Posts Tagged With: hiking

Maine or Bust 2022: Into the Wild

We felt like our two nights at Trough Creek State Park in south central Pennsylvania took us into the wilds. With just an electric hookup, we got a little closer to our camping roots, toting in bottled water for drinking and needing to be mindful of not overfilling our gray- and black-water tanks.

The park had a surprising number of interesting features that we were able to make a day of exploring. Just down the road was the Ice Mine, a curious space between hillside rocks where cold air flows through creating ice and a natural refrigerator effect.

Balanced Rock remains perched at the edge of a cliff above Great Trough Creek, seemingly defying gravity. Called an ”erosion remnant,” it has refused to fall, creating corny photo opportunities for some.

Our next two-night stop was in northern Pennsylvania at Leonard Harrison State Park, known as The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Another small park accessed by way of two-lane roads passing through tiny roadside communities, we once again felt somewhat isolated.

We spent the morning safely hiking the Turkey Path which, despite the numerous warnings of a steep, dangerous trail, was a little muddy but not too scary. We had hoped that we could get down to Pine Creek, but after descending a set of 70 stairs and almost there, we were met with a closed sign.

We’ve always felt a little spoiled by our Oregon state camping options, but we were throughly impressed with Pennsylvania state parks. We’ll soon be checking into a New York state park and are curious to see how it stacks up. I’ll let you know in a few days!

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Maine or Bust 2022: Sometimes It’s A Bust

Shenandoah National Park offers over 500 miles of hiking trails through Virginia’s spectacular mountain scenery. We reserved four nights just outside the park in Luray at Spacious Skies RV Park, excited about three full days to explore the park.

We had big plans for those chairs after our daily hikes.

Our first day found us back on a section of the Appalachian Trail. We were curious to see the overnight shelters distance hikers frequent, so we chose a 6-mile out and back trail called Mary’s Rock and Birds Nest 3 Shelter.

It was a rocky, uphill path to Mary’s Rock but the view was worth the climb. We continued on until we reached the shelter known as Birds Nest 3. While it was pretty rustic, it would certainly provide welcome relief to weary hikers eager to escape bad weather. At one end was a large fireplace while a raised sleeping platform stretched across the back. Tucked away at a discrete distance was another treat…an outhouse. I didn’t peek inside assuming it was likely pretty rustic, but figured it would offer a bit of hard-to-come-by privacy after miles of wilderness.

That night the temperatures dropped and the rains began. Hard rains…relentless rains. Perhaps day two was a good time to drive a part of 105-mile Skyline Drive that winds along the spine of the park.

It was obviously not a day for sightseeing, so we went back to our trailer and got the laundry done. The rain and cold continued into the next day. Our Shenandoah National Park visit was a bit of a bust, and we weren’t able to fully appreciate the beautiful campsite we had, but we did have one great hike and a good laugh about our “drive through the park.”

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Maine or Bust 2022: Appalachian Trail Dream

A short drive to Virginia’s Grayson Highlands State Park allowed us a chance for a short hike with a link to one of the country’s most iconic national trails.

The 2.3-mile Massie Gap and Wilburn Ridge loop trail overlaps a portion of the Appalachian Trail, the nearly 2,200-mile path that leads thru-hikers from Springer Mountain in the state of Georgia, north to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

If we were 25 years younger we might try hiking this entire trail. You never know, but for now…this short segment will have to do.

We read that we could expect spectacular views and, if we were lucky, glimpses of a wild Grayson Highland pony or two.

From atop the rock outcropping (behind Reg in photo with trail marker above) we could see forever. We rejoined the Appalachian Trail section and continued on for a short bit until a steep downhill (requiring a steep return ascent) turned us around.

We found a grassy meadow for a lunch stop, but not one pony was tempted to join us. They all remained hidden from sight.
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Maine or Bust 2022: The Virginias

Our perfect timing allowed us to spend Easter weekend with Chris and Gail in and around Charleston, West Virginia. We relaxed with dinner out Saturday night and spent Easter Sunday hanging around our campsite. After two games of croquet, where the guys fought for first place and Gail and I battled it out for last place, we rounded out the evening gathered around our cozy trailer dinette feasting on barbecued shish kebabs. And then it was time to say goodbye…

We’re settled in Virginia for close to a week in this hidden gem of an RV park.

We’re not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 469-mile national parkway that runs through Virginia and North Carolina. We drove a part of it on a trip 5 years ago, but the weather was so cold and foggy we deserted it after just a few miles. This time the weather was beautiful, but cold…36 degrees as we stopped at various viewpoints and took a quick look around the historical 1889 Brinegar cabin property. Returning by way of an alternate route, we saw acres of Christmas tree farms decorating the landscape.

A six-mile roundtrip walk along the New River Trail State Park, a 57-mile strip that follows the abandoned railroad right-of-way, got us out of the truck for some much needed exercise. With two more days to fill and temperatures promising to warm up into the 70s (F), we expect to explore more of this rail trail with our bikes.

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Maine or Bust 2022: Miles of Passageways

With over 365 miles of surveyed passageways, geologists think there could be 600 more miles yet to be charted throughout the cave that lies below Mammoth Cave National Park. Known as the longest cave system on earth, it has been explored off and on for the last 4,000 years. The national park offers a selection of below ground tours for curious visitors. Reg reserved the 2-hour Gothic Tour, allowing us a taste of what the ancient explorers found.

A flight of stairs led us down past a dripping waterfall and into the historic entrance of the cave. Our guide led us a mile through several passageways, pointing out some artifacts dating back to the War of 1812 and telling endless stories of historical significance. Ancient graffiti covered the ceiling, left by 19th century explorers who created their names with soot from their candle flame.

The Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail runs 16 miles from the park visitor’s center to the town of Park City. We rode about 5.5 miles before turning around…not bad for our first ride of the year. Sections of the mostly crushed rock trail made for a bumpy ride while the plank bridges created a much smoother path.

Getting to the backcountry area of the park required a short ferry ride across the fast-flowing Green River. We had the Big Hollow Loop trail almost completely to ourselves. Recent rains had left some slick, muddy areas. Downed trees lay across the trail in a few spots, requiring us to climb up and over.

Two full days to explore the park was plenty for us. If you want to take advantage of several different cave tours then three or four days might be better. Either way, Mammoth Cave National Park is definitely worth the stop. Now, on to West Virginia…

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Maine or Bust 2022: A Thunderous Kentucky Welcome

We arrived at our Singing Hills RV Park campsite early in the day, so we had a free afternoon to explore Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park prior to our scheduled cave tour the next morning.

After a securing a park guide with map, and armed with a couple short hike recommendations, we each gobbled down a mammoth hot dog and left the busy visitor’s center. The promise of wild flowers led us to a short hike to see where the underground River Styx exits, spilling into a muddy pond that flows into Green River.

Back at our campsite, Mother Nature had plans for our evening. You might remember awhile back I mentioned my fear of tornadoes. As we were making dinner, my phone began whining like a miniature air raid siren with a voice shouting ”Tornado warning! Take cover now!” Fortunately, I had my warning radius set far wider than necessary and the danger zone was a safe distance away…but not so far away that we avoided the storm. A bank of black clouds quickly covered us, bringing winds that shook our trailer, thunder, lightning and torrential rains. A pretty crazy night!

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Maine or Bust 2022: A Texas Lighthouse

What a surprise today’s outing was. Our effort to outrun the high winds across New Mexico allowed us an extra day in the Texas Panhandle. The state park at Palo Duro Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of Texas, awaited. At roughly 120 miles long and with an average width of 6 miles, it is the second-largest canyon in the United States.
Reg had researched and read good reviews for The Lighthouse Trail, so we packed a lunch and off we went. We were a little skeptical of finding gorgeous scenery as we drove south from outside Amarillo, where the views go on for miles.

The day was expected to reach into the mid-80s although we expected it to get a little warmer along the trail. There were plenty of warnings to carry lots of water and reminders to reapply sunscreen. There was even a sunscreen dispenser at the trailhead for unprepared hikers. It was all just a little intimidating. Probably not a good choice for a summer hike.

Our information assured us there would be quite a few benches placed along the trail…and there were, but most were in the full sun. A nice spot to rest weary feet, but not much help hiding from the heat of the day. I paused for a quick photo, then we pushed on.

As we reached the base of The Lighthouse, we saw folks scrambling up the hillside ( left photo), obviously off the main trail. Choosing to remain on the trail, and thinking we’d have an easier climb because of it, we were faced with this mini-canyon of rocks (right photo) to hoist ourselves up and over.

Reg stands below the 300-foot-high Lighthouse formation, marking the end of the 3-mile trail. We climbed a little higher, but were stopped by the ridge of rock shoulder-high that would have required some pushing and shoving to get ourselves any higher.

We found Palo Duro Canyon State Park to be a hidden gem. Miles of hiking trails cross the park, numerous picnic areas and camping sites are available throughout. We were glad to see the park in spring. I would think summer would be dangerously hot.

Oh, and those high winds we hoped to escape…they arrived out of nowhere tonight, blowing through our campground with gusts of 40-50 mph. Batten down the hatches, its going to be a wild night.

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Maine or Bust 2022: A Sample of the Arizona Trail

Reg is hoping to set foot on as many of the country’s national trails as possible.

Flagstaff, Arizona welcomed us yesterday with some bitterly cold snow and ferocious nighttime winds. We huddled in bed under two blankets and a thick quilt as the trailer rattled and shook. What would the morning bring?
We awoke to sunshine and temperatures expected to soar into the 50s. Perfect hiking weather.

Before heading east, Reg was hoping to sample a section of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, a trail that stretches 800 miles through Arizona from Mexico north to the Utah state border. We found the Fisher Point trailhead just south of town. The relatively short 8-mile out and back piece of the Arizona Trail promised an endpoint view high above nearby Walnut Canyon.

Our guidebook warned us of an 846-foot overall elevation gain, but as we followed the trail it seemed to take us more downhill rather than the uphill we were expecting. We marched on until we came to a fork in the trail. As we turned to the left, Fisher Point rose from the valley floor. It looked like we were going to make the majority of that elevation gain all at once.

There it was…the climb we were promised. Fisher Point awaited us at the top.

We climbed up through evergreens, stepping over rocks and around downed trees until finally reaching the top. It is a gorgeous view, however Walnut Canyon lies far below, mostly hidden by the trees and steep walls. We were able to catch a glimpse by creeping up to the edge where the rocky ledge offered a natural bench for our picnic lunch. It was a good day!

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Maine or Bust 2022: The Granite Dells

The fascinating rock formations of the Granite Dells create a maze of walking trails.

We couldn’t wrap up our stay near Sedona without a trip to the Granite Dells. Located about 4 miles north of downtown Prescott, Arizona, day hikers will find miles of trails winding up and down through forests of large boulders. The feeling is a little unworldly.

We chose to explore the curiously named Constellation Loop Trail, a 2.4 mile hike up, down through a variety of landscape and rock formations. Although there is a bit of climbing, this is not too challenging of a walk. We saw people of all ages wandering…picking and choosing their route from the many intersecting trails. Reg and I couldn’t help but think how much our three boys would have loved racing each other along the dusty paths – back when they were young enough to make a competition out of anything and everything!

At the end of our loop we learned the history behind the Constellation Loop trail name. The large plaque serves as a nice memorial to the five servicemen who will be remembered by all who walk this trail.

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Maine or Bust 2022: The Crack?

We bumped into a couple from Montana the other day while hiking an off-the-beaten-path trail outside of Camp Verde, Arizona. Both raved about the nearby Bell Trail, claiming the hike was beautiful and led to an intriguing feature not to be missed. “Be sure to go to the end of the trail to see The Crack,” they advised.

The view from the parking lot of the Bell Trail didn’t appear to promise spectacular scenery.

The trail became rougher and rocky as it climbed higher. Soon we found ourselves among towering red rock cliffs, with the creek far below us. As we came around the last bend there it was. We saw several groups of people gathered above it…The Crack. Reg found a perfect lunch spot and we settled in to watch who might be brave enough to take it on.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch safely, high above The Crack.

From our perch we could see the deep channel the creek cut between the rocky cliffs. What appeared to be a deep pool of water flowed between rapids both upstream and downstream, creating a tempting swimming hole after a long hot hike. We had heard that only the bravest jumped from the cliff, a plunge of about 20 feet.

We heard whoops and screams as a few hardy folks made their way to the water’s edge and took a dip. Cold was the consensus of the courageous few.

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