OK AT, If You Dish It Out, I Can Take It!

So I say to myself, “Self, how can you possibly find enough material  for a blog after just four days of hiking since your last zero day?”  And I answer, “It’s quite possible, since (a) I most definitely get on a roll when talking about my favorite subjects, and (b) as backpackers like to say, ‘The trail provides.’ ”

So here goes, as I spend my morning in the most logical place ever for a person called Chocoholic.

After a taxi ride from Peekskill, NY, back to the trailhead, I  continued my journey north. The  day’s terrain had the usual ups and downs….

A former mining path. It’s so cool the things you encounter. The Guthook app keeps hikers informed of the highlights, as well as all the maps, elevation charts, lodging info, etc. It’s an amazing resource, and works even in airplane mode.

We’re surrounded by Revolutionary War history here, as we had Civil War reminders down by Harpers Ferry, WV.

 

nothing overly challenging except for the morning’s heavy downpour.

Definitely not fun in rain. Roots and rocks get so slippery. You have to concentrate on every step, especially downhills.

Happily, my rain jacket, rain skirt by Zpacks, and rain gloves all served me well. No rain system is perfect and you still get wet, but this combo is the best I’ve settled on so far. The only fall was when the weather cleared and I tried to step out of the rain skirt gracefully and ended up tumbling sideways, with my feet trapped by the crumpled skirt.  This was especially bad timing, since I was trying to show Kara and Heather how easy rain kilts are to use.  Pride goeth…

Camping that night was a real pleasure, in a big grassy meadow at the Clarence Fahnestock State Park in NY. Heather and Kara were there, as well as Jay Squared, who I’ve known a few days.  We were joined by a fun fellow from eastern TN.  He used to go by Hound Dog, but is now Whooped Dog, after all the trail has dealt him the past few days.  Two others staggered in as well.  The last mile to a shelter will surely be proven someday to be much longer than the first mile of the day.

Day two was kind to the hikers with perfect weather.  I had a break at an AT shelter, the RPH Shelter (Ralph’s Peak). This used to be a small private home that was claimed under eminent domain by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, since the trail runs within a few feet of the hut.  The former owner now helps maintain the shelter, adding some good-natured humor in unexpected ways.

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by a small local newspaper’s reporter in her quest to encourage volunteers to help maintain the trail. I’ll share the article in the future when she emails me a link.

That’s my tarp drying out in the sun, after the previous night’s showers. Being on the trail for an extended amount of time involves a lot of care for oneself and one’s gear.

I held out on my lunch break till I found a beautiful view.  This won, hands down, looking down on meadows and a sweet barn.

 

In the afternoon, I saw more signs of good humor by trail maintainers. It was as if they said to their grandchildren, “Let’s make this the most heavily blazed section of the whole AT!”  White blazes everywhere.

Nice camping that night at another shelter. With good weather, most folks prefer their own tents, hammocks, etc., to sleeping inside the shelters.

I was on the trail by 6:30 the next morning, a minor miracle.  Perfect weather yet again, a good omen for my longest day yet, nearly 17 miles to the shelter I had in mind.

Gradually, it looked like there were fewer nasty rocks and more lovely stretches of nice smooth dirt trails.  I could actually look at my surroundings, not just my foot placement.

There was an interesting mix of scenery, with another long boardwalk through wetlands,

a train stop bound for NYC, designated “Appalachian Trail,” which operates only on weekends,

A train schedule was conveniently posted at a trail junction farther into the woods.

paths through meadows,

A maintainer, not a menace.

and my second lunch at a hot dog stand in a nearby parking lot.  When the owner saw she was out of change, she offered my dog, kraut, chips, and water for free.  I reversed the trail magic and gave her a $20 bill, thereby “paying it forward” for the next few backpackers.  I love giving in unexpected ways, and always hope it will have the ripple effect.

My final miles were long, with the usual nasty rocky ups and downs before reaching the shelter.  However, I had brief entertainment  provided with a conversation with a good-natured hiker who hails from the Netherlands.

Note the orange socks. He explained that the Dutch always wear this national color when involved in sports.

Jasper has been on the AT several weeks before soon joining his family to begin a less strenuous family vacation.  Because I walked across the southernmost portion of Holland in 2013 and intend to do more in the future,  we could both fully understand the radical differences between walking in his highly populated, pancake flat country and the semi-wilderness, geographically challenging  AT.

The best view of the day:  the shining tin roof of your shelter when you first spy it through the trees and hear the laughter of other hikers. This year’s section on the AT has had much more of a social aspect to it than the previous two years.  I can still get all the solo time I need, while enjoying good companionship at the end of the day, if I so choose.

Because of rain forecast during the night, I simplified things and slept inside the shelter.  The usual ratio:  me with five guys.  No big deal.  And happily no snorers this evening.

On day four, the rain held off till noon.  I had the excitement of entering my tenth out of 14 states through which the AT travels.

Crossing a covered bridge to get to a deli was the perfect way to celebrate being in New England.

And then the rain came.  At first, just a bit, so I let the tree canopy keep the bulk of the raindrops off me.  When it increased, on went the rain jacket.  With heavier downpour, get out the rain skirt! What, it has stopped now?  Take off all the gear, to avoid sweating under the jacket.  Wait, now it’s pouring again!  So it went all afternoon, gear on, gear off.

But that was the least of my issues.  It appears that CT is not all covered bridges and cute villages.  I encountered multiple super steep ascents (with their even more treacherous descents),

rocks, boulders, roots,

and my least favorite: big slabs of what I assume to be granite, sometimes flat, but usually slanted to the side,  intentionally formed by nature this way just to make it perilous for hikers.

Add green lichen, made especially slippery due to the rain, and you get a lot of slow, careful foot placement, and lot of butt sliding sessions on the stone slabs worthy of America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Well, it took me an hour longer than projected to finish this section, but I did it.  It was heaven to hear the warm, welcoming voice of the owner of the B&B on the phone, on her way to get me.  I dragged my sopping wet self into her garage, where I left my equally wet gear.

The view from her home.

Compare the cleanliness and comfort to last night’s shelter, or lean-to, as they call them in New England.

A hot shower, laundered clothes, a dinner I had picked up in town, and a glass of wine put things right again.  And I was very happy to hear that the buddies Kara and Heather would be joining us tonight, after they finish the Section From Hades.

The AT can be a real smorgasbord.  It can be a feast for the senses, but can also chew up hikers and spit them out.  I’ll admit to being gnawed on quite a bit yesterday, but I’m far from being eaten alive.  I’m going to continue to step up to the table, until I reach my just desserts, Katahdin in ME.

Bring it on, baby!

 

 

 

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Comments 19

  • John Fisher : Jun 17th

    Hi Ruth,
    Thanks for not making us wait. I am thinking that you have cracked the code for this “experienced” hiker (sounds so much nicer than “older”) with your liberal use of B&Bs. I hope when you are done you will recap where you stayed and what you liked so we can learn from your experience. Post again, soon.
    Best,
    J.

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Jun 17th

      John, you commented within 2 hours of posting the blog. . Loyal reader!

      I’ll be glad to share everything when I’m home and recovered. Say, February? Just kidding. But I agree, taking good care of ourselves and letting body and soul rest, recover and refortify are integral parts of my plan.

      Thanx for coming along on the journey.

      Reply
  • Shorttimer : Jun 18th

    Love my tough lady! Great job!

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Jun 18th

      Thank you, dear! I’m just sorry you’re not here by my side. But as I type this during a lunch break under the protection of a shelter as the rain pours down, I certainly understand. We all appreciate the green scenery, but it doesn’t happen without this wet stuff. And I’m camping tonight without the escape of a shelter. So I don’t blame you one bit for signing on for this.

      Thank you for all your support and love.

      Reply
  • jane graham murphy : Jun 18th

    Ruth,
    Thank you again for the beautiful descriptions and pictures. I “hiked” for two hours in the Kent, Conn. area with a friend and was so thrilled until she told me about the rattle snakes! You are very courageous and capable!!!
    Janie

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Jun 18th

      Thank you Jane. Yes, two friends, Heather and Kara, saw both a rattler and a copperhead when navigating that last awful rocky section. I’ve been fortunate with no sightings. I check on, around and under rocks and downed tree trunks before sitting on them.

      Thank you for your kind comments. I do feel this experience is making me braver. With each triumph, I feel I’ve gained so much. I just wish it wouldn’t rain all this week, as forecast. That makes it all so much more difficult, both the hiking and the camping.

      But , as hikers say, “No pain, no rain, no Maine.”

      Reply
  • Jon : Jun 18th

    Looking good!

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Jun 19th

      Thanks, son. Thanks for realigning my photos the past few times. I was able to use a computer at the Kent library this time.

      Reply
  • Becky : Jun 19th

    Great job Mom! Hope the rain stops soon!

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Jun 19th

      Today is lovely. It’s a whole lot better this way. :-). But you just have to put on your rain gear and move forward….carefully.

      Reply
  • Turbo : Jun 19th

    Yay choc! You’re crushing it. Noodle and I are currently chilling at a motel in Massachusetts.

    Those deli stretches were wonderful. A few days ago, we went off trail 4x in one day to go into town….

    This rain has been rough. Fingers crossed it dries up soon.

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Jun 20th

      Hi Turbo! What a wonderful surprise to hear from you! Just yesterday I was telling someone about the butt boost you gave me up a boulder on Leheigh Gap. I have been wondering how things are going for you. I’m doing my first double zero at Vanessa’s in Salisbury right now, letting the rain pass before I attempt the mountains leading to Great Barrington. No way am I going up and down those boulders during a storm.

      Otherwise, all goes great. Happy to be able to say I’ve done 1500 miles of the AT.

      Happy trails to you and Noodle!

      Reply
  • Helen : Jun 25th

    Ruth
    Your journey looks amazing! I look forward to your posts.

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Jun 25th

      Hi Helen! Thanks for following my journey.

      Reply
  • Shocktop : Jun 30th

    Hey, I feel weird, follow u but u don’t know me. Ok: 4″10, 53, female, fifteen (really) year plan for AT. Ruth, u are wonderful, very helpful and funny. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Jul 1st

      Shocktop, thanks so much for your kind remarks and for following my blog. I love it how people of all ages can become friends on the trail.

      Wanna hear something interesting? I recognize your trail name because I just now commented on another hiker’s blog (Kelly’s), right under your comment. Check it out!

      Reply
  • Dale : Jul 12th

    Loved reading this post and your adventures! So glad you didn’t encounter any snakes!! Your pictures are wonderful and you are amazing!!

    Dale

    Reply
    • Ruth Morley : Jul 13th

      Well, I’ve seen snakes, but no dangerous ones and none up close and personal. I agree, they’re certainly not my favorite.

      I don’t know about amazing. I’d say more stubborn. 🙂

      Reply
  • Carol : Jul 24th

    Love that you took a pic in front of Bulls Bridge! I lived down the street from there when I was a kid, and I definitely recall beautiful yet rocky hikes all around that area. So nice to see this area through your eyes! Thanks for sharing, and so glad to see that this continues to be a great experience!!

    Reply

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