Friday, May 23, 2014

Best Stay On the Trail

Here in Stratton, Maine a lovely hostel sits right on Main Street, across the road from the Pines grocery store. Its very clean and friendly, with great beds and firm mattresses. 

The kitchen has everything you need, including a microwave and refrigerator. There's a big screen t-v and books, WiFi and laundry facilities. The rooms are quiet and you can get a great nights rest. If you don't like sharing a room, there are private rooms too.

I love the small town atmosphere, post office right down the street, good restaurants right next door. 

These three hiking bears are carved from wood. You can't miss it as you head down Hwy 16/ Hwy 27.

Sue, the owner, thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004. Many thanks to her for establishing a great place along the AT. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

First Week As A Ridgerunner

This is the oldest shelter still standing on the Appalachian Trail. Its located at the Horn's Pond Campsite. There are also two other lean-tos there, as well as a dozen or more level campsites, each one marked off with scree walls to help contain each site. As may long distance hikers know, there is a tendency for campsites to sprawl into the forest, even encroaching on fragile alpine growth,

During my first week working on the AT as a Maine Caretaker/Ridgerunner, I helped reset stone into the soggy pathway, remove debris from clogged drainage systems to encourage a drier path. Even if its muddy, hikers are supposed to trudge on through. 

I've met a few section hikers already heading to Katahdin. Theirs will be an icy footpath, although the recent steady rains have made a huge dent in the piles of snow.

At Horn's Pond Campsite, poised in the sub-alpine zone, are two outhouses, composting privies that help break down waste to fertile, non hazardous material.

Its laborious enough, with moving it three times to the final drying rack, before committing it back to the earth. While helping transfer the third batch, which had reached a hot 140 plus temperature during the "heating" cycle, we uncovered a family of mice. I now see firsthand while only human waste, toilet paper and and wood chips belong in this system. Those handiwipes and casings for tampons are nasty to pick out and dispose of properly. They do not degrade at all.

After a day of work, sitting down to record the day's activities, drink a cup of coffee and relax is done on the covered caretaker's platform. We're off the grid. No electrical but there is cell service on top the mountain.

The information board on location has a great hand drawn map. There is no fee at this site, either.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sun Tea on the Road

In one week I'll be off the grid and enjoying the Perfect Job. I'm slowly making my way east, visiting family, seeing all the "Old Places" from my childhood. The Geo is working great and at 45 mpg, I can only be proud of my ride.

Parked in the lot by one of five lakes in Madison, Wisconsin, the Geo has lot 2 hub caps along the way, suffered some scratches and a few tape jobs. I still love it. 

This wine jug makes great sun tea. Fill with water, tuck two or three tea bags and set in the bright sunshine. As sugar and lemon wedges when the beverage is ready.

This tea is still working.

The Indian Trails used to have four distinct paths along Lake Menona when I was growing up. Now, only one path threads its way. Seemed much longer too, when I was only ten,  and much wilder.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Heading into the Rain

Last night I met a young man hiking from Chicago to Denver, via the northern route of the Discovery Trail. We were both camping at Starved Rock State Park. Its quite a bit different than New Mexico where rain is the exception. The last four days camping in Illinois's famous park seem to prove its the rule.

We chatted quite some time. He stood barefooted on the grass, a simple sweater over a white t-shirt. He'd come 60 miles so far on his journey of a thousand miles.

View from inside French Canyon

Boardwalks and stairs are built to protect the fragile landscape comprised of limestone, sandstone and poison ivy.

Everything is so green already. It rained the entire time I camped there. Campsites are 25 bucks each, tent or trailer, doesn't matter. Electric is available at all the sites and the bath house has two showers.

The sets of stairs and many miles of trails provided a great work out.

Starved Rock is nestled right beside the Rock River. Starved_Rock_State_Park is full of legends and Native American History.

I shared one of my favorite axiom's with my new hiker friend, who has never backpacked before beginning his momentous journey: Never Quit in the Rain.
This morning as I packed up and headed out, I saw his little orange tent was still there.