Author’s notes on “My Walk…”

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2014 by A lo Hawk

The following chapters document the middle third of a man’s journey hiking the Appalachian Trail. The remainder of the project is temporarily on hiatus so the author can pursue other works.

For viewers new to this blog, “My Walk in the Woods” is a day by day travelogue told in the first person present tense. It is written in blunt simplistic prose with inconsistent punctuation and grammar.

When published in its entirety, the author hopes to convey the fascinating dichotomy of his experience as an appalachian nomad. Thru hiking a big trail is a ruthless combination of endlessly repetitive monotony and unending wondrous novelty. What better description of life?

Happy Trails, A Lo Hawk

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 14

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on October 7, 2014 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Fourteen (July 13th-19th)

Day 97: (VT)  22 miles to Minerva Shelter

Today it is cloudy and I enjoy a mellow day of hiking on easy terrain. I get two relaxing swims — Griffith Pond and Little Rock Pond. It begins to rain ten minutes before I get to a large, full shelter but the people welcome me. It is an interesting collection of strangers and a boisterous, lively evening.

Day 98: (VT)  22 tough miles from Minerva Shelter to Long Trail Inn

A difficult day with much climbing including a big traverse over Killington Peak. At a high, lonely shelter I have lunch and make a steep side trip to the famous ski area for views. In a quiet wooded dell I come upon an extensive manmade rock garden. I stop for a brief meditation then add my own contribution to a precarious pile.

At the end of this tough day I take a blue blaze trail down a couple of miles to the historical Long Trail Inn. This beautiful inn was partially built into the rocky hillside. I immediately gravitate to the spectacular cavern tavern and watch the Tour de France on a big screen while sipping Long Trail Ale. [The Long Trail runs the length of Vermont and overlaps the AT in this area.] I relish the hot shower, clean clothes and entertaining dinner company in this incomparable wayside inn.

Day 99: (VT)  16 easy miles to cowboy camp atop lookout platform

In retrospect today is one of my favorite days on the trail. It begins with a good breakfast with jovial section hikers at the inn. I eagerly climb the blue blaze trail back to the familiar white stripe. My first side trip is to the Killington deli for a large sandwich and the outfitter store for additional food. The next detour takes me to the Killington library and public pool. While waiting for the library to open I sit in a cozy shaded patio area and talk to a friendly librarian. I finish eating my sandwich and doze off staring at the bucolic countryside.

I am energized for the late afternoon hike up and around rolling forested hills. I hustle to make it to an isolated fire lookout before sunset. The lookout turns out to be a tiny locked cabin with a rickety ladder to a roof platform. To avoid being eaten by mosquitos I decide to camp on the platform. The 360 degree sunset is the best of the trip. I lie on my bag and watch an incredible celestial show called nightfall.

Day 100: (VT)  20 miles from lookout to Podink Brook

The sunrise today from the platform is incredible. I watch the light cover the earth as we rotate toward the sun. The hike this morning has many hills and by lunch I am toast.

I take a dirt road uphill to a quintessential Vermont dairy farm called Cloudland for their indescribable ice cream and soda. A burly woman comes out of the farmhouse and leads me into a tiny walk-in freezer connected to the large barn. I make my selection and sit in a comfortable shaded garden and watch the farm in action.

A few miles later I find abundant trail magic in the form of a giant cooler filled with watermelon and cold soda. I make a pig of myself and take a long break while I rehydrate. I do not see evidence of any other hikers and the trail journal provided does not have many entries.

Late in the day I see the trail winding through a quaint little town called West Hartford. At the center of town a bridge crosses a swift river. I watch brave kids jump from the bridge into the swirling water. There is a white two story building advertising a general store and deli so of course I turn in. I am instantly delighted I do. I order one of the tantalizing specials from the friendly girl behind the counter. I shop for chips, soda and dessert in the store then sit with my booty at a table at the front windows.

I am so energized from the meal the climb out of town is a blur. When I start to tire I find a nice camp by a brook.

Day 101: (VT/NH)  8 miles in and 8 miles out of Hanover, NH

Anxious to get to Hanover I quickly breakdown camp. Half naked, I use the creek for a brisk jolting bath. The rude awakening continues when a lady walking her dog abruptly appears at a bend in the trail. We exchange awkward pleasantries, her friendly demeanor instantly improves the tone of the morning.

The trail emerges onto a rural road lined by hedges and mailboxes. As I walk along I get brief glimpses of large colonial homes set back with vast acres of manicured lawn. I approach a driveway with a sign pointing to a tupperware tub. Inside are homemade chocolate chip cookies and a lovingly bound trail journal.

I follow white blazes on the sidewalk to a multilane roadway. I turn left on a wide pedestrian walkway across the Connecticut River into New Hampshire. At the top of a hill I arrive at a major metropolitan intersection. I see that the trail turns right down a canyon of multistory buildings. Across the street I see the gothic ivy covered architecture and campus of Dartmouth College. Somewhere along the bustling street I find a busy diner decorated with mirrors and silver trim. I tuck my pack under the counter and chow down on tasty greasy food in this loud packed environment. I feel like a pig at the communal trough.

After completing the usual town chores I amble to the edge of town where I know an exceptional ‘Whole Foods’ type of market is located. Hikers have raved about it and I am looking forward to getting fresh food to bring on the trail. I luxuriate in the delectable sights and smells for an hour then carry my spoils outside where a picnic table draws my attention. I drink a fruit smoothie and attack a huge self serve salad. I look up and see three teenage boys approaching with their super caffeine drinks and sugar snacks.

It turns out these good natured lads are in a band and are about to meet their drummer for practice. They like my tales of freedom on the AT so I take a risk and ask about scoring weed. The obvious leader of the group takes me around the back of the market and pulls baggies out of his pack. I give him all the cash I have we shake hands and part ways.

The trail enters the woods behind a school track. I stop at a nice seat and fire up my bomber with the harsh weed. As I feel the long awaited buzz come on I praise the trail spirits for this gift. I am now ready for the most anticipated section of this adventure– the White Mtns of NH and the final state of Maine.

Day 102: (NH)  20 miles to Hexacuba Shelter

Happy trails start with wake n bake and continue uninterrupted throughout the day. An afternoon thunderstorm cools things off nicely. I arrive at the unusually shaped Hexacuba shelter which is filled with unfriendly hikers jammed wall to wall to wall to wall to wall to wall. I find a flat tentsite and enjoy the solitude.

Day 103: (NH)  15 miles to Hiker’s Welcome in Glencliffe

A relatively short hike today to a legendary oasis called Hiker’s Welcome in the village of Glencliffe at the edge of the fearsome White Mtns. Although the main house is off limits, the hikers have free reign over the rest of the expansive property. I see several hikers sitting under a tarp next to a wooden structure which contains everything a hiker needs to kill time– books, videos and board games. I recognize one of the hikers from way back in TN. I have been chasing this boy and his dog for months!

There is a pile of bicycles against a fence for hikers to use to go into town. I choose a girls bike because it has a handlebar basket and begin the 30 minute ride to the nearest store. Choices are limited but I cram my purchases (including a six pack of beer) in the basket and pedal slowly up a long hill. My progress is slowed by the basket rubbing against the front tire due to the weight of my supplies so I start drinking the beer. I eventually return by dark with only 2 beers left.

I spend the rest of the evening chatting with the handful of hikers who are resting before taking on the challenging Presidential Range. I am filled with anticipation and have difficulty falling asleep. Tomorrow the real hike begins.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 13

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on July 14, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Thirteen (July 3rd-12th)

Day 87: (CT)  10 miles to Silver Hill campsite

Early coffee with Joe then a fabulous breakfast with Joe and Lee. They are a happy affluent retired couple living a comfortable life in a quiet New England town. I enjoy staying in the childhood room of their eldest son. There are animal skulls, crude weaponry and school banners on the walls. Lee takes me to the grocery store then back home for lunch with the two tight couples. Lee and Nancy take me for a history tour of the town then drop me at the trail by 2 pm.

Easy walking along a lazy river in a steady light rain. Suddenly I meet my first ‘SOBO’ (Southbound) hiker. He is relieved to be hiking easy trail after taking a beating in Maine and New Hampshire to start his journey. I stop at a nice campsite with a pavilion and cooking area where I meet morose young man SAILBOAT and his dog. The pavilion is a handy hangout as it continues to drizzle. Later the rain stops and it is a dry, rosy sunset.

Day 88:  23 miles from Silver Hill to campsite near Salisburg

It is a cloudy Independence Day. I ponder the definition of independence as I carry my life on my back and walk towards unending novelty. I reach a tiny tourist spot called Falls Village and luckily find a café open on the holiday. I devour a freshly made Reuben sandwich, big peanut butter cookie and gulp soda while the employee finishes closing.

I take a long, refreshing break at the great falls and watch young people swim and cliff jump. Later I see an owl near a strange rock protrusion called Giant’s Thumb. I do not see any hikers all day.

Day 89: (MA)  13 miles to Hemlocks Lean-to

It starts to rain as I break camp and it continues to rain all morning. At some point I cross into Massachusetts. The trail becomes steep and rocky and the rain makes the hiking treacherous. Paradoxically, groups of high-spirited day hikers go blazing past me.

I am completely soaked when I arrive at Hemlock Lean-to at 1:30 and I decide to call it a day and dry out in the empty lean-to (aka a shelter in other states). I take a nap and am awaken by the arrival of a Ridgerunner (volunteer trail care-taker) and two section hikers. My spirits are lifted by a long evening of fellowship around the fire.

Day 90:  23 miles from Hemlocks to camp past Beertown Mtn Rd

I am grumpy this morning but still leave the lean-to before any of the others. The foggy morning does not help my mood as I climb up and down viewless viewpoints.

At a road crossing I make a sidetrip along the shoulder of the road to a farm/feedstore. I greet a large woman with torn shirt, dirty jeans and muck boots and I nearly choke on the smell of animal feed. She points to a small commercial freezer in the corner which contains locally made peach soda and ice cream.

In the afternoon I stop at Benedict Pond for a swim and chance to dry out gear. While walking through waist high brush I am startled by bear #17 (the last bear of this trek as it turns out). We both quickly go our separate ways and I eventually crash after a tiring day next to a creek below a dirt road.

Day 91:  25 miles to camp between Wash Mtn Rd and Blotz Rd

Today is a tough day mentally and physically. I feel okay in the morning but by lunch the plug is pulled and I struggle. The only relief is an energizing swim at Upper Goose Pond. The trail is monotonous into the evening. I stop at a flat rock to cook dinner then crank out a few more boring miles. I need to get close to Dalton because I am low on food.

Day 92:  17 miles to camp above gas station

I get my usual early start and push to get the eight miles into Dalton. I stop at the first café I come to near the old town ironworks and have a long awaited breakfast. I find a Laundromat and decide to wash my sleeping bag. Drying becomes a problem due to a machine malfunction and the bag takes much too long to dry in the sun. I waste time and energy walking to a country store which is closed.

I am hungry again and stop at a fantastic sandwich shop called Angelina’s. Their sandwiches are huge! I order a philly cheesesteak for lunch and greasy Italian sub to go for dinner.

I stroll through the town of Cheshire looking for more treats. As I walk the sidewalk along the road out of town, I see where the trail continues into the woods there is a bright, busy convenience store. I slug various cold drinks and carry more with me into the cover of trees. As soon as I find a nice flat spot I stop to camp. When I open my bear canister I discover all of my food is oily from the Italian sub.

Day 93: (VT)  21 miles to Seth Warner Shelter

When I get up I walk back to the convenience store for breakfast drinks and apples. This morning’s hike is a taxing climb to the highest point in MA — Mt Greylock. There is an interesting war monument at the top which is swarming with the tourists who drove up on the road I crossed several times while walking to the summit. Unfortunately, it is a hazy day so there are no views and the vending machine has no Mtn Dew.

Near lunch time I walk through the town of North Adams and run into several hikers sitting in the shade outside of a large box grocery. My cravings are overwhelming inside this air-conditioned oasis and I end up with copious amounts of Mtn Dew, ice cream and watermelon. Rapidly ingesting this combination gives me bad gas and I try to walk it off through the maze of side streets and alleys to where the trail continues along a creek at the end of a quiet street.

It begins to rain just as I step off pavement and I stop to put on raingear. Nevertheless I am drenched by the time I arrive at the crowded shelter (in Vermont). I am reluctantly allowed a small space to lay my sleeping pad but I have to leave my pack covered outside of the shelter.

Day 94: (VT)  26 miles from Warner Shelter to Kid Gore Shelter

Not much to say except it is a long hard day. The hike is boring until the expansive views at the crowded Glastonbury Fire Tower. The flies are obnoxious at the base of the tower due to all the day hikers eating lunch there so I do not linger to socialize. Fortunately, the day is cooler and I make it to a less crowded shelter for the night.

Day 95: (VT)  24 miles from Kid Gore to camp near road to Manchester Center

Another long day on the trail as I begin to anticipate the final leg of this journey. Today involves a climb to Stratton Mtn then a descent to Stratton Pond. In the afternoon the cool weather and easier terrain allows me to push past Spruce Peak so I can camp close to the road to Manchester Center, my next mail drop.

Day 96: (VT)  early hitch to Manchester Center

I am up early and quickly motor the two miles to the road. Even though it is before 6 am I get a ride from a guy headed to work. I am dropped off in downtown Manchester Center but not much is open so I get a soda from a spotless Mobile station (after washing up in their nice restroom) and wait on a bench outside of a restaurant appropriately called ‘Up for Breakfast’.

While waiting, an old guy with a newspaper walks up and we start chatting. When he learns that I graduated from the University of Texas he gets very excited and offers to buy me breakfast. We swap southern stories and become a loud nuisance to the other patrons.

I spend the morning doing my usual town chores: laundry, grocery shopping, take my camera to a photo processing center. The post office is across town and I send photos to my wife after I pick up my packages. I am not ready to head back to the trail so I find a quiet pub for a leisurely lunch and a few beers.

I sit in the dark pub until late in the afternoon. Finally, an old surfer dude enters and we chat. He is in town for a horse show. After a few more beers he agrees to give me a ride back to the trail. In the evening I haul my full pack up to the Bromley Peak ski lift, take a break then drop down to Styles Peak Camp.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 12

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on June 20, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Twelve (June 24th-July 2nd)

Day 78: (NJ)  18 miles from DWG to almost Crater Lake

I have breakfast with the OVER THE HILL GANG then I wait for the post office to open. With my gear packed, I walk across the Delaware River bridge and into New Jersey. I notice an immediate improvement in the trail. It is a cool day with a breeze and I gently climb to nice open views of rolling hills.

When I reach a dirt road I turn and begin what turns out to be a long uphill detour to the Mohican Center Lodge where I purchase 3 measly Mtn Dews. The hilltops have nice views and at one point I climb a fire tower where I take a long break. In the afternoon I see bear #14 in the brush only about 20 yards away. At camp I notice more mosquitos than usual.

Day 79: (NJ)  21 miles to camp on ridge above Rutherford Shelter

Today is a nice day and I get into a slow, relaxed pace. I see bear #15 in the brush (photo) and we exchange greetings. I approach the road at Culver Gap and I see a small bear (#16) run across the road and disappear into the green foliage. When there is a break in the traffic, I follow the bear then walk a short distance down the road to a deli. I order a large italian sub and grab three 20 oz Mtn Dews and sit outside to dine. Before I head back to the trail, I finally remove the filthy, wrinkled wristband from Trail Days. Later in the day I get nice views from Sunrise Mtn and the impressive Culver Fire Tower.

Day 80: (NJ)  23 miles to Vernon church hostel

I am very tired this morning and it is taking a long time to loosen up my legs. The light rain and humidity make me grumpy and I look for any excuse to get off the trail. I hitch to a country store for a sandwich and the friendly employee lets me into the back office so I can access the internet.

At another crossing I easily hitch to another country store. The talkative driver tells me about the church hostel up ahead. My third hitch of the day takes me into Vernon. I meet two other hikers staying in the cavernous basement hostel at the church within blocks of fast food and grocery.

A note next to a recipe filebox informs us to choose a chore from the box to complete during our stay. I eagerly choose to organize folders, magazines and paperwork as a way to exercise my numb brain for a change. Everything is available and orderly: shower, laundry, internet, television, books, music, games. Me and the couple walk to fast food heaven followed by ice cream followed by watching ‘Lost in Space’ episodes in the basement. I spread my sleeping bag out on the carpeted floor and fall into a restful sleep.

Day 81:  21 miles from Vernon to Mombasha High Pt

I get up at 5:30, pack up quietly, leave the church basement and walk over to the A&P for supplies and then next door to a bagel place for breakfast. Just as I step back to the road, the first car that comes along stops to give me a ride. A young dude on his way to work in his crappy car wearing his unwashed overalls complains about his boss for the entire ride. A potent reminder of life off the trail.

There is a lot of tough ridge walking today. At one road crossing I come across a local creamery that is packed with tourists. I stop for some wonderful ice cream and cream soda. I kill some time talking to the cute girls at the next table. At the end of the day I camp away from the mosquitoes on Mombasha High Point and reflect while watching a nice sunset.

Day 82:  17 miles to camp at Black Mtn

I am so freakin tired today but the trail doesn’t care and throws a hard, humid morning at me. There are some exhausting stretches such as the Lemon Squeezer that push me into the red zone.

Salvation arrives in the form of a popular recreational lake/park which has showers and vending machines. Back on the trail away from the crowds I pitch the tent to protect me from bugs and take an afternoon siesta. When I wake up it is cooler and the trail takes me to Black Mtn. I camp near a nice lookout spot and watch a lightning show to the south at nightfall.

Day 83: (NY)  21 miles to camp at Dennytown Rd picnic area

Another tough day. It starts with a big climb up and over Bear Mtn to a popular state park that has long been a get-away for urban vacationers in this area. As I walk through the picnic area I see a large black woman sitting at a table surrounded by food and drink. I decide to use my yogi skills to procure a hand-out. She is an extremely friendly, engaging person who enjoys my company and we wait for the rest of her family to arrive. I excuse myself as their party gets going and I continue my journey with a light heart.

This is a unique section of trail. Believe it or not, the trail travels through a small zoo. It is a bit sad to see bears behind bars after seeing so many in the wild. After exiting the zoo there is a busy bridge crossing the Hudson River. I continue on concrete sidewalk to Ft Montgomery where I make a sidetrip to my first authentic NY deli. A big italian sub gives me a boost through an afternoon thunderstorm.

I hike late into the evening to a lonely picnic area where I camp in the grass. A light rain continues as I watch from my tent.

Day 84: (NY)  20 miles from picnic area to Morgan Stewart Shelter

I am slow to get going again today. The highlight of this mundane day is a long sidetrip along a lonely road to a deli in sleepy Stormville. A very hiker friendly place, I receive a massive sandwich along with my ubiquitous soda. I take my gear around the back to a lawn where I dry out. More road walking followed by an easy four trail miles to the shelter

Day 85:  21 miles to Schaghticoke Mtn

An unremarkable day punctuated by one delightful interpersonal experience with Bradley the Hot Dog Vendor. Bradley has his Winnebago parked at a rest stop where the trail crosses a divided roadway. He retired a few years ago, bought the RV and now spends his summers selling hot dogs, chips and drinks out of his window to hikers and motorists. Bradley clearly loves people and he wants to know all about where I am from and what I do. An outstanding example of the wonderful characters I meet on this journey.

Day 86: (CT)  6 miles to Kent, CT

It is a short hike to the town of Kent. The last mile I cruise along a country road and pass an impressive ivy covered prep school. In this neat and clean town I check out the outfitter store then have breakfast at the market counter. After stopping at the post office I call Joe Rush who is good friends with my personal training client in Eugene. He arrives shortly and gives me a ride to his lovely home in New Milford, CT.

Joe and wife Lee are the quintessential uppercrust New Englanders. They are also fantastic hosts and I have a pleasant, restful stay in this sleepy town. Their friends Gil and Nancy come over for dinner and everyone is fascinated by my stories and they ask questions until late in the evening.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 11

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on June 20, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Eleven (June 17th-23rd)

Day 71: (PA)  11 miles to Doyle Hotel, Duncannon, PA

It is an easy hike into Duncannon, considered by hikers to be the biggest party town on the trail, hence the nickname — “Drunkcannon”. The reason for this is the rundown dive Doyle Hotel where all the hikers stay and drink in the large saloon. I arrive at 11 am, the staff are friendly but the place is a dump. I leave my gear in the dank room, do laundry and contemplate an icky shower. I have a beer at the bar where I meet more arriving hikers. A short walk to the post office then back to the bar as hikers continue to appear.

At four a van shuttles hikers to the grocery store. Back to the bar for burgers and beers as the place swells with trail folk. Flashback to dormitory parties in college. A late arriving hiker needs a place to sleep so I offer the floor in my room. As I nod off to sleep the party continues downstairs.

Day 72: (PA)  19 miles from Duncannon to Horshoe Trail

I get up early and check out of the nasty Doyle. I am a bit hungover and order a big breakfast at a tiny diner on the edge of town but when the food arrives my stomach is upset and I (shockingly) do not finish the meal.

On the trail I catch up to WRONGWAY and PEANUT whom I met at the Doyle. WRONGWAY has snake tattoos on his arms and I discover why later in the day when I watch him poke his trekking pole under some rocks then reach down and snatch a large timber rattlesnake by the back of the head. He is too eager to let us get a close look at the writhing, rattling reptile and I get a massive adrenaline rush which propels me for miles down the trail.

In the evening there is a brief shower followed by a rosy sunset as I smoke the last of the Waynesboro weed.

Day 73: (PA)  27 miles from Horshoe Trail to 501 Shelter

A long day of walking PA’s rocky ridges. At a road crossing I meet trail angel Stuttering Ron who hands me an apple and a Christian comic book about Adam & Eve. I am confused by the symbolism of him offering me the forbidden fruit but it is tasty.

In the afternoon I arrive at interesting 501 shelter. It is a large circular structure with a huge dome skylight in the center of the ceiling and bunkbeds around the perimeter. It has a solar shower and a phone to make pizza orders. I get here with WRONGWAT and PEANUT then several more hikers show up later. We get a big delivery of Italian food and enjoy a pleasant evening.

Day 74: (PA)  25 miles from 501 Shelter to Port Clinton

I quietly pack up and am the first out of the shelter. It is a nice morning with few bugs and I crank out another big day. I arrive in Port Clinton by 4:30 and shop at the outfitter store. I eat crab cakes and chowder while swilling beers with locals at the Union House.

I walk over to the pavilion at the small city park where hikers are allowed to sleep. I leave my gear and walk to the Port Clinton Hotel bar where I find more hikers I recognize from Duncannon. Everyone ends up at the pavilion and it is difficult to sleep because of the noisy chatter.

Day 75: (PA)  22 miles from Port Clinton to Allentown Shelter

A profane former hiker named DIRTY BAG OF TRICKS stops by early and gives some of us a ride to 3C’s for breakfast. When I return to the pavilion I grab my familiar pack and beeline to the woods while it is still cool.

It is the summer solstice which is traditionally ‘Hike Naked Day’ for the uninhibited hiker. I usually include myself in that category however, it is Saturday and I am on a popular climb to Pulpit Rock. There are big church groups I have to pass as well as ill-prepared city people with poor trail manners. By the time I move beyond the crowd I have lost my mood to walk au naturel.

When I arrive at the shelter it is empty but a troop of boy scouts have taken all of the tent sites so I have the shelter to myself.

Day 76: (PA)  28 miles from Allentown Shelter to camp past [Del?? Springs]

It is a humid morning and a light rain ensures a humid day. At an empty shelter I find the journal of a hiker ahead of me so I carry it to the next shelter but he is not there so I leave it with a note.

It is a rocky, steep hike out of Lehigh Gap but the views are great on the open slopes. Apparently a fire years ago burned all of the trees on the ridge so there is no shade and I get overheated. At Little Gap I get a fast hitch downhill to a little store in Danielsville where I load up on Mtn Dew and chips. I do not have to wait long for a ride back to the trail where I finally find some shade. The rocky trail and high humidity takes a toll but I still put in a monster day trying to get the hell through this keystone state.

Day 77: (PA)  22 miles to Delaware Water Gap church hostel

Another rocky, humid bitch of a day! I get dehydrated early so I take a small detour at Wind Gap to the Gatewood Motel where I find a vending machine. I slam 64 oz of Mtn Dew into my system. This gives me the jolt I need to continue.

Anticipation gives me energy later in the day as I approach my next maildrop/re-supply town of Delaware Water Gap. This means the end of the PA pounding! I find my way to the well known hiker hostel at a church on the hill above town. I meet many new hikers in the basement of the church. One very tall old man is a multiple triple crowner (AT, CDT, PCT) named Silver. We all walk into town and I have a philly cheesesteak sandwich with lots of soda for dinner.

Back at the hostel there are stories to tell, chores to do and chaos to rule.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 10

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on June 1, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Ten (June 8th-16th)

Day 62: (VA)  Ride to trail, 15 miles to Dick’s Dome Shelter

I pack up, check out and stop at the large, bright Martin Market for donuts and OJ. Luckily, I get a hitch at this hour from a guy headed to work. When I get to the trail it is already hot and humid so my pace is a crawl. The humidity at mid day is unbearable and I am so sleepy I lie down at an empty shelter and take a nap.

I am awaken by the arrival of JACKAROO and BRIARPATCH. They are a couple of good ole boys with deep southern accents. The three of us hike together in the afternoon and stay in unusual Dick’s Dome Shelter. We enjoy a happy hour drink from my bottle of Don Julio before dinner.

Day 63: (VA)  18 miles from Dick’s Dome to Bear’s Den Hostel

Warm night, bugs and bowels are my wake-up call. I am on the trail by dawn; I want to get the miles in early while it is cooler. After lunch I arrive at the dreaded “roller coaster” — a particularly difficult stretch of trail. I try to take it easy but I get overheated and worry about dehydration as my water supply dwindles. Just as I think I am at the brink of collapse, I reach an oasis called Bear’s Den Hostel.

This is a feast for the eyes as I climb the short side trail to a hilltop castle which had been donated and converted to a hiker hostel. It is currently being run by the sweet couple who greeted me at the door. They offer a $20 Hiker Special which includes: A bunk bed, shower, internet, a self baked frozen pizza using their large communal kitchen oven, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I wash my clothes while in the shower then take them out to the clothesline to dry. Other hikers arrive, we take turns in the kitchen cooking our pies then sit around and chat while a movie plays on the VCR.

Day 64: (WV)  20 miles from Bear’s Den to Harper’s Ferry

After packing, I buy soda pop for breakfast and leave Bear’s Den before anyone stirs. It is a warm morning but the terrain is gradually getting easier. In the afternoon a thunderstorm cools the stagnant air. I am pushing the pace to get to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in Harper’s Ferry before they close. This is the psychological halfway point of the journey and every hiker registers at the ATC.

Harper’s Ferry has such historical significance the entire old town has been preserved as a national landmark. As the trail brings me within view I feel like I have been taken back in time. I see shops with small doorways, cobbled streets and a white steeple piercing the sky above the lazy river. As I walk up the main street I look into the shops and I envy the people sitting at cozy tables outside the pubs and cafes. I find my way to the ATC HQ just before closing but am told I will have to come back tomorrow.

I stride the broken sidewalk past tiny homes towards the newer part of town near the highway. I see a Comfort Inn and get a room. After a highly anticipated hot water sterilization, I call for delivery of a veggie stromboli from a local pizza place and watch game #3 of the NBA finals.

Day 65: (MD)  7 drunk miles from Harper’s Ferry to Ed Garvey Shelter

After checkout and breakfast, I find the library and use the computer. At the post office I pick up my mail which includes a new pair of shoes, yay! I try them out by getting back on the trail and I walk back towards old town, stopping at the famous Jefferson Rock to watch the river flow by. I arrive at the ATC HQ midmorning and get my picture taken for the registry (hiker #278). I meet more hikers and hang around until lunch.

I head down mainstreet past outfitters shops to an old cafe with a shaded veranda in the back. As I start my second beer, UPHILL and SKYSURFER show up. I find out they are both getting off the trail today when the train arrives in a few hours. We eat, drink, laugh and lounge the afternoon away. We make the fuzzy walk to the station and we takes sips of bourbon out of a bottle until it is time to say goodbye to my occasional travel companions.

I am quite drunk as I stagger across the Potomac River and lurch along the C&O canal path until the AT resumes. My head clears as I slowly climb until I reach the shelter and crash.

Day 66:  20 miles from Ed Garvey Shelter to Pogo Memorial campsite

Much cooler, easy hiking in the morning. I see several civil war memorials such as the War Correspondents Arch. I stop for a free shower at Dahlgren Campground. The rest of the day is full of interesting sights such as the first Washington Monument at Boonesboro, MD, the I-70 footbridge and Annapolis Rocks. I drink anejo at camp while listening to MAESTRO play guitar and sing.

Day 67: (PA)  19 miles from Pogo campsite to Deer Lick Shelter

My first view of the day is at High Rock whose sloping ramp is supposedly a launch for hanggliders. Later on I take a break at immaculate Pen Mar County Park. There are nice views of green valleys and a barn sized pavilion with an ample wooden dance floor and stage. I meet a nice older gentleman at the first aid hut and buy two sods from him. Ten minutes later he reluctantly sells me two more from his private stock.

I enter PA and at state road 16 I hitch to Rouzenville for resupply at Wal-Mart and a superb AYCE steak buffet dinner at Blonde’s. After getting a ride back to the trail I let the meal digest with a short, easy walk to inviting Deer Lick Shelter.

Day 68: (PA)  18 or 19 miles from Deer Lick Shelter to camp in laurel bushes before Birch Run Shelter

I have a hard time getting started this morning and my pace is slow and plodding. Just before mid day I take a long break at popular Caledonia State Park which has a public swimming pool with showers, coin-op laundry, and an unsatisfactory food concession.

The next few shelters come in pairs and the trail is so well maintained not a loose rock or twig can be found on the treadway. I come around a bend and see many hikers milling around Quarry Gap shelter, considered the Taj Mahal of shelters on the AT.

The floor of one is painted red and the other is green. They are connected by a covered area with picnic tables and a firepit. The rock walkways are lined with colorful petunias. A hiker is trying to reduce her pack weight by giving away incredible homemade chocolate chip cookies from a large plastic bag.

This sensory overload gives me the energy to charge into a light rain through a spectacular tunnel of white mtn laurel. I spy a soft campsite a few yards off the trail in the fragrant bushes and I crash early and get a restful sleep.

Day 69: (PA)  Easy walk to Pine Grove Furnace SP

A non-taxing walk to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. There is an old rustic store with a covered seating area of large wooden tables where gas pumps used to be. This is the site of the traditional half gallon ice cream challenge to mark completion of half of the Appalachian Trail.

I go inside and discover they have a limited supply of flavors so I pick the least hideous for the task: Vanilla Cherry Chip.  The fact that I do not come close to finishing the challenge is the least interesting part of the experience. Along with a few other hikers I meet my first eccentric hiker groupie (pictured sitting behind me). Apparently she drives down from Philly on the weekends to stay at the hostel and talk to the hiker trash. She looks like she stepped out of an Eddie Bauer catalogue but I doubt her boots have touched a trail.

Day 70: (PA)  Boiling Springs, over interstate to shelter?

A few minor bumps in the morning then the trail cuts through rolling fields of wheat on the way to Boiling Springs. As I enter this lovely town, there are stately homes with manicured lawns on lakeside property with swans floating on the calm water.

I stop at a cafe and leisurely eat good soup and sandwich on the patio while watching people go by. After lunch the flat valley walking is easy and I cross over a couple of turnpikes and interstates. A light refreshing shower passes overhead before I get to the shelter.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 9

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on June 1, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Nine (June 2nd-7th)

Day 56: (VA)  14 miles from Rockfish Gap to camp past Calf Mtn Shelter

We all get up and go to Weazie’s for breakfast, then the post office followed by the library for the internet. Trail magic happens at the library when I run into ROZ whom I met on the trail earlier and lives in Waynesboro. She offers me a ride to the trail so we drive to the Y, pack my stuff and stop at the local outfitter and Kroger for supplies before dropping me off at Rockfish Gap.

It is a beautiful sunny day as I head down the smooth trail into Shenandoah National Park. At the park sign I smoke some Virginia Skank and savor an easy afternoon walk past a nasty shelter (Calf Mtn?) to an unmemorable camp. I write this bit of sarcastic movie monologue in the shelter’s logbook: “Look at this shelter,…its a DUMP! To stay in a shelter like this you should get a bowl of soup. Oh, but it looks good to YOU!” –Rodney Dangerhawk, “Caddy Shelter”

Day 57: (VA)  20 miles from camp to Pinefield Hut

It is a quiet , easy morning of walking on smooth dirt trail. For a few miles during the hot part of the day, the trail circumnavigates Loft Mtn less than a mile from the top. There is a small store at the summit and there are three side trails to the store about a mile apart.

I take the first side trail and like a guided missile head directly to the store’s cooler. Lo and behold they have a six pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale! Along with the essential Mt Dew, I grab two beers and sit at a picnic table outside for a nice break. By the time I hike back to the AT and get to the next side trail, I am thirsty again. I trudge back up to the store and slam two more Pale Ales. Again I labor down to the AT. All I can think of is those last two beers. When I get to the last side trail I consider the extra miles and energy required for a third climb but I only hesitate a second before turning toward the blue blaze trail and the remaining West Coast ales.

My eyes try to focus on bear #3 as it attempts to hide from my tottering gait. I meet a queer hiker named ROBIN HOOD at the shelter. It starts to rain as I cook dinner and we get rain and lightning all night. 

Day 58: (VA)  23 miles from Pinefield to camp on wet ridge

A long day of hiking; I see bear #4 standing on hind legs sniffing the air. I get to Lewis Mtn Campground at 4:30. The store, laundry and shower room closes at six so I have to hustle. While getting these chores done I drink five beers (two in the shower).

I hike about a mile to Bearfence Shelter thinking I will use the shelter because storm clouds are building for an inevitable storm. The shelter is full when I arrive and I recognize some of the hikers. One of them pulls out a big fattie and we pass it around.

At this point I am feeling no pain so I decide to push on into the impending storm. I give everyone my standard “Aloha!” farewell and charge into the trees just as the first crack of thunder shakes the forest. I keep climbing toward the higher ridges as the thunder and lightning get more intense and the rain pours out of the sky. I hike until the storm passes then I find an adequate flat spot and make a wet camp.

Day 59: (VA)  18 miles from camp to cowboy camp on rocks near pinnacles

Today is the day of the bear.  As I get going I immediately see  bear #5 foraging for food in the brush. Later I walk through a boggy creek area and am startled by the sound of a large body breaking twigs as it moves out of the bushes into the clearing. It is the largest bear (#6) I have ever seen and it is coming my direction. I would love to photograph this behemoth but he is not stopping to pose so I hurry along.

I get to a road with a sidewalk that will take me to the Big Meadow store. As I walk the concrete footpath, I see a group of tourists stopped along the road with cameras clicking. I see a sow and her two cubs calmly going about their business as the mob of gawkers increase. I watch this fascinating scene for twenty minutes.

The power was knocked out at the store from last night’s storm so there is no hot breakfast available. A sympathetic employee gives me a couple of sodas from the dark cooler in the shadows. I take the sidewalk back to the AT. More effortless walking on well maintained trail to the Skyland Restaurant. I eat a big lunch with beers and dessert then sit in the shade at an empty picnic table and smoke pot until I feel ready to continue the day’s hike.

There are plenty of good views in the afternoon and I stop at the pinnacles to cowboy camp on the rocks. It is breezy but I still get eaten by bugs. I take a photo at sunset which becomes my avatar for this blog.

Day 60: (VA)  20 miles from cowboy camp to camp near South Marshall Mtn

I wake up early from a surprisingly comfortable cowboy camp on the rocks. It is warm and buggy this morning. Around noon I arrive at the rustic Elk Wallow Wayside Grill and order a tasty burger, milkshake and beers.

I see a sow and cub moving through the brush. The momma is making clucking noises as the cub follows her into the forest. I camp near the S Marshall Mtn viewpoint hoping to find a breeze but it does not help. I watch weird cloud formations as I lie on top of my sleeping bag, too hot to sleep.

Day 61: (VA)  Exit Shenandoah NP, hitch to Front Royal

The weekend is bringing out the tourists so it is the end of my solitude. Before exiting the park I see bears # 12 and #13. I am downwind of one which allows me to get closer and watch as it stretches on a tree, arms overhead clawing the bark. The sound of my camera turning on spooks it before I can get a picture.

It is an easy walk to a road and I get a quick hitch to Front Royal by a woman who jokes she may ask me to duck in my seat if she sees her husband in town. After shopping at the outfitter, I stroll through downtown to the Scottish Inn. I use their laundry to clean my pack and sleeping bag. While washing my clothes, I have to walk around in my stifling raingear as a digital sign reads 94 degrees.

I find an air-conditioned BBQ restaurant and drink four Magic Hat beers with dinner. Back in the room this evening I get the munchies and go to Spelunker’s for a big ice cream sundae. I am still hungry so I order a hamburger and milkshake.

Sidetrack: Shenandoah NP summary civilized hiking; Beers 16 vs Bears 11


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