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Overnight Loops on the Appalachian Trail (A Cincinnati Guide)

Overnight on the AT

Top 3 Hikes Less Than 8 hours from Cincinnati

By: Craig “Goatman” Buckley

 Interested in getting a taste of the iconic Appalachian Trail without the time commitment required for a long section hike? Behold! Three hikes that will get you out on the AT for an overnight backpacking trip that you can do on a long weekend. All three trails are less than an 8 hour drive from Cincinnati, are loop hikes that require only one car and no shuttles, and aim to highlight a beautiful portion of the AT. No excuses: Get out there and hike!

 

South and North Marshall Loopshenandoah

 

Where:                                 Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

From Cincy:        424 miles (about 7 hours driving)

Trail Mileage:     13.1 mile loop

Trailhead:            Jenkins Gap Parking Lot (mile marker 12.3 on Skyline Dr.)

Fee/Permit:       $15 (7 day) $30 (Annual) Permit required for overnight camping

Shenandoah National Park in Northern Virginia is a beautiful introduction to the Appalachian Trail. This 13.1 hike is easy when broken up over two days, gaining only 2100 feet of elevation throughout. You will follow the Mount Marshall Trail across three streams abundant with wildlife, from white-tail deer to black bear and up to the Bluff Trail which, as its name portends, leads along the bluffs below the summits of South and North Marshall. Along the way, take a side trail to Big Devil Stairs for an amazing vista of the rolling hills of Virginia. Camping is available around this junction (ask a ranger for details!) and, in the morning, climb up to the AT itself. Stop by Gravel Springs Hut on your way to chat with any thru-hikers taking a break and fill up your water at the spring. From there, climb up to the summits of both South (3,212 ft.) and North Marshall (3,368 ft.). Rock outcroppings and distinct cliffs afford a view of the vast Shenandoah Valley below. Continue on the AT as it weaves up and down the ridge until it pops you right back out at Jenkins Gap and your waiting car.

 

 

Mt. Cammerer Loopcammerer loop

 

Where:                 Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN/NC

From Cincy:        315 miles (about 5 hours driving)

Trail Mileage:     18 mile loop

Trailhead:            Big Creek Ranger Station, Cataloochee, NC

Fee/Permit:       $4 per night, per person for a backcountry permit

 

Talk about a hike with a little bit of everything! The Mt. Cammerer Loop is an amazing way to see the best of the Great Smoky Mountains in the vicinity of the AT. From the Big Creek Ranger Station, you’ll climb steadily up the Chestnut Branch Trail and meet up with the AT on top of the ridge after a couple of strenuous miles. Hiking southwest along the ridge will bring you to Mt. Cammerer Trail, a 0.6 blue blaze off the AT that leads to a rocky scramble to the summit where a beautiful stone fire tower lies nestled in huge boulders. From here, take in 360 degree views of the entire park, mountains as far as the eye can see. When you’re done drooling over the scenery, hike back to the AT and continue hiking. You’ll cross Rocky Face Mountain before coming to the Cosby Knob Shelter, a great halfway point at which to stay the night (don’t forget your permit!). The next morning will take you down off the ridge onto the Low Gap Trail. You’ll lose elevation here as you drop into gorgeous forest scenery. Keep an eye out for wildlife. After a few miles, you’ll begin following Big Creek, a wide, boulder-strewn stream that leads past such thing as Mouse Hole Falls and a great wooden bridge, and then back to the ranger station and your ride home.

 

 

Fairwood Valley and Mt. Rogers LoopFairwood Valley and Mt. Rogers Loop

 

Where:                 Troutdale, VA

From Cincy:        362 miles (about 6 hours driving)

Trail Mileage:     18.3 miles loop

Trailhead:            VA Rt. 603, 5.7 miles west of Troutdale

Fee/Permit:       None

 

The beauty of southern Virginia cannot be easily summarized in words and on this hike, you get not only that, but views into the ridges of North Carolina as well. The most strenuous of the three hikes, this hike begins with almost immediate elevation gain as you follow the Mt. Rogers Trail up to the ridgeline where it meets up with the AT. Keep trucking! It will be worth it, believe me. As you crest the ridge, the world below opens up and the rest of the hike is stunning view after stunning view of the sparsely populated, rolling landscape. Summit Mt. Rogers and you’ve reached Virginia’s highest point. Stay the night at the Thomas Knob Shelter about 8 miles in for an amazing sunset or keep hiking and camp at any of the great campsites off the trail further on. As you hike, your view will be the legendary Grayson Highlands before dropping down from the ridge, down through the Fairwood Valley, and finally looping back to your car.

 

Published in the 2015 Tri-State guide to the Outdoors

RRT’s Live Inventory now on Locally.com

 

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Southbound: episode 21

February 25th  2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

Our 1st day out of Franklin was cold and the trail was covered with a fresh dusting of snow. Parts of the trail were still pretty icy too. Ice Man took a bad fall on some ice and bumped his head. He had a bad earache for a while. I hadn’t seen him take a fall like that since Maine. At the shelter that night, we stayed with a north-bounder named “Music Man”. It warmed up a little bit the following day as we crossed into Georgia. The trail dramatically changed as we crossed the border to Georgia, a lot smoother.

Over the next couple days the weather jumped to the 60s. We were lucky to dodge the rain and thunderstorms that were supposed to hit. We had some of the most beautiful weather in a long time. I even cut the sleeves off my shirt. We finally made it down to Neel’s Gap. Its about 30 miles from Springer and the trail runs next to an outfitter and hiker bunkhouse. This is the spot most North-bound thru-hikers decide that the trail isn’t for them and go home. We stayed the night and resupplied there for our last day and a half. The outfitter treated us to a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, delicious.

We had 23 miles to do before our next shelter, but that didn’t stop us from taking a 3 hour break to enjoy our last great overlook. The sun was blasting all day without a cloud in the sky. 459There was a nice breeze going on though. It couldn’t have been better. Ice Man thinks I am crazy, but I could swear I could smell the ocean even though we were far from it. While we were enjoying the overlook a couple out on a day hike stopped to enjoy the same view. They treated us to some wine and good conversation, nice trail magic. We passed more than a dozen north-bounders and we sat down to talk with a few for an hour or so. Some are so excited to be there and others are already doubting themselves. They have great journeys ahead of them. We hiked into the sunset and a couple hours into the night. As the sun was setting, we could see the skyscrapers of Atlanta in the horizon. The stars were out in full force, what a great way to finish up the trip.

We thought we wouldn’t be able to sleep, being our last night in the shelter, but it ended up being like any other night. After hot chocolate, we were out. We were up at sunrise and bidding farewell to the other hikers at the shelter. It was a weird, yet exciting feeling as we put each step behind us, getting us that much closer to Springer. It was a beautiful hike along Stover Creek, which was surrounded by virgin hemlocks and rhododendron. The trail was smooth and the climb was nothing compared to Katahdin. They shouldn’t even be related. Some of our family met us a mile before the summit and joined us for the last mile. It was great to share the experience with them. We even had the opportunity to show them the shelter on top of springer. I have never felt so accomplished and whole as I did when I touched the last white blaze. I have never been so proud of anyone as I am of Ice Man. The family jokes of me helping him get here, but I couldn’t have done it without him.

It was a mile back to the cars and a long road home, haha long… not for a car and my brother behind the wheel. Once back to Cincinnati, we warmed up our cars and headed out to Skyline for 3-ways and cheese coneys. What a treat. Before the night was over, I stopped up at Mt. Adams to see the city. That makes it final…. The boys are back in town.  Thanks to everyone for all their support along the way.

Ice Man and Tundra WookieThis exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

 

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

There may never again be such a great sense of accomplishment and meaning. The trail above all else teaches you patience, confidence, and resilience. There are many great adventures in life but there was one great adventure that gave us the courage to go after all others. What gave us the courage to chase this dream? In retrospect I think it was blind ambition, but in the process you can learn a great deal of not just yourself but also of this world. I’ve said it already but the people and personality of this trail are unreal and unlike anything you would expect or imagine. The experience  became one of personal but also cultural enlightenment exposing us to the heart of America.

The Appalachian Trail is in large responsible for us being who we are. As an outfitter we are here to carry on the kindness of our trail angels and be trail angels ourselves. Even if we are in Cincinnati we have found that we can make a big impact and help a great deal with people’s lives through experiences with the AT and other trails. The trail lives on in us both, through presentations, shop conversations, and countless revisits of the trail itself.  The only question left unanswered is the one most asked; “Would you do it again?”.

There are many more adventures in our future, with many places and people to experience it with. That being said, we all get “Springer Fever”….

 

Thanks for following, and a special thanks to all those that helped us along the way. A special thank you to our parents and biggest supporters in all life endeavors, love you!

Southbound: episode 16

January 4th 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

   Its been 2 weeks since we left Waynesboro and we have been having an awesome time. It so nice to be back in the mountains. The views have been absolutely amazing. The day after leaving Waynesboro , we spent an entire day hanging out in the shelter because it rained for like 30 hours straight. During the cold rainstorm, we entertained ourselves with Yahtzee and Uno. The following day wasn’t much to scream about, it was a clear and cold day. However, we did share the shelter/camp with an older couple and two goats that packed her gear, it made for an interesting conversation.

In the morning, we hiked over the Three Ridges, the sun was out and it was near sixty degrees! It was all too grand, the continuous views captured our attention and we all agreed to go about half the distance planned. We hiked over to “Chimney Rocks” where we sat for the rest of the afternoon admiring the view, watching vultures fly over their domain.Backpacking the AT

So then it was Christmas. It could of been better to be honest. We hiked up and over “The Priest”, our first 4000 foot mountain since New Hampshire ! The cold rain kept us from enjoying it though. We cut the day short to avoid getting sick, as we were all drenched and shivering. We built a Christmas tree out of water bottles and just enjoyed getting warm and dry. The following day we decided to treat each other to a Christmas present. We hiked a few miles to a old dirt road, and just another mile and a half down to Montebello and the Dutch Haus Bed and Breakfast. We were pampered with great meals, showers, a warm fire, and The Chipmunks Great Adventure on VHS.

Our weather improved for a few days, and we sure did enjoy it! Great view from the grassy top of Cold Mountain , Bluff Mountain , and on down to the James River . We hitched into the small town of Glasgow for resupply, it took a while to get in, but the town was friendly and it was quick getting out. Then we crossed the James River footbridge, the longest on the AT, at 642 feet. From there it was just a quick creek side walk to the shelter. Most of the shelters in Virginia have had mice, some an army of mice. This shelter however had a rat, he lived in the privy (outhouse).River along the trail

Happy New Years! Like every other holiday, it rained New Years Eve. It was not as cold so we still pushed out our planned thirteen miles. At the shelter that night we finally enjoyed the two heavy bottles of wine Ice Man was carrying. It was only Arbor Mist, but the celebration was priceless! The next morning we played Uno until the rain stopped, and the most beautiful blue skies followed. We crossed Apple Orchard Mountain , a gorgeous grassy bald, the way down kept our attention with cliff side views and short trails to overlooks.

The next few days would have us following and crossing the Blueridge Parkway . It was nice cause they had the trail cross at overlooks. We went later into the night a few times, but enjoyed the sunsets, and the light of the full moon. We stopped at one point to admire the moon framed between the forest limbs and the mountain horizon behind. We feel so fortunate to capture whats “behind the scenes”. The night before last, our shelter was perched above the city lights of Roanoke , magnificent.Balds

We hiked into Daleville yesterday morning, where we met Ginger Snap’s brother and close friend. They spent the night with us at a hotel just off the trail. They were nice enough to shuttle us around for food and resupply. We shared many laughs and we decided Chinese buffets should have microwaves too. Oh, and coconut ice cream is disgusting. The three of them are leaving today to road trip down along the Gulf Coast and Texas . We wish we could tag along, but that just wouldn’t be right.Hiking the AT

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

 

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

This section brings back some great trail hiking and remains one of my favorite areas.  Between the ridge walking and the balds we had some incredible views.  If we had been on this section with bad weather it may be a different story seeing as we were exposed quite often. The bad weather did come back around but in the worst way. The temperatures dropped to high 30s while we dropped to the valley and then started climbing the Priest.  I think all together I went up the mountain relativity fast but it didn’t seem that way. I found my self stopping often trying to keep with the group a little more. At one point I stopped for what seemed like a half hour and still didn’t see anyone coming up the trail.

This was only bad because I consequently lost most of my heat. for the rest of the day I struggled to feel good about the hiking and was constantly cold. Now i really wanted to meet up with TW and Ginger so we can make a group decision to maybe stop at the next shelter.  By the time I got to the top my body and mentality was shot and I wanted nothing more than to jump in my sleeping bag. After a few false summits I made it to the side trail. I made a little arrow on the ground using sticks to mark my detour for the rest of the group. Not long after getting in the shelter I stripped off my wet clothes and hurried into my bag. The constant rain had soaked through most everything and it took a good hour of shivering in my zero degree bag until I felt normal again. At that point the rain turned to ice and seemed to come down pretty hard making me concerned for TW and Ginger. If I was trucking up the mountain and didn’t stay warm how were they doing?

They arrived soon after and were definitely happy to stop for the night.  Merry Christmas to us! This was for sure the closest I’ve come to having  hypothermia.  Our New Years was also the most effort I’ve ever put into having a midnight toast.  By the end of it all it was back to just TW and I, which I think we were both ready for.  It was time to get back to our old pace.

Southbound: episode 14

December 11 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

In order to do the trail, you have to accept that things don’t always go as planned. It’s not that what happened is bad, it’s actually kind of funny that its the opposite of what we wanted to do. We are at the Bear’s Den Hostel, just 20 miles south of Harpers Ferry which is the funny part. We made it to Harpers Ferry 3 days ago, granted one day was an off day, but what we did in one day last week, we did in 2 days. The terrain is not to blame, nor the weather. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club has been very hospitable. We bumped into the trail club in Hapers Ferry and the invited us over for dinner both Friday and Saturday night. It was a great time and we really enjoyed hanging out with all the people that are not just building and maintaining the trail, but also working to protect the wilderness around it.Roller coaster

They talked us into stopping by the Blackburn Trail Center last night, which is just off the trail, to stay the night and have dinner with the caretakers. We also celebrated the caretakers birthday with cake and ice cream. Of course, we still had to stop by here to do laundry and grab some more food to get us to the next town. Pizza, ice cream, internet, electric, hot shower, and a bed? OK, we’ll stay, but tomorrow we are doing 23 miles. Tomorrow we hit what they call the “roller coaster”, a long series of quick ups and downs, sounds like fun.

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

 

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

To be clear, we were laughing at the fact that immediately following a 26 mile day we managed just 20 miles in the three days to follow. We speed up and slow down over and over again on the trail; each time for a different reason.  At the Blackburn Center was our first time considering a later life move to the trail and looking into a lifestyle of support and trail work on the AT.  The young couple that were caretakers there at the time were amazing and seemed to have fun doing it.  Even after getting home we would talk about running a hostel or trail crew. More than a year after the trail we called the Blackburn Center to check on job details and availability. It is all proof of the lasting impact that the trail had and the desire to pass it forward and live more of a life surrounded by the trail.

Southbound: episode 13

December 8th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

  Here we are in Harpers Ferry , West Virginia . There is only 4 miles in WV, so we will be in Virginia as soon as we leave here. Virginia will be our 10th state and will also be the longest state, about 545 miles. Since leaving Duncannon , PA 7 days ago, we have gone another 124 miles without any real problems. We are impressed with ourselves and happy to see that we can still have 20 mile hiking days despite the short hours of sunlight. It has been pretty cold though. We have been taking extra care to ensure our water bottles and filter don’t freeze at night, which isn’t hard, just have to put in the sleeping bag. Today it was so cold that our mustaches started to ice over while hiking, so to keep the water from freezing, we had to keep the bottles inside our jackets as we hiked. The wind chill brought the temperature down into the teens.ATCTundra Wookie

As you can see in the pictures, we have come to quite a few nice views looking out over Pennsylvania , Maryland , and West Virginia , but they should be even better in Virginia . We passed the half way point marker (now outdated) and took a step past into the southern half of the trail. We are more than happy to be done with Pennsylvania , and Maryland only lasted two days. The trail took us through another small family cemetery from the 1800s. It was nice to see someone still keeping it fairly cleaned up. We also past by the first monument dedicated to George Washington, as well as several other civil war memorials. We have enjoyed not only the scenery but also the walk through time and history.Blast Iron Furnace

In the last entry, we told you about Little Engine and Ellipse and how they would be hiking with us for awhile. Well, that didn’t last long, actually, we never got to hike with them. They left town a little before we did and Ellipse hit the ground running and we can’t catch him. Little Engine must have gotten off the trail for one reason or another because we didn’t pass him on the trail and he certainly isn’t in front of us.

Overall, we are feeling really good, just have to get back in the grove for cold weather. It is hard to believe that 3 months has already gone by, exactly 92 days and 1165.2 miles behind us. Our mountains await us, above 3000 feet we go again.

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

You know when you just don’t want to get out of bed? You’re buried in the covers and you feel so warm, all you want is to turn over and sleep just one more hour? Now imagine you are outside and it is a cool 15 degrees outside of your sleeping bag! I did not want to get ready the morning that we hiked into Harpers Ferry but of course town food has its persuasions.  First, if you were not already sleeping with your clothes to keep them warm you grab them and warm them in your sleeping bag.  After putting on my hat and gloves I would sit up against the shelter and put on every top layer I had. Next I would put on every bottom layer I had while still in the sleeping bag. I would try to move fast and I had this routine down pretty well. Jumping out of the bag, throwing on boots, packing my entire pack, having breakfast, brushing my teeth, and pumping water while trying to maintain all my body heat.

I wasn’t about to get rid of any layers yet though. If you have a hiking buddy you know that one of you most likely gets ready faster than the other. I had a few more minutes to wonder around camp and check my gear before hitting the trail so I kept everything on till I was sure we were moving.  By the time we got going my toes and fingers were already numb and my body couldn’t hold it’s temperature any more, it is time to move! One at a time we would shed layers to keep comfortable. Hike, Rest, Repeat.

The walk into Harpers Ferry was awesome, after a steep down hill of switchbacks we hit the old canal tow path. It was easy walking and beautiful. At Harpers we registered with the ATC and had our pictures taken to mark our passing. The town isn’t super hiker friendly on pricing or lodging but there is little eateries and a camp store. Of course there is also plenty of sight seeing and historical education to be enjoyed around town.  The untold story was me getting sick in the trail clubs backyard from drinking too much red wine but you don’t need to hear about that. We’ll just say we were very lucky and thankful to be invited to their annual Christmas Party. Here we would also meet Melanie who we’ll see later in the trail; just another example of the trail working it’s magic and intertwining lives in wonderful ways.

Southbound: episode 12

December 2nd 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

  We made it to Duncannon , PA , a nice milestone for us. Its hard to believe that we have been out here for 87 days now! In just three more we’ll reach the official half way point on the trail at 1,087 miles! We have learned so much thus far, not just of hiking, but of the hardships and joys in life. Our imagination stirs with whats to come next. Overall, in the past week, we have been making a lot of good ground. The terrain is completely different than any other so far. It has been a lot of flat ridge walking with the occasional steep 1000ft climbs in and out of the gaps, however, it is very rocky and a struggle some times. There were a couple of nights we cowboy camped out under the stars. Once because we missed the shelter, and the other because we spent too much time having to hike into Hamburg for fuel and resupply.Rocky Trail

We walked some old railroad beds and abandoned carriage roads from the 1800s. The trail took us through some ruins of an old coal mining village of Rausch Gap . The town went under in the early 1900s when the railroad pulled out and moved elsewhere. There was a cemetery with a couple headstones from 1854 and a really sweet stone arch bridge over a stream, and it was all out in the middle of the woods. The past few days of hiking have been fair weathered with rain and fog moving in andRausch Gap out. The weather killed our views from the ridge except for yesterday. We had great views of the Susquehanna River and the world’s longest stone arch bridge.

Our biggest concern over the past week has been the arrival of buck season and all the surrounding hunters. They seem to surround our camp early morning just before sunrise, and when the sun rose, the gunshots filled the air. We have seen over 60 hunters just in the first 3 days of hunting season. Not to worry though, we have been wearing blaze orange hats and ribbons to keep from getting shot. We caught up to 2 other south-bounders, “Little Engine” and “Ellipse”. We stayed with them last night here in Duncannon and we are all hiking out together today. By the looks of it, we should have some company for a while. We are pretty excited to be hiking with them.

Last night, Ice Man and I had an interview with a gentleman that hosts a very popular backpacking website called practicalbackpacking.com. He also hosts a series of podcasts, downloadable audio files, of interviews with different men and women in the field of backpacking. Including interviews with gear companies, authors, organizations, and backpackers. We are very excited to be included with the other respected and well-known subjects. The podcast should be up and running in the next few days, and we will put a link to the page when it is up. If you want to check out the other interviews or check to see if ours is updated goto www.practicalbackpacking.com/blog .Rausch Shelter

Our next town is Harpers Ferry , WV in 7 or 8 days.

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Wondering into Duncannon, Joe and I dreamt of our 15 seconds of fame.  It was a voicemail one afternoon from a guy that hosts an online blog that started it all. We enjoyed the attention and the idea that a complete stranger found about us and our hike and even thought it worthy to blog. We let the whole thing spin way out of control of course, I think at one point I wanted to get us on David Letterman. All the anticipation made us nervous for the actual interview though. I sat there in the middle of the Doyle hotel nervous as ever for the recorded call.  I was more nervous then than I would be now, but at a little wood table covered with our notes and Joe’s phone in the middle, we did our best to answer his questions without letting our excitement take over. Check it out if you want, but please don’t judge 🙂

The Doyle was really impressive though. Not the crackling paint, cob webs, and noisy uncomfortable beds of course, there was something else. The place had character, and it also had a bar on the first floor. We barely got in the doors before the wind took out the electricity. Given that we were accustomed to having zero utilities, we became the hit of the party. Joe and I brought down our transistor radio for some tunes while we had drinks with the locals by candlelight.

The trail becomes a time warp through Pennsylvania if you let your imagination take over.  Although not a popular section (the entire state) because of the low elevation and rocky trails, I really enjoyed it.  I’m not a history buff, but I’d imagine it would be even more fun if I were.  I felt like I was discovering not just nature, but America.

Southbound: episode 11

November 23rd 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

Well, we are about 40 miles farther into Pennsylvania , so far so good. Our climb out of Delaware Water Gap had a lot of great views looking back into the gap and over New Jersey . It has pretty much been a ridge walk with little elevation change since, but the rocky terrain makes up for that. The ridge before Lehigh Gap was completely destroyed. We thought a fire might have swept through a while back, but apparently Palmerton used to have some Zinc factories and the air pollution killed off all the vegetation on the ridge. The factories have been shutdown and they are supposedly trying to cultivate the land again.Lehigh Gap

The climb down into Lehigh Gap was probably the hardest and most dangerous descent we have had since leaving New Hampshire . We spent last night in the old jailhouse in Palmerton , PA. Unfortunately they had tore out the old cells, but it was pretty sweet. We got to play some basketball in the gym upstairs. Its so hard to play in boots.

We were picked up by Ice Man’s parents this morning and were treated to a delicious thanksgiving dinner at the Cracker Barrel (thanks for being open). They brought fresh clothes and shoes from our closets, so we could feel like we were home. We now have a new set of boots, new socks, and a new water filter, ahh so nice. We will be hanging out here at the Hilton (a really nice shelter) all night playing games, watching football, and chilling in the hot tub.American Flag on AT

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Boots or no boots, I’m just not that good at basketball.  This section flew by for me as I couldn’t stop thinking about a big Thanksgiving dinner, warm bed, hot shower, and seeing my parents for the first time in a few months.  We were getting a resupply which is always exciting but with the new updated gear it gave us a feeling that we would embark on a new trip.  When you stare down at the same scuffed up boots for a while you can start to feel the same way that they do.  Funny thing is the boots were structurally sound and could of kept pounding out some miles, same with the water filter.  We had pre-bought these items before leaving though so there was no use in not putting them to good use.  I knew the shine on those boots would not last long but we felt a lot better that we wouldn’t have any gear breakdown surprises later on.

Seeing my parents and giving them big hugs felt sooo good! At the hotel we all hung out in the lobby playing cards and watching the traditional Lions vs. Packers football game. It was nice to relax but difficult to concentrate on the moment. I knew we were heading back out the next day and I knew it would be difficult. I think both Joe and I were worried about our trail mentality after seeing loved ones. Feelings and memories from home can be persuasive reasons for going home. We did of course hit the trail the next day, and for the first mile or so my parents hiked up with us. The trail was steep and the light was fading so we had to part ways shortly before hitting the shelter. they handed over the pumpkin pie they had carried for us and we devoured later that night. After hugging them good bye and turning around I had to fight tears and try to ignore the gut wrenching feeling of walking away from them. I hated it so much, it was even worse than leaving for the trail the first time. the first time I had to only jump in a car and start a road trip to Maine, it didn’t seem so distant. This time was real, I was walking away, and hundreds more mile further before seeing them again.

But these Pennsylvania rock would not kill these new boots, so we hiked on.

 

Southbound: episode10

November 20th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

  Well, we made it to Pennsylvania in one piece. This has been the longest we have gone without updating everyone, sorry it took so long. I hope no one was too worried. Since last updating you in Connecticut , we hiked straight through New York and New Jersey without taking any showers. These states were not as spectacular as we may have liked them to be, but they held there own little highlights so to speak. Rather than give you a day to day break down and take up hours of your time, we will just touch on some of the cool things.Fitzgerald Falls

First off, the heat wave that we had through New York was a nice break from the cold, but it also brought a lot of miserable rain. I would rather the cold than the rain to be honest. We hiked with “Early Bird”, another south-bound thru-hiker (or a SOBO), for a few days. A 4th personality was nice for a while. While staying at the ball fields courtesy of the Graymoor Monastery, we stumbled upon ruins of a once immaculate garden and sanctuary. We offered to volunteer some of our time to clean up some of the debris, but we were told that the ruins were to be completely removed at a later date, what a shame.

Veteran’s Day was a disaster, the post office was closed, so we couldn’t pick up our mail-drop nor send anything home that we didn’t need. Luckily, Alex, a hiker we met in Maine , lived nearby and took us to a grocery store to pick up what we needed to get to Unionville. Not all of Veteran’s Day was a disaster, the weather was beautiful, and we got to mingle with society. The trail goes through the Trail side Museum and Wildlife Park, so we got to learn about all the different geology and wildlife of the region. The lowest elevation of the AT is in front of the black bear exhibit (124 feet).trail side zoo

After that, we came out into Bear Mountain. park with a huge lake, a wide open green space, an ice-skating ring, and our favorite; concessions. After two soft pretzels, two hot dogs, and talking to lots of people, we climbed up Bear Mtn in hopes of a glimpse of the NYC skyline less than 40 miles away. The sun had set when we reached the top and the fog had rolled in, so no luck on the skyline. We still had another 4 or 5 miles to do over to West Mtn. in the dark. The hike wasn’t too bad and it went fairly fast, but when we came close to the top, smoke and the smell of fire filled the air. I was honestly kind of worried there was a forest fire nearby, but it was just 40 or so boy scouts camping near the shelter.

On Monday we called the post office, and they assured us that they would forward our package to Unionville, awesome. We made it into New Jersey and the trail opened up and we were able to make some good time. Wednesday night, just before we were going into Unionville, we found out the package never left the last town. They made sure it was there for us to pick up Thursday morning, but only 2 of the 3 packages made it (actually we are still waiting for it to catch up). We got to enjoy some small town hospitality and good home-style cooking at Sara’s Soda Shop. She had about 400 hikers come through this year, amazing. We hung around there for lunch and used a corner of the shop as a base while we ran to the post office and grocery store. The locals warned us of the 2-5 inches of rain headed that way, so we hurried outside of town to the first shelter.

The shelter is actually a “secret shelter” that is built on Jim Murray’s property for thru-hikers only. It was done up real nice with electric, running water, and a shower. He also had a couple of donkeys in the field that kept bellowing out coarse sounds whenever the rain would stop. The trail from then on was easy. One morning we stopped by a farmer’s market next to the trail and ate a big cherry pie, oh so sweet.Secret Shelter

The day before last a big group of boy scouts stayed outside of our shelter. They didn’t even say hello, which has actually been a common occurrence for us in Jersey. Yesterday was a big day, we woke up at 3 in the morning and started hiking, so we could finish the 25 miles into town before 4 in the afternoon, it was our biggest mileage day so far. We had to walk over the I-80 bridge into PA over the Delaware River , and the cars were just flying by, weaving in and out of each other. They weren’t doing anything we wouldn’t have normally done, but to us, it seems so scary and dangerous. We haven’t moved that fast in a while.

We are staying in the basement of a church, they setup a small hostel for thru-hikers with a sitting area, bunk room, and hot showers. It is a wonderful place. Last night, we both slept on the leather couches instead of the bunks, so comfortable. We will hit the trail again in the morning for a couple days until we meet Ice Man’s parents for thanksgiving on Thursday. We are excited that they are coming up. Hopefully they will do some hiking with us and check out one of the shelters. We also caught wind that some of our friends might be coming up at the end of the month to visit, its all too good.

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

I’m not sure who got the joke in that second paragraph, but the fourth personality between three of us included my second self.  New York I think is when I started going cuckoo.  The time was really wearing on us and the rainy days were getting us down. There was one day where I felt like I was stumbling from tree to tree leaning on each to take a break. It was partially the fatigue but it was mostly mental, I was actually pouting while hiking.  Talking to myself seemed to help, but eventually I think I just accepted my new lifestyle.

The ruins at our church camp were almost maddening. Joe and I each discussed the unfair fate of the hillside garden.  There were several trails from the bottom of the hill leading up to the church, each one with it’s own unique statues.  We imagined the hillside restored, the statues picked up, the brush cleared, and new flowers and plants growing. What was once a path for prayer and meditation with old and original character was abandoned and was to be bull dozed. Still a bummer.

What I remember still of New York is all about the crowds of people we would see and how awful the water tasted.  I attribute the water to farm run off as we pass a lot of low lying streams near farms.  Watching cow patties instead of roots and rocks wasn’t welcoming.  If I were to describe New Jersey I think of giant scout troops, even more bad water, and that damn donkey outside our shelter. although it is funny now he made it real tough to sleep at night.

The only real problem we had with shipments came with holidays and post office closures.  I will say that hiking was made so much easier with that support and the willingness the USPS has to help. It is sad that now many of these post offices are closing.  It also didn’t hurt to have your father, a postman, as a support crew back home mailing things out, thanks again Pops!  Sara’s Soda Shop was more than accommodated while we waited and you’ll find that kind of courtesy at almost all of the small towns and shops along the trail. At the end of the post I also talk about the excitement that is coming over us as we anticipate  family and friends coming to see us.  This honestly got us through some days on the trail! It is so comforting and touching to know that we had the support crew to come see us.  Joe and I would often talk about it, day after day, “who is coming down you think?”, “What do you want to do when our friends come?”, “Do you think (unmentioned exgirlfriend) is coming?” , these and many other questions filled our days with excitement and wonder.

 

 

Southbound: episode 9

  November 7th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

We told you that we were leaving Dalton, Mass. in the last journal, only not as soon as we expected. After Anna took us to the store to resupply, she dropped us back off at the gas station next to the trail. It was already after noon, so putting in a lot of miles was out of the question. Instead of hiking just a few miles out of town, we decided to visit Rob Bird, a gentleman that has been welcoming hikers into his home for years and is really well known on the trail. We had heard so much about this man that we had to stop in and meet him. He welcomed us in and we felt immediately at home. Rob volunteered his time to drive us to different parts of the trail for “slack packing”. We would hike fourty miles, and all the while end the night in a warm bed four nights in a row. One of the highlights for us was the Skyline Chili that Joe’s family sent, its never tasted so good, Rob enjoyed it as well.Waterfall

The first day back,the trail brushed by corn fields and mountain sides. We would walk bogs over swamps and river-walk along the Housatonic River for a few miles. We got halfway up Mt. Everett when the snow began and night fell, with just about two miles to go. The night would end cold for what was such a warm day. The next morning began early because we had to make it in to Salisburry for our mail-drop. We felt good about our quick start, our first dark morning night since Katahdin (day 1). We found the sunrise just as we reached the top of Mt. Everett. The trail then followed the Mt. Race ridgeline, completely exposed to the view below. It was a great morning! We came down Race and crossed over into Connecticut, our 5th state! By the time we realize we are here, we will be in New York. This fine state starts with Bear Mtn., the tallest in the state. The mountain offered amazing views of what is past and whats to come. We resupplied and left town fairly quickly to do another 3 miles to our lean-to.Bear Mountain SP

In the past few days we have crossed over,and done countless miles next to the Housatonic River. Having already planned a short day, this worked out to our benefit yet again. We came to the river and its glorious water falls and spent the vast majority of our afternoon enjoying its scenery and the bright sun in the blue skies. That night would be shared with the very first southbound thru-hiker we have met, his name is Early Bird. Still ahead of us, Little Engine, Elipse, and Chase. We have not met these hikers, but have followed them in registers, there have been a few others get off the trail already.

Today marks not only 2 months, but also 722 miles behind us which puts us at one third of the way. We are staying in Kent, CT tonight with a relative of another gentleman that we had met on Mt. Washington. Bill picked us up from the post office and treated us to a nice Italian dinner, then opened up his home for us to stay. He has a wonderful family and he tells some good stories. We feel truly blessed to have met so many wonderful people on the trail, we call them “Trail Angels”. Our confidence is higher than ever, and we owe it to the overwhelming generosity they have provided.Into New York

From here we cross into New York tomorrow, and just a few days to Jersey and then a few more to Pennsylvania. It gets tough after that, we’ll be in PA for some time as it stretches 230 miles! The forecast looks good as a heat wave is coming in to give us high 50s to mid 60s for the next week! That sounds sooooo good!

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post. (maybe spell checked)

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

We first found out about Rob during one of our very first weeks on the trail up in Maine. We tried to capture notes and suggestions from Northbound hikers that were not in the guidebook. It seemed crazy at the time but we were told that in Dalton we needed to go the Shell gas station and ask for a man named Rob. It sounded kind of creepy, at least in a underground secret society kind of way.  We did as we were told, we walked the street to the small Shell station. It was an old full service station with one attendant working, and he wasn’t Rob. The guy made a phone call though and in minutes a van pulled in to the station. I guess this guy was the filter, he could tell how serious of a hiker you were and if Rob was going to come by.

There was no doubt that we looked the part. Rob introduced himself and was shocked to see anyone this late in the season. Before we knew what happened we were in the van and he was running by a liquor store. He came back with a case of beer and a brown bag. Like he had known me for years, I peak in the brown bag and he had a bottle of Captain Morgan. I told him that we had something in common, that is my go to drink back home. He looked over and told me, “that’s not for me, that’s for you”. This guy can read minds!

As for our friend Early Bird; we didn’t get to know Early Bird all that much, but he still ended up being the hiker we would see the most, and the only other Southbounder that we are sure finished with us. I still occasionally chat with him online. I believe the most interesting thing that he brought to our attention is how he described the mental difficulty of the trail. Early Bird told us about his time in the military and the challenges that he of course faced, but he then said that the AT is much more difficult. I think Joe and I were both stunned by this. He explained that the AT is a choice everyday and therefor harder to keep the mental toughness, whereas in the military he did not see it as a choice. Waking up and getting through the day was going to happen and that was life for him, but on the trail he only has himself to rely on, to get up, to move, to fight on.

This section is incredibly scenic and a bit less challenging than many parts of the AT. The miles are coming somewhat easy for us at this point. It is easy to see what is ahead and feel like there is no question of whether or not we will finish it.

Southbound: episode 8

October 30th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

I know its only been 3 days since you heard from us last, but we made another pit stop. We are staying with a family that we had met coming down Mt. Washington 3 weeks ago. They have been absolutely wonderful, very hospitable. We had a great dinner and we got to watch some football too. Two days ago, we crossed over into Massachusetts , our 4th state. We had to hitch into North Adams to pick up our mail-drop at the post office. We didn’t think anyone would pick us up because it had been raining so hard and we were soaked, but we were wrong. While we were in the post office sorting our packages, two different people had come up to us offering rides back to the trail. We hit the trail and hiked another 7 miles to a shelter and called it a day.Appalachian Trail View

It had been raining for the past 24 hrs and wasn’t letting up. A lot of our gear got soaked and to top it off, the shelter leaked really bad. The wind was also blowing rain into the shelter, so it was impossible to stay completely dry. There was some uno cards left in the shelter, so Ice Man taught me how to play gin with a deck of UNO cards. The following day, yesterday, we climbed Mt. Greylock , our last peak above 3000 ft until we get down into Virginia . There was snow, ice, and the winds were blowing around 80 mile and hour on top of Greylock.Kilington Memorial

It was definitely an adrenaline rush. We ended up doing 20 miles into Dalton that day. We are hoping to be in Salisbury , CT by Friday I think. The weather is suppose to be dry, but the nights are suppose to dip below freezing, gotta love it.  Happy Halloween everyone.

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Coming down from Mt. Washington is when we met the Matty family. At first it was our high spirits and large packs that caught their eye I’m sure. I suppose they could of just caught our stench coming down the mountain. When we stopped to chat however they were most intrigued about our work with the Make A Wish Foundation, since they themselves had worked with that group before. In just minutes they were giving us a business card with phone numbers for when we got to the Massachusetts and Connecticut area. Amazing that in minutes it all transpired, and weeks later the offer still stood.

The wind on Greylock was pretty amazing. 80 miles can be hard to imagine, but when we were up there it was tough to stand. The monument and area around it completely exposed us for a little while.  You can drive to the top and I believe there is even a lodge during the warmer months. There was one man that braved the elements and drove to the top that day, and I would say it was very ill advised.  He had a little girl with him, maybe 5 or 6 years old. She got out of the car and hit the ice around the monument, it a quick second she was being blown across the monument with her slippery feet still below her. Her dad chased her down as she began to cry and scream. We would of helped but Joe was bush chasing his pack cover into the brush. (Osprey puts a button tab there for a reason)

I feel like this was the most spoiled, and lazy part of the trail for us. You’ll see why in future posts, but this was the beginning of even more hot meals, bedrooms, and hospitality.

No complaints.