new flight of steps on South Turner Mountain. Leaders Ali and Julie are in the front; Tecla, Britta, and I in the back.

North to Maine

July 22, 2007

In northern Maine, Mt. Katahdin looms on the horizon everywhere. Here it is across Upper Jo-Mary Lake, where I stayed at a campground on my way to Baxter State Park to work on an AMC volunteer trail crew.

Urban Scenes in Scotland

July 1, 2007

We enjoyed the urban landscape too - at left Edinburgh's Royal Crescent in the New Town (new in the late 1700s that is) - there can be two floors below the sidewalk and as many as 5 above. We vastly increased our appreciation for the novels of Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin as we soaked in the atmosphere of the city.
At right, a statue of Andrew Carnegie, native son of Dunfermline in Fife. As a youth, he was denied entry to this park, so when he grew rich he bought it up and gave it to the town for public enjoyment.

Hillwalks in the Highlands

June 30, 2007On the left, the view from the Stob a Choire Odhair one of the "Munros" - Scottish mountains over 3000 feet high - a delightful solitary hike through moorland up an old glacial valley.
On the right, the top of Ben Nevis, the highest place in the UK, with a view north toward the Great Glen. This day we had company - hundreds of Brits and Scots plus a good number of German and other European folks on their first free weekend after the end of the school year. We lucked out, the top is out of clouds only 1 day in 10.

Side trip - "over the water"

June 26, 2007

Here we are walking over the Radical Road on the Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh, Scotland - that's Bob in the distance. You can see the castle at the left beyond the Old Town, and in the far distance the Firth of Forth railway bridge is peeking over the hill.

Another entry in our series of June solstice northern vacations.

Taking a break

June 1, 2007

This trip is coming to its end - I'm heading home for some family events over the next few weeks.

Here I am with my trusty GPS which helped me find the turnoff to Loft Mountain Campground in Shenandoah National Park.

Later ...

May 29, 2007

Later the same day, I walked for hours through a riot of pink rhodies and flame azaleas. I almost forgot about my tired feet.

Rhododendron Tunnel

May 29, 2007

Climbing up Pearis Mountain out of the New River Valley - at around 3,000 feet I entered the rhododendron forest. From up in the sunshine, the rosy blooms can be seen, but down here at trail level, it's a shady tunnel.

Holiday Weekend

May 27, 2007

It's Memorial Day weekend, and the campground is packed full of horse trailers, pickup trucks, horses, and their people. On the right side of the rail fence, only tenters are allowed, because the drinking water well is over there - so that's my tent on the lawn!

The horse people ride on fire roads, and the AT hikers have their own separate path for foot travel only, so I'm the only person who intersected both groups. Riding my bike, I had to wait for some horses that had apparently never seen a mountain bike before.

Water features

May 26, 2007

A watery day - the bridge across Kimberling Creek is a US Forest Service standard suspension foot bridge, the second one I've been over.

And then moving northward, I followed Dismal Creek for several hours. The Falls of Dismal are a major attraction, a chance for through-hikers to cool off. It's not actually very big, but a nice slatey ledge set among rhododendron jungles.

I've settled into my Trail Name - Eeyore - for my deliberate pace - some of the folks I meet go totally by their Trail Names, it's a different reality out here.

End of a long day

May 24, 2007

End of a long day of biking (first) and hiking (second) in Sinking Creek Valley and on Sinking Creek Mountain. Sunset at 7:30 pm over Kelley Knob.

New River Valley hikes

May 23, 2007

I've been camping in the US Forest Service White Rocks Campground right on the West Virginia border for the past few days, having a fun time. I've seen a great number of through-hikers (this is exactly when most of them pass through this area) and spent one night back-packing among them. All ages from 20s to 60s, majority male. Some are in a hurry but others are out to smell the flowers.

Here is the beginning of a hike, from Sinking Creek through pastures and over stiles which cross the barbed wire fences, heading for the mountain in the distance (Kelly Knob). Then at the end of the walk, I jump on the bike and ride down in 15 minutes the elevation that took me hours to climb up! And I arrive back at the car having made a hike-and-bike loop.

Oklahoma City Memorial

May 7, 2007

A visit to the Memorial at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing. If you walk through downtown to the site, you enter the 1970s-style brutalist plaza, which is built over a parking level so there are a lot of steps and level changes. At the top of the last flight, you should be confronted with a tall office building, but there is an empty space where the building wall used to be.

Standing at the edge of the void, you look down to the chairs representing the dead, the reflecting pool where the street behind the building was, and beyond where there were some other buildings and a parking lot. The tree in the distance is the "Survivor Elm" which was in the parking lot, but survived the bomb and has been made a centerpiece in the space.