Friday, June 29, 2007

From a slightly larger trail town

Greetings to all from New York City! Let me tell you, it is extremely strange and a bit intimidating to be in a place this busy again. I'll get more to that when I reach the end of the entry though. For now I think I need to catch you folks up on the trail since it has been quite a while since I've been able to get to a computer. As a result I am going to do my best to condense my entry as best as I can. This may mean that a few of the more mundane days just end up getting skipped, but who knows. I guess we'll just see how the entry goes.

I had planned to get out of Duncannon early and do a full 17 mile day to the third shelter out. That didn't happen. Something about being in a bed just kind of sucked me in and I didn't end up starting out of town until slightly after 11. Even then I thought I might have been able to make it. The weather had other thoughts. Some pretty dramatic thunderstorms arrived in the early afternoon. There was no way to avoid the first one, so I just got wet. This actually wasn't too bad. It was a really hot day and the rain cooled me off. However, it wasn't so pleasant that I wanted to continue to walk in lightning when more storms started to roll through. I ducked into the shelter at 10 miles out to dodge the next one and ended up staying there when the storm never really let up. I was in the company of Fire Marshall, Pythagoras, and Pogue.

The most notable thing about the next day was some wildlife sightings. Early in the day, there was still quite a bit of mist out and about which always brings out the salamanders. I got some pretty good pictures of a really cool looking little flame-orange one with spots. This was a pretty tame sighting compared to the one that came later however. I had been warned that somewhere in this area was a talus field where rattlesnakes might be a problem. It was a good thing I had been warned I likely would have missed the rattled tail poking over the back of a rock and walked right up to it. Instead I was able skirt it and discovered that I would not have walked up upon a single snake, but rather into the middle of a group of four. It appeared that the rock field housed a viper den. Fantastic. Now, I am not normally afraid of snakes, I am careful around them obviously but I find them really interesting. I have to admit though, the thought that I might uncover another one under a rock unexpectedly made me quite uncomfortable. It took me probably 15 minutes to cross that small rock area. I got some good pictures of the snakes too though.

The next day wasn't too notable except for the fact that it was much cooler than it had been in a while and we spent the night at a rather upscale shelter. The day after that though was a little different. I had a packege waiting for me in Port Clinton PA which was 23 miles away. At first I was planning to go most of the way there and then go into town in the morning to pick up the package. However, I was covering ground well enough that I decided to try and get the whole way before the post office closed. I made it no problem. I did the whole 23 mi between 7:50 and 4:20 with an hour break for lunch. I was pretty pleased with myself. I haven't done much hiking for speed, but it was kind of fun for a change to really push myself and see how far I could get in a specific amount of time. I spent that night in the Port Clinton public pavilion with a -number of other through-hikers including Golden Boy, Caveman of Ohio, Flick, and Diesel.

The next day I was determined to do the exact opposite of the blur of speed hiking I had done the day before. It worked pretty well. I had a very nice morning walking at a very reasonable pace and then ate lunch at the Pinnacle overlook. There were a bunch of people there and I got into conversations with a number of them. Everyone seemed very interested in what I was doing and as a result began offering me food, which I of course accepted. One family who I spoke with for a very long time gave me some really good apple and another couple gave me about 1/3 of a salami and some cheese. I was thrilled. I really enjoy meeting people that way. They are always a lot of fun to talk to. The last 8 or so miles of that day was pretty tough and I left my Duke shorts at a shelter where I changed clothes, but even so it was a really good day.

The next day was very hot, but mostly pretty easy walking. That is of course excepting a big rock outcrop called the Knife's Edge which I am surprised I didn't kill myself on. That night I got a room at Fine Lodging in Slatington (which I heartily advise against if you are not a thru-hiker) and was taken to dinner by the wonderful Natalie Sevin, another former student of RJ Reynolds High School. The food was alright, but the company and the Margeritas were excellent. Also on that venture we went to a Wal-Mart in order to get a book. While we were there, two women got in a very serious fight. I have no idea what it was about but it was one of the more unreal things I have witnessed in public.

The next day I had to climb out of Lehigh Gap which is a notoriously difficult climb. It was pretty steep, but it wasn't really all that bad so long as one wasn't too concerned with moving quickly. The top of that mountain was pretty distressing. About 4 miles along the top of the mountain was like desert. Nothing but rock and scrub as far as the eye can see. Something done by people had killed all of the vegetation up there. It was almost surreal it was so different from anything else I had encountered.

I had to pick up a new re-supply in Wind Gap the next day so I only ended up doing about 15 miles. My company at the shelter however was pretty cool. There was a father and fairly young son (JB and John) with one of the son's friends (Logan) out hiking for the son's birthday. It was really cool hanging around kids in a camping environment again. I had a really good time talking with them. It made a me kind of homesick for camp.

The next day I finally left PA behind me as I passed across the Delaware Water Gap. Unfortunately, the rock didn't all stay behind with the border. Even so, the Water Gap area was beautiful. It was really lush and actually kind of reminded me in places of North Carolina in the summer. I also saw two more bears that day, one full grown one right after I entered New Jersey and then a lone cub in the mid-afternoon. The cub made me real nervous because I couldn't see its Mom so I had no way to know if I might be between them in someway. I moved out of there carefully but very quickly. I also, saw a porcupine just before reaching the shelter for the night. I was thrilled because I had never seen one before. Unfortunately I was unable to get a good picture.

The next day was great walking but is really only set apart by the late afternoon thunderstorm and the discovery that my boots don't grip too well on damp rock. Fortunately, I only needed one lesson in that particular field of study.

I found it very difficult to move rapidly the next day, fortunately I didn't have to go too far that day. In truth it ended up being a really nice day. There was a wonderfully cool and very strong wind blowing for most of the day which made walking exceedingly pleasant, at least if one likes wind which I happen to. I ran into some kind of camp counselor training session at High Top shelter which made me miss Camp Grier once again. I saw two more bears (one was huge) and I helped a novice hiker out with some navigation. All in all it was a very full day for only having been 13 miles.

The next day was really great too. I ran into a really cool couple out dayhiking who had some good information for me about the upcoming trail. The husband of the pair was a hiking Lutheran Minister whose trail name is Double Rev. A little while later I discovered the end of one of my hiking poles had come off, I spent a good 40 minutes looking for it with another really fantastic trail pair until Double Rev came up and returned it to me triumphantly. Apparently, I had lost it miles back. Thanks again Pastor Priest! Also that day the trail followed a boardwalk across a really pretty marsh for about 2.5 or 3 miles. It was kind of fun walking and I struck up another good conversation with an older couple. Interestingly, the wife of that couple was from Warsaw Poland. I have really met some cool people out here. That day ended with a really great climb up steep Wawayanda mountain and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes at Wawayanda shelter.

I crossed into New York permanently on the morrow. Say goodbye state #8! There was some really pretty ridge walking that day with a lot of really good views of some local lakes. There seemed to be some kind of sailboat race occuring on one of them which was very pretty to watch from way up on the mountain. I ran into Triple A that afternoon which was pretty cool since I hadn't seen him since leaving West Virginia. Its always good to run into familiar faces. That night I stealth camped by the trail with Scottie 2 Lite in a really nice little grove north of Buchanan Mountain. It was a great place to spend the night.

I had some pretty tough walking on the following morning. A lot of stuff that was pretty close to rock climbing, not to mention the Lemon Squeezer which was almost too narrow to get through. I guess they thought we needed a challenge when they routed the trail through there. That night I finally met Shadow (another Gluten free hiker) at the shelter and had a really good evening talking with him and his friend Frindy.

I don't remember a whole lot about the next day because I was aiming for New York City where I currently reside. It has been really great taking it easy here and even better seeing Sarah. The incredibly wonderful people at the Columbia Center for Celiac Research, that is Cynthia Beckman and Dr. Peter Green took me out for a wonderful meal at a Vietnamese restaurant called Safran my first night in town. I had a blast. We really had a fantastic evening, which is represented by the fact that we didn't finish until 10:30 or so. Thanks again to Cynthia and Dr. Green. I really can't say enough.

Sarah I went to the Metropolitan museum yesterday and I followed that up with a double movie screening at the academy with Celia, one of my moms friends. Today was a bit more mundane in that we just kind of hung around the city but I did get to a cool used book store and an overstuffed outfitter called Tents and Trails over in the Wall Street district. Also, I don't think I need to say that I haven't really stopped eating since arriving in town. So, all in all it hasn't exactly been the usual trail town experience.

One final personal note. To Yorkie, Beat Box, Waffle, Yard Sale, The Dude and so forth...where the heck are you guys? I thought you would have caught me by now. Anyhow get a move on. I'm all by myself up here.


The Breadless Horseman

Monday, June 11, 2007

Across some new states

Greetings from beyond the half way point! Odd as it is to say I actually now have less to do than I have already done. Its fairly hard to believe. I left Harper's Ferry mid-day on the 4th with a little bit of a heavy heart. I was glad to be getting back out on the trail, but it was also kind of hard after having seen the folks in town. I did a pretty bland 10 miles to Crampton Gap Shelter that afternoon and called it a day. Fortunately, the next morning I was back in the swing of things and all was right with the world...except for my boots. I had traded out my tursty Salomons in Harper's Ferry for a pair of Vasque's due to the fact the the Salomons were about the buy the farm. Unfortunately, the Vasque's were clearly going to take some breaking in, and the backs of my heels were pretty raw by the end of the day. Its a shame my mind were so focuesed on my feet that day because it was a really nice day to be out. The wind was blowing real hard, like it was going to storm, more or less all day. Fortunately, the rain never came and I got the wonderful cool weather anyway. Other than that though, there isn't much to be said about that day.
The boots felt a lot better when I put them on in the morning. Maybe my heels had toughened over night. Anyhow, it was a nice mornings walk and when I got to an overlook called High Rocks there was a hang glider preparing to take off. I helped him launch and got a number of good pictures. I have never seen someone hang glide before and I have to say it looks like a whole lot of fun. Maybe it's the next thing I need to try when I get back from my trip. Anyhow, I crossed into Pennsylvania later that afternoon, putting me into big state #7.
I only had ten miles to go into town to get resupplied and they passed by in no time. In addition to knew boots I also shed some gear and picked up a new (much lighter) pack in Harper's and when I don't have any food it feels so light I can fairly fly across the ground. I was planning on getting in and out of town pretty rapidly. Instead, I ended up spending the night at the wonderfully welcoming home of Jim and Cheryl Hutchinson. Cheryl also has Celiac and they were kind enough to not only give money to my cause but also open there home for me to spend the night. It would have taken a better man than me to have turned down such hospitality, not to mention such an abundance of gluten-free food.
On that note, the people at Foods by George had sent a large shipment of food to the Hutchinson's for me including Gluten free pizza, english muffins, brownies, and crumb cake. It was all outstanding (it was particularly nice to have some pizza) and I really want to thank the folks at Foods by George for their donation. It was most appreciated.
I got away fairly early the next morning after stuffing in as much food as I could, and set out for the Iron Masters Mansion Hostel at the HALFWAY POINT of the Appalachian Trail. It was immensley hot, somewhere up in the 90's but I got used to that pretty quickly. I am thankful that my background of summer camping has made me at least somewhat resistant to the heat. The bad part of that day was the fawn that I saw. Five or six miles in that day I came across a fawn with a broken leg lying in the middle of the trail. It was quite clearly in pain and distress, but I couldn't think of anything that I could do for it so I just had to keep on moving. Gorilla later told me he had picked it up and moved it off the trail and he was fairly sure it was dead. Seeing stuff like that is always hard, it makes everyone involved just feel completely helpless. I think people have a hard time dealing with things when there is absolutely nothing we can do to change the course of events. We don't like to think of ourselves as helpless.
Anyway, on a more light hearted note I arrived at halfway that evening and as per tradition I had to partake in the HALF GALLON CHALLENGE. For those of you who don't know, the half gallon challenge involves eating a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting. I thought this would be no problem. What I thought turned out to be quite wrong. The last third of the ice cream was fairly brutal. I more or less had to choke it down. Another hiker named Sublime, who I know fairly well, had actually broken the speed record of 4 minutes and 14 seconds with an astonishing time of 3 minutes 48. How can someone eat that much ice cream in that amount of time you ask? By melting it and drinking it (shudder). It will be quite some time before the idea of ice cream excites me again.
The next day was pretty standard. I got up and going pretty late, thinking that I was only going to the shelter 15 miles away. I also really took my time that day for the same reason. However, upon arriving I suddenly decided it would be a better idea to do the remaining 4 miles to the campsite outside of Boiling Springs. The last mile or so was through some farm fields and that was really pleasant walking. The sun was casting a really nice late afternoon light, the temperature was pleasant, and the wind was blowing. Incidentally I don't think I have ever fully appreciated the phrase "waves of grain" until now. Those fields are unbelievingly vast, and they really do move like the ocean when the wind blows. All I can say was it was quite idyllic. In spite of that my choice of camping may have been a mistake since the campground ended up being right next to the railroad tracks. Anyone who has ever spent the night in a house near the tracks knows why.
The next day ended up being longer than expected as well. I planned on doing 22 miles to the last shelter before Duncannon. Instead I did a full 26 miles, my longest day thus far, all the way into town. I have only a couple of things so say about that day. The first 12 miles were rediculously flat. They were all across farm country and I think there might have been a net rise of 20 feet the whole time. This sounds like it would be really cool, but it actually get rather boring after a while. Secondly, the gypsy moth caterpillars are incredibly distressing. They are all over everything out hear, and you can actually hear them knawing away all of the leaves. Aside from that , they are just pretty gross. I really hope the forest service can figure something out, because there are a lot of dead trees out there. Finally, I do not want to wake up with a porcupine as an unexpected bedfellow. This desire is brought on by a sign at one of the
shelters warning that there have been multiple sightings of Porcupines in the shelters and that the salt from perspiration is a definite attraction. Fantastic. Anyhow, thats all for now. I hope everyone is well out in the real world. Sorry, I was going to try to upload some pics, but the computer I'm working with seems to be resisting. I'll do my best to get some up next time.

Later on,
The Breadless Horseman

PS - I have been reminded that I should mention that I am in fact trying to raise money for Celiac Research with this hike, so that is what I am going to do right now. If you are interested in contributing or just in learning more about my hike and the disease go to and look for the appropriate link. Thanks again.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Shenandoahs and more

In spite of the title of this post. My entry is actually going to begin before I entered the fabled Shenandoah national park. When last we spoke my friend Ben and I were on our second night out from Beuna Vista. The next day I was planning on doing about 16 to the last shelter before Waynesboro and Ben was going to get off about 7 miles out at a parking lot along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Ben got off as expected and his mother brought me some excellent chicken salad that was most welcome. As it turned out however, I had a bit more than sixteen in me that day, I ended up pushing a full 21 on into Waynesboro that evening in hopes of being able to accomplish what I needed done early and being able to get right back out of town. Unfortunately I ended up needing a second night in town to do everything and it is a shame I didn't get a night at that last shelter. It was in a lovely little spot and the shelter itself was of a very different and interesting construction. On the other hand, the hostel run by the Lutheran church in Waynesboro was very welcoming and the people were exceedingly kind. In fact when they cooked dinner for all the hikers my second night there they went out of their way to find some gluten free pasta so that I would be able to partake. I highly suggest that hostel to any hikers going through, although you do have to vacate between 9 am and 5 pm.
The next day there was no more lolly-gagging around. It was straight out in the morning and on up into the Shenandoahs. In spite of the fact that I was carrying 13 pounds of food for me trek across the Shennies the first day was not overly challenging. In fact it was downright easy for the most part. On the other hand however I experienced something that I hadn't really encountered thusfar. As I was walking through some very dense sections of forest I started to feel a little uncomfortable. This got me to thinking about something Bill Bryson wrote in his book A Walk in the Woods about how the woods always seemed vaguely sinister. I had never experienced that during a daytime hike, but at that moment I began to understand. I think it might have something to do with the density of the woods not letting me see very far in any direction. Anyway, as I said my first day in was not hard wasn't hard but it was long and is was seven 'o clock before I got to camp and I was ready to be done for the day. To my pleasure however I was greeted with the offering of some warm Margerita from a woman named Spindle. It was very tasty and quite welcome.
I slept very well that night and as a result I was rolling not long after 7 the next morning. The temperature was pleasant and there was a beautiful morning view from Black Rocks only about .6 miles from where I started. I had made 13 miles by lunchtime and honestly thats about all I can remember about the walking that day. My journal entry is sadly lacking due to a finnicky pen. I do remember however, that we had a fun evening at the shelter that night hanging around with StoneAge, Triple Deuce, and Eulah among others. Triple Deuce had a radio which was a very special treat. Its amazing what music will become welcome when you haven't heard any at all in some time.
The next day was without a doubt my most memorable day in the Shennies and at the very least in the top three overall. When I left the shelter that morning I had no real idea where I was going. The first shelter was only 12 miles which seemed far too short but the second was a full 24 and my ankle really wasn't feeling up to that kind of mileage. Incidentally, nearly all of the shelters in the Shenandoahs are spaced in this rediculous fashion. You either have to do a really short day or a 20+. They say you can camp in pre-existing campsites as well but these are very few and far between. It is very frustrating. Anyway, moving away from the inadequacies of the Shenandoah shelter system. I decided to just start with the first part of my day and aim at a big car-camping site about 11 miles out for lunch where I could get a few goodies to supplement my food. On the way there I had a much more satisfactory bear sighting than my first one. This one did not run away immediately. In fact it didn't seem to be remotely concerned that I as well as Yorkie and Beat Box were nearby. This fact however did present a problem eventually when we wanted to keep going and it was still near the trail. After we finally got past the bear we were basically at the campground. Unfortunately the comfort and shade there was such that I got sucked in to hanging around a bit too long along with my two cohorts Stone Age, Triple Deuce, Eulah. I must say even though we stayed a bit too long, just hanging about drinking Cheerwine was very nice.
We had not gone too many miles from the campground when I started hearing some thunder in the distance. At the time I didn't think much of it. I just kept walking. Soon however the clouds were rolling in and the thunder was decidedly closer. Unfortunately, there wasn't really anywhere for me to go to take cover. All I could do was keep walking. Sure enough a short time later it was as though someone turned off a light switch somewhere. Accompanying the sudden darkness were buckets and buckets of rain. It was hot that day so I had decided to forgo my raingear and just get wet. I was soaked in moments. The trail quickly became a creek that a talented kayaker could most likely have navigated successfully and my boots just as quickly filled with the water rolling over my ankles. All of this really wasn't too bad though. When it started to hail though, I must say I thought nature was fighting a little dirty. The rain lasted probably an hour in much the same downpouring fashion, during which time Yorkie, Beat Box, and I covered about 2.5 miles. When the rain finally abated we thought that the nearest possible location would be a nice place to set up camp. As it turned out, this was Big Meadows Campground. Unfortunatley, it was Memorial Day weekend so there were absolutely no available campsites (we actually knew this before we got there.) We immediatly proceeded to try and beg (or Yogi to use trail terminology) a spot to camp for the evening. It only took us two tries before we were taken in by the wonderful Bruce and Cindy Scarlett. They recognized our plight immediatly and not only gave us a place to sleep but leftover burgers and soda, as well as some really good conversation. They are magnificent people. Some trail angels spend a lot of time around the trail looking for people to give food or assistance, but the ones who really end up being the best are folks like Bruce and Cindy who simply see some folks in need and leap to their assistance. Thanks again guys, it was a great evening.
The next morning the guys and I set out. I at least was wearing boots that were more than just a little waterlogged. Honestly though only two things really stick out about the walk that day, an unsuccessful attempt to Yogi food at a campground and the distinct fear that I was going to get caught in another gully washer that afternoon. The signs were all there and I was practically running the last 4 or so miles to the shelter. Of course it never actually rained. Ah well. That night we had some serious excitement. Sublime had bought travel Candy Land. Needless to say, the competition was fierce.
The next day I decided to really take advantage of the amenities offered by the park. That is to say, I decided I was going to get a milkshake at a wayside. I did this, and I more or less planned my day around that activity. Once again, while enjoying my time off I got a little caught up and ended up chilling out for several hours. That day though it wasn't too big a deal as I was only planning on going 16 miles total and stealth camping at Hogwallow flats. In truth this campsite was rather less than splendid, mostly because it wasn't a campsite. It was just a slightly larger than average open section with an acceptable amount of kind of flat ground. On the other hand it was kind a cool night since it is the first time I have ever really stealth camped completely away from a proper camp site.
I got up early the following morning but it took me a good while to get moving out of camp. Once I did however, the sluggishness faded quickly. I knocked out the 10 miles to the road into Front Royal in about 3 hours. The Dude was only a bit behind me and it didn't take the two of us long to catch a hitch into town to Weasel Creek Outfitters in town. We were on our way to the post office when we ran into Truffles and Ross who had apparently been in town for 5 days. After meeting with them we adjusted our destination to the grocery store which ended up being a very good idea. Since eating out can be challenging for me in these small towns I was just going to get a couple of things to tide me over until dinner at the Food Lion. Instead The Dude and I bought a large Rotisserie Chicken from the deli and devoured it (as well as chips, soda, fruit, and a pint of ice cream for me) using plastic sporks and fingers on the bench right outside the grocery store. We skeletonized that thing like piranha at a cow. I felt very much like a hobo, but that was actually kind of cool. Incidentally, aside from being a huge meal it was also really cheap, I spent like eight dollars on it.
After getting all we needed in town The Dude, Ross, Truffles, and myself got a ride back to the trail and hiked the five miles to the Jim and Molly Denton Shelter which is really cool. It has a big front porch and a spring fed solar shower that was unfortunately broken. We were joined by numerous others and had a really cool evening hanging out around the porch.
The next day was kind of nondescript except for a couple of things. First, early in the day I had to walk through about half a mile of really narrow trail through a chest high hay field. I felt like I was walking through tick central. Oh yeah, the hay was also mixed heavily with poison ivy. Awesome. This one guy Sapra got something so bad his face swelled up and he had to get a ride to a hospital. Secondly, the shelter I stopped at for lunch was rediculously small, hexagonal, and looked like it should have been the home of a gnome or something. Very Odd. Finally, Waffle caught up to myself, Yorkie, and Beat Box after chasing us all the way across Virginia which was pretty sweet.
The final full day before Harpers Ferry was really tough. It was immensely hot right from the get go and about the first two thirds of the day were comprised of a section of the trail known as The Rollercoaster because of its constant up and down undulation. As you can imagine this was not the most relaxing walking ever. In truth I think it was some of the tougher walking I've done, in spite of the fact that none of the peaks were overly high. I was glad to finally hit a bit of flat once I was past them. Late that afternoon I discovered exactly how easy it would be to get lost in the woods. I went a good long ways from the trail to use the bathroom, thinking I had a good grip on the direction I was heading. When I turned around however I realized I couldn't really tell where the trail was. It took me a fairly hair-raising five minutes to work my way back and when I did I was a pretty good ways from my stuff. I was quite creepy. Anyway, that night I was at another cool, porched shelter and I got to relax in it while watching a pretty good thunderstorm outside. The next morning I rose and hoofed it quickly in to Harpers Ferry where I met my folks for the weekend and where I am now currently residing.
Having now caught up to my current location I am going to call it a night for I am tired.

Take it easy,
The Breadless Horseman