Anniversary Time!

20140426-140033.jpgThis is a week of anniversaries for me, as Rowdy on the AT. On Friday morning, April 25, 2014, my wife, Cathy, and I loaded up our Honda and began the drive to the state of Georgia and my first step ever on the Appalachian Trail. I had walked 2,200 miles in training, I had read over twenty books about the AT, I had purchased some nice camping/hiking gear, but I had never actually seen the trail before. My eldest son, Ben, lives just north of Atlanta, Georgia, the perfect spot for an overnight before the adventure and a wonderful drive to the trail head.

006April 26, 2014 was my first day on the Appalachian Trail. Ben and Cathy drove me to the parking lot, one mile from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Many thru-hikers begin at Amicalola Falls and hike up a pretty grueling 8.8 mile approach trail. Some hikers, with Maine on the minds, don’t make it past this initial hike. The brutal reality of the mountain climb, similar to many in northern Georgia, quickly transforms the dreams of the hopefuls to a rude awakening to the demands of the path.

Looking back on my adventure, I am so glad that I by-passed the approach trail and opted for the ride to the parking lot on top of Springer. Ben, Cathy and I hiked together for the mile up to the summit of Springer, took some pictures of a very nervous Rowdy, hiked back to the car, said a rather quick good-bye with long hugs that needed to last several months, and then I left my wife and son at Springer as I hiked down the trail looking for white blazes.

859Reflecting on the journey, which I do every day, there are times when I cannot believe I completed the thru-hike. Rocky (my wife’s trail name) and I hiked 13 miles recently and I wasn’t sure if I could make the distance. I realized that I averaged more mileage than that every day for 152 days. The people that I met, the incredible views that filled my summits, and the times of both hunger and gluttony only bring smiles to my face in 2016. A 30 pound pack, a dozen bears, four moose, a couple of face plants, the thrill of climbing the fire-towers, my fantastic Chaco sandals, and the relaxation of zero days paste a surreal experience in my mind.

HIF Cover PublishedThanks to all of you who have read my ebook, Hike It Forward (if you have not got your copy, just click on the book icon and it will take you to my Amazon listing). I have received many kind and encouraging shout outs from many of you. Please continue to pass the word among your friends. I would love to hear your comments and feedback (especially if you like it). Please let me know, as well, if you have any questions about the hike, or if you know of an opportunity for me to share the adventure. I am always looking for a chance to speak about the AT.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Book, Chaco Sandals, Fire-tower, Georgia, Hike It Forward, Hiking, Maine, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trail, Trail Name, White Blaze | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Journey is the Reward

Mount Katahdin fogI remember lying in bed before I began my thru-hike adventure of the Appalachian Trail trying to image the journey and what I would see, the experiences that I might encounter, the people that I would meet, and the animals that would cross my path. I remember my mind going to the topic of sleep as I felt so comfortable in my own bed. Would I be able to get to sleep, would I get enough sound sleep to feel rested in the morning, would I find good spots for my tent or would I be sleeping on rocks and roots that would prohibit a peaceful slumber in the woods? I tried to think of climbing Mount Katahdin (a mountain that I had never seen before) and arriving at the famous brown sign that graces the northern terminus of the AT. My mind’s eye could never focus in on that picture – I just could not see myself on the summit.

When I arrived at the Tableland, the gateway to the summit, with a distance of just 1.6 miles to the iconic sign, the reality began to set in that I was going to make it. With one mile to go I walked past Thoreau Spring (just a trickle on September 24, 2014) and began the final climb to the summit. Then I saw the sign in the distance and realized that many hikers were at the top celebrating their victory and the climax of months of hiking.

The Celebration

During this last mile of the hike, a principle that I had incorporated in my life during my doctoral studies came crashing into my mind. Katahdin was not the reward. The fantastic sign at the summit filled with celebration, high-fives, hugs, and voices of congratulations was not the reward. The journey was the reward. The sign marked the end of the journal, the last page of the recorded adventure, the final entry documenting the walk of 2,186 miles. It was the period after the title, Thru-hiker. It was a crowning experience to stand atop the sign and shout a victory cry of joy.

But the real reward was the journey. The 5 million steps counted one at a time. The sunny days and the rain storms, the sweltering hot July days in Pennsylvania and the cold nights in September in the wilderness of Maine provided the weather that defined the journey. The special friends and bonds of brotherhood that were crafted along the path formed the relationships of the reward. 20140603-185040.jpg 20140524-141412.jpg 20140505-084828.jpg Each campsite, shelter, hostel, and hotel brings a memory of the reward of the hobo lifestyle and independent uniqueness of the thru-hike. No two thru-hikes are the same and part of the reward is working through the personal struggles, victories, joys, and tears that make up the walk.

On the last day of the hike, the brown sign was a great reward. But reflecting back on the journey and this life-changing experience, the sign plays a pretty small part. Mount Katahdin was amazing, but so was Blood Mountain in Georgia, Mount Albert in North Carolina, Thunderhead Mountain in Tennessee, McAfee Knob in Virginia, Mount Lafayette in New Hampshire, and about twenty other absolutely incredible vistas experienced along the trail.

The reward is reading my journal and reflecting on the faithfulness of God – everyday, in every state, every night, and in every need – always protecting, always guiding, always providing. The journey was the reward.

 

Photo – Dream of Katahdin –  https://www.tripadvisor.ie/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g40744-d145958-i122917743-Mount_Katahdin-Millinocket_Maine.html

All Other Photos from my Thru-hike 2014

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Maine, McAfee Knob, Mount Katahdin, Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tableland, Tennessee, Thoreau Spring, Thru-Hike, Thunderhead Mountain, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Hike Around the Creek

IMG_1099Saturday morning (April 16), Rocky and I watched our four grandchildren. We had a great time with iPads, tea parties, and a treasure hunt for fruit snacks. The kids came over to “Mimi and Poppy’s” house around 8:15 and their mom picked them up about 10:45. It is enjoyable to spend time with them and see them grow up right before our eyes.

After the visit, Rocky and I decided to throw a backpack filled with hiking essentials (water, first aid kit, a couple of snacks, and sunglasses) into the trunk along with our trekking poles and to head out for a two hour hike in the woods. We wanted to catch some of the early spring wildflowers and the day was absolutely perfect – warm temperatures without a cloud in the bright blue skies.

We headed for Caesar Creek, one of my favorite local hiking spots. We arrived at the state park at noon feeling energized and excited about our adventure on such a beautiful day. With our lunch safely stored on my back, I remembered a special picnic table down by the lake that I thought would be a great place to pause and enjoy the breeze off the lake.

IMG_1109What I failed to remember was the distance and time involved to reach that picnic table. It took about two hours of pretty rugged hiking to reach the table on the beach. It was a great spot but the thought of turning around and hiking back the way we came did not appeal to either of us. Rocky asked how far it was to complete the loop trail and not retrace our path. We quickly did some math and figured that we were close to the 5 mile marker and the loop was 12.7 miles.

IMG_1111After discussing the pro and cons, we decided to continue on and do the loop! At 5:30 we arrived back at the parking lot, exhausted and elated. Our feet hurt but our spirits soared. We were glad that the circle was completed but celebrated with high fives and fist bumps. Rocky and Rowdy setting some records. Longest hike this year…. a loop trail without getting lost…. both of us making it from the garage to the living room without a leg cramp after sitting in the car for the 25 minute ride home from the park. As we chowed down on delicious food for dinner, neither of us had a solid conviction that we would be able to successfully stand up the following morning.

IMG_1104With all the background story aside, the hike was glorious. The occasional breezes coming off the lake made the trek quite comfortable. The natural air-conditioning helped to clear the mind and remove stress. The blue skies lifted our spirits heavenward and the wildflowers dotted the trail with life and spring and color. By the end our feet hurt but smiles ruled the day. We plopped into our Civic but breathed the air of accomplishment. Our senses were filled with God’s creation and our emotions were packed with peace and joy. It was a good day!

Categories: Backpack, Caesar Creek, Hiking, Local Hikes, Ohio, Rocky, Trail | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Fat Hen, Rooster Talon, and Mustard Seed

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon encounter some snow and ice

I am following several potential thru-hikers during the 2016 hiking season. In addition to Dulci and the Two Peas, who are still on the trail, I selected a young couple because they left on my birthday (March 19). I know almost nothing about them. Their real names are Dan and Becky but their trail names are Fat Hen (Dan) and Rooster Talon (Becky).

So far they are posting more pictures than written journal entries. I have posted several of their photographs in this blog and offer only this spotty itinerary to demonstrate their progress. They began with the demanding 8.8 mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls, Georgia on the 19th. Ten days later they arrived at Bly Gap just over the Georgia/North Carolina border (mile marker 78.6) averaging 7.9 miles per day. They hiked to the

Rooster Talon Camped In Snow/Ice

Rooster Talon Camped In Snow/Ice

NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) in North Carolina by day 16 boosting their per day mileage up to 8.5 miles and on to Fontana Dam, North Carolina on day 19 increasing the daily mileage to 8.73 miles. They entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and camped at the Mollies Ridge Shelter on day 21 at mile marker 176.8.  They have been experiencing some ice and snow along the way. On day 22 of their hike they arrived at Newfound Gap with frigid temperatures. They caught a ride into Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for a resupply with a plan to continue the next day. They have not posted since then (April 9). I remember having no cell phone coverage through the Smoky Mountains, so they may be trucking through the national park without being able to journal online. I am awaiting the end of their radio silence as they approach civilization.

Mustard Christian School

Mustard Seed with Students

I decided to follow at least one more thru-hiker this season. Her trail name is Mustard Seed. That name immediately caught my eye because of the possible biblical reference to faith. A little investigation led me to Central Christian School in Sharpsburg, Georgia where Michelle (Mustard Seed) teaches middle school Math and Bible. Michelle Mayne (what a great last name for a hike to Katahdin, Maine), was born in Alabama but now lives in Georgia with her husband Bill and two sons, Zak and Michael. Mustard Seed is hiking the AT with her father, Michael Williams aka, Negotiator. They began their adventure on April 1 heading NOBO toward the wilderness of Maine.

Mustard First Day

Mustard Seed and Dad, Negotiator

Mustard Seed and Negotiator appear to have done some nice physical preparation for the journey because they have averaged 12.7 miles during the first thirteen days of the hike including an 18.3 mile trek on day four. Their last post was from Fontana Dam, NC, on April 13. They were staying at the resort in order to rest up before entering the Smoky Mountains. If they left according to plan, they may be walking a part of the Appalachian Trail that makes contact with the outside world rather sporadic. They are making excellent progress but they have not taken a zero day in the first thirteen days of the adventure. I think they will soon discover the need for an extended rest.

I am interested to see if Dulci, Fat Hen & Rooster Talon, and Mustard Seed connect along the trail. Each started several days apart (March 13, March 19 and April 1) but they are all hiking through GSMNP at very different paces. I am interested to see who makes it out of the park first and who makes first contact via their online journals.

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=524129

Mustard Seed Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=527226

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Mustard Seed, NOBO, North Carolina, Rooster Talon, Snow, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Coopers and Dulci

HikeItForward-Final-MediumI have chosen, somewhat randomly, a few potential thru-hikers to follow during their adventures on the Appalachian Trail. I have already shared about three hikers that stepped out from Springer Mountain in February. A husband and wife team (Big Cypress and Moonbeam) are making good time and are well into Virginia. Mark Holmgren, from Pennsylvania, had to get off the trail after about 15 days due to family health concerns.

I selected three thru-hikers to follow that began their journeys in March. Two started on March 13 and one started on my birthday, March 19 (this third hiker will be the topic of my next blog). The two adventures that began on March 13 belong to the Coopers (father and daughter) and a single hiker, Dulcigal. Let me share some background and the current status of each.

Possumhead and CarrotThe Coopers are a father and his oldest daughter from Jacksonville, Florida. They were both given trail names while on the AT. The Dad is called “Carrot Stick” because he wears lots of orange. His daughter, Ariel, has been dubbed “Possumhead” because of the short buzz cut she adopted for the hiking adventure (I love this trail name). They signed in at Amicalola Falls and received hiker numbers 597 and 598 as they began their thru-hike. I love the idea of a father/daughter bonding experience and I was intrigued by their philosophical statement made at the end of each post, “It feels good to be lost in the right direction.”

They began on March 13 from Springer Mountain and hiked 8.5 miles of the AT ending their first night at Hawk Mountain Shelter. Neel Gap (mile 31.7) was reached on day four and on Day 10 of the hike they had hiked to Muskrat Creek Shelter and mile marker 81.4, for an average of 8.14 miles per day. The Coopers stayed at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) on day 15 increasing their daily average to 9.1 miles per day.

PossumheadThey made it to Fontana Dam on March 30 maintaining a little over a 9 mile per day pace. They took three days at Fontana to rest and refuel before stepping out into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The fourth day into GSMNP they arrived at Newfound Gap (39 miles into the 71 mile trek through the park) and decided to rest some aching joints in Gatlinburg, TN. They took three additional days in Gatlinburg and decided to abandon their thru-hike experience.

Their final post ended with a sad note, “Well we tried getting back on the trail but the swollen knees didn’t seem to want to cooperate. So after taking another few days off we have decided to end our journey. Both of us are very sad with this decision. We wanted to go much farther up the trail. However, we don’t want to jeopardize permanent damage to either of us. As I had said earlier this was going to be a test to my left knee. The knee has failed the test.” http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=20146  Sometimes a physical injury prohibits any more advancement and your body tells you to walk away. Wisdom says to obey what your body is saying. Walk away in order to walk again someday.

Dulci on SpringerKaral RedmanMy second potential thru-hiker leaving on March 13 is Dulcigal from Jackson, Georgia. She is 53 years old and her real name is Karla Redman. She is the founder and CEO of Crosspoint Counseling Center in Jackson and has been a mental health provider for 25 years. Dulcigal earned her MS from University of Texas, her Masters from Liberty University and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. She took her trail name with her on the AT and it reflects her love for Appalachian music and her skill as a dulcimer player. Her name has been shortened by fellow hiker to “Dulci,” which she seems to have embraced with pleasure.

Dulci does not keep a consistent journal so it is not easy to track her progress but I have discerned some major landmarks in her quest so far. She began on March 13 from Springer Mountain and arrived at Neel Gap on day five, March 17, averaging 6.34 miles per day. She hiked to Dick’s Gap by day 10 by maintaining the same basic daily mileage. She stopped in Franklin, NC for a zero day, arriving there on day 13 and increasing her daily mileage to 8.5. Dulci made it to Fontana Dam and mile marker 165.8 on day 20 before taking on the GSMNP. Like the Coopers, she made it to Newfound Gap. She met one of her cousins on April 8th at Newfound Gap and they took a break from the trail in Gatlinburg, TN.

Cooper Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1006792

Head Photo of Karla: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karla-redman-a720a246?authType=name&authToken=Ox0y&trk=prof-sb-browse_map-photo

Dulci at Springer: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=527167

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Duligal, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Journaling, Springer Mountain, The Coopers, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some 2016 Thru-Hikers to Follow

HikeItForward-Final-MediumI decided to follow several thru-hikers this year in order to trace their journeys from Georgia to Maine. I selected two thru-hikers that started in February, three hikers that had March start dates and I hope to pick up a few more that will leave Springer Mountain in April.

Let me fill in some background information on the hikers that have started their adventure in February. The portrait of these hikers is very limited and sketchy because they typically do not share much online, so I am just pasting together what I can glean.

Two Peas with EmmittMy first selection was a couple hailing from Florida. They call themselves Two Peas. They have separate trail names: Mrs. Pea (I don’t know real last names) is Kristin who goes by the trail name of “Moonbeam.” Mr. Pea is Robert, dubbed “Big Cypress” on the AT. They have a son, Patrick and a daughter-in-law, Amanda. Amanda updates the journal occasionally when cell-phone coverage makes it impossible for the Two Peas to connect. They have one wonderful grandson Emmett, who seems to be a big motivator for the Two Peas. This is the first long distance hike for either of the Floridians. I picked these two for two reasons. One, they are grandparents, like Rocky and me, and two, they sign off each blog post with Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I greatly identify with this couple and pray that God will encourage them and teach them like He did this grandfather in 2014.

Two Peas at SpringerThey began their journey on February 13, 2016 from Springer Mountain, GA. It took them five days to reach Neel Gap averaging about 6.3 miles each day. On March 1, day 18 of the adventure, they arrived at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) completing 137.3 miles of the trail increasing their average to 7.6 miles per day. They hit the streets of Hot Springs, NC, the first trail town moving northbound, on March 14 having logged in 273.9 trail miles of the Appalachian Trail – pulling the average daily hike up to 8.6 miles.

Sixteen days later they walked into Damascus, Virginia. This 48th day of their hike marked a milestone that every thru-hiker remembers. Damascus is a key spot of accomplishment. It is located 476.8 miles into the journey and, more importantly, it resides in the state of Virginia. The Two Peas arrived in this iconic trail town having boosted their average daily hike up to 9.9 miles.

They reached the 600 mile marker on day 57 as they arrived at Trent’s Grocery and a ride to Woods Hole Hostel on April 9, 2016. This wonderful hostel brings great refreshment to the body and the spirit. They arrived having averaged 10.6 miles of hiking per day. They continue to gain strength and boost their daily treks. On the 11th of April they hiked 17.1 miles and the 12th of April yielded 15 miles! Their journal is a delightful read as Moonbeam records the details of their adventure. They are well on their way to a successful thru-hike. My prayers are with them. I will keep you posted.

MarkHolmgren_19877Mark Holmgren and DaughterMy second selection to follow was Mark Holmgren. Mark had a 35+ year career at the Hershey Company in Pennsylvania. I cannot find out much more about him, but I was drawn to him because of his home state (the state where I was born) and his retirement from Hershey (I remember my boyhood visit to this town and loving the giant Hershey Kisses as street lights.

Mark left Springer Mountain on February 21 and spent his first night at Hawk Mountain Shelter (about 8.1 miles from the southern terminus). Mark does not keep a disciplined daily journal like Moonbeam so it is a little more difficult to track his progress. It appears as if he made it to Low Gap (mile 43.2) on day five and Fontana Dam on March 6, day 15 of the journey. Fontana Dam is at the 164.7 mile marker reflecting an daily average of 11-miles of hiking for Mark. His journal on Sunday, the 6th of March, reflects a special meeting that took place along the trail from his daughter, Sarah. She drove four hours after work on Friday to meet him. They hiked eight miles together on Saturday and arrived at Fontana Dam. However, his post on March 10 finds him at home having decided to leave the trail for a family health matter. I hope and pray that all is well with his family and maybe another year will provide his successful thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

 

Two Peas Photo: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=19145

Mark Holmgren Photo: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=522841

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Damascus, Georgia, Hot Springs, Journaling, Mark Holmgren, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Two Peas, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conkle’s Hollow and the Rock House

IMG_1038

The View from the Cliffs

Our last day at Hocking Hills, we embraced two very delightful hikes. The first took us into Conkle’s Hollow and the cliffs about the gorge. The second involved Rock House, a tunnel-like corridor situated midway up a 150-foot cliff of Blackhand sandstone. These two walks brought a wonderful conclusion to our adventure in southern Ohio.

Conkle’s Hollow included a paved, wheel-chair accessible path through a rocky and rather rugged gorge surrounded by rock cliffs on both sides. The valley floor is so deep below the cliffs that very little sunlight touches portions of the gorge. Articles about the area report that during the spring and summer, the valley floor is covered with a plethora of ferns and wildflowers shaded by the hemlock, birch, and other hardwood trees overhead.

Before we took the easy stroll through the gorge, Rocky and I decided to take the rim trail along the cliffs above the gorge. Getting to the trail involved taking some wooden steps in order to climb the 200 feet in elevation – 92 wooden steps to be exact. The steps not only provided a nice burn in the calf muscles but it led to an outstanding hike around the highest cliffs in the area.  Rocky does not like heights much at all so we did not try any dangerous balancing acts in order to get a special photo for our album. We took every precaution to successfully complete the trail and lived to tell our grandchildren about it.

Day 3.5

The Cliffs from the Gorge

This hollow was named for W.J. Conkle who left his name and the date 1797 carved into the sandstone on the west wall of the gorge. Who says that graffiti spoils nature for everyone else? “Billy Jim” was probably some juvenile delinquent or a criminal on the run that today has a beautiful gorge named after him, because he just had to carve his name in the rocks. He probably even lied about the date (maybe it was 1897 and he faked it all just to get his name on the brochures – just kidding here. Anyway, I find backstories into names of places very interesting, even if I don’t have all the details I desire to know.

Day 3.4

Rocky is in the House

Day 3. 1

Rowdy in the Robbers Roost

The Rock House is much more than a cave. It is a corridor running some 200 feet with a ceiling of up to 25 feet high. The corridor varies between 20 – 30 feet deep into the side of the mountain. This unusual cavern is located halfway up a 150-foot cliff of Blackhand sandstone. For the most part the house had dry floors with an occasional puddle to avoid, but I would image that the cave would have that damp feel all year round as water leaks down through the cave at various points along the expanse.

According to local folklore, many residents have frequented Rock House over the years. Robbers, horse thieves, murderers, and even bootleggers earned Rock House its reputation as the Robbers Roost. It indeed would have been a good hideout and is, today, an excellent refuge against inclement weather, and in the day, it could have served as an excellent long-term housing environment. Richard Rowe, or another of my relative hermits, might have been attracted to this mansion in the rock. If I were on the run from the law (which I am not), the Rock House would have been an excellent roost indeed.

http://www.hockinghills.com

 

Categories: Conkle's Hollow, Hiking, Hocking Hills, Ohio, Old Man's Cave, Rock House, Rocky, Steps, Trail | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ash Cave – Hocking Hills

GG 10

Whispering Falls

GG 13

Ash Cave

During our recent visit to Hocking Hills, Rocky and I had a wonderful time hiking over some of the beautiful trails of the area. After trekking through the Cantwell Cliffs in the morning of our second day, we decided to drive to Ash Cave in order to complete the second half of the Grandma Gatewood Trail. The goal was to hop on the trail at Ash Cave and hike to Cedar Falls and then a little beyond that landmark to Whispering Falls, where we had stopped the day before. The crowds were rather full at Ash Cave. We had a hard time finding a parking place. But we soon learned that the vast majority of the car travelers were headed straight for the cave. We, too, spent some time marveling at this huge horseshoe-shaped cave measuring some 700 feet in length and the overhang that reaches about 90 feet in the air. From the front edge of the rim, the cave recesses into the mountain about 100 feet. It is quite impressive and numbers don’t capture the visual impression of this natural phenomenon.

I am always fascinated by names – Ash Cave? Why the name? According to hockinghills.com, Ash Cave is named after the huge pile of ashes found under the shelter by early settlers. The largest pile was recorded as being 100 feet long, 30 feet wide and 3 feet deep. One conjecture concerning the source of the ashes is the remains from Indian campfires built up over hundreds of years. Another belief is that the Indians were smelting silver or lead from the rocks. Still another theory claims that saltpeter was made in the cave. No matter the source, several thousand bushels of ashes were found. A test excavation of the ashes in 1877 revealed sticks, arrows, stalks of coarse grasses, animal bones in great variety, bits of pottery, flints and corn cobs. Based upon the evidence of this excavation, my professional conclusion is the ashes are the remains of an early version of a Superbowl party, or the National Black Bear Convention including a BYOS invitation (Bring Your Own Snacks).

GG 7

80 ft Fire-Tower

Rocky and I soon left the majority of the tourists behind as we started down the trail toward Cedar Falls. I love walking in the woods so just about any hike is enjoyable for me. Although the leaves were not adorning the branches of the canopy, we walked through a beautiful wooded area that presented a comfortable carpet for our feet with very few rocks or roots. The slight upward slope promised an easy ending to the return trip.

GG 9

From the top – Rocky down below

Not too far into the hike we came upon one of my favorite parts of any hike – a fire-tower. My granddaughters would have love it because it was painted pink. I loved it because it escorted me 80 feet about the forest floor. I don’t really like heights but I love the view at the top more than the butterflies in my stomach on the way up (and down).

GG 12

Cedar (Hemlock) Falls

Cedar Falls was worthy of the walk. It is not the highest waterfall but it is by far the largest waterfall that Rocky and I saw in the Hocking Hills region in terms of water volume. Queer Creek tumbles over the Blackhand sandstone face of the rocks displaying the powerful mix of water and gravity. While talking with Rocky, who had done some pretty good research on the trail before we began the adventure, she shared with me that the falls should be named Hemlock Falls – the early white settlers mistook the stately hemlocks that frame the falls for cedar trees. You’d think that some ranger would have made the correction along the way, giving the hemlock the honor it deserves.

http://www.hockinghills.com/ash_cave.html

Categories: Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Fire-tower, Hocking Hills, Ohio, Old Man's Cave, Trail, Whispering Falls | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cantwell Cliffs – My Favorite

IMG_1025The last week of March was Spring Break for the K-12 school where I work. My wife and I decided to take three days and hike in southern Ohio in the Hocking Hills area. On the morning of our second day of our hiking adventure my wife, Rocky and I drove to nearby Cantwell Cliffs. It is a 17 mile drive from Old Man’s Cave but less than 5 miles from our great little cabin in the woods. The cliffs are a little more remote than many of the geographic attractions, which tends to discourage the crowds. We loved it! The unusual rock outcroppings and the gorgeous trail winding through the peaceful woods made it our favorite spot during our short adventure in the park. The trail took us across a meandering stream several times involving some jumps and log walks. The welcomed sun cascaded through the trees and the canopy etched the bright blue sky with reminders of the starkness of winter and the new life of spring to come.

GG 4GG 3

There are several narrow passages that cut through rocks and form steep steps leading down into the gorge below the cliffs. One narrow passage is called the Fat Woman’s Squeeze. When we arrived at the gap that took us between the rock and a hard place, I was totally confident that Rocky would gracefully and elegantly slip right thorough the squeeze because she is a far cry from a Fat Woman, but I was not quite as sure when I calculated my spare tire in contrast to the opening in the rocks.  We both made it, although I did hold my breath to ensure my successful squeeze. After arriving back in Springboro, I realized we did not identify the squeeze correctly and had passed through another unidentified fissure in the mountainside. The “true squeeze” was a narrow staircase leading down to a spectacular view of the cliffs above.

The Real Fat Woman Squeeze

The Real Fat Woman Squeeze

The Rocky and Rowdy squeeze was a narrow passage flanked by a rock face on both sides. I personally liked our squeeze better than the advertised one – it posed more of a challenge for the plump of stature. We decided to dub our narrow passage the Obese Hiker in Ohio Squeeze, or the O.H.I.O. squeeze. If one gets stuck in the narrow passage, he/she merely yells, “OH…” and anxiously awaits a rescuer to provide a powerful hand of freedom with a mighty “…IO”

 

Categories: Cantwell Cliffs, Fat Woman's Squeeze, Hiking, Hocking Hills, Ohio, Old Man's Cave, Trail | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Boy Scout Troop in Xenia

Boy Schout Troop 165I was thrilled last month to receive an invitation to speak to a Boy Scout Troop in Xenia, Ohio. One of the members of the troop is a student at Xenia Christian School and he sent me an email to see of my interest in sharing about my journey on the Appalachian Trail. I am always interested in sharing my story with anyone who will listen, so we arranged a date early in March and I brought my projector, my computer, and my passion for the trail.

The troop is considering hiking some of the AT this summer. They are headed toward the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. My hike through the Smokies was so enjoyable so I spent a little more time than usual sharing with the scouts about this part of my thru-hike. I really enjoyed meeting the young men and their leaders. Most of them already have more experience camping than I did before I left for the trail, but my time on the AT provided lots of practical lessons in setting up and tearing down camp, in filtering water, and in hiking strategies.

Scout Master Mike on the Trail

Scout Master Mike on the Trail

I shared with the troop that I had several positive encounters with scouts during my hike. Mike (check out his blog, South Jersey Trails) is a scout leader and I was able to briefly visit with them twice along the trail – just north of the southern border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and again on Mount Graylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts.

I also had a connection in Maryland with the scouts as I encountered a group of boy scouts at Dahlgren Backpack Campground when we all took shelter to avoid a downpour of the summer’s liquid sunshine. One of the leaders, in particular, was interested in my hike while he was texting his wife, who was coming with dinner for the troops. He was rather surprised that I left the campground before the rain was over, but I needed to truck on in order to make my destination for the night.

There were several bridges and wooden walkways along the trail that had been constructed by local boy-scout troops or as an eagle-scout project. I tried my best to vocally thank the scouts as I safely traveled on their construction with dry shoes and a good sense of humor. I was truly thankful for their efforts and grateful for the improvements to the trail.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Troop 165 in Xenia and I am excited for the scouts as they spend some time in the Great Smoky Mountains this summer. May they represent the scouting tradition well. May they enjoy the forest trail and learn about themselves as they experience God’s Creation.

Photo of Troop found at http://scoutingsite.tripod.com/

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Boy Scouts, Massachusettes, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Jersey Trails, Thru-Hike, Trail, Xenia Christian | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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