Trail

Rocky and Rowdy on an AT Challenge

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has issued a 14-State Challenge. Anyone brave enough to take the challenge is expected to hike at least a portion of the AT in all 14 states. Rocky and I have decided to begin our quest this summer taking on four states: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

After spending some special time with my son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren in Canton, Georgia, Rocky and I are going to spend the next eight days exploring some of the beauty of the AT. Today, Sunday 6/17/18, we drove to the approach trail at Amicalola Falls State Park and hiked the 604 steps to the top of the falls. The cascade is truly amazing. We visited the welcome center and got our first stamp in our official AT Passports; we entered the approach trail via the iconic arch at the welcome center; and we enjoyed meeting three section-hikers hoping to make it North Carolina.

Amicalola Falls

Although Amicalola Falls is not part of the official Appalachian Trial, many thru-hikers begin here and hike the 8.5-mile approach trail to Springer Mountain, Georgia. Rocky and I came down the steps faster than we went up, loaded in our 2018 Maserati (disguised as a 1999 Toyota Camry), and headed down the road to Woody Gap just south of Suches, Georgia. The AT crosses GA. Route 60 at Woody Gap (about mile 21 into the AT) that houses a nice little road-side parking lot and picnic area. Rocky and I parked and headed NOBO (northbound) toward the summit of Big Cedar Mountain. It was beautiful. The forest kept the sun at bay and provided a nice, cool hike. We reached Preaching Rock with an incredible view to the east and finally, the summit of Big Cedar Mountain opened up onto a rocky ledge with another amazing view of the mountain range in the distance. Rocky and I enjoyed a relaxing moment on the summit taking in the glory of God’s creation. We met several section hikers on the way back down the mountain. They were all headed for Franklin, North Carolina. We talked with another hiker from Hawaii who is planning to hike as far as she can. She was carrying a pack that looked like it was over 50 pounds while I would guess that she weighed no more than 110 pounds. She was such a sweet lady and we talked for several minutes and wished her well on her journey.

Rocky on Big Cedar Mountian

From Woody Gap, we drove to Dahlonega, GA, and got a hotel for the night. Rocky went to the outdoor pool and I hit the computer to document the adventure on this blog. Tomorrow we head for Neels Gap, Georgia, at the 31.7-mile marker. I will try to post some photos and some words capturing out adventure.

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Georgia, Hiking, Neels Gap, Rocky, Rowdy, Trail, Woody Gap | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Caesars Creek Loop

Caesers Creek

Rocky and I took advantage of a beautiful Friday, June 8, to enjoy the trail that encircles part of Caesars Creek Lake. The 12.7-mile loop trail has some elevation change and some road walking, but the terrain is beautiful and peaceful. We began our trek at 8:40, took our time, enjoyed a couple of rest breaks and completed the trail about 2:10 for a 5 ½-hour hike. The temperatures were moderate to high but hydration was our biggest challenge. Rocky tried out a new camelbak-style water bladder and I went old school with two water bottles. She loved her easy access to refreshment and I had a few sips left at the end of the loop.

Birds serenaded our walk throughout the day and the lush green forest shaded our heads from the heat of the sun. The treeless, 0.7-mile walk over the bridge and along Route 73 treated us to the power of the sun and the traffic of the four-lane road, but 50 Springs Picnic Area welcomed us with a covered pavilion and a restful spot to grab some trail food and take a load off our feet.

After rock-hopping one of the many little streams that crisscross the trail and heading up a hill on the other side, Rocky told me to stop and look at the fawn. I had walked right by Bambi without noticing his camouflaged spot among the underbrush. I stopped and was able to get a photo of the little guy. No mom in sight, but hopefully nearby.

We saw numerous tiny frogs (just right for a snake’s dinner), chipmunks, squirrels, a groundhog, a garter snake, and several fellow hikers, including Theresa, our friendly librarian from the Miami Township Library.

Rocky recently purchased some new trekking pole at REI and this was the break-in walk for this new equipment. The poles saved her from a faceplant when a trip root snuck up on her. She twisted her knee a little but the trekking poles prevented a fall – money well spent! We have found it hard to walk comfortably in the woods without our “sticks.”

About half-way through our loop, we came to a large parking lot and a ramp to launch boats into the lake. As we were walking through the parking area to reach the trailhead, we noticed a sign that I have never seen before… anywhere! The sign read Warning Vultures May Cause Damage to Vehicles. When I got home, I researched this phenomenon. Here is an interesting quote from Indiana State Parks:

The black vulture, the gray-headed cousin of the turkey vulture, is causing damage to vehicles–often trucks and SUVs –parked at boat ramps. Windshield wipers, sunroof seals, and rubber or vinyl parts are at particular risk. Most of the time, perching black vultures do little or no damage. However, in some cases, the destruction can be extensive. The vultures can tear out rubber seals, peck pieces out of truck bed liners, and scratch paint with their claws. Why are they “attacking” vehicles? The quick answer is that no one knows for sure. https://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/files/sp-black_vulture_vehicle_damage_brochure.pdf

Rocky’s New Trekking Poles

We were tired at the end of the loop, but it was a good tired, filled with accomplishment, and serotonin, and Vitamin D. Getting out of the car after the 25-minute drive home might have been the most difficult part of the day. It is amazing how fast those muscles tighten up. Dinner tasted especially good and sleep came easy that night. I am Rowdy and my wife is Rocky and we had a great day together in God’s creations. I would recommend a hike to release some stress, to clear the mind, and to breath the air of beauty and health.

Categories: Caesar Creek, Hiking, Local Hikes, Ohio, Rocky, Rowdy, Trail, Vultures | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Winter Hits Hard on the AT

Winter Appalachian Trail in March

I have been following 14thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail. They are all journaling on trailjournals.com and all 14 of them started either in January or February of 2018. The 2018 trail season so far has been wet and then cold and then snowy. The weather has taken its toll on some of the hikers and has caused some slower pace for many.

Five of the original fourteen are off the trail, at least temporarily. Genesis the earliest hiker, began his journey on January 14th. He hiked from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia to Caledonia State Park close to his home in Pennsylvania. He then came south to Georgia, hiked for six days beginning art Springer Mountain until coming off Blue Mountain, GA, (50 mile-marker) soreness in both knees forced him back to Pennsylvania. After two weeks of rest and recovery, Genesis returned to the trail of Georgia (March 23). Three days and 19.6 miles later, he realized that his knees were not going to support his trek. He returned to Pennsylvania with hopes of trying again in late April.

Zin Master started January 23 and went off-trail with tendinitis on February 27. He and his wife, Peaches, and dog, Moxie have recently traveled to Kingsport, Tennessee, where Zin is doing some day hikes.

Class Act

Class Act was hit hard by the cold temperatures and the overcrowded shelters. He was in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park when he realized that his slow pace was going to make his thru-hike impossible. Having begun his adventure on February 18, he jumped off the trail on March 16 having hiked about 182 miles of the AT, averaging a little more than 6.7 miles per day. He hopes to do some sections hikes I the near future.

Dave Snow and his dog, Abbie, began their thru-hike attempt on February 26th. I am assuming that they are off-trail because he has not entered a post for 16 days. I will continue to check his journal, but for now, I have noted that he is off-trail without comment.

Pigweed

The fifth hiker to recently call a halt to his hike is Pigweed, Lee Richards from Delaware. Pigweed began his AT adventure on February 27th, hiked 165 miles, and ended his hike at Fontana Dam just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He suffered an ankle injury that would not respond to rest. He took four zero days at Wolf Creek Hostel near Stecoah Gap, North Carolina, but after returning to two painful days of hiking, Pigweed decided to head back home and seek doctor’s care.

I will post an update on the remaining nine hikers tomorrow (March 29). A few have not posted for several days but hopefully, they will all check in today.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class Act, Class of 2018, Genesis, Georgia, Hiking, Pigweed, Thru-Hike, Trail, Zin Master | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Captain Blue on the Blue Blazes

The Buckeye Trail is one very long loop trail…. 1,444 miles around the entire state of Ohio. I have hiked on several sections of it because the trail travels right through the city of Dayton. One of my favorite trail in the area is located at Caesar Creek State Park near Waynesville, Ohio – it is part of the Buckeye Trail. Much of the Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail bike trail between Cincinnati and Springfield is part of the trail. Deed’s Point in downtown Dayton is on the trail as well.

I have been fascinated by the Buckeye trail for several years and have read a few books about this unique looped long trail. I have just finished reading a book by Andy Niekamp, Captain Blue, who was the first person to solo thru-hike the trail back in 2011. It took him 88 days and a boatload of determination and perseverance. The book is called Captain Blue on the Blue Blazes and is available on Amazon.

Captain Blue is from Kettering, Ohio but he has been an adventurer for many years.  Captain Blue is an experienced hiker who has logged 14,000 miles in more than 30 states coast-to-coast including 9,500 miles on the Appalachian Trail. I have heard him speak several times and he is a powerful advocate for the outdoors.

Andy began and ended his hike in Dayton. His first steps were taken on March 20 and he ended up back at Deeds Point on June 15, 2011. His 88 days are filled with wonderful stories of support and networking, of kindness from trail angels around the state, of rain and frustrating unmarked trail, and of beautifully blazed sections along country roads, through towns and cities, across old canal towpaths, and through history-rich communities at all four corners the state. Captain Blue even includes a love story into his book that adds a special dimension to the trail.

I’d encourage you to take a look at this book that records Captain Blue’s historic thru-hike of the Buckeye Trail. Click on the book cover for a link to Amazon.

Categories: Buckeye Trail, Captain Blue, Deeds Point, Ohio, Thru-Hike, Trail, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Rocky and Rowdy at Possum Creek

Rocky and I are still on our quest to thru-hike all the trails in the MetroPark System in the Greater Dayton, Ohio area. We have several parks to conquer, but the target on Saturday, March 3rd, was Possum Creek MetroPark off Frytown Road. The day was sunny and clear although a little chilly (high 30s-low 40’s). We layered up, grabbed our trekking poles, and headed out after breakfast.

There are seven color-blazed trails at Possum Creek totally 9.2 miles. We parked just north of Argonne Lake and hiked the three loop trails that depart from this parking lot (purple – 1.4 miles, pink – 1.2 miles, and blue – 1 miles around the lake). We retraced a portion of the blue trail (0.4 miles) in order to connect with the longest trail – orange – 3.5 miles. We hiked a substantial portion of the orange trail (including a short side trail – blazed green – to the farm and back) until we came to the northern trailhead for orange, red and yellow loop trails. We hiked the yellow loop through the Tall Grass and Jean V. Woodhull Prairies. Then we walked the red loop (only half a mile) which was a short trail cutting across the Tall Grass Prairie. Finally, we completed the orange trail through a marshy area, alongside some fishing ponds, and once again around Argonne Lake.

The terrain is nice and flat with very little elevation change. Our biggest challenge was the swampy nature of the path. We have had a good deal of rain in recent weeks and this park tends to retain that water along the flat trails through the prairies and marsh areas. But the day was lovely and the company was wonderful. I always enjoy my time with Rocky. We have great conversations, we laugh a lot at ourselves, and we have look forward to praying together as we walk.

Dance Floor

Argonne lake was beautiful although the ducks on the pond did not seem to appreciate our presence. The trail took us between some catch and release fishing ponds with lots of hopeful fishermen trying their skills. I didn’t see any poles bent over with the weight of a catch, but the fishermen looked content, bundled up against the cold breeze whipping across the waters. I also enjoyed seeing the remnants of Argonne Forest Park (an amusement park in the 1930s and early 1940s) in the North West corner of this Metropark including old streetcars and a dance hall.

With wet feet and encouraged hearts, Rocky and I pounded some knuckles in victory as we checked off the mileage on our trail chart. The short ride home down I-75 was safe and sound. Getting out of the car after sitting for a while was not as easy. The muscles had tightened up and began to complain a bit when we needed them to limp into the house. A few grunts and groans later, we were safe inside and preparing some food for an afternoon snack.

Categories: Local Hikes, MetroPark, Ohio, Rocky, Thru-Hike, Trail, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

A Hike at Englewood

The first day of February in Dayton, Ohio, threatened to be filled with rain, but when Rocky checked her phone app at 6:15 am, the prediction had changed. It was in the mid-40’s and was to remain stable until after 1:00 when the slide was to tumble down into the teens. No rain was showing on the Doppler Radar until the afternoon as well. So…. Rocky and Rowdy quickly planned a morning hike at Englewood MetroPark as part of our thru-hike of the local park system.

We have hiked this park several times over the years but we needed an official log during this season. There are seven loop trails at Englewood, but the total distance is only 8.4 miles. We knew that the path might be soggy but we also knew that we wanted to take a walk and breath in some fresh air. It is not a short drive (about 40 minutes) up the I-75N to I-70W and then onto Route 40 to the entrance, but traffic was thin and it was a valuable time to share and catch up on our week.

We started the hike with the shortest loop (Black Blaze = 0.4 miles) just to get our blood moving and our joints lubricated. We then broadened our strides and went for the 3.8-mile Green Trail leading up to Martindale Falls. The path was really in decent shape with puddles that were easily avoided until we came down the eastern side along the Stillwater River. The mud began to cake on our shoes and made walking a little slower. It is amazing how much mud can weigh as it adheres to your sole (soul). (I think there is a major analogy there but I will let you consider it.)

As we hiked along the river, we noticed one, two, three deer staring at us from a grove of trees. Two remained perfectly still just looking at the pair of super-hikers, but number three freaked out and started to bound through the underbrush, his white tail serving as a wonderful flag to follow his movements. A short distance further down the trail we discovered the deer’s destination – deer number four was waiting for him to arrive. They continued to dart into the woods until we could no longer see their bright whitetails.

I am always thrilled to see deer in the woods. They make the forest come alive for me with the wonder of the wild. Rocky loves the river because she is always on the lookout for herons and cranes doing some fishing or wading. As she was scouting out the water’s surface, she looked up and pointed, “Look, a bald eagle!” I could not believe – A BALD EAGLE. The majestic bird flew down the river providing a portrait worth painting. I did not want to take my eyes off the bird to find my camera, so I did not get a picture. I have hiked a lot of miles but I have never seen a bald eagle – 9:45 on February 1, 2018 – what a special event for us.

The trails at Englewood are all loops but they do not overlap very much and each one is quite distinctive. There are several nice waterfalls, a little elevation change that provides some cardio, and easy access to the trailheads. This is a great park to visit if you want to try some hiking without the danger of major hills and dales.

We conquered all the marked trails at Englewood. Rocky and Rowdy checked off all 8.4 miles on their log, enjoyed the drive home, and had some lunch before the cold weather invaded the day.

Categories: Englewood MetroPark, Local Hikes, Ohio, Rocky, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Carriage Hill MetroPark – Done!

Carriage Hill Park from Boardwalk

January 26th, the last Friday of January, was a beautiful day in Dayton, Ohio. Rowdy and Rocky could not let a perfect hiking day go without an adventure. We plotted out a series of trails at Carriage Hill MetroPark that we needed to complete for our thru-hike of the park system. The temperatures had dipped below freezing during the night, so we were hopeful that we could cover the vast majority of our miles before the temperature changed the solid path into a slippery, muddy trail.

We enjoyed a drive up I-75N to I-70E to State Route 201 which dropped us onto East Shull Road. Two swishes of a horse’s tail and we were turning into the parking lot. The hiking menu for the day consisted of four loop trails totally 7.4 miles. We decided to go from the longest trail to the shortest trail, so the Orange Blaze was first on the list. We started at a trailhead by the boardwalk on Cedar Lake and hiked in a clockwise direction.

Fishing Pier

The trail was in great shape and we enjoyed the past North Woods Pond, then we came to a confusing junction of trails without blaze markers. Putting my Davy Crockett instincts and map reading skills to work, I confidently moved forward. I was wrong. We got twisted around just a bit, ended up on a horse trail for a while, but finally made our way in the right direction. I had a few choice words for those who failed to place a clarifying trail marker, but I did not throw anything or kick a tree. We saw some of the trails that very few get to see.

Each of the four loops junction along the southern side of Cedar Lake, so we walked this area four separate times (which got a little redundant after a while). Ducks and geese were on the lake and the fishing pier/boardwalk provided a beautiful setting for the ending of each circuit.

The MetroPark contains some nice wooded areas, an open prairie of tall grasses, a small pond, and the larger 14-acre Cedar Lake. There were several windmills on the property with one of them right along the trail. The easy walk was peaceful and relaxing.

The sun warmed the day and our last short loop (the Red Trail) of 0.7 miles was muddy and wet, but we managed to traverse the path just fine. No falls, no screams, no frowns – we just absorbed the gorgeous day and the opportunity to walk the trails together. Mud comes off the shoes with minimal effort.

Categories: Carriage Hill MetroPark, Local Hikes, MetroPark, Ohio, Rocky, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hike the Good Hike

Having hiked a few miles of trail in several states, I have grown to appreciate the analogy between the path and our lives on this planet. Reflecting on the mountains and valleys, the refreshing waters of a cascading stream and the dryness of a long hike in the energy-sapping heat of the sun, and the highs of reaching the summit in contrast to the pain of a fall on the hardness and unforgiving nature of the trail. The adventure, the victory, the disappointment, the rain, the beauty, the fresh air, the adversity, the canopy, the trip roots of life parallel the experiences of a great hike in the woods.

I recently had my last opportunity to participate in a high school commencement ceremony. As my last year as principal, I shook the hands of 86 students as they walked across the stage to receive their hard-earned diplomas. Looking into the bright ideas and minds of the class of 2017, I thought about the path each one of them has ahead. With parchment in hand, these young lives begin to walk on a new path, one that they have never hiked before. What will the path hold for them? And how will they navigate the experiences around the next bend?

Retirement brings a new trail as well. The familiar path of the last 29 years will be changed to a new one. What will it look like? Will I be ready to walk the walk? I think the graduate and I, the young adolescent and the old man, have a lot more in common than either would want to admit. I think we both share in a mixture of excitement and apprehension, of adventure and anxiety, of faith and fear. God is faithful and His hand has guided us along the path for years and yet it is not always easy to trust in the midst of the unknown.

Recently some of my good friends have been faced with changing paths. Some of chosen to take a different trail, others have seen one path close and must walk down an alternate route. Some paths are enjoyable and filled with beauty and sun, others are difficult and challenging, but God is faithful through it all. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… You are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

Graduate or retiree…. teen or adult… student or teacher… may God give us all the strength and grace to walk with integrity and dignity as we hike a hike worthy of the calling that we have received (Ephesians 4:1).

Categories: Adversity, Class of 2017, Dayton Christian, Hiking, Retirement, Students, The Fall, Trail | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

High School Hiking Class

Greg Kurtz, Senior English Teacher

Greg, the Senior English teacher at my school, and I decided to offer a two-week hiking class for high school students during January. One of the academic sessions of our school year, J(anuary)-Term, occurs during a 14-day window beginning after Christmas break. J-Term is an intensive setting in which students are involved in local ministries, international mission trips, STEM classes, and other creative offerings designed by the faculty. Greg and I wanted to provide an active course designed to transfer the traditional classroom into the powerful setting of nature.

On the other hand… our concern – who would be crazy enough to hike from 8:15 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon in the depth of winter?  The answer… 24 students signed up…. voluntarily…. enthusiastically…. with smiles on their faces. Seven seniors, fifteen juniors, and two sophomores gathered together on January 3rd to begin the adventure of outdoor trails in Ohio in winter.

On day one, we caravanned about 40 minutes from campus to a MetroPark in Englewood, Ohio. We hiked every trail in the park and logged about 11 miles. We ended up at the home of a school family for hot chocolate and donuts. At the end of each hike the victorious hikers received an honorary carabiner for his/her backpack.

High School Hiking Class

I was able to take the students to one of my favorite spots in the area – Caesar Creek State Park. Snow had fallen overnight and turned the forest trail into a beautiful winter path. The slippery changes in terrain added to the adventure causing many to fall on the snowy turf. I led the way with a perfect two-armed flailing, trekking pole throwing, seat drop. With everyone’s pride still intact, the 12-mile loop trail was circumnavigated with a great sense of accomplishment and appreciation for God’s creation.

Greg and I decided to vary the context of our adventures and so one day’s agenda found the hiking class catching the public transit system and entering the downtown metropolis of Dayton, Ohio. With a 2010 census population of 141,527 and a land area (most of it cement) of 56.5 square miles, the group found little problem in walking past some historic areas like the gravesites of Orville and Wilbur Wright and enjoying a 12-mile urban hike around the city.

Another day of J-Term required the class to take a lengthy hike along the Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail. Two dozen of us walked from Xenia to Yellow Springs, ending up at Young’s Dairy for ice cream – a hiker’s favorite no matter what the weather.

The brave students joined Greg and I as we visited the trails of several other MetroParks, hiked in freezing temperatures, got caught in a thunderstorm on a warmer day, and logged over 100 miles in just ten days. Not bad for January… but all the students seemed to come equipped with diligence and determination. I enjoyed every minute of the adventure.

Categories: Caesar Creek, Dayton Christian, Hiking, Local Hikes, MetroPark, Ohio, Students, Trail | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Hiking Into Retirement

My blog has been silent for several months, even though my life has been spinning in many directions. Early last summer I was given the opportunity to serve my school as both the Superintendent and the Hugh School Principal. From the enrollment of new students to the hiring of teachers to building a master schedule of classes to the faculty orientation to the start of school, my summer’s agenda was filled with variety and demand. School opened its doors in August and the return of students brought athletics, concerts, schedule changes, teachers’ meetings, state reports, faculty observations, board meetings, and the mountain of administrivia.

But then came a sense of peace. The board of trustees renewed their two-year-old commitment to find a new Head of School. As the search began, I knew that the time was right to retire. I have enjoyed an action-packed 34 years in Christian School education. And yet, the decision to pass the leadership baton to others more qualified and filled with the youthful energy of the pink rabbit was filled with relief. I will complete this school year but will erase the chalkboard for the last time in June. There is a sense of sorrow to leave my friends and colleagues but a huge anticipation to discover what lies on the other side of the retirement door.

All of that to say, one of my passions is writing…. another is hiking. So, I anticipate in retirement an opportunity to fill some blog pages with research and personal experiences on the trail. This past January one of my closest colleagues and I were able to offer a two-week class to high school students on hiking. Now hiking in Ohio in January is a risk – a risk of bitter cold weather, slippery trails, inches of snow, and high winds that can blow a man sideways. It was a blast and I had so much fun trekking the trails with teenagers (and getting paid for it). More insights into this extraordinary group of high school students in an upcoming post.

I attended two hiking workshops in the last month that were both interesting and impactful on my hiking plans for the future. One workshop focused on the John Muir Trail in California and the other on the Buckeye Trail, a loop around the state of Ohio. Stay tuned for some of my reflections in the next few posts.

The Appalachian Trail is in my blood and I experience some sort of reminder in the wind every day of Springer Mountain and Mount Katahdin and the two thousand + miles in between. Hike It Forward pages to come will highlight some of the brave (and crazy) people who have declared themselves as thru-hikers during this 2017 season.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dayton Christian, Hike It Forward, Hiking, Mount Katahdin, Ohio, Retirement, Springer Mountain, Students, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | 19 Comments

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