Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tracking the Trail

After yesterday's work at the Museum, I did a short trip up to Pole Steeple and back through the park to get some new GPS tracks and some pictures of the areas of interest.

It was a cold day with freezing rain and sleet coming down.  It made for an interesting hike.  Especially near the rocks of Pole Steeple.  All were coated in ice.  I stayed well away from the edge.  I don't think I would have been able to cross any of the rocks anyway, they were so slick.  It was fun coming back down the stone steps.  I had to bypass the trail a lot to stay on leaves.

Any day is a good day to be in the woods.

Here is a visual rending of the hike.

Pole Steeple to Rt 233

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Some Cabins in the Woods

Ok, back to the story I promised a couple weeks ago.

So after finishing up at The Gathering, I headed to the bar in Shippensburg where Turk, Tom, Ed and Dave were waiting.  We watched the rest of the Steeler game then headed out of town, over the ridge and up to Big Flat where our first night's cabin was at Gypsy Springs.

We got to the cabin and unlocked the gate.  The day was pretty nice, with decent temperatures and no rain in the forecast.  We unpacked, claimed our beds and got a fire started out at the fire ring.

We were having a good time outside and we saw someone walking up the driveway.  Turk and I went down to talk to the couple and we had a nice conversation.  They were an older couple and the guy had had kin just up the road.  He mentioned an old ruins that just had the chimney from a small house up by where the AT crosses the road and I knew exactly where he was talking about.  He said his grandfather used to live in the house.  They also told us that if you drink the water of Gypsy Springs, all that ails you will be better.  With all the rain of the last few days, the whole hillside was sprouting water, but later Tom and I went down and filled up a bunch of bottles of the magical fluid.

This was a modern cabin with electricity and running water and we had a nice dinner of spaghetti and sauce.  After a nice hike up the hillside to a power line and along that trail for a while, we spent the night sitting by the fire.  We all eventually hit the sack to prepare for the next day's adventure.

Gypsy Spring Cabin
The next morning, we had a nice breakfast and then we headed over to the AT Museum to return some retail stuff I had from The Gathering and we explored Pine Grove Furnace State Park a little.

Fuller Lake

After that, we went to a nearby general store, bought some supplies and lunch and then headed back to the cabin and got ready to move to the next cabin.  We only reserved this cabin for one night because the other cabin wasn't available until Monday and Tuesday nights.  This cabin would be more rustic.  No electricity or running water, but there was a good spring nearby and when we arrived we found the creek that goes by the cabin running nicely.  When I had checked out the cabin the week before, the creek was all but dried up.  It was nice to have the sound of the water next to the cabin.

We unpacked once again and started preparing the outside fire ring for the night's fire.  The cabin was cool, but very dark inside.  Even when we had opened every shutter and even some of the windows, it stayed quite dismal inside.  It was still cozy though.

Milesburn Cabin
Hanging around the cabin
Shortly after we got to the cabin, two hikers came by.  We invited them over, but the seemed reluctant to bother us no matter how much we assured them we liked their company.  They filled their water and we asked them about their hike.  They were Rooster and Chicken and they were on an extended section hike through the area.  They were headed for a campsite nearby and after some pleasant conversation, they headed out and we had a nice dinner and hung out around the fire all night.  We had noticed how the fire pit looked in need of some work, so we made a plan to rebuild it on Tuesday.

I set up my hammock next to the cabin and Turk took on the challenge of sleeping in the "canopy" as he kept call calling it.  We took bets on how long he would last.

Turk's "Canopy"
Well, the night went well.  Turk lasted until sometime after midnight, but he had to get out to pee and couldn't remember how to work the bottom door of the Hennessey and had a small panic attack.  After that he came into the cabin and found an empty rack to finish the night.  

The next day was another decent one.  We rebuilt the fire pit, getting rid of a lot of the small stones and recycling the multitude of ash into the forest.  We incorporated a keyhole style grill device into the ring and it turned out very nice.

Rebuilt Fire Ring
We planned a hike to the nearby Birch Run Shelter about 2.4 miles away.  The trail was nice once you got up the hillside and we hung out at the shelter and explored the area.  We found a really cool campsite across the creek that someone had put a lot of time into.  I will remember this site for future visits.
Smooth, flat trail

Secret campsite of Yetimen
We found a lot of firewood up at a campsite next to the trail and we "collected" all said wood for our night's fire.  

After another nice meal of fire grilled venison, we settled around the camp fire and told stories all night.  The guys were also trying to plan the next part of their vacation and lots of map reading and gps testing ensued.  

Sometime during the day, Turk acquired the Trail Name Kangaroo Joe.  He had on a hoodie and would fill the front pocket with as many beers and other things as he could to carry across the bridge to the cabin area.  He seemed to like it.

Turks Kitchen - These boys eat good on their trips.  Dave in background chopping wood
Group Photo

camp fire
Bros - No, we weren't hunting, as everyone who passed by would ask...
Ed and Kangaroo Joe
The next day we headed our separate ways.  I headed home, as did Tom and the rest headed up to Northwestern PA to continue their adventure.  

I haven't been car camping in a while and this was a fun experience.  It is kinda nice having a 2000 lb backpack parked 30 feet away and spending time with friends from my old home town.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Nice Cold Hike

I know I have other things to write about, but I get behind.  I just wanted to post a quick entry on my short day hike yesterday.  I was out hoping to run into a flip-flop Thru Hiker that I have been following since the Spring.  Didn't find her, but the hike was perfect.

The first part of this hike was part of what Lisa and I did in early June this year.  We had started at Boiling Springs and the Shelter was 12 miles into our hike and we were ready to stop for the day.  The hike up the blue blaze seemed long that day.  On this hike, with my light pack and only 1/2 of a mile done, it was quite easy.  I did work up a sweat as I hiked a mile further down the trail, tracking the whole thing with my GPS and taking a picture or two.

Tagg Run Shelter

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Friday, October 25, 2013

A Gathering of Hikers and Dreamers

I haven't written in a while, so I thought I would jot down a few sentences on my latest adventures.

During the Columbus Day weekend, long distances hikers and those who dream to be all traveled to Shippensburg, PA for the annual Gathering of the Appalachian Long Distance Hiker Association (ALDHA).

As a preparation for my new job as the AT Museum Manager, I attended the Gathering to start putting faces to names and to start networking with the movers and shakers of the trail.

Friday dawned bleak and rainy.  Well, rainy is a kind description.  As I drove towards "Ship" on ever smaller roads, the rain came down in a steady downpour.  I was pretty happy to be inside a vehicle and not hiking my way to the party.  The rain would continue until a multitude of inches of the wet stuff would fall in the area, putting a damper on the plan to pitch a tent on the ball fields of Shippensburg University where the event was taking place.

I spent the morning at the Museum, opening up early for any Gathering people who wanted to check out the nearby museum before heading over to check in for the weekend.  We had a few visitors and I also used the time to load up the truck with retail items to try and sell over the weekend.

I drove over to the University and got ready to check in.  The original plan was to start the check in at the roller rink nearby where we would be setting up our tents.  With all the rain, the plan was changed to just do it all up at the Ceddia Union Building (CUB) where most of the events and workshops would be taking place.

This is what I saw when I arrived at the camping area
I checked in and started meeting people who's names I have been seeing on emails and other documents.  I also got to say hi to one of the Thru Hikers I had followed this year.  I recognized her right away and probably acted like a little fan boy when I told her she was one of my heros and how I loved the pictures she had taken.  Her name was Acorn and here is her blog.  

Throughout the rainy day, I would walk back and forth from the parking/camping area to the CUB, getting my retail stuff ready and just checking out the area.  My pants would get a little wet each time, but thankfully they were those fast drying synthetic kind.  While talking to some of the gatherers, I found out that it might be possible to pitch our tents inside the skating rink.  In no time at all a small tent city grew there.  Out of the rain and nice and cozy.  

My setup

Tent city growing
The night's event was where everyone came together and talked about what would happen over the weekend, it also recognized all the past year 2000 milers.  Near the end, they had this year's hikers come up on stage and get their certificate.  I recognized two hikers that Lisa and I had met in a shelter after hiking to McAfee Knob, back in May in Virginia.  After the event, I went and talked to them a little.
Class of 2013 at the Gathering (photo by Crooked Sticks)
Acorn, Poppins and Ketchup
After the opening ceremonies there was line dancing, but I wasn't interested in doing or watching that.  Also, the night's campfire was cancelled due to the extremely wet conditions, so I just headed back to the rink, hung out for a while talking to some of the other hiker/campers and then crawled into the tent for the night.  

I actually slept pretty good on the cement rink floor.  Better than I thought I would.

The next day, the rain had stopped and the sun even came out for a while.  I checked the fields halfway through the day, but they were still kind of wet.  I decided that another night on the rink floor wouldn't be a bad idea.

The day was filled with workshops and sitting at our museum table talking to Red Wolf and trying to sell books and stuff.  I did attend a workshop where the new Director of the ATC, the new Chairman of the board of the ATC and yours truly were introduced and conducted a Q & A.  I'm pretty sure I was just thrown in there as an afterthought, but it was ok.  I pretty much just sat there while they discussed ATC stuff, but I was able to talk about the museum a little and answer some questions.

Our Museum Display Board

We didn't sell a lot of stuff, but we did make a few sales.  I decided to pare down the retail stock and in the early evening, I  took two boxes back to the museum so I would have more room in the truck the next day.

That night's campfire was on, but it was scheduled rather late for me.  After getting back from the museum, I hung around the rink for a while and then decided to take a nap, which turned into an overnight nap.  I did get up around 10 or 11 to pee and see what was up, but not having a "group" to hang out with made me kind of an outsider.  I didn't mind, but at that point, I think I started forming my next Facebook post of "I would rather be hiking than talking about hiking" that I would confirm and post the next day.

The final day of the event (for me) dawned cloudy once again with a chance of rain off and on throughout the day.  We did a group picture and I attended a meeting of the AT Museum Society Board of Directors, where I once again introduced myself and listened in while they planned museum business.  

Photo by Crooked Sticks

The meeting was due to conclude around 2:45 and the Steelers were playing the Jets.  I had some friends from Pittsburgh coming out, including Tom my brother and Turk my childhood friend and we had some cabin camping to do in the area.  

As soon as the meeting ended, I got to my car and headed to a nearby sports bar, met the guys and watched the rest of the game where the Steelers finally found a way to win one.  

Next up... Our Cabin Camping Adventure

Saturday, September 21, 2013

PA AT Hiking Plans

So far I have hiked about 83 unique miles of the AT in Pennsylvania.  Some of those miles I have hiked a few times over again, but that is my score for now, that goes towards my AT 2000 Miler goal.

With my new job at the AT Museum in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA I plan on hiking the rest of PA when I am up there and have the time.  I hope to do most of it doing day hikes and overnighters.  I also have set a goal to stay at (or near) every AT shelter in PA during the next year or so.  There are 24 shelters in PA and I have stayed at (or near) four of them, so I have 20 to go.

Most of my planning for these hikes will be inspired by Seeks It, an amazing hiker who did a double thru hike in 2012 going both NOBO and SOBO, all by day hikes.  He never spent one night in the woods, but he visited every shelter.  Quite a feat that shows me a lot of information which makes it possible.

My new job will have me near the trail frequently and a little driving here and there should make this possible.
PA has about 230 miles of AT trial so I have 147 miles to go.  Easy Peasy I say...

Hopefully LoGear will be able to be with me for a lot of these miles.

I'm always happy to hike with other people, so if this sounds like something you would like to do, let me know and we will see if we can coordinate some joint ventures.

Next week, I hope to add a few miles to my total and bag another shelter when I plan on heading up east of Duncannon on Rt 225, hike to Peters Mountain Shelter for the night, then come back to the truck, switch to a daypack and hike down to Duncannon and then back.  That will add about 11 miles to my total of AT unique miles, but will be a total of almost 20 miles of one day hiking.


See you on the trail.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Class of 2013 - Another Update

I have been following many hikers as they make their way along the trail to their goal of a mountain.  I have followed more than twenty people, but these I have kept track of on a spreadsheet and some of them on a map.  It was fun to watch them progress along the map and a little sad to see those whose markers stopped at a final place along the trail, their hike over for the time being.  Some would come back and continue on at one place or another, others moved back to their other lives, leaving the trail for a season, or forever, one never knows.  I'm pretty sure all that I have followed, no matter how long they stayed on the trail, will be back at some time or another.

A large number of those I have followed have been successful in their endeavour.  Three are still hiking.  Two towards their original goal of Mt Katahdin, and one who has flip-flopped, summited Katahdin and is now is heading south to where she jumped ahead, to hopefully finish in Harpers Ferry.

A few would get off the trail and come back later, realizing that the trail is a very strong draw.  It calls to you every day and wants you to walk it.  I feel it myself every single day and can't wait for my next chance to see a white blaze.  Whether it is one I have see and hiked by many times, or a brand new one that adds mileage to my total AT miles hiked.

So here is my latest update.  Congrats to all who have finished, good job to those who had to get off, and to those who still have some miles to hike, keep on going.  It is all good.  Green is finished, Red is done, Black is still hiking.

Trail Name Start Date Last Entry Location Total Miles Avg/Day
Apple Butter 8-Mar-13 17-Sep-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 11.3
Karma 7-Mar-13 17-Sep-13 Killington, VT 1514 7.8
Boo Boo 21-Feb-13 16-Sep-13 White House Landing 2140.2 10.3
Clever Girl 7-Mar-13 13-Sep-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 11.5
Rosie 17-Mar-13 13-Sep-13 Mountain Harbour Hostel 2185.9 12.1
Mother Goose 28-Mar-13 13-Sep-13 Erwin, TN 2185.9 12.9
Acorn 30-Mar-13 11-Sep-13 Gorham, NH 1887 11.4
Bazinga 27-Feb-13 3-Sep-13 Pinkham Notch 922.4 4.9
Odat 25-Mar-13 2-Sep-13 Portland 892.9 5.5
Jacko 21-Mar-13 31-Aug-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 13.4
Rash 17-Feb-13 19-Aug-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 11.9
Groundpounder 18-Feb-13 4-Aug-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 13.1
punkin pie 1-Mar-13 28-Jul-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 14.7
Lady Grey 8-Mar-13 28-Jul-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 15.4
Blues Man 16-Feb-13 11-Jul-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 15.1
HotDog 6-Mar-13 26-Jun-13 501 Shelter, PA 1189.3 10.6
50/50 15-Mar-13 17-Jun-13 Front Royal 964.6 10.3
PrayerWalker 14-Feb-13 12-May-13 Roan Mt. TN 405.7 4.7
Infinity 8-Mar-13 24-Mar-13 Past Tellico Gap/Not sure 129.3 8.1
Hiking Home 7-Mar-13 23-Mar-13 Newfound Gap/Home 206.8 12.9

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dolly Sods Wilderness

That time had come again.  The time for me and the family to pack our backpacks and head to the trail.  I wanted to try something a little different this time, and my searching had found an area of wilderness in West Virginia that had lots of trails and a few amazing places to hike to.

Entering Wilderness
We loaded up the truck and were on our way to The Dolly Sods Wilderness which is within the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.  It was a Monday morning and rain was threatening.  Brandi had elected to stay home this time, but the five of us, me, Lisa, Shauni, Alex and Ginger were ready to go.

The Hiking Group
We got to the trailhead after almost four hours on the road.  The last few miles were forest service road and rather bumpy.  A sprinkle or two fell as we loaded our backs and headed down the trail.  Right away we found the trail to be challenging.

Ginger: Pack Dog Extraordinaire
If I had to pick two words to describe the trail, those words would be rocks and mud.  If I could have a third word, it would be roots.  It was a muddy, rocky, rooty trail, but we made progress.  I didn't say good progress, just progress.

The Dolly Sods Wilderness has a unique environment for the area.  People describe it as something that would typically be found in southern Canada instead of West Virginia.  There are lots of bogs and heath and when you come to a meadow, the views are very nice of the surrounding mountains.

First Views
The hiking portion of the trip was intentionally made not too long to accommodate the group.  We had 3.1 miles or so to our camping area.  The "Forks" area promised creeks, waterfalls and even a swimming hole.

The hike wasn't too bad at all.  Just a little slow, but we weren't in any hurry, so we made our way down the trail towards the creeks.  As we were crossing one of the high meadows, I had a feeling that I would make a find.  I looked in the low growth and there they were.  The smallest blueberries I have ever seen, but they were tasty and the short break to pick some was a welcome respite.

The last rocky hill we had to hike down ended at the creek and I pulled into the first camping area I saw.  It was right beside one of the branches of Red Creek, had some good ground for tents and trees for my hammock.  It also had a nice fire ring with some stone "chairs" set up around it.  This area is a popular place to camp, so I knew that firewood would be scarce and hard to find, but this looked like the place to set up camp for the next couple of nights.

We all dropped our packs and Ginger and I headed down the trail to check out the other campsites.  After surveying a few, I knew the first one would suit us just fine.  The quest for wood began here.

We set up camp and made our dinners after finding enough wood in the area to make a decent fire.  Dinner was hot dogs cooked over the fire.  We hadn't had more than a couple sprinkles during the hike, but you could tell the area had had some rain recently.  Everything was damp and getting the fire started and the wood dried was a constant effort, but we were successful.

Our Camp View

Lisa disinfecting water

As darkness fell, we all headed to our sleeping areas and got ready for the night.  We could hear coyotes barking in the area and the creek sounds had a soothing effect as we drifted off to sleep.

After my usual first night of dozing, waking, tossing and turning, I got up shortly after daylight around 7 am.  Today we planned to day hike to a place called the Lion's Head.  It was a rock outcropping that looked like a majestic lion looking out over the mountains.  My quick calculations said it was a little over two miles to the area, but I didn't know where the side trail went off the main trail and I also didn't know how rocky this trail would be.  I guess when the trail's name is Rocky Point, I should had at least had an inkling of an idea.

We left the tents and sleeping bags and brought our half empty packs.  I didn't want to head up with nothing at all, so I brought food, some extra clothing, fire kit, first aid, water and an emergency shelter.  You know, the basics.

The hike started out pretty nice.  As we came to the creek crossing, we came upon a group of backpackers.  They were a freshman orientation group from a college in Ohio.  We had some nice conversation, then crossed the creek and headed up the trail.  The trail was pretty nice here and I made the comment that it was so nice, thus dooming us to something not so nice up the trail.

Before long we passed another group.  This one an actual college class in back country hiking and plant identification.  They were from a small college in Garrett County, MD and looked to be having a good time.

Well, the trail continued on and started to get a might rocky.  I don't think we touched dirt for the last half mile or so.  It kept going up, but not too steep.  That is, not until the last trail that took us to the Lion's den itself.  Some of it was rock scramble and a little challenging, but we made it.  Later I would find that the hike was more like three miles, but we would survive the six miles of rocks, heat and elevation with no problems.

Rocky Trail
 Not every climb rewards you with a view, but this one did.  We arrived at the area and the last of it was walking across these huge rocks that all fit together.  Sometimes you had to go down then up and some of it was a little scary, but it was beautiful and the views were spectacular.

West Virginia, Mountain Momma

The Lion's Head

My accomplishment pose
We all scrambled around and took pictures and then ate a good lunch.  I think Ginger got stung by a bee or maybe bit by a fly on her back, because she started jumping around and scratching and then would snap at any bug that came anywhere near her.  It was a little funny to watch.

Alex on the rocks

Shauni and Ginger on the rocks
Soon it was time to head back to camp.  The hike back was more downhill than up, but it seemed to take quite a while to get back.  We gathered wood as we returned as the areas that no one camps near are full of good wood.  I carried a stack of sticks for most of the trip back, but even though I realized we had a long way to go, after carrying those sticks for a half mile or so, I wasn't going to drop them until I was dropping them at the fire ring.  

We had plenty of wood for this night's fire and we got it going and made our dinners again.  Oh, there was a short nap time in there too after our six mile trek of the day.  I was feeling tired and uncomfortable sitting on the rock chairs after dinner, so I decided to go read in my hammock for a while, which turned into another nap.  I got up as darkness fell to get the bear bags up, but the others had already accomplished that feat after some keystone cop antics which would have been fun to watch.  But they got them up and away from any critters that would want to snack on our premium backpacking food.

Morning came once again and we all got started stirring around 0800 and finally hit the trail just before 10 am.  The hike out was a reverse of the first day, starting with the rocky climb out of the valley.  There was even a little sprinkles later in the hike as we made our way out of the wilderness and back to our truck and eventually civilization.  

After driving out of the mountains and hitting the Sheetz (our new favorite place to stop on road trips) near Cumberland, we continued on home and ended another successful stint of being Outsiders.

I had a great time and always feel the most comfortable out in the woods, with a nice fire burning and the promise of floating on air with my hammock set up beside me.  Ginger seems to really love being out there with us.  I can't wait to see what our next adventure will be.


Last break at last stream crossing...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Class of 13 Quick Update

Five of the people that I have been following have finished their Thru Hike.  A few more are closing in on the prize.  Congrats to all, no matter where your hike ends.

Trail Name Start Date Last Entry Location Total Miles Avg/Day Days since Start
Blues Man 16-Feb-13 11-Jul-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 15.1 145
Rash 17-Feb-13 19-Aug-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 11.9 183
Groundpounder 18-Feb-13 4-Aug-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 13.1 167
Boo Boo 21-Feb-13 21-Aug-13 Past Zeta Pass 1877 10.4 181
punkin pie 1-Mar-13 28-Jul-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 14.7 149
Apple Butter 8-Mar-13 22-Aug-13 New Hampshire 1887 11.3 167
Karma 7-Mar-13 22-Aug-13 Imp Campsite 1324.7 7.9 168
Clever Girl 7-Mar-13 23-Aug-13 Pinkham Notch, NH 1866.5 11.0 169
Lady Grey 8-Mar-13 28-Jul-13 Katahdin, ME 2185.9 15.4 142
Jacko 21-Mar-13 18-Aug-13 The Cabin Andover 1918.7 12.8 150
Odat 25-Mar-13 22-Aug-13 Little Rock Pond Shelter 823.5 5.5 150
Acorn 30-Mar-13 13-Aug-13 North Adams, MA 1589 11.7 136

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Answers

Since no one seems to want to play I guess I'll just play with myself.

If you think you don't know any of these skills, I bet you do.  Simplify them.  Can you build a fire using matches or a lighter?  Can you erect a tent or a tarp?  Can you follow a trail?  Do you know not to drink water right from a beaver pond?  Can you apply a bandage?  You get the point.

1. Fire Making- 4-3-A
2. Shelter Building- 4-3-B
3. Navigation and map skills- 4-4-A
4. Water gathering and disinfecting- 4-4-A
5. First Aid- 3-2-A
6. Weather Signs- 4-3-B
7. Edible Plants- 3-2-C
8. Snare/Trap Making- 3-2-C
9. Cordage Making- 3-3-C
10. Sharp Object Skills- 4-4-B
11. Positive Attitude- 4-4-A

Sleeping bag and pad
65L pack
1. Food bag
2. Alcohol stove and fuel
3. Knife
4. Cook pot and spork
5. Rain gear
6. Water bottle
7. Map/Compass
8. Fire kit
9. Fleece shirt
10. First Aid Kit

Notice some of these "items" are multiple things.  I make the rules up as I go along and so can you.  Be creative.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


According to my little countdown clock on one of my web pages, I have 24 days until I officially retire.  During the month of August, I'm taking care of those things I need to get done to prepare for being a civilian again, like health care and life insurance.  My beard is full, my hair is long, but I'm still getting paid until the end of the month.  After that, the pension starts.

Earlier this week, Lisa and I headed to St Vincent's College outside of Latrobe, PA to see our beloved Steelers practice.  It was a very cool experience.  Lisa commented as we sat and watched the first team go through some plays, that this is a very stress free way to watch the Steelers.  The only downside to the visit was the crazy, slack jawed, fish eyed autograph hounds.  It is just a scratch on some paper people.

Chuck Noll Field bleachers
We camped out in a somewhat nearby State Park for the night then headed home.  It was nice being that close to the players and seeing them acting natural and having fun.  And we had a nice campfire that night.

When I was getting close to being done at work, I would tell people that when Lisa and I were hiking the Appalachian Trail, I would be looking for my next job.  Well, you may have noticed that I have been spending some time up at the AT Museum up in Pine Grove Furnace, PA.  It is about 20 miles north of Gettysburg and the old grist mill that houses the Museum is chock full of AT history.

I have hinted around about it before in this blog, but the hint has finally become reality.  After a few days volunteering at the Museum and some back and forth with the AT Museum Society President, I was offered the job as AT Museum Manager.  I have accepted the offer and I will be totally entrenching myself in Appalachian Trail history, planning and interaction with hikers and the public.  I have pretty much found my dream job.

The following excerpt is from an email sent by the president of the AT Museum Society, Larry Luxenburg, to his board members and other interested parties.  It made me a little excited.

Museum Board,

It is with great pleasure that I announce that Joseph Harold has accepted the position of Museum Manager. He will succeed Howard on Nov. 1. Joe is an avid hiker and will soon retire from the Coast Guard after an outstanding 30 year career, reaching the highest enlisted rank. He has spent the last month visiting the Museum, volunteering, spending time with Howard, Gwen, Noel and myself and has gotten to know the Museum well. We have been fortunate to have two great managers so far and we anticipate that Joe will also be outstanding. Please give Joe your support and a warm welcome to the position.

In the next few days I will be sending an update to the board covering recent developments.


That pretty much sums it up.  I will be spending more time up at the museum in the coming months learning the job and I'm sure I will be hiking the nearby trails too.  The main part of my job will be to keep the volunteer force fresh and growing, so with that said, I guess I will start my search for new blood to refresh the pool.  If anyone is interested in being a Greeter (called Docent in a museum) or if you have an interest in the trail or a skill that we could use to keep the old grist mill in its best shape, let me know and we will get you set up to help out.

I can't wait to become an integral part of the trail that I have grown to love and obsess about.  I always tell people the trail is a magical place and the people who travel it are a magical bunch.  I can't wait for the magic to continue.

My new workplace.  A grist mill built in the 1700s.
How cool is that?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Search for Survival - A Scenario

Let's play a game...

A Survival game.  I give you some information, and you tell me what you would do.  I will take your information and let you know what has changed.  What were the results of your efforts?  The benefits or consequences of your efforts.  We continue along, back and forth, you, explaining your actions; me, describing the results, which may include random, unexpected events.

My results will be based on good old knowledge, experience and confidence in the actions.  Coincidentally, you will begin this quest, but rating yourself on some different skills of survival.  You will rate your knowledge of the subject, the experience you have had practicing or implementing this skill and your confidence in how you can use this skill in the current scenario.

For the first two traits, you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5.  For the confidence trait you will prioritize each skill as to whether it is a priority A, B or C.  A being essential/very useful, B being useful and C being nice to have.

So, you want to play?

Let's do Skills first.  For each of the following woodcraft skills, assign a knowledge factor, an experience factor and a confidence/priority factor.

Scenario introduction:
It is late July.  The temperature has been in the 80s in the day and dropping to the 60s at night for the last week.  You are heading to the eastern woodlands, the trees are full and the streams are still flowing, but some springs have gone dormant.

The plan is to park at a remote trailhead in a vast wilderness area that has plenty of trails, but the blazing is sporadic at best and nonexistent more than not.  The forecast for the next five days are typical for a summer day.  Daytime temperatures in the 80's with a chance of scattered thunderstorms each day.

You will travel by foot to an area that is perfect for camping and has a nice swimming hole for cooling off and a nice waterfall for atmosphere.  The hike is only about five miles in.  You plan on staying a few days in the area, enjoying the flora and fauna and then you will hike back to the car and head home.  You are hiking alone.

In the section below, rate your skills as to your knowledge, experience and confidence for the above scenario introduction.  Think carefully and try to be honest with yourself.

1. Fire Making

2. Shelter Building

3. Navigation and map skills

4. Water gathering and disinfecting

5. First Aid

6. Weather Signs

7. Edible Plants

8. Snare/Trap Making

9. Cordage Making

10. Sharp Object Skills

11. Positive Attitude

Now we need to select your gear.  For this scenario, since it is a planned multi-overnight trip, we will concede that you have a shelter (tent, tarp or hammock, depending on your preference), sleeping gear, such as a sleeping bag and pad, quilt or wool blanket and a pack to carry everything in.

List up to ten gear items that you wouldn't want to forget.  You may bring more than 10 items and we may flush those out later, but remember that you have to carry everything on your back, but only list ten for now.

First, state your shelter type and sleeping gear choice and then list up to ten other items that you would bring.  The pack also is assumed to be a standard sized pack in the 50 to 70 liter range.  This isn't fantasy.  The pack has a limit and also there is no magic in this realm, except possibly Trail Magic.

If you want to start telling a story of how you rated yourself and the gear choices you made and why you made them, that will just add color to this little... game...

If I get any comments...  This will continue...  or maybe I'm just talking to the Internets and we all know the Internets can't hear...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How I'm Spending My Summer

A common view for me these last few months
Not since sometime before 1976 have I had a summer like this.

Back in that time, I guess when I was around 12 or so, I inherited my brother's paper route.  From then on I have been working a "job".  On May 15th, I had my retirement ceremony after serving 30 years in the Coast Guard.  Since then, I have been doing things that aren't actually "work", although some of them are "work like".

I don't actually retire until September 1st, so I'm still getting paid.  Thirty years of service give you plenty of time to accumulate lots of vacation time.  We are given 30 days of leave a year.  There were many years when I didn't use all of those days.  Don't get me wrong, I liked taking my leave days, but playing the system right, I was able to take a day less here or there and garner days on the books.  My last twelve years of work also had a nice schedule where I worked an hour longer each day for 9 days and then got the 10th day off.  It worked out well.

The wars we have been involved in have also let me go beyond the usual 60 days on the books cut off, so I had a real nice 88 days or so sitting there waiting for me to take them.  You are also given 20 days of Admin time, so all in all I had about three and a half months of "time".

Yes, you can sell those days back to the government and add some money to the bank account, but I like to use them so much more.  To savor each one.  To go to bed when I feel like it and get up when the urge strikes me.  I still pretty much keep to the same schedule.  Nine o'clock usually sees me heading down stairs to read for awhile before I shut my eyes and 6:30 rarely sees me still in the sack.  I like getting up with (or before) the sun.  I like seeing the day arrive.  Now, I just make a pot of coffee and head to the computer room for some light reading and sometimes some writing and then I start my day.

But getting back to the mid 70's.  Those were the days when I would get up with the day.  No school, no grass to cut (I guess that was a job too), no pressing plans of any kind.  I would get my bike out and take it down the 13 steps of our house and hit the bricks.  Literally hit the bricks.  Irwin Ave. in Bellevue is one of the dwindling streets of the borough that are still as they were back at the turn of the 20th century, brick.

Irwin Ave - Brick Street
So, I would usually head up to Grant School to hang out.  This was a few blocks from the house and I could spend the whole day out there somewhere, hanging out.  Without a care in the world.  And my parents weren't worried either most times.

Later in the day we would maybe play some kickball on the street and when darkness arrived, hide and seek was a pleasant way to spend a summer evening.

We would have passes to Bellevue Pool and when we could get a ride, we would be there for a good portion of the day.  We also had a nice camp up by Moraine State Park where we spent many a week and weekend.  Also, there was always Conneaut.  Ahhhhh, Conneaut.

The day's just seemed to take forever and each one started with the song of robins, cardinals and blue jays and ended with the drone of cicadas and night hawks.  Gosh, I miss the creaky call of the night hawk.

So, the picture I just tried to paint was of a young me, with no worries and little obligation or responsibility, doing what I felt like and having a good time doing it.

These last two months have been somewhat like that.  I still have the adult obligations and responsibilities that most adults have.  Mortgage, bills, college tuition, etc, but my day is less structured than it has been in such a long time.  I lose track of what day it is.

I still have plenty of things to do.  If you have followed this blog or my Facebook 365day entries, you will see that I have been doing some work around the house.  The grass seems to be growing wickedly fast this summer also and today, I will once again whack it back to a reasonable height for the next week and a half or so.

I have also done some travelling.  Not the usual kind, but by foot and bike.  Shortly after my retirement ceremony, my Bride and I headed south, to Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia to do some Appalachian Trail hiking.  Our original plan (to hike two to three weeks straight) lasted about eight hours into the hike.  Lisa suffered a bad twist to her ankle that still is bothering her, but the freedom we had with our schedule left us to change the plan and do something a little different.  Our adventures the first couple weeks of my "vacation" are chronicled here, if you haven't already read them.

At the Arch to the Approach Trail
Fontana Dam
Clingman's Dome
Even though our original plan didn't pan out, we got to see some pretty cool places on the Appalachian Trail and I upped my competed mileage to over 200 miles.

In June I decided to take a little bike ride.  This one was a five day, 350 mile trek from Washington, DC to my Father's house in Bellevue, PA.  I had been hoping to do this ride for quite a few years and getting it done was very rewarding.  I'm still feeling the effects of the damage I did to my ulnar nerves in my hands, but I don't regret taking the trip one bit.  That trip starts here.

Ready to Start
Dam #4
Since then, I have pressure washed and repainted the back deck.  That is the most work-like thing I have done this summer.  It has been very therapeutic, but I'm definetly not as good a painter as my brother.  I had fun doing it, but I'm glad I can say the job is pretty much done.

This summer has also seen me travel up to Pine Grove Furnace, PA a couple times.  It looks like I may have found a job as the next AT Museum Manager.  It doesn't pay much, but it gets me that "in" I have been looking for working with the AT community.  The museum is an amazing place and the AT Museum Society has very big plans for the place and its expansion.  If all goes well, I will be a part of that.

These last two months have also given me the opportunity to grow my beard.  Not something I was doing back in the 70's, but something I have been jonesing to do for awhile.  I like to think that it is coming in nicely.  It was pretty white at first, so I added a little "Just for Men" to knock it down a little and to keep little kids from crawling into my lap and telling me what they wanted for Christmas.  Right now, it is just a toy that I'm playing with, but I think I will keep it a while.  As long as Lisa lets me.  :)

My last day of work
Just a little bit of a transformation.  My hair is starting to cover my ears again.  I can still remember back in 1983, in boot camp, when my ears first saw the light of day since I was about 8 or so.  They burnt, then peeled very nicely.  I don't have as much hair anymore to get back to what I had in the 70's, but it is nice not having to visit the barber for that military taper every couple of weeks.

And so it goes.  My summer continues.  We still have some things to do like spend a week in Cape May and I will continue to travel to Pine Grove Furnace and hike the nearby trails.  I have also planned out a short backpack trip to the wilderness of Dolly Sods in West Virginia.  The honey do list will continue.

It is now time to take Ginger for her morning walk and then I think the pool needs me to check its temperature... With my body...