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- Exploring the Appalachian Trail - This Is My South
Thought up by Benton MacKaye, a native of Scotland, it took nearly 50 years to connect the smaller trails into one long trail. Now reaching over 2, miles, the Appalachian Trail is perhaps the best-known long distance hike in the country, if not in the world. Emma Gatewood was the first woman to complete the trail, going northbound at age 67, in The trail also goes through unique habitats for plants and animals.
The Appalachian Trail runs through much of the South and runs through more Southern states than any other region. The most mileage in the hike is in Virginia. Georgia is considered to be one of the hardest parts of the trail because of the sudden climbs and long approach trail. The full hike takes at least six months and is generally done during the spring months when the snow has melted in the north.
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Camping is the preferred accommodation, but there are shelters in some parts of the country. The regions that go through national parks, like the Great Smoky and Shenandoah national parks, you can also stay in lodges. The trail names assigned to hikers. We planned to hike northbound so we could retrieve our car and begin the trip back toward where our spouses awaited us in Virginia. But it did not matter. We were use to it by now. We kept hiking across Monument Road on our way along the 1. We arrived in less than an hour, were able to use the restroom facilities located near the parking area and then saw the directional sign for the Mount Vernon Shelter located in the park.
We stopped there shortly to take a break so I could put on my pack cover. We departed after the brief stop, turned to head north on the AT and came to the directional signs for the Washington Monument. There were informational signs at intervals along the way. Here I am standing next to the Monument which is the first completed monument dedicated to the memory of George Washington.
It was begun on July 4, Commander Plodder and I walked the spiral stone staircase inside the monument up to the open air roof where there were signs identifying distant landmarks. Here is a photo of one of the informational signs which depicts a beautifully clear day. Unfortunately, you can see the foggy mist we saw this day, but it was fun to see this landmark. It is a wonderful piece of history. After descending the stairs at the monument, Commander Plodder made sure I reconnected with the AT in the northerly direction. Our hike continued under a Powerline and then back into the woods where an artistic trail maintainer with a chainsaw expressed some artistic flair on the end of a cut log.
After about another 1. We passed a side trail for Bartman Hill Trail and then had only about. After crossing it, we spoke briefly to a couple of women hikers who were going for a short hike and had just parked their car at the same lot where we were headed. We noted that the rain seemed to have stopped for about an hour. We made it back to our car at am. Our Iphone Health App recorded that we walked 6 miles, taken 17, steps and climbed 30 floors on our Day 3 hike.
The Iphone Health App totals for the three days reads as follows: We then drove south to retrieve our other car near the Old South Mountain Inn and then headed south for Virginia where we would rejoin our wives for dinner. It was fun sharing stories both ways. One of the highlights of this entire trip was saved for after dinner on Saturday. She knew that I had a long career in law enforcement as a police officer and as an FBI Special Agent, but felt she would prevail in this exceptional match of wits.
In fairness, she had some time to devise some tricky little hiding places but I felt I would do just fine. Boy was I wrong! Sandy provided me with the above written set of rules for the contest. I had a few additional follow up questions in order to adhere to the strict rules of the game. Essentially, there were five pills hidden as well as a smaller cache of pills in a different hiding place.
I started the search in her living room. I found the second pill within eight minutes and later, after a longer period of time, found the third of five pills. I followed the rules as best I could and only damaged one hanging bracket when I removed a picture from a wall. Sandy was a worthy adversary and while it was a tie, she clearly proved she had excellent skills of concealment. I guess I have not watched enough of those CSI shows to know how to search for evidence. Congrats Sandy! I have now hiked a total of Thank you so much to Sandy and my wife, Bernadette, who made it possible for Commander Plodder and I to have so much fun for three days.
On Wednesday, May 9th, I made arrangements to meet my former co-worker and good friend, Ralph, at the Rt. This is the junction of Pennsylvania AT sections 4 to the south and 3 to the north. Having recently completed Section 3 on April 29th, my plan was to leave my car at the Rt. I had read some nice things about the Eckville Shelter which featured a flushing toilet, a charging station for cell phones, a faucet dispensing drinkable water and a clean six-bunk shelter with a door.
This almost sounded too good to be true but thanks to the caretaker in the nearby house, it was wonderful. Also, I got to meet a bunch of very nice AT hikers. But first, I had to meet Ralph. I did not know exactly which car he would be using but a bit of fortunate timing had me turning into the parking area just behind Ralph. What a unique shuttle ride I was to experience. I have never ridden in a Fiat Spyder Pina Ferra convertible but it was great fun tackling the turns on the country roads on our way to the our lunch destination at the Fogelsville Hops Hotel which is a bar and restaurant located on Main Street in Fogelsville, PA.
In the interest of brevity, Ralph owned this same car decades ago and sold it to a coworker in Philadelphia. The coworker sold it to his father who essentially left it in a garage after doing some repairs. Ralph looked so happy telling the story and he looked so European driving an Italian sports car convertible. I never figured out how his hat never came off.
After lunch, Ralph drove me nearby the Eckville Shelter. I did my classic poor effort at a selfie with Ralph and he took a photo of me as I prepared to walk the short distance to the shelter. This is one of the most colorful and neat shelter signs I have ever seen. Note that there is no smoking and no pizza delivery on the hand written additions made to the sign. But I turned right and walked across the grass to the Eckville Shelter. Some through hikers had already arrived and I made sure that there was an open bunk.
That is my bunk with the Thermarest sleeping pad laid out. I then walked around to check out the building housing the flushing toilet, a shower and a small changing room. Such luxury is marvelous. I did not use the shower but one hiker did and he enjoyed a short amount of warm water from the tanks mounted next to the building. I spent some time sitting at the picnic table meeting other hikers which were a combination of hikers who were back on the trail to finish sections not completed previously along with thru hikers who had started at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and were intent on making it to Mount Katahdin in Maine later this summer.
Now he was doing the northern half as he was lucky to have enough time off from his employer. Old Soul and another female hiker decided to hike an additional seven miles late in the afternoon before they would sleep. I had some extra power bars so I gave a couple to Old Soul who said she was a little low on food and appreciated the help. Another hiker, making her the seventh hiker, arrived at the shelter. She decided to set up her sleeping pad and bag on the shelter floor next to the side of the shelter desk so no one would trip over her during the night. Some boiled water, mixing it with a Ramon Noodle pack and letting it stand in a plastic peanut butter jar with a lid.
After about ten minutes, the noodles softened up enough for consumption. Bon appetit! It was good news as several of them arose between am each day. This was perfect for my schedule. I drifted off to sleep and made sure I had my Petzl headlamp nearby in case nature called during the night. It did and I used the red lamp setting so I would not disturb everyone else who were fast asleep at am. I went back to sleep quickly and woke up around 5am. I quietly carried my stuff to the bathroom building and got dressed there.
I then checked to see that a bunch of hikers were already stirring so I heated up some water for my tea with honey. I was a little behind him and headed northbound into the woods at am. The entrance on Hawk Mountain Road is marked by this sign.
The sun was out and the weather was perfect. I hoped I could finish the hike before rain which was forecast for later in the day. The first half mile featured a stepping stone walkway, a very basic bridge and a very well built footbridge in that order. The trail then ascended a little over 1, feet over the next 2. I had covered three miles in one hour and 18 minutes which considering the elevation change was very good. At the top is a white colored metal register box. It did not have a register inside. I briefly enjoyed the view looking down into the valley below.
The last photo I took before continuing on indicated that the box was made by D. Rock formations along or near the ridge back of mountains in this area are not unique. What was unique was that there were about four Amish or Mennonite women hikers dressed in their usual, hand made clothing. I said hello and they continued heading south. The trail was a mixture of some sharp pointy rocks and navigating larger boulders which necessitated some rock scrambling.
Young persons are so light on their feet.
I had given him my contact information in case he needed any help in New York or Connecticut. However, I could see that turning left at the sign actually would put a hiker on a side trail. So I stayed hiking northbound for a short distance and then saw the hard left turn to keep heading northbound on the AT. Hikers take note. Around 10am, rain drops started and I put on my jacket and my backpack cover.
Exploring the Appalachian Trail
I did not know how hard the rain would be. I was glad my pack cover is bright orange colored as most of the AT in this area borders on state game lands. After a little under four hours of hiking and having covered 7. The shelter is nearby and is visible from the trail. I signed the register and drank some gatorade. I learned that as soon as Sherpa finishes this area of Pennsylvania, he will have done all the sections from Georgia to the Delaware Water Gap. He plans to continue hiking from New Jersey north sometime in the future.
I gave him my contact number in case he needs some help when he gets up into that area. Jarm took our photo before I headed back onto the trail. Sherpa said that the trail footing in the next 4. Even brief respites from the pointy rocks in Pennsylvania is appreciated. After just. I did not walk down to check on it but at least it is well marked. The rain seemed to be lightening so I took off my jacket. Very soon I realized that this part of the trail was going to be very different from miles I had previously done in PA, even different from earlier miles on this morning.
Here is what the trail looked like. This was incredible. There were some small ups and downs but for the most part my feet had a vacation from balancing each footstep on sharp or angular rocks. AT guides should inform hikers that this 4. She must have passed me while I was talking with the hikers in the Allentown Shelter. She explained that she had to wait there for five hours for a shuttle driver to take her to Port Clinton as she had to return home in Pittsburgh to handle a family matter.
After talking for a while, she decided to accept my offer to drive her from Rt. The shuttle driver lived in Port Clinton. We only had 2. We hiked together and the distance flew by. Hurricane Mama checked her GutHook app and said that we were only about. We covered the last 2. Here are some pictures of the site which is just a short distance, marked by side trail blue blazes from where the AT crosses through Port Clinton.
It is located north of where the AT passes through. There were some gallon water bottles left by volunteers for hikers to refill their water bottles. Hikers were permitted to camp in tents across the street but were advised not to camp under the pavilion except during extreme weather times. Hurricane Mama used her more enhanced selfie photographic skills to take a decent photo before I left to return home.
I have now hiked a total of miles of the AT- Gatito served as the sherpa for my sister and carried her backpack. Our plan was to hike all of Pennsylvania AT Section 3 which is a After arranging our vehicles at each end of the hike, we headed northbound at am from the Rt. The weather was cool, in the 40s, and the skies were overcast with patches of blue peeking around the clouds. There was a little breeze which got noticeably stronger while on top of the mountain. We did the first 1. We did not see a lot of wildlife. We saw a few squirrels and a couple of vultures who were perched in a tree near one of scenic overlooks.
Gadito held up this insect, a milliipede I believe, for a photo. Although we did not see any black bears, we did see a tree that looked like a bear had clawed on it to eat some insects. I stood next to it and raised my arm which is about 8 feet off the ground for scale reference. The bear who scratched this tree was probably pretty big and I am glad we did not cross paths.
We continued climbing for a little during the one mile trip to the famous Knife Edge rock formation along the ridge back of the mountain. Despite some rocks in the trail, we covered almost three miles so far in 80 minutes. We had a nice view down to the valley below on the south side of the mountain. Gatito posed on the knife edge with Aunt Polly partially seen further ahead. After carefully stepping along the edges of rocks we came to another rocky area named Bear Rocks.
This offered another nice view. We continued hiking and our feet were occasionally rewarded with easy footing when the trail morphed into a pine needle carpeted path with few rocks. Even though this relief was short lived, it was still wonderful while it lasted. We took a break at the gravel road crossing and parking area for Bake Oven Knob Road. After crossing the parking lot, I took this photo of some of the posted warning signs before we reentered the woods.
Notice the top middle sign concerning the prohibition to possessing paint. Having just a short. Some unknown artist had plied his craft onto a large boulder. Other hikers were nearby enjoying the views both to the south and, by just walking a short way across the ridge back, hikers could enjoy views to the valley below on the north side of the mountain as well. We left the painted rock and as we headed north again, we were passed by five southbound teenagers who had just spent the last night at the Bake Oven Shelter.
We said hi to the kids and continued a short way where we met Jace Gill and Damon Rosario who are the Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster respectively of Boy Scout Troop 60, Minsi Trails Council and the five hikers we just passed were their scouts. Their troop is based out of Orefield, Pennsylvania and we enjoyed a short chat about their activities.
It is so wonderful that volunteers like Jace and Damon dedicate their time to help guide these scouts to enjoy the outdoors and learn a lot of life skills as well. This was apparently the first overnight hike on the AT for these boys. They will share these memories forever. Thank you to Jace and Damon for taking the time to share your hike with me. Good luck to Troop Next, we descended almost two hundred feet in.
This organization currently does the maintenance along 64 miles of the AT from PA Route in Section 7 to the Lehigh Tunnel in Section 3 as well as maintain eight AT shelters in that part of the trail. They even had a welcome sign posted further down the trail, closer to the Ashfield Road crossing.
I also took some photos of the shelter and the nearest spring. I could easily envision this spring drying up during the summer months. Inside the shelter, on the left side was a red colored supply box or hiker box where hikers could leave unneeded items or take something. There was a belt, some AAA batteries and other miscellaneous items. Back on the trail again, we did the next 2. The other side had the words State Game Lands. I am not sure when these were installed, but it might be around as that year appears on some of the markers. Thanks to my sister and nephews whose sharp eyesight saw posts that I had missed.
Here is a sample of some of these posts. We had now been hiking almost five hours but only had one more short climb to hike, so we kept on trekking. This was the highest we would be during our hike. About a half hour after passing the South Trail connector, we noticed an approaching southbound hiker whose name was Tom. He asked us for some help as he had fallen and cut his lips on some rocks. Tom had done a pretty good job of taking care of himself on his own before we saw him.
My sister and I talked to him briefly and I gave him an ice pack to use on his trip back to the Ashfield Road parking area where his car was located. Before he left, I gave him my name and cell number and asked that he call once he was back to his car. I am happy to report that Tom called me later and reported that he was doing okay. We were glad to have the chance to briefly meet Tom and to give him a small amount of help. We had hiked 11 miles at this point.
This is also the location on the mountain which is directly over top of the Lehigh Valley Tunnel where the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike passes through the mountain. I checked the location on my cell phone using Google Maps. We now had less than three miles to go. After a short hike past the Tower access road, we began about a four hundred foot descent over the one mile trip to the second North Trail connector intersection. Outerbridge Shelter which was built in According to the website AppalachianTrailHistory.
My nephews are in the photo as they are taking a short break before our final push to complete our hike.
All four of us then began a more than five hundred foot descent in just. Just before reaching the road, we passed a sign for the Woodpecker Trail which leads to the nearby Lehigh Gap Nature Center. We arrived onto Rt. I guess there is some history to the various bridges constructed to cross the Lehigh River in this area. After crossing the bridge, we turned right at the light, followed the AT blazes to the next light, crossed the road, and then followed the blazes up a bare, dirt embankment which returned us to the Superfund Trailhead parking area which is surprisingly large and can handle many vehicles.
Some nearby hikers took our finish photo. My sister and two nephews seemed to handle this nearly fourteen mile hike with ease. This hike was wonderful and I am thankful that they could share the hike with me. I hope to hike another AT section with them soon. According to the health app on my I-phone, I hiked I have now section hiked a total of More hikes to plan.
This The weather was perfect and we headed northbound from the Rt. Hikers take note that there is a convenient privy just off this parking area. Just ten minutes into the hike we passed an informational sign which told us that we were miles north of Springer Mountain, Georgia and Katahdin, Maine which are the respective southern and northern termini of the AT. I can imagine what thru hikers think when they view this sign no matter which direction they are traveling at the time.
Most of the stream crossings at the beginning were just one or two stone hopper crossings. There were rarely any log or plank crossings built. As we climbed toward the Lions Head View, we were on the south or east side of the mountain and were not bothered at all by snow or ice or the melting water from those. Here is a photo of one of the rare patches of snow off to the side of the trail.
We passed the sign for the Ball Brook Campsite and about. I signed the trail register located in a wooden box inside the shelter on the left hand side wall. To the right of the box was a signed painting of the shelter. Mike noticed a metal plate which had been fastened to the top of the newer of the two picnic tables outside the shelter. This was a good idea so hikers could use this area to cook with their portable stoves as no open fires are allowed in CT.
We continued north after a very short break and soon passed the side trail marker for the Undermountain Trail which descends about 1. We had now hiked 6. There is a very large stacked rock pile which is the marker for the summit. Here I am standing next to it and if you look closely there is a lighter colored stone placed in the pile to my right.
The stone had engraved letters and numbers which had faded over time but Mike was able to feel the characters and dictated them to me. This marker read:. The first two mentioned above are in New York and Connecticut and the third is in Vermont. The one in CT is the highest. One of the signs on the post does have a directional arrow pointing toward Massachusetts.
So I officially have finished three states completely and now have started in a fifth state. After only two tenths of a mile, we saw the sign for the Sages Ravine Campsite. Nearby was a two board wide span over a small stream but our path north on the AT kept us on this side of the stream. Being on the north side of Bear Mountain and in Massachusetts, we now had to contend with a lot of unmelted snow or mushy snow. There was snow and ice on parts of the trail and there was water from the recently melted snow as well.
On top of this, we were descending hundreds of feet into Sages Ravine. Our progress was slowed appreciably by my caution in not wanting to slip and fall. At am, after having covered 7. There certainly is some confusion about the state line in this area of the AT. There appears to be a hand made MA:CT border sign fastened below too. The AT bordered the nearby stream for a long way and we just kept carefully picking our way through the snow and mush but avoiding ice.
The constant sound of flowing water rushing down the mountain was wonderful even if it was a bit scary as well. Somehow we could still hear the woodpeckers knocking their beaks into trees. I saw a distinctive black and white colored one which I later found out was most likely a Downy Woodpecker. We had already been hiking for over an hour in Massachusetts before we saw this welcome sign. But the rest of the sign provided us some good info as I wanted to know how far until we came to the Race Brook Falls Trail junction. It was now about pm and, after crossing another stream which was spanned by a bunch of stacked boulders, we began an almost two mile climb to the summit of Race Mountain, asl.
We summited at pm having covered The southerly approach to Race Mountain was devoid of the snow, ice and water we had seen before. The clear weather provided a clear view of Mt. Everett which was the next mountain north on the AT.
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Our plans were to turn off the AT a little before the climb up Mt. Everett so that summit will have to wait for another day. For now, as we hiked on the northern side of Race Mountain, the snow and ice returned just as it had been on the northern side of Bear Mountain. We had 1. After turning onto this blue blazed side trail for about two tenths of a mile, the privy above came into view as we approached the Race Brook Falls Campsite whose signage provided a well done, hand drawn schematic of the campsite.
We now had a 1. The trail was very steep and had a large horseshoe bend in it to avoid even steeper terrain but we kept on plodding carefully. We had additional crossings of the Race Brook or its tributaries. It seemed no matter which way we walked, water was ever present. We came to one of the most scenic and noisy parts of our hike—the base of the Race Brook Falls.
Although I took this photo before we deftly crossed without slipping into the water, the still photo does not capture the roar of the water cascading down the falls. We finally descended far enough that snow and ice was not an issue and our feet were appreciative. We still had many other little streams to cross but the descent became much more gradual. We passed a young couple who were just starting up meaning west on the side trail. The female asked if this was the way to the AT. I said yes but it was a long ways and a hard hike.
The female had these little white colored slip on sneakers which sometime in the next hour were going to be covered in mud unless she turned around with her boyfriend. I hope they made out alright but I could not see them making it up to the AT and then coming all the way back down again. In daylight I mean. As Mike and I approached the trail head parking area, we could hear sounds of traffic. We had two more small stream crossings by way of rock hopping and a large mud pit directly on the trail. Even though it meant walking a little further, I circumvented the mud pit by walking a wide arc on dry ground around the pit as I did not want to bring all that mud into my Kia Soul.
There was an informational sign, photo below, for hikers coming in from the parking area on Rt. The distances to various sites on the way to the AT crossing are mentioned. And then, have to hike back down to their car unless they hauled up camping gear to sleep overnight. We finished the side trail at pm having hiked My health app on my Iphone reported that I had hiked Thank you Mike.
You are wonderful and now it is time for some Vitamin I. This was the Lyon and Provence cruise on the Rhone River in the southern region of France aboard the Viking Heimdal where we enjoyed a Veranda Stateroom for the first time. We experienced a lot more sunlight and could sit on a small balcony outside our cabin. Viking staff were exceptional led by Nicholas who was the best program director we ever had. Just superb. We had a wonderful lunch and dinner on board and met many new friends.
After lunch on the ship, we selected an optional Pont du Gard Aqueduct tour with the help of our guide Ghislaine. Remains of Roman architecture are all over the southern region of France. This Aqueduct was built to get the water from the springs in Uze to the Roman outpost in Nimes, a distance of 31 miles.
Sometimes the path was entirely in underground tunnels and sometimes it crossed an aqueduct as pictured below.
Exploring the Appalachian Trail - This Is My South
Huge stones weighing tons each were hoisted feet in the air and were assembled without using mortar. What workmanship for this year old structure. Tourists were given the chance to hike up to the opening at either end of the aqueduct but we chose the far side of the Gard River as the views were more scenic from that side. On the way to the short hike we passed this 1, year old fig tree which was originally from Spain. Day Three -We sailed to Tarascon during the night and in the morning took an all day tour to Arles which, as our guide Agnes explained, has a special connection to the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh.
Arles is also one of the few places in France where bull fights are still held. One was scheduled for the day we visited but it did not start til later in the afternoon or early evening so we could not see it. The bull fights are held in a Roman built arena. The sign on the gate is the advertisement for the bull fight and festival which was occurring during the next couple of days. Next to the arena was this duplicate of a Van Gogh painting depicting the spectators inside the arena during one of the bull fights.
There were similar copies of Van Gogh paintings located throughout Arles near the actual locations which inspired Van Gogh to paint a particular painting. Although Van Gogh arrived in Arles around , and stayed only about 15 months, he created about paintings, only one of which was sold before he died in Van Gogh is known to have sliced off his own ear and we visited the building which housed the hospital whose staff treated Van Gogh.
Above the main entrance are the words Hotel Deus which translated as House of God. These words are commonly seen on buildings which served as hospitals years ago. The Van Gogh painting above depicts the beautiful courtyard. I walked upstairs to take a photo of how the courtyard appeared now. Our tour included a walk past the Cafe Van Gogh where I would later enjoy lunch.
Here are the photos of the Van Gogh painting depicting a night time at the cafe and my photo of the daytime of the same cafe. We also went past the offices for the Van Gogh Foundation whose sliding gate was opened just as we walked by. We were able to view an interesting fountain in the courtyard. It had colorful hoses and nozzles. On my way back to the rendezvous point for our bus trip to the ship, I noticed a memorial plaque on a monument in grateful recognition to Lieutenants William J. Tippett and Walter C.
McConnell, U. Air Force pilots, who were killed in action on August 14, trying to free the town of Arles from German occupation.
Nearby there was the below depicted marker on the stone walkway but I am not sure its purpose. I supposed it was meant to indicate the direction for a memorial nearby. I will have to do some research on this later. Back on the ship, we had dinner with four passengers, Joan and her sister, Ann as well as Tom and his wife Pat. Joan was from a town right near where our first house was in Pennsylvania.
Ann was celebrating a birthday and we enjoyed a festive dinner. What a coincidence. We shared many fun stories. Day Four -We had the absolute delight in a morning tour in Viviers of being guided by Frances who is the finest local guide we have ever experienced with Viking. She filled our ears with so many wonderful stories and even walked us by her house. The approach from the river leads down an avenue lined with shaped Sycamore trees which had not bloomed as yet.
Frances explained how the trees were shaped using ropes earlier in their life and that the trees we saw now would bloom and cover the avenue in complete shade later in the Summer. These type of avenues are called Napoleonic Esplanades.