Appalachian Trail

Beaker Into New Hampshire

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Dartmouth College

Beaker’s first day in New Hampshire (July 13) brought monsoon-like rain in the morning. He delayed his start until the rains stopped mid-morning. He then stopped at Dan and Whit’s General Store in Norwalk for a resupply and a deli sandwich for second breakfast. Crossing the Connecticut River, Beaker officially entered Hanover, New Hampshire. He enjoyed the college ivy-league town for awhile (Dartmouth College) by getting a free donut at the bakery and a slice of pizza from a hiker-friendly pizza shop. About 3:00, Beaker left Hanover and headed toward the woods of the Appalachian Trail. He still managed to hike a total of 11 miles before camping at a stealth site on Mink Brook.  

Sitting Bull and HoopsJuly 14 was a blustery, chilly day with lots of clouds but not much sunshine.”The trail was still mucky and muddy from all the rain we’ve been having and the trees were dripping water. All in all, another yucky day of hiking. It was also a pretty tough day of hiking. There was a lot of up and down….All the overlooks I passed were blank white screens – not a thing to see at any of them. The Smokies all over again.” Beaker’s diligence in hiking, however, produced 20.1 miles and he ended up in his tent close to the Hexacuba Shelter. Shortly after getting his transient home set up for the night, Sitting Bull and Hoops showed up at camp. This couple had been hiking with Beaker for several days in July but had gotten behind Beaker’s pace. They had cranked out a big-mileage day to catch him in the hopes of hiking through the Whites together. Beaker was elated.

July 15 started with a discouraging rain. “The day looked like every other day we’ve had lately – gray, overcast, misty, humid, wet, and drippy. I’ve actually given up on wearing my glasses when I hike because it is either raining or so humid that they immediately fog up… Don’t even talk to me about the views! Every time I’d come to a rock outcropping on top of a mountain, I’d see this great expanse of white clouds and know that there was a spectacular view hiding in there….The heavy rain left the trail a soggy, slippery mess. The mud was slippery. The rocks were slippery. The roots were slippery. And the logs were slippery. As a result, I took a couple of tumbles today.”  One resulted in a twisted knee and another caused a broken hiking pole. The trio ended the day at the Hiker’s Welcome Hostel.  Tomorrow the hostel staff will drive Sitting Bull, Hoops and Beaker’s non-essential hiking supplies to Notch Hostel in North Woodstock allowing them to hike over Mount Moosilauke with just the minimums for the day. The 10-mile hike over Moosilauke will take most of the day because of the steep ascents and descents. Total miles today – 14.8. Welcome to the Whites – the miles are tough and the terrain is challenging.

July 16 turned out to be a day filled with sunshine! Beaker, Hoops and Sitting Bull were all excited to have good weather as they headed up their first big mountain in the Whites. Slack-packing involves hiking while carrying only the things the hiker needs for that day. They loaded tents, sleeping bags, and extra food into a bag that the hostel transported to the next hostel. Beaker and friends carried a lunch, plenty of water, a first aid kit, and extra clothes, thus reducing the weight from around 30 lbs to about 10 lbs.

MoosilaukeThe climb up Mt. Moosilauke involved climbing 3793 ft in elevation over 5.5 miles. They experienced the summit in beautiful, clear weather. Lots of pictures were snapped and they all enjoyed a lunch on top of Moosilauke. After lunch, the descent began on the other side. It was much steeper than the ascent with several near vertical sections. Beaker’s knees were screaming before the trio were halfway down the mountain. They made it to the base of Moosilauke just in time to catch the shuttle van back to the Notch Hostel.

The plan for July 17 was to slack-pack again from Kinsman Notch, over Wolf Mountain and Kinsman Mountain, and down into Franconian Notch, and then to be picked up by a shuttle in order to stay another night at Notch Hostel. The day broke with more sunshine. 

Beaker was climbing up a slick, tilted rock about eight feet high. At the top, he slid down the rock, wedging his left hiking pole horizontally between a rock and a tree. He had his hand through the wrist strap on the pole. So, he ended up suspended in a prone position on the rock with his wrist trapped in the strap and his feet about a foot off the ground – stuck. Fortunately, Hoops rushed and pushed the hiking pole loose and allowed Beaker to Hailslide back down the rock face to the ground. After checking that all body parts were still functioning correctly, they all enjoyed a good laugh.

Beaker, Sitting Bull and Hoops reached the pickup point at 5:20 PM, just as the first big drops of rain began splattering around them. The shuttle driver, having seen the weather forecast, had arrived early. Just as they dove into the van, the skies opened up with a huge storm, complete with sheets of rain, thunder, lightning, and dime-sized hail.

Tomorrow, Beaker hopes to head up the Franconia Ridge.

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dartmouth College, Franconia Notch, Mount Moosilauke, New Hampshire, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Marching Through Vermont

20140808-090947.jpgBeaker’s hike on the Appalachian Trail from July 5 – 12 have been filled with the state of Vermont. The highlight of the 5th of July was completing Massachusetts and entering the Green Mountain State. He hiked into Vermont just after noon on the 5th and encountered patches of thick, squishy, black mud that stretched across the trail, making it impossible to go around, thus personally recognizing why thru-hikers have dubbed this state “Vermud”.

July 6 – Beaker legged out a whopping 25.8 miles trek today ending at a stealth site about 16 miles from Manchester Center, VT (his destination for July 7). He pushed himself today in order to give himself as much time as possible in town the next day for resupply. The hike was long but not without some adversity – “The mud continues unabated. I got up close and personal with it today when I was crossing a particularly wet and mucky patch. Both feet slipped as I stepped between two rocks in the middle of the mud patch and I plopped my butt right down into it.”

Green Mt HostelJuly 7 – Beaker had to start the day with a 2000 ft climb over Mount Stratton. Coming off the mountain he came face-to-face with Mudpuppy (the wife) and Woodcutter (the husband) from Albany, New York, who had driven 2 ½ hours just to meet him on the trail. Having never met before, they have been following him online and wanted to encourage him. They brought food and drink. Beaker still had 13 miles into town so after a short visit, he departed with their blessing. When Beaker got to Vt 11, he would still had a 5-mile hitch into Manchester Center. Arriving at the road, he was greeted once again by Mudpuppy and Woodcutter ready to drive him anywhere he wanted to go. What a great day of blessing as he finally settled in at the Green Mountain House Hostel, Manchester Center, Vermont.

July 8 – The Green Mountain Hostel rates up there as one of the best I’ve stayed in on the whole trail. It is immaculate and Jeff is very friendly and accommodating. Plus, he sells pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for $2.00. Incredible!

Todays’ hike: 19.6 miles up and over Bromley Mountain. The top of Bromley is a ski slope and after the summit, the rest of the day was pretty much down hill. The weather did decide to rain during the morning hours but the afternoon was sunny and dried things up nicely. Today’s destination was Little Rock Pond Shelter and less than a mile from the shelter, the skies got dark, the winds picked up and then the sound of distant rain… heavy rain. In a matter of moments, Beaker was soaked to the skin. Of course, by the time he reached the shelter the sun was back out.

July 9 – 24 miles today all the way to Cooper Lodge on Killington Mountain, Vermont. Beaker woke up this morning on Little Rock Pond. He describes it, “The sun was rising over the ridge behind the lake and shining through the gently swirling mist. The water was lapping against the shore and the pines were gently swaying in the light breeze. Then I heard it – the sound I had looked forward to hearing before I ever started this hike – loons! What a unique and evocative sound.” The call of the water birds echoed in his mind as he set out for a day filled with constant ups and downs. But the last 4 miles was a major up-hill to the top of Killington Mountain. Beaker did not arrive until 8:00. He immediately pitched his tent and crashed for the night.  

July 10 – Beaker’s destination for today was The Inn at Long Trail, a 8.3-mile descent from Cooper Lodge. Beaker then caught a bus into Rutland, VT for a resupply. Beaker heard from 1st Sgt today. He has been crushing the miles and is almost 90 miles ahead. It does not look good for a reunion on the trail.

Ladder in VTJuly 11 – Another 20+ mile day for Beaker as he hiked to Dan Quinn’s Barn at VT 12, close to Woodstock, VT, for a total of 21.6 miles. As he hiked past Kent Pond early in the morning he was attacked by an army of mosquitoes. He detoured into the town of Killington in order to replace the tips on his hiking poles and to catch a second breakfast (Dove Ice Cream Bars). At one point during the day he came to a 14 ft aluminum ladder affixed to the rock face so he could successfully climb down a 20 ft vertical drop. He finally reached the barn around 7:30 PM – he spent a dry night by himself.

July 12 – The day was sunny perfect for a long walk. Beaker responded with another 21-mile hike to Norwich on the Vermont/New Hampshire border. After leaving the Long Trail (close to Rutland), the Appalachian Trail stops running parallel to the ridges and now travels perpendicular to them resulting in lots of ups and downs. Despite the hills, Beaker was pleased to find an open spot in a home/hostel owned by past thru-hikers to spend the night before entering the White Mountains and the state of New Hampshire.

Photo of hostel found at http://hiker-bigtex.com/hostels-hotels-2/green-mountain-house-hostel/
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Cooper Lodge Shelter, Manchester Center, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Class of 2017 – January to March: Part 2

As I shared in my last post, there are 139 online journals posted on trailjournals.com that reflect a start date on the Appalachian Trail in January, February and March. Of these 139 bloggers, there are only 27 active journals at the end of the day on July 8. Let me give you a quick update on these “early starters.”

Buttercup

Buttercup and D.P.Roberts

Just today, July 9th, another journal shared its final entry as a knee injury is forcing a couple from Germany, Buttercup and D.P.Roberts, off the trail. Their diary was written in German so I found a German translation app to help me understand their posts. They had reached Wind Gap in Pennsylvania. The boulders of PA claimed another twist and in just that quick of a moment the hike needed to be postponed and abandoned. Therefore only 26 remain.

There is no one left on the trail who began their trek in January. Only six of the 27 hikers began the journey in February while the remaining 21 (including Buttercup and D.P.Roberts) initiated their adventure in March. 1st Sgt. and Beaker, the hiking buddies that I am following more closely, started the journey 2 days apart – 1st Sgt. began on February 24 and Beaker left Springer Mountain on Feb 26.

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Springer Mountain Southern Terminus

All 26 hikers still on the trail began in Springer Mountain, Georgia and are hiking northbound (NOBO) although two hikers have just decided to do a Flip Flop – a hike that stops hiking NOBO, travels to Maine, climbs Katahdin while the weather is still nice, and then turns around and heads southbound (SOBO) to completion.  

These brave adventurers are spread out over seven different states. In addition to the two flip floppers who are in Maine, three other NOBOers find themselves hiking their last state. The leader of this group is Salesman, from Charlotte, NC, who is very close to his victory climb to the top of Katahdin. Four of the thru-hikers are in Vermont; another four in Massachusetts; one in New York; one in New Jersey; nine are fighting through the rocks of Pennsylvania; and three are still working their way up the state of Virginia.

The journals that remain are recording the adventures of  sixteen men, four women, and six couples. I pray that each has an amazing experience and I will be excited to see how many are able to complete this physically and emotionally challenging event.  

Photo of  Buttercup and D.P.Roberts found at  http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/about/18839
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2017, Georgia, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Pennsylvania, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Class of 2107: January-March

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My old fashion journal 2014

When a thru-hiker posts a journal on trailjournals.com, they list their trail name and the projected date for their first day on the trail. I enjoy following a few journals rather closely (like Beaker) to observe their journey along the incredible Appalachian Trail. My 2014 thru-hike floods my mind as places and landmarks are shared in the online diaries.

I also like keeping track of all the journals of the class of 2017 and periodically noting where each pilgrim is along the path. It is sometimes tedious to record the details of my interests but it is also quite interesting to try to see the overall picture of the cohort.

For example, there are 139 online journals reflecting a start date in January, February and March. Of these 139 bloggers, there are only 27 active journals left as of today. What happened to the other 112? Let me share what I can discern.

FullSizeRenderThe largest category, 41 journals, are what I call a “No Show”. A “No Show” is a blogger who posts some pre-hike entries but then posts nothing on or after his/her target start date. The journal is simply empty. Did the individual make it to the AT? I don’t know, but I do know that he/she has abandoned this online journal as a form of communication.

Some journals (34 presently) receive my label, “No Entry,” which means that the journal was being populated and then suddenly, without explanation, the hiker quits recording his/her adventure. After 30-40 days of silence I assume that they are off the trail. Maybe they just got tired of posting to the site, but in either case it is frustrating being left behind without some insight or reason.

701This leaves 37 online reports that ended short of the thru-hiker expectations of completing the 2, 189 mile trek through 14 states in one season of hiking. The number one reason for a hiking-ending experience is injury (20 hikers). This is not a surprise given the difficult terrain and demanding challenge that the trail presents. Five hikers encountered injury during their pre-hikes and postponed their attempts for another year. Fifteen pilgrims attributed on trail injuries to their early departure. The injuries varied – seven knees, three legs, two shoulders, one back, one toe, and one foot – but all them them made the journey impossible to complete.

Fourteen hikers left the trail for emotional reasons. Of those, an even dozen left out of discouragement – hard trails, tired feet, bad weather can lead to depression and homesickness. Two others called it boredom discovering that the AT is not always a glorious view of mountain flowers, wildlife, and overlooks. A thru-hiker must watch his/her feet constantly to avoid the faceplant caused by rocks and roots.

One hiking couple ran out of time and realized after four months on the trail that they could not make it before the responsibilities of home demanded their return. What a difficult decision they had to make. Another hiker needed to leave the trail to attend to a family emergency. And yet another, stated his reason for leaving as “unexpected issues.”

Book Cover 2

Check Out My Book

It is sad to see people leave the trail. However, I almost always read the online comments of the hikers themselves that what they experienced was life-changing, mind-changing, or personally impactful. I believe that every hiker takes part of the trail with them, deep inside, that does not easily fade. The experience of being in God’s creation, whether 30 miles or 2,000 miles stays in the heart and speaks to the mind in powerfully unique ways. I would love for you to read my book, Hike It Forward, and experience the Appalachian Trail through my eyes and spirit (simply click on the book cover and purchase it from Amazon). Then give it a try and see if you don’t agree.   

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Book, Class of 2017, Hike It Forward, Hiking, Injuries, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker on the Trail After July 2

Beaker, the Chemist from West Virginia, took a few days off the trail to visit his wife at their new home in Knoxville, TN. From June 26 until July 2 his life was filled with the honey do list that often accompanies a new home, finding some new, lighter shoes for the trail, and resupplying for the adventure ahead.

7/3/17

Beaker_2017Beaker flew to Albany, NY, and was met at the airport by his high school friend Linda, her sister, and her niece. They went to dinner at a local pizza place in nearby Bennington, VT while visiting and catching up on the 30 years since they had seen one another. July 4th holds a return to the trail and a climb over the highest peak in Massachusetts, Mount Greylock.

7/4/17  Today’s hike totaled 17.6 miles from Dalton to Mt. Greylock, MA

After a great breakfast of farm fresh eggs, bacon, and French toast, Linda drove Beaker back to the Shamrock Inn in Dalton, MA. Hiker hunger called his name around noon, “Before starting up Mt Greylock, though, I dropped down the back side of Cheshire Cobble into the town of Cheshire, MA. I happened to walk right past an ice cream/sandwich shop at noon. So, naturally, I stopped for a ham and Swiss on rye and a chocolate shake.”

Mt GreylockCheshire, MA nestles within the valley of the Hoosic River at 970 ft. Mount Greylock stands tall at 3489 ft so over the course of 7 ½ miles Beaker climbed 2519 ft. It is not the most difficult uphill on the AT or even the most demanding Beaker has encountered so far on his adventure, but it is a long uphill grade taking most of his afternoon. Arriving at the summit of Mt. Greylock, Beaker was impressed by the War Memorial Lighthouse and the rustic Bascom Lodge. He decided to get a bunk at the lodge for the night, hoping that the next three days will be 20+ milers as he tries to catch back up with 1st Sgt. and the rest of his trail friends.

“I think the week off was just what I needed. My feet are all healed up and appear to be working just fine in my trail runners. Also, I really enjoyed being back in the woods. Tomorrow – Vermont!”

7/5/17  Today’s trek: 22.9 miles Mt. Greylock to Harmon Hill, VT

Beaker found a beautiful day for hiking: clear blue skies and highs in the upper 70s. He got an earlier start, ate his breakfast from his food bag and headed down the path before 7:00 AM. He hiked off Mt. Greylock and down to Williamstown, MA, where he had second breakfast at the Stop N Shop. “It was located about 0.5 miles off-trail. I typically won’t go that far off-trail for waterfalls and overlooks unless they are spectacular; however, I’ll gladly do it for second breakfast. I’m going to miss second breakfast when I am done hiking and start eating like a normal person again.”  

VerMUD

VerMud

Beaker put in some great mileage today. Unfortunately, 1st Sgt. has been putting in the miles slackpacking while his wife is visiting him on the trail, so Beaker has a challenge ahead in trying to catch him. The highlight of the day was completing Massachusetts and entering another state. He crossed into Vermont just after noon. The nickname for Vermont on the AT is “Vermud”. Almost as soon as he crossed the border, the nickname became obvious. He encountered big patches of thick, squishy, black mud sometimes stretching across the trail, making it impossible to go around.

 

Vermud photo example found at http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/505240
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Dalton, MA, Massachusetts, Mt Greylock, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

USA!

Flags.jpgI have always felt it such a privilege to live in America. My dad served in the Army during World War 2 and met my mom, a native of England, in London during this global conflict. Mom married my dad and moved to America shortly after the war. She quickly fell in love with Pennsylvania and the land of the free and the home of the brave. One of her proudest moments was becoming a naturalized citizen and claiming Old Glory as her national flag. My mom would often tell me that America was the greatest country in the world.

WILMA RUDOLPH USA

Wilma Rudolph at 1960 Olympics

My parents and my early education helped instill in me a patriotic heart, filling my mind with bigger-than-life heroes like Davy Crockett, Lewis and Clark, Abraham Lincoln, Francis Marion, and Paul Revere. I was not a great history buff, but I remember feeling so proud to be an American while watching the Olympic Games on TV growing up.The President of the United States was always respected and honored in our home no matter which political party was in office.

I have been on a few missions trips out of the United States over the years and have grown in my appreciation of my country. The incredible freedoms we experience and limitless opportunities to serve as Americans is truly amazing. After spending just a couple of weeks in a third world country, I found myself so thankful to be back home. Some Americans have much to learn about priorities and what is truly valuable in life but there is no doubt of the abundant blessings in the US.

20140824-062412.jpgHaving hiked the Appalachian Trail and seen parts of New England with exciting eyes while experiencing those spectacular views from mountain summits from Georgia to Maine, my love for the land deepened each day. Most of the people I met along the trail treated me with kindness and openness. Their welcoming spirit and the genuine appreciation for my thru-hiking  adventure brought a sense of bonding with folks that would have been strangers otherwise.

Rocky (my beautiful wife) and I hope to do some hiking in the Pacific Northwest next year, thanks to the generosity of my friends at Dayton Christian School. As we visit several national parks and see parts of the United States new to both of us, I imagine that we will stand in awe of the Creator and His blessing upon this great country.

FireworksI know that there are many different opinions politically, morally, spiritually, and philosophically, but I hope that we can all agree to celebrate a country that allows such differences while attempting to protect the rights of each one of us. May God continue to bless America enabling us to enjoy the fireworks of freedom, the parades of peace, and our lives of liberty.

Photo of flags found at https://tangofoxtrot.net 
Wlima Rudolph photo found at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/372250725433595698/
Fireworks picture from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fireworks
Categories: America, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Maine, Olympic Games, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Retirement and Katahdin

20140518-102659.jpgI did not think that I would ever compare the Appalachian Trail to my retirement from Dayton Christian School but as I was walking off campus for the last time on Thursday, there was a similar emotion and parallel feeling that impressed my spirit.

I had reached the end of the trail – 2,186 miles on the trail and now 10,585 days at the school. The approach to the summit was 20140924-194204.jpgfilled with excitement and a great sense of accomplishment. There were those moments of looking back over the mountains and valleys as the final peak came into view. People’s faces came to mind that had made the journey such a pleasure. Some of the adversity that made the adventure was re-read in the journal of my mind.

Then the final hike down Mount Katahdin and the final walk to the car in the parking lot brought the tears of realization that they journey has over. Tomorrow would not hold the same routine of preparation, encounters on the path, and comrades with a common purpose. That trail was conquered… that mission complete. Others would follow in the footsteps and enjoy that taste of fellowship of God in special ways.

20140925-095906.jpgFinally, there was the “hallelujah” of life after the trail. Hopping in the car of my best friend and heading down the road to what God had in store back home; climbing into my little red Civic and driving home to what awaits behind the door of retirement. This feeling of anticipation after accomplishment is such a mixed bag of emotion and mental chaos. On my last day on the Mountain I had tears of longing to see my wife, family, and friends, but a sadness of saying good-bye to the trail and its community of smelly hikers with crazy names. On my last day of ministry at D.C. I experienced a collection of tears and smiles, joy and reflection as I said farewell to beloved colleagues and walked the empty halls of this special building.

DCHS BuildingI am not sure what adventure God is calling me to now that my superintendent/principal hats have been hung in the closet, but I know it will be pretty exciting. I enter this time with the same comfort from God’s word that I did beginning the hike of my life – Psalm 91:1, 9, 15 – ‘Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty….If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent….He will call on Me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dayton Christian, Mount Katahdin, Retirement, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Beaker – From Massachusetts to Knoxville

Beaker and 1st Sgt Back TogetherBeaker and 1st Sgt, are still hiking through the wonderful state of Massachusetts. On June 24 they traveled 15.8 miles making their way to a favorite spot of many thru-hikers – Upper Goose Pond Cabin. The cabin is owned by the National Park Service and is managed by the Appalachian Mountain Club. It offers hikers bunks with mattresses, a fantastic lake for swimming and canoeing, and best of all pancakes for breakfast (a great memory of mine). Squire, a fellow hiker,  and his two sons Stretch and Remix (14 and 12 years old) arrived at the cabin late that night after putting in a 25 mile day. Beaker and 1st Sgt. had a pleasant visit with them over the breakfast flapjacks. Continue reading

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Dalton, MA, Knoxville, Thru-Hike, Trail Magic, Upper Goose Pond Cabin | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Churns the Miles Part 2

1st Sgt. Climbing Rocks in NY

June 12, 2017 –  Five miles of New Jersey trail brought Beaker and 1st Sgt. into a new state, New York, but the continued rocks and the 90+ degree temperatures made the hike difficult. June 13th brought the same terrain and heat. Part of Beaker’s journal reveals the dangers of the Appalachian Trail, “Today was one of the toughest I’ve experienced out here in quite awhile. We are into our third day of heat in the 90+ degree range. That kind of heat just seems to sap all the energy right out of you. As soon as we started hiking, 1st Sgt and I were drenched in sweat…. We spent our second day scrambling up and down over big rocks, sometimes slowing down to a crawl as we negotiated climbs or steep descents. …..these ascents made for dangerous hiking. A young college aged hiker we know named Snooze took a nasty tumble off a particularly tricky climb. His backpack took the brunt of the impact; however, he still ended up with scrapes and a fairly ugly puncture wound on his right calf. Passing hikers helped his sister Sauce patch him up, so by the time we saw them he was doing pretty well. I did insist on examining and cleaning the wound when we got to the shelter tonight. Everyone in the shelter gathered around to watch the show. They were all pretty amazed when I pulled out a set of nitrile gloves. I also told him he needs to get the wound checked when we get to town tomorrow.

The third day of hiking the NY path led the hikers over Bear Mountain and down the other side to the Trailside Zoo, the lowest point on the AT. The next day, June 15, Beaker and 1st Sgt. hiked across the Hudson River via the Bear Mountain Bridge as part of their 20-mile hike ending at Clarence Farhnestock State Park, where thru-hikers get one free night of camping. June 16th was a cooler day in the 60s with a soft breeze that ended with a rain shower about ½ mile from the shelter. Beaker and 1st Sgt. arrived at Morgan Stewart Shelter without being too wet.

Dover Oak

June 17 was the last full day in New York and the path directed Beaker and 1st Sgt. past three great landmarks on the AT: Nuclear Lake (there was a plutonium research facility located here from the 1950s to the 1970s. They experienced an explosion that contaminated the lake and surrounding shoreline. It was remediated years ago and the facility is long gone. What’s left is a beautiful lake, teeming with fish, geese, and beaver.), Dover Oak (the tallest oak on the Appalachian Trail – 114 feet tall, 20 feet think, and about 300 years old), and the train station at Pawling, New York (this functioning train station is designed for NYC folks to catch a ride to the woods and enjoy the beauty of the canopy).

By the end of the day on June 18th, New York was in the books and Connecticut was under foot. Beaker hiked two 19+ mile days followed by a Nero-day of 4 miles to arrive at Salisbury, CT. His feet were extremely tender and even though he is an EMT, he needed to see a doctor for proper diagnosis. Parts of his journal record it best, June 20 – I believe that days of wet feet and staying at less than reputable hotels may have led to vesicular athlete’s foot. It’s not quite like the common athlete’s foot between your toes. It tends to occur under the thick skin on the soles of your feet. I also think the constant moisture and sweaty socks may have led a secondary bacterial infection. As a result, my feet are very sore and swollen…. The doctor…. did a thorough history and exam and most of all confirmed my diagnosis. He suggested I take several days off to rest my feet. However, having treated thru hikers in the past, he knew that wasn’t happening. He then gave me antibiotics and antifungals and suggested I change out my socks as often as possible.

The Ledges of Mount Race

Beaker and 1st Sgt. took a much needed zero-day in Salisbury to give some rest and healing time for their feet. They hiked a modest 12.7 miles on June 22, but left Connecticut and entered the marvelous state of Massachusetts. They hiked over Bear Mountain (in Connecticut), Mount Race with its incredible view from the ledges, and Mount Everett, which only seems like Mount Everest. The feet felt 1000 times better according to Beaker, who demonstrates such a positive attitude.

June 23 involved a 19.6 mile hike and a real test for the feet. Beaker records at the end of the day, “We are tired and our feet are also tired; but, our feet are actually doing better. Talking to other thru hikers, it appears that all our bodies are beginning to break down. Luckily, only 650 miles to Katahdin and I hear it’s all downhill!” I appreciate his attitude and sense of humor, two keys to completing a thru-hikes.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Connecticut, Dover Oak, Mount Everett, Mount Race, Nuclear Lake, NY, Thru-Hike, Zoo | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Churning the Miles, Part 1

My last update on Beaker was the last day of May. While I have been finishing up the school year as principal and making as many baton hand-offs as possible before my retirement, Beaker has hiked 315 miles. During the first three weeks of June, Beaker has only taken two zero days: one in Delaware Water Gap after conquering the rocks of Pennsylvania and one two weeks later in Salisbury, Connecticut to rest some very sore feet. Beaker is still hiking with 1st Sergeant and the two of them are putting in consistent miles while having a great time experiencing the trail. After finishing off the long walk through Pennsylvania, the men hiked through New Jersey in four days (79 miles), New York in six days (90 miles), Connecticut in four days (43 miles) and are now trekking through Massachusetts (90 miles).

Instead of summarizing three weeks of hiking into one post, I will give you half today and catch you up-to-date tomorrow.

Beaker and 1st Sgt. made it to Port Clinton, PA on May 1 after a 9.3 mile hike. They spent the rest of the day in the area resupplying. Beaker was hoping to find some new boots at Cabala’s in nearby Hamburg, but they did not have any hiking boot in size 14. Size 14?! Yes, Beaker is one big guy.  He called his wife who called REI who promised size 14 Keen Targhee II mid-height boots to be delivered in Wind Gap by the time Beaker arrived there.

Climb up Lehigh Gap

The rocks of Pennsylvania presented difficult terrain for the next two days, but the climb out of Palmerton and Lehigh Gap is an iconic experience for every thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail. Beaker writes in his journal on June 4, “The climb was everything it was advertised to be. Many times we had to put down our hiking poles to be able to use our hands to pull ourselves up the rock face. If you were to lose your balance – easy to do with a 35 pound backpack on your back – you would get seriously hurt. To add to the experience, we were all carrying extra weight because the upcoming ridgeline has no water, so we had to fill up all our containers with water before starting our climb, adding an additional 5 pounds to our packs… [We] took our time on the ascent and made it safely to the top.”. 

They made it to Wind Gap on the 5th of June and the boots were waiting for Beaker as REI had promised. They conquered the rocks of PA upon arrival at Delaware Water Gap on June 6. Marguerite met the tired hikers at this border town and they spent a zero day on June 7 resting up and planning the next leg of the adventure.

The hike through New Jersey began the next day with a 16.7 mile trek. Beaker and 1st Sgt. stopped for lunch at the Mohican Outdoor Center, a nice respite with good food. The following day was a 20.5 mile hike over Sunrise Mountain where they met a guitarist in the open pavilion on top of the mountain. June 10 brought great blessing –  two friends of 1st Sgt. (both named Sue, so they called themselves The Sooz) were out geocaching and provided some great trail magic food and a ride to a nice hotel in Ramsey, NJ.

Pochuck Boardwalk

Jun 11 was the last full-day day in New Jersey. The AT makes its way through the Wallkill Natural Wildlife Reserve. Within the reserve, the hikers observed something very special. “As we traversed the wetlands, we came upon an incredible sight – a turtle laying eggs! It was so cool! She had dug a hole and, as she laid each egg, she would cover it with dirt using her back legs. We must have watched for 20 minutes. It was amazing that such a small creature could have so many eggs in her.”  Beaker and 1st Sgt. continued on and were able to walk along the Pochuck Boardwalk, a mile-long boardwalk that ends with a 110 ft. suspension bridge across Pochuck Creek before concluding their 17-mile day.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Connecticut, CT, Delaware Water Gap, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Palmerton, Pennsylvania, Port Clinton, REI, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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