Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How a 108 Mile Hike Turned into a 28 Mile Hike

For several months, Hawkeye and I had looked forward to our 108 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail from north of entering Shenandoah National Park to the south end where the trail exits the park at Rockfish Gap.  Finally, last Saturday morning, the big day arrived and we hit the trail about 7:30, heavy packs loaded and on our backs.  We were to be joined for the first two days by first-time backpacker Imad, who later earned the trail name of "Best View."  He had left his car at Skyline Drive mile post 28 the night before and Hawkeye's wife gave us a ride to Front Royal for the night, and then to the trailhead Saturday morning.  Best View would get his car late Sunday afternoon, and Hawkeye and I cached most of our food in his car to lessen our weight for the first two days of hiking.  After getting back the car, we would load our food and continue down the trail for about two miles for our Sunday destination, the Pass Mountain Shelter, and then onward for seven more days and 85 more miles.

That was the plan.  Like many plans, it unraveled when Hawkeye's knee blew out late Sunday about a half mile from the car.  We got him to the tiny car with less than two hours of daylight.  My car was 85 miles down the road at where the hike was to end this coming Sunday.  There was no room for three men and three large packs in the Mini-Cooper.  We effectively had two choices - Imad could drive Hawkeye home, or he could drive me to my car, and I could return to Hawkeye and give him a ride home.  This second option didn't really occur to me until later, when my wife pointed out that we could have done that, and really, should have done that.  It would have meant that Hawkeye would have to wait alone by the road for about 5 hours, and I would have gotten back to him about 9:30, three hours after dark.

What we did was option 1 - Best View took Hawkeye home, and I continued the hike alone.  When I got to camp, I sent my wife an update with the InReach telling her what had happened, and that if she was concerned about me hiking the next week alone, I would come home Monday.  She was concerned, and so that is what I did, hiking out Monday morning and hitching - with great difficulties - rides to my car.  Yeah, doing the car shuttle thing would have been smarter, but at the time it didn't occur to me and I was comfortable continuing to hike.

Here is a map of how far we got.  We started at the top where the AT (red dashed line) crossed Route 522 where the red arrow is.  The Skyline Drive is the heavy mustard line.  Saturday night, we camped at the Gravel Springs Hut after hiking nearly 14 miles (purple star).  The loop trails (pink, blue, and orange) in the middle left was my route of my Thornton Springs three day hike from two months ago, a few miles of which was on the Appalachian Trail.  The orange arrow was where Best View's car was and where Hawkeye and Best View went home.  At the red star is the Pass Mountain Hut, my home for Sunday night.  And my hike ended at the bottom at the purple arrow when I left the AT to hitchhike to Rockfish Gap.  Best View did reach me by InReach Monday to tell me he would come back after work to get me if I needed a ride, but I managed to eventually hitch a ride to my car with two very kind ladies.

Yeah, disappointing for sure, especially for Hawkeye, who can't walk right now.  Hopefully, he will heal quickly,

Here are some photos from my two (and a fraction) day, 28 mile hike, covering the Appalachian Trail in the northern part of Shenandoah National Park.

Hopes are high at the start of the hike, as Hawkeye, me (Warrior being my newly bestowed trail moniker), and Best View prepare to start hiking the storied Appalachian Trail.

This is the only bear we saw, and he is a patriotic bear!  However, the second night when I reached Pass Mountain Hut, a man who was hiking out with his son told me they had seen a large bear just before reaching the hut.  We all hung our food for the night.  We did see a number of deer.

Autumn is well underway, as seen by this lovely maple leaf.

Best View and Hawkeye early on one of our many climbs.  Most of the first day was uphill.  We started at 900 feet and camped the first night at about 2,500 feet.  We crested North Marshal Mountain along the way at more than 3,300 feet, and probably gained over 4,000 feet during the day with all of the ups and downs.

The view from Possum Rest, at the Shenandoah National Park boundary on the AT.  This was 3.7 miles and 1,400 feet higher from where we started.

This is the panoramic view from Compton Peak at 2,900 feet, where we had lunch on day 1.

Best View enjoys one of the "best views" from North Marshall Mountain, at 3,300 feet.  I think he really enjoyed his first backpacking trip.

Because we could leave all but one day of food in Best View's car, we each decided to cook a deluxe meal the first night.  Here was mine, before cooking it in the fire.  To top it all off, Best View packed in several bottles of IPA and Stout.  That IPA with dinner hit the spot!  Steak and beer - a backpacking luxury!

We camped that first night at the Gravel Springs Hut, setting up tents nearby.  My site was terrible, sloping away downhill.  I slept horribly on the slanted ground, but got to listen to owls calling off and on.  Before bed time, we enjoyed chatting with the other hikers, many of whom were through-hikers coming down from Maine.  One was doing a "yo-yo!"  He had hiked from Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin, and now was reversing the trip back to Springer. 

On Sunday, we broke camp as early as we could and hiked uphill for nearly nearly four miles to start the day to crest Hogback Mountain at nearly 3,500 feet.  It was a cold and windy morning, probably about 34 degrees when we woke up.  The winds were awful.  Here I am just before the final 500 foot climb to Hogback.

View of the Shenandoah Valley near the trail up Hogback Mountain.

Panoramic view of Hogback Mountain.

Sometimes we hiked together, other times separately.  I was ahead of Hawkeye when I reached this spot on the Skyline Drive, our agreed rendezvous point about 1/3 mile from Best View's car.  I had no idea that Hawkeye had injured his knee out a quarter mile or so behind me, ending his hike at this point.  With sundown approaching, I decided to continue the hike alone.

I reached the Pass Mountain Hut - a truly beautiful camping spot - with an hour of light to spare.  The hut was built by the CCC in 1939.  There is a great spring, a privy, and excellent tent sites.  The shelter can comfortably sleep at least 10.  Seven of us slept there, the other six being through-hikers Dirty Bird, Max, Hydro, Ducky, String Bean, and Toast.

Here is where I laid down my bedroll for the night.  It was not as cold, and unlike the prior windy night, it was calm.  I slept better, despite a little bit of snoring from the five other men and one woman sharing the hut.  I did hear an owl call, and I heard coyotes during the night - hard to hear over the snoring, though.

In the morning, I caught the sunrise at the exact moment through this large tree in front of the shelter.

Since I had decided to end the hike and hitch back to the car and head home (instead of a third day of hiking with 15 miles originally planned), I had a leisurely breakfast and a couple of mugs of hot tea as the six through-hikers chatted, ate, packed up, headed off.  They were more than halfway through their 2,180 mile stroll, all having left northern Maine in July.  More about them in a later post,

From the hut, I packed up, hiked the 1.2 miles out to Thornton Gap, and started hitching rides.  It was much more difficult than I could have believed to hitch though a national park with a big backpack.  I guess people assumed I was dangerous.  Too bad we have come to that as a society.  But eventually, two kind ladies took a chance and gave me ride the last 55 miles to my car, going out of their way.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Harrington Beach in Eastern Maine

After our visit last Tuesday to Quoddy Head State Park, our nephew and niece-in-law suggested a short hike in to Harrington Beach, which was close by.  Here are a few photos - great place to be gained for an easy hike of just a few hundred meters.

Beach plums at the start of the hike.

Definitely not in Kansas anymore, Toto!

Here is a panoramic view of Harrington Beach

No sand here!  Maine has something like 3,000 miles of coastline and only something like 30 miles of it is sandy beaches.

Can you tell that there is a huge tidal range there, something like 24 feet?  That pales in comparison with the Bay of Fundy if you keep heading northeast.

No, this is not Harrington Beach, but it is a quintessential Maine coastal view in nearby Lubec.  The bridge to Campobello Island in Canada (FDR's summer place - well worth a visit) is very close by.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Easternmost point in the US of A!

Last week, we left the Maine mountains, and headed for the "Downeast" region - the part of Maine that juts eastward towards Canada.  While we were there, we took a short hike at Quoddy Head State Park, and the light at East Quoddy Head, the easternmost point in the USA.  Here are some photos from this trip.  It is a spectacular and beautiful spot, and how can one not fall in love with the lighthouse?


A lobster boat cruises past Sail Rock, with Grand Manan Island in Canada in the distance.

We hiked down to the beach, catching a view back to the lighthouse above us.

The beach there is a traditional "cobblestone" beach - no sand here, and with water temperatures rarely if ever out of the 50's, it would be a chilly place to take a dip.  Add in 25 foot tides and it would be downright dangerous.

Panoramic view of the beach and the lighthouse.  Click to enlarge.

The carving on the rocks proclaims this as the easternmost point in the USA,

and no American flag on US soil flies further east.

Here is a look back to the lighthouse, with Grand Manan Island in Canada far in the distance.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Western Maine Views

We spent last week in Maine, seeing friends and family and getting to enjoy the crisp Maine October weather.  We also did a few short hikes, so I thought I would post about these.

The first, recorded in this post, was not a hike as much as some short walks in various scenic places as we drove along.  Therefore, I will just post a few photos that I took of the day we spent traveling around the Rangely and Mount Blue areas with two wonderful friends.

This is a panoramic view of Rangley Lake from the east, just south of the town of Rangely.


 And here is a shot of the same large western Maine lake from the west later in the day.

This is a view of Mooselookmeguntic Lake from the southeast.

Fall colors along the Swift River.

The Swift River pours though Coos Canyon.

Coos Canyon.  Decades ago, I took my son and my nephew camping at Mount Blue State Park near hear, and we took a swim in the canyon.

Mount Blue from the shores of Webb Lake in Mount Blue State Park, one of my wife's and my favorite Maine state parks.

Panoramic view of Lake Webb in Mount Blue State Park.

Tumbledown Mountain (left), site of my all time favorite hike of the last dozen years or so, my hike to celebrate beating cancer.

Friday, October 3, 2014

"Fall Colors!"

Ah, nothing like fall: warm, crisp days; cool nights; starry skies; beautiful colors!

But on my Raven Rocks hike in Kumbrabow State Forest a week ago, I encountered a different type of fall.  Coming down a steep section that was sloped to the left, the trail builders had laid down some logs - about 3 inches in diameter - in a wet spot.  Like the trail, they sloped to the left and they turned out to be very slippery.  I stepped on one as I said something to one of my brothers.  So quickly I barely realized what was happening, my feet shot out to the left as if I had stepped on ice, and I landed on my right arm.  My right arm exactly landed - about two inches down from my elbow - on one of the slippery logs.  Although I didn't hear a "snap," I hit with such force and the pain was so great - driven all the way up into my quirky right shoulder - that I was sure I had broken something.  My brothers offered to take my pack as I sat in the trail.  I told them that I thought my arm was broken and to just hold on.  After a while, I tried moving my fingers, twisting my arm, and grasping a hiking pole.  I told them that I was OK, and stood up.  We started walking again.  Within 10 minutes, my forearm was swollen out about an inch and a half.

Back at camp, I iced the area of impact and carried on.  The pain has gradually gotten worse during the week but seems to have peaked.  Today, it is no worse and no better than it was yesterday.  The bruise is spectacular - the photo below does not do it justice.  It goes from my elbow to halfway up my palm, and the pain extends up about 3/4 of the way along my forearm.  The doctor I saw yesterday told me it was not broken, but that I had crush damage to muscles and possibly tendons, lots of bleeding, and bone bruising, which causes bleeding on the bone surface and even inside the marrow.  He said to rest my arm - no working out - and try to keep it elevated above the level of my heart so that the lymphatic system would transport the blood away and reduce the swelling some.  Keeping your arm elevated while working - especially one's right arm - is not an easy matter, but I am trying.
My "Fall Colors"

Depending on how long the pain lasts, this could end my hiking for a while.  I don't want the exercise of using a trekking pole while it hurts this much, and one article that I read said that the pain from this type of blunt force injury can last for months.  We'll see - I still have some plans!

I think that falls are the number one cause of death and injury in the back country.  I've never taken a fall while hiking before, at least not a full fledged fall.  I did slip and bang my hip really hard a year or so ago on an urban hike on slick rocks, and that hurt for a good week.  But it didn't hurt nearly as much as this has.  I have a new respect for falls now.  I have strong legs, great balance, and very quick reactions, and none of those helped me a bit this time.  Even my trekking poles were useless this time.  They must not have been planted on soil.

It is an experience that I hope not to repeat anytime soon.  But all in all, I was lucky. You are talking 180 pounds of force dropping essentially from a distance of about 4.5 feet and all that force landing on about two square inches of my arm.  I could have snapped the radius like a twig, but didn't.  So I will take it easy and deal with the pain for a while.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hiking at Kumbrabow SF

Last Thursday through Sunday, my brothers and I camped out at Kumbrabow State Forest in West Virginia.  On Friday, we decided to take a hike together on some of the trails there, and we headed up the Raven Rocks Trail to start out.  Here is a track of our hike, starting and ending at our campsite (orange star), hiking up the Raven Rocks Trail (orange arrow, with the red arrow locating Raven Rocks), and returning on the Meatbox Trail (purple arrow).

Our hike was 5.3 miles long, and had a good bit of elevation gain and loss, 1,300 feet total.  As in most mountainous areas, there is not a lot of flat walking where we went.

It was a nice hike.  We did not see any wildlife to speak of, but there was a really nice view at Raven Rocks.  The fall colors are beginning to arrive in that part of the world.


Along the way, my younger brother, who is a skilled botanist, pointed out an Indian cucumber.

Part of the hike was along an old woods road that connected the two trails along the ridge, near the highest point in the forest, Buck Knob.  It made for pleasant and scenic walking, and the three of us enjoyed a nice lunch break in the woods nearby.

Then we headed down, joining up with the Meatbox trail, which has some steep, wet slippery areas.  I learned this first hand when I slipped on a wet log and about a tenth of a second later, landed on the log with my forearm.  I was pretty sure I had broken my arm, but in a while I could move my fingers and twist my arm.  My arm swelled up about an inch and a half within 10 minutes, and hurt like the dickens!  Now, six days later, it hurts even more and is black, blue, purple, and green from my elbow to my palm.  Not the type of "fall" I wanted to experience!

Along the way, we saw some more nice colors to enjoy.


We were all a little tired from the hike, especially my brother's dog.  I iced my injured arm with ice from our cooler while everyone else took a little snooze!

It was a really nice hike, although I could have done without the fall.