Monday, August 27, 2012

Halfway...almost

Even though the geographical halfway point is still another 80 mi up the trail, Harpers Ferry is still considered the psychological/sentimental midpoint. I know I was a happy guy the day I reached the ATC HQ.

Harpers Ferry WV

Harpers Ferry lies at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers and has a lot of historical significance. It's also home to the Appalachian Trail Conference HQ and considered kind of the half-way point on the AT. It was also my stopping place for the 2011 section hike. Most of my hike had gone very well, but hiking 3 days in the snow from Front Royal to Harpers Ferry took it out of me. I kinda stumbled into the ATC HQ in a daze.

After signing in the register, I was ready for some hot food and dry socks! HF is really a cool little mountain town on the cliffs over the river.
Hard to believe it's so close to DC and all the suburban madness I grew up in.



More random photos from 2011

Rewind, fast forward, guess it doesn't matter.
This is a self-portrait heading back out from the James River crossing after a couple days of drying out and self-care at my aunt's house in Lynchburg. It was a much-needed recharge and you can tell from the pic I don't look like a weather-beaten hiker with 200 miles down. The James River bridge is a fabulous spot BTW--hard to believe my father grew up just 20 miles from here.

This is the view a few miles up overlooking the James River gorge. God is good!

Looking back, I think the section from the James River to Waynesboro was my favorite. I had no idea how much wilderness lands there are nor how rugged a lot of the terrain is. There were several 3000' ups, enough to make any serious hiker earn his chops. The Priest isn't too bad going north (pity the southbounders) but Three Sisters made up for it. Totally kicked my ass.


And or course, some days end just as great as they started.






More Shenandoah

Looking back through my photos from last Fall, I realized how many great shots I have--I wish I could share them all. Maybe in a slide show in the future. Even though it's somewhat random and chronologically out of sequence, I wanted to post a few more highlights from 2011.

Hiking through Shenandoah NP in October was one big highlight in itself. For the most part I had spectacular weather (except for a freezing squall that nailed me around Skyland) and the leaves were at their peak. The photo above is looking at Stony Man from the south on the AT. Having spent quite a bit of my youth in SNP, Stony Man has always held and almost mythical place in my imagination.
As the highest point in SNP it has great views, especially from the cliffs on the west side. Spent many a rooted evening watching the sunset from this spot.

Not far north from Stony Man, a side trail goes down into Jewell Hollow where a friend's uncle had a cabin. Another view full of memories for me.

And of course the deer and bear and everybody else have become pretty used to visitors.

It's hard to tell scale in this photo, but this giant old friend was about 15' up to those first branches. A regal old white oak. There's a good reason why so many people love Shenandoah. Even with all the touristy stuff, it's a really special place for hikers too.



1000-Miler



On Halloween day I reached the 1000 mile (NB) mark on the AT--a rather nondescript spot with only this special blaze to give notice. I was late into my 2nd day of slogging through wet snow and blowdowns after the big storm so I almost walked right by it. But the significance finally sunk in: even though it's taken me 3 years, 1000 miles is a long way to walk. I had mixed feelings, realizing that I was closing in on Harpers Ferry and the end of another hike. But I was relieved to know I was near the Blackburn AT shelter as it was another brutal day of hiking.
Live from MM1000.

video

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Great October Winter Storm of '11

By next morning much of the snow in the valley had melted, so I headed north on the AT on a clear crisp morning. Little did I realize the extent of this storm (knocked out power to 100s of thousands of folks in PA, NY, CT) or how much snow I would encounter on the ridge. This early storm had several factors compounding the difficulty: it was a very wet, heavy snow; being so early most trees still had their leaves so there were blowdowns every 100 yards or so.

I was the first one out, breaking trail for miles on end with wet snow raining from the trees. I must have lost the trail over a dozen times--the blowdowns were so extensive in some places that the trail was totally obscured. It was one of the most difficult days of hiking I've ever experienced. I was soaking wet and overheated, but if I stopped for more than a few minutes the temps were only int he 30s so it was cold.

My brother Joel met me at the Rt 7 crossing but I was several hours late, it was such slow going. We had a snack and chat but I had to move on as dark was approaching. I ended up hiking 2 hours by headlamp to find the shelter that night. I can't tell you how glad I was to find the shelter, exhausted, wet and becoming pretty scared. Even though it makes for good stories I wouldn't want to repeat that day.

A Change in the Weather

Well, sorry for the delay getting these posts up. I know it's been 9 months but I had technical difficulties exporting pics into the blog. So that being said, I'd like to add a few posts to finish out last year's hike since it's almost time to start again!
As you can see, within a day of reaching Front Royal, things got very interesting. I ended up taking an extra zero day to wait out the storm which wasn't so bad since I had Patty as company and some decent amenities in Front Royal. The little downtown had a couple good restaurants, a local coffee shop and an AA club so I was all set. Just anxious about the storm.