7/1 Eckville Shelter, 7PM
15.2 hot miles today after an 8:45AM start from Port Clinton. There are at least 15 or 16 hikers in here tonight, and room in the shelter for 6. It's a nice night for camping out but I got here before the crowd and got a spot. Also, I'm lazy when it's in the 90's. Tomorrow is supposed to be hotter, and the trail rockier. I'd like to do 18 miles but that may be more than will actually happen. I passed a couple good viewpoints, the Pulpit and the Pinnacle. Both were great places to watch hawks working the thermals. We're just below Hawk Mountain, an internationally recognized center for raptor research and a bird sanctuary. We visited there yesterday with Barbara, Eleanor and Gemma. Definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.
7/2 Bake Oven Shelter, 6PM
Well, I did the 17.4 miles. It was hotter and more humid than yesterday. The rocks were also worse, white blazes up and down rock piles in some places. I stopped at a campsite about 4 miles back and cooked early dinner. That gave me a rest and a new load of water.
Yesterday near the Pulpit Rocks, I made a wrong turn and walked maybe a hundred feet to a cleared area on the Blue Mountain ridgeline. There to my great surprise I saw what looked like an observatory building with a roll-off roof! As I walked into the clearing I saw no less than 3 large domed buildings and another concrete observation pad. It was the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomers' observing site, a major installation that has been featured in Sky & Telescope magazine. I would like to have had a tour but nobody was around.
I'm supposed to resupply at Delaware Water Gap but that's going to be a problem for a couple reasons: It's a resort community and all motels and such are full over the 4th of July weekend. Also, there's no grocery store! So, when I get to a major road crossing tomorrow (Lehigh Gap) I'll call motels in Wind Gap, PA and see if I can get a room. That would be for Thursday night, the 4th of July. Hope it works out. Also hope it's cooler tomorrow. This shelter is pretty rough. Your basic log hut. Room for 5 or 6, you can sit up but not stand in it. Built in 1937.
7/4 At home of John Stempa and Linda Gellock, near Smith Gap. 7:15AM
I arrived here last night after a 20-mile hike, had a beer and welcome shower, and was invited to diner! John "Mechanical Man" and Linda "Crayon Lady" are hikers, and hiker-friendly to say the least!
They are hosting a fourth of July party this afternoon for any hikers that show up. One of them will drive me to Wind Gap this morning, from where I'll hike back here and join the celebration. Then they'll take me back to Wind Gap tomorrow AM and I'll continue on north.
I've got to eat more. According to the scales here I'm down to 162 pounds. I feel good, but didn't want to get below 170 at the least on this trip.
9:30PM I hiked the 8.1 miles from Wind Gap back here and arrived in time for the party. Besides family there were at least a dozen hikers and plenty of food for all. I'm in the garage where I'll sleep tonight but there is a whole table full of fireworks yet to be set off in the driveway. They sell the real thing in PA! Firecrackers, fountains, roman candles, and the things we don't get in California.
7/5 Delaware Water Gap. 9PM
At the hotel in the Presbyterian Church. 15.2 miles today in perfect hiking weather temp and humidity both much lower, perhaps 80 degrees. It would have been an enjoyable day except for the rocky trail.
My excess weight loss was mostly dehydration as it turns out. I weighed again this morning on the same scale and I'm back up to 169. The past 4 or 5 days before today were all very hot and humid, and it's been hard to drink enough water.
Oh, the fireworks were great! Illegal in PA, though. They were purchased in Virginia. Thanks again John and Linda for allowing me to join in the festivities!
7/7 Atop Sunrise Mountain, noon.
Yesterday was just one of those days. A good one, I mean. Instead of doing the 14 miles I'd planned, I hiked 24.8 to the Brink Road Shelter. I've done another 9 this morning and should reach High Point late this afternoon. The weather is cool, there's a breeze and the sun is dim and red from forest fires in Quebec. I thought it might be blowing across from Colorado when it first started yesterday about noon.
Yesterday I met another groundhog. They're a delight. This one just changed direction to avoid a mix-up but one I saw earlier stood it's ground and spit and sputtered at me. Also saw my first "wild" bear yesterday (i.e., one outside the National Parks), and this morning a turkey mom herding a flock of chicks.
I called Rich and Bernice this morning and left a message that I'd reach High Point early. Hope they check their messages. Otherwise I'll camp and see them tomorrow. It's getting to be shower and laundry time again.
The character and feel of the trail have changed in the last few days. Yesterday I passed the first natural lake of any size on the trail, Sunfish Pond. It's no coincidence that the southern limit of glaciers in the last ice age is just below Delaware Water Gap. The lakes are in depressions scooped out by the moving ice.
7/8 At Rich & Bernice's Still Meadow Farm, 8AM.
A day with no miles to do! Bernice did receive my message last night and picked me up at the High Point Park office. A welcome shower and good company made the last two high-mileage days worthwhile. I'll do some meal planning and shopping, and will probably get back on the trail north tomorrow morning.
7/9 Pochuck Mountain Shelter, 6PM
14 miles today after Bernice brought me back to the trail at 8:45 this morning. I had a very relaxing break at Still Meadow Farm. Yesterday Rich and I kayaked several miles down the Delaware River. Nice way to spend a warm afternoon! And Bernice cooked more than I could eat for dinner.
It's raining! The thunder started just after I arrived and soon the lightning was flashing overhead. One strike hit a tree about a hundred feet from the shelter Flash Boom! I'm set up in the shelter after cooking dinner. It looks like there will be 3 or 4 of us here tonight, in the shelter. Several others are camping out. The rain doesn't seem to be too serious. Should blow over soon.
In New Jersey, at least as far as I've seen, bear boxes are provided at the shelters. This makes it easy to take care of food. Just put it in the steel box and make sure it's closed. There are lots of bears in NJ
7/10 Greenwood Motel, Greenwood Lake, NY, 9:30PM
Almost 13 miles today with nice hiking weather. A new state, New York, to hike, the 9th of 14! Goodbye, NJ. With the long hike today, I'm 3 days behind my original schedule. I'm satisfied with that. The spacing of shelters along this part of the trail is cumbersome; you can either do a short day (12 13 miles) or a very long one (25 miles.) I decided to hitch into Greenwood Lake no problem getting a ride and get a good dinner and breakfast. The motel is pretty basic but the lady running it will give me a ride back to the trailhead tomorrow morning at 9AM.
7/11 Fingerboard Shelter, 8:30PM.
16.4 miles today after a 9AM start. The weather has been great today! Midtohigh 70's. The weather forecasters are telling New Yorkers to get outside if they can and enjoy it! Water has been scarce on the trail. I've been carrying extra so I could cook dinner here. There's no water at this shelter. I should sleep well tonight. It's actually cool.
7/12 The West Point Motel, Highland Falls, NY. 4:30PM
14.3 miles today to Fort Montgomery. This was the day the trail actually went through a zoo, er - that is, a wildlife center. It's an interesting place to walk through. It features plants and animals that are native to this area and is a refuge for animals that are disabled and no longer able to survive in the wild. That includes black bears.
Fort Montgomery is not a good place to resupply. No grocery store. I needed a couple days of food though, so I planned to stop here and do the best I could. This would be a good place to explain "Trail Angels." When you need help on the trail, a Trail Angel will appear to solve the problem. What happened to me today is a good example.
I was walking into Fort Montgomery hoping that the motel had space available. I wasn't looking for a ride but a car stopped anyway. It was Gene Meyers, Trail Angel. He was taking another hiker, Rhino, to the grocery store in Highland Falls, and when I explained my problem he suggested I stay in Highland Falls instead. No problem getting back to the trail, he said. "I'll pick you up in the morning whenever you want." A grocery, laundromat and inexpensive place for dinner are all within walking distance. Gene will pick me up at 7:30 tomorrow morning and we'll stop someplace for breakfast. He hasn't agreed to let me pay for his breakfast but I'm working on it. A lot of hikers out here are on a tight budget but I can afford to buy Gene's breakfast if he'll let me. So I'm writing this in the Fireside Restaurant having a very tasty lasagna with garlic bread for dinner. I think I'll get some ice cream at the grocery on the way back to the motel. The West Point Military Academy is just down the road from here. Always wondered where it was.
7/13 Stealth camped about ½ mile N. of Sunk Mine Road in Fahnestock State Park, NY.
As near as I can tell, I'm at about mile 1400.5, which means I hiked 16.6 miles today. I got an 8:15AM start after having breakfast with Gene at Andy's Restaurant in Highland Falls. Very good and no, Gene wouldn't let me buy his. Weather today was a little warmer and a little more humid I thought, but still pleasant for hiking. New York has been a pleasant surprise. Much of the trail through NY is routed through Harriman State Park. It's rocky but the trail is in good shape. The forest here is beautiful to walk through much more open. You feel less confined by it. The brushy woods further south kind of closed in on you sometimes. I know I'll get some argument but I'm enjoying NY more than the two National Parks, the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah. For one thing, this area is way less crowded. I haven't met many hikers even today, a Saturday with fine hiking weather.
7/14 Morgan Stewart Shelter, 6:30PM
About 18 miles today. I'll be sleeping in the shelter tonight. There is one other hiker in here so far, a section hiker named Dobbin, and a couple who are tenting. I didn't sleep too well last night. My campsite was near a marsh and the mosquitoes were fierce. A few got inside my bug cage. Then, about 10:30PM I heard large rocks being rolled around down in the gully below me. It had to be a bear foraging. They often roll logs over looking for bugs. My food was properly hung in a tree and there was nothing edible in my camp so I was not too concerned. Still, that kind of thing has to make you a bit uneasy when you're camped by yourself. The noise stopped after a while and I went to sleep.
7/15 Wiley Shelter, 7PM.
Still in NY, but only a mile or so from the Connecticut border. I did 16.6 trail miles today but more than that really. The first extra mile was a little embarrassing I started hiking the wrong direction from the shelter! A sign on the shelter pointing (I thought) to the north and south directions on the trail was backwards. And my old map showed the shelter to be on the opposite side of the trail from where it actually was. These two things got me pointed in the wrong direction. I knew I was going SW instead of NE but sometimes the trail does that. When it didn't loop back after about a half-mile, I got out the map and figured it out. None of this would have happened if I'd thought which way I had turned off the trail the night before to get to the shelter, or if I'd just looked at the map before starting out. Oh, my. One extra mile. A second extra mile was a road-walk to Tony's Deli for lunch. Dobbin and I took the noon break and enjoyed very large sandwiches and some sit-down time before hiking the last 6 miles to this shelter.
We arrived here about 4PM. The day was warm and quite humid, especially in the afternoon. Sure enough, by 5:30 it was raining. It lasted about 20 minutes. Now the sky is perfectly clear and the temperature is in the mid-70s. Very pleasant.
I plan to stop in Kent, CT tomorrow to do a little food shopping but probably won't stay there overnight. There's just one Inn listed in my trail guide and it's very expensive. Depending on how things go, I may stay either at a shelter just this side of Kent or one that's 7 miles beyond. We'll figure it out when we get there.
7/16 Mt. Algo Lean To, Connecticut, 6:30PM
Only 12.4 miles today. Dobbin and I got in here early, left our packs and walked into Kent (about a mile) to the post office and grocery store. We also got some burgers and ice cream, and then walked back here. Kent is very upscale. Not unfriendly exactly, but most people ignore the hikers. I did talk with one older man who told me there were some motel options in Salisbury other than the Inn in the guidebook, which is in the $100 per night range. I'll be there in two days.
7/17 Pine Swamp Brook Lean to, 7:40PM
Yes, this shelter is actually situated between two swamps. The mosquitoes may be bad tonight. And the water source is the brook that runs between the swamps. I am definitely treating the water!
I've probably seen the last of Dobbin. He's doing a short day today because he's ahead of schedule, and is only hiking to the Vermont border. If you're going to take it easy, it might as well be in a motel, I did 17 hot and hilly miles today, which leaves me 15.7 tomorrow to reach Salisbury (which the Kent local explained is pronounced "Salz-bree.") I hope to find a motel there. Really need to visit a laundromat. The cap on my olive oil bottle split a few days ago and got into some of my clothes. I saved most of it by buying a bottle of lemonade and using the empty bottle.
As it is getting dark I can hear a high-pitched steady tone coming from the woods in all directions. How many mosquitoes does it take to make that sound? It's quite loud. Time to get the DEET out. I would just get in my sleeping bag but it's too hot probably 80 degrees.
7/18 Maria McCabe's home, Salisbury, CT, 7:15PM
15.7 hot, really HOT, and hilly miles to get here about 3PM. It was warm when I got up this morning. Salisbury is another very nice (expensive) community, kind of like Kent. There is the White Hart Inn in town and at least one pricey motel outside of town, too far to walk. So I called Maria McCabe, and she has a room for $30! She drove me to the laundromat, and then I did my grocery shopping at the pricey little supermarket. The laundromat, it turns out, is 4 miles away in the next town. Maria is a very pleasant, talkative lady who loves all "her hikers." What started as a worrisome stop for me has turned into a pleasant stay.
7/19 Hemlocks Lean-to, Massachusetts, 7:45PM
That was a great stay with Maria in Salisbury. I left about 8:45, after breakfast. The morning was muggy with a lot of uphill trail. The lightning and thunder started in about 1:30 and by 2PM it was raining. Since it was warm, I just put the pack cover on and kept hiking. The climb up Race Mountain turned out to be on an exposed ridge so I had to stop and wait for the storm to pass. Too much lightning to be on the ridgeline. I waited it out for about a half-hour. Finally things calmed down enough for me to continue, but the rain has been coming down most of the afternoon.
This is a nice new shelter with a picnic table that's protected from the rain so there was no problem cooking dinner. Now I'm in my sleeping bag listening to the rain on the roof. Happy Birthday to TrailDad!
7/20 Mt. Wilcox South Lean-to, 8:30PM.
Just under 20 miles today in good weather following the rain last night. Looks like I'll have the shelter to myself tonight except for the mosquitoes. I'm also told there's a serious porcupine problem here. They have been known to eat people's shoes! I hung mine up.
Connecticut was pretty little villages and not much of interest on the trail. Massachusetts has so far been more scenic with several nice creeks and a lot of variety. I suspect that trail will continue to get more interesting as we continue north. That's what people are telling me.
7/21 Upper Goose Pond Cabin, 6PM.
15.8 nice miles today good weather, interesting trail, and at the end, this wonderful cabin on the lake! I've cooked my dinner on their real stove and will try to take a couple pictures before the sun goes down. Volunteer caretaker Nancy collects $3 from those who want to sleep upstairs. And she cooks in the morning. With all that, I'm tempted to stay a couple days to swim and paddle the canoe around. However, the schedule says, "No."
I am to meet Kathi Berman (a friend who lives in San Francisco) in Hanover, NH on Aug 3rd to hike for a week to Crawford Notch. That means no delays between here and there. It will work out if I keep to my schedule.
7/22 Dalton, MA, 7:15PM.
I'm having dinner at the Dalton Restaurant. It's a family style place with good food, and Samuel Adams on tap. I did 20.6 miles to get here a little more than planned, but I was able to get a motel room for about $70. We're near the Tanglewood concerts here, and fortunately we're between shows. When something is going on, like the James Taylor show last weekend, motel rates jump to the $250 range. We're halfway between NY and Boston, and they can fill the rooms. There are homes where hikers can pitch their tents, but I needed to take a shower and make some phone calls. Also, the weather looks a little threatening.
The hike today was pretty easy. Warm and humid but fairly flat after an initial 900-foot climb. A good day to do high miles. We're starting to meet SOBOs (southbounders) on the trail. I met one at the October Mountain lean-to where I'd stopped for a break, and the not-too-unusual happened when I told him I was TrailDad. He said, "Oh, are you Flyin' Brian's dad? I'd heard you were on the trail." Other NOBOs I meet ask me, "Is it true you're Flyin' Brian's dad?" And the caretaker, Nancy, at the Upper Goose Pond cabin commented this morning, "I hear you have a famous son." This is all a lot of fun, of course. I enjoy it and try to answer questions people have about Brian's hike. But I do wish more would say, "Wow, are you the guy who designed the Cat Stove?" There have been a few of those as well, including one who recognized me from the article in Backpacker Magazine.
Dalton is another delightful town. As I walked the several blocks to the restaurant I couldn't help but marvel at the architecture of the public buildings, churches and private homes. The towns in the northeast seem to have a distinct character that is lacking in our California suburbs. Our old Spanish missions do have that same feeling of history that I get walking through this part of our country.
The post office is right next door, and tomorrow I'll pick up my resupply box and my 3rd pair of running shoes. This pair of shoes lasted me 1,280 miles, so the new pair should get me the last 620 miles to Katahdin. 620 miles! I'm really feeling good. I walk 20 miles and don't feel tired. I stop because it's time to stop, or to talk with people along the way. What an exciting way to spend the summer! It seems to me that Brian may have missed a lot walking the AT in the off-season. (Maybe you should hike this trail again, southbound, meeting all the NOBOs as they come by.) <Good idea - Brian>
Dalton's biggest employer by far is Crane Paper. They make high quality stationery papers and are our government's only supplier of paper for printing money. Tom Levardi, a local trail angel and friend to hikers, told me an interesting story about Crane's currency paper business: It seems the General Accounting Office requires that the government have at least two suppliers for anything it buys, but Crane is and always has been the only company that can meet the specifications for the paper our money is printed on. So someone in the GAO proposed that the government get a foreign country to supply the paper, and subsidize them to get them up to a competitive level! The proposal didn't get very far. Incidentally, the people in Dalton don't think much of the government's efforts to fly a dollar coin, If they are successful it will reduce the demand for currency paper by about 30 percent.
7/23 Mark Knoepel Lean-to, 7:45PM
13.7 miles today after an 11AM start from Dalton. I'm here by myself so far. Suspect that most hikers got an earlier start and are staying at the top of Mt. Greylock, another 3.3 miles and 700 feet higher. There is a bunkhouse on top. However, this shelter is fine. I rigged a line inside to dry out my clothes. The hot and humid weather in Dalton changed to a furious lightning and thunder show by 2PM. The storm went right over my head, with lightning flashes all around and torrential rain. I didn't feel particularly threatened since I was in deep woods, not on a ridge, but I set the pack and liking poles down and took a break to wait out the worst of it. It was warm rain and I got soaked. The pack cover kept my gear fairly dry. I'd hoped it would blow through quickly and I could dry out. Instead, a couple more storm cells followed the first one but not as violent and it's still drizzling.
If I get going early tomorrow morning I may be able to get a hot breakfast at the lodge on top of Mt. Greylock (the highest point in Massachusetts.) It's 16.5 miles from here to the Seth Warner shelter, and that's in Vermont!
I saw my first porcupine today. It was ambling up the trail ahead of me. When it noticed me it ambled a little faster, then climbed up into a tree before I could get my camera out.
Time to get out of these cold, wet clothes and into my sleeping bag.
7/24 Bascom Lodge, on top of Mt. Greylock, 8:30AM
I'm having breakfast by myself. I mean there is no one else in the dining room. It's weird. The staff said they served two people breakfast this morning. This place was built by the CCC in 1937 and reminds me of Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, Oregon. It accommodates overnight guests and should be crowded even mid-week. People of Massachusetts, are there so many nicer spots on your state that you cannot enjoy a sunrise from the top of Mt. Greylock? It's certainly on my list next time I visit here.
It's partly cloudy this morning, cool so far and breezy. A good hiking day. My poor new shoes were all cold and wet when I put them on this morning but they'll dry out. I would like to sit here with my coffee and enjoy the beautiful view, but it's time to go.
8:15PM Seth Warner Shelter, Vermont.
A total of 16.5 miles today. The next shelter is only 13 miles away and the next after that is almost 22. The weather is a bit threatening again this evening so I would like to reach a shelter tomorrow. There is a lot of tough trail coming up and if I don't get to that second shelter I'll be camping out. That's OK if the weather is good, but I hate to do just 13 miles if it looks like more rain. Too much worrying. I'll just hike and decide as I go.
There was a good market not too far off the trail in North Adams so I stopped there and bought the couple things I couldn't find in Dalton, plus a pint of Ben & Jerry's.
7/26 Story Spring Shelter, Noon.
Stopped here for lunch. Yes, I did the 21.5 miles yesterday, arriving at Mt. Goddard Shelter after sunset but before dark. I had already eaten dinner at the previous shelter and was undecided whether to go on when four cigar smokers showed up,. They had stood around puffing the previous night while we were cooking dinners at Seth Warner. I though, "That's it!" and put on my pack for another 8.5 miles.
I have another 10.5 to get over Stratton Mountain this afternoon, so had better stop writing and do it. We had a cold night and a cold wind all morning. It looked like rain by mid-morning but now it's pretty much cleared. There's still that wind, though, and that usually seems to bring bad weather. Off I go, with hopes of staying dry 'till I reach the Stratton Pond Shelter.
Stratton Pond Shelter, 8PM.
Well, I made it here without getting rained on. Dinner is done. It's really cold tonight with the wind still blowing. I'm putting some extra clothes on inside the sleeping bag. 19.4 miles today, and 10.6 more to get to Manchester Center tomorrow.
7/27 Manchester Center, VT, 9:30PM
I arrived here before noon and managed to find a place to stay the 1878 Carriage House Motel. It's a bit out of town but there was a hiker day in town today. Kind of a fair with manufacturers and organizations setting up booths. The result was a swarm of hikers from the AT and also the Long Trail all hitting town at once, competing for limited rooms. The fair itself is only in its second year. To be a success, they need to add some food concessions and an information booth where hikers can get names, addresses, phone numbers and rates for places in the area to stay overnight.
"Aleman," a German fellow I've been hiking with the past few days, and I got our shopping and laundry done and had a nice dinner here this afternoon (I'll have to check the spelling of that trail name. He says it means "German" in Spanish!) He's a retired research chemist with a PhD in organic chemistry.
7/28 Lula Tye Shelter, 8:30PM.
19.1 miles today after a 9AM start from the trailhead. "Aleman" (Peter Dilling) and I had a lot of trouble getting a hitch out of Manchester. After about 45 minutes an out-of-stater from Florida picked us up.
It rained most of the day from about 11AM on. We had intended to hike only 16 miles but the shelter before this one was full. We felt good and had time before dark to walk the extra 3 miles to get here. Time for bed.
7/29 Clarendon Shelter, VT. 6PM.
This was a short hiking day, only 13.7 miles. The extra miles yesterday made today easier, and we're within reach of Sherburne Pass and The Inn at the Long Trail, our destination for tomorrow. Neither Aleman nor I felt very energetic today and we really didn't feel like walking after a big, early dinner at the Whistle Stop, a restaurant about a mile back. One uphill mile is enough after a full turkey dinner (very tasty!) and a milkshake.
The weather started out very threatening this morning but instead of raining it got better as the day went on. It's nice this evening and supposed to be warm tomorrow.
7:30PM A lot of hikers have shown up. The shelter will be full and there are a lot of tents sprouting up. Between the Long Trail hikers and AT southbounders, the camping spots are overcrowded. "Wedding Singer," an AT NOBO, has just arrived but he has made himself very welcome. Out of his pack he has produced a 12-pack of Bud which he has carried for 7 miles and is sharing! Also a couple tins of popcorn. Both taste great!
7/30 Inn at the Long Trail, Sherburne Pass, VT. 7:15PM
They've done a major reroute of the trail here that turned my 16.5-mile hike onto 18.3 miles. The weather was good so that wasn't a problem, but It's a mystery why they changed the trail. The new route is longer, has more elevation change, and puts this inn a 1-mile road walk off the trail. The old AT route is now called the Sherburne Pass Trail. It will be kept open and maintained, so why not keep it as the official AT route? I suspect most people on the AT simply blue-blaze the Sherburne Pass route, because it brings you straight to this Inn. (That also "officially" makes you a non-thruhiker of the AT by the Appalachian Trail Conference's definition because blue-blazing, I.E., hiking alternate routes, is not allowed except to bypass certain sections in bad weather.)
We have a couple long and hilly days ahead to get to Hanford, NH on Friday. They begin serving breakfast here at 7:30, so we will get a late start. I get to sleep in tomorrow!