Archive for August, 2008

A Talking Tree

August 28, 2008

As I mentioned in a previous post, we went to the 50th anniversary of Alpine Camp for Boys this past weekend. Bill Jameson is a long-time staff member there who started as a counselor, was program director numerous Summers, including when I was a camper and when I was on staff. His nickname is simply “Tree.” He is 6’5″ (I think) and one of the greatest men I ‘ve ever met. As a genuine legend at Alpine, he was invited to give somewhat of a speech. This may be a bit long, but so what, it’s my blog! To explain a few terms: Warrior, Brave, and Chief are age-group terms for boys 12, 13, and 14-15 respectively. Hope you can picture the images he was crafting.

          I came so close to selling dictionaries in West Virginia that first summer.  In fact I had signed on the dotted line.  But as the month of May rolled around on the LSU campus, I was getting cold feet. So I visited the Baptist Student Union, and a man named Frank Horton sat me down with two summer camp brochures: one very glossy, full-color book from Rockmont in North Carolina, and the other, a more humble little catalogue from a camp in Mentone, Alabama, a place I had never even heard of before. 

I looked both books over carefully and finally chose to call Alpine, mostly on the strength of a picture towards the end of the catalogue which showed the director, smiling broadly, with his arm propped up on the rustic fireplace mantel in what turned out to be his rock house. I turned to Frank Horton and said, “I’d like to work for him.”

Because it was so late in the Spring, I had to interview with Dick over the phone. He ended up taking a huge chance on me, a guy he’d never met; and I took a chance on him and Alpine, a place I’d never ever dreamed of before that day. And the rest, as they say, is history.  Improbable. Incredibly Providential. And for me, life-changing in ways I could never have predicted on that day. 

Big Bill Hodgkins, Keller Broadway, and I, all three wet-behind-the-ears Louisiana boys, drove up to camp together. We must have gotten a late start I guess because we entered the corridor of mountainous northern Alabama just as it was getting dark. Being from Louisiana, where the highest spot in most parishes is a pitcher’s mound, we panicked, afraid we’d get lost roaming those roads on the mountain. So we got off to a shaky start that first summer and spent the night in a little motel in Gadsden. We felt like fools the next morning when we so easily negotiated the roads to camp, past the giant billboard of a KKK horseman which in those days welcomed visitors…but not ALL visitors…to Ft.Payne. Needless to say, we were wide-eyed. 

After a couple of days of staff bonding, pulling grass from the surfaces of the infamous Alpine clay tennis courts and de-mucking the waterfront, we were ready for the campers. They rolled in on busses in those days-five or six of them. We were unknowingly “greener” in those days I guess because in the last few years those busses have been replaced by hundreds of SUV’s, making that old scene of a crowd of counselors gathered around bus doors, listening for Dick to call your name and claim a camper, seem quaint.

I had Warriors that first term, Braves the second, and if those campers were nervous on that first day, it was nothing compared to what I was feeling. I think it was either the first or second day of camp during rest hour that Ray Higgins, my head counselor, came jogging down to Cabin 7 in these incredibly worn out, low-top Converse shoes and popped in the door, saying as only Higgins could say it:  “Guys…guys…we need to be a LOT quieter during rest hour…OK?  OK?  I could hear you guys all the way up to my cabin. Thanks guys.  Thanks.” I was red-faced with embarrassment and felt just awful at having already let Higgins down. 

I’ve never quite known which counselor to thank for my nickname, which I got during that first summer. It was either Camper Don Gardner or Ken Dwyer or maybe even Jim Haltom, or some combination of that group, that came up with it I think.  Opening night of camp in those days was occasion for the infamous counselor skits, the purpose of which was to supposedly keep the assembled campers in the gym from feeling homesick. Not an actor at heart, I was assigned a relatively minor role in the over-the-top satire “The Improbable History of Alpine Camp.” Standing at the back of the stage and with arms outstretched, shirt sleeves stuffed with hickory branches, and waving in the imaginary breeze, I played a tree. 

We ended that big show with a Dana Hensely/Don Gardner special rendition of the sappy and frankly morbid song, “Tell Laura I love her”, which seemed to make more homesick boys cry than it did cheer them up. And with that, my summer–and although I could never have imagined it then, my next many, many summers–at Alpine Camp had begun.  

Hired as a lifeguard to work on the waterfront, I was of course assigned that first summer to work at horseback. It was there that I became acquainted with Dick’s two horses, Champ and Merry Boy. And I began the long and ultimately futile attempt at learning to play the banjo from Don Cole, who headed up horseback at the time. The most ironic part of the summer, looking back on it, was the fear I had of the Chiefs. I had such respect for the counselors who had those guys. I couldn’t imagine trying to relate to them. At that time, there were only two cabins of Chiefs, and they lived in the little cabin called The Dorm behind what is now the Tree House.

When summer number two rolled around, I found that Dick had decided to move the Chiefs up near the horseback barn area to the old York house. The new Chief home was to be called Up Top. And amazingly, there were now four cabins of boys who were to inhabit the new cabin area. And even more amazingly, I had been chosen to be among the inaugural staff up there, serving under the capable leadership of David “Wide Mouth Frog” Hooper. If I had been nervous that first summer with Warriors and Braves, I now found myself literally weak-kneed over the prospect of having Chiefs.

Up-Top turned out to be Chief volleyball in the front yard under the lights of counselor cars which we pulled up on either side of the net. Up-Top was riding first in the back of a big truck, and later in school buses, dubbed pretty accurately “the scream machine,” up and down the hill to meals and activities. Up Top was massive games of capture the flag in the horse pasture; it was fly-catching contests during rest hour; it was morning watch under two giant Oak trees and Sunday night vespers on the front porch, with every Chief singing at the top of his lungs. And it was Sunday trips to Little River Canyon, where we swam sans life jackets in rapids that shot us through gaps in the giant boulders like human rockets. Up-Top turned out to be a great big fraternity house without the alcohol, a place where counselors and Chiefs alike found special friendships and a refuge for a month in the summer from the cares of the outside world. Parents may never have quite gotten used to the fact that this rather shabby farm house and potato shed, couched in between a horse barn and several chicken houses, were the pinnacles of living arrangements at camp, but we who lived up there knew it to be a little slice of heaven on earth. 

After Up-Top closed and The Ridge became justifiably the “best place in camp to live,” Dick stepped out once again on faith and gave me the chance to continue at Alpine in a whole different capacity, that of Program Director. 

The hardest assignment I’ve ever been given as Program Director was this speech, as I’ve realized in the last 24 hours the futility of trying to compress my years here into anything less than a semester course. Imagine Dick trying to compress his. It would be a multi-volume set at the very least. 

What’s been so great this weekend is understanding so intimately how each of us made his own unique journey to be a member of the Alpine Family, whether as a camper, a KB, or a counselor. We each brought our own stories here this weekend, letting those narratives intertwine and enrich each others’ lives.

“Were you there when Patrick Toomey put his entire fist into his mouth at Freak Show?  someone asks.

“Do you remember that time at the Warrior Overnight when the girl scout troop hiked by? laughs another.

We recall that Don Gardner’s Madame Edie, the somewhat rumpled and chronically inaccurate fortune teller at those early County Fairs later morphed into Buddy Kuykendall’s Madame Buddy, this time with more makeup but still dependably clueless.  And before my time, who had taught Camper Don the ropes of being a fortune teller anyway? Time present and time past and even time future merge into one as the continuity of this place begins to focus more clearly before our very eyes. 

I sat behind Andrew Grinstead this morning at morning watch and stared at the back of his homemade t-shirt, a shirt in the classic fashion of last-night-at-camp shirts, with all the names of his 2nd term cabin, handwritten in Sharpie for all to remember. Jon Lucas was the all-star counselor of what was surely an all-star cabin. 

I look at those signatures from those 15-yr-old hands in 1990 and am thankful I can see and talk this weekend with the men those boys became. And I am thankful that at their core today, a part of that boy remains, eyes wide open at the sights and smells of the woods, happy to have escaped the orbits of everyday life for some time again on the mountain. 

The names on this list this weekend form a veritable roll call—perhaps a long retreat line would be a better analogy–of people who came here and worked and played and let Alpine seep into their very core and become a part of them. In the exchange, we left a part of ourselves here too, although it was never to be an even exchange.  We all have benefited more from camp than we can ever give back.

We are all permanently woven into the fabric of this place: campers, counselors, alums. Each generation brings its own freshness and vitality, the new blood that dependably each June injects relevance and vitality and creativity into the chinking of a cabin whose foundation never changes, even as we renew it summer after summer. 

Our jobs now may simply be to show up here and see again for ourselves if the old truth still holds.  

“It was a good and special place in my life,” we say to each other.

And it remains so.



August 27, 2008

I think everyone realizes this when they start college (or first job after highschool, whatever your fancy). Your mama isn’t standing over you telling you what to eat. Cold pizza and a Coke for breakfast, Chicken Tenders at 1:00am, Ramen Noodles daily, all completely acceptable (this undoubtedly catches up with the best of us). All that to say, I have left-over Stouffer’s Chicken Parmesan for lunch today. It’s pretty good. Somebody brought a box of home-made cream cheese bars and left them in the break room. They probably weren’t made with me in mind. Jen makes them as well and man, those things are good. I only had one, before my lunch. Adulthood=ruining your lunch with cream cheese bars. Seems like just an extension of childhood to me!

Monday’s Post (a bit late)

August 26, 2008

(I ran out of time yesterday) So, I made it back to work on Post-Op day #7. Was a little tired not being used to waking-up so early. And I didn’t get a 3-hour nap. It was an eventful weekend as the whole family loaded-up and headed for camp. This weekend was a celebration of the 50th summer of Alpine Camp for Boys (link on right-side of page). For those of you who know nothing of the camp, I invite you to visit their site. To say the very least, it was the place where I first saw the Gospel fleshed out through the lives of numerous counselors. It is the place where I accepted Christ as my savior and I was fortunate enough to work there for 4 summers. The directors invited former staff and campers for a weekend of fellowship and needless to say, it was an excellent time. I would include a picture, but will have to later. We made it home Sunday evening and it was back to work on Monday.

Of particular interest, Jack “Traveler” Dickens finished through-hiking the Appalachian Trail today! Huge congratulations to him for an excellent accomplishment. I’m sure he will e-mail his final journal entries soon and I’ll try to get them up in a reasonable amount of time.

Since the above was written, I scurried over to the Alpine website and pirated some pictures. The first pic below (L to R): Me, Glenn Breazeale, and Bram Pinkley. Glenn is the director of Alpine and Bram is a pediatrician here in Nashville.

The next pic is of (L to R):Me, William Denney, and Nicholas Ireland. William was a camper way back when I was on staff and has amazing skills and intensity when it comes to the game of Banana Ball (it’s a minor sport). Nic is probably one of the most humble and thoughtful guys I’ve ever met. He was a groomsman in my wedding and he himself is getting married in October.

Well, gotta go, but wanted to update you as to the goings-on.

A Long Stretch

August 21, 2008

June 29, 2008 MA2 in North Adams, MA to Congdon Shelter, VT (14miles)

Today was pleasant and warm, but there was a lot of mud on the AT because of recent rains. I’m about 10 miles north of the VT border now. There are 5 others sheltering with me tonight but I’m the only thru-hiker. The rain began as I was eating dinner, but no harm done. It’s good to be under a roof and dry when it is raining.

June 30, 2008 Congdon Shelter, VT to Goddard Shelter, VT (14.4 miles)

The day has been cool and overcast. The trail was wet and muddy. The rocks were slippery. I stopped early because I was tired. The trail just seemed harder today with lots of climbing. Today is one of those times I just need to persevere. Hope to do longer mileage tomorrow.

July 1, 2008 Goddard Shelter to Stratton Pond Shelter, VT (19.4 miles) 

Today was a better day. I slept well and got an early start. The trail remains muddy, but had fewer significant ups and downs today. I saw lots of moose droppings, but no moose. Tomorrow I’ll hike about 10-11 miles to VT 11/30 and hitch into Manchester Center, VT to resupply and clean up.

July 2, 2008 Stratton Pond Shelter to VT 11/30 near Manchester Center, VT (10.6 miles)

I slept poorly last night on an upper bunk (shelf) with absolutely no rail! I was up and hiking early on a beautiful, sunny day. The trail remains wet, but is improved with 2 dry days. I stopped at a local outfitter and replaced my water filter, resupplied at a near by grocery, and ate lunch at an Italian restaurant. I was in the parking lot when 2 young hikers approached and asked if I was Traveler “the Doctor”. I admitted to both identities. One of them had blisters and got a parking lot consultation. They had heard of me from other thru-hikers. Later when I was looking for a place to stay, they invited me to share their room at “Sutton’s Place” a local rooming house. I have now settled in, gotten me and my clothes washed, and had dinner. I got my pack organized for an early start tomorrow.

July 3, 2008 VT 11/30 near Manchester Center, VT to Big Branch Shelter (16.5 miles)

I got an early start with breakfast at Mrs. Murphy’s Donut Shop and caught a ride back to the AT from there. The day was cool and overcast. No great views today. I got to the shelter just before the first heavy rain of the day. I’m sheltering tonight with 2 Long Trail hikers and 2 AT section hikers from Tampa, FL.

July 4, 2008 Big Branch Shelter to VT 103 near North Clarendon, VT (15.9 miles)

Today was sunny and cool, a good hiking day. I walked over a suspension foot bridge at Clarendon Gorge that was a little exciting with its swaying and bouncing with each step. Today’s highlight was meeting Gary and Cheryl Martin, a couple close to my age. I had stopped at a shelter for an afternoon break when they walked up. They returned to VT from Virginia and thru-hiked the AT as a couple in 2003. We chatted for a few minutes then they walked on. I caught up 
with them about an hour later at Clarendon Gorge. They invited me to their nearby home for the night! I’m now clean and well-fed and settling into a soft bed for the night. What wonderful trail magic- especially on July 4th! They will take me back to the trail after breakfast tomorrow.

July 5, 2008 VT 103 at Clarendon Gorge to Pico Camp on Mount Killington, VT (13.6 miles)

I got an early start after a great breakfast with the Martins. Today’s hike was basically up and over Mount Killington with a 3,000 foot elevation gain. I was taking a lunch break at a shelter when up walked Nancy, the caretaker at Upper Goose Pond Cabin who made blueberry pancakes for us for breakfast. We recognized one another and had a good conversation as we hiked up Killington. Having company seemed to make the climb easier. I hiked a few miles north of the summit before stopping for the day. I’m sheltering tonight with a young man who is a history teacher and also attended Reformed Seminary in Charlotte, NC for a while. I plan to hike down to the Inn at Long Trail tomorrow. If they have a room, I’ll stay for the night.

July 6, 2008 Pico Camp to US4 (Sherburne Pass, the Inn at Long Trail–3.8 miles)

Fortunately The Inn had a room available. My clothes and I are now clean and I’ve had a couple of good meals. Several section hikers I’ve met this week are also here. I took a long nap this afternoon. I don’t think I realized how tired I was until I was out of hiking mode and into rest mode for the afternoon. I intend to get an early start tomorrow. Elaine is meeting me in Hanover, NH this Friday.

July 7, 2008 US4 (The Inn at Long Trail, Killington, VT) to Wintturi Shelter (19.9 miles)

Today was warm and sunny. The trail had 5,000 feet of climbing today, so it was a long hard day of hiking. I’m sheltering tonight with a young couple from Chicago, Dan and Bree, who are section hiking but plan to go to Mount Katahdin in ME. I’ll hike fewer miles tomorrow.

July 8, 2008 Wintturi Shelter to Thistle Hill Shelter, VT (11.6 miles)  

Today was supposed to be a short, easy day. It was not. The weather turned hot and humid and the mountains were very steep. Mid-afternoon I crossed a road where a sign was posted saying “Hikers! Cloudland Country Store is 0.2 miles up the road and has Vermont Sodas and ice cream.” It was well worth the walk and the farm family that ran the store were so nice. I returned to the trail much refreshed. I’m sheltering again tonight with Dan and Bree who cut their planned hike off early because of the heat and steepness of the trail.  I’m planning to reach Hanover, NH tomorrow leaving VT, my 12th state behind.

July 9, 2008 Thistle Hill Shelter to Hanover, NH (14.1 miles) 
I got an early start and was rewarded with a great breakfast at the Country Store in West Hartford, VT. There was not as much climbing to be done today. The weather was hot and humid. The last 2 miles I was walking on a paved road and got drenched by a sudden thunderstorm as I walked into Hanover, NH. I forgot my trekking poles as I left the Dartmouth outdoor Center. I called there after I checked into the Sunset Motor Inn and the lady who answered not only had the poles but 
delivered them to me at my motel. Tomorrow I’ll take a zero day and plan to do my hiker shopping before Elaine arrives on Friday. We will move into the Hanover Inn in the middle of Hanover and across from Dartmouth.

Nearing the End

August 21, 2008

As a disclaimer for those who haven’t read the travel journals of Traveler (aka Jack Dickens) from the beginning, He is a friend of mine from Georgia through-hiking the Appalachian trail northbound. We’re nearing the end and as I have a little down time (appendicitis and all), I’m catching us up.

June 24, 2008  MA23 near Great Barrington, MA to Upper Goose Pond Cabin, MA (19.1 miles)

No rain today, but the trail was wet and muddy in many areas. There were two 1,000 foot climbs today along with lost of big, slick rocks. I’ve really been in mosquito country the last few days. I don’t think I could have continued without DEET to keep them off of me. The shelter tonight is actually an old lake home similar to those on Lake Rabun many years ago.  It has a gas stove in the kitchen and bunks with comfortable mattresses so it is nice compared to the usual AT shelter.

June 25, 2008 Upper Goose Pond Cabin, MA to Kay Wood Lean-To (17.7 miles)

No rain again today, but the trail was very muddy in long stretches. The day began well with Nancy, the caretaker at Upper Goose Pond Cabin, making the hikers a breakfast of blueberry pancakes and coffee!  It was so good!  The day’s highlight was meeting Roy and Marilyn Wiley, the “Cookie Man” and “Cookie Lady”.  Marilyn has been baking cookies and giving them to hikers for about 20 years. I visited with them and enjoyed some home made chocolate chip cookies before hiking on. I’m in shelter tonight with “The Unknown Hiker” who was formerly a Houston, TX, policeman. I plan a short day tomorrow and will probably stay in Dalton, MA for the night.

June 26, 2008 Kay Wood Lean-To to Dalton, MA (3.0 miles)   

I’m at the Shamrock Village Inn tonight. I had dinner with 6 other thru-hikers who are staying at a local house provided by “Rob” for hikers. The house has all amenities (TV, washer, dryer, bunks, etc) and is free. I’m going to slack pack from 14-22 miles north of here back to “Rob’s” tomorrow and will be there tomorrow night. I continue to be amazed at the “Trail Magic” which “Trail Angels” provide for hikers. I hope I can repay some of this by helping future hikers when I’ve completed my thru-hike.

June 27, 2008 MA 2 in North Adams, MA to Cheshire, MA (14.0 miles)

I shuttled north and slack packed south with Climber, a lady librarian from Boiling, Springs NC  We climbed up, over, and down Mount Greylock, the highest summit in MA at 3491 feet above sea level. We got a late start (10:00) so could not hike the remaining 9-10 miles back to Dalton.  Rob not only shuttled us out to start the hike, but picked us up in MA, 6:00pm. It was great to get a shower and dinner off the trail. I’m bunking at Rob’s tonight along with 6 other hikers.

June 28, 2008 MA, Dalton, MA (9.3 miles)

I slack packed south again today. It’s always fun to meet my northbound friends and swap stories. (Robert Bird has been a fantastic host. Six hikers left this morning and six more showed up this evening. He welcomes all of them into his home. I just heard that Handyman is off the trail for at least a few weeks with a broken toe and several hikers have developed Lyme Disease 
(transmitted by ticks) and had to leave the trail. Please continue to pray for my health, safety, strength, and perseverance. Tomorrow I’ll hike north out of MA, my 11th state, and into VT.  Today is my 63rd birthday. I feel so fortunate to be having this adventure at this time in my life.

Vestigial Organs

August 18, 2008

i really don’t know where to start with this story. I had to work over the weekend and Jen took the boys to Memphis. Sunday morning, I had breakfast prior to rounds and shortly afterwards, I noticed some vague abdominal discomfort. We were fairly effecient in rounding on Sunday, and I was heading home at about 12:30. I was planning on knocking together a sandwich, but felt uncomfortable. I opted out of lunch and chose to nap. Unfortunately, didn’t sleep well. My abdominal pain was worsening. As I lay there, i did my own abdominal exam. It was classic for appendicitis. I had generalized abdominal pain that was now worst in the  right lower quadrant. Really? I don’t need appendicitis.

I called Jen and she was still an hour out from Nashville, so I just lay on the floor, waiting. I was hoping that the pain would spontaneously resolve. When Jen made it home, I had her examine me again and we decided to go into the hospital. I felt an electric jolt of pain with every bump in the road.

The ER waiting room is always an interesting experience, needless to say. After approximately 2 hours in the waiting room, finally made it back to a room. Had a nice psychiatry intern come in and do my initial exam followed by the ER attending. The work-up was as expected. they ordered a CT of my abdomen and pelvis and a surgery consult. Got 4mg of Morphine at this point which really helped. As I expected, the surgeons showed-up first. Let me say that the experience of being a patient is very strange. On every medical drama, you have that shot from the patient’s perspective of the ceiling lights and tiles as the patient is wheeled down the hall. This was a surreal feeling. Well, the CT was positive for appendicitis and the OR was notified.

The next step was the pre-op holding area. Pain had returned by this time. Got Fentanyl this time and was quickly flying high. Was finally wheeled back to surgery a little after midnight on Monday morning. Last thing I remember in the OR was a face mask placed over my face and off to dreamy-dream land. According to the surgeons, the operation lasted approx 1 hour and all I have to show for it is 3 small scars (still bandaged) and some serious belly pain.

Jen stayed at the hospital with me until I came out of surgery. I know she was there, but couldn’t tell you much about it. At this point, I was exhausted. I also had enough anesthesia and pain medications that I slept off and on for the better part of the morning. was actually able to get out of bed this afternoon and walk around the hallway. Amazingly, I’m sitting here at home on the couch, less that 24hours after my appendectomy. Thanks to all of those who prayed for me and Jen. Will keep you updated on my recovery.

Caring Bridge

August 17, 2008

So, Caring Bridge is a website for “Free, personalized websites that support and connect loved ones during critical illness, treatment and recovery”. I obviously work with many patients that qualify for having a critical illness requiring treatment and hopefully, recovery. Some of the children that I have the priveledge of caring for have their own sites and I’ve placed a link on the main page of the blog for some of those sites. If you have some time, look over a few and drop them a line, an encouraging word goes a long way.

Overdue Updates

August 14, 2008

Hi all!  I’ve got a small break here before Parker wakes up from his nap and thought I’d post a few pictures of the boys.  Parker is now 6 months and Avery is 2 1/2.  They are so much fun and busy busy busy!  The joke is Avery, who is named after his daddy seems to have more features and tendencies like his mama, but Parker, named after my dad, has more features of his daddy. Go figure.  See for yourself what they’re up to, and enjoy!

Making good time

August 8, 2008

June 16, 2008 Bear Mtn. Bridge to Dennytown Road, NY (14.5 miles)
I enjoyed my 3 “zero” days while Elaine visited. We were in Fort Montgomery, NY, near the US Military Academy at West Point. We toured the historic sites and enjoyed the museum at West Point. Seeing so
many fine young people there is encouraging for our country’s future. I’m camped out tonight because there is no nearby shelter. Fortunately, the tent was already up when a fierce rain, hail, and
electrical storm hit! I’m safe and dry, but it’s been an exciting last hour. I’m alone tonight so I’ll read a while before going to sleep.

June 17, 2008 Dennytown Road, NY to Morgan Stewart Shelter (19.7 miles)

Today was a long hard hiking day with lots of rocks, climbing and descending. Though rain threatened all day, I was fortunate that little fell. Tonight I’m sheltering with Gray Ghost and his grandson, D.J. and Hike Farmer who is just returning to the trail after being off for a week with an injury. It’s good to see old friends and renew acquaintances.

June 18, 2008 Morgan Stewart Shelter to Wiley (Webatuck) Shelter (16.3 miles)

The morning was great for hiking. I reached the “Appalachian Trail Stop” for the train to NYC. Also photographed the “Dover Oak” which is the largest tree on the AT. It looks about the size of the large
oak at the south end of Bear Gap Road on the way to Lake Rabun! I hiked about 1/2 mile off the trail for lunch at a Deli. Back near the AT was the Nature Garden Center whose owner is very hiker friendly.
She let me stow my pack there while I got lunch and made a shower available to me when I returned. It rained this afternoon but I made it to the shelter O.K. Hope the rain stops by morning. I’m only 2 miles south of the CT border now, so will leave NY, my ninth state, tomorrow.

June 19, 2008 Wiley (Webatuck) Shelter to Stewart Hollow Brook Lean-To (19.7 miles)

Today was a beautiful day, cool this morning, then warm and sunny. The trail was quite rocky with two 1,000 foot climbs. The last descent of the day from Caleb’s Peak was steep, difficult, and dangerous at times. I hiked off the trail this morning for an early lunch at The Country Store in Bull Bridge, CT. The deli sandwich was great and I walked through a very old covered bridge.

June 20, 2008 Stewart Hollow Brook Lean-To to 2 miles north of Falls Village, CT (19.3 miles)

Today was another beautiful day of hiking. It began with a level 2-3 mile hike along the Housatonic River and then climbed steeply into the mountains. I had originally intended to stop about 4pm and rent a small cabin with some hiker friends. No cabins were available so I had a restaurant dinner and hiked north until 7:00pm when I knew I should find a spot to set up my tent. I’m off a small side trail near the AT, so I hope for a quiet night. I’m going to hike into Salisbury, CT tomorrow for a bed, shower, and laundry.

June 21, 2008 2 miles north of Falls Village, CT to Lower Cobble Road near Salisbury, CT (6.4 miles)

I planned a short day to clean-up, re-supply, and rest. I have a nice room in the home of Maria McCabe, an older lady who rents rooms to hikers and has been so helpful in getting me around town for laundry, lunch, and re-supply. Tomorrow she will shuttle me north about 17-18 miles and I’ll slack pack back to her home for a second night.

June 22, 2008 Jug End Road, MA to Lower Cobble Road near Salisbury, CT (17.6 miles)

Morning weather was overcast with rain beginning about noon. It was a good day to slack pack because there was a lot of steep climbing and descending on steep rocky slopes. On further consideration, there are NO bad days to slack pack!! I enjoyed hiking south and meeting my
northbound friends. I’ve arranged to slack pack again tomorrow because rain is expected again. It will be a shorter day but that’s ok, too. Today completed the state of CT, my tenth state. There are
about 90 miles of ST in Maryland, so I expect I’ll finish it this week.

June 23, 2008 MA 23 near Great Barrington, MA to Jug End Road, MA (12.9 miles)

Today was overcast and rainy. I’m in the Berkshire Mts. now with lots of rock and steep slopes. It’s been so wet I’m really glad I’ve been able to slack pack the last few days. I head north tomorrow with a heavy pack.

The Hits Keep Coming

August 7, 2008

June 6, 2008  Blue Mtn. Lakes Road to Delaware Water Gap, PA    (17.8 miles)
Today I shuttled north into NJ and slack packed south.  The weather  was overcast and cool, and I was carrying a very light pack.  It was a  terrific hiking day!  I met some of my northbound friends and swapped hiking stories.  “Crow” is a young man who attends the University of  Alaska and carries a small guitar with his pack.  He entertains the shelters with after dinner music.  “New Day” and “Be Rad” are a mother  and son who are trying to finish a thru-hike they started last year.  I must try to make more photos of my fellow hikers.  I did see my first bear today.  I was still in the car when I saw a bear cub in the road.  It scooted off into the woods very quickly!  I never saw its mother.  Tomorrow I’ll shuttle out again and hike north with a heavy pack.  Temperature is predicted to hit 95 degrees the next 3 days. That may really affect hikers!

June 7, 2008    Blue Mtn Lakes Road to Gren Anderson Shelter (13.6 miles)
The heat became really oppressive today. I covered most of my mileage in the morning hours.  By 11am, I took the first of 3 breaks of 45 to 60 minutes for rest and hydration.  I was really glad to get to the shelter at day’s end.  I  plan to be up early to hike in the cool of the morning.  If the heat  persists, it’s definitely going to affect my daily mileage!

June 8, 2008    Gren Anderson Shelter to “Secret Shelter” on Murray 
Property    (18.3 miles)
Today was very hot, into the hight 90’s.  I started early and did 13 miles before 1pm.  I stopped at High Point  State Park for an hour to rest and hydrate.  I decided to do another 6 miles and arrived at a private shelter maintained by a well-to-do former thru-hiker for use only by thru-hikers.  It was definitely a lot nicer than most shelters.  I think tomorrow’s hike will be shorter.  Hot weather is predicted to continue.

June 9, 2008    “Secret Shelter” on Murray Property to NJ 94 (near 
Vernon, NJ)    (13.6 miles)
Today was another hot one with high heat (95 degrees) and humidity. The early start helped by 11am I was hot and tired.  I was helped through the day by Trail Angels, only one of whom I met.  The first man stopped his van and gave me 2 cold Snapples which I drank while he was there.  He was transporting “Memphis Tim” back to the trail.  Tim had been ill and off the trail for a few days.  Later I came across an ice chest of cold cokes left for hikers, and still later was directed to water when I was almost out. I believe that my prayers and those of my friends and relatives are being answered. Tonight I am in a church hostel in Vernon, NJ and it is air conditioned!  Elaine is meeting me at Fort Montgomery, NJ later this week.

June 10, 2008    NJ 94 near Vernon, NJ to NY 17A near Greenwood Lake, NY     
Today was very hot.  I had hoped to do a few more miles, but realized by 4pm that I needed to stop.  I ran out of water once, but came across a stream shortly thereafter.  The trail had lots of rock 
climbing today.  I called a local motel (Anton’s on the Lake) and arranged a room.  The owners could not have been more accommodating. They directed me to “The Creamery” just off the AT where They featured home-made ice cream and came to pick me up.  After a shower, we (Tom and me) had dinner at the local marina restaurant, a good way to end a long, hot day.  Tomorrow I’m going to slack pack about 18 miles.  The motel owner is shuttling Tom, a young man who just finished college, and me.  I finished NJ today, my eighth state.

June 11, 2008    NY17A near Greenwood Lake NY to Arden Valley Road near Lake Tiorati Circle   (17.5 miles)
Today was a good day to slack pack. The terrain was steep and there  were multiple difficult rock climbs.  Carrying a light pack made the day earier. Today’s beauty spot was Fitzgerald Falls which I photographed.  The hike took longer than I expected because of multiple long climbs.  At the end of the day, the motel owners picked  us up and took us back to “The Creamery” where the milkshakes are  delicious!  After a shower, we had dinner at the Marina Restaurant.  Tomorrow I’ll carry the heavy pack to Fort Montgomery, NY where Elaine will meet me.

June 12, 2008    Arden Valley Road near Tiorati Circle to Bear Mtn. 
Bridge near Fort Montgomery, NY  (13.1 miles)
Today’s hike was not as long or as strenuous as yesterday’s, even with the heavy pack.  Yesterday was definitely a good day to slack pack!  Today’s high light was a group of high school students from the Bronx, NY who were out on a 3 day hike.  They had studied the AT and knew how long it was.  They were so interested in meeting a thru-hiker that for a few minutes I felt like a rock star.  I’m now settled in my hotel  room.  Elaine arrives tomorrow.