Sunday, March 30, 2008

Georgetown Lake

Back to one of my frequent haunts! 

Kerry Watson, a friend from Church, picked up some backpacking gear over Christmas and has been trying to get me to take him out ever since.  He was finally able to pin me down a few weeks ago and this last weekend I made good on my promise to bring him out.  The longest contiguous trail that I know of around here is Georgetown Lake and so we headed that way along with another friend, Drew Lawton.

Our plan was to copy the route I have used for training hikes for Philmont and the Guadalupe Mountains.  We start at Russell Park (A), hike west on the north side of the lake for ~6 miles, camp at Tejas Camp (B) on the far west side of the lake where the North San Gabriel dumps into the lake, then wake up the next morning and hike ~11 miles east on the south side of the lake until we hit Cedar Breaks Park (C).  It ends up being less than 24 hours long and it is about the only way I know of to cover miles like that within 30 minutes of where I live.


Things went as planned except on Friday night a serious thunderstorm rolled in.  I was dry and enjoyed the show but I know Drew and Kerry both got a little cold and wet during the night. It didn't end up having a big impact on our trip though so that is good.  All in all, I had a great time with very good company. 

P3290005 (Small) P3290003 (Small)

During a break along the way, I stopped to chat with another party.  One guy mentioned that the Austin Bike and Trail Club had completed the full loop around Georgetown Lake, making the trail a full 26 mile loop.  Of course, now I want to plan a trip to complete the loop. I will be back again in a few weeks with Patrick and Michel, a couple of guys I am hiking the Grand Canyon with. Maybe I will try for it then!

A.T. 2008 - Danby, VT to Grafton Notch, ME

Now that I know I will be heading back to the trail for ~3 weeks this summer, I have had my nose buried in maps and guidebooks every chance I have had.
I am going to pick up where I left off in Danby, VT and hike through to Grafton Notch, ME (~250 miles) or Gorham, NH (~220 miles) depending on how things go. Here is a summary of the plan. The dates may change slightly but this is what I am currently thinking.
Day Shelter/Lodging and Notes Miles Day of the Week Date
0 Fly to Boston (arrive 9:50 pm on American Airlines) -- Tue July 22nd
1 Fly to Rutland (arrive 11:10 am on Cape Air).
Cab or Friend to Trailhead.
Minerva Shelter.
11.7 Wed 23rd
2 Pico Peak Shelter (apparently Cooper Shelter isn't in good shape.... Thanks Connie!) 16.8 Thu 24th
3 Stony Brook Shelter
(hit Deer's Leap along the way)
14.0 Fri 25th
4 Thistle Hill Shelter
(longest day of the trip.... maybe too long?)
21.1 Sat 26th
5 Velvet Rocks or hotel in Hanover, NH
(resupply and do some laundry)
14.1 Sun 27th
6 Moose Mtn. Shelter 11.3 Mon 28th
7 Firewarden's Cabin
(on top of Smarts Mtn.)
12.6 Tue 29th
8 Ore Hill Shelter 12.6 Wed 30th
9 Jeffers Brook Shelter 8.5 Thu 31st
10 Eliza Brook Shelter 15.9 Fri 1st
11 Liberty Spring Tentsite
(resupply in N. Woodstock before hiking last couple of miles to campsite)
11.4 Sat 2nd
12 Galehead Hut
(call ahead to make reservation at hut during busy weekend)
10.4 Sun 3rd
13 Crawford Notch (hostel or hotel) 14.7 Mon 4th
14 Lake of the Clouds Hut
(just down the hill from Mt. Washington. call ahead to make reservation)
11.2 Tue 5th
15 Pinkham Notch Camp
(call ahead to make reservation)
14.8 Wed 6th
16 Imp Campsite
(last night on the trail)
13.1 Thu 7th
17 Trident Col Shelter (resupply in Gorham, NH) 13.9 Fri 8th
18 Carlo Col Shelter
(right on the NH-ME state line)
11.1 Sat 9th
19 Speck Pond Campsite 9.5 Sun 10th
20Grafton Notch.
Shuttle to Pinkham Notch.
21Concord Coach Lines Shuttle to Boston--Tue12th
22Fly home (depart 7:30 am on American Airlines)--Wed13th
All in all, I think I am being pretty conservative with the mileage. There is really only one or two days where I think I might be pushing myself a little too hard. Plus, I will be hiking in the White Mountains above the tree line for a good portion of the time so I want to play it safe. I would rather have the option to hike into Maine or come home a few days early instead of having to push myself to meet an overly aggressive itinerary.
I am really excited for the first week of the hike because most of it includes trails I hiked on while we live in Rutland (White Rocks, Deer's Leap, Spring Lake, etc.....). It will be fun bringing back some of those memories.
Also, if you are interested, here are links to my primary reference materials....
- Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker's Companion (2007)
- Appalachian Trail Guide to NH-VT (1oth Edition)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mt. Datun

It looks like I will make it back onto the trail in July!  I had wanted to pick up where I left off in Vermont but I may end up in Georgia since my sister's family is in Atlanta.

In the mean time, I have decided to post some of my "training hikes" for the AT. 

I was traveling in China and Taiwan for the last couple of weeks and one day while visiting with my brother's (Kyle) family in Taipei, I decided to go on an adventure! From my brother's apartment in Zhu Wei you can see a good sized mountain that looks a few kilometers away.  I decided to go for it and for the first big hill I was accompanied by Jenny and Abby (sister-in-law and niece).  I left them at about 10:00am with a water bottle, a camera, a faint recollection of where they lived and with a strong desire to get to the top of the mountain.  What I didn't bring was a map, any food, or my brain apparently!

The hike was actually fairly well marked and started as more of a rural walking path, well marked by the city.  I ended up cresting a few summits and realizing the path I was on wasn't leading to my original goal but could now I could see a more attractive goal.  I decided to go for it!  The well marked trail turned into more of a series of paved marked walking paths broken by narrow winding roads.  Luckily the trails had plenty of people on them so I would usually just follow someone else.  In the mean time, I climbed what must have been thousands of steps, asked for help at least a few times and passed all kinds of small rural farms, memorials built to ancestors, and views of the smog enveloped city increasingly far away.


After a couple of hours, I arrived at a true trailhead in an off-the-beaten path entrance to a National Park.  Now we were getting somewhere.... I saw a map and although I couldn't pick up on all the Chinese there was enough English, meter markers, and maps for me to identify my goal and feel confident that I could make it.  I was about 4 km from my goal and it looked like around 2000ft of elevation gain.  I still had a good hike ahead of me.

P3080103 P3080104

I eventually made my goal at around 1:00pm but was out of water, tired and without food.  Time to go home!

As I was about to head down the hill, a nice older couple who had shadowed me on the final ascent asked if I was going back down.  After replying that I was, they asked if I had eaten.  Nope. I graciously accepted some food (I really have no idea how to describe what it was) and when they learned I didn't have water they gave me a green tomato as well.  I was very grateful for their charity (and a little remorseful for my stupidity) and started heading home. 

I knew I could retrace my steps and get home but also knew that going the exact way I came required a 1000ft up and down in about a 1.5km space.  I wasn't in a condition to attack that so I decide to triangulate a little.  I knew there was a junction of two separate trails that I had been on and that it was likely to bypass the mountain.  I went for it.  The only problem was that as I was walking, very, very thick clouds rolled in and I was not able to find what I was looking for. 


Instead I opted to follow the crowds.  A bunch of people were heading down through the clouds on a path I was unfamiliar with.  I quickly realized this was a good thing and I needed to get out of the mountains and get home.  Kyle and Jenny were expecting me around 3:00 and it was clear I was going to miss that mark.

My decision paid off and I ended up a visitor's center on the park's main road.  I was able to take care of the most critical thing....hydrating.

Now that I was out of risk of physical harm.  How the heck was I supposed to get home? While hiking around I had pondered this point and was able to recall the town they were in (Zhu Wei) and the street where one of their friends lived (Min Zhu Lu) and I knew how to get to their place from there.  I was confident that if I could get to a metro stop, I would make it home or at least within a few hundred yards of home.  From there, an internet cafe would probably be my last best way of calling for help (of course, I didn't have their phone number with me!)

Luckily, things worked out exactly as planned.  I relied heavily on locals who looked like they might know English. 2 busses, 8 metro stops, and 2.5 hours later, I arrived back at the apartment (to at least a little bit of relief from the family!)

OK.... so by now you are thinking, "Craig is an idiot."  I would have to agree but said another way, I learned a few things.....

  1. Plan ahead and don't take off without the plan.  I already knew this, of course, but it just goes to show you that you can still make the wrong choices.
  2. Map, water and food.  Dugh!
  3. I never panicked.  I did something right?!  Seriously though, it was good for me to observe myself handling the situation well.  This was a good thing for my confidence as I follow my desires to head into increasingly challenging adventures.

When it was all said and done, I had climbed from sea level to over 3000ft, probably covered somewhere in the neighborhood of 10km, and had summited nearly the highest peak in that National Park.  Not too shabby.  I'm just glad the adventure ended the way it did!


I should mention that Anne wasn't impressed!  She let me know how silly that was and pointed out that this video could have been what they showed on 60 minutes when they did a special on the American hiker that got lost in Taiwan.