Favorite Places on the AT: Vermont

The next state in this little series is Vermont! Or, by its more common trail nickname, “Vermud”. This nickname, more than held true for my first couple days in the state, as I crossed the border on the heels of a two-day rainstorm. But despite the mud, flooded trails and newly hatched bugs, there was plenty to enjoy in the Green Mountain State.

The entrance to Vermont is marked by the beginning of the Long Trail, the oldest long distance hiking trail in the US. It goes north through Vermont for nearly 250 miles, sharing the first 100 miles or so with the Appalachian Trail. In fact, it was actually the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail. It was interesting to run into and chat with other hikers during that stretch, who were thru hiking the Long Trail.

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One of my favorite memories of Vermont, was the many Beaver ponds that dotted the wilderness. I still remember the first time I heard one slap its tail on the water, I actually thought a hiker had fallen into the pond and raced around the bend to help, only to find a beaver swimming around in circles, no doubt laughing at me!

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Next is Stratton Mountain, which was marked by a fire tower and a plaque marking it as the inspiration for the Long trail and in turn the Appalachian Trail. That particular day, the black files were out in full force and the trail had been particularly muddy, so I was having a tough time imagining anyone being inspired to build anything within a 100 mile radius! But upon climbing the fire tower, I was given a reprieve from the flies and when I was able to look around, it was clear to see why the area was so inspirational. There was a see of green in every direction, broken up only by the occasional mountain pond. Best of all, there was  a Dinosaur watching over everything!

 

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Later that same day, I made it to the top of Bromely Mountain, which is home to a ski resort in the winter. There was a giant ski lift and warming hut at the top and fantastic views of the sunset and later, sunrise views. The one room warming hut was left open, so I set up camp inside, away from the biting flies and cool evening temps.

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“The Lookout” was another cool place in Vermont. It was a shelter atop one of the mountains, that had a steep ladder leading to a platform built on top. It was a nice place to rest for a bit and chat with other hikers while taking in the panoramic views before heading back up the trail.

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Finally, what post about the Appalachian Trail would be complete without mentioning Randy’s place? Directly across from the White river, just before leaving Vermont, is Randy’s house. He welcomes hikers from the trail with a cooler of bear and a plate of eggs or pancakes! There were about a dozen of us that stayed that day, eating, drinking and jumping off of the bridge into the cool, clear waters of the White River.

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So that wraps up this edition of Favorite Places on the Appalachian Trail! The next edition in the series will be New Hampshire and I am already looking forward to searching through oldmemories and pictures in an impossible attempt to capture the beautiful state in one blog post!

 

Finally, an update on the presentation I mentioned in the last post. Megan “Wiggles” and I will be giving a presentation this coming Sunday at the Adventure University event put on by the Cleveland Metroparks. The talk will focus on things you can do to improve your hiking experience, stay happy and enjoy your time out on the trail!

Our presentation will begin at 11am but the entire event runs from 9am to 12pm, and includes a used gear sale, kayak demonstrations in the pool, outdoor exhibits and a couple other presentations. So if you are in the Northeast Ohio Area, come check it out!

See the link below for more details and a full schedule of events. And if you do make it out, don’t be shy, come up and say hi!

Adventure University

 

Thanks for reading!

Sean “Purge”

 

 

Favorite Places on the AT: Massachusetts

It has been a while since my last update, I have had (and am still having) some computer issues, but am slowly getting back on track. Anyhow, its time to continue our series of Favorite Places on the AT and this week brings us to Massachusetts (Woohoo! I actually spelled it right on the first try!!)

Massachusetts sort of lulls you in, with relatively flat easy terrain at the beginning, before climbing back up into the mountains near the Vermont border. It rained nearly every day I was in Massachusetts,  but nevertheless, there were a few spots that come to mind when I think back to my time in the state.

The first of which was Upper Goose Pond. I had heard about the area from some other hikers a couple days earlier. It was a simple two-story rustic cabin that hikers were welcome to stay in. No running water, electric or any other convinces beyond a half-dozen bunk-bed and a roof over our heads. Oh, did I mention pancakes! The caretakers fired up  propane stove and made coffee and pancakes for hikers the next morning! The would turn out to be the best pancakes I had anywhere on the trail! I also took some time to fish in the pond and caught a few bluegill and sunfish before hiking on the next day.

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Next is Mt Graylock or should I say the lodge on top of mt Graylock. On the trek up the mountain, a storm hit that brought fog, deafening cracks of thunder, brilliant flashes of lightning and torrential downpours. Already being most of the way up the mountain, i had no choice but to push on in hopes of seeking some kind of shelter. Luckily, the lodge was open, and offered a bunk room for hikers. A few of us hunkered down at the lodge for the night and ended up staying the next night too, as the weather pinned us down. Tough to be a dry bed, hot shower and good food in the middle of a storm!

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When the weather finally cleared, we headed down the flooded trail and into the town of North Adams. Needing to resupply, we were thrilled to find a sign that offered free loaner bikes to hikers that wanted to pedal into town. It felt good to be back on a bike after hiking for several months and true to the saying, I didn’t forget how to ride!

To this day, it makes me smile at the thought of a town going this far out of their way to welcome hikers passing through.

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Finally Ice Gulch, rounds out the list of favorite places in Massachusetts. It was a deep ravine cut into the side of a mountain surrounded by high cliffs and pine trees. Its depth and position created a sort of micro climate, easily 20-30 degrees cooler than the surrounding area. It stays so cold that sometimes snow and ice can be found at the bottom, well into late spring/early summer, though it was empty when I passed through. Unfortunately I do not have a very good picture of the area, the sheer size and depth was too difficult to capture in a single shot. Truly a place you needed to witness first hand.

 

That wraps up this edition of favorite places on the AT, tune in next time for Vermont! Also, I am waiting on final confirmation (supposed to come by Monday) for an appearance/presentation at a local event in town. I will share the details as soon as it is confirmed (hopefully early next week).

As always thanks for reading and if you have any trail related questions or comments, please feel free to ask/share!

 

Sean “Purge”

Every Journey Begins with a Single Step

Today marks the one year anniversary of the day I began my journey up the Appalachian Trail!

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Walking through that old stone arch began an incredible five month adventure that brought new challenges, beautiful scenery and new friends around every turn.  Looking back, it almost doesn’t seem real at times. Like the dirty, bearded guy in the picture on top of Mt Katahdin was just another hiker that I had read about online or in a book on the trail.

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Then there are days when I hear a certain sound, feel a breeze or look up at a tree, that I flash back to a particular place on the trail and its as though I never left. Or perhaps, that the trail never left me…

Anyway, I apologize for not updating the blog over the past couple weeks, I have been a little busy at work. Both with my actual job and…starting a Backpacking Club at my company!

The owner came to me with the idea a few months ago to start a club and plan out a week long backpacking trip to the Appalachian Trail. Needless to say, I was beyond excited and have been busy planning the logistics of the trip as well as laying out discussions/classes for beginning backpackers. I am really excited to  be able to introduce new hikers to the outdoors and the Appalachian Trail!

I will also get back to my weekly blog post this week and plan on continuing the “Favorite Places on the Appalachian Trail” Series. I’ll also have another update on the progress of my book (thank you all for your support and patience throughout the project!)

 

Until next time, have a great day and go Adventure!

Thanks,

Sean “Purge”

 

Favorite places on the AT: Connecticut

This week brings us to Connecticut!

At just 51 miles, Connecticut is a pretty short state on the AT, and seems even shorter with the relatively easy terrain throughout much of the state.

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It did have its rocky moments though, perhaps a subtle preview for what was yet to come further up the trail in New England.

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As for favorite places, two features immediately come to mind when I think back to Connecticut, Cut Rock and the Giant’s thumb. I am a sucker for interesting terrain features and these aptly named rock formations certainly fit the bill. Split Rock is a massive building sized boulder that split in two at some point in the distant past. Giant’s thumb is, well…a large rock outcropping that looks like a thumb! I won’t label the pictures, but I am sure you can tell which is which!

The next spot was Bear mountain, the highest point in Connecticut. it also had a large rock monument on the summit.

There are several areas along the Appalachian Trail that put you top of the highest point in its respective state, but for some reason, as I stood alone on top of the monument, it struck me that at that moment, I was standing taller than anyone else in the entire state of Connecticut.

The last of my favorite spots in Connecticut, is the section just before the Massachusetts border. The trail dives down into a very narrow ravine and runs along side a fast flowing trout stream for a couple miles. The entire area shrouded with trees growing on either side of the little valley.  It was one of those places that is nearly impossible to document in a photograph (as evident by the picture below), but it was a pure joy to walk beside. Every 50 feet or so, seemed to being you to a deep pool of water or another waterfall. I took my time in that stretch enjoying the views and fishing the deeper pools. Though I saw plenty of trout, I wasn’t able to pull one from the stream and eventually hiked on, wishing I had more time to spend along its shady banks.

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And that is the state of Connecticut! Looking back, it feels like I hiked through the state in the blink of an eye! If you have any memorable moments/places you’ve been to in Connecticut or have any questions, as always feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

 

Book Update

In the book, I am still hiking my way through North Carolina. Since the last update, I’ve written about freezing temperatures, lightening strikes, drinking moonshine with strangers and competing at trivia night in a trail town brewery. Sometimes I wonder how much of this will need to be edited out, just to cull the number of pages down! But I at the very least, I am having fun reliving and writing about the trail.

 

Stay tuned for next week’s post where I will cover the state of Massachusetts!

 

Thanks!

Sean “Purge”

Favorite Places on the AT: New York

The next state in the series is New York!

Similar to New Jersey, I had no idea what to expect from the state in terms of scenery. All I knew going in was that the guidebook showed a state with relatively little elevation changes which I thought would lead to some good mileage throughout my time in the state.

What I didn’t realize was that those little 100-500ft hills in the guidebook were really steep rocky/stone formations that could be challenging at times (especially when wet) and definitely slowed you down. That said, I really enjoyed hiking through New York more than I thought I would.

The first place that sticks out in my mind from New York was Black Mountain which offered a view of the distant New York Skyline. It was the first time I had ever seen the New York Skyline in person and it was very impressive. I couldn’t help but wonder if there had been hikers standing on top of that mountain on 9/11, watching the events unfold, cut off from the news cycle and wondering what was going on back in civilization.

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New York also had one of my favorite trees on the trail, a massive Oak right on the side of the AT. I have always been fascinated by giant, old trees and must have spent about 20 minutes marveling at the magnificent tree. It had a huge base and branches that were the larger than most of the tree trunks around the area. Unfortunately I don’t remember exactly where this was located, but if you happen to know, please tell us in the comment section!

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This is my favorite sign on the trail, which I’ll just let speak for itself….

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Next was a place that I had read about while researching the trail, the Trailside Museum & Zoo and was excited to visit. Most “Attractions” along the trail whether naturally occurring or not, require hiking a side trail or potentially even hitching a ride to visit. But not the zoo! The trail actually passes through the little zoo itself, marked with white blazes and everything. It was a little weird walking through a zoo full of people, while wearing a pack, but it was still a neat experience. It was filled with all kinds of local species including Black bears, coyotes, foxes and more.

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For better or for worse, their Weasel wasn’t available!

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Last but not least is Tony’s Deli. While there had been several delis near the trail in NY, Tony’s was by far the best. They had a small kitchen offering hot breakfast, lunch and dinner during the generous business hours of 3:30 am to midnight, had a small store to resupply and let hikers camp in the yard out back. The owner even dropped us off back at the trail in the morning.

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Finally, as promised, I am going to provide a weekly update on the book. As I alluded to earlier, I had been a little ambitious/optimistic with my original timeline, as well as the methods I was using to write and the free time I would have to finish the project.

I have reorganized my notes and am embarking on a new strategy that I think will produce a better story that will hopefully be enjoyed by everyone. Unfortunately, this means I had to back track a bit, but in the end I think it will help things move along quicker too.

At the time of this post, Purge is currently hiking through North Carolina! Even though it is relatively early in the trail/story, a lot has happened so far including a pesky chipmunk, a phantom light in the dark, my first hostel stay, a mountain rescue, freezing temperatures and more!

Stay tuned for next week’s post that will include another edition of my favorite places on the trail and another status update on the book.

I hope everyone is enjoying the blog and more importantly, getting out on adventures of your own (however large or small)!

As always if you have any questions or comments or maybe want to share your own experiences on the trail, please feel free to write in the comments section.

 

Thanks for reading!

Sean “Purge”

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and had a great time celebrating the New Year!

I took some time away from writing and blogging to enjoy the holidays and reflect the year that was 2017.I will continue the weekly blog posts this week, but first I wanted to share how I rung in the New Year!

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to end what has been an epic 2017, with a bang and begin an adventurous 2018 on the right foot. What better way to do so than with a little winter camping/hiking trip!

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I set out for Hocking Hills state park with a plan to camp on New Years Eve and go hiking in the Old Man’s cave area on New Years day. The temperature was in the single digits as I set up camp, eventually dropping below 0 overnight. But with a  little campfire and a good hammock setup, I stayed warm!

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It was incredible clear and calm on New Years Eve. Once the full moon rose, I didn’t need the headlamp. With the moonlight reflecting off of the snow, it was nearly as bright as day and really cool to walk around in.

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I packed a little bottle of Champagne and toasted the new year at (hiker) midnight while reflecting on what an incredible year it had been.

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I had to drink the champagne quickly though,as it was freezing as soon as it was poured into the cup, turning it into more of a slushy.

The next morning I woke up to some frigid weather, the wind had picked up overnight, dropping the temps to below zero and as far as -15 with the windchill. With a frozen fuel canister, I headed over to the state park office for a cup of hot coffee before hitting the trail to Old Man’s Cave.

The trail to Old Man’s Cave follows a (frozen) creek bed through a narrow gorge with towering cliffs full of frozen water falls, icicles and the occasional cave.

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Old Man’s cave itself is a giant natural cavern cut into the side of the cliff. The cave and the huge cliffs were so large, it made getting a picture with any kind of perspective a bit difficult.

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It was worth braving the cold for an adventurous start to the new year!

 

Book Update

I took some time during the holidays to reorganize my notes, take a look at my writing so far and take a more realistic look at the work ahead. There are times that I find myself wondering which was more difficult, hiking the trail or writing about it.

Several weeks ago, I had hoped to have the bulk of the writing done over the holidays, that has since proved to be unrealistic. In fact, I backtracked a bit and ended up rewriting certain sections.

Moving forward, as part of my weekly blog post, I’ll include a status on the book as well. Since the book tells the story of hiking up the trail, I post updates each we on where I “am” on the trail, in the book.

So look forward to that update next week as well as the continuation of the “Favorite place on the AT” posts.

 

Thank!

Sean (Purge)

 

Favorite Places on the AT: New Jersey

I have to admit, prior to hiking through the state, whenever I thought of New Jersey, all the classic Jersey clichés/stereotypes immediately came to mind. From Mob run casinos to seedy coastal towns, I had no idea what to expect from the state. All I knew for sure, was I was happy to break away from the rocks of Pennsylvania!

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But I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by what I found in New Jersey. Incredibly scenery, great views and friendly people!

Shortly after climbing up out of the Delaware water gap the trail, skirted the edge of Sunfish pond, a beautiful lake created by glaciers long ago.  Unfortunately, it was very windy so I wasn’t able to fish, but it was nice just to sit next to the water for a bit and look out across the water.

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Next was Sunrise Mountain which was one of the only times I was in a position to wake up with and view a sunrise on the trail. The sunrise was fantastic and more than made up for the cool, damp night atop the mountain.

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While the trail doesn’t go near the Jersey Shore, it does still has a boardwalk! The Pochuck Boardwalk stretches about a mile through low lying wetlands full of vegetation and birds. It was one of the few times on the trail that you could actually look around at the scenery without worrying about tripping on a tree root or rock. And I thought it was neat that there was a section of the Appalachian trail that was accessible to everyone regardless of ability or physical limitations.

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Finally, there was the stairway to Heaven, a short but steep climb up with great views looking back at the trail behind you.

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Even though it was only 70 miles or so, the New Jersey section was a very nice surprise and I really enjoyed my time hiking through. I certainly left with a changed opinion about the state.  The scenery was fantastic and the people couldn’t have been nicer. In fact, I have to give a specific shout out to Liz, a former thru hiker that drove several hours to deliver a resupply while I was going through New Jersey!

 

 

That will wrap up this week’s post, tune in next week as we work out way into New York!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Sean “Purge”

Favorite Places on the AT: Pennsylvania

This week’s post brings us to Pennsylvania or “Rockslyvania’. As soon as I decided to begin posting this series of favorite places on the AT by state, Pennsylvania immediately came to mind. With so many, less than pleasant memories of this rocky, dry, snake infested state, how could I possibly write about a couple of favorite places? Yet looking through my notes, pictures and memories, there were a few places I actually enjoyed while hiking through Pennsylvania.

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The first is the town of Boiling Springs. Centered around small lake, Boiling Springs has an ATC office, a great café and the Boiling Springs tavern. The town also has some of the nicest people on the trail, one of the local residents offered to put a couple hikers and myself up for the night. Best of all, the lake was full of trout! I spent about 4 hours fishing the lake with nothing but a spool of line, a little jig and a float and caught about two dozen Brook Trout.

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I would be remised if I did not include the infamous Doyle hotel and bar in Duncannon on this list. While I did not stay the night, I spent the better part of a morning/afternoon drinking beer, eating and playing pool in the historic building before hitting the trail again (Northbound hikers take note, this was not the best plan considering I had 14 more miles to hike up and out of Duncannon. )

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Next is perhaps the most difficult piece of trail to this point on the AT, the climb out of Palmerton/Lehigh Gap. Towering over the Lehigh river, the jagged cliffs made for a difficult scramble and at some points was more similar to rock climbing than hiking. The climb itself was fun and the views from the top were fantastic.

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Finally, perhaps my favorite place in Pennsylvania was Delaware Water Gap.  On the way down into the gap, from an opening in the trail there was an outstanding viewpoint looking out over the Delaware river. It was a little emotional knowing that after several days of cold rain, then scorching hot, dry weather, tons of treacherous rocks and plenty of snakes, the end was in sight, PA was almost behind me!

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There was also the Apple Pie Bakery which had an incredible amount of baked goods, BBQ and ice cream. They offered a hotdog and a slice of pie for less than $3, tough to beat on the trail!

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I want to close with an update on my book. Progress has slowed a bit, but has picked up recently. I do not yet have a solid timeline on when it will be completed, but I am hoping to get the bulk of what’s left written over the next month. As soon as I have a solid timeline I will share it with all of you. Just like the trail itself, writing the book has seen slow periods and fast periods but will be well worth it in the end!

I want to thank all of you for your continued interest and support!

Favorite Places on the AT: West Virginia and Maryland

I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving! The holiday sure takes on new meaning after completing a thru hike. I am extremely thankful for all the great places I have traveled, things I have experienced and friends I made along the way. And of course, was very thankful for a heaping plate of turkey and stuffing!

On to this week’s post, sticking with the theme of favorite places on the Appalachian Trail by state, we go to West Virginia, however due to its size I will also threw in Maryland.

West Virginia only has about 20 miles worth of Appalachian Trail, though it hugs the VA/WV border for a good bit, so I was never quite sure which state I was in until I made it to Harpers Ferry.

 

Harper’s Ferry would have to be my pick for favorite place on the West Virginia trail. Nestled in between the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, it is a very small town full of history. The town traded sides multiple times during the Civil war, was the home of a United States armory and arsenal and was visited by numerous presidents, including George Washington.

The town itself is also home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy office, “Spiritual” Halfway point of the trail (the actual halfway point, mileage wise, changes year to year). Hikers stop by to sign in and get their pictures taken out front. Its always interesting to see the change in appearance form beginning to middle to end.

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The trail out of town was very pleasant as well, following an old tow path trail next to a turtle filled canal for a couple miles. Scenic and easy hiking!

Maryland was also a fairly brief state as far as the AT was concerned, with about 40 miles of trail. Like Harper’s Ferry, Maryland was full of history. Many historical statues and monuments, including one of my favorite on the trail, the original Washington Monument.

It was a really cool to see a piece of history that many aren’t even aware exists. I arrived just in time for them to open the gate and was able to climb to the top for some great views. The park attendant told me it had recently been closed after lightning struck the top, blowing off a chunk of stone and injuring some hikers that were taking shelter from the storm in the stairwell. Near the top, you could still see the spot the lightning struck.

Finally, there was Penn-Mar Park, a very nice park overlooking a large valley right near the state border (which was also the Mason Dixon line). The park had restrooms, water fountains, a snack bar (though it was too early in the year and it was still closed) and tons of shady trees. I ended up hanging out for a while and even called a local pizza place and had lunch delivered to the park.

The Mason Dixon line was also a major milestone, signaling the end of the southern portion of the Appalachian Trail. It was also the beginning to Pennsylvania, which will be the subject of next week’s post!

Have another spot in West Virginia or Maryland that you enjoyed on the AT, feel free to share it in the comment section!

 

Have a great weekend!

 

Sean “Purge”

Favorite Places on the AT: Virginia

This week’s edition of Favorite places on the AT, brings us the state of Virginia! At 554 miles, it is the longest stretch of the Appalachian Trail through any one state. While it does have its rough spots, much of the state is fairly conducive to easier/bigger miles. And there is so much to see! The stretch takes you through the trail town of Damascus, up through the Grayson highlands (Wild Ponies!), and to well-known landmarks like MacAfee knob, Tinkers cliffs and the Dragons tooth.

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As for my favorite parts of the trail, I have to start by giving a shout out to Seeker and his family (including his son Schweppes who just completed the triple crown). We met up in Georgia and hiked together for the first couple hundred miles until an injury took him off the trail. He invited a couple other hikers and myself to his home near the trail in Virginia a few times. We had a great time eating, drinking, fishing and shooting. All a welcome break from the trail.

 

On to the first spot, the Grayson Highlands. The highlands sit above 5,000 feet and cover some really cool terrain with grassy balds, rock formations and some sections of thick forest. Not to mention the famous wild ponies that roam the landscape.

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When I hit this stretch in April, I was slammed by a late season blizzard with freezing temps, snow, and high winds. The wind was blowing so hard, that I had to lean forward to make any progress and at some points had to stop completely and wait for a strong gust to pass in order to continue. At one point, a gust knocked me into a bush resulting in my Frogg Togg rain pants being shredded.

Despite the weather is was still a very cool stretch of trail, with unique geography and what I can only assume would have been very nice views! The winter weather also led to some great photo ops with the ponies in the snow. This would definitely be a place I would go back and hike through in nicer weather.

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Next on the list, is Trent’s Grocery and Dismal Falls. Despite the name, Dismal falls is a really nice waterfall on a little side trail off the AT. It is about 20ft or so tall and pours off of an expansive rock outcropping that leaves plenty of room to sit/lay down and enjoy the sights.

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Trent’s Grocery is a little grocery store located .5 off the trail about a mile or so before Dismal Falls (NoBo). If you want small town America, this is it. It sits across the road from a lumber mill and you can find a handful of employees hanging out and getting their morning coffee. The grocery store also has a little food counter and a handful of tables. I stopped in with another hiker (Peace Walker) to eat breakfast and grab some supplies for an impromptu lunch at Dismal Falls. Definitely worth the .5 mile road walk off the trail.

Another great spot in Virginia is “The Captains Place”. Basically just a guy that owns a house across a river from the AT. He lets hikers camp in his large backyard, has a great fire pit, keeps a fridge full of soda on the back porch and best of all, built a zip line for hikers to sling across the river on! There are signs on the trail around the 656 mile mark (NoBo) that point you towards it, definitely a must stop (I mean come on, it’s a zipline!)

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Finally, one of the places I really enjoyed (though had to work really hard to get there), was the Devils Backbone Brewery. You have to hitch a ride from US 250 (around mile 861 NoBo), to get there from the trail, but they will give you a ride back. They let hikers camp in the woods near the back of their property and have a $5 hiker breakfast in the morning.

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As for the actual Brewery, it is a really cool place with a bar, restaurant, outdoor stage for concerts and a giant fire pit surrounded by dozens of Adirondack chairs. While I was there, they were also constructing a distillery that will produce Bourbon when finished. A must stop for hikers on the AT and a cool place to go even if you are just driving through the area.

That will do it for this week’s post, as always I love hearing feedback, comments and questions. And feel free to share your favorites spots in Virginia along the AT!

 

Thanks!

 

Sean “Purge”