Blake's random ramblings and adventures

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Youtube page up

I started a YouTube page.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMfJ-P8xoi5aBsXxnkG53sQ

I’m going to have a video about every trail I hike. I set a goal for myself to be accomplished no later than age 50, which gives me more than enough time to complete it. I am going to earn the DCNR hiker’s award for hiking all 18 trails in PA’s state forest trail system. Over 700 miles of trails. The trails are:

Baker Trail (141 miles), Black Forest Trail (42 miles), Bucktail Path (34 miles), Chuck Kieper Trail (52 miles), Donut Hole Trail (90 miles), Golden Eagle Trail (9 miles), John P. Saylor Trail (18 miles), Lost Turkey Trail (26 miles), Loyalsock Trail (59 miles), Mid State Trail (319 miles), Old Logger’s Path (27 miles), Pinchot Trail (23 miles), Quehanna Trail (75 miles), Rocky Knob Trail (4 miles), Susquehannock Trail (85 miles), Thunder Swamp Trail (26 miles), Tuscarora Trail (110 miles in PA), and the West Rim Trail (30 miles).

I wish I had set this goal earlier, I would’ve approached certain hikes differently. I already have about 10% of it done. Pinchot is finished, West Rim I still have 6 miles to hike, I did the first 13 miles on the Loyalsock, and I did 10 miles on the OLP. Had this goal been set earlier, I would’ve done the entire west rim, and I wouldn’t have quit the OLP due to rain. I have an idea about the order I will hike them in due to research into difficulty levels. The easiest trails and easiest to follow trails will be knocked off first. Some of them present challenges that I must build experience with before trying to tackle them. The Bucktail path, for example, apparently has no trail, it is just blazes and you bushwack the whole way. I need to develop better navigation skills before trying that. The Lost Turkey Trail has limited areas where you can camp, so planning and logistics will need to improve. Some are just really long, and I need to get better at sleeping in the woods before I try those.

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Overdue trip report: Old Logger’s Path

Labor Day weekend. My buddy and me set out for the rolling hills of PA’s endless mountain region. Destination: Masten. Masten is a ghost lumber town located somewhere in north central PA. I guess back in the 1800’s they used to chop down lots of trees around here, but the town has been long since gone. All that really stands now is a big chimney at the start of the trail.

chimney The road to get there was absolutely treacherous. We drove through a quaint little town that was really awesome, drove down an alley, and then there was a forest kinda like right behind a row of houses with a road going through it. Turn up that road and it was an instant transformation into the boonies. Great stuff! Except the road was narrow, and felt like it was falling apart. There was no guard rail, just a really steep drop off where parts of the road were eroded away. I drove very slow, and it took us about 35 minutes to find the trail head once getting on that road. Park the car, hop out, and begin the journey.

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The trail starts easy. You’re basically walking along a railroad grade for a majority of the way. A very overgrown railroad grade. The forest was quiet, and we didn’t see a single person the entire day of hiking. We covered about 10 miles on the first day. Sometimes it would cut off the grade and go onto trails, crossing an occasional road.

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We encountered the first serious climb right before the first vista. A steep hill that kicked our asses. It’s all good though, we were rewarded for our efforts with a beautiful vista at the top, looking out over plenty of rolling hills.

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After breaking at the picnic table at the top for lunch, (I had skippy natural peanut butter on a cinnamon raisin bagel, mmmm) we headed back for the trail. It wasn’t much longer until we got to our first camp site, just across pleasant stream. It was here we encountered our first people. Right before crossing the stream, a couple had set up a tent at a really nice looking camp site, and they had a big fire going. We really wanted that spot. We asked them where the next spot was they said about a mile or 2 up there were more sites. Screw that, it’s already late, the sun’s going down, and the water is right here. Why does it seem we can go all day without seeing anyone, and then when we finally see someone, they’ve taken the best camp site? The same thing happened to us on the West Rim Trail. So we crossed the stream, and there’s another couple who set up on the opposite side. Damn. Well, we did end up finding another camp site near by, so we rejoiced.

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We got to setting up the tent and sorting gear while my buddy Christian attempted to make a fire. This was probably not the best idea since everything was very wet, and I still haven’t developed good wet weather fire making skills. We ended up wasting quite a bit of time trying to shave the inside of some logs to make tinder, we tried lighting leaves, nothing worked. I had meant to bring some Vaseline soaked dryer lint, but totally forgot. I got sick of it, so decided it was time to go filter water while Christian kept working on the fire. I walked down by the stream, and the guy from the first couple we had passed was coming down too. He was from Massachusetts, so we’ll just call him Mass. I asked Mass how he got his fire started, he said heet. Then he offered to give me some. Freakin sweet, people can be so awesome, and this totally redeemed him in my eyes. Before he was just that guy who took the best camp spot, but now he was the guy giving me some lighter fluid for free. Splashed some on our twig and sort of tinder pile, everything went right up. I gave the heet back to the guy. I really wanted dinner now, but the fire kept threatening to die. What the hell. All the branches and logs were just too wet, and it was hard to keep it going. Eventually we gave up and started cooking dinner. This always happens, we end up cooking and eating dinner in the dark. Now we have to go hang a bear bag in the pitch black.

You know the coolest thing about trying to find a good branch in the pitch black darkness? When you turn on your headlamp, every moth and flying insect in a 500 yard radius zeros in on it and tries to fly into your face. Once we find a branch, we take our headlamps off and set them on a log, shining up at the branch so the bugs go there instead of in our faces. Then comes the fun part of trying to find your tent in the pitch black darkness. Success! So we hang out for a little while longer, then retire to the tent for the night. Several cool new things here, first, I put an episode of the Unit, a show about special forces soldiers, on my IPOD that we watched for a bit. Second, I discovered a new trick to get better sleep in a tent. Ear Plugs! This was Christian’s first time using an inflatable sleeping pad, and he slept like a log. I on the other hand, had decided that since it was warm out, I would bring my Woobie instead of my 18 degree bag. A Woobie is a military style poncho liner, basically a big blanket that’s camouflaged. It has strings all over the sides. I kept getting woken up, because I thought something was crawling on me, and instead assumed that it was the strings on the blanket. Well, at first light, there’s a huge daddy long leg on the inside of the tent. What a bastard. Time to break down camp, after breakfast of course.

 

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Now, our original agenda for day 2 was to hike an additional 10 miles up the north side of the trail and set up camp at Rock Run, supposedly the nicest stream in PA. But it started raining. HARD. So we decided to bail. We had covered the south side of the loop so far, and could see on the map that there was supposedly a bail out trail that led back to Masten. So we hiked up the OLP a little ways until we got to what looked like a railroad grade. We could see the trail went left, and this grade went right. We decided to go right. If this was a trail, it was unmarked and massively over grown. But it was awesome. With the thickness of the forest, the rain coming down, we felt like we were in another world. Many places where we couldn’t decide to go left or right. Were we heading in the right direction? I had been using the TOPO maps app with the GPS on my IPhone so far, but just at this point it decided not to work for us. It was too thick to get a  bearing on the map, but the compass said we were heading in the right general direction.

Something really cool about hiking in an area that used to be a logging town is finding weird shit. Like, the middle of a deep dense forest, and there’s a well. Obviously there must be trolls or goblins living in it. Then we get to a stream, and there’s like a 7 foot high rock wall on either side, which obviously used to be a bridge over the stream. We’d been bushwhacking about an hour or so here, and were starting to really wonder if we didn’t just totally get lost. Somehow we got off the railroad grade as it was very overgrown, and we were now at the bottom of a hill which led up to it. I ran up the hill, and immediately saw a road about 100 yards to our left. Oh! That’s where we are! It must be Pleasant Stream Rd.

According to the map this road will take us right back to Masten and get us home. It took about 3 hours to walk down the road to Masten. In the pouring rain. It was awesome. The forest on both sides was just glowing with a mystic feel to it. To the left, a steep uphill into the forest. To the right, a downhill to pleasant stream. We saw lots of waterfalls through the stream. I really had an awesome time on this walk. Finally we emerged back to the car. I don’t think I would’ve been as happy had we tried to press on, and had to set up a tent in the pouring rain. Here’s an awesome shot of the stream we walked past day 2.

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Now comes the extremely difficult task of finding time to go back and finish the north loop.


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Mt. Minsi, Delaware Water Gap

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I remember driving through the Delaware Water Gap as a kid and I always thought “we must be in Delaware”. How stupid I felt when I learned its the Delaware river cutting through the border of Pa and Nj. Ha! Memories.

I’ve been wanting to hike this a while. Finally got to! Since Dara, my wife, decided to go for a massage instead of coming out to hike a section of the AT, she dropped me off at the trail head about 1pm or so. According to my AllTrails app, the hike would take about 3 hours to cover a little under 5 miles. I did it in 2. Blam! After a bit of exploring at the beginning, as there seems to be several side trails (although it is pretty obvious which way you’re supposed to go), I come out at Lake Lenape. Image

Very scuzzy looking. Since Pocono Palace doesn’t keep water in your room for you, and they only have a simple water cooler in their main lobby, and I had drank almost all of my water bladder at Bushkill 2 days earlier, I wanted a place to fill up. Plus I just like getting to use my water filter and drink fresh mountain water. SO much better than anything out of a tap or a bottle. Across from the lake was this drainage, leading down to this waterfall that I had thought about climbing to the bottom of, but there was a lot of people coming up.ImageImage

After filling it up, something about it just made me feel uneasy. Maybe that it was coming out of what looked like a sewer drain, across from this scuzzy looking lake. Oh well, I will put my filter to the test. The trail then follows a woods road up for a while, before turning left off the road and onto the AT.

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It wraps around the mountain for a while with lots of rhododendron everywhere and some very nice green scenery. Eventually you start getting your first glimpses of the top, and across to I-80.

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The trail is also incredibly busy. I pass people constantly. Kids, old people, you name it. Thankfully its nowhere near as crowded as Bushkill was, but definitely not the place to come for solitude. After walking up a ways, crossing some small streams, hopping rocks, and ducking branches, you come to Eureka creek.Image

This looked much fresher, so I opted to dump the iffy water from that drainage pipe and refill with this stuff. Hopefully I don’t catch dysentery or something. I know the Katadyn filter doesn’t filter everything out, so, yeah.ImageThere’s millipedes everywhere on this trail. Seriously, everywhere. I’ve never seen so many millipedes. It wasn’t as bad as that scene in Temple of Doom, but you definitely had to watch where you step.ImageNice trail everywhere. First good view is called lookout rock. It requires a small bit of rock scrambling. I love that stuff, lots of fun. There was a family of about 4 or 5 people at the top, who’s dog had decided the best place to lay down was right in the middle of the trail. I had to step over poochy since there was no space on either side. You know people, the polite thing to do if your dog is blocking the path for others, instead of making them step over your dog, is MOVE HIM for a minute. Dogs don’t have to show manners? Anyway, here’s the view from lookout rock.ImageImageThis is where the AT comes back to the road you started on. There was another pretty decent rock step part that gets you huffing pretty good. I ate a cliff bar while I climbed. Yay, multi tasking. No wonder I finish so soon, I don’t even stop for snacks! Then before you know it, BLAM the top. WOOHOO!ImageGREAT views of Mt. Tammany from here. I plan to come back and conquer that mountain sometime in June, and hopefully hike back to sunfish pond. So after I snap a few photos, a group of several other people get there so I decide to keep walking. After about 5 minutes, I say wait. This is the AT. The direction I’m walking takes me to Georgia, and I don’t think there’s anything else besides trail and eventually a shelter. So, I must reluctantly turn back. (I REALLY want to thru hike this whole trail, but that whole thing called “responsibility” puts a damper on my life’s goals) When I get back to the spot where the AT rejoined the road, I decide to head down the road instead of back the trail just for a change of scenery. Oops, bad idea. Not bad as in something bad happened, just that the change of scenery really wasn’t anything special. It was a boring, downhill road walk. The trail was much better.Image I passed a Hispanic couple walking up that seemed like they had no idea what they were doing. They asked me about what was ahead, they wanted to find  a nice spot with some views. I took out my map and showed them where they were and how long it would take to reach the top. I’m always surprised to see how little people carry on hikes like this. I have my Kelty 3500 MAP that I’m using as my day hike bag, with a bag of trail mix and a cliff bar, a water filter, my rain coat, first aid/emergency survival kit, head lamp, map and compass. I saw one couple coming down from the top who were carrying 1 water bottle between the 2 of them. Maybe I’m over thinking the “be prepared”?

Towards the bottom there were cool rock outcroppings with graffiti. I thought this was cool.Image

Wanderlust. Yeah, I got that bad. Real bad.

On my way out, I pass the lake again, like 45 minutes ahead of schedule. There’s a pair of really dirty looking guys sitting at the picnic table with backpacks next to them. “Thru hiker?” They say, as I walk past. “Unfortunately, no, just a day hiker.” I get to talking to them both for a while, and I’m totally envious. They’ve been hiking since late March, it’s now the end of May. They’re in New Jersey, and they still have to go through Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. It must be totally awesome to have no job or people that depend on you. As I thought back on this encounter, I really wish I would’ve spent more time sitting there chatting with them. My wife had managed to get an extra 45 minutes or an hour from her massage therapist, and wasn’t reading my texts I was sending her that I was done, so I stood at the parking lot getting attacked by evil mosquito instead. I decided when I go back to do Mt. Tammany, I’m going to do some Trail Angel shit. I’ll pack in like 2 or 3 boxes of Entenman’s donuts and find some thru hikers to give them to. If I can’t be on the whole trail myself, I might as well do something nice for those that can. Re-spect!

Final notes: Not much word on gear. I still like the trekking poles I have. I love my Icebreaker t-shirt. It is the bomb. I want to get a whole bunch more, except they’re pretty expensive. I downloaded a new app for my Iphone, TOPO maps or something. It gives you topo maps that you can use the phone’s GPS on. By laying that down on top of my actual trail map, I was able to pin point where I was pretty accurately. The AT is so well blazed though you could get away with not even using one. I also got a new pair of hiking pants, the North Face paramount valley convertibles. I like them, although I think I would like them more if my ass wasn’t so fat right now. They also can be a little annoying when you have a ton of stuff in your pockets. Next time I’ll just keep my phone in one of the cargo pockets, and my knife in a side pocket everything else is going in the bag.

 


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Bushkill Falls

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This is a post about my memorial day weekend. I spent 3 nights at Pocono Palace, near the border of NJ/PA. My wife and I drove down Saturday. First stop was Bushkill falls. I have a few things to say about this place. First, it is absolutely GORGEOUS. It is the most well maintained trail I’ve ever been to. Every stream crossing has a bridge, and every hill has a stair case. Second, it is entirely too crowded. You pull into a large parking area that has a lake for paddle boating and fishing, followed by a mini golf range and picnic area. There is a visitor’s center with bathrooms, a gift shop, play areas, a food spot, and a wildlife exhibit. 3rd downside, they charge you 12 freaking dollars per person to go on a walk. See? This is what capitalism does. It takes the nicest spot in the woods, and makes sure you have to pay money if you want to see it. Geez.

Anyway, when you walk in, you are over run by large amounts of the same types of people you see at six flags or splish splash. (For those who don’t know, that’s a long island water park) Trying to get my hike on, but having kids run in front of you is a little aggravating. Bushkill Falls has something like 11 named waterfalls, and a creek. There are 4 trails, the longest being the red trail, which is a total of 2 miles. We walk down the path and come out next to the creek. Image

Crossing bridges, dodging people, ascending stairs, and we come to our first waterfall.

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The trail winds around in a big loop, passing several more water falls.

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Here’s my wife, Dara and I at one of the waterfalls.

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As you follow the trail, the falls get more and more dramatic.

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…and follows more bridges…

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Which eventually lead to the Grand Pubah. These falls were SICK!!!

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See the rainbow in the bottom right hand corner?

So here’s my final synopsis. Hiking difficulty: Extremely low. Some stairs, mud and rocks. It was very interesting to watch my wife navigate this. She’s not much of a hiker, but I had just bought her a brand new pair of Merrel Moab boots, because she was supposed to do this AND mount Minsi with me. She was hoping from rock to rock, trying her hardest not to get mud on her hiking boots. That’s cute. She did absolutely great for like the first 3/4 of the trail. The last 25% she was done, and just wanted to get out of the trail. There was water spraying and dripping off the rocks, there were stairs everywhere, and worst of all-it was dirty. Oh well, she hung in their like a trooper, even if she didn’t want to stop and look at the nicest waterfall of all. Needless to say, I would be hiking Mt. Minsi alone, but I’ll save that for my next post. I would recommend this trail for someone looking to enjoy beautiful scenery with family in tow. I would not recommend it if you’re actually looking for a hike and not a combination of Disney world and a forest.

As for the Palace. This is supposed to be a couple’s resort. It’s pretty nice. It’s no Sandals, but its good. Our room had a huge ceiling, a champagne glass jacuzzi, a heart shaped swimming pool in our room, and a loft type bedroom with a circular bed surrounded by mirrors. At the main club house, there is a lake out back with water activities. Dara particularly enjoyed taking out the paddle boats onto the lake with some wine, and just sitting there enjoying the sereneness of the surroundings. We sat up at the bar one night drinking their specialty martini’s while playing some game where a guy with a microphone would call out a slogan, and you had to guess the company. Example: Theeeyyy’re, Grrrrrreat! (frosted flakes) All in all, a pretty good weekend.


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Loyalsock Link Loop

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This past Sunday/Monday I got the opportunity to get out for a good hike in the Loyalsock state forest. After several months of researching different trails, and going back and forth on where I wanted to go, I decided to go with this one. This was to be my first solo overnight trip, so I wanted something that would be challenging but had opportunities for bail outs in case something went wrong. So, up at 5:30AM to leave my house by 6AM.

On the way there, I took the Throgs Neck Bridge. I had just put money on my EZpass the night before, but it hadn’t registered yet. So now I’m sitting in the toll booth with the gate not opening. A cop starts busting my balls about it. Eventually he comes and takes my money, but really there was no need to be such a prick. Then as I’m coming down I-80, a cop comes flying up behind me while I was doing 75. He starts tailgating. Uh-oh. I decide to switch on my blinker and move over a lane. He takes off down the road. Phew. Close one. Anyway, back to the hike.

I arrive around 10:30 at the trail head. Finish talking to my wife, use the bathroom, double check my bag and what I have in my car, read the info at the kiosk, take a map, and I’m hitting the trail by 11AM.IMG_0288IMG_0286

The trail then begins a rocky descent. This follows its way down until it meets an old railroad grade. There was a couple ahead of me going on a day hike. At some point, I notice that the Loyalsock trail branches off to the right while the red-x trail continues ahead. the couple goes straight, I go right. I would later come back that railroad grade on the return. This path then continues down getting closer to the Loyalsock creek. Cross a few streams, and then I’m hiking along the water’s edge.

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Following the creek, you then come out to they Haystacks rapids.

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Pretty awesome. The trail then makes it way back away from the creek. I come upon a trail register, sign my name, then encounter the first climb. Not very long, but pretty steep. No worries, at the top I am rewarded with a nice waterfall.

IMG_0273IMG_0271 Despite it making its way into the 70’s today, there’s still ice around. At the top, the trail continues to follow the railroad grade for a while. It’s here that I encounter the only other hiker’s I’ll see for the entire day. First, 2 guys come walking by. A minute later, 2 more, who said they spent 2 nights out. Then another minute later, 4 more guys. Weird to see that many people, then NOBODY. After another mile or 2 along the grade, trail branches off and heads down hill. This brings us out to the Iron bridge, which begins the actual loyalsock loop. Right after the bridge, the trail follows a road for a short distance before turning off.

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Once the trail turns off the road starts the first serious lung buster. Quads burning and lungs puffing, I trudge my way to the top. I’m beginning to realize how awesome trekking poles are. This is my first trip using them, and wow what a difference they make. The biggest thing is I feel they enable me to maintain speed when normally I might start slowing down. It’s like having another set of legs. Once I get to the top of this hill, there’s a little bit of rock scrambling, and a lot of big rock formations that have some caves big enough for a bear in them. I call in, but no bears come out.

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Then the trail gets a little boring for a while. Just trees and dead leaves. One thing I find strange- the trail is all mud. Literally. There’s water like every step of the path on the trail. But, surrounding the trail, everything is bone dry. The DCNR says no fires allowed anywhere on this trail at this time due to fire risk, and the dryness to everything shows why. Why must the trail be covered in water then?

Eventually, the trail ends up crossing a road, and leads up to Sonne’s Pond. Absolutely beautiful spot. I break for lunch for about 40 minutes. Summer sausage, cheese, and peanut butter crackers. And some trail mix. Here’s the pond, and the log I sat on to eat. The forest around the pond here was enchanting. Several small streams running into the pond made good sources to refill my water bladder before heading out.

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Now I’m filled up, both the belly and the water bottles. Onward. My original plan for today was to make it to somewhere halfway to 3/4 of the way through the northern section of the loop. I ended up pushing much more than this, unexpectedly. More on that in a minute. So after more wandering the forest after the pond, crossing several more streams, next point of interest is this waterfall I come across. There is a slight hill to get down to it, and really steep. I slipped coming down and ended up rolling on my back. The waterfall was still about 6 feet away, so luckily there was enough bottom that I didn’t slip off the edge. I had to cross the stream, then climb a very steep hill at the other side. This took me down a ways, and I passed a few nice campsites by the creek.

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More stream crossings.

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My goal for the day was to hike until about 6pm. I figured by around 5:30 I should start looking for a suitable campsite. I passed one right by one of these streams I was walking parallel to, but it was at the bottom of a really steep hill. It had a stream next to it, so it would’ve been a good spot, but I didn’t want to have to climb hands and knees down and back up the next day, so I figured I’d press ahead. Well, up ahead there was no suitable spots. Then it starts getting rocky. At about 5:45pm, I emerge at the Rock Run vista, overlooking World’s End state park’s visitor center. Crap. This means that I’m now going to have to climb off a mountain before finding camping.

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This turns out to be the toughest part of the trail yet. The descent is incredibly rocky and steep. A winning combination for sore and tired legs. Many parts I had to turn around and hold a rock with my hands while stepping down to the next rock. Trekking poles are probably the only reason I didn’t fall flat on my face. I imagined a few times climbing down, missing a step, falling and getting knocked out. I thought about waking up in the dark with a bloody wound on my head. I’d probably just take my sleeping bag out, crawl in and wait until morning. Oh well, I made it out ok. So I figured I’d walk up to the visitor’s center. They had just locked up. I was able to knock and get the lady who worked there to answer the door. I ask her where the nearest place was you’re allowed to set up camp. She was trying to show me a place on a map another 1.5 miles walk away. It’s already 6:15pm, I really don’t want to be looking for a camping spot in the dark. Then a park ranger comes out. He tells me if I back track, there’s a side trail called the butternut trail that leads up to some designated primitive camping spots. They’re usually used by boyscouts, but since nobody’s there I’m welcome to set up camp. Sweet. Well, this also means one more big hill climb. At the top, there is a sign that says “Primitive camp sites 1-8”. The ranger told me to use #3, so that’s what I did. There were 4 picnic tables and a bench there, with several flat spots that were perfect for a tent. Awesome.

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 I’m using a TarpTent Contrail for the first time tonight. Set up is fairly easy, although it takes me a minute to figure out how to set up using double trekking poles. This was a nice method though, as it left the entrance unblocked. The tent comes with 4 stakes. I added 3 MSR groundhog stakes. 2 for the sides and one for a ridgeline. Paracord is too thick to use in the adjuster, I’ll have to get some thinner string for that guy line. This was also my first time using my new sleeping bag/pad. The pad is a Therm-a-rest Neoair, and the sleeping bag is a Sea to Summit Trek II. I also have a thermarest packable pillow. The sleeping pad made a world of difference in regards to comfort. It felt like sleeping in a regular bed. (almost). The bag was very comfortable as well. The first half of the night the bag was actually too warm. I ended up unzipping it and using it as a blanket until about 1AM when it got much colder out. My wife had taken a bunch of time and effort to hide notes throughout my bag that she had intended on me finding at different times, however I found them all the same day, and out of the order she wanted me to find them in. It was very nice having something like that to read as I was trying to fall asleep. I must’ve read them like 5 times each. Then I played some solitaire on my Ipod, and listened to some music to fall asleep to. Dinner was a Knorr cheddar broccoli pasta side with a pack of salmon mixed in. While eating, the ranger drove up and did a loop and waved at me. I guess he wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing anything I wasn’t supposed to. good thing I kept my Jim Beam in the bag instead of out. Also, at this camp site there was a hook I figured I could hang my food. Now, it was only 6 feet high. So if a hungry bear came through, he would have no problem taking it. But I didn’t see any bear signs on the way in, no tracks, no droppings, nothing. There were no trees close either with good branches for bear bagging, so I figured whatever, at least no mice raccoons or critters will get into it. If a bear takes it, at least I get to see a bear, and then I’ll just try and hitch a ride out of world’s end park tomorrow instead of finishing the trail.

But I get up the next day at 6AM and everything is still there. Breakfast is Emerald Breakfast-to-go packs and a honey bun. I cook a cup of water for coffee too. Can’t hike without caffeine. I’m on the trail by 7AM. World’s end visitor’s center says someone will be there by 8. The parking lot is empty. I start searching for the Red-x trail, which is literally right behind the visitor’s center. This trail immediately takes you down by the Loyalsock creek where you spend a good part of the hike. Awesome.

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Then meanders up through the mountains. Water is still very available.

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At the top of this mountain is the Loyalsock Canyon vista. It looks towards the World’s end state park visitor’s office from the opposite side as the last vista. I think this one is much, much better. Nobody here today! Actually, my 2nd day of hiking, I don’t see a single person on the entire trail.

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The trail then cuts off through the woods. Signs posted all over saying hikers should wear orange to avoid hunters. Oops. Hopefully its either not hunting season, or the hunters around here practice proper target ID before firing. The trail joins forces with a bridal trail used for horseback riding at some point. More mud. The trail really wants to test how waterproof your boots are.

After branching off the bridal trail, the trail heads up to an area that looks like a small road right along side a fence. You follow this fence for about 30-40 minutes or so. I actually missed where the trail turned off and kept following the path. The whole trail was marked so well, I created a rule for myself. Any time I felt like I may have missed a turn and was off the trail, I would count to 30 while walking and if I didn’t see a blaze, turn around and head back. So that’s what I did here. Still no blazes, so I turn around. As I walk back I see where I missed it. One of the blazes had been painted on a tree but was nearly rubbed off. Turning your head to the right you saw more discs, so this was the right spot. This takes you down through a hemlock forest that felt very enchanted. Lots of moss covered rocks everywhere. This trail then crossed a dirt road, went back to the woods and began a descent down. Another nice stream ran next to the trail until dumping you out on a highway.

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Now the trail goes along side the creek. There’s a huge drainage point where a stream dumps out into the creek that you have to cross. There was no way to do it other than to get calf deep in the water, so my feet are once again wet. You stay against the creek for a while, before doing a switchback up the mountain to walk next to the highway again. This is only for a short time before descending back down to the creek and pass some of the best campsites I’ve seen on the whole trail. I really need to get better at choosing where to camp.

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The creek turns a bend, and then I see it: The iron bridge. The loop is over, and I’m now finishing up the tail to head back to the trail head. First up: Going up the hill that I had to walk down originally to get to the bridge. My legs are TIRED. I must be moving at a snails pace. I’m just staying completely in tune with the rhythm of my steps along with the poles hitting the dirt. More mud. This time, I decide to hike the railroad grade instead of following the Loyalsock trail down to the  haystacks again. I’ve already seen them, and I know that going this route means adding a steep decline and another incline to the walk which my legs just can’t handle.

Finally, I’m back at my car. I sit and read the notes my wife wrote me once again. She’s so thoughtful. If only I was that thoughtful. I change into some fresh clothes, and use some baby wipes in my car to wipe off some of the grime, take my wet boots and socks off and throw on sandals, and hit the road. Another trail completed for the books. 27 some miles in 2 days. 11AM Sunday until 1:30 Monday. Had I paced myself a little more, I’d probably be able to walk today. I’d also have run into rain on the last day, which I missed just in time by leaving Monday instead of Tuesday. Had I had company, I may have been more inclined to pace the hike more and stay out 2 nights, but being at it alone just made me want to get back. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. I realized I can handle a night out in the woods alone alright, thus eliminating some fears and insecurities about myself. I also came to the conclusion that while solitude has its benefits, so does having someone to talk to. Would I go out again alone? Definitely. But, I’d probably try a little harder to get someone to come along first.

Final notes on gear used:

I would still desperately like to find some ways to reduce pack weight further. Here’s what’s in my pack, from the bottom up.

Pack: Kelty Lakota 65. I like it. It’s comfortable and seems to hold everything I need. I feel like it might need to be just a tad bit bigger, if I was going to go out for 4 or 5 days I don’t think I could fit everything. Maybe I should take the clothes out of a stuff sack and just stuff them in the bag.

Sleeping bag: Sea to Summit trek II. GREAT bag. Can’t say enough good things about it. It’s a hybrid mummy/rectangle bag, which makes it far more comfy for people who may get claustrophobic in the restricting spaces of a real mummy, while still only weighing 2.5lbs.

Sleeping pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir. Awesome. Very comfortable. Took a little while to inflate and to pack away, but the comfort is well worth the extra effort over a foam pad. Many ultra-light backpackers would scoff at me carrying a pillow as well, but I really think it’s invaluable for getting rest. I just can’t sleep on a rolled up jacket. I would like to see if there’s a pillow that’s smaller/lighter though.

Tent: TarpTent Contrail. Great tent. I didn’t get to test how well it shed rain. One thing I will say: TarpTents require seam sealing when you get them. I set up my tent at my parent’s house, sealed the seams the way they recomended using mineral spirits and silicone, then painted the inside and outside. I was unaware how long it needed to dry, and I had to go to work, so I only left it out for about 15 minutes. Well, when first pitching the tent, I thought I may have ruined it. It was all stuck together from the wet silicone! I had to peel it apart. It was a mess. So, make sure you let your seam sealant FULLY dry before packing it up. The sides and rear of the tent can be raised/lowered, so I’m sure it would shed rain fairly well.

Water filter: Katdyn Hiker. I love this thing. It takes a while to pump, but seriously- there’s nothing better than taking a huge gulp of freshly filtered mountain spring water. It’s so cold and refreshing. Tabs leave an after taste. So, this is staying. For carrying, I have a 100 oz camel back that goes in the pack and I carry an empty gatorade bottle that I fill right before going into camp.

Stove: Coleman foldable. It’s basically the same thing as the MSR pocket rocket, only cheaper. Many people would knock coleman stuff, but, this little stove is portable, light weight, and works really well for me. I could probably get by just carrying one fuel canister instead of 2, so I might try that for the future.

Cook set: Snow Peak trek 900. It’s basically a titanium pot with a titanium lid that doubles as a frying pan. Lightweight and efficient. Unless someone convinced me there was something lighter/better, this works for me. I have a snow peak long handled titanium spork with it, I would like to trade for a folding spork so it fits inside the cook set. I also put an MSR coffee mug in the pot, along with 1/3 of a scotch brite pad and a camp towel.

Clothes: For hiking, I wore a pair of Columbia water resistant pants. They say they’re for hiking, but they’re made of like 60% cotton.  I want better pants. These shed light water that might drip on the outside but overall just don’t dry fast. Day 1 I wore Lorpen hiker socks. These rocked. Day 2 I wore smart wool socks. I don’t know which ones, but they were very thin. The Lorpen’s were better. Mainly due to the extra padding in the heel and toe. I also wore an Icebreaker merino wool t-shirt. This thing was awesome. First, after 2 days of sweating, it didn’t smell. (my wife wouldn’t agree, but any hiker would.) I also had on a cotton bandana and Merell gortex mid top hiking boots.

In my pack I had a set of HeatLast mid-weight thermals I got as part of a 3 pack from Cabela’s. They work. I’d like to upgrade to wool, but its expensive. Some day. I also had a pair of fleece pants, a Columbia fleece and a northface fleece beanie. That’s it. Maybe I could ditch either the fleece pants or the thermal bottoms, since I didn’t wear the thermals. The fleece pants look better and are more comfortable, but if it got really cold I wouldn’t been glad for the pants. My rain jacket is a North Face resolve. It’s a cheaper jacket, but no complaints from me.

Other stuff: I carry a Black Diamond Spot headlamp. Good head lamp. I also carry a SureFire G2 as a backup. I have a LG and an XL sea to summit stuff sack I use-one for food and one for clothes. The one for food has a carabiner on it and some paracord in for hanging. In my pack I keep a toiletries kit, which has a travel toothbrush and a small size toothpaste, gold bond powder, campsuds, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and baby wipes. Then I keep a plastic trowel for digging cat holes. I have a first aid/survival kit in a zip lock bag which probably has too much stuff.

Food: I brought food for 3 days, but only ended up needing for 2. For 3 days I figure 2 breakfasts, 2 dinners, 3 lunches, and 3 snacks per day. Breakfast was oatmeal with cinamon, truvia, chopped dates and protein powder one day, emerald breakfast 2 go packs (2) plus a little debbie honey bun day 2. Lunch was summer sausage, cheddar cheese and peanut butter crackers one day, and a thomas cinamon raisin bagel plus Justin’s almond butter for the other 2. Snacks were a cup of trail mix per day, a cliff bar and a snickers bar. Dinner is a Knorr pasta side plus a pack of salmon.

The only other comment I have is about the trekking poles. They were amazing in helping take pressure off my knees and hip which don’t feel good, and helping me maintain a steady pace despite difficult terrain. However, they caused blisters to develop in the space between my thumb and pointer finger. Not sure what to do about that. Well, until next time.


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Time for a rant

Bummer. I was hoping for my first blog post I’d have something better to talk about than just going off on a rant. It just irks me soo much, I have no choice.

I stopped at the nearby sandwich shop for lunch (I got a sandwich called the Sgt. Pepper, it has cracked pepper turkey, bacon, muenster cheese, and Russian dressing. MMMM). As I’m walking out, I see the cover for the NY times. There’s a picture on the front from the latest SAFE act protest up in Albany. There’s a picture of a guy holding up a sign with a picture of an AR-15 and it says, “you hate me because I’m black”. The caption on the Newspaper says, “No, you idiot it’s because they kill!” Then in smaller print, continues in a very derogatory manner, “Yesterday hundreds of angry gun owners (are there any other kind?) stormed the capital with lots of disgusting signs like the one seen above to protest the governors latest efforts to keep the public safe”, or something like that. What a load of bull.

Now, why does this have me in such a tizzy? First, because news is supposed to be reporting on facts, not merely on opinions. There are quite a number of uneducated people out there who will read that and allow it to form their opinions entirely. Then if you try and convince them otherwise, their brains can’t handle it, usually thinking something like, “What do you know? You’re just some guy who’s saying some words, this is the newspaper! They have to be right! They wouldn’t be allowed to print if it was wrong!” So, great. I get that the editors of the NY times are probably butt buddies with Cuomo and his clan upstate, and they were probably paid to write that. I just have to express my feelings on the whole thing.

First, you have the audacity to insult someone because they believe that the 2nd amendment grants citizens the right to keep and bear arms. Guess what? THEY DO. Just because you don’t agree doesn’t change it. Insults just make you sound dumber. Second, to say it’s because they kill. Do you even look at statistics? Sure, guns have the ability to kill. So does bleach, cars, knives, lightning, swimming pools, bare hands, cops, doctors, bears, and the weather. The year before the SAFE act was passed, there were less than a dozen people killed in the state of NY with a rifle. There were more people beaten to death with their bare hands than killed with handguns, and the amount of people killed by drug prescriptions given to them by their doctors  is even greater. So where does all the hate come from?

Next point- you say the only type of gun owners are angry gun owners. You know what? If you had someone passing laws that said you’re not allowed to slander an entire group of people simply because they have a disagreeing view of yours in a public newspaper, you would probably be pretty angry, and start screaming all about your first amendment rights, blah blah blah. Guess what- I would DEFEND you. Yes, that’s right, even after you managed to belittle over 8 million people in the US, I would still stand up for your right to say what you want to say, no matter how ignorant it may be.

Face the facts- guns are a tool. The real causes of violence are societal problems. I truly believe that if you got rid of every gun in America, you would have just as much violence. Why? Because you’re not addressing the root cause! Just like drugs. You make drugs illegal. In Rocky Point NY, we are right now seeing an explosion of heroin being used by high school aged kids. High school. Back in my day, I used to think heroin was only for rich rockstars because it cost an exorbitant amount of moolah. Apparently its cheaper than pot. But…but…but…I thought it’s illegal? Guess what- you never figured out WHY kids in high school want to do heroin in the first place. Until you answer that question, you won’t stop it. Just like until you figure out why people are killing each other in America, you won’t stop it.

Here’s 2 examples: England. England banned all handguns and made some really ridiculous legislation regarding long guns. The result? Gun murders went down. This makes anti-gunners jump up and down with excitement. Here’s what they don’t tell you- overall violent crime increased exponentially. Home invasions? up. Burglary? up. Assault? up. The European Union has declared that England is the most violent nation in the EU. You know what happens? People have no way to protect themselves, and criminals run free doing whatever they want. Not even cops carry guns in England, which is why Islamist Jihad’s can chop someone’s head off, on video, in the middle of the street in broad daylight.

Now look at Switzerland. Everyone has a gun. They have no standing army, they just expect all the citizens to be ready to defend the nation should it be invaded. I had a student who lived in Switzerland. He said it was pretty common to see kids around 18 or 19 getting onto a bus carrying full auto weapons on the way to practice. Switzerland’s violence rate? Nearly nonexistent. 2 reasons for this. First, what kind of stupid criminal goes breaking into people’s houses when you know there’s a 90% chance they’ll shoot you. Second, Switzerland has a pretty solid economy, and they don’t go messing around in other countries business. I’m sure their culture is pretty sweet too, that nobody feels like hurting anyone. Yet, none of the guns are causing mayhem in the streets, like our liberal news writers here would like you to believe.

So why do we need access to these types of weapons? Because personal protection is a fundamental human right. Yes, for the most part you’re pretty safe. It’s not very often I get jumped or burglarized. It’s not often my government comes rolling through my town executing political dissidents. But just because it doesn’t happen, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. That’s what its all about. Power corrupts- absolute power corrupts absolutely. It would take a fool not to recognize all the corruption running rampant in our government. A CA senator who tried to do everything he could to ban guns from the public was just caught smuggling in rockets and other full auto weapons from islamist fundamentalists into America. Eric Holder is caught red handed sending weapons to Mexican drug cartels, which were then used to murder American agents. These are the people we want to have all the guns? Why are we not seeing full on tyranny right away? Because the fact that there are over 8 million gun owners in America gives them some hesitation. So instead they slowly introduce tyranny. They start with the young, slowly working into them a belief system that everything is good, they shouldn’t be self reliant, and they should depend on big brother to take care of all their needs. In 20 years when these kids are grown up, they will appreciate freedom just a little bit less. Then they start working on their kids. Over time, we slowly see  the loss of all our fundamental rights. Remember the rights granted to us in the constitution are not government privledges- they are inalienable rights- we have them no matter what. Some governments may try to ignore that fact. The fact is, its still a right, and sometimes you have to be willing to fight for those rights. Unless you’re perfectly content eating your Monsanto food and watching the Kardashian’s on TV and drinking fluoride riddled water while the NSA spies on you.

Until the time comes, I challenge all journalists to do their best to promote the truth. Not your opinion. Just read the facts. Here’s my headline: “tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Albany yesterday to protest the passing of the SAFE act, an act that aimed to ban cosmetic features of rifles and limit the amount of ammo you can hold at one time. Protesters feel that this is in direct violation of their 2nd amendment rights”. No opinion no bias, just facts. then people can decide for themselves what they want to believe.