Sunday, June 30, 2013

I Want to Ride My Bicycle - Day 4

Day 4:

The C & O Canal Trail was done.  It was now time to tackle the Greater Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the beginning of it would be the hardest.

I was up and out of the hotel at 7ish.  I hit the nearby McDonalds for a quick breakfast sandwich and went down the streets to the bike shop and mile zero of the GAP.

Mile Zero
I lubed up the chain and other mechanics and hit the trail at 7:25am.  The plan for the day was to get this uphill out of the way, then have lunch in Meyersdale and then make Confluence to camp at the outflow campsite.  This would once again be a little over 60 miles, so I thought a little about maybe pressing on to Ohiopyle at 72 miles.  We would see how the day went.

Now the trail guides make mention of the grade the first 23 miles of the GAP and say it isn't too bad, and looking back, it really wasn't too terrible.  It was just slow and the day was going to be hot.  I just pushed along as people flew past me going down grade and passed a couple leisurely bikers on my way up to Savage Tunnel and then the Eastern Continental Divide. I would also be entering PA today.

As I made my way up the trail I came to Brush Tunnel.  At 914' long, I figured this wasn't a big deal, so I didn't rig any lights.  Besides it was paved and I could see the exit clearly.  It was a really weird feeling as the light from the entrance faded and I found myself in the pitch black middle.  I could feel myself moving, but had no other sensory input other than seeing the exit getting larger in small increments.  It was quite an experience and I'm thankful it was a totally smooth surface as I rode through.  I'm sure one bump would have sent me careening into the wall.

Exit to Borden Tunnel
Eventually I reached Frostburg, MD.  The trailhead was quite nice.  There was actually some little electronic kiosk thing that you could look up lodging, food, camping information for the nearby towns and print out the info.  Pretty cool.  I walked up a needless switchback to get some water at the top of the hill where a campground was.  It was still pretty early and no one was stirring in the area, but I found a bike wash station and filled up my liter bottle and walked down the road which went straight to the trailhead.  Much easier.

I continued on, climbing as I went.  Just going steady and not worrying about how much time it was taking to get the first 23 miles done.  I would stop when I felt like it and take a short break.  I would also stop at every information board I would see, just to rest and also to read the interesting facts about the area.

Looking into PA from MD
One of the places I stopped was Bone Cave.  This cave was discovered in 1912 when they were putting in the railroad and it contained a whole bunch of bones from prehistoric and extinct animals.  It seemed pretty interesting, but as you can see, wasn't something that was open to the public.

Bone Cave
When I came to the next tunnel, the Borden Tunnel which was 957' long, I took the time to rig my lights.  It was a little less disorienting, but still a little spooky in the middle of the tunnel.  I'm really glad they took the time to pave the surface though.

I was about 20 miles in and it was time to leave Maryland.  I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line and took a little break, ate a snack and then moved on.

Mason-Dixon Line
 Shortly after that is Savage Tunnel.  This is a pretty long one at 3294', but it has lights.  Well, mostly has lights.  It is closed in the winter to avoid deterioration that the railroad had to deal with over the years, but was wide open today.  Every once and awhile a light would be out and the darkness would gather around your for a few seconds until the next light's glow would help you along.  It was a nice ride and was pretty cool inside.  I pleasant relief from the hot day.

Savage Tunnel Entrance
 After the tunnel, you round a bend and you can see it.  The Eastern Continental Divide.  Your uphill battle is almost done.  I got to the tunnel that marks the divide and stopped to take a break.  There was a family of three out for a day ride and we had a nice conversation about our rides.  From there I started down hill.

Eastern Continental Divide
 I noticed right away that the going was easier.  My speed crept up to a high for the day.  I was able to keep a constant 13 to 15 mph as I moved along.  It had taken me almost four hours to climb that 23 miles, but I was moving now.

As I was riding along, a guy came up on me from behind.  I thought he was going to buzz on past and leave me behind, but he matched my speed and we started a nice conversation.  It turns out his name was Steve and he said he was one of the people responsible for the trail.  He said he is friends with Mary Shaw and Roy Weil, two very active supporters of the trail and told a lot of how the trail was made as we sped along towards Meyersdale, PA, my lunch stop for the day.

Before I knew it, we were crossing the road that marked Meyersdale.  After doing 23 miles in almost four hours, I had just done another 10 in 40 minutes.  I liked going "down hill".  Steve told me that a Sheetz was just down the hill, so I single mindedly just started down instead of looking around.  It was quite a downhill, that I had to walk back up.  If I would have stopped at the refurbished train station/visitor center for a bit, I would have seen that everything I needed was within a few hundred feet of the trail, but it wasn't a big deal.

After my lunch, I moved on down the trail.  At Rockwood, I picked up the Casselman River and started following along.  Every so often a spring or stream would come cascading down the hillside to meet the river.  This was a pretty cool waterfall that was right next to the trail.

 Also, as I approached Rockwood, I passed the Husky Haven Campground.  It was right next to the trail and each campsite had a little A-Frame to keep wood in, which was provided.  It seemed like a nice place to stop on another trip, but not today.  Onward I rolled.
After Rockwood, I came to the Pinkerton Tunnel, which was closed.  Instead the trail followed the river around the hillside and back again.  There was something weird going on on the hillside.  It kinda looked like a landfill or maybe a strip mine reclamation.

I arrived in Confluence before 4pm and knew I was good to go another 10 miles.  I filled up on water and kept riding down stream, but now I was following the Youghiogheny River and would follow it all the way to Pittsburgh.

I arrived in Ohiopyle and stopped at an information booth.  There was an older gent on a recumbent bike also taking a break.  We talked a while and discussed the merits of the strange bike he rode.  I'm sure my ass and hands would be feeling  a might different if I had one of those, even though they look weird.

Onward I continued across the river twice as it does a horseshoe bend around the town.  I eventually came to a sign point up a path to the campground.  And I do mean up.  I had to climb the ridge along this path.  I saw two others start up just ahead of me and we walked up together pushing our heavy bikes.  They were part of a boy scout group that had biked here a couple days, were going to raft tomorrow and then bike back to their starting point outside Pittsburgh.  They proudly stated that they had ridden 40 miles today and looked at me like I was either crazy or lying when I said I had done 72.

Eventually we got to the top of the trail.  After talking to their road support guy, I found I had to continue on to the contact station and register for a site.  It wasn't as bad as the path and I eventually got there paid my resident fee (using my Dad's address) and ordered some firewood to be delivered by the Camp Host.

I checked out the site and found two suitable trees to hang my hammock and was all settled in and headed to the shower by about 6:30pm.  I had a nice dinner, a nice fire and hit the hammock just as the woods were getting dark.

Hammock set up

It had been a tough, but productive day as my bike computer said I had gone 77.25 miles. (It is never quite right, even though I it set up as per the directions.  I know I didn't ride that much more than the posted mileage).  I was at milepost 72 and had chalked up 7 hours 56 minutes of ride time and a total of 9 hours and 35 minutes travel time for the day.  I had about 78 miles to go to hit The Point and then a few more after that to reach the home of my childhood.  I was riding home...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

I Want to Ride My Bicycle - Day 3

Day 3:
After a decent nights sleep I was up somewhere around 6am.  After answering numerous questions from Hayden, I hit the trail at 7:09am.

This day seemed to go pretty easy.  I started off continuing my ride along the Western Maryland Rail Trail until its end around MM 136 or so and transferred back to the C & O for the rest of the day.  This was the final stretch.  Today's goal was just around 60 miles to the end of the C & O and the beginning of the Greater Allegheny Passage or GAP.  Cumberland was this point of the trail.  Cumberland as a city was established in 1787, but has been a place of gathering and living for thousands of years.  The confluence of Wills Creek and the Potomac River has had people there for quite some time.

The day had me in the zone of riding.  My butt wasn't giving me much trouble, but now my hands needed the breaks.  I kept a decent pace throughout the day and all was falling into place.  Of course, thunderstorms were once again predicted for the day, but I had been lucky so far.  Maybe today was the day to be dumped on.

I used the practice of stopping at each hiker/biker camp and drinking my water and then filling up, taking a little break each time.  This seemed to keep me hydrated and rested enough to keep a decent pace and get some miles under my tires.  I would also take a break when I passed something interesting, like one of the old locks.

Now that I was paralleling Route 68 and in the more remote part of Maryland, I noticed a lot more wildlife on and next to the trail.  The deer would hang out on the trail and when they would see me coming they would just stand there and stare for a while until the realize I'm headed right for them.  Then they would scurry off the trail and hide in the bushes until I passed.  The rabbits and squirrels were in a great abundance too.  Chipmunks not so much, but they made their presence as well.

Once again during this trip a Pileated Woodpecker flew right over me.  They are some big birds and their laughing call echoed through the woods as I rode along.

The highlight (or darklight) of the day was going through Paw Paw Tunnel.  This tunnel was around MM 155 and is the only tunnel on the canal.  This tunnel is 3118 feet long with no lights, a small path to walk on and nothing but a wooden railing to keep you from falling into the canal on your right.  They started building it in 1836 and didn't finish until 1850.  The venture bankrupt the developer of the project, but when it was done, it saved six miles of horseshoe bends along the Potomac.  It was quite an experience going through the tunnel.  I could feel the cold air flowing down the hill from the tunnel as I approached.  I readied my lights and entered the tunnel.  I hadn't gone more than 50 feet before I realized I would be walking for a while.  The path was pretty uneven with lots of water and the darkness was complete.  Kinda like Gollum's cave.

After a while I noticed the path had smoothed out, so I remounted and slowly made my way to the small opening at the other end that didn't seem to be getting bigger.  Within a few minutes, I saw some headlamps heading my way.  I passed three riders heading east and we exchanged greetings and information about the rest of our dark passage.  It was pretty cool, but felt good getting back into the light.

Looking to the end. Still a long way to go
Looking back to the beginning
After the tunnel and a few more miles down the path was where I stopped for lunch at Potomac Forks Lock House.  It was a pleasant area with a hiker/biker camp across the canal.  All in all the day just seemed to fly by.  Just  before stopping for lunch, I came on a group of four riders taking a break.  One asked me how far I was going.  When I replied, Pittsburgh, they said they were heading there too.  As I sat and consumed my peanut butter and jelly burrito, the group rode by.  I noticed at this time that they were a party of five, not four.  One of the girls had a small dog in a basket on her bike.

Potomac Forks Lock House
As I rode along, the sky began to darken.  It looked like today was the day to get rained on.  A few sprinkles came and went and after a while a steady drizzle began to fall.  I had no need to don any rain gear, as the temperature was pleasant and the rain felt good mixing with my sweat.  I noticed that I passed the group taking a break.  Shortly after that, I stopped to eat a snickers bar and along came the group.  

I was feeling good and decided to catch them and ride along with them for a while.  They kept a fast pace, but the trail was nice here and it was easy to keep up and eventually pass them.  Racing to Cumberland to see who would finish the C & O first.  (only in my head, no official challenge was made).

As I talked to the girl with the dog, the little terrier would just look at me, like WTF are you doing there.  She was cute and I think her name was Ava or something like that.  The group were from Ohio and were doing the whole trail to Pittsburgh.  As we talked I learned they were heading to Cumberland today and then taking a shuttle up to Frostburg, MD thus avoiding the steepest part of the trail as they were behind schedule.  It is 16 miles to Frostburg at an average of 2% grade.  That might not seem like a lot, but after doing a 1% grade for 184 miles, you do notice it.  The steep grade continues for a total of about 23 miles up to the Eastern Continental Divide.  I would be pedaling the whole thing in the morning, but from there it would all be "Down Hill".

Young Snapper
Some interesting hills near town
The rain slackened and then quit as I made my way into Cumberland.  The area turned to fields and other signs of civilization and you could tell you were nearing a city.  

Before I knew it, I was crossing an old railroad bridge and had completed the 184.5 miles of the C & O Canal Trail.  There was a bike store right at the trails called the Cumberland Trail Connection.  I went in and bought some lube for my chain and other mechanics.  Then I headed up the street to the Holiday Inn.

End of one trail, the beginning of another
I had decided to celebrate the end of the C & O with a hotel stay and since the skies were still threatening, I deemed it a good idea.

I checked in and was able to use my military discount to knock off quite a few bucks on the price, took a shower and did some sink laundry.  The water turned pretty gray, but I think that was mostly from my gloves where I had rubbed in some oil off my fingers after fixing my occasional chain popoffs.  

Sink Laundry
My digs for the night
After a short nap, I went out to explore the town, eat some pizza and check out the bike store again.  It was now around 7pm and the shop was closing.  I got some crab dip and a beer at the Crabby Pig near the river and as I finished up, it started sprinkling again.  I made my way back up the three blocks or so to the hotel and just started getting pretty wet as I entered the lobby.  

A cool statue by the train station
Interesting sight.  Four church steeples in one view
What I avoided
The day was a fast one.  My earliest start at 7:09am and my earliest finish at 2:16pm.  My bike computer said 60 miles with a ride time of 5 hours and 48 minutes.  Total travel time was 7 hours and 7 minutes.

The C & O Canal Trail, 184.5 miles done, about 150 miles to go on the GAP.  Tomorrow I started on the GAP and the steepest ascent of the trail.

Friday, June 28, 2013

I Want to Ride My Bicycle - Day 2

The night was spent pleasantly enough.  If you like leg cramps that radiate through every muscle and tendon of your legs, that is.  The mixture of riding 66 plus miles and a little bit of dehydration made my body complain a bit as I tossed and turned in my hammock throughout the night.  No rain fell at all and that was good.

I was up around 5am or so and on the trail at 6:17 after a quick breakfast of an oatmeal bar.  I got some water at an NPS campground down the trail and made use of their privy.  I wasn't moving too fast that first hour, but after a while my speed increased and all was going fine.

My first goal was Williamsport for lunch.  My guide said a Sheetz was there and I love picking up food at Sheetz.  It usually isn't too cheap, but I liked the convenience.

I took a quick break at Dam #4.  There used to be a road detour here as the tow path ran along the river after this dam and it had eroded away from the river action.  Near this point, the barges would move into the river and be towed up stream for a while before going back to the canal.  They were able to do this as the dam created a nice Slackwater section.  In fact, it was called the Big Slackwater.  They had recently repaired the towpath with nice smooth cement sections and I continued along the river for a few miles.

Day 2 - Me at Dam #4
I made it to Williamsport right around noon and headed up the street to the Sheetz.  I was pretty hungry by then, so I went a little crazy getting my meal.  Of course, a Monster drink was an integral part of the meal.  Love that Moca Loca.

As I was headed out, I saw two other bikers fiddling with their bike.  I went over to say hi and saw they were fixing a flat.  I learned they were from Cleveland, so after some good natured back-and-forth about our football teams before I headed back to the trail.

One hour later, I was riding along and all of a sudden, boom, hissssssss.  I get a flat.  I couldn't tell what I had hit, but it didn't really matter at this point.  I put one of my spare tubes in and used the CO2 cartridges to  fill it back up and I was moving again in about 20 minutes.  I think it was at this point that I realized 60 miles was about it for me at this stage of my journey and conveniently, Hancock, MD was right about at that point.  I made that my goal for the day and decided that I wasn't in a real hurry to get there as we were nearing the Solstice and I had plenty of daylight.  

I took breaks often and would stop and take a picture of anything I saw interesting.  

An old mill
Second Box Turtle I saw
As the afternoon wore on, I came upon a sign for Ft Frederick.  I headed up the hill and saw an amazing sight.  A completely stone fort.  Of course I was in such awe, I forgot to take a picture of the outside, but after getting some water and cooling off with the fountain for a bit, I left my bike under a tree and headed to the fort.  There was a worker in period costume inside and once we got out of the sun, he told me a little about the fort.  It was built during the French and Indian War in the 1750s, had never been attacked because of its awesomeness and had been used in each war after that.  There were two buildings inside the fort and they were made up real nice in period scenes.  I took a bunch of pictures of these rooms as I leisurely walked around the place in the 80 degree heat.  Here is one of them.

Officer's Quarters - Ft Frederick
After my "tour", I headed to the visitor center store and bought an ice cream sandwich (this would become a theme) and picked up a map.

The map was of the Western Maryland Rail Trail, which started nearby and went for about 20 miles to and past Hancock.  I was ready to get off the gravel for a while and this nice path was paved.  It ran pretty near Rt 70 for a time, but was still pleasantly covered in shade for most of it.  

I found the trail and started along it.  Before too long I was in Hancock, MD.  It was 4:30 pm.  Both trails run right along the edge of Hancock.  My destination today was a Bunkhouse that was behind the local Bike shop, right off the trail.  Also, there was a Sheetz in town.  

The bike shop was nice and the bunkhouse only cost $10.  I bought some replacement CO2 cartridges and a seat pad for my still hurting butt.  It was getting better, but still uncomfortable.  I had developed a technique where I would stand on the pedals and pedal every couple seconds or so.  It seemed to keep my speed up no problem and gave my arse a break.

The bunkhouse was in the "backyard" of the shop.  I headed back and picked a bunk.  There were some rudimentary showers out there, two privies, a fire ring and an outside area to hang out.  The bunkhouse was basically a long three sided shelter with a screened in front.  The bunks were plywood with cheap Walmart sleeping pads on them.  It would suffice for the night.
The Bunkhouse

My bunk for the night
There was already three people in residence, but they were out when I arrived.  It turned out to be a couple, Jim and Maria and their grandson Hayden.  They were from the Eastern Shore of Maryland and were out to show Hayden what a longer ride was like.  They planned to ride to Little Orleans, about 15 miles to the West and back, making a 30 mile trip.  Hayden was interested in everything and had lots of questions.

Later in the day, Guru and his son Shawn came in.  They were from Squirrel Hill, PA and were also headed East to West, but Guru had some knee issues and they were calling it quits at Hancock.  His wife would be driving from Pittsburgh the next day and picking them up.  It would have been nice to travel with them, so I was sorry to see their trip end.  I forget Guru's real name, but that was his trail name.  He had started a Thru Hike of the AT in March and had made it to the NOC about 137 miles in before he was knocked off the trail with giardia.  

We had a nice fire in the firepit and talked way past biker midnight.  I slept ok on the plywood with my own pad adding to the blue pad, but still had to change positions every once in awhile as that part of my body numbed up.
Camp Fire
Also, when I was taking a shower, I noticed that my ring and pinky fingers were numb.  I had remembered reading about that and how it was common when using straight handlebars and doing long rides.  I made a note to do some research when I had  a chance to address the all knowing Google.  

The bike computer registered 63.3 miles for the day in 6 hours 45 minutes of ride time.  My travel time was 10 hours and 13 minutes and I was at mile marker 124 of the C & O. 

Only about 226 miles to go...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I Want to Ride My Bicycle - Day 1

Day 1:

It was June 16th, Father's Day.  I was about to set out on an adventure I had been thinking about for around six years.  The (virtually) car free trek from Washington, DC to my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA was finished.  The last stretch near the burgh was finished and had officially opened the day before.  I had the time.  I had the gear.  I hoped I had the stamina.  It was time to give it a try.

Ready to go
We drove to Chevy Chase, MD where Lisa left me a little after 10 am with my bike, a pack and two panniers loaded with my gear.  This was an easy in/out drop off point and there were trails that would take me to the C & O Canal Trail where I would head West.  I started down the Georgetown Branch Trail which soon became the Capital Crescent Trail.  Both were full of Sunday morning runners, walkers and bikers.  After about 6 miles, I crossed over the C & O and headed down a side trail to the gravel surface of my next 180 miles or so.

It was a pretty nice day.  Of course there were thunderstorms predicted for the afternoon, but that is always a hit or miss type of thing at this time of the year.  I made my way along the trail.  Great Falls was full of people and some pretty cool views.  

Great Falls Area
I rode for about two hours and then stopped for lunch.  I had a nice conversation with some eastbounders who were almost finished with their trip.  They had started in Cumberland, my halfway point.

View along the canal
Old time mule towed boat
I started this thing with a pretty vague plan because I didn't really know how far I could go each day.  I had grand ideas of doing 100 mile days, but after about five or six hours of riding, reality set in and my actual plan started taking shape.  I figured I could make it to the Harpers Ferry area on this day and then camp at one of the many Hiker/Biker sites that the C & O has right along the trail.  I took my breaks along the way and made as much progress as I could.  This day's hurts were mainly in my elbow and knee joints.  They were just aching after a while and also the expected butt soreness was ever present.

Harpers Ferry Train Tunnel
Today's wildlife (besides all the tourists) was a few deer, a Great Blue Heron, a White Crane and some rabbits and turtles.  There was also some cool looking bird with a yellow head that flew along with me for a while along the trail.

Around 6:00 pm, I knew I was about done and I came upon the Huckleberry Hill Camp which became my goal for the day after lunch time.  It was a nice place with plenty of trees to set up, but the pump wasn't flowing even after pumping for about five minutes.  Luckily I had enough water for dinner and there would be another water source down the trail in the morning.  I set up the hammock and made dinner.  I was in my hammock relaxing and reading a little after 8:00 pm.  

Pump No Work

Table Near River

First night's setup
My bike computer said I had traveled 66.6 miles on this first day.  I was at C & O mile marker 63.  I had pedalled 6 and 1/2 hours and traveled for about 8 hours.  

Day one was done.  Only about 284 miles to go.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Joe's Next Adventure

Well, it has been almost a month since I took my Coast Guard uniform off and started my "Retirement Vacation".  Since then I have hiked about 75 miles and am now riding my bike in preparation for my next adventure.  

Last day at work
Latest mug shot
My beard is coming in just a bit, and it is quite gray, so who knows how long I will keep it, but I will be growing it for a while I think.

My next adventure I have been thinking about for quite some time.  From time to time, Lisa and I have found ourselves on the local C & O Canal Trail.  This trail runs from Georgetown in Washington, DC all the way to Cumberland, MD.  It is full of history and is quite a nice ride.  Some of our Adventure races gave us a taste of this trail.  Also the AT runs along it for over three miles outside Harpers Ferry.

From Cumberland the Greater Allegheny Passage starts and runs through the mountains and along the Casselman and Youghiogheny rivers to McKeesport, PA and finally all the way into Pittsburgh.  The final one mile has just been completed and opened.  It is now possible for me to ride my bike from DC all the way to the house where I grew up in Bellevue, mostly in a car free environment.  

Where the GAP ends, I can pick up the Three Rivers Heritage Trail that goes all the way to the old Penitentiary on the North Side.   From there, I head through some streets and before long, I will be crossing the High Bridge into Bellevue, just a few blocks from Irwin Ave.

A couple years ago, when I started researching this trip, Lisa bought me some panniers for my bike.  They have been waiting to be used all this time and I hope to finally put them to the test.

Of course I have a plan, but it is intentionally vague as I have re-learned very recently how plans can go awry.  I have a drop off point, a route to the C & O and from there it is just pedal until you are tired, find a place to set up camp and do my thing.  Repeat until I am in Bellevue.  Rest a day or so and reverse the whole thing.  

I will be completely self contained.  I have basically taken all my backpacking gear, and moved it to the panniers and my adventure racing backpack.  I have added a few things bike centric, (like tools and tubes) and I won't be needing my trekking poles.  

My Loadout
I hope to start on Father's Day.  How far I go each day, and where I sleep along the trails is just a vague idea for now.  All adventures should be this way. I won't have this "time freedom" for very much longer, so I am trying to make the best of it.

Who knows.  Maybe someone in Pittsburgh will want to ride back with me a day or so.  It is always more fun to have companions on an adventure.   

Once again the excitement builds...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Class of 13 Update

Where are they now?

Trail Name Start Date Last Entry Location Total Miles Avg/Day
Blues Man 16-Feb-13 30-May-13 Dalton, MA 1565.5 15.2
Rash 17-Feb-13 6-Jun-13 Delaware Water Gap, PA 1303.3 12.0
Groundpounder 18-Feb-13 29-May-13 Blue Mtn Summit 1239 12.4
Boo Boo 21-Feb-13 5-Jun-13 Jim & Molly Denton Shelter 978.5 9.4
punkin pie 1-Mar-13 6-Jun-13 Greenwood Lake, NY 1352.6 13.9
HotDog 6-Mar-13 6-Jun-13 Gravel Springs Hut, SNP 951.7 10.3
Karma 7-Mar-13 31-May-13 Cove Mtn Shelter, VA 748.5 8.8
Lady Grey 8-Mar-13 6-Jun-13 Wind Gap, PA 1273.7 14.2
50/50 15-Mar-13 6-Jun-13 Staunton, VA 781.3 9.4
Jacko 21-Mar-13 2-Jun-13 Waynesboro, VA 857.3 11.7
Odat 25-Mar-13 31-May-13 N of HWY 60, VA 823.5 12.3
Acorn 30-Mar-13 3-Jun-13 Daleville, VA 800 12.3

These are the ones I'm still following.  Others either are off the trail or don't update anymore.  

Keep going Class of 13.  Katahdin awaits.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Of Rain, Blisters, Allergies and the Three H's

It was time for another hike. The Memorial Day weekend was over and we had a plan for one more hike. 

I was up around 0530. We got on the road around 07. It was raining most of the way to Pine Grove Furnace.  We parked a vehicle there and headed to Boiling Springs. The terrain wasn't too bad, except more rocks than Lisa liked and two rock mazes kinda sucked. After that we made good time and got to the James Fry  shelter in six hours and twenty minutes. Just a little under 2 mph. On the way a Pileated Woodpecker flew right in front of me.

Lots of hikers here.  Two other tents and we found good trees to hang.We brought along some extra rope for the hammocks.  This increases the possibilities of trees to use as the rope can be used in different configurations to extend the usual straps, which are only good for small girthed trees. Now we have more options. We set up camp, ate dinner, got water and went to our hammocks early to write, read and rest.  The next day's plan is 7 miles to pine grove, drive to Duncannon and hike 4 more.
First Night's Camp
The next morning was dry and we got packed up and on the trail at 0717.  We made good time to Pine Grove, but Lisa wasn't having fun anymore. She decided to bail out at Duncannon. I would go on alone. This was easy to do with two vehicles. 
Fuller Lake - Pine Grove Furnace
We drove to Duncannon and had lunch at the Doyle, a hiker tradition. 

The Doyle

Lunch and Refreshment
I headed down the road and Lisa headed home. The way was very rocky as I headed up the ridge. 
An example of the rocky trail
Looking down to Duncannon
I passed Lady Grey again and said hello. One of her hiking partners, Tommy Hawk asked right away where my wife was. I got to Cove Mountain Shelter in two hours the same amount of time it took for Lisa to drive home.

The shelter was nice, the water wasn't too far down hill and I was alone for now. I was thinking of moving on to shorten tomorrow's hike, but I was dehydrated and still sweating so I decided to stay and relax. I ate dinner and was resting in the shelter when I heard a chewing sound.  I looked up and there was Mr. porcupine, chewing on the cooking bench.
Around 2040 I heard someone coming in. It was three hikers. I said hello and they went about their chores. I got my earplugs and went back to sleep.  I stayed in the shelter to get an early start. I planned on finishing the hike the next day if I could do 21 plus miles and it was supposed to be hot.
Mr Porcupine

I got up just before 5 and was on the trail at 0533. I had two ridges to get over and then the hot, open Cumberland Valley after that. 

I moved pretty good as the day brightened and heated up. I started seeing the hikers that had stayed at the shelter the other night.  I would get water at every opportunity and was carrying an extra liter because of the heat.

After descending the first ridge I crossed some fields of hay. It was waist high and growing right up to the trail. I pushed through carrying my trekking poles. After I left the fields and headed back up the next ridge, my eye started feeling funny like it was swelling up. I got to Darlington shelter and sneezed about 20 times. I took an allergy pill and moved on. 
Hello HayFever
I finished the ridges and started the valley. I felt some hot spots and checked my feet. I was getting blisters on the front of the balls of my feet. I applied duct tape and kept moving. The heat of the day had arrived. 

I stopped for lunch about halfway through. I sat under a tree next to Conodoguinet Creek and rested, ate, drank water and checked my feet. I had about 10 or so miles to go. It was time to get going.
Lunch Stop
From here on I would be hiking in pain. I would go a mile or two and then stop to rest my feet. I startled a groundhog next to a corn field along the way and had a rabbit run right in front of me as I moved along.  After a few hours, I had about two miles to go.  Each step hurt, but I tried to keep as best a pace as I could. After what felt like forever I came to the road that was Boiling Springs. I walked to the truck, put my pack in, took my sweaty wet shirt off and changed into my mock crocks. My hike was done.
Bird on a Post
I drove back to Maryland where my bride and a nice shower awaited me.  
Even though these hikes were about 100 miles less than our planned 175 mile hike, we still managed to see some pretty cool parts of the Appalachian Trail. As usual I learned a lot about myself and hiking. 
Hiking isn't easy, but I sure like doing it.

My total AT miles are now just over 200 (200.9).  Still not even 10% done, but I'm carving up a little each time I go out to new trail.