Monthly Archives: April 2018

AT Thru-Hikers Hoping for Spring

RTK – Frosty Field

Snow in the middle of April? Yes. And those who started the Appalachian Trail in January and February are more than ready for some warm winds of spring. The higher temperatures are on their way, but not this week. My admiration for this brave group of hikers grows with each day of their determination and perseverance.

I began following 14 hikers. Now, I am down to nine, as five individuals have decided to change their plans and get off the trail. Let me give you a quick update on those hiking this historic long trail.

Pigweed, who got off trail for 15 days with an injury, is back on the trail and has just completed the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He hiked about 4 miles on April 17 and is resting at the iconic Standing Bear Farm (mile-marker 241) just outside the GSMNP. On hiking days since his return, he is averaging 9.5 miles. He will really need to pick up his pace to complete his thru-hike. He still has time, but at this rate, the remaining 1,950 miles will take him six and a half months of hiking.

Which Way and Next Step’s tent on April 17

Chip (Tillson) took two days to visit family in Boone, NC (on April 15& 16). On the 17th he hiked passed the Watauga Lake area. Part of the trail is closed to day-hikers because of increased bear activity so he trekked well beyond the danger area and is stealth camping north of the Lake (about 431 miles along the AT).

Which Way and Next Step (the only couple on my radar) are camped at Abingdon Gap Shelter, the last shelter in Tennessee and about 11 miles from Damascus, Virginia. They have not taken a zero-day since Erwin, Tennessee nine days ago, so I anticipate them taking some rest time in Damascus. Over the past nine days, they averaged 12.8 miles per day with two longer hikes of 16 miles during the last two (April 16 &17).

RTK posts his blog a week late, so my most recent update is from April 10. He is maintaining a strong pace and has crossed the 500-mile line having climbed Mount Rodgers and hiked through Grayson Highlands. He stayed at Wise Shelter in Virginia on the 10th. This shelter is memorable to me, although I did not sleep there. After my wonderful hike through Grayson, the weather began to rain. About a dozen of us took refuge at Wise Shelter to wait out the downpour.

Lindamood School

Vagabond Jack continues to make slow progress along the AT. His last zero-day was in Damascus on April 10th. In the week following this rest stop, Vagabond is averaging 10.3 per day. He and a hiking buddy, Curb, spent the night on the 17th at Lindamood School around the 540-mile marker. Lindamood School is an 1894 one-room schoolhouse located at Settler’s Museum, a 67-acre open-air museum. The school is open to the public and a spot that often provides trail magic. It is not designed to be a trail shelter for thru-hikers, but some seek its warmth for the night.

Sour Kraut 1/4 Way

Sour Kraut’s last photo shows him standing next to a trail sign indicating ¼ of the way to Maine and NOBO mile 547. He posted the photo on April 14th. He has not posted a written update since March 12, so I am tracking him via his photographs.

Bamadog is camped about 651 miles along the Appalachian Trail. He camps regularly at stealth sites which makes it difficult to update his progress. I know he stayed at Woods Hole Hostel (mile 620.9) on April 15th, then in the next two days, he passed through Pearisburg, VA (631.3), took a photo of Rice Field (638.1), and is camping close to Stony Creek (651.0).

Hard Knocks has been struggling with a sore ankle for several days. He took a nero-day ad zero-day at Stanimals 328 Hostel in Waynesboro, Virginia on April 13 &14. He has been hiking with two other thru-hikers (Grumpy and Grinder) the last couple of days and they made camp at Cow Camp Gap Shelter about 4 miles north of Buena Vista, Virginia, on April 17th

Opa has hiked over 1000 miles on the AT. He stopped in Harpers Ferry to sign in as NOBO hiker #16 to have checked in at the AT Conservancy (I was hiker #924 when I hiked in 2014, just to give you an idea of how early he has arrived). He has continued on into Maryland and on April 17 he was camped at Raven Rock Shelter, about five miles from the Pennsylvania border.

Here is an updated chart of the hiker’s progress. As the weather improves, so will their miles.

 

Up-Date Mile Marker Hiker Location Start Date
4/17/2018 241 Pigweed Standing Bear Farm, NC 2/27/2018
4/17/2018 431 Chip Tillson Stealth n. Watauga Lake, TN 2/20/2018
4/17/2018 457.2 Which Way and Next Step Abingdon Gap Shelter, TN 2/24/2018
4/10/2018 500.5 RTK Wide Shelter, VA 2/25/2018
4/17/2018 540 Vagabond Jack Lindamood School, VA 2/1/2018
4/14/2018 547 Sour Kraut 1/4 Way Sign, VA 2/21/2018
4/17/2018 651 Bamadog Stealth near Stony Creek, VA 2/15/2018
4/17/2018 804 Hard Knocks Cow Camp Gap Shelter, VA 1/31/2018
4/17/2018 1055.6 Opa Raven Rock Shelter, MD 2/10/2018
         
         
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Class of 2018, Damascus, Grayson Highlands, GSMNP, Harpers Ferry, Lindamood School, Thru-Hike, Woods Hole Hostel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hickory Changes His Plans

Hickory

One of the thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that began his adventure on February 27th has decided to alter his plans. Hickory, from Indianapolis, Indiana, was making great mileage and had hiked 724 miles of the AT when he arrived at Daleville, Virginia on April 16th. On this, his 49th day of the hike, Hickory changed gears and opted to abandon his thru-hike attempt, travel to Delaware Water Gap on the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border, and continue a trek from Delaware Water Gap to Gorham, New Hampshire. This section hike will allow him to complete his previously aborted thru-hike in 2013.

Hickory successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2011. He completed the trail a second time in sections during 2009-2010. This section from New Jersey to New Hampshire will allow him to complete three trips from Georgia to Maine.

Woods Hole Hostel -Photo by Hickory

I wish Hickory well as he continues his adventure along the trail. I will not, however, continue to follow his journal as I track the progress of thru-hikers.

Hickory was somewhat of a mystery to me as I read his online diary. He did not provide his real or hometown. He indicated his hometown in a pre-hike post in which he mentioned a local park he visited. He did not take many pictures (only three) on his adventure so it was more difficult to get to know him through the pages of his journal. He seems like a very intelligent individual as he reflected on the daily experiences. I leave you with his final entry as he explains his decision to change the goal of his hike,

Hickory on McAfee Knob

Economists explain diminishing returns as: a point at which the level of benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested. 

It’s not that I have lost interest in this AT journey. I haven’t. Hiking in the wilderness is intrinsically rewarding. I have reached a comfortable level of satiety in which I am no longer compelled to go beyond “the next blaze” until there are no more blazes. Eschewing labels and being a bit of a free spirit, I choose to leapfrog north to resume hiking where my 2013 hike left unfinished business. 

Having thru-hiked (2011) and completed the entire trail in sections (2009-2010), my ambition now is to complete another entire AT journey by trekking to Gorham from DWG. I will be satisfied to have hiked all the AT three times.

Today I “zero” on Amtrak and Martz bus so I can be back on-trail tomorrow. 

Hickory

If you would like to continue a virtual walk with Hickory, please check out his journal at http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/581876. May he find great fulfillment as he continues down the path (HYOH).

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Delaware Water Gap, Georgia, Hickory, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opa – First to Reach Harpers Ferry, WV

Opa’s Hike on April 11 – Mary’s Rock

Of the fourteen thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail I began to follow this winter, ten are still on the trail and the first adventurer has reached Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Harpers Ferry is the psychological half-way point of the trail and the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. It is located about 1020 miles north of the southern terminus (Springer Mountain, GA.) and almost 80 miles short of the geographical mid-way point, but it is a great milestone for all thru-hikers. The Conservancy takes a picture of each thru-hiker, provides a check-in number for each hiker, and places the photo in a historical album documenting the class of 2018.

Old Town – Harpers Ferry

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), a retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. He has been hiking strong and putting in some long days filled with many miles. On day 66 of his hike (April 15) he reached Harpers Ferry. He is hiker number 16! He has hiked through rain, snow, ice, and wind. He has averaged about 15.5 miles per day. Out of curiosity, I pulled my journal from 2014 and looked at my destination on day 66. I was in….wait for it…..Harpers Ferry! But I had great weather – no snow, no freezing temperatures, no icy winds. I had some rain but by-in-large the trail was in great shape. Opa is amazing and my hat goes out to his determination and grit.

Opa enjoyed his hike thru the Shenandoah National Park and the food available at the waysides along the Skyline Drive (especially the blackberry milkshakes… and cheeseburgers… and French fries)

On April 12, Opa reflected on the difficulties of the hike: Someone asked me a few weeks ago if hiking the trail was more physical or mental. In my humble opinion, after hiking 900 plus miles so far (but still having a long way to go), I think it is more mental. Certainly, there is a physical aspect as well, but if you’re not in good shape when starting out the trail will whip you into shape after a few weeks. The mental challenge however is there every day for the duration. Stuff Happens as they say, and you have to be prepared mentally to deal with the mishaps and adversity that will come along. You will fall, and have to be prepared to pick yourself up and keep on movin. There will be times when you are cold, wet and feeling miserable, and again need to keep movin on. There will be times when a piece of gear fails or doesn’t perform as expected (eg waterproof boots that aren’t waterproof) and need to keep movin on. There will be times where you will really miss your family and loved ones, as well as the comfort of your home, but need to keep movin on. These and countless other mishaps/concerns/issues will test your mental toughness.

1000 Miles!

Opa conquered the roller coaster (a 13.5-miles stretch tightly packed ascents and descents that will challenge your legs and lungs) on Saturday, April 14. Close to the end of the coaster, Opa reached the 1000 mile marker (an actual plaque on a tree): another giant mental/emotional milestone for the thru-hiker. With the warmer weather over the weekend, Opa noticed the trail filling up with day-hikers and section hikers. He comments that he crossed paths “with at least 200 folks” including a couple of boy scout troops. He camped about 10 miles from Harpers Ferry.

On April 15 (instead of driving to the post office with his income tax forms) Opa hiked into Harpers Ferry. He woke up at 2:45 am, couldn’t get back to sleep, packed up, and hit the trail by 3:45. He arrived in Harpers Ferry by 8:00. He is spending the night at a hostel and happy to be out of another cold wave approaching. It was in the 80’s the last two days, but rain/thunderstorms/cold winds were embracing the little West Virginia town.

Opa has a long way to go, but his attitude is one of gratitude. “I am also so thankful to be able to make this hike. The good Lord has blessed me in so many ways, I’m a lucky man.” Opa plans to spend the night in Harpers Ferry and then to continue on, across the bridge and into state number six: Maryland.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Class of 2018, Harpers Ferry, Opa, Roller Coaster, Shenandoah National Park, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pigweed is Back!

Pigweed

After two weeks off the trail, Pigweed (Lee Richards) has returned to the Appalachian Trail to continue his thru-hike of the iconic long-trail. During his time back in Delaware, Pigweed had some physical therapy and made some practice hikes to strengthen his injured ankle. He drove a rental car from Delaware to Knoxville on Friday, caught a shuttle ride from Knoxville to Fontana Dam on Saturday, and then returned to the trail on Sunday, April 8th.

Leaving Fontana Dam, Pigweed began his trek through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). He hiked 12 miles on his first day, although his intention was just to travel 6 miles. His intended tent site at mile six was closed. He swapped his tent for a hammock and hoped to stealth camp anyway until he saw signs warning of bear activity, so he continued to Mollies Ridge Shelter. His plan for his return to the trail included a slow start to test his ankle. He was quite pleased that his ankle held up fine during this initial dozen-mile journey.

Fontana Dam – GSMNP ahead

Having slept through a cold and rainy night, Pigweed’s second day in GSMNP was a muddy experience. He waited at the shelter until the rain stopped and hiked 6 miles to the Spence Field Shelter. His third day ended at Derek Knob Shelter (another 6-mile day) Although the weather had cleared for day three, the trail was challenging and with fatigue setting in, Pigweed decided on a short day.

Pigweed’s View from Clingmans

On Wednesday, April 11, Pigweed reached Clingmans Dome after a ten-mile hike, the highest point of the AT. He also hit the 200-mile point on the trail and is about half-way through GSMNP. At Clingmans Dome, he bummed a ride to Gatlinburg to resupply and spend the night. His plan is to grab a shuttle back to Clingmans Dome on the 12th and continue northbound (NOBO) through the park.

It is good to see Pigweed back on the trail and headed north. I put him back on the active list and will continue to monitor his progress. Hopefully, his ankle will continue to cooperate and he will begin to log in more miles each day.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Clingmans Dome, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, Pigweed, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

AT Hiker Update: Part 2

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I wanted to provide a progress report on the other five hikers that I have been tracking as they attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Sour Kraut at 500 Miles

Chip Tillson (Sorry, he does not post photos to share)

Chip began his AT adventure on February 20, 2018. As of April 9th, he has trekked over 350 miles. He is through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, passed Hot Springs, North Carolina, and ten miles beyond Erwin, Tennessee. Having to take several days to heal from a fall on his shoulder, Which Way and Next Step have caught up with Chip. He mentions meeting them and seeing them several times during the past few days. Chip developed his first blister during his hike into Erwin, TN, so he decided to take a zero-day at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel for some TLC before moving on.

Sour Kraut

Tim Pfeiffer, who started on February 21st.  His photo journal makes it difficult to track his mileage but his last photos show him at hiker-made the 500-mile marker. That puts him in Virginia just north of Grayson Highlands.

Which Way and Next Step

Which Way and Next Step Sunrise at Max Patch

Which Way and Next Step

Darrell (Next Step) and Alicia (Which Way) Brinberry, retired military most recently stationed in Washington, DC, began their adventure on February 24th. My last post found the couple in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on March 24th. They took three more days to complete the park and spent the night outside GSMAP at Standing Bear Farm. On the next day, the trail led them to Max Patch on a beautiful day. The Bald provided an outstanding view with a stunning 360-degree look at the surrounding mountains. Which Way and Next Step camped on Max Patch and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise on March 29th. They arrived at Hot Springs on March 30 and enjoyed three days with family in this wonderful trail town. Hitting the trail again on April 2nd, Which Way began to experience some physical discomfort – sore knees and a tender shoulder from carrying a heavy backpack, so they took a shorter day (10miles) and arranged a shuttle into the Hemlock Hollow Inn. The respite was exactly what was needed and Which Way was ready to go the next day with no discomfort. The trail was filled with rain for a few days and the couple was thrilled to arrive at Erwin on April 7. They spent a zero-day in Erwin, attending a church service and taking in a movie (I Can Only Imagine). I have seen this film and it is just an outstanding movie about the transforming power of God in a person’s life. They experienced a rather discouraging Monday, hiking in the wrong direction for a few hours, walking in the mist and fog, and setting up camp in the rain. I still love their attitudes as shared in their last post, “Mundane Monday was finally over. Looking forward to Terrific Tuesday!”

RTK

RTK on March 29

Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson is reporting his adventure in posts summarizing each week. He posts a week behind his current location so his last post reflects his journey through April 3.  His strong hike has only included two zero-days in the past sixteen hiking days. He stopped at Hot Springs on the 23rd of March and then again on Easter Sunday in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. He stayed at the Roan Mountain B&B which brought back memories for me, as I enjoyed a day there as well in 2014. His last post finds him camped at mile marker 413.2 at Moreland Gap Shelter about 20 miles north of Roan Mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

Hickory

Hickory who began on February 26. On April 9th, Hickory is staying at one of his favorite hostels on the AT – Woods Hole Hostel, about 11 miles south of Pearisburg, Virginia. He has covered 623 miles of the Appalachian

Woods Hole Hostel

Trail. Hickory has not posted photos in his online journey until April 9th. It was of the hostel. He gives the following insights into his rating of hosels along the trail, “My top-ten hostels on the AT are clean, sanitary, organized, have fabric mattresses (not vinyl “prison pads”), offer meal options or a hiker-kitchen, are walking-distance to the trail, are clean and organized, may have private rooms, respectfully enforce rules, treat hiker-guests like “kin”, and (with redundancy intended) are clean and organized! Succinctly, the best hostels are like B&B’s at hiker rates. Woods Hole tops the list!”

Here is a quick summary of the progress of each nine thru-hikers that I am following.

Update          Miles              Hiker                                           Location                                Start Date

4/7/2018 353.7 Chip Tillson Beauty Spot Gap 2/20/2018
4/9/2018 355.7 Which Way and Next Step Unaka Mountain, TN 2/24/2018
4/3/2018 413.2 RTK Moreland Gap Shelter, TN 2/25/2018
4/3/2018 465.3 Bamadog Campsite just south of Damascus 2/15/2018
4/9/2018 468.5 Vagabond Jack Damascus, VA 2/1/2018
4/9/2018 500 Sour Kraut 500 Mile Marker, VA 2/21/2018
4/9/2018 623 Hickory Woods Hole Hostel, VA 2/27/2018
4/9/2018 729 Hard Knocks Fullhardt Knob Shelter, VA 1/31/2018
4/9/2018 907.3 Opa Near Skyline Drive, VA 2/10/2018
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Erwin, Hickory, Max Patch, Roan Mountain, RTK, Sour Kraut, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Virginia, Which Way and Next Step, Wood Hole Hostel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AT Hikers: April 9th Update

I have been on vacation down in North Carolina and West Virginia over the past 10 days, but the nine Appalachian thru-hikers that I am following have been facing some snowy, cold, rainy, windy days. In order to catch you up on their progress and not write a book, I am going to share about four hikers today and the other five tomorrow. The incredible weather of this stubborn spring has made the trail even more challenging as they attempt their 14-state walk.

Hard Knocks with his Parents 2/27/18 (He does not post many photos)

Hard Knocks

Hard Knocks, Patrick Knox Hard Knocks, started on January 31. He just updated his journal that had been spotty since my last update. He did not make a posting from March 22 until March 29. The best that I can tell, he hunkered down at a hostel to avoid the trail storms. He was back on the trail on 3/29 and commented that the trail seemed like a fast-moving creek due to the rain and melted snow. On April 3rd he began having difficulties with his ankle and ended up coming off the trail for three days. He has a niece in Roanoke who picked him up and offered her home for some recovery time. He got a new pair of shoes and replaced his backpack. On April 8th he was back on the trail, passed McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs, and ended his ten-mile hike a Lamberts Meadows Shelter. The next day he trekked fifteen miles to Fulhardt Knob Shelter and mile 729 of the Appalachian Trail. He reports that his ankle and new boots are working well as he eases back into longer hikes.

Vagabond Jack at Damascus, VA

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1. Vagabond Jack is consistently moving north. In the past 16 days, he has only taken on zero-day in Roan, Tennessee. On days that he hikes, he is averaging 10.4 miles per day. On April 9th, he arrived at Damascus, Virginia where he plans to zero on the 10th having hiked 468 miles of the AT. In his blog, he mentions that he has met RTK (Bruce Matson) on March 30 and then again on April 5th. They both know Mighty Blue and have been interviewed on Blue’s podcast so they had an enjoyable conversation sharing their adventures thus far. Vagabond Jack, like the other hikers this spring, faced many cold, rain, snowy, windy days. He mentioned the difficult weather on 11 of the past 18 days. His strategy through these challenging conditions has been to gain cover as much as possible. He has only spent the night in his tent three times; he has sought the warmth of a shelter on seven nights; and he has found the comfort of a motel/hostel on eight occasions. His plan seems to be working for him as he stays warmer and well fed along the way.

 

Opa on April 1

Opa

Opa on McAfee Knob

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. Opa is well over 450 miles ahead of Vagabond Jack and has passed Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia, trekked 44 miles into Shenandoah National Park and passed the 900- mile marker on the trail. (There are very few actual markers, but guidebooks provide fairly accurate mileage.) But his walk has not been easy. On April 6th, Opa fell four times. He recounts his adversity in his blog, “I fell four times today, one of them hard. Nothing broken, but I have several aches and pains:  my forehead, right hand, left elbow and left knee all ache pretty good as I lay in my tent tonite. My left knee in particular is pretty sore, cut up and a bit swollen. I must have fallen on a rock pretty hard with the knee, as it put a tear in my rainpants – which have a pretty durable fabric…. The funny thing is, I didn’t fall in any of the steeper sections of trail – it was always on a gradual slope. Go figure!” Opa is still hiking in snow and freezing temperatures with water bottles turning into slushies and temperatures in the 20’s overnight.

 

Bamadog

Lotus (in green) and Bamadog (on the right)

Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. His last post in his online journal was April 3rd. He was camped at the Abington Gap Shelter just 6.5 miles from the Tennessee/Virginia border and 11.3 miles from Damascus. He had put in his first 20-mile day and was looking forward to celebrating his 61st birthday in Damascus on the 4th. Bamadog took a week off the trail from March 24-30 to spend some time with his “sweetie,” avoid the weather and rest his tired body. He shares about the hiatus in his journal, I took 7 days off and went home with my sweetheart. Went to the doctor and got my leg checked out. He said my hip belt was pushing in on a nerve that comes out from the front of my hip going to my leg. I adjusted my pack so I am good to go! The first two days back my leg is feeling much better. I did 16 miles yesterday and 14 today. Just climbed 1700 feet to get to this campsite.” It sounds like his time off the trail was refreshing and just what he needed to continue his adventure. I am anticipating an update very soon from Bamadog.

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Bamadog, Class of 2018, Damascus, Hard Knocks, McAfee Knob, Opa, Shenandoah National Park, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Tinker Cliffs, Virginia, Waynesboro | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Every Trail Challenge Complete!!

Rocky and I completed our last hike at Germantown Metropark and completed the Five River MetroPark thru-hike challenge. We had to hike the Orange Trail (7.5 miles) to conquer Germantown and to complete all the trails in the 19 MetroParks in the Dayton area (about 116 miles). We talked a lot about completing the challenge and how good it has been for us to have a walking goal.

Today’s hike (March 25th) was set in a beautiful context of bright blue, cloudless skies, cool temperatures that demanded gloves and a hat, and positive path conditions with very little mud. Rocky and I were a little tired from our 5.3-mile hike yesterday, but once the legs got stretched and body got warmed up we managed the distance just fine.

The Orange Trail makes a circuit around the MetroPark following Twin Creek from the Germantown Dam to Manning Road and back. Rocky and I jumped on the trail just southeast of the dam and enjoyed our strenuous hike through the Old Forest to the Welcome Center. We saw one of our librarian friends from the Miami Township Library, Theresa, on the trail. She is an avid hiker and was out hiking/running the hills.

GO Sign

The Orange Trail intersects with every other trail in the park as it makes its loop. The trail is marked with posts with color circles. As I was making a turn on the Orange Trail where it made a junction with the Green Trail I saw a post I needed to photograph. It is the perfect trail sign. The Green Trail marked with a Green G and the Orange Trail marked with an Orange O looked like the GO trail. I got a chuckle out of that.

The trail descends close to the creek several times during its route and there is great evidence of high water and flooding in the valley. Rocky and I were amazed at the debris and mud-covered tree trunks up to my shoulders. We wondered how traumatic and dramatic the creek must rage during those time of flash floods.

We ended our hike by coming across the spillway and through the woods to the parking lot. We took one another’s picture at the trail-head and celebrated our thru-hike. I told her we should go out and order a pizza (one for each of us) and eat a half gallon of ice-cream, but then I remembered that this was not the Appalachian Trail. Instead, we got in our car, came home and I ate a power-bar.

We filled out our trail logs and Rocky email them to the MetroPark coordinator. Hopefully, we will get our thru-hiker patch soon and celebrate once again.

So now what? Rocky and I are pretty excited about another challenge called the Fourteen-State Challenge sponsored by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The challenge is to hike a portion of the AT in each of the 14 states it traverses. (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine). There is a passport that you can take to various spots to get stamped and of course, there is a patch upon completion. This sound like it has our names written all over it. I’ll keep you posted.

Categories: Germantown MetroPark, Hiking, Local Hikes, Ohio, Rocky, Rowdy, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Germantown MetroPark – Day Two

Twin Creek at Germantown

Rocky and Rowdy are down to their last MetroPark – Germantown. We love this park and have spent many hours traversing the trails here, but we are systematically hiking all of the trails in all 19 MetroParks in the Dayton area. We have spent a little time here on March 16th hiking the Pink and Silver Trails. We are back (Saturday, March 24) to hike the trail loops close to the Welcome Center. There are five trail-heads (all loops) that start at the center for a total of 5.3 miles (Red, White, Blue, Green, and Yellow). The elevation change makes these 5.3 miles plenty to hike on a Saturday morning.

We started with the longest one (our typical approach) – the Yellow trail is 1.9 miles. Then we hiked Blue which is 1.0 mile and thirdly, White which is just 0.5 mile. We then crossed a boardwalk by the Welcome Center to hike Green (1.4 miles) and Red (another short half mile trail). The yellow trail leads down to Twin Creek. We noticed the roots of the trees along the bank eroding away and wondered how they were still standing. Some roots go deep and hold on in the midst of adversity. We all need some of those.

The trail was in great shape – there were a few muddy spots, but, by and large, the path was enjoyable and safely navigated. Rocky and I thoroughly enjoyed breathing in the cool outside air and hearing the sounds and sights of early spring. The birds seemed to agree with us as we saw and heard many varieties lifting their voices in song.

Great Old Tree at Germantown

The Yellow Trail take backpackers to the Oak Ridge Backcounty Campsite. Rocky and I did not stop by the camping area, but I have camped here during my preparation for hiking the Appalachian Trail. There is a pond at the center of three campsites and the night I stayed there must have been the weekend of the frog convention because the bullfrogs were croaking from dusk to dawn. A great and memorable story that I don’t desire to relive, but I think about it everytime I pass the turnoff to the campsites.

Rocky found some trash along the trail and in the spirit of Leave No Trace, she picked it up and carried it back to the Welcome Center. It was open and the woman in charge invited us in. It is still under renovation but it should be nice when completed. A few bird-watchers were inside where there is a perfect observation room with large glass panels. They were counting and documenting all the birds they could see as part of an ornithology project. It was fun to listen to them share their expertise. I wish I knew more about bird identification by sight and sound.

Another view by the creek

We saw a few hikers on the trail today but for the most part, we were by ourselves, which is the way I like it. We can talk and pray and enjoy being together. One more day at Germantown and we will have completed our challenge. The MetroParks provide a patch for documented thru-hikers – isn’t it amazing what we will do for a patch!

They say that hiking outside in the fresh air helps to increase your positive endorphins, to strengthen your heart, to increase energy levels, to lower blood pressure, to improve muscle tone, to reduce body fat, to reduce stress, to ward off anxiety and to improve sleep. I am not sure about all that, but we sure do enjoy it. Consider scheduling a hike – the weather is about to warm up. If you live in the Dayton area, I’d urge you to check out the metropark system. If not, maybe there is a wonderful trail nearby.

Categories: Germantown MetroPark, Hiking, Local Hikes, MetroPark, Ohio, Rocky, Rowdy, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rocky and Rowdy Conquering the MetroParks

Wegerzyn MetroPark

On our quest to hike all the trails on the 19 Metroparks in the Dayton Area, Rocky and I set out on a super Friday in March (16th) to complete the two “W”s – Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark and Wesleyan MetroPark. Wegerzyn is about 30 minutes from our home and then another 10-minute drive would connect us to Wesleyan. Both parks had short unmarked hiking trails, but we were not sure how long they were.

Rocky at Wegerzyn

Arriving at Wegerzyn was a blast from the past as Rocky and I lived in this area of the city before moving to Springboro about 12 years ago. The park is beautiful and, as the name implies, it is a series of gardens: there is a children’s garden, an arbor garden, a federal garden, an English garden, a Victoria garden and a woodland garden. Because of the time of year (March 16) and the extended cold weather, the beauty of the gardens had not yet turned majestic, but we promised ourselves a return visit (with our twin granddaughters) in a few months. Our hike was the Marie Aull trail, a loop around the eastern boundary of the park. It was beautiful and I took more pictures here than most trails because of the striking surroundings. The loop was quite short (maybe a mile or so) and the park was so peaceful and quiet.

Wolf Creek at Wesleyan

Our car was patiently waiting for us when we returned, so we hopped in the vehicle and made our way to Wesleyan. Rocky and I had hiked here last year and got twisted around trying to find the trails. We were a little concerned about the navigation of this park. We parked on Wesleyan Road and found the pavilion on the east side of the area. We carefully followed the map down to the Wesleyan Annex and easily found the trail. It was another short trail that led up through the woods and opened on top of a small hill overlooking Wolf Creek. We walked down to the creek and enjoyed looking for birds around the water.

From this trailhead at Wesleyan, we followed a paved pathway across the creek to Adventure Central, a community youth center introducing neighborhood children and youth to afterschool programs, summer day camps, and an annual overnight camp experience. We did not check to see if the center was open but we found the loop trail behind it. It was a very short trail and we were done before we knew it.

Favorite Tree at Sunfish Pond

When Rocky and I got back to the car, it was still mid-morning, so we decided to travel out to Germantown MetroPark and begin hiking our last MetroPark in our challenge. We knew that we would need multiple days at Germantown because it is a trial with some excellent hills and includes about 17 miles of trail. Quickly looking at the map, we thought that if we could knock out the Pink Loop (2.6 miles) and then drive to the Silver Loop (1.6 miles) that would only leave 12.8 miles – very manageable in two more days.

We made our way to the parking lot off Conservancy Road and quickly picked up the Pink Trail. We hiked the trail in the counterclockwise direction and walked past Sunfish Pond, then down the hill where the trail gives you a quick view of Twin Creek. The trail can be very muddy in this area, but it was passable today with just a little slip and slide and mud caked to the bottom of our shoes. The terrain was quick a contrast to our morning, but we loved it. Germantown is our favorite MetroPark. After making the circuit, we drove across the dam to another parking lot and completed the Silver Loop. It shares over half of its mileage with the Orange Trail and contains some thigh-screaming inclines. I am amazed at how well Rocky climbs the hills – even at the end of several hours of hiking. The second part of the Silver Trail is easier as it crosses a nice meadow complete with a bird blind. We were tired by the time we reached our car, but well pleased with the day’s adventure. We enjoyed the songs of the birds and the percussion concert performed by the woodpeckers. We are looking forward to returning to Germantown and finishing our Every Trail MetroPark Challenge.

Categories: Germantown MetroPark, Hiking, Local Hikes, MetroPark, Rocky, Rowdy, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

He Is Risen!!

The heavens declare the glory of God

A Foggy Morning in Massachusetts – 2014

 

When morning gilds the skies,
My heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Rangeley, Maine 2014

 

Categories: Trail Worship, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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