Saturday, June 3, 2017

MA Appalachian Trail - Sections 6-7 - Baldy Mountain to Jerusalem Road / Fernside Road

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
6/3/2017 9.8 miles

Map and Guide: Appalachian Trail Guide to Massachusetts-Connecticut

Parking: Jerusalem Road, 2-3 spaces roadside.

Directions: Hike southbound (same side of street as parking area) to Jerusalem/Fernside Road (a gravel road). Return to parking area. Hike northbound to Baldy Mountain summit. Return to parking area

We headed off to Massachusetts today, dogless. I'm paranoid about Trek's lump, so we left him at home. His surgery is scheduled for Wednesday. I didn't take the time to study our map before our trip. Glen finally downloaded the Guthook app on his phone, so he can always see where we are on the AT too. We were planning on doing a section from Jerusalem/Fernside Road to South Wilcox Shelter and back. This was a section of the AT we need to do, listed on our blog. That was the extent of my research. We ended up parking on Jerusalem Road, and headed into a meadow of cows. We were headed south (based on a compass check) but were actually going northbound on the AT. I figured out shortly after we started that we were going the wrong way. So we turned around and went the other way. After we were a couple miles in, we saw a sign which showed the mileage to the South Wilcox Shelter. What? It was much further away than expected. Oh dear. Where the hell were we? We checked the mileage, and knew we couldn't do a 17 mile hike based on our start time and the number of daylight hours we had remaining. It turns out the trail crosses Jerusalem Road twice. One time it is called Jerusalem Road, and another time on our map, it's call Jerusalem / Fernside Road. On our Guthook app, the second intersection is only called Fernside Road. So we started at the wrong parking area. Duh. No wonder things were not matching up. We were supposed to have a 1,000' elevation gain in the beginning, and the hill we climbed seemed too easy. It WAS. Because we were hiking up Tyringham Cobble. The good news, is that we were still hiking on a section of the MA AT that we haven't done. So it wasn't a big loss. We decided to continue to Fernside / Jerusalem Road and then turn around and head back to our car. It was still very early, so we headed northbound and climbed to the summit of Baldy Mountain. We were hoping for views (based on the mountain name), but there were none. We figured it was at least good to get the 1,000 foot climb up Baldy out of the way. We returned down back to our car.

We had beautiful sunny skies today, which is always nice. Not too hot yet. I really enjoy hiking in the Berkshires, and today didn't disappoint. Things we liked about today's hike....I saw pink lady slippers again. Our packs felt featherweight after backpacking last weekend. We had nice farm and mountain views. Hiking through meadows (I'm a closet meadow bagger). Ferns. Hiking with cows. Walking on pine needles (very gentle on your feet). Much less mud than Vermont. Things we didn't like...basically the only thing was the bugs. After our Vermont trip last weekend, Glen bought a head net. He was so excited to use it and he said it worked great. We also had ticks today. I guess that is the downside of the meadows. I flicked off a few ticks off my clothes.

I didn't bring enough food today, and I was having a queasy stomach for some reason. I need to remember to bring one more bar than needed, just in case. Today I decided to start out with only 1 liter of water, but also bring a filter and a 2 liter dirty water bag. This worked out well. It was great not to be carrying 2 liters of water, like I usually do. At some point I did stop and filled up my 2 liter bag (which was overkill, I didn't need 2 more liters). Then at the summit of Mt. Baldy we stopped and I worked on filtering some of my 2 liters. I'm trying to learn how to carry less weight, so this is something I'm going to start doing (filtering water on hikes rather than carrying everything I need). It does require additional planning to make sure I know where the water sources are.

Starting out going the wrong way.

Ugh...realizing that there are still 6.3 miles to our turnaround point, and we've started at the wrong parking area.

A wetlands area with pink flowers and many irises. More colorful in person.

This reminds me of NJ.

Blurry, but more pink lady slippers today. We've seen so many this year.

Rock wall just before the summit of Baldy Mountain.

A picnic table plus an AT farm stand next to the trail, on Jerusalem Road.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

VT  Appalachian Trail - Section 8 - Goddard Shelter to Route 9

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
5/29/2017 10.1 miles

Map and Guide Book: New Hampshire-Vermont Appalachian Trail Guide
Parking: We got a shuttle to Stratton Arlington Road and left our car at Route 9.
Directions: Goddard Shelter south to Route 9

I slept a little cold last night. The low temp in Bennington was supposed to be 55, but our shelter was on top of a mountain, so I assume it was cooler. I wasn't so cold that I didn't sleep though. My sleeping bag is rated for 20 degrees I think, but I'm still trying to figure out how to regulate my temperature better when sleeping.

I also had problems in that we were sleeping on the slightest of inclines. My sleeping pad slide to the bottom of the tent and my feet were pressing up against the tent wall. This was the flattest tent site we found though. I'm sure others had it much worse. I was very happy that all of our neighbors were quiet last night! My new silicone earplugs were not working well, but it was pretty quiet out there.
Glen was very eager to get started early this morning to try to beat the rain as much as possible. I never thought I'd see the day when he was urging me awake at 5:20 AM (sunrise) to go hiking! I was concerned about making noise that early packing up, but it turns out we weren't even the first ones awake. Others were starting to pack up at the same time. I had a really hard time getting out of my cozy sleeping bag. I didn't want to put on my damp hiking clothes (mostly my shoes & socks). Then I realized that today was our last hiking day, so I could hike out in my dry sleep clothes!

We don't have a morning "routine" down. I was hoping that I would be woken up to a cup of already made steaming hot coffee. That didn't happen, LOL. So we packed up and then made breakfast. I also wasn't sure what was proper etiquette for cooking at a shelter that early in the morning. It wasn't raining, but if it was, it might have been nice to actually cook with a roof over you. We thought about skipping breakfast and just eating energy bars, but I decided having warm food to start of the day would be more motivating. So I had my coffee and we split some muesli mixed with hot water. We figured out it took us 1 hour and 25 minutes to get going. Wow that is slow.

We headed out, and it was nice once the caffeine kicked in and my motion warmed me up. It was a cool, windy day and the bugs weren't out when we started out at 6:45. The trail also seemed a little less muddy than yesterday. We had a nice hike, and then the rain eventually started. I got chilled again. I had brought a lightweight pair of gloves (no rain mitts), but my gloves were buried in my clothing bag in my backpack, and I didn't feel like pulling them out. So my hands were freezing. We crossed paths with thru hikers most of who were wearing shorts! I would be miserable in shorts! I was hiking with winter weight running tights + rain pants.

The trail heading down to Route 9 was steep and rocky, with several rock steps. I had to slow way down, trying not to fall on the wet rocks and mud. I did manage to fall a couple of times, but no damage done. We got back to our car much earlier than expected, so had to rearrange our dog pickup time.

We stopped in Great Barrington for a late lunch. First we tried the Food Coop, which was closed for the holiday. Then we tried locating a newer vegetarian restaurant called Elixir but couldn't find it. Then we tried Marten's, but Martens is gone! We are so sad, as we have been visiting this diner for many years on our trips to the Berkshires. It was our standard vegan friendly place to go for breakfast, and we both really liked it. We read that they had been in business for 27 years and gave up after an insurance battle over a kitchen fire. We will really miss this place! The next place we tried was the vegan friendly Riverbend Café. They had a sign that they are closed forever! We were striking out. So we went next door and got falafel at Nadja's, a place we've also eaten at a few times. I'm hoping that Great Barrington is not going downhill economically, because this is a town with some great eating options.

After this trip, we are again refining our hiking gear based on our experience. One particular challenge I have is reducing volume. I could barely rollover the top of my trash compactor liner. I am way under the max load limit for my pack, but fitting everything in is a challenge. If we work our way up to longer trips, that means more food than we were carrying.

Not many photos today, because of the rain.

VT  Appalachian Trail - Section 8 - Story Spring Shelter to Goddard Shelter

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
5/28/2017 8.9 miles

Map and Guide Book: New Hampshire-Vermont Appalachian Trail Guide
Parking: We got a shuttle to Stratton Arlington Road and left our car at Route 9.
Directions: Story Spring Shelter to Goddard Shelter

I was actually warm enough last night! In the morning, we weren't the first ones out, but we weren't the last ones out either. We sat at the picnic table to eat our breakfast. For some reason I love the sound of my JetBoil. I made Starbucks Via coffee (and I don't even like Starbucks) with Nido milk powder and it tasted great. Everything still feels new and slow. Most of the people we camped with were going northbound, opposite of us. We woke up much earlier than we would at home on a weekend, or even a weekday.

On today's hike, we saw a lot of people with bug nets. We don't have bug nets. Vermont is not only muddy but buggy. We ordered bug head nets after this trip :)

We stopped and ate lunch at the Kid Gore shelter. This shelter has a great view! It seemed like it only had 2 tent sites, but those tent sites also had a great view. We ate dehydrated hummus (surprisingly good) with Fritos (which we are still not sick of).

The highlight of today was the Glastenbury Mountain fire tower. Only 4 people can climb it at once. I'm not a fan of climbing fire towers, but there was no view unless you climbed it. The view at the top was fantastic! Even Glen climbed it, and he has vertigo. The Goddard shelter was not far past the fire tower.

Due to waking up early with the sun/birds, we arrived at the Goddard shelter so early! We spent some time trying to decide what to do. We aren't used to carrying heavy loads, so it is better to stop early. But would we be bored? Plus, the weather is supposed to be bad tomorrow, so pushing on would be good. But the next shelter was nearly 9 miles away. We decided to stay. We walked around trying to find all the tent spots. There were 3 tents already set up by people who looked like non-AT hikers. I was worried they'd be too noisy. We thought we found a flat spot, but it really wasn't! We set up our tent, taking forever. We also took forever trying to find the perfect tree to hang our bear bag on. I found the tree, Glen threw the rope.

We went to the shelter to cook, again wondering if this was a no-no due to bears, but it seems that people DO cook in shelters. We spent the afternoon talking to a thru hiker. Later on an older couple came in to cook as well. I loved talking to them. Seeing couples that are older than us thru hiking is so inspiring. I'm not looking to thru hike, but I would like to keep hiking with Glen for many years to come. I like to see what gear everyone has as well.

After we were all settled in for bed, I came to discover that our Dr. Bronner's soap eye dropper bottle was still in my backpack. Ugh. Glen had to bring the bear bag down and hang our soap. It is NOT unscented. After this trip, I ordered unscented soap. But I heard the bear hanging out at the Fingerboard Shelter in Harriman, actually went for someone's unscented soap!

We were hiking higher up, and as a result I was colder at night. Still trying to figure out how to regulate my temperature better. I tried my new silicone ear plugs, and still found them uncomfortable. They stuck to my hair, stuck to my stuff sack, etc. The good news - only one nighttime potty! Woohoo. And no tripping over guy lines. And our neighbors were all quiet at night.

View from the Kid Gore Shelter. Tent site at right center, plus one tent site in front of the shelter.

Kid Gore shelter



VT  Appalachian Trail - Section 8 - Stratton Arlington Road to Story Spring Shelter

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
5/27/2017 3.6 miles

Map and Guide Book: New Hampshire-Vermont Appalachian Trail Guide
Parking: We got a shuttle to Stratton Arlington Road and left our car at Route 9.
Directions: Stratton Arlington Road south to Story Spring Shelter

This weekend is our first "real" backpacking trip. We had a practice run in Harriman, but it was really a mini hike. We learned a lot that trip, and that definitely ended up helping us out for this trip. For example, I never practiced hanging a full bear bag before our Harriman trip. I practiced my rock throwing and learned how to use the PCT technique. But when I actually tried to hang the fully loaded bag, the rope burned my hands. I also couldn't release the stick from it's knot when I tried to get the bear bag down. So, this was something I worked on at home before our Vermont trip. I also got a P-Style to help deal with nighttime peeing, but haven't practiced using it - and didn't want to try it in the tent for the first time! I brought ear plugs - because I can't sleep when I hear noises. At home, I sleep with a white noise machine. In the woods I hear every single thing at night. I didn't bring a pillow this time. We had 2 ounce pillows, but they just ended up sliding off our sleeping pads and I ended up with a sore neck. Plus, 2 ounces is a lot! This time we used our stuff sacks filled with our daytime clothes as a pillow. I was freezing on our Harriman trip and I knew it should be around 10 degrees warmer this weekend. I decided to switch out my long underwear for winter running tights to see if they were any better. I think they are a little. We also boarded our dogs for this trip, so that we could work on our skills without the added stress of having Trek along. Trek is a joy to hike with, but he isn't used to camping yet. In addition, Trek was diagnosed with cancer this week. He acts as healthy as can be, but he has a malignant tumor on his belly. I want to wait until it is removed before taking him hiking again. I have no idea if the tumor could rupture, but I don't want to take a chance.
On the night before our trip, my fully loaded pack including food + 2 liters of water + fuel weighed in at 22 lbs. By the time I left the next morning, it probably was up to 24 lbs! One thing I added was Crocs, and I ended up being really glad I did. My goal was to be under 25 lbs, so I think I did okay. I carried all of the cooking gear & food, whereas Glen carried our tent. We drove to Route 9 in Vermont, and got picked up by our pre-arranged shuttle driver who took us to Stratton Arlington Road.

We started off at 3:30 pm, and didn't have far to go to camp. We aren't looking to do longer miles at this point, because this is our first trip. We wanted to get to camp with plenty of time to do all of the things we need to do. In addition, we need our bodies to gradually get used to carrying heavier backpacks. My knees hurt from this hike even though it was so short. I know I have arthritis in my knees, but it normally doesn't bother me. Vermont is very green and muddy. You can't avoid the mud (nor should you walk around it). By the time we reached camp my shoes and socks were soaking wet and muddy. There were a few section hikers at the shelter when we arrived. They had a fire going to try to deter the bugs. Oh yeah, besides being green and muddy, Vermont is very buggy. I was super happy to have my Crocs. I changed out of my trail runners and put them next to the fire to try to dry them out. I also tried to wash my socks in a ziplock bag. Do people wash with filtered or unfiltered water? Hmm. I used filtered water. Probably overkill. I just used a couple drops of Dr. Bronners soap. After 2 rinses in the bag, my socks were still filthy so I gave up and put them next to the fire to dry them out as well. Nothing really dried.

We found a nice tent spot away from the shelter. We noticed that people hung their bear bags quite close to the shelter. We found a tree and hung ours away from others. It isn't easy finding a perfect tree. And sometimes you see a good branch, but there are too many trees close to your tree - making the rock throwing hard. It took us a long time to set up, but we are learning. We both tend to work on the same "chore", whereas I think other couples split chores, getting things done faster. So, my Dr. Bronner's soap is scented. Ack. Bears like scented things. Would the few drops I used be an issue for my socks I washed using it? I hung the soap in my bear bag, but not my socks. On the other hand, I just read about a bear who stole unscented soap from someone's backpack at the Fingerboard shelter this week. That's the same place we did our mini backpacking trip. This shelter has a picnic table, which provided a nice place to cook dinner and chat with the other hikers. I'm still confused about the whole cooking right next to the shelter thing. Everything I read says to cook 150-200 feet away from where you sleep. We filtered a lot of water - probably related to my attempt at Ziplock sock cleaning :)

I didn't sleep well, but I still slept better than on my Harriman trip. I still got up 3 times to pee. Ugh. I managed to not trip over our guy lines once! I was pretty much warm enough. I didn't use ear plugs (though I brought them). One couple who was also tenting was very talkative at night. We just go to bed when it gets dark, but they were talking quite late. One other thing that freaked me out at first was their headlamps shining into our tent. It looked like they were right outside our tent, but I think they were just using their headlamps in their tent.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Huckleberry Point, Catskills

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles
5/21/2017 4.8 miles

Map: NYNJTC Catskill Trails Map 141
Parking: Platte Clove Road
Directions: Follow Long Path. Turn right onto yellow blazed Huckleberry Point Trail and take to end. Retrace steps.

Catskill All Trails: Map 141 Huckleberry Point Trail
On Friday I went back to the doctor about my hip pain. He did various tests moving it around, and one test really hurt (felt like a tendon got caught on something). My pain was much worse after the appointment. So no hiking on Saturday - I took Aleve and iced instead. Today we couldn't do a long hike, but I did want to go somewhere other than Harriman. I found a shorter hike in the Catskills which we have never done. This hike is very popular. You'll see many people on it. The trailhead parking lot was full, and we ended up parking on the road (almost across the street from the snowplow turnaround). It is rated as an easy hike (though if you compare it to a Harriman rating, I'd call it moderate). The hike starts out on a snowmobile trail, which is pretty muddy. Once you get on the Huckleberry Point trail, it is a narrower trail. There is a stream crossing which we let Trek cool off in on our way back. I've heard it can be a difficult crossing after heavy rain, but it was fine for us. The view at the Point is spectacular. There are various places to sit and enjoy the view. I practiced my compass skills and located Overlook Mountain (we saw the fire tower), Plattekille Mountain, and Indian Head Mountain. Today's hike was buggy! The black flies were landing on Trek, and he tried bite them. On the way back, we went to explore an unmarked side trail on the right hand side, which led to a campsite. It's kind of a pretty area with twisted pines, and I believe blueberry bushes.

Note that none of the parking lot signs mention Huckleberry Point

Hiking up the snowmobile trail.

Overlook Mountain in the back, and Plattekill Mountain in the front.



The stream crossing (there are some rocks to help cross, but they were mostly submerged).