Archive for the ‘Appalachian Trail’ Category

atcThe Appalachian Trail Conference is offering two contests:

First, text ATC to 80100 to win prizes plus get $10 donated to the trail conservancy. Click here for details.

Second, there’s the “I am the Appalachian Trail” video contest which is a fun concept.

Thanks to Carol White Llewellyn (The Finger Lakes Travel Maven) for sharing these. She found them while she was researching a visit to the Appalachian Trail.

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by Sue Freeman

Looking at a pair of hiking boots is not normally what sets someone to feeling old. But, I can’t help it. My life is measured by hiking boots and their progression in technology. As with other advances (notably electronics!), the hiking boots of today are a world away from the hiking boots of my young adulthood.

Montrail Moraine hiking boots before hiking the AT.

Montrail Moraine hiking boots before hiking the AT.

In 1995 I began preparations to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. The prep included shopping for, selecting, and breaking in a new pair of hiking boots. I selected a state-of the-art all leather, mid-calf hiking boot called Moraine from Montrail. These were rugged behemoths that weighed 4 pounds and surrounded your foot in protective leather. The footbed was flat, requiring an insert to provide a minimum of cushioning and arch support.

Months before hitting the trail I began wearing my boots; first around the house for short time intervals.

Montrail Moraine hiking boots after hiking the AT.

Montrail Moraine hiking boots after hiking the AT.

Then for forays outside, gradually building up the time span and letting the boots somewhat conform to my feet as they were softened by sweat. Some hikers would fill their boots with water and others would even wear them in a shower in an attempt to get the perfect fit. But, as you can imagine, water wasn’t the kindest to leather.

In fact, we slathered the boots with waxy waterproofing which served to keep the water out but also proved adept at keeping sweat inside. I came to learn, in a painful way, that sweaty feet are a breeding ground for blisters. On the trail, I trashed my hiking socks and began wearing only liners. And I took frequent breaks with my boots off to air out my feet and  liners. Still, my feet blistered horribly.

Over the years, as I hiked other long-distance trails, I tried various boots. Each was an improvement in small ways. But, one thing that irked me to no end was the impossibility of finding boots that weren’t waterproofed. For years, a boot wasn’t sold unless it sported GoreTex waterproof fabric.

TevaSphere Trail boots

TevaSphere Trail boots

Fortunately, those days are long gone – and so unfortunately is my youth. I got a new pair of hiking boots recently – TevaSpheres. Hot off the development and manufacturing line, they’re the latest advance in technology, built for those of us who enjoy a variety of land-based outdoor fun that covers a diverse range of terrain. The ones I got are the TevaSphere Trail. They’re built specifically for women and offer a sturdy trail shoe, but NO waterproofing. Yipee! My happy feet can breathe. And I’m only lifting 1 pound of boot – a far cry from the 4 pound behemoths which probably weighted closed to 5 pounds once they got wet and stayed wet.

Some things do get better with age. Technology advances – such as the first-of-its-kind spherical heel and pod-arch system are significant improvements for people like me with aging feet. I bet the young ones will enjoy them also. I’m looking forward to giving my new TevaSpheres a decent workout.

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hiking skirtIn 1996 when I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (has it really been 17 years??) some of the male hikers bought swaths of fabric and created wrap around skits for themselves to solve chafing problems. But, I never saw a woman wearing a hiking skirt. This week my copy of the Appalachian Trail magazine (AT Journeys) arrived and page after page showed photos of women (and men) hikers wearing skirts. It seems to be all the rage – at least on the AT. Here are some links with interesting options and perspectives on the subject:
Hikingforher.com: Hiking skirts
Gear Review: Backcountry Skirts

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If anyone is thinking of some day thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, there’s an organization of trail hiking experts who are a wealth of information called ALDHA – Appalachian Long Distance Hiking Association. Once per year in the fall they hold a Gathering. The location rotates between spots in NH, PA, and WV each year, but if you can go to one you’ll find a wealth of programs and camaraderie that will inspire you to move on your dream and equip you with valuable knowledge. Click here for the ALDHA brochure.

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Finding spirituality on culturally-rich Appalachian Trail

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I had a plan. But, like many plans made in the warmth of my living room, this one failed its first field test. I was backpacking for 6 months, hiking north along the Appalachian Trail with my husband Rich.

Eastern Diamondback Rattle Snake

After 2 months on the trail, we hiked along one sunny day through Virginia, traversing the side of a hill in lush spring foliage. Rich was in front when we heard the sound. Having never heard it live before, I was surprised at how unmistakable the rattle of a rattlesnake was. It stopped me dead in my tracks with instant recognition. I looked to the right and there, slightly uphill and about 3 feet away, was a coiled rattlesnake, staring at me eye to eye and loudly making his displeasure known. Rich had already passed, but the snake blocked my progress along the trail.

My plan was that if I saw a rattlesnake I’d simply hike off the trail & give it a wide berth. I surveyed my surroundings – the ground was obscured in thick foliage a foot deep. What if my rattler had friends nearby? Was 3 feet within their striking range? I could hear my heart pounding in my chest and Rich getting impatient, calling for me to ignore the rattlesnake & hike on. Yeah, right.

I waited patiently. Minutes passed; many minutes according to Rich. Eventually the rattlesnake lost interest in me, lowered his head and began side winding uphill. I chose that moment to bolt down the trail, running as fast as my blistered feet could carry me, backpack bouncing on my back. Rich just laughed.

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by Ralph Ferrusi, Poughkeepsie Journal, Link to original post and PHOTOS

Hike name: Appalachian Trail (AT), Route 301 to Lion’s Head viewpoint
Location: Fahnestock Park, Putnam County
Length: 4.6 miles, round trip
Rating: Easy to moderate
Dogs: Fido four-footed through the rocks better than I did, but slept all the way home.
Map(s): New York-New Jersey AT Map Set, Map 2, N.Y. Route 52 to Hudson River.

Features: Maintainer Kerry Borchardt’s beautiful, bright white blazes. Tim Messerich’s Ralph’s Peak Hikers Cabin Volunteers beautiful stone steps. And, ahhh, that view back along the whole length of Canopus Lake.

Watch out for: This section of AT isn’t by any stretch “rocky,” but there are some fairly long stretches of rocky trail, particularly in the first mile or two in from 301. I don’t like to trip over rocks, or have to pick my way warily through them — not many hikers do (though there are some who seem to revel in it); part of the joy of hiking, particularly on long jaunts on the AT, is to step out, swingin’ your legs, getting into a good rhythm. Rocks are rhythm-busters, to say nothing of ankle twisters.

Over the last 20-some years I’ve made an effort to dig as many rocks as I can out of the mile and a half of AT I maintain up on Stormville Mountain. Rocks do indeed “grow” — the freeze/thaw weather cycles of the Northeast inexorably push rocks up out of the ground, and the normal wear and tear of hikers’ boots, rain and wind expose them even more. Spring thaws are one of the best times to dig ’em out, sometimes barehanded, sometimes with the carbide tip of a trekking pole; I rarely need a tool heftier than a good pointed spade.

Some sections of the local AT are rockier than others.

Thumbs up:  The three miles of trail on Hosner Mountain are pretty rock-free, excepting seven (I always count them) medium-to-long stretches where you have to tread very carefully (there used to be eight, but George did some heroic work a while back to clean up one long stretch); Route 55 to Nuclear Lake; and Route 52 to I-84.

Thumbs down:  I-84 to the Morgan Stewart Shelter, and Long Hill Road to the flag on Shenandoah Mountain always get me muttering to myself.

Background:  The last time this hike appeared in Hike of the Week (HOTW) was Sept. 9, 2004 — HOTW No. 19! It beckoned, on a fine, crisp, blue-sky autumn day.

Hike description:  Descend a bit, then ascend gently to the first of Tim and the volunteers’ superb 25-or-so rock steps. There’s a big rock face on the right that Kath always admires.

Uh-oh, here come the rocks, but they eventually alternate with some very nice, smooth, flat stretches. Enjoy the second set of the volunteers’ rock stairs, where a blue trail branches off to the left. Descend a bit, then cruise for a while a long, tantalizing open ridge (I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be walking up there) on the left, with occasional glimpses of the lake to the right.

After swinging through a big open bowl and crossing a small stream, the trail makes its most serious climb yet, gaining a surprising amount of elevation, then eventually descending so long you know it’s not going to be happy until you’re just about back down to lake level.

After a few more ups and downs, the ascent of Lion’s Head is a breeze, and the view is a stunner.

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by John Ferro, Poughkeepsie Journal, link to original post  WITH PHOTO

Dutchess County has a new champion.  Only this one is 20 feet thick, 114 feet tall and something of a rock star.

Say hello to the Dover Oak, so named because it sits along West Dover Road. (Never mind the fact that it grows in the Town of Pawling.)

Along the Appalachian Trail, this white oak is as close to an arboreal celebrity as you can get. It’s been photographed, written about in guide books and highlighted on the Internet. And now, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, it’s a champion.

The tree was recently added to the DEC’s Big Tree Register. By using a special scoring system that measures circumference, height and canopy size, the Dover Oak scored 397 points, making it the biggest white oak in the state.

The national champion white oak, with a score of 458 points, is in Clay, Ind. The Dover Oak was nominated by DEC staffer Jim Close, who was walking the Appalachian Trail when he came across the tree. “It’s so huge, you can’t help but notice it,” he said.

And many do. Because the tree sits right along the trail — and within a few feet of a county highway — it gets a lot of eyes. “There are two famous large white oaks on the Appalachian Trail,” said Laurie Potteiger, spokeswoman for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. “One is the Dover Oak and the other is the Keffer Oak in Virginia. Both of them are legendary. Both are virtually right on the trail. And interestingly, both are in, or adjacent to, open areas.”

The state has maintained its register since the 1970s, although records of tree surveys date back to 1943, said Gloria Van Duyne, a communications specialist with the DEC and the coordinator of the Big Tree Register.

“It’s a way to highlight big trees and get people to take care of them and spark an interest in trees in general,” Van Duyne said. “These days, we are hoping it actually sparks in interest in urban forests, which sometimes have big trees. In developed communities, or estates, you have large trees that have been saved from clearing for agriculture, and some of them are over 100 years old.”

Van Duyne and Close estimated the Dover Oak’s age at 150 years, but cautioned that a tree’s age cannot be calculated accurately without examining its core.

The register lists only native and naturalized species. It does not include hybrid species. “They are the largest native or naturalized trees that have been reported — and I have to stress, that have been reported,” Van Duyne said. “There could be a tree out there in a forest that is bigger that we don’t know about.”

Anyone can nominate a tree, although a tree’s dimensions must be confirmed by someone who is experienced at measuring trees.

The state register is part of a cooperative effort with American Forests, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that maintains the National Register of Big Trees. New York champion trees are considered for national champion status, as the Dover Oak was.

Trees that do not knock off a current champion can be considered as “national challengers” whose records are kept on file by American Forests in case a champion tree dies or is cut down.

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I’ve lost faith in humanity. I just don’t get people’s choices in outdoors books to read. It began with Bill Byrson’s book on the Appalachian Trail. When ever we told anyone that we thru-hiked the AT, their first question was “Did you read A Walk in the Woods?” Of course I did, and it sucked.

Now the rage is “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed: Billed as woman’s account of a life-changing 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Coast Trail. I read that too and it sucked.

Why is it that books about dysfunctional, inept people in the outdoors become best sellers? If I was Cheryl Strayed I would be embarrassed to write about my life story. It’s certainly nothing to be proud of.

What does it say about humans today that these are the books they choose to recommend to each other? Nothing complimentary as far as I’m concerned. I guess it’s time for me to head back into the woods, away from people. Fortunately, most of the people I encounter in the woods are nothing like Bill Bryson or Cheryl Strayed.

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Wawayanda Mountain: Haven for hikers offers great views

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