Where Did A Month Go?

Slipped over here and realized that it’s been a month since my last post. Granted, lots has happened in the last month, and I did have some minor hiking-related news I could have shared, but in the interest of, well, interest (or lack thereof) I decided to skip a tedious “Look what I bought!” piece on the three-pack of 32oz. Sawyer water bottles I purchased to replace the functionally marginal 16oz. one that came with my Mini.

For regular readers: You’re welcome.

May is the most brutal month of the year for me, life-wise. Every year. So many birthdays, holidays, graduations, etc. Worse even than that torrid stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. By a long shot. Factor gearing up for a move into a new place into the equation, and May became a hiking disaster, salvaged only in part by my Lutsen 55 shake-out on the 3rd.

And here I sit, at the end of June, wondering how I can sneak in a quick trip to the AT before this month becomes July. Hikes in June so far? Zero. Again, unpacking after the move and juggling that around work and obligations has killed the hiking motivation/schedule.

And the blogging one, apparently.

At least I got a nice new storage spot for my gear:


Maybe next Thursday I’ll grab some chips and candy bars and take a quick southbound on the AT from Thunder Ridge Overlook to see if I can drop a little spontaneous trail magic on some thru hikers…


Tent Pitch, Foiled

A couple weeks ago I posted regarding my son-in-law’s purchase of a backpacking tent. Yesterday, we decided to make a quick run north on the AT out of Big Island to Johns Hollow Shelter to pitch it. His personal hibernation cave comes with something like 14 stakes, so he was anxious to see how it set up in a wilderness that didn’t resemble his living room.

Rain showers were expected around noon, so we set off at 9:30AM for the short, pleasant 1.75 mile jaunt.

As we cruised down the side trail to the shelter a short time later, a few random raindrops plopped on my hat. We laughed them off and, setting our packs on the picnic table, checked out the best pitching spots (there are several, as I noted in yet another earlier post).

As he opened his pack to pull out the tent, I jokingly commented to him that it would probably start raining once he got it spread out on the ground. He laughed, and strolled over to the selected spot.

And, naturally, it started to rain.

Well, he had no desire to learn a new tent pitch in the rain, so he returned it to his pack and we headed back towards the car, disappointed.

There was, however, one good thing to come out of this unexpected shower: I FINALLY got to try out the raincover for my trusty Deuter Airlite 22! Not being the masochistic sort, I always day hike on decent weather days. So, no raincover required. Needless to say, this shower provided me the opportunity for which I had been waiting. Short version: It worked as advertised. +1 for my friends in Germany.

It was a gentle rain, and we were oddly enjoying it in spite of our dry packs (he got to try out his pack cover too) and soggy bodies, so we crossed the Foot Bridge (Yep. That’s the correct spelling and capitalization) and added two miles to our hike on the other side of the James River.

James in Fog

As is ALWAYS the case, the sun broke through the clouds as we returned to the car, but we didn’t even grumble. It was, rain included, a good morning for a hike, and we made the most of it.

Next time, that tent is going up if we have to set it up in the shelter and drill stake holes in the floor.

(Just kidding, U.S. Forest Service. Juuuust kidding!)

For Running, Or For Hiking?

This morning I decided to FINALLY explore the dirt side trails that dart off the Blackwater Creek bike trail. I’ve been meaning to run them in hopes that they might provide a close-to-home day hike or two when I feel travel-weary. So I slipped on my Merrell All Out Peak trail runners and started down the post-rain wet asphalt to the first bounce-off point.

A few hundred feet down that first side trail I caught a deja vu Maine Appalachian Trail feeling (translation: rocks and roots. And more rocks). My run quickly became a brisk hike on the 50-degree angle of descent over the mixed, slippery terrain. I trust the sticky Vibram outsoles on my Merrells implicitly. I just don’t trust myself. Well, this version of me, anyway. Younger me would have charged down the hill and taken the bruises as they came, if they came.

Fortunately, older me is smarter (not to mention less agile) than younger me.

So I tiptoed until I hit the bottom of the hill, where it smoothed/leveled out for an easy cruise the rest of the three or four tenths of a mile. I determined to try that tricky spot on the way back to see if ascending might feel safer, and forged ahead, regaining the main bike path after a steep uphill featuring a quick switchback.

I ran just off the edge of the bike path; my All Out Peaks click and rumble like studded snow tires on anything other than dirt. Mercifully, the majority of the right-of-way beside the trail is mowed/maintained, so staying on grass is almost always possible.

A brief distance away another side trail beckoned, and I veered to the right to join it. This one was pure gold. Crossing two small bridges and running along the ridge above and eventually along the creek, it was smooth, fast and quiet. I did pass two women running with a dog, and a solo guy out for a morning cruise, but they didn’t take away from the experience. This section made the “keeper” list.

I bounded back up to the main trail and headed towards home. I broke off on the way and ran the first trail again, in reverse this time. The section I walked down on the way out I was able to run up on the way back. Of course, when ascending such a steep grade littered with rocks and roots, running becomes a relative term, at least for me. I was breathing pretty heavily when I regained the pancake flat asphalt of the bike trail, but I was well pleased with my effort.

An easy final quarter mile brought me to the trailhead and the end of my short four-plus mile run. It was misty and cool, my feet were muddy, and I was happy. Even better, there are miles of dirt side trails left for me to explore. Sadly, it’s a bit too pedestrian (if you’ll pardon the pun) to fit my definition of day hike material, but I do enjoy a good trail run, and definitely look forward to more of the same here.

Especially since this miles-long maze of dirt and asphalt is only a dozen minutes from home…