Saturday, August 1, 2015

10 Awesome Things about the Mid State Trail

I got to revisit the southern terminus of the Mid State Trail a couple of weeks ago and found myself very homesick for the MST.  I thought I would share my top 10 favorite things about hiking this section of the Great Eastern Trail.

1. Remoteness.  Sure, the trail occasionally goes through towns, but the vast majority of the MST felt wild and untamed.  

2. Wildlife.  Hillbilly Bart and I had more bear encounters on the Mid State Trail than any other host trail along the Great Eastern Trail.  We saw porcupines, deer, turtles, snakes, frogs, and countless birds.

3. Solitude.  This is a trail that deserves more traffic than it sees, but it was incredible to go days without seeing another person.

4. Sense of humor.  Those responsible for the guidebook and resupply guide slip in little nuggets of humor that you might miss on first read.  But even on-trail you'll see the MST's sense of humor, with signs that refer to it as the "Metric System Trail" along with signed landmarks such as "Crocodile Spring."

5.  Overlooks.  They're phenomenal.  Enough said.

6. Variety.  Lakes, streams, valleys, ridgetops, fields, forests of all varieties . . . the Mid State Trail is one of the most diverse trails I've hiked.

7. Range of difficulty.  Want an easy hike?  The trail around Cowansque Lake or on the Lower Trail section are good bets.  Want a good workout?  Try climbing up to Gillespie Peak.  Whatever your ambition level, the Mid State Trail has a section that's what you're looking for.

8. Water.  Particularly on the northern half of the Mid State Trail, the springs are works of art.  On the southern half, Maple Run Valley has one of the prettiest streams I've ever seen

9. Trail towns.  What town could be more welcoming than Everett?  And how many towns provide a shelter in their city park like Woolrich?  The trail towns along the Mid State Trail are some of the best along any trail.

10. People.  The people behind the trail, that is.  The blazes are bright and easy to follow and trail volunteers work tirelessly to make the MST a great hiking experience.  It's a huge job, and they tackle it valiantly.  Thanks to the Mid State Trail Association for all you do!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Friday, July 17, 2015

Purple blazes

The only purple blazes on the Great Eastern Trail are on the western route of the bifurcation in Green Ridge State Forest.

Mid State Terminus

I visited the southern terminus of the Mid State Trail today. Why? Because I was 3 miles from it and it's there.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Biennial Trip

It wouldn't be fair to drive through Wisconsin without visiting the Ice Age Trail at Devils Lake State Park. I convinced my Mom to roadtrip to the Appalachian Trail Biennial in Virginia where I will present about the GET and geek out. We're well on our way! Hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Botanical Hiker Blog

I've been enjoying following along as the Botanical Hiker thru-hikes the Finger Lakes Trail and all its side trails.  She recently wrote up a great post about the Crystal Hills Trail, which is the northernmost section of the Great Eastern Trail.

Check out her blog and follow along!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Flagg Mountain, Alabama

 Flagg Mountain, Alabama is where Bart and I began our Great Eastern Trail adventure.

It now has its own Facebook page: Flagg Mountain.

From their site: "A new interest group is being formed, "The Friends of Flagg Mountain", to provide valuable input and assistance in restoring the cabins and fire tower on Flagg Mountain to their original conditions, and to also plan the future use of this historic site.
We need your help. We need your ideas on how to best restore the buildings and tower on Flagg Mountain, and how to use the property in the future."

The tower and the mountain are both much prettier than they looked when fogged-in on a mid-January day.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Steuben County, NY

The escaped prisoners from New York have possibly been spotted in Steuben County.

Fun fact: the northern terminus of the Great Eastern Trail is also in Steuben County!

CNY Hiking has a whole page about hiking opportunities in Steuben County, including South Bradford State Forest where Moss Hill Lean-To is.  It's a gorgeous county that probably rarely has escaped killers lurking around.

The second sighting was closer to Pennsylvania's Cowanesque Lake on the Mid State Trail than Moss Hill Lean-To.

Exciting times near the GET.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

2 years later . . .

Two years ago today, Bart and I made it to Moss Hill Lean-To and the northern terminus of the Great Eastern Trail.  
It amazes me how the experience continues to enrich and influence my life, from the friends I made to big life decisions that the trail shines light on from afar.  To say that I'm grateful for the trail does not even begin to describe it.

Thank you to all who were part of the journey!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Recent SAR near the Great Eastern Trail

When a short hike goes wrong is a news story about a recent successful rescue mission in the Ramsey Draft Wilderness in Virginia, which the Great Eastern Trail passes through, hosted on the Shenandoah Mountain Trail.

The Mountain House trailhead where the hikers got lost is just down the mountain from a GET trailhead at Confederate Breastworks.

Coincidentally, Confederate Breastworks is where a man went missing in November 2012.  No trace has been found.

Remember to be prepared even for dayhikes.

View from Confederate Breastworks trailhead

Friday, June 5, 2015

Shepherd and Star Left's GET adventure

The GET will finally have a southbound attempt this year: Shepherd and Star Left will be leaving soon.  It'll take them awhile to reach the Great Eastern Trail; they are beginning at Niagara Falls! When they reach Moss Hill Lean-To and the official northern terminus, they'll already be hiking machines.

Shepherd's Trail Journal can be found here.  Star Left's Trail Journal is here.

I will so enjoy following their journey and I hope you will too!

Godspeed, Shepherd and Star Left, and don't forget to carry a rock out of Pennsylvania and bring it to Maryland. ;)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Get to know the GET at the AT Biennial

For hikers planning to attend the 2015 Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference this July, consider taking some time to meet the GET.

The following hikes are on the Great Eastern Trail:

  • Hike #9, Basore's Ridge
  • Hike #17, Big Schloss GWNF
  • Hike #19, Paw Paw Tunnel C&O CNHP
  • Hike #25, Devils Nose SCWMA SPHP
  • Hike #29, Shockeys Knob SCWMA
  • Hike #37, Big Schloss and Tibbet Knob GWNF
The following presentations may be of interest:
  • W1944 - Great Eastern Trail (that's with me)
  • W2067 - Tuscarora Trail
Hope to see many of you there!  Early registration ends on May 31!

Tibbet Knob

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What is the GET season?

One question I get asked a lot by prospective GET thru-hikers is, "What time of the year should I start a GET thru-hike?"

My answer: Great question.

There are dozens of considerations when choosing between a northbound and southbound hike, but the biggest consideration of all, the weather window, is still untested.

Bart and I began the hike on January 10th, 2013. We had no idea how lucky we were.  We had three or four snowstorms for a couple weeks total of snow-hiking.  We had only five days of what I would consider dangerous weather conditions.  We also had five zero days (at least) due to snow/dangerous conditions.  All in all, that wasn't too bad -- but only because 2013's winter wasn't like 2015's.  If 2013's winter had been like 2015's, I don't think we would have made it.  Despite our dedication, I really think we would have had to bail.

Stuart and Taylor started February 1, 2014 and still ran into rough conditions - Kentucky in particular.  Kentucky seems to be the Smokies of the GET - with high elevations and being relatively far north, you can't hit Kentucky too early or it will be miserable.  (Will this assessment hold true, or was it just the four of us who ran into extreme weather in Kentucky?  Time will tell.)  Their start date was way smarter than ours, but still might be too early for most hikers.

The danger of waiting too long to start a northbound hike is that you're in the south for a longer time than, for example, on the AT, so it might become hard to out-hike the heat and stay in spring.

I was not amused with 102 degrees.
Mainly because it wasn't using Celsius.
There has been no southbound attempt so far, but this should be the year.  It will be interesting to see how the weather is!

When Bart and I hiked the western route of the GET (PA - MD) in June-July 2014, it was ridiculously hot, so an early summer southbound attempt is not for those skittish of heat.

I'd recommend a fall southbound attempt.  Assuming a four-month thruhike (your mileage may vary), it likely means an August start.  August in New York and Pennsylvania might be pretty hot.  So what's the magic date?  What date strikes a good balance?

Great question.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Map maildrops

There are far too many pounds of GET maps for thruhikers to carry all of them at once, so a few maildrops will be necessary.

Here are some post offices that might be good bets if you are just interested in sending yourself maps.  (If you are resupplying via post, you'll need to figure out more maildrops.)

Because many of these post offices are in small towns, they might be closed by now or have limited hours.  Most of this is from my memory, which may not be correct.  Don't trust me.  This list is just a starting point for your own research. :)

Cave Spring, GA: Very friendly post office, on route into town.

Chattanooga, TN: Be careful.  There are multiple post offices.  I'm not sure where general delivery packages go and it might be far out of your way.  

Wartburg, TN: The route into (or out of, for sobos) runs by or near the post office.

Cumberland Gap, TN: This is an ideal place to pick up Kentucky (nobo) or Tennessee (sobo) maps.   You might call The Cumberland Gap Inn and plead your case and send it there.  Plan to stay overnight or offer to pay for the service if you do get permission to use them as a maildrop.

Harlan, KY: The post office is not far off the route, but is 2 miles from the motel where most hikers are likely to stay.  (Harlan almost demands a night in a motel due to its location along an urban roadwalk - no stealth camping is possible.) Sobos can pick up their package on the way in, nobos will have to get it as they leave town.  Hikers might consider calling Mount Aire Motel and asking if they will hold a package.  Same etiquette protocol as Cumberland Gap, though you'd likely only need one or the other as they are relatively close.

Elkhorn City, KY: The post office is close to the route (and near a dollar store).  Would be a good idea to pick up West Virginia maps here if nobo.

Pineville, WV: The post office is just a couple of blocks off-trail.

Mullens, WV: The post office is on the route through town and is always decorated.

Hinton, WV: Whatever you do, don't mail a package here.  The post office is very far from the trail.

Narrows, VA: Post office is near the trail route.

White Sulphur Springs, WV: Post office is near the trail route.

Bergton, VA: The grocery/grill is also a post office.  Pretty tiny, not sure if they'd be down with holding a package or not. Definitely call ahead.  About 3/4 mile off-trail, but you might end up going there anyway because, you know, food.

Gore, VA: Post office on the trail route.  The little store has also held packages in the past, but you would have to call ahead and okay it.

Hancock, MD: The post office is several blocks from the trail, but the local hostel has accepted mail drops for me twice.  Contact the C&O Bike shop/hostel to get permission ahead of time. 

Everett, PA (west route): Easily-accessible post office.

Williamsburg, PA (west route): Pretty sure we walked right past the post office on our way out of town (sobo).

Three Springs, PA (east route): Post office close to route.

Woolrich, PA: Post office on route.  From here, it's probably not worth it to schedule a maildrop farther north.  The New York maps are so minimal.

Again, I want to stress that these are post offices I remember, some from over two years ago. I have no idea if they're all still open or if they're where I remember them.
AT boxes.  But the GET's were similar.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

GETA meeting

It was a productive Great Eastern Trail Association board meeting at Woodmont in Maryland last weekend.  GETA meets in person once per year (although many GET supporters end up visiting at other hiker gatherings during the year).  It was my fourth year in attendance.

 The lodge was gorgeous and had more bizarre taxidermy than I'd ever seen before. Many important people (besides GETA) have stayed at Woodmont.  We got to see a chair that six presidents sat in.  I was more interested in the views!
view from Woodmont
Of course no board meeting would be complete without making a break for it at the end of the day.  Woodmont is located just above the Great Eastern Trail's western route.
Hiking down to visit...

...the western route of the GET!