Thursday, July 30, 2015

1600 Miles complete!!

Today we passed our 1600 mile mark near Blairstown, NJ!!!!  Only 585.3 miles left!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Yes!!!!!  Another state complete, now we need to keep our momentum going and trudge onward.  Everyone laments how terrible the rocks of Pennsylvania are, and while there are some very rocky sections, we did not find the rocks to be nearly as bad as the lack of trail maintenance and overgrown trail.  

Traditionally the Appalachian Trail has been maintained by volunteers in the the local trail clubs along the trail, and that has worked pretty well until now.  After talking to several local club members and maintainers it seems that the club members are aging, are no longer physically able to trim the trail and younger people are not joining the clubs.  We believe that this is where the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) needs to step in and help.  Yes, the clubs have traditionally maintained the trail, but ultimately the ATC is respinsible for ensuring the trail is in working order, so if the clubs are unable to fulfill their responsibilities the ATC needs to step in and fill the gap.  The ATC could help recruit younger members into the various clubs along the trail, organize volunteer work crews to go out and maintain the trail or hire work crews to maintain the trail.  Having a trail properly trimmed, 4ft wide x 8 ft tall, in no way detracts from the wilderness experience, it allows people to traverse the trail in a safe manner and discourages bushwacking which can lead to increased environmental impact.  As you will see below, the trail was so overgrown in places you couldn't even see the walkway and we are covered in scrapes and lacerations from all of the overgrown thorns and limbs.  We are disappointed that more attention is not being paid to the maintaining of such an amazing trail, and for now our home.

Sunday 19 July 2015
Bake Oven Knob Shelter to Palmerton, PA, 1554.4 miles
Tracey, the owner of Bert's Steakhouse was an amazing trail angel.  She let us shower in her back office shower and then let us camp out in her garage out back overnight, there is nowhere for hikers to stay in town.  The food at Bert's is absolutely amazing, so stop by and enjoy some great eats!!!

Monday 20 July-Wednesday 22 July 2015
Zero Days
After severals days of extremely hot and humid weather we were beat and decided to take a zero Monday.  As always, the trail provides and a fellow paratrooper and his wife ( Mike and Ann) live nearby in New Tripoli and picked us up in Palmerton and took us home for 3 days.  Mike is a 173d Airborne and 82d Airborne Vietnam Veteran and as always it was great to hang out and share stories and experiences. Mom and I enjoyed helping Ann plan their road trip out to South Dakota for Mikes 173d Airborne reunion.  Monday we rested, Tuesday we sat out thunderstorms and Wednesday Hendo was sick.  We are eternally grateful for Ann and Mike's wonderful hospitality!!
Hendo's Mom, fellow paratrooper Mike and Hendo at the Fort Franklin Rd AT crossing just up the mountain from Mike and Ann's home.

Hendo and Ann feeding their beautiful fish.

Ann and Mikes beautiful and huge fish

The lily bloomed while we were there!!

Thursday 23 July 2015
Palmerton, PA to Smith Gap Rd, 1567.1 miles
The Blue Mountain Drive-In Restaurant in Danielsville, PA let us drop our extra gear off and Ann and Mike were willing to drive our extra gear to the Restaurant, so we were able to slack pack from Palmerton up Lehigh Gap to Danielsville, PA.  While we were eating lunch at the restaurant, the gentleman/Mechanical Man whose house we stayed at Thursday night, came in and offered to take our extra gear on to his house.  This was the best trail magic ever, we got to slackpack all the way from Palmerton to Smith Gap Rd, 12.7 miles.
Hendo's Mom crossing the Lehigh River enroute to climb Lehigh Gap up ahead.

While rather steep at times we were kind of disappointed with Lehigh Gap, we were expecting it to be much harder than it really was
And the climb up Lehigh Gap begins

Hendo's Mom working her way up.

Hendo climbing her way up.

Even though it wasn't as hard as we were expecting, it wasn't a walk in the park either.  Hendo coming up and over the steepest part of the climb.

While we are in to way supporters of tagging, defacing or grafittiing nature, the US Flag painted on the rock at the crest was kind of cool....AMERICA!!!
Hendo posing with the US flag.

Looking down into Palmerton, PA in the Lehigh Valley

Looking back down the trail behind us White blazes painted on the rocks mark the trail.

Hendo continues to work her way up...

Hendo's Mom working her way up the rocks...

Up top we were greated by endless wine berries...yummy!!!!

We also came across some yummy black raspberries.

Great Mulliens 

A close-up of the Mulliens blooms

Sumac Tree

At Smith Gap Rd we were lucky and thrilled to run into a fellow 2014 AT hiker, Knaffles and her dog Champ.  Knaffles lives nearby in New Jersey and came out to the trail to do some trail magic.  Like ourselves, Knaffles and Champ flip-flopped last year and braved the AT in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts through cold and snow......dedicated Hiker Trash!!!!
Hendo's Mom, Knaffles holding Champ and Hendo

Thursday we spent the night at the home of Mechanical Man and Crayon, near Smith Gap Rd. They live in an amazing geodesic dome home and allow hikers to stay in their garage and shower for $10.

Hendo, Mechanical Man, Hendo's Mom and dog Guinness

Friday 24 July 2015
Smith Gap Rd to Wind Gap, PA, 1575.2 miles
While today's hike was flat and not too rocky it was the worst maintained and most overgrown section of the trail we have hiked since southern Virginia and Roanoke AT Club.  Even though I wear long pants my legs were covered in scratches from thorns.  The below pictures are not of the woods, they are of the trail, if you look closely you can barely see the dirt path on the ground.

Some pretty flowers we saw along the way.....
Jewelweed at Leroy Smith Shelter where we had lunch

No we are not bushwacking, we are on the AT making our way through head high overgrowth.
Hendo making her way along the overgrown AT

Hendo "lost" in the overgrowth

Our trail sister Wendy and her son Josh, picked us up Friday evening at the Wind Gap, PA trail crossing and took us home for a day.
Hendo, Wendy, Josh and Hendo's Mom

Saturday 25 July 2015
Zero with Wendy
Today we spent the day with Wendy and Josh, repairing Hendo's pants, playing in the Delaware River and eating pizza!!

Sunday 26 July 2015
Wind Gap, PA to Kirkridge Shelter, 1584.4 miles
Wendy and Josh dropped us back off at Wind Gap and we continued north to finish up Pennsylvania.  We had been warned that the section from Wind Gap to Wolf Rocks was the rockiest part of the trail and boy was it.  However, today's section of trail was properly trimmed back and maintained thanks to the BATONA Hiking Club,  We made it to Kirkridge Shelter and got into our tent just in time for thunderstorms to move in for most of the night.  They were some huge storms, but our tent took it all in stride and kept us safe and dry.

Today was all about the rocks

Starry Campion

Monday 27 July 2015
Kirkridge Shelter to Pennsylvania/New Jersey Border, 1591.1 miles
Today started out foggy and rainy but eventually cleared up.  We finished Pennsylvania today and were met in Delaware Water Gap by my CVMA brother GPaw and his wife Patty.  GPaw and Patty amazingly treated us to a night in the local hotel, which allowed us to shower and dry out from the thunderstorms Sunday night.

The Red Efts were out in force today enjoying the damp and rainy conditions

Some repairmen were up on top of a communications tower we hiked by installing a big round antenna.  You can see the new antenna being hoisted up approximately 40 ft off the ground when we arrived
Here is a close-up of the repairmen on top of the tower

Here is a close-up of the antenna being hoisted up.

Hendo's Mom and Hendo on Mt Minsi getting ready to hike down into Delaware Water Gap and to the northern border of PA.

Hendo's Mom hiking through some beautiful rhodedendrun tunnels on our way into Delaware Water Gap.

With all the rain we have had in July the creeks were running good with some beautiful water falls.

A white blaze and large arrow point the way north over the brdge over the Delaware River.  Below the arrow is a sign for the Crisis Counseling Hotline.  We found this amusing..we did not need the number and did not jump off the bridge.

Hendo's Mom hiking across the Delaware River to the Pennsylvania /New Jersey Border.

We made it to New Jersey and as usual celebrated with a shot of Jack Daniels!!

Monday, July 20, 2015

More Pennsylvania

When it comes to Pennsylvania, the AT comes with all kinds of warnings, caveats and nicknames, Rocksylvania, it is extremely rocky, Pennsylvania will eat your shoes up, your feet and ankles will ache more than anywhere else on the trail, the rocks of Pennsylvania are horrendous, etc, etc, etc.  However, we have been told by others that Pennsylvania is actually pretty nice, flat and fast, until you get to Palmerton/Lehigh Gap and then the rocks become horrendous on up to the PA/NJ border.  Up until Dan's Pulpit we have found the later to be correct, overall Pennsylvania has been flat and fast (unlike Virginia) and no more rocky than the rest of the trail.  But north of Dan's Pulpit, Pennsylvania has begun to show its rocky side and has begun to try our feet, ankles and nerves.  We are taking it mile by mile though, and have traversed far more challenging sections of trail in Maine and New Hampshire, so we know we will make it through. 
Our biggest irritation with Pennsylvania has been the lack of proper trimming back of vegetation along the trail.  The moment you hike out of Pine Grove Furnace State Park and Potomac AT Club's (PATC) section of trail maintenance you know it, as PATC is amazing in their dedication to maintaining the AT. The other AT clubs do not seem to have the same standard of dedication when it comes to trail maintenance!!  We have been told by local residents that part of the problem of the lack of trail maintenance/trimming north of PATC's area is due to the fact that the members in the other AT clubs are older, unable to physically help with trail maintenance and younger people are not joining and taking part in the AT hiking clubs maintenance responsibilities.  As a result, we have been spending our days trudging through the briar gauntlet getting slashed and gashed by the thorny briars, stinging nettle and limbs.  With the overall responsibility of the maintenance of the AT falling on the ATC, the ATC may need to help the local AT clubs come up with some courses of action to ensure the trail is properly maintained.
We are also becoming irritated with the choice of routing of the AT through some sections.  We are in no way fans of the "let's route the trail through this terrible, extremely physically demanding area, just because".  I cannot believe that Benton McKaye would approve of the physically challenging adventure trail that a majority of the AT has become.  The physical demands of the AT today exclude more people from coming out and enjoying nature than encourage, which is unfortunate.

Wednesday 1 July 2015
PA 72 near Lickdale, PA to William Penn Shelter-1486.7 miles
We took 3 zero days (28-30 June) sitting out more rainy weather and enjoyed meeting and spending time with my CVMA brothers and sister, Road Dog, Hammer & Mustang of CVMA 22-5.  Pennsylvania is usually known for being extremely dry and hot during the summer, however, this year it has been anything but dry, as rain and thunderstorms have abounded.

Several other hikers were not pleased with this creek crossing, but having already hiked NH and Maine we were quite happy with this "bridge".

A gorgeous butterfly on a pink cone flower along the trail

Cherries!!!!  They say the trail always provides and lately we have been provided with fresh ripe cherries and black raspberries.  Hendo picking cherries.
Thursday 2 July 2015
William Penn Shelter to PA 183 - 1500 miles!!

A sampling of the Rock of Pennsylvania.  Hendo's Mom rock hopping up the trail.
Thru-Hikers, weekenders and day-hikers not practicing proper tail-etiquette and Leave No Trace practices is unfortunately becoming more and more prevalent along the AT.  I believe the solution is going to be more patrolling of the trail by Law Enforcement personnel who can issue individuals citations for such behaviors.  "Doing the Right Thing" in order to protect the environment and ensure an outdoor experience for generations to come does not seem to be enough of a motivating factor to get people to do the right thing and follow the rules/laws/regulations.  Issuing tickets and taking people's money may be the only way to get the point across.

6 teenage jackwagon hikers spent the night at the William Penn Shelter tentsite area and left this 5 pounds of trash behind.  Hendo hiked it out 2 miles to the next road crossing and called the ATC Mid-Atlantic office letting them know what had happened and that the trash needed to be picked up.

Lush green ferns covered the forest floor, they are loving all of this rain.

It is great to learn of all the various history along the AT.  Historical marker just south of PA 183 along the AT.

Sporting our festive 4th of July headbands, Hendo's Mom and Hendo celebrate completing 1500 miles at PA 183 with our usual shot of Jack Daniel's
Weekenders were invading the trail for the 4th of July weekend and were getting on my/Hendo's last nerve, so when we arrived at PA 183 we called our friends Cindy and Todd nearby in New Ringgold, PA and asked if we could spend the weekend with them.  Being fellow long distance hikers and triple crowners they gladly took us in and showed us a great time.  Friday evening we attended an awesome outdoor concert at The Stacks in Bethlehem, PA.  A former Ironworks factory, The Stacks was an amazing backdrop to a great night of music.  Saturday we zero'd at Cindy and Todd's and enjoyed an awesome cookout with amazing fireworks Saturday evening!!

Monday 6 July - Tuesday 7 July
PA 183  to Port Clinton, PA - 1515.2 miles
Cindy and Todd put us back on trail and we headed on north and made it to Port Clinton.
Wednesday 8 July - Tuesday 14 July
We got off trail at Port Clinton and took off a week to go to Harrisonburg, VA in order for me/Hendo to meet with Dr Matthew Bowen for the Combat Veteran Oral History Project and drive Hendo's Mom's car up to Vermont. 
Wednesday 15 July 2015
Port Clinton to Reservoir Rd
The downside of going down into town is that you have to climb back up out of town.  The climb out of Port Clinton was not as treacherous as the climb down into Port Clinton, but it was a climb none the less.  My friend Cindy, head of the non-profit organization River House PA 
was hosting River House PA's monthly potluck dinner and hike Wednesday evening, so she offered to pick us up at Reservoir Rd so mom and I could partake in the fun.  It was a great evening of camaraderie and delicious food!!!
16 July 2015
Reservoir Rd to Eckville Shelter - 1529.7 miles

Today was a great day of hiking, Earl Shaffer was right when he stated that the AT should be routed back along the Forest Service roads that it used to be routed along and off of the crazy obstacle course rocky ridgelines that it often traverses now.  Today we actually enjoyed ourselves and the woods around us as we hiked 5 miles on an old forest road from The Pinnacle to Eckville Shelter.  Rather than having to concentrate on the immediate trail below our feet because of the rocky trail, we were able to look up and enjoy the scenery around us as we hiked along the smoother forest road.

We haven't seen any snakes lately, but it has been pretty wet.  However, today it was nice and sunny and the below Timber Rattlesnake came out to enjoy the sunny weather.  We saw this one just as we were cresting the ridge to Pulpit Rock.  It was 6-8 feet off the trail, 4-5feet long and 3-4 inches in diameter.  We left it alone and it left us alone.


 Hendo and Hendo's Mom living on the edge at Pulpit Rock
 Hendo and Hendo's Mom enjoying the view at Pulpit Rock
 Hendo enjoying a post lunch nap on The Pinnacle
This Eastern Gartersnake was napping down in the rocks on The Pinnacle.  Yes, we noticed the trash next to it, but I wasn't going to reach down in there and grab the trash with the snake.
 Rain has been bountiful in Pennsylvania this July and this creek was literally gushing out the side of the mountain.
Friday 17 July 2015
Eckville Shelter to Allentown Hiking Club Shelter - 1537.1 miles
Unlike yesterday we did not and were not able to enjoy today's hiking.  The Rocks of Pennsylvania reared their nasty head today and the overgrown thorny gauntlet continued.  The rocks severely slowed our progress today and our feet and ankles were hurting by the time we got to the shelter.
 The overgrown thorn and briar gauntlet, also known as the AT in Pennsylvania.  It is not even close to being trimmed 4 ft wide.
 Hendo's Mom being engulfed by the overgrown trail.
 A Clymene Moth hanging out on a fern
Saturday 18 July 2015
Allentown Hiking Club Shelter to Bake Oven Knob Shelter - 1247.1 miles
Today's hiking started out nice, but quickly deteriorated to bad and really bad.  The traverses over Knife Edge and Bear Rocks were unnecessary and in no way appreciated.  If the trail is going to be routed over such locations it needs to be in a matter which is safe for hikers to traverse while wearing 30-35 pound backpacks.  Otherwise the main trail needs to be routed around the base of such locations with alternate trails leading up to the summits/overlooks.  That way we would not be forced to put ourselves in often dangerous situations. 
The condition of Bake Oven Knob was atrocious and completely unacceptable.  The trail leading to and area surrounding the shelter was completely overgrown and nearly impassable.  The trail down to the spring was extremely steep, overgrown and nearly impassable as well.  Walking/hiking 2185.3 miles in and of itself is a challenge, the added rugged and unmaintained condition of the trail is unwarranted.

 Hendo climbing/bouldering across Knife Edge
Just when you think you have seen it all, stupidity proves you wrong.  Today we were passed by two people mountain biking/camping ON THE AT!!  Just to clarify, bicycles are not allowed on the AT.  But apparently in this day and age rules/regulations/laws are simply suggestions.  The only way the situation on the AT is going to improve is if individuals with Law Enforcement authority patrol the AT and start issuing out citations to those who break the laws.
 Yes, those are bicycle tire tracks on the AT.
Sunday 19 July 2015
Bake Oven Knob Shelter to Palmerton, PA - 1554.4 miles
Today's section of trail was not as bad as yesterday's, however, today was hot as balls.  If it isn't one thing it is another. 
We met 2 section hikers on the trail today who offered us a ride into Palmerton, so we graciously accepted.  Palmerton is a great trail town and key stop along the trail for we hikers, but the one key feature it lacks is a place for we hikers to spend the night.  There is no campground, trailside tentsites, hostel or hotel/motel in town.  The one and only hostel (Jailhouse Hostel run by the city police department) in town shut down after some hikers were stupid last year. 
Mom and I were pretty beat up after the last several days of hiking and were hoping we could find somewhere to stay Sunday night near or in town.  As always, the trail provides...Tracy, the owner of Bert's Restaurant amazingly offered me and Mom and two other hikers showers in her back restaurant office shower, and to spend the night in her garage behind the restaurant.  It was perfect, we showered, did our laundry at the laundry mat next door and had a good nights rest inside our tent screen in Tracy's garage...she even gave us a fan to help us cool off!!!  Tracy and other business owners in town were/are frustrated by the city closing the one and only hostel without consulting with the business owners.  Tracy says the hostel's closing has significantly reduced the number of hikers who come into town, and this is unfortunate.  So if someone is looking for a new business venture, opening a hostel in Palmerton, PA is a definite option!!!

 Hendo enjoying a break in an Adirondack chair along the trail just north of Ashfield Rd.
 Hendo recently purchased an umbrella to use in rainy weather during the summer.  It works great keeping the rain and sun off!!  Hiking in the shade is quite nice.