Month: December 2021

Hiking the AT-Day 3

No long drive this morning so a little extra sleep feels good. This is the first hike on a second consecutive day. I was worried about feeling sore from yesterday’s miles so I did a lot of stretching last night that seems to have paid off with only mild reminders of muscles still adapting to the increased activity level.  We made two different plans for today depending on how we felt this morning. We choose the longer hike from Lake Road to West Mombasha Road. We consume our ‘free’ breakfast at the motel then pack up and check out.

Cars stationed, we start from West Mombasha and hike south. The initial ascent is steady but not too steep as we head to Mombasha high point. The morning tea and coffee prompt a pit stop in the bushes nearby. Skies are sunny and clear and it is a little warmer than yesterday. Very pleasant. We meet a hiker we recognize from the parking lot at the end of the day yesterday. He looks to be in his 30’s and his gaiters and black knee support bands make him memorable. He quickly fills us in on his own adventure: today is the last day of his 5 day hike, he spent the night at Wildcat shelter and is now headed to Fingerboard shelter, he does shorter multi-day hikes because he can’t get off from work to do longer stretches, and he covers about 15 miles a day. We are impressed!

The terrain is very rocky, again, but it is a peaceful hike through the woods with mild changes in elevation. There are lots of large trees down along the trail that require small detours and climbing to get over and past. Was there a recent storm that we were unaware of? A large babbling brook runs along the trail to our left until we come to a steep 25 foot decent beside Fitzgerald Falls. Several groups are at the bottom of the falls, apparently a popular and easily accessible location only .2 miles from the road. The water is frigid, but three kids are splashing in the pool at the bottom. Two other kids are sitting on rocks with an older woman. Another boy is running up, across, and down steep, slick sides of the falls. He seems very confident and sure footed, bouncing from rock to rock like a mountain goat. I am both fearful and amazed as I watch. My intense fear of falling would prevent me from allowing my own kids to do this! I wonder how much my fear interfered with their exploration of the world while growing up. I know they often complained of my cautious nature, but I seemed to inherit the overprotective parenting style I hated so much from my own parents. I wonder what kind of parents my children will be…

Lynn and I remove our boots and socks and soak our feet in the water–which numbs our toes in minutes! We stay for about half an hour enjoying the sounds of the falls, brook and kids. We can’t seem to find the white blazes to get us back to the trail. A consult with the guide book leads us back across the brook on an easy hike back to the car. Another need for a pit stop on this well traveled section forces me up a steep hill-only to find another trail at the top! I find a large tree, take a quick glance in both directions and hope to maintain privacy- and do so successfully! Back down and a bit further along and we are at the car. Then back to the other car (which I pass by too fast to stop with another car close behind me and need to backtrack to get to).

We head to Monroe in search of food- Lasagne for me, chicken and spinach penne for Lynne – both great at the Family Restaurant and Pizza. We plan our hike for next week which consists of two short hikes to complete section 12 of the AT! Then off we go in our different directions. We hiked for 4 hours again, covered 3.5 miles. Total miles: 11.1 (Yep, this morning’s hiker guy tops our 3 day total in one day!) Others may not be impressed, but we are pretty pleased with ourselves, and motivation is high to continue our quest at our own pace!

Wishing everyone happy holidays filled with adventures large and small that bring you joy!

Hiking the AT-Day 2

 Four weeks have passed since our initial hike. Work, responsibilities, and the 200 miles that separate us make scheduling difficult. But shortly after 10AM we are back at the park-and-ride where we last met. We station one car at our end point on 17A and travel together to Lakes Road. A hot dog stand beckons from one side of the parking lot and we stop for some pre-hike fortitude! The man there mentions that a group is hiking ahead of us. He also cautions us it is a rough hike and an older man (around 60 is his guess–is he thinking we are younger or giving us an age appropriate warning??) fell last year and needed to be medevacked out. Hmmmm…..

Today’s hike heads south to our destination. The terrain is moderately hilly to start, then levels off a bit. Pumpkin sized rocks litter the trail and require a sharp eye to avoid stubbing a toe-or worse. It is sunny, clear T-shirt weather and we work up a light sweat. A sign for Wildcat Shelter directs us off the main trail. I am eager to see my first shelter. The three-sided lean-to nestled in the springtime lush is approximately 12’ by 10’ and three feet off the ground. Two cords, adorned with empty tuna cans to repel mice, provide space to hang backpacks. I’ve read stories of the multitude of unwelcome visitors and the sketchy success of the tuna can plan. I wondered if the tales were true and now here is the visible proof. Cool.

A group of ten Asian hikers are lunching at the shelter. Their curiosity and excitement are easily observed despite language differences. The shelter has a ‘privy’ nearby (a welcome sight in the woods) and a water source-which consists of a tiny, muddy brook. Is this what we would sterilize and drink if we needed to refill?? And it is now May, with the spring melt still running before the summer heat slows the flow. The Asian group packs up to leave, but one man offers to let us try an interesting tiny folding seat he was using. It is remarkably comfortable.

Soon, two Irish men arrive at the shelter and we listen to their tales about snakes and bears. Apparently there is a rattlesnake den further south on the trail in New Jersey, and bears are present but scarce after a hunting season. Information gathered at this one stop makes me realize our learning curve is almost as steep as the hills ahead of us!

We move on to Cat Rocks-the next ‘bump’ in the road. An alternate path goes around the challenging climb, but Lynn bounds up the steep smooth face of the biggest boulder I’ve ever seen. I walk a few steps down the path, then watch the pleasure blossom on her face and dare myself to follow. Soon I wonder if I made the right choice as I watch Lynn climb hand over hand and squeeze through a crack. This is new for me. I don’t know if I can do it, but her look of belief and words of encouragement tell me she thinks I can, and she patiently waits until I do! Eventually, the trail opens to long narrow boulders and an expansive view. Is this where the man fell? Despite using the butt-slide technique to get down steep areas, I am proud of myself for taking on the challenge. More boulders, more shimmying through crevices between boulders, and lots more butt-sliding follows. A hiker on the alternate route below shouts, “There is a path around.” as he watches me struggle, but it’s a bit too late for that. Gazing over the sides reveals a drop that would certainly require a medevac for rescue! We finally finish the Cat and I am relieved to return to the rocky trail. Lynn quips: “It’s like climbing along an elephant’s back.” Her delight is palpable.

We continue to the 17A junction and walk briefly along the road to get to our car. Next stop: The Creamery. Two people on the hike recommended its great ice cream! We order ice cream floats to celebrate today’s efforts. We hiked four hours, including a 30 minute break at the shelter, and a slow climb up and down boulders. Tonight we are going to stay at a motel in Central Valley so we can hike again tomorrow. Lights out by 9:30! Total miles today: 3.6. Total miles so far 7.6. Only 92.4 more to goal! We may not be the fastest hikers, but the satisfaction gained from our efforts is enough to pull us back for more.