Posts Tagged With: Photos

Maine or Bust 2022: We Crossed The Line

After nearly 3 months on the road, we crossed the line into Maine!

First stop in the state of Maine – a short, 2-night visit with friends and former California neighbors Jeannie and Jeff at their lovely coastal home. Although the weather wasn’t looking good Friday morning, we donned our raincoats (just in case) and set off on a path through the 295-acre Beech Hill Preserve, hoping to take in the 360° view of Penobscot Bay, Camden Hills and the St. George Peninsula. Our hopes were dashed upon reaching the summit of Beech Hill as the clouds closed in.

We were able to have a look at the 1913 restored sod-roofed hut and the remains of a stone circle. Jeannie captured our hiking memories with her photos.

We tidied ourselves up and went out for dinner at Archer’s, a terrific seafood restaurant with a harbor view, where our evening began with drinks and Oysters Rockefeller. Thank you so much Jeannie and Jeff. It was sad to say goodbye, but you gave us wonderful memories and a perfect introduction to the state of Maine.

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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: George Washington Slept Here

Mount Vernon – George Washington’s plantation estate.

The most historic home in America lies on the banks of the Potomac River in Virginia. For nearly 45 years Mount Vernon was home to George Washington, our country’s first president, and his wife Martha.

The estate has been privately owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association since 1858. It is open for all to enjoy 365 days a year. Your admission gains you access to the gardens, farm and a number of outbuildings. The interior home tour is an additional cost, but the grounds surrounding it are free for all to explore.

It took a tremendous amount of manpower (not to mention womanpower) to keep the plantation running and profitable both inside and out. As was the practice of the times, Washington depended on a workforce of enslaved men and women to tend to the day-to-day operations of the garden, crop, fishing, farm and household chores. The days were long.

Facts and figures according to the 1799 census.

George Washington died at Mount Vernon in 1799. Martha passed away a little over 2 years later. Their remains lie side-by-side in the Mount Vernon the family tomb.

Construction of the Washington tomb was completed in 1831 where the remains of George, Martha and other family members remain today.

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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: 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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John Muir Trail: What will we remember?

Only the strong survive at the higher altitudes.

It was hard to anticipate just what hiking the John Muir Trail would mean to each of us. It’s been equally difficult to put into words a complete description of our day in/day out journey along the John Muir Trail. We struggled, we learned, we laughed and we celebrated. Each day was a combination of emotions that left us both exhausted and exhilarated as we climbed into our tent each night.

Sometimes it was better not knowing exactly where the trail would lead.
Sunsets created unique light.
Ten days before the Forest Service shut down the forest due fire danger, we were given the okay to have our one and only campfire. We affectionately renamed this forest service campground “Camp Tinderbox.”
Alarm at 5:00 a.m. Breakfast at 6:00. On the trail by 7:00.
photo credit: Mark

A two-person tent was pretty tight quarters for two people.
The encouragement we received from our fellow hikers kept us going.
Most of all, we will remember what fun it was to share 30 days on the trail with nine other hikers and four packers with horses and mules. (Three not pictured above)

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John Muir Trail: Impressions along the trail

The perfect imprint of a bare foot along the trail puzzled me.

It was our 26th day of walking when I began tracking the barefoot prints leading down the switchbacks to Garnet Lake. I wondered if someone was walking in those barefoot shoes, the ones with individual slots for each of your toes. But the prints were so perfect, as if each step had been carefully placed to create the most precise impression.

Kenneth Posner stopped for a quick chat and photo.

Playing the part of a JMT detective, I tracked the footprints downhill. They all looked pretty fresh, so I figured sooner or later Reg and I were bound to catch up with the owner. Up ahead, carefully choosing each step along a rockier part of the trail was Ken, the barefoot hiker. We exchanged a few pleasantries. If my memory is correct, at that point he had walked 148 miles without shoes. An unusual approach to hiking the John Muir Trail, but as our friend Lori is fond of saying, ”You’ve got to hike your own hike.” We played leapfrog along the trail throughout the morning before losing sight of him.
When we told the story around our dinner circle that night, Emma, the packer who led our mule train, laughed and explained that when she came up behind him on the trail and saw his shorts and black leggings, she assumed it was Reg and (ready to give a lecture on safety) shouted down at him, ”Where are your shoes?”

That was the only day we saw Ken and we wondered what had become of him. While scrolling through Facebook the other day, I stumbled upon a post which led me to Ken’s blog post and my questions were answered. I’ve included a link for you below.

https://thelongbrownpath.com/2021/09/10/170-miles-barefoot-on-the-john-muir-trail/

I’d encourage you to read through his story. It’s inspiring and may just encourage you to ”hike your own hike” someday too!

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John Muir Trail: Rocky Roads

*Click on title above to activate slideshow below.

While walking the John Muir Trail is a major accomplishment for even the most experienced of hikers, the creation and ongoing maintenance of the path are the true achievements. It is certainly no stroll through the park! Every day presented unexpected challenges for us along rough and rocky trails, testing our feet, ankles and knees. How do hikers do it without trekking poles?

Rocks weren’t always our adversaries. Often they provided a spot to rest our weary feet…in preparation for the challenges ahead.
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John Muir Trail: Dry feet and green meadows

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Lazy afternoon camped at Evolution Meadow.

Water crossings can present a huge problem for early season John Muir backpackers. Having watched countless YouTube videos showing some rather frightening river levels, we were wary of what might flow through the trail in our path. Unfortunately, (but lucky for us) California is experiencing a drought along with what was a low 2020/2021 snowfall year. Even Evolution Creek, which often presents a fast running, thigh-high obstacle, was only ankle deep. That was the only place we chose to take our shoes off due to the lack of large stepping stones.

Reg and I got pretty good at navigating rocks across waterways, but we were happy to see a number of bridges scattered along the trail. A few of them were much appreciated, even after the dry winter season.

While the water levels weren’t as high as we expected, the countless meadows remained surprisingly green and, in some cases, quite lush. We found them to be a relaxing contrast to the sharp angles of steep granite passes and rocky pathways.

There’s nothing better than a fresh green meadow to revive the spirit!
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John Muir Trail: The most beautiful lakes

We camped at Lake Virginia on Day 22.

We were surprised by the sheer number of lakes, ponds and watering holes scattered along the John Muir Trail. Most were so crystal clear that we could count the fish swimming about. Our group was lucky enough to camp at a few of them and Reg and I enjoyed lunch along the shore of others. In between, I snapped photos left and right, hoping I’d be able to remember which was which.

At Purple Lake, we paused and posed for a photo.
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