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A Glimpse into Cincinnati’s Fossil History

By: Olivia Eads

Have you ever noticed the frequency of shells and other organisms fossilized in limestone around the Cincinnati area? They’re everywhere—used as the framework in buildings, exposed on cliff faces, and in back yards—but where did they come from? In order to dive into this topic further we must take a trip back, deep into time.

Roughly 490 million years ago, Cincinnati was a completely different ecosystem in a very different geographical location. In geologic time, it was considered the Ordovician Period, a very dynamic period in biodiversity of organisms, glaciation, active and passive tectonic margins, and solar system cyclicity. During this period Cincinnati was located just south of the equator experiencing a shallow marine habitat and tropical weather conditions, a very similar ecosystem to that of coral reefs in the equatorial zones today. The extent of this bionetwork stretched through regions of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, all considered part of the Cincinnatian Arch. The depths of water ranged, depending on geography, and were determined using context clues such as: fossilized organisms associated with living ancestors, rock types, and features present. The clues indicated an intertidal (above water at low tide, covered at high tide) to subtidal (submerged except during full/ new moon events) zones in Cincinnati.

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An Ordovician world

When identifying lifestyles of the organisms that dwelled upon this area there are a few things to remember. Fossilization is a very intricate process and favors hard bodied organisms. Not all creatures or parts of their bodies are preserved. The Ordovician began, following the Cambrian explosion, a rapid burst of biodiversity in flora and fauna. It was a very dynamic time in both landscape evolution and species biodiversity. There are many things still unknown about the livelihood and behaviors of these organisms. A majority of that knowledge stems from what is already known about living fossils or the modern example of these ancestral species. Now to the fossil9fossils!

fossil10Bryozoans

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anatomy

Bryozoans are considered ‘moss- like’ invertebrates. They typically grew in colonies attached to hard surfaces, but could also establish individually. Brackish and coastal waters are favored by these organisms due to the decreased salinity. Lophophores, tiny tentacle like structures, were used during feeding by popping out to collect tiny, suspended sediments, then bring them back to the mouth for digestion. The monticules or bumps along the surface of their bodies are suggested to be an escape current produced by the action of lophophores while feeding. The framework of these colonies created a large habitat for all types of aquatic life. Many of the fossils preserved are in pieces due to the ocean’s mechanical weathering on the skeletons.

Crinoids

These are another fossil that are typically found in pieces. The fragmented parts of the stem resemble small to large buttons or, if there are multiple larger ones stuck together, a roll of mints. A more common name for this animal is a sea lily. Their body cavities are divided into three main sections. The column or stem which consists of disc shaped endoskeleton stacked upon each other that are held together with ligaments. The calyx sits on top of the stem and holds the body cavity. Then there are the feathery arms that protrude out of the calyx. They collect suspended sediments in the water and bring it towards the mouth for digestion. Due to the soft and fragile nature of the arms, they are not typically preserved in the fossil record. The size of these organisms can range up to a few meters in length and typically attach to hard substrate with a holdfast; however, some modern species have been observed moving independently across the sea floor. The independent movement was more than likely an adaptation to the evolution of predators and probably not present in Ordovician sea crinoids.

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fossil6Brachiopods

Brachiopods are the most abundant shell fossil found in the Cincinnati area. They are divided into two main categories: articulated and inarticulated (based on the presence or absence of hinge teeth and sockets.) Both shells are symmetrical across the mid line, but the top and bottom shell are not equal in size. They have a pedicle or fleshy stalk that helps them attach to the sea floor or burrow down into sediments. As a filter feeder, they open and close their shell with currents allowing water and sediment to pass through. Using their lophophore, sediment is caught for consumption.

 

 

Bivalves

Bivalves include shelled organisms such as: clams, oysters, mussels and scallops. They were not very abundant during the Ordovician probably due their niche being previously occupied by brachiopods. The shells are symmetrical across the hinge line, and some have growth lines that can be observed. Some bivalve species permanently cement themselves to hard substrate, while others use their muscular tongue or foot to burrow down into the sediment. A siphon is then used for filter feeding to suck water into the shell cavity for subsistence.

fossil5Rugose Corals

Commonly known as horn corals, these organisms typically lived in a colony at the bottom of the ocean floor. As a colony, they created large reef like structures. However, some lived in solidarity. These microcarnivores had small tentacles that were used to catch prey and are bilaterally symmetrical.

 

 

 

 

 

Gastropodsfossil4

Otherwise known as SNAILS! These mollusks eat anything and everything (herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, and scavenger.) During the Ordovician these creatures were marine dwelling and used a muscular foot to transport themselves around. The shell located on their back is for protection against predation and to house organs. Typically, their shells are the only thing preserved in fossils and they vary greatly in size and shape. All shells follow the same general spiral pattern. As time progressed snails were able to adapt to marine, aquatic, and terrestrial landscapes.

 

 

Trilobites

Trilobites are a very diverse group of organisms with over 20,000 different species with very different modes of life. Although now extinct their reign in the ocean lasted around three billion years, wide spread reaching every continent. Trilobites were some of the first organisms to have complex eye structures. Their body can be divided into three main segments: the cephalon (head), thorax (body), and pygidium (tail). Thanks to incredibly preserved fossils (such as the Burgess Shale), trilobites are shown to have soft appendages such as jointed legs and antennae. As they grew their exoskeleton did not grow with them. Instead they molted a chitinous skeleton (similar to a lobster’s) which is mainly preserved. In order to escape predation, they could roll up into a ball so that their exoskeleton was only exposed or burrow down into sediments. Different species took on very different modes of life.

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Nautiloids

Nautiloids are cephalopods (in the same family as octopuses and squids) with many tentacles and straight shells. The shell has many chambers and a siphuncle in order to control buoyancy while swimming in their marine ecosystem. As they grow their shell secretes more material growing with them. They were the fearsome predator of the sea.

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There are many more fossilized organisms and features in Cincinnati’s strata, but that dives a little too deep for the topics being discussed today. These organisms cover the basics of what are copious in Cincinnati’s fossiliferous limestone. There are quite a few fossilized features that represent storm events and the abundance and amount of weathering can give insight into environments where those fossils were deposited! Alas, those shall be saved for another day. This should be a good start in the exploration to Cincinnati’s geologic history. Hopefully, in the near future, some of you can join me in person on upcoming RRT sponsored hikes! We can discuss these features and fossils more in depth while learning identification techniques in the field! Until next time.

Sources:

http://www.sms.si.edu/irlspec/IntroBryozoa.htm

http://www.asoldasthehills.org/Echinoderms.html

https://www.fossilera.com/pages/about-crinoids

https://www.mcgill.ca/redpath/node/15/exhibits/special/ordoviciandiorama

http://hoopermuseum.earthsci.carleton.ca/gastropoda/morphology3.html

http://www.amnh.org/our-research/paleontology/paleontology-faq/trilobite-website

Stanley, Steven M. Earth System History. S.l.: W.H.Freeman & Co, 2014. Print.

The Best Trail Town

The Milford Trail Junction
Written by: Bryan Wolf

What is a trail town? I found this definition online; “A Trail Town is a destination along a long-distance trail or adjacent to an extensive trail system. Whether the trail is a hiking trail, water trail or rail trail, users can venture from the path to explore the unique scenery, commerce and heritage that each trail town has to offer.”  (elcr.org)

Milford Ohio fits the above definition as well or better than any town could. We are in fact the epitome of a trail town. We are home to over 22,000 miles of long distance hiking trail as the biggest trail junction in the United States. We are home to a “rails to trails” program that connects cities more than 70 miles apart. We are home to a National Scenic River that has year-round recreational opportunities. Lastly, we are home to a city that dates back to 1788 and boast unique shopping and dining experiences.

As an outfitter we hope that RRT adds to the qualifications, that we bring additional excitement and attract and inspire more recreational use around the city and that we support users of our trails and river. But we cannot take credit for a single aspect that has built the outstanding resume that you see above. What we are proud of is that we settled in this city because we want to be part of this trail town, and because we recognized it’s potential.

Every year we are lucky to meet and share in the experience of people walking one of three trails across the country, or around the entire state of Ohio. Every day we are lucky to personally enjoy and be immersed in the abundant recreation provided by the Little Miami Scenic Trail and River. Be it by foot, wheels, paddle, or pogo stick, this city ties it all together.

Junction mapThere are a lot of cogs in the trail town system that make us who we are. The over half a dozen canoe and kayak liveries that operate in and around Milford are a big part of that machine. You see the Little Miami River isn’t a one shot or one season river. This is part of the reason why Cincinnati is the self-proclaimed paddle capital. This is why we have the largest and strongest paddling groups in the country. Not because we have short term destination whitewater, but because we have year round beauty and access that is beginner friendly and harnesses the passion of the sport.

One of these great canoe and kayak liveries is Loveland Canoe and Kayak, who operates both out of Loveland and Milford. Owner Mark Bersani had this to say about the Little Miami; “We are fortunate to have one of nature’s best playgrounds right in our backyard.  I love the Little Miami River because of its incredible beauty, rich history, abundant wildlife and accessibility.  It provides awesome recreational opportunities for paddlers, anglers, nature lovers and explorers alike.  When you spend time on the river you can feel the stress of the day melt away as you take in the inspiring scenery and fresh air.”

I reached out to Mark to get some facts, because what good is my nostalgia without facts? The numbers blew me away! In one year Mark will personally put about 16,000 people on the Little Miami River! This is local love right there, we aren’t talking about tourists from other cities. We are talking about a town and its love for the river. Furthermore he added that amongst the half dozen other liveries they would total about 100,000 people per year on the river!

089_LittleMiamiFellas_5-26-15With a healthy and frequented river, so grows the city. This isn’t your grandma’s Milford anymore, although Grandma is still welcome and we love her dearly. In the past five years we have seen the city transform from half empty to overflowing. From a shopping and dining perspective Milford is blowing up, and if you’ve not been here in sometime then you have been missing out. Downtown Milford hosts festivals, has a nature preserve, and even riverside camping. The city grows everyday making it more livable, more shop-able, and more fun.

This year Milford has the opportunity to be part of Outside Magazine’s “Best Towns” competition as we compete to be the best “River Town”. Just having the nomination puts us as one of only sixteen cities to be voted on! So I ask you to please share this, to please vote, and to please spread the word. But also be proud, because if Milford is your city than you should know that it goes toe to toe with cities of a much larger reputation; like that of Bend Oregon, St. Louis Missouri , Charlotte North Carolina, the Appalachian Trails Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, and even Portland Oregon.

Click here to vote now (open until 4/29/16)

If you are unfamiliar with the vast trail town resume I’ve mentioned please check it out. You can find the breakdown of all 22,000 miles of trails that cut right thru Milford on the cities website and the link provided at the end of the article. Special thanks to Mark, visit him in Loveland or Milford (lovelandcanoe.com // 513-683-4611).

Click here for Trail Junction details

Click here for Little Miami River Safety

Mt. Rogers Loop

 

Trip Report

Mt. Rogers Loop – Virginia

Trip report by Kayla “Clover” McKinney.

 

Date: Mid-May 2015

Conditions: Warm, sunny, breezy, mid-70sF during day, mid-50’s at night, some rain at night.

Trip Length: 3 days, 2 nights

Mileage: 18.1 miles

Highlights: Wild ponies, tallest point in Virginia, beautiful mountain vistas, Appalachian Trail, rhododendron forests.

Distance from Cincinnati: ~6 hours by vehicle

Directions: I-81 S, exit 45 in Marion, head south on VA 16, passing by the Mount Rogers National Recreational Area Visitor Center in 6.1 miles. Continue for another 11.2 miles to Troutdale, then turn right onto VA 603. The Trail Head parking is identified by a small brown sign on the right 5.7 miles down (pictured below.) This sign is easy to miss, so watch your odometer.

sign

Description: 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. This hike begins with almost immediate elevation gain as you follow the Mt. Rogers Trail up to the ridge line 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 at 5,729 feet. You will run into groups of wild ponies along the trail. Please do not feed the horses, but they are very friendly and will pose for pictures. 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.

The trails: Parking Lot -> Mt. Rogers trail -> Appalachian Trail -> Side Trail to Mt. Rogers Summit -> Appalachian Trail -> Pine Mountain Trail  -> Lewis Fork Trail -> Mt. Rogers Trail  Parking Lot.

Water: Water was somewhat scarce on this trip. I packed in about 3.5L of water: a 2.5L reservoir and a 1L Nalgene water bottle. There is a stream off the Lewis Fork Trail, approximately 1.5 miles off the Mt. Rogers Trail in case of emergencies. The next water source is at the Thomas Knobb Shelter, 7.6 miles from the Trail Head, and the location of the first night. There is also a small stream approximately 10 miles from the Trail Head along the Appalachian Trail.

summit

trail

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map 11393446_10204460564379108_8829693825679438220_o    11393709_10204460564659115_1294967089291071055_o 11221970_10204460588259705_5477594585256936411_o

 

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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 19

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

Our first night out of Damascus brought us into Tennessee, the 12th state of the trail. We didn’t leave town till 2 in the afternoon, but we made sure we left with full stomachs. Our first impression of the trail in Tennessee was awesome, very smooth nice hiking. The following day was a nice 22 mile ridge walk with a lot of amazing views of snow capped ridges in the distance. There wasn’t enough snow on the ground to pose a problem, but the snow bothered us later on. The shelter was too wide to hang our tarp over the opening, so the wind kept blowing snow onto everything.378

We cleaned the snow off all our gear and hit the trail. It was a cold and snowy morning, but it cleared up as the day went on. We could look down on Watauga Lake as we climbed down to the dam. It was a beautiful walk around the massive lake. On the way down to Laurel Fork Gorge, I slipped and busted my left knee. Nothing too serious, just a little blood and a mild limp. Laurel Fork Gorge and Falls were incredible. Probably the most spectacular falls of the trip. Just a little ways farther and we made it to Kincora Hostel nestled between the mountains. The hostel is run by Bob Peoples and his wife. He has pretty much dedicated his life to helping hikers and volunteering on the trail. Since he started taking in hikers over a decade ago, 13,000 hikers had stayed at his place. He is a very inspirational man. The walls and ceiling of the hostel were covered in pictures from hikers that finished the trail. Once we send him our picture, we will be the first of 2007 to go up.   380
In the morning, he ran us into town to resupply and pick up our package from the post office. “Sky Watcher” met us at the hostel to join us for a few more days. Luckily, his brother was able to drop him off on his way to the coast. He was excited to break in his new boots. The climb out of Kincora gave us our first glimpse of Roan Mtn and the surrounding highlands. Sky Watcher’s 2nd day was a long 18 miler over some nice terrain. We also passed by the highest falls on the AT, Jones Falls. There wasn’t much water gushing over the falls, but there was a lot of ice built up all over it.

We thought the following day would be simple, only doing 8 miles, but we were wrong. The deep snow slowed us down and the -10 degree wind chill over the balds cut right through us. To top it off, the shelter was a nightmare. It is an old barn that was given to the trail to use as a shelter, it sleeps like 40 people, the views are great, and its well ventilated. Basically, it is perfect for summertime, not during a wind and snowstorm. The snow blew in from every direction and every crack. We tried hanging both of our tarps to block the snow, but it didn’t help. We ended up wrapping ourselves in the sleeping bags with the tarp, but the snow still managed to pile on our faces. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep to well. The thermometer read zero degrees when we crawled out of bed. It was hard to get moving.397

We climbed up to the Roan Mtn highlands and were greeted with spectacular 360 degree views. We haven’t seen such breathtaking views since the White Mtns. When we crossed over Carvers Gap, we met up with Ice Man’s cousin Karma and the wonderful Miss Janet who was nice enough to shuttle her up to the trail. Since our sleeping bags got wet the night before, Miss Janet threw them in her car and cranked up the heat to dry them out. We are so lucky. After a nice lunch break, we finished the climb up to Roan Mtn Shelter, the highest shelter on the AT over 6000ft. The trail was like an endless white alley all the way to the top. We were fortunate to have a fully enclosed shelter with no wind finding its way in.AT Winter Hike
It still got really cold inside and Karma had a rough night’s sleep. She woke up with a bad headache and a sore neck, so instead of pushing out big miles, it was smarter just to climb back down to Carver’s Gap and head into Erwin to rest up. We continued on in the deep snow, half-skiing down the mountains. We met Karma at the next road crossing and she took us back to Miss Janet’s hostel in Erwin. While we cleaned up, Karma spoiled us by cooking an excellent dinner. In the morning, we had a great big breakfast and bid farewell to Sky Watcher once again. Since we had Karma’s car, a day off, and a need for warm weather, we drove down to Savannah, GA to visit a friend from back home. We were lucky to see both the moonrise and sunrise over the ocean. It was an amazing feeling to be at sea level just hours after being at 5000 ft covered in snow. We didn’t stay long, but we wish we could have. When we made it back to Tennessee, three of my brothers came down to visit. We got to enjoy the company while playing cards, eating pizza, and sitting down to watch a movie before bed.

The following morning Karma bid us good luck and headed home. The rest of us boys drove up to Carver’s Gap and hiked up onto Roan Mtn Highlands where we had been just a few days before. The views were just as immaculate as they were when we first crossed over the highlands. I was glad we were able to take my brothers up to see the things that keep us moving. That night Ice Man and my brother cooked a huge Mexican style feast. It was awesome. When they headed home in the morning, we picked up from where we left off. We brought Miss Janet’s dog, Fabian, with us on our hike since she was going to meet us at another road in 19 miles. He was fun to hike with. Supposedly he has over 5000 miles under his collar.Joe with AT Dog Fabian
Today Miss Janet dropped us off at another point and we hiked 25 miles back to town again. We came across a couple more balds with views on all sides as well as some great overlooks near the Nolichucky River. It was a real workout to hike through the deep snow, but once we dropped in elevation it cleared up quite a bit. After 9 hours of straight hiking, we were ready for a foot long sandwich, a shower, and a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we will be at the hostel working off our stay for the past few days. We were lucky enough that Miss Janet opened her doors to use since she isn’t open for another 10 days.

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

 

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Today the memories and impressions left from this section of trail are as loud as ever and present in everyday life. Through our second hike with Sky Watcher we got to know him a little better and would go on to have amazing Alaskan adventures with him years later. We instilled a sense of adventure in Joe’s brother Vince who came to visit and now has over 700 AT miles under his belt.  Miss Janet has become one of the most infamous of Trail Angels and helped us not just with hiking the trail but also with supporting our lives away from the trail. It was Miss Janet’s hospitality that really provided the space needed for a bigger relationship to spark.

I won’t get into a sappy love story on you, but Karma (my cousin) and TW hit it off pretty well. Soon after the trail they found themselves married and years later from then we all three found ourselves opening RRT.  I can tell you that I didn’t and couldn’t of ever seen all of this coming.  That is the magic of the trail to spawn long lasting and meaningful relationships and life lessons.

The trail itself was beautiful in this entire section from Damascus to Kincora. The balds that we passed and ridge walking leaves plenty of room for views along the way. The weather turned on us a little bit but that’s what we signed up for.  I will give you a fair warning, the barn shelter is not good for winter hikes and snow storms.  Joe and I had wrapped our tarp around our bags trying to keep them “dry” but it wasn’t going to work. To date it may be the worst sleep I got on trail as I shivered the majority of the night. There are plenty of road intersections here and this area would be perfect if you are looking for a 3+ day trip on the AT.

The morning after the barn was the day we were meeting Emily (Karma) at the road. I hustled and covered 3 miles in sometimes deep snow in little more than an hour. I was part excited, part cold, and in part just didn’t want to leave her alone roadside wondering where the heck she was.  The whole time with family members and the side trip to Savannah really didn’t set us off pace and all happened fast. However, it was really rejuvenating especially for Joe who couldn’t think of much else.

Southbound: episode 18

  January 23rd 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

Our first day out of Pearisburg wasn’t too bad. We started going through the “green tunnel”, which is where the trail passes through dense rhododendron thickets. I love it when the stream flows next to the tunnel and its all misty. It makes me feel like we are in the rain forest at the zoo. The tunnel continued the following day, which led us down a side trail to Dismal Falls. They were so sweet, but we couldn’t stay there forever. We were pushing out 26 miles to meet up with my friend Marc. We only had to hike 30 minutes into the night, but we were worn out. The last mile was along the road, and as we were hiking, two hound dogs came out of the woods and stayed by our side until we met with Marc. It was fun, but we had to keep yelling at them to get out of traffic.Rhododenderan Forest

We stayed in town with Marc that night and we went over the plans for while he was here. He brought us our mail drop and some new trekking poles to try out. It was tough to switch out our sticks for the trekking poles, but they ended up working really well. The hitch out of town the next day took forever. It wasn’t until we just started walking back to the trail, when someone picked us up. The first half of the day went smooth, a good break in for “sky watcher”. It didn’t last though. We had problems crossing rivers and bush whacking back to the trail. The second half of the day was miserable. To top it off, I had a mouse run across my face that night. It was gross.

We took a lunch break on the edge of some cliffs on top of Garden Mountain. The views were great, but it was a little windy. When I started to get cold, I reached for my jacket and it had been blown off the cliff. I couldn’t believe it. Luckily, it didn’t land in a tree because I was able to find a way to climb down. The weather started to turn that afternoon and night. We stayed in a sweet fully enclosed shelter on top of Chestnut Ridge. The following morning there was snow on the ground and ice on all the grass in the fields. It was cold, but a pretty sight. That night was a long one. It got down to 15 degrees. We had to sleep with everything. It was colder than what we were expecting to get.Silhouettes on the AT

We stayed in Atkins the next night to get warm and dry out. On the way in, we watched the sunset over the fields. The shelter was the most exciting part of the following day. It sat behind the Mt. Rogers Visitors Center and we could have pizza delivered to the parking lot and buy sodas for the vending machine. It was suppose to be in the 20s overnight, but the enclosed loft of the shelter kept us above freezing. It makes such a difference. In the morning, we were sad to see sky watcher calling for a ride to get back to his car. We completely understand his reasons and know now the weather didn’t get any better.

The hike to the next shelter was nothing to scream about, but we were in for a treat. It was a stone shelter with a fireplace between the bunks and someone had stocked up the shelter with dry firewood. We hung a tarp over the front of the shelter to block the wind and built a fire. We kept it going all night and it kept us really warm. Even though it was 17 outside, it was 40 inside, perfect. We pushed 25 miles over Pine Mountain and the Highlands around Mt. Rogers. We were mostly exposed above 5000ft for most of the hike, so the views were incredible. We got to see lots of wild ponies on the Highlands. Its amazing they can withstand the winters up there. The night hike took forever, but that’s mostly because I couldn’t stop looking at the moon and stars.Pony on Mt. Rogers

We woke up to a dusting of snow and freezing rain. Within a few minutes crossing the open fields, we were covered in ice and so was the trail. Luckily, those silly trekking poles have a removable boot with a spike underneath to help in icy conditions. Once we were below tree line, the winds weren’t so bad, but the trail kept going out into open fields. For the first 8 miles we were fighting 60 mph winds, freezing rain and an icy trail. With windchill, it was below zero easy in those exposed areas. We just kept pushing for treeline and lower elevations. We finally climbed down to 3000ft and the trail improved, but ice chunks kept raining from tree branches. We were able to remove the sheets of ice from our packs and clothing. We cut the day short when we made it to the shelter.

Yesterday morning wasn’t so bad getting into town. Most of it was hiking along on old railroad bed that followed a stream all the way into town. The trail goes right through town. Subway was only a few hundred feet away. We stayed at the Lazy Fox Inn last night, and gorged on some pizza. Mrs. Adams, an 82 yr old woman takes care of the place, and she made us a humongous breakfast this morning. There was eggs, grits, hash browns, apple turnovers, pancakes, bacon, sausage, cinnamon apple slices, and fruit plate. We had to lay down for 2 hours afterwards. Now were are finishing up here at the library and in a little while, we will be crossing over into Tennessee, the 12th state. We are getting so close.

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Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Between some severe weather and blistered feet Marc had to take a break but we’ll meet up with him later on again. This section is my absolute favorite section of the southern half. I’ve been back to Mt. Rogers area now several times to hike with the ponies. Marc’s surprise gift of trekking poles was an awesome one and our wood sticks had convinced us enough of their purpose. That was the real moment when we realized the difference and appreciated how much a trekking pole helps, especially on with a handle, metal tip, sized height, and durable build.

Leaving the shelter on Mt. Rogers and backpacking some of the balds in the area was probably the closest we had come to white out conditions. as always this made things exciting for us but challenging as well. The snow covered trail and blazes meant that we really needed to have that second sense about where we were going.  There was but one mistake, and of course Joe didn’t mention it in the above post. Along one of the balds we had lost the path and it seemed nearly any direction could work.  We begin to descend and Joe pointed me down a steeper trench. He didn’t follow too close and I noticed that when I was about 20 feet down the mountain side he was staying up top. I turned back and had him help pull me back up concluding that that was for sure not the trail we were looking for. I’m not convinced that he wasn’t trying to kill me…

We revisit Damascus, one of the more notorious trail towns, often for trail days; an AT celebration. The town is fantastic and of course hiker friendly. That was to date still the largest and best breakfast ever!

Southbound: episode 17

January 11th 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

We made it to Pearisburg, VA, about 100 miles farther. The weather has been all over the place. Its been hot, cold, rainy, snowy, and windy. The first day out of Daleville wasn’t much to scream about. The rain wasn’t too bad, it was the dense fog that gave us problems. We spent more than a half hour going back and forth on the trail trying to find the shelter. When we finally found it, we were surprised to find Early Bird all snug in his sleeping bag. You may remember us writing about hiking with him back in Connecticut and New York around veteran’s day. Well, he caught up to us and now he is actually a day in front of us. I’m sure we’ll meet again.Dragons Tooth on the AT

The following day was absolutely gorgeous and we took advantage of it. When we came across Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob, we took our time to soak in the views. The numerous mountains and ridges just fill the landscape, its amazing. Next, was a climb up to Dragon’s Tooth. It was a tough climb with little room for error, but I sure am glad we didn’t have to climb down it or in the rain. The rain hit us that night, but no bother really. We stayed dry, but it did start cooling down.

The day before last, we were hit with wind and snow storm. It wasn’t bad in the valley, but when we climbed up on the ridge, it was bitter. There was probably 3 or 4 inches of snow, just enough to completely hide the trail. We had to push on 3 hours into the night to make it to the shelter and what an experience that was. Most of the white blazes on the trees were disguised by a dusting of snow, so we had to pay close attention to everything. The wind was terrible and it kept blowing snow into the shelter. We ate our dinner and drank our hot cider and didn’t get out of the sleeping bags until the next morning. So, yesterday, we pushed out 24 miles into town, so we could dry out the gear overnight. It was rough, but much of the snow was starting to melt along the trail and the wind died off. We made it in sometime around 8 or so last night, just in time to hear the presidential address and all of the critics. Its nice not to have to always hear about the news while on the trail, but then again, we have to remember that we can’t always block out what’s happening in the world.

We are heading out in a few hours, and moving south towards Tennessee. It looks like it is going to warm up a little the next couple days, but after that who knows. We will work with what we get and hope for the best. In just a few days, Marc, a former scout leader and friend of mine, will be joining us on the trail for 2 weeks. We are very excited to have him join us.Bryan at Tinker Cliffs

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Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Planning mileage and days around the weather started to come all too natural, suddenly it seemed as if things just didn’t bother us as much. This section had me feeling in good health, including my foot that had the previous pains while hiking. I was still feeling energized by the duo getting back together too. We had a second sense on the trail now more than ever. That kinda of thing happens gradually I suppose. Same as starting a new job; you pick up some skills as you go, but mostly confidence for that which you already knew.  This section has plenty of highlights and postcard picture moments.  The one I’m surprised we did not mention is the Audie Murphy Memorial, the most decorated war veteran has a memorial along the trail.

 

Southbound: episode 3

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

We have made it to our 2nd town in Maine ! We have blazed about 187 miles of the trail so far. Just the day before, we crossed the 2000 mile marker for all the northbound hikers, which is a little less exciting benchmark for us, but we will be hitting 200 miles in the next day or so. Since we left Monson, it has been like a total different trail. Our spirits are high, our bodies don’t want to fall apart when we make it to the lean-to or camp. Actually, we feel pretty good overall. The miles have seemed to go by really smooth even when we are climbing up and over the mountains.

Only a couple of miles out of town, we crossed a logging road and stumbled on some trail magic, an old cooler filled with all different kinds of beer. Of course, we sat there and had a drink, but before long, two hikers in their 50s or 60s sat down with us and killed a few. They told us cool stories about the trail and about the time one had to take a SWAT team on a canoeing trip that turn into a drunken free for all. We parted ways and pushed on. That night we cowboy camped under the stars next to the river, supposedly we should have seen meteor showers but no dice.Cowboy Camping

Two days later we came to the Kennebec River in Caratunk , ME. The river is far too wide and too deep for us to ford and there is no bridge, but there is Steve the Ferry Man. He, ferries hikers back and forth across the river in a canoe. He has been doing it for like 18 years and the AT Conservancy pays for it, so we don’t have to. Well we made it to the river too late in the day and we needed to resupply on snacks for the rest of the week, so we hitched a ride down to the ferry man’s store. We also figured we would just cowboy camp outside so we didn’t have to pay for a bunk, and since it was suppose to rain, Steve was going to lets us sleep on the porch under the awning. Although, when the rain starting pounding, Steve told us to sleep in one of the cabins for the night, a most excellent gesture.Steve the ferry man

We awoke the next morning and were taken back to the trail head by Steve, walked a half mile with him, and then strapped on the life jackets. We signed our waiver and then were ferried across the beautiful Kennebec . Steve was immediately greeted by Northbounders as well. We made about 14 miles that day, and in about seven hours. We were definitely proud of the pace and the ease of the rolling hills. There we stayed in a crowded lean-to with 7 others, 3 of them going south on section hikes. We thought for a second we may have company on the trail, but the next day we would find ourselves pushing on past the 7 miles that group would do.

The following day started as an easy 8 miles to the next lean-to, but by the time we got there, it was only 11:00 in the morning. We had to push on to the next lean-to on top of Bigelow Mtn (4100 ft), only after climbing Little Bigelow Mtn (3100 ft) first though. The first mountain was tough, but it went by pretty fast. Actually the traverse across its ridge line seemed to go on forever though. We had to drop down about 1000 ft before we could start climbing back up the next mountain. We found some really cool caves that we could have slept in, but it was still too early in the day and the weather was too perfect not to summit. The summit was cold and the winds were howling around 50 or 60 miles an hour. It was hard to simply stand in one place without being shoved around, so climbing back down was not an easy task.Maine "the way life should be"

Once we got down to where the lean-to was supposed to be, we found out that it was torn down and replaced by campsites. We were worried about cowboy camping because it snowed up there the night before. The next set of lean-tos were another 3 miles over the ridge. We had to push on even though we only had another one to 2 hours of hiking before it was too dark. We could have made it, but Tundra Wookie’s knee was giving him trouble. Several times, he had to sit down and work out the muscle. After an hour of hiking with headlamps, we made it safely to our lean-to.

The following morning we took the 5 mile stroll downhill to the road that would bring us here to Stratton. We didn’t even walk 100 ft before this jeep honked his horn, dropped of some hikers, and picked us up. Thanks to him, we didn’t have to hike the 5 miles into town. Nothing much to say about Stratton, its not like home, but there’s a grocery store across the street that we raided for food and mt. dews. The tent, maps, and food all made it to the post office in time, thank you guys. we push on toward Andover in a hour or so. We hope to be there in 6 to 7 days.Bigelow Mountains

 

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Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

 This had to of been the most free feeling and relaxed I have ever been in my life.  I can recall phone conversations from Stratton; instead of the doubt and hardship that I explained in Monson, I spoke confidently of finishing.  This was the first time on the trail that I knew there was nothing mentally that would get in the way.  My friend Robert asked me “how far do you think you’ll go?”. My reply “We’re going to Georgia now”. Maine is all rugged but will always be my favorite state!

Southbound: episode 4

September 29th 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

256 miles of the AT in 22 days leaves us 25 miles from the Maine – New Hampshire state line!!!! We are really excited to have made it to Andover , ME. It means we have cranked out a lot of hard miles and we are about to finish the 2nd longest state only to Virginia and 2nd hardest only to New Hampshire . After leaving Stratton on the 23rd, we had to hike through 2 days of cold rain. It was more like walking amongst the clouds and the wet rocks and roots were like walking on ice. We had to climb over Crocker and Sugarloaf Mountain ranges except we couldn’t see anything other than a screen of fog.

There was no rain on the 3rd day as hoped and forecasted, which really helped us get up and over the incredible Saddleback Range . The views from the 4000+ ft mountains were incredible. I think we were able to see Mt. Washington for the first time in the distance. We had plans to put in a lot of miles, but when we came across Piazza Rock lean-to, the best well kept lean-to on the AT, we just had to stop. It was an early day, but we built a nice fire, dried out the tent and some clothes, and just enjoyed the evening. We had a huge owl join us by the campfire just after dark. It was so sweet, I could see the fire in his eyes.Fall on the Appalachian Trail

The next morning, we hiked a couple of miles and hitched a ride into Rangely, so that Tundra Wookie could get some knee braces and grab some grub. It took a couple hours away from our hike, but it was worth it. We still continued to do another 14 miles after our hitch back to the trail head. It feels good to have a good hiking day like that, especially after a long break in the day. Our bodies are becoming more adjusted to the work load that we force on them day-to-day.
The following day was bright, as the sun smiled upon us our whole way over the Bemis Mountain Range. The range was not the highest, but the sun on the fall colors bellow was awesome! We were in-between the several peaks when the two of us stopped dead in our tracks, and in silence, listened. It was obvious, there was either a tank running through the trees, or a moose was approaching? We stared, and watched as a Bull Moose, with a rack that four people could sit on, crumpled the surrounding brush as it slowly walked by. It was crazy to see, it was like a mythical creature until you see it so close in the wild. The day was capped off at a tent site by an old state road and a small brook. There we met a couple that was doing several day hikes on their vacation, and had hiked the AT before. We would enjoy in some “Trail Magic” as the couple volunteered two Red Hook Late Harvest Ales that night, and oatmeal cookies the following morning. We built our fire, enjoyed hot cider and our dehydrated lasagna dishes, yum yums.

We were visited the next morning by a moose as well, unable to get a look, we could only hear it as it ran though the brook splashing like a stampede of horses. The next morning we moved up, over, and around mountains like they were nothing at all. Before we knew it we had done nearly 11 miles to the road to Andover , the afternoon had barely begun! We are staying at the Roadhouse hostel, it is a little weird for us. The place is great, clean, warm, well equipped, and friendly, that is when people are here.White Blaze

We spend so much time it the wilderness, and then come into the smallest of towns, something we are already not very a custom to. We arrived and a general note on the door says to make yourself at home, so we do. One attendant leaves about an hour into our stay and the other never shows up? So its the two of us in a huge three story B&B style/Hostel, internet, kitchen, bath, living room, dining room, laundry, a dozen private rooms, and bunkhouse all to ourselves, all night. We came and went, to the general store and post office and back. It feels like were not supposed to be here, like we broke in or something. We are enjoying our time and gluttonous urges as we restock, and carefully plan out our hike for the days to come. Our next “Zero Day” is planned for Hanover NH , right before we reach Vermont , about 180 miles from here, our bodies will be fully exhausted by then. We miss everyone very much, and thank you for the strength you give us each day. Everyday becomes more amazing!

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Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Joe and I took off our shirts atop Avery Mountain for a photo op in the chilly breeze.  I feel like this picture summarized our feelings well; we were having fun and enjoying the hike. The Saddleback and Bemis Range have to be two of the most beautiful mountain ranges next to the White Mountains. It is still unreal to think back on some of these days, my heart filled with gratitude to all those that helped us and opened their arms for us. There are a many things and many people that don’t seem to be real anymore. These places and people are far from city life. We had done another gear purge at Andover as well, this took our once 70 pound packs down to the more reasonable 50-55 that we would hike with the rest of the trip.Avery Peak Flex

Southbound: episode 2

September 16th  2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

Here we are taking a “zero day” in Monson ME, our first town! We have just conquered 5,267 foot Mt. Katahdin to Abol Bridge, and then blazed the 100 Mile Wilderness. At 114.5 miles of the AT done we are enjoying a break in town. The trip started off Thursday morning at 2:30, I did say morning. You see, we arrived too late on Wed. to summit, so in a joke we asked the ranger how early can we start? His reply, I don’t know, maybe 2:00 am to see the sunrise. We took the opportunity, rested and strapped the head lamps on for a night hike. We reached the summit after 5 hours of grueling climbs, one after another. The clouds were beneath us, and we watched as morning came and the clouds returned above our heads. For that time at the top, there is no better feeling, literally on top of it all, the views astounding! The climb down equally challenging and rewarding, as we saw much of the scenery for the first time. We didn’t even notice that we had been covered in frost until we looked back at each other. We enjoyed a power nap and hiked another few miles to a stealth camp site. It was like being in the deep forests of Endor.Mt. Katahdin night hike

The days to follow were isolated within the 100 Mile Wilderness. This is the longest section along the AT with out a town nearby. Over the next few days, we fought with overweight packs, sore ankles, knees,…everything pretty much. The amount of miles we were able to cover during the day was very inconsistent. We just couldn’t find our pace. About a third of the way through the wilderness, we found a side trail that took us a mile down to this huge lake. At the lake was this little boat dock and an air horn. When we blew the air horn, a man comes across the lake in a little bass boat to take you back over to their hostel. At the hostel they serve a huge 1lb burger, delicious. We spoiled ourselves and spent the night there. We sent home about 35 lbs of extra gear that we just didn’t need to be carrying.Mt. Katahdin

The following days to Monson were a little easier because of lighter packs, but the trail still kicked our butts. I cant believe how intense the trails are up here. The trail is unlike anything we had imagined, every step becomes a test of strength and balance. Everyday becomes a test of perseverance. Unfortunately our time has run out here for the computer, so we will leave you with that until we hit our next town.

 

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Epilogue:
by Bryan Wolf
 

What we didn’t want to tell everyone when we first posted this journal is that things were going terrible and were 10 times as hard as we said.  In fact, when we first got to Monson we had agreed to quit and come home.  It took a hearty meal and an odd twist of fate to change our minds. It was a Northbounder from northern Kentucky that recognized us, his Uncle asked him to look out for us in passing.  We were reminded of our outreach before the trail, the charity that we were hiking for and the people following us back home.  We decided we couldn’t turn back, we just needed to hike our own hike.