Monday, December 19, 2011

Mount Frissell-South Slope (Connecticut Highpoint)

After the two hour drive from New Jersey and lunch near Salibury, we made our way to the Connecticut highpoint trailhead. This turned out to be one of those highpoint where the route finding on the road was going to be more challenging than the route finding on foot.

The guidebooks I read warned that the 5 or 6 miles traveled on gravel road might be closed in the winter but I opted to follow the primary route instead of looking for an alternate.  Sure enough, about 5 miles from the trailhead there was a large cement barrier half blocking the road and a road closed sign.  I did say it was HALF blocking the road, right?  Onward!  The road was in great shape but I kept waiting to hit the other side of the closed road barricade expecting that one side was left semi-open for people needing legitimate access while the other would be completely blocked.  Luckily, when we ran up against the next cement barricade (completely blocking the road), we were about 50 yards from the trailhead and MA-CT state line.  After turning the dead end into our personal parking lot, the boys and I hit the trail.  It was still cold out but had warmed a little since our stop in New Jersey earlier that today.

The hike is a nice flat trail for the first quarter mile or so before taking a path more or less straight up to the summit of Round Mountain.  Soren more or less bounded up while Sy slowed a little after an initial burst of energy.  We all reached the top another 1/2 mile or so later in good spirits although Sy's attitude darkened noticeably when he realized the goal was the next peak over.  Soren on the other hand insisted on taking lead and announcing the arrival of every red blaze insuring we were on the right track! 

(on Round Mountain summit.  Notice the red blaze!)

After descending Round Mountain and making a more or less identical kind of ascent up Mount Frissell, we reached the summit and signed the log.  Sy rested at the peak while Soren and I continued south until reaching the highpoint marker at the MA-CT state line a 1/10th mile or so south of the summit.  The views from Round Mountain where great and some of the lookouts around Mount Frissell were nice as well.

 (small copper(?) rod just below my right knee marks the highpoint)

We made short work of the return trip and although we had a couple of less fun moments along the way, both made the return trip in high spirits and commented on what a fun day it had been.  I can only hope to have many more.

High Point (New Jersey Highpoint)

After a little bit of a frustrating spell at work, I decided I needed a day off so after taking care of a few Church responsibilities on Sunday, the boys and I hopped in the car and headed to Point Jervis (Pennsylvania?).  I made sure to pick a hotel with an indoor pool which pretty much sold the boys on the whole hiking adventure idea. 

After breakfast the next morning and another dip in the pool, we drove all the way up to the New Jersey highpoint named.... High Point.  This one had easily the most grand monument I have seen at any other highpoint and was kind of a focal point of the state park it calls home.  The park actually seemed like a pretty cool spot with a ton of picnicking sites, spotted with small ponds and in the winter is a x-country ski park. 

Our stop was brief for two reasons (1) there was no real hiking involved and (2) it was freezing cold and the wind was howling!  Nobody wanted to hang out very long.  After racing back to the warmth of the car, we started the two hour drive to our next highpointing adventure......

Sunday, July 10, 2011

RPH Shelter

Unfortunately, I didn't take the time to sit down and write and entry on the 10th.  The final day on the trail is always tough to document.  It seems I always get caught up with everything else waiting for me once I leave the trail. So, it is over a week later, but I will see what I can remember.

I remember having a great night sleep without the rain fly on and waking feeling pretty refreshed expect for pretty sore feet (next time I am using boots instead of trail runners!)  We wanted to push ourselves to make it to our goal and we also had a little bit more of a timeline than we had on previous occasions as Anne was going to be picking us up.

Peter's knee was hurting him pretty badly so whether or not he was going to make it all the way or stop at another road and get picked up later was kind of hour by hour decision.  In the end, we opted to just take things at a slower, more consistent pace, and that worked out for both of us.  He was able to finish the hike and I have to say, I enjoyed the more leisurely pace quite a bit!  For one thing, we needed less breaks and ended up maintaining a faster pace.

At one point during the first 4 miles on the trail, we almost double backed and started heading the wrong way.  That was very nearly a big disaster.  Luckily we realized our mistake after a 100 yards or so and were back on track.  Eventually we arrived at the south end of Canopus lake and started the hike around it.  We stopped for lunch around noon when we bumped into Big Country and Aaron eating lunch on the trail very near the north end of the lake.  They had just scored a bunch of free food from another thru hiker (Tiger) who it seems they regularly hike with.  As we were leaving at the end of the day, we off loaded our extra food as well.  They were glad to receive it.

Additionally, we may have helped land Aaron his trail name. During lunch, Big Country started laughing about how Aaron accidentally had thrown his pot, which they had just bought, in the fire while cleaning up after dinner.  The guy who had sold it to him had had a lot of varieties of the stuff and this particularly one had been called Reg or Reggie.  After a few good laughs, the thought cam to me "That is your trail name. Reggie!"  It is up to Big Country now but I am guessing this one is going to stick.... it comes with a painful/funny story and all.

After lunch, we pressed on passing a beautiful open summit at Shenandoah Mountain and rested a couple miles from the RPH shelter at a road crossing. Peter decided to press on at this last chance and we moved along.

Trail Magic!  First of all, the RPH shelter is amazing.  It is a cinder block structure, with nice bunks, and is well maintained.  There is even a club of locals who have adopted the shelter as there own.  As it turns out, they were having a trail work party that day and had coolers of ice cold drinks, BBQ, and salad which they were enjoying and sharing with the passers by.  Although I was .25 miles from Anne and the boys, I had to stop for a while!  2 Sprites, some chips and pork chop later and I was feeling great.  It is amazing to me the amount of effort so many people put into the trail and around the trail culture.  I know I get a lot personally out of being out there but it is a whole other thing to invest so much of yourself back into it.  Pretty awesome people....

Eventually I sprinted up the hill to the road and meet Anne under the Taconic State Parkway underpass.  The boys were excited to see me but commented a few times how unexcited they were to smell me!  After a drive to White Plains we all enjoyed a much deserved burger at a burger house before dropping Peter off at the train station. 

It was a great trip.  I am looking forward to duplicating the success as often as possible.  Backpacking and banking may in fact be incompatible but I was pleased to have figured out this weekend at least! 

Mileage: 11.0 miles

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dennytown Road Group Campsite

The day started early... I didn't have a watch but I bet it was before 6:00am.  At least it started out dry!  Before long, the sun was shining through the canopy and started to dry things out.  It must have rained until 4:00-5:00am.  Unfortunately, we weren't going to be able to wait around for things to dry out so we packed up wet tents and gear, put on wet clothes and hit the trail.  It reminded me of my long section through VT and NH where I was rained on every day for more than 10 days.  Peter got up at 7:45 so I burned a lot of time messing with gear, relaxing and enjoying the morning.  I enjoyed the quiet.

We passed the first 4 miles extremely quickly, talking about our philosophies regarding personal finance and talking about Peter's parents histories.  Before long, we popped out on Route 9 be the Appalachian Market. So what if it was only 11:00am... time for a Turkey Club and some Gatorade!  Also, interesting tid bit: this run of the mill convenience store and gas station has easily the nicest public bathroom I have ever seen in that kind of establishment... flat screen TV playing the news, plants, etc.

After that it was back on the trail.  The day was sunny and dry but surprisingly not hot especially under the forest canopy. We ran into the couple we met briefly at Bear Mountain Inn.  They, and a lot of other thru hikers, opted to rent motel rooms in town instead of camping out in the rain last night!  At one point we picked up a woman's hiking shoe that had dropped off a pack and guessed correctly that the owner was a NOBO hiker (hadn't seen any SOBO women hikers) as we found her and her companion a mile or so later.

My body was pretty tight and sore today and I developed a huge blister on my pinky toe but took care of food and hydration so there was no repeat of cramping today.

Peter and I enjoyed a couple of rest stops, one on a stone wall and a second by a stream where we soaked our feet while finished the other half of the Turkey Club!  Interestingly, we bumped into a day hiker we had seen on Bear Mountain just yesterday who was from Summit, NJ.  She was bringing new shoes to the woman whose lost shoe we had found earlier in the day!  The lost shoe couple was on day 2 of a 6 week hike up to Mt. Washington.

Peter's knee seems to be bothering him pretty badly but he is more fit than I am so we tend to yo-yo a bit.... me shooting ahead on down slopes and him on inclines.  In general, we make for good hiking companions as we have generally the same pace and enjoy the conversation.  It has been fun seeing his excitement for the new gear and for the adventure of backpacking.

My pack felt extra heavy all day as it and its contents were pretty wet.  When we finally made it to Dennytown Road we got the Webelos Den (and parents) to agree to let us dry everything out in the sunlight by the campsite so we and our gear our dry again!

A little more gear puttering, dinner making and..... a fire!  I love a campfire after a long day's hike.  All in all a great day... Oh! I can't forget, Peter brought a few marshmallows and we cooked them over his stove (fire was out at that point)... highly recommended.  An unexpected and welcome treat.

Now  I am laying in my tent, enjoying the sounds of the Scouts nearby skits, songs and campfire.  Definitely brings back memories.  We will have to see what tomorrow brings!  Mother nature was kind to us today.  My body is tired but I am so glad to have made it out here.  Tomorrow is the last day of this section.

Mileage: 12.3 miles

Peter's Father:  Raised in most WWII Germany and started at Mercedes as basically a custodian.  Worked his way up into the shop, eventually becoming a teacher of other mechanics and having national and international responsibilities for training.  His memories of having so little and relying on the charity of others are still evidenced in his thrift and unwillingness to throw anything away despite the plenty they have.  Very handy and kind of a motor heard (owns 15 motorcycles and cant get rid of cars)

Peter's Mother: After raising her two kids and suffering from low energy, weight problems, went on a walk with her persistent son one day.  She kept up the walking and 6 months later completed her first 10k.  Another 6 months, her first marathon.  Today she has competed in the Boston and New York marathons including winning the event in her age category!  Amazing story.  I love to hear those kinds of stories where people can make a change.  The high level of performance isn't even really the point but it makes it that much more impressive.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hemlock Springs Campsite

First woken by a 5:30am rain squall but quickly was lulled to sleep by the same. Then my Blackberry went off at 7:00am and probably woke everyone up!  I thought I had turned that thing off.

It was nice to see the forest today.  It is your typical canopy you might find in the NE but without the density of underbrush so visibility was pretty high into the nearby forest.  The water source (spring) at the shelter seemed questionable and had a lot of debree  in it so we opted to not fill up.  Peter and I hit the trail by 8:00am.

A couple miles in I realized I had neither started this thing with enough calories of water in me... on top of it my water was low as a consequence of that morning's decision at the spring.  Basically a result of being so busy at wrk and last minute planning combined with excitedly hitting the trail without fueling up properly.  By the time we reached the top of Bear Mountain, I was cramping and feeling a little dizzy.  Luckily at the summit, Peter bought a Powerade from a vending machine and shared it and some water with me.  Oh.... and I forgot my wallet (another casualty of the rush) so I am relying on Peter for money too!  Anyway, we paused on Bear Mountain to explore the firetower, enjoy some views, dry our feet and eat lunch. 

After an hour or so we headed down the fill to Bear Mountain Inn.  The whole descent we listened to nearby ominous thunder and just as we arrived at the concession stand the rains came and escalated into a full torrent!  We enjoyed drinks and company (woman hiking w/ boyfriend... didn't get the names and he was off swimming somewhere).  The concessions guys generously filled our water for us which was appreciated as we were pretty much empty at that point.  Finally a chance to rehydrate and get some strength!

As the rain escalated, I decided to check my Blackberry for messages from the office.  Of course, there were a ton of messages (it is Friday afterall) and a staffing emergency. I had apparently left a loose end  open on a book for a client and the MD and staffer were both asking what the plan was.  I was getting a little panicked but Peter helped me think through the right response. After a few emails and a display of commitment to get the work done after coming out of the woods, my MD showed an amazing kindness by basically saying he wants me to have my vacation and he got someone else to take care of the job.  I was thankful for the result, appreciated his kindness and was relieved to have effectively reiterated my commitment to the team while still preserving my vacation time.  Time to turn the Blackberry off!

After waiting out the worst of the squall and having out significant others check the weather for us,  we learned the rain was going to be around for the rest of the day and night so we bit the bullet and took off in the rain hoping, beyond reason, that it wouldn't escalate again.  It did.  Soon enough we were soaked through.  Crossing the Hudson was on of the highlights of the day as was finally arriving at Hemlock Springs tent site a few miles passed the bridge.

This section of the trail doesn't have many shelters unfortunately.  It wasn't fun throwing up a tent in the rain but I was able to strip down, dry out and put on a dry set of clothes as the inside of the tent dried.  I am sure all my gear will still be soaking wet in the AM but at least I will sleep dry and comfortably tonight.

The water source here (spring) looks good so tomorrow should get a good start.  Since getting our tents up we have been holed up in our respective shelters but I did make it out to hang a clothes line and cook dinner during a relative break in the rain. It has been fun reading up on the trail ahead (yet another casualty of lack of preparation time before heading out) and being left to my thoughts about work and family.  I love getting out here.  On the trail life gets simple, worries are few and gratitude for it all is plentiful.  It is great to be back, soaking wet, first blister and all!

Mileage: 12.1

Thursday, July 7, 2011

William Brien Memorial Shelter

After a few years of being away, I am finally back on the AT! The investment banking job has made getting out into the woods very challenging but luckily I was able to make it happen this time.  My supervisors are being very supportive and recognize I deserve the time off and opportunity to enjoy a vacation.

That being said I still didn't make it out of the office until just before 8:30pm.  I met Peter at Grand Central station and we made our way to White Plains where Anne picked us up and ferried us to Harriman State Park and dropped us off by the side of the road where the AT crosses Seven Lakes Drive. By the time we hit the trail it was 11:00pm. We enjoyed a nice night hike despite some humidity and I couldn't help having a little skip in my step because I was back on the trail even if it is just for a couple of days!

Along the way we saw a couple of deer. It ended up being a short 2 mile night hike to William Brien shelter.  A couple of NOBO thru hikers had a campfire going when we arrived (~midnight).

After chatting for a little while I grabbed the last bunk in the shelter and Peter set up his tent. Time to catch a few Zs before a full day of hiking arrives.

Big Country - from Alabama, hiked 560 miles in 2010 and is back to try again. Started in Feb and zeroed for 30 days in Harpers Ferry to earn money some money.

Aaron (no trail name yet) - from Maine so he is walking home

Mileage: 2.0

Friday, November 26, 2010

Jerimoth Hill (Rhode Island Highpoint)

As I lived in Rhode Island for about 10 years of my life, you would think I would have hit Jerimoth Hill earlier.  No worry, I still have two siblings in the area so when Turkey Day plans landed at one of their homes (Thanks, Thompsons!),  I couldn't resist the side trip.  This time I brought along Sy and his cousin Matthew.

This particular highpoint has some colorful history but I understand this is one of the locations where the club has worked hard to improve the relationship with the owners of the land access.   It appears to be working great.  The entry sign had been knocked down and vandalized but the rest of the trail (short as it is) was well marked, perfectly maintained and in otherwise great condition.  Thanks, Highpointers!