Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘Favorite hikes’ category

Day 5 on the AT, Bearfence Hut to Rock Spring Hut

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I felt like I was getting somewhere now. I had crossed Rt. 33 and was headed to Big Meadows, a place I was familiar with. I climbed up Bearfence Mountain that had a great overlook. There was a loop trail there, but I wasn’t sure where it led, and I didn’t want to climb anything unnecessary today. At the bottom of this great rock formation, I took a few pictures and thought I should keep moving. A scream broke the total silence, “YAHOO!!!!!” I stopped and looked all around, but didn’t see anything until the second yell, “YIPPEE!!!!” Then I saw the tall hiker on top of the rock with his through-pack on his back. I asked how the view was, and he said, “Magnificent! It’s a bit of a tricky climb, but so worth it!” “Well enjoy your beautiful day” I said, and he replied “How can you not?” His great enthusiasm brought a smile to my face and gave me some energy. So cool! I think the picture is the signature picture of the trip, and I will remember his enthusiasm forever.

I was still slogging along, pitiful as it was, but the trail was very pretty today, especially around Big Meadows, which is certainly one of my favorite parts of the trail. I saw a lot of deer and was in my mode when a young lady passed me like she was in a Mercedes, walking sticks in each hand. She wasn’t wearing a big pack, but something smaller. We exchanged pleasantries as she passed. Sheez! I caught up to her at a spring where she was eating some lunch. As I filled my bottles, I told her how I couldn’t eat much. Katy was her name, and she is day-hiking this part of the trail to complete the entire AT. She had started at Harper’s Ferry and gone the distance through Maine. Later she had done the southern part, and now this section. She took on part time jobs on farms to pay the way and support herself, and now she was thinking about the Pacific Coast Trail. She said it is normal that you can’t eat the first week. Then the second week, you are ravenous and your legs get stronger. I don’t think I was going to find out, but at least I knew it was normal. Katy said she would park her car and hike the day, hitching a ride back to her car. She said she never had a problem hitching a ride. They are going your direction anyway. On her giant hike, she would hike into towns to restock her food and get a good meal, then hitch back. I thought I was brave, out here all by myself in the woods for nine days. I was awed by the mental courage as well as physical strength she had to have. 

I set off ahead, stopping shortly to hear something I have never heard before. An old buck growled at a doe in front of him, apparently getting the best of the acorns. He was telling her to move on. Katie went by as it all unfolded. I slogged on, looking up to see her looking at something in the woods. I hurried ahead as quietly as I could. A pretty black bear was eating his way through the woods. He could not have cared less that we were 60 yards away watching. After a time, we went on, Katie at an entirely different pace. It was a pleasure meeting her, and I appreciated her reassurance and encouragement. 

As I walked around the back of Big Meadows, it was quiet, closed for the season, but one man was cleaning up. Behind the campground, another man was taking notes, probably of things that needed to be done for next season. I made it to Rock Springs Hut just as the sun set. Again I had the place to myself, and I loved it. The spring was running well, so I refilled my water bottles and started a fire. There was a bear locker at the last hut and this one, which is nice. You don’t worry so much about something getting into your bag looking for a crumb. I took a quick look at the map, seeing that I would pass Skyland tomorrow. It was very encouraging to feel like I was making progress. I was on the back side of the map, and I might make it. I knew I was tired though, and wearing down. Should I take a shower at Skyland, get a good meal, wash clothes?  Could I take that much time? I was getting low on food and needed to restock, and had a list of things I needed. The first night camping with the bear family, I had lost my headlight, a ball cap and a pair of gloves. My best flashlight was now dead, but I had a backup. 

Cell phone coverage was getting worse. It was more difficult to let Martha know where I was. I was using the InReach by Garmin, but it didn’t always get a satellite signal either. Most of these huts are down in a hollow where there is a spring. I recharged my phone with a battery/flashlight I bought at Batteries Plus, but now this was my only flashlight, so I didn’t want to use it all up, so I used it sparingly. 

There was a PATC (Potomac Appalachian Trail Club) cabin close to the hut, so I checked it out. I have looked at a couple of others, and they are very cool. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club owns these and manages them. They maintain the AT, and I’m sure use these as they are working. Others can rent them as available, so I am going to check that out. It doesn’t have full hookups, so it might not be Martha’s cup of tea, but who knows. Maybe just one night? 

Am I going to have these huts to myself the rest of the way? Probably not, but I did like it. I crawled into my sleeping bag on the upper right side and felt right at home. I wasn’t cold, so why were my legs jumping? Thankfully they weren’t cramping, although sometimes when I stretched, they would cramp up for a minute. Put mustard on the list. Maybe a whole bottle. One spoonful of mustard will instantly put my leg cramps at rest, a tip I got from my great assistant, Pam. Top foods with high potassium that are not easily portable on a trip like this: avacado, sweet potato, coconut water, yogurt and acorn squash. Top portable foods high in potassium: apricots, mushrooms and white beans. I don’t know what you do with white beans, but apricots might be good. They have lots of sugar, which you also need on this kind of hike. 

Bar Harbor and Acadia Mountain

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47℉ at 6:00, high 72℉

Monday, October 17, 2016

We had to move sites in the campground in order to stay a couple of more nights, but the weather is looking good for the rest of the week and there is so much to see here. We drove to the Hinkley Boatyard to drool over the prettiest boats I have seen. Then we took the loop drive around the southern tip of the western side of the island, or what is known as the Quiet Side. There is a beautiful coastal view at the bottom after which the road takes you to Bass Harbor.

Then we drove over to meet Diego, Andrea and Isaac for lunch, more great food and company. We drove them to the airport for their connector flight to Boston. It is bigger and nicer than the Abaco airport in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas, but similar. We watched with great amusement as the little 9-seat plane was loaded. They put the luggage in the nose of the plane with little room to spare. Then the very overweight pilot comes out, checks everything and boards. Passengers must give their weights so the plane can be evenly distributed. Isaac got in the back and had very little headroom. We stayed to watch the takeoff just to be sure. Fortunately all went well and we later found out everyone reached their destinations fine. Whew! As we watched all this, a mid-sized jet came in. Only two passengers got off and the plane stayed put while they took a taxi somewhere. It was a couple, maybe in their 40’s. Wonder who that was.

We hiked Acadia Mountain on the way back. There are lots of steps climbing up giant rocks, but it is only a mile to the top from which the view is spectacular. Looking south, you can see Southwest Harbor and the Hinkley boatyard. Fall colors dotted the forests all around. We sat and soaked it all up for 20 minutes before heading back down. Martha grumbled something about walking flat trails from now on. I admit all the fallen pine needles make you cautious about slipping. A fall here would not be good, but this is a beautiful, very cool trail to a spectacular view. 

Hike Mont-Saint-Alban Loop

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40℉ at 5:00 with a high of 66

Sunday, October 2, 2016

We decided to hike the Mont-Saint-Alban Loop, a 7,8K, 3.5-hour hike to the lookout tower, over the other side and back. It’s a pretty steep hike from Cap-B0n-Ami, but the views are spectacular. You get several viewing areas along the way where we marveled at the clear water. It would be great to snorkel or dive here. It was Sunday, and another perfect day so there were lots o people on the trail, but not so many on the loop. On the tower, we had a nice conversation with a couple from Fernie, BC, who had been traveling for 7.5 weeks.

 For a while we hiked along the IAT. At one point I looked up and was sure there was a small bear walking the trail toward us, maybe only a hundred yards away. We whistled and yelled and it soon turned off the trail. Walking on, we quickly saw it was a very big porcupine. I don’t know how big these things get, but I can’t imagine they get much bigger.

Arriving back at the parking lot, we were pretty proud of ourselves. That was two days of hiking and parts of my body were talking to me. We felt fortunate to avoid injuries, but tomorrow is a travel day, so we can rest our legs.

After lunch we drove to Gaspè and poked around town. We will be coming through tomorrow, but it’s a lot easier to stop without the trailer. By the time we got back to camp and showered, we were pretty tired. Martha cooked the rest of the mussels. We had a salad and the smoked Cod along with some wine. It was a good day!

Hike to Cap Gaspè

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41℉ at 5:00 am and high of 69℉

Saturday, October 1, 2016

We moved from Camping des Appalache to Parc National Forillon. We stopped for groceries, and then went to a pêcherie (fish store) close to the docks. So hard to choose what to buy, we settled on a bag of mussels, a Halibut steak, a bit of smoked Cod and Cod fillets. Lobster are out of season, but they had some in the tanks at $15/lb. 

Setting up our new camp, I laid a fire while Martha fixed a picnic lunch. Then we drove over the mountain to the south side of the point. There are picnic tables at the parking lot, so we had lunch there, marveling at the incredible view. Information signs told us fishermen came from the Channel Islands to live and fish here. They were comfortable here as it is on the same parallel with their former home. They fished for Cod, salting and smoking them to ship back to England. 

Walking a gravel road to the tip of Forillon is about 4K out and 4K back. We saw several people running it! It was hard enough for us to walk it. You could walk down the steep slopes to walk the edge of the water, but we decided the walk back up was too steep. There was one spot down there where a young couple sat on a bench watching two seals playing – a spectacular spot.

It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky and just a gentle breeze. Thinking that cold wind would be blowing, we put on layers, but quickly came out of them. This is surely one of the prettiest places I have ever seen, so pure, so clean. White sea birds flying against the deep blue sea with crystal clear waters. Ducks swam near the coast. Seals played all along our walk, and we finally saw three whales on our return walk. Pictures can hardly capture the immense beauty of this big bay or this land. It is surely one of the best national parks I have seen.