Make The Most Of The Day

Romans 14:5

“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

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Matt and I hadn’t been out since our hike to Table Mountain in the spring, and while we were long overdue for adventure, we were short on time to get away. Fortunately for both of us we live just 30 minutes (19 minutes according to the GPS, yeah right) from the New Jersey Pine Barrens.and the 1.1 million acre Pinelands National Reserve. I’ll apologize here and now because I really didn’t take any pictures this trip, except for the few I’ll post in this story. I just wanted to walk and not really think about anything extra, but now that I put word to page I realize that the simple beauty of this area deserves better.

We checked into the office at the historic village of Batsto and picked up our permit for Mullica River campsite #8, and by 2:30 or so we were walking. The first part of the hike passes through historic Batsto village, with it’s mansion, iron works, and mills, and you get a peek at what life was like in the 1700’s and 1800’s. After passing beautiful Batsto Lake you finally get to the Mullica River Trail. It’s just a short 4 mile walk to the campsite, with the trail alternating between walking on sugar sand roads and brief forays into the forest on a trail covered in a  bed of pine needles.

About 1 1/2 miles in we came to Cornwall Bridge and had to figure out which way the trail goes; there is a detour because one of the bridges near Batsto is out. It didn’t take too much thought, as we realized we needed to stay on the same side of the river to get to camp. Still, I can see where someone could get turned around and would be surprised to find themselves back at Batsto!

For those of you who have never hiked in sugar sand, the roads in the pine barrens alternate between packed sand and loose sand like walking on the beach. Loose sand is a bit more difficult to make time on with a pack, but fortunately it is only a small part of this hike. The sections that actually turn to trail are some of the nicest to hike on, and I wish an effort was made to place more of the trail off the roads.

One big plus on this trail is the last mile to camp is designated a wilderness area, and no motor vehicles are allowed. The Mullica River campsite is designated primitive travel only, so the only access is by foot or canoe. As we neared the camp, Matt and I started to get views of the Mullica River, it’s waters stained by the tannin from the pines that line it’s banks. After just 1 1/2 hours and 4 short miles we reached camp.

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Me, dressed in cuben fiber

There were a number of other people at camp, including a LARGE number of boy scouts, but since were at the far end of the campsite it was still pretty peaceful. It would be dark soon, so we set about slinging our hammocks, and as darkness started to settle in Matt and I ate dinner. After eating, we took a stroll through the area to see the scope of the site. There a couple of privies, and a hand pump that doles out some of the best water, despite the tannin stained river just a few feet away. One of the reasons the Pinelands have been protected is because they help recharge the 17 trillion gallon Kirkwood – Cohansey aquifer, containing some of the purest water in the United States.

There were a large number of boy scouts,hooting and hollering and doing what boys in the woods do, and while it’s nice to see young men getting out and experiencing the joys of camping, we quickly retired to our fortress of solitude. Matt had carried in a couple of knock off fireplace logs since we knew the wood in the area would pretty much be picked over, and didn’t want to carry them out. Unfortunately, they didn’t want to burn. Ugh. What they did do was billow some obnoxious burning chemical smoke, and when, and only when we found enough sticks to get a small fire going could we actually get them to burn.

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Perserverance pays off, and our meager fire lasted long enough to allow thoughts of sleep to overtake us. Once in the rack, I had one of the best nights sleep I’ve had in quite a while.In fact, I didn’t get up once until morning. Once the sun starts to hit my tarp I can’t really sleep anymore, so I got up and took a walk.The scouts were up and about,which was a good thing since the water pump made a terrible squeeking sound as I filled my water bottles. Back at camp, Matt was still out, so I went about eating breakfast and packing up. Finally, I walked up the hill to Matt’s site, only to discover he had been awake for a while, but didn’t want to disturb me! We sat and talked about nothing in particular as Matt ate breakfast, and even now I marvel at how talking about nothing among friends can be so relaxing.

By the time Matt packed up we were strolling out of camp at a leisurely 10 am. The walk out flew,with more conversation about nothing, mixed with matters that maybe were about something, but all in all who could recall? Before we knew it Batsto village emerged from it’s hiding spot in the forest, and we were done.

Who knew 21 hours in the forest could be so revitalizing? We made a vow to do more trips like this when life tries to keep us bogged down. We might not always be able to get out for days on end, but when it’s hectic, I’ll find a way to take a DIAD (done in a day) trip!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Psalm 107:8-9

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

I apologize for the slow year of blogging here at WWTS, but I can assure you we have much to give thanks for! Thank you to all who have visited and journeyed along with me on these pages. I hope to get back to  a more consistent rhythm of posting going forward, as I do have plenty to say, lol.

God Bless each and everyone of you, and may God fill you with more than just a good meal, but with a filling of a heart of gladness, and heaping helping of the Holy Spirit.

Grace and Peace,

George

Pulling Up A Seat At (The) Table

Psalm 78:19

“Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”

 

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Full moon over the WWTS camp on Table Mt., Catskills (Image courtesy of Matt Bealor)

Psalm 78 is in the middle of a narrative of God’s goodness vs. man’s wickedness, so yes, it is a little out of context. Matt and I were fighting a different battle; God’s goodness in providing us a Table in the wilderness (Table Mt. in the Catskills that is) vs our sort of being in shape and climbing a mountain in the winter (well, last day of winter/first day of spring).

This trip started out as a trip to the Old Loggers Path in Pennsylvania that eventually morphed into “Hey, let’s go to the Catskills instead”. I took out the maps and poured over the possibilities, and every time I was drawn back to the area around Slide Mountain. The decision was made to hike to Table Mountain from the Slide Mountain trailhead, a hike of about 5.8 miles each way. After a 4 hour drive we pulled into the trailhead parking lot only to discovery just how popular Slide was as a day hiking destination – not a space remained. What’s a road weary hiker to do? I tried to make a spot work, but when you drive a F250 extended cab behometh there’s no squeezing into anything. Instead we decided to go to the trail head in Denning since it’s in the middle of nowhere and would shorten our hike to about 3.6 miles. Turns out this was a good choice.

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As the pavement turned into a winding gravel road I thought, “There’s no way anyone is out here”. I underestimated how popular this area is. There were plenty of spaces in the lot, but there had to be at least a dozen cars there. We only saw about 4 other groups on the trail all day, so I have to assume this is another semi popular access route to Slide Mountain.

It felt good to saddle up, and the trail starts out as a pleasant walk on an old woods road. My guess is this was an old carriage road from way back, and the first 1.2 miles to the Table-Peekamoose Moutain Trail is nice, easy walking.

Turn off to Table Mt.

Turn off to Table Mt.

Interesting thing to me is that the junction of the Peekamoose Mt – Table Trail and the Curtis – Ormsby Trail is the terminus of the Finger Lakes Trail (or one of the spurs). I don’t understand why they just didn’t end either at the Denning Trailhead,or after crossing Table and Peekamoose, instead of here in the woods. How many licks to the center of a tootsie pop? The world may never know.

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After turning onto the TPT (Table – Peekamoose Mt Trail) we started downhill on a moderate grade until we came to the two crossing of the East Branch of the Neversink River. The bridges that cross the Neversink are very well made, and you can tell that there are certain times of year (spring melt comes to mind) that you are not hiking here.

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By the way, that rope on the second bridge is totally worthless.If you lose your balance your taking a fall.

Around this time we stopped to talk with a man and his son and we asked them if they were coming back from Table. His reply was, “No, we only made it partway up the steep section before turning back.” He told us he got his butt kicked by the mountain.

Upward and onward the trail started to climb, and shortly we realized we were on the section the guy was telling us about. He gave up too easy, as I think this was the toughest part of the whole hike.

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I thought we were climbing Table, but it soon became apparent we were just crossing a shoulder, and once over the top we met a group who confirmed my suspicion. They gave us some good info and encouragement,and once again off we went. We came to a viewpoint over Table and Peekamoose that allowed me to get my bearings, and we realized we were almost there.

Table Mt (left) and Peekamoose (right)

Table Mt (left) and Peekamoose (right)

Soon enough we passed the spring and came to the Table Mt lean to,which sits about 7/10 of a mile and about 500 (?) feet below the summit of Table Mt.

Table Mt Lean to

Table Mt Lean to

If you’re a hanger the trees are slim pickings, and Matt and I spent probably at least a 1/2 hour trying to find a halfway decent set of trees to hang on.

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My rig

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Matt’s setup

After getting set up Matt decided to hike to Table’s summit, while I took a nap. I was using a 20 degree 950 fill power goose down bag I had thrown together for this trip, and even though it was about 30° I was not as warm as I would have liked. After a bit of tossing and turning I decided to get up and look at my underquilt. As I turned to swing out of my hammock my butt bumped something underneath – the ground! I had hung my pack and trail runners from my webbing and it allowed enough slack for my suspension to slide down the tree! The hammock had sagged down, creating air gaps underneath,and no amount of top insulation was going to fix that.

That's a no no

That’s a no no

After resetting everything and climbing back aboard, aaaaah, instant heat!  Now that I was sure of a good nights sleep, dinner was the plan. I walked down to the lean-to so I would have a flat platform to cook on, and was met by three fellows from Jersey that were spending the night. The one fellow, Dan, was in the market for a hammock and quilts, and had a ton of questions. It was fun to answer their questions while I was cooking (Packit Gourmet Texas State Fair Chili, one of my favorites), and after we were done I plodded back to camp to see how Matt was making out. He had returned and offered that there was a limited view, and some snow on the summit of Table.

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Summit of Table Mt

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Sunset from Table Mt

In addition to the forest of rotten trees where we camped, all of the down wood was wet and rotted as well. That’s no issue for Matt, as he seems to be able to set water on fire. His trail name should be the Torch, because you will always have a campfire, no matter the conditions,when Matt is around.

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The breeze seemed to keep the heat from escaping the fire ring, and we both decided to call it a night. I have to say, I slept fitfully, and got up at least three times during the night. At one point it sounded like it had started raining,and while I normally like sleeping in the rain, I jumped up in a panic. Neither of us had thought to bring microspikes, and if it was raining it would freeze and turn the trails to a sheet of ice! As I climbed out of my warm bed I realized it wasn’t raining, although I couldn’t tell you what the sound was I heard on my tarp. Back to bed, heart pounding, waiting for the morning.

Morning finally broke, and we were a pretty efficient affair, eating breakfast and breaking down in record time. The hike out was actually over rather quickly, as it was downhill most of the way. We stopped to snack at the Neversink, and then we were done! Not even a picture to be had on the way out.

All in all,I think we made a good call heading to the Catskills. Our trip over the Burroughs Range last year didn’t leave us warm and fuzzy on the Catskills, but Table Mountain renewed our desire to explore more of the area. I’m sure we’ll be back.

 

 

He Is Risen

Mark 16:9-11

“9 Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.”

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This is the single most important day in Christianity – Resurrection Day. Without the birth of Christ there would be no hope, without the death of Christ there would be no life, and without the resurrection of Christ there would be no reason to believe.

Good Friday is good only because Christ bore our sins on the cross and gave His life for us. But without Resurrection Day it couldn’t be true. If Jesus just died on the cross the story would be just that – a story. It’s His resurrection from death that shows us that Jesus is who He says He is, and that He sits in heaven as our intercessor, our kinsman redeemer. We have been bought at a mighty price. A ransom so high,that if we come to Him and ask forgiveness, he sees our sin no more. Psalm 103:12 says, ” as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16. Jesus died so you can live, if only you believe. It cost Jesus everything so that it would cost you nothing.

Happy Resurrection Day!

Whoo buddy!

Proverbs 16:3

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.”

Just wanted to share a video that Shug did featuring one of our Loco Libre Gear quilts while on a hike in Finland, Minnesota

For God So Loved….

Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin

“Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think”

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Here we are, another Christmas upon us. And once again, as many christians do, I reflect on “the reason for the season”. This year I guess I dug a little deeper than other years past, and what I was confronted with was a simple truth. Yes, Jesus was born the Saviour King, because as Romans 3:23-24 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. So Jesus was sent to be a redeeming sacrifice, but why would a just and righteous God care to be bothered with all my nonsense? LOVE! John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Furthermore, John 3:17 says, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”. We are redeemed because we are LOVED! This is not a new truth to me, but rather one that I had to be reminded of amid the hustle and bustle. I pray that you too know how much God loves you. 

As you fight the mall traffic and the short tempers and anger that the commercialized christmas season lays upon those around you, remember, it’s not just Christmas, but the day Love was born!

God Bless You All and a very Merry Christmas from Walking With The Son!

For your viewing pleasure here is my favorite Christmas song this season:

 

 

The High Falls Loop (aka My Real Life Leave It To Beaver)

Proverbs 25:25

“Like cold water to a thirsty soul,so is good news from a far country.”

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Click Here For Trip Photos

The High Falls Loop in the northwest corner of New York’s Adirondack Park has been on my to do list for about 4 years, and I finally decided to check it out in the beginning of November this year. As I pulled out of my driveway for some reason I though my gps said it was a 298 mile drive. As I went through Syracuse I new something was amiss. A quick check of google maps revealed that it was actually a 410 mile drive! For an overnighter! Yikes! Oh well, only two hours to go sooooo, onward weary soldier.

 

Yes, it was a long drive.

Yes, it was a long drive.

Actually I’ve driven much further for an overnighter. I don’t mind when the trip promises to be a good one. It was a weekday trip, and even though this loop is popular, I hoped for a bit of solitude.

DAY 1

The loop itself is only about 16 miles, and either starts or ends with a short .4 mile road walk. I opted to start on the Eastern Leg with the road walk, just to be done with it. Just as I saddled up a couple came out of the woods; it was Levi Tate and his wife from Hammock Forums. It’s always great to meet other forum members. We talked for a bit and I got the 411 on the trail conditions. The forecast was for wet feet. It’s not like I haven’t dealt with that before, so after some pleasant conversation off I went.

Old railroad grade

Old railroad grade

The eastern leg of the loop starts on an old railroad grade from years gone by that used to haul lumber in the area. It didn’t take long before I came to the first wet spot. The plank bridges on the trail were floating and I was going to get my feet wet. Fortunately there were some state workers there diligently working on the beaver dam to try and drain the trail.

Flooded trail

Flooded trail

More flooded trail

More flooded trail

Honestly, wet feet don’t bother me, and I knew they would dry soon enough. Views of Cranberry Lake teased me through the trees, and by the time I reached Janacks Landing my feet were dry. I stopped for a quick snack break and took in the forest around me. The most memorable thing was the smell. The entire trip I enjoyed the scent of the pines trees – I don’t remember if they were spruce or fir, but the smell reminded me of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, near my home.

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Cranberry Lake

The miles flew by and when I reached the junction to Cat Mountain I was slightly surprised that I had covered 3.6 miles in 45 minutes. Yes, it’s easy walking, but still, the only shape I’m in right now is round. As I moved along there weren’t any views, just the occasional beaver pond, so I was kind of in auto pilot, not really paying attention. Suddenly I realized I was off trail and thought,” I don’t remember  seeing a turn”. I backtracked about 50 feet and sure enough, there was a turn – right onto a tree about 50 feet long that crossed a beaver pond. There was a piece of cord tied from one bank to the other to hold onto, but if you put any kind of pressure on the cord it stretched to the point that you were going swimming! I have to say, for the first 15-20 feet I was not happy. At about the half way point the tree was hewn a little flatter, and finally I was across and glad I was doing a loop. In all honesty, if it were wet and rainy I probably would have slipped and fallen. Whew!

Log bridge over beaver pond

Log bridge over beaver pond

When I finally came to the side trail leading to High Falls I was pleasantly surprised to find that instead of the rocky path following a creek to the falls, it was a nice railroad grade in the woods. It was only .5 mile to the falls but the woods were dead silent. I passed an old piece of machinery used to maintain the railroad, and marveled at all the abandoned equipment I have passed in the Adirondacks over the years.

Abandoned equipment

Abandoned equipment

Finally, I heard the beautiful roar of High Falls. The trail broke out of the woods near the top of the falls. There are the remains of an old, long gone bridge that led to High Falls lean-to #2, now inaccessible except by paddlers, and High Falls #1 sits back from about 100 feet in the woods.

Old bridge pier over fast water

Old bridge pier and fast water

High Falls

High Falls

High Falls lean to #1

High Falls lean-to #1

It was a beautiful location, with a privy and multiple campsites, and I can see how this area could get overwhelmed by visitors at certain times of the year.

When I get to camp I like to get all my camp chores done, mostly because I run out of steam at the end of a day of hiking. Today was different in that I wasn’t tired from the walk; the hike only took 2 hours. I was tired from the drive up, but still had a bit energy left.

First order of business was to get my shelter up. This hike would be my first time sleeping in a bridge hammock. I was trying out a Warbonnet Ridge Runner, and I was hoping the extra weight would be worth it. I didn’t have a proper bridge underquilt, so I decided to improvise with a Loco Libre Gear LongHot underquilt. I had brought an old DIY topquilt, since I had loaned all my quilts out, and a HG cuben fiber tarp rounded out the package.

WBRR hammock with LLG LongHot underquilt

WBRR hammock with Loco Libre Gear LongHot underquilt

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

What a great spot! Just far enough from the falls to slightly mute the roar, but close enough to be lulled to sleep. It was everything one could hope for, and best of all I had it to myself.
Next on the agenda was dry clean clothes, and dinner. Since the place was deserted I got changed right at the lean-to while I waited for water boil. I mulled over the idea of starting a fire while my Packit Gourmet Texas State Fair Chili rehydrated, but decided against it. Most of the down wood in the area was pretty damp and I didn’t really feeling like ducking smoke. What I neglected to take into account was the fact that it would be dark around 6 pm and I’d be really bored.

The forecasters on the radio on the way up said the Northern Lights would be visible tonight, and I was excited because I had never seen them. When I hit the hammock around 5 pm  I consoled myself with the idea that  I would wake in the middle of the night to a glorious light display. I was only half right – I woke many times during the night, but no lights. At about 11:30 pm I awoke and my back was chilled. I tried to ignore it (you’d think by now I’d know better), and finally got up with the excuse that I had to”commune” with mother nature anyway. I keep my camp shoes on my pack while I’m hiking with a piece of shock cord with a mitten hook on either end, and after retrieving that and attaching it to the center D rings on the underquilt and over the ridgeline it was like someone turned on the heat. Next time I use the WBRR I’ll have a proper bridge underquilt.

As a side note, this was the stillest, quietest night I have ever spent in any forest.

DAY 2

Good morning

Good morning

Other than waking about 100 times I had a great night’s sleep (and I won’t mention the dream I had of a serial killer attacking me in my hammock, brrrr). No Aurora Borealis either – double bummer. No matter, I still arose feeling refreshed, and broke down camp before heating water for my breakfast; Mountain House Scrambled Eggs and Ham on a burrito with cheese and Chick Fil A Jalapeno Salsa.

After I was finally packed up and prayed for safe travel I hit the trail around 8:30 am. One last look at the falls and I was off to the races. Most of the todays hike was on another old railroad grade, and it would be an easy day of hiking.

Western loop trail

Western loop trail

The trail is mostly dry, but there would be much more flooding due to beaver activity. Here’s a hint: if you go somewhere called The Five Ponds Wilderness, you’re gonna get wet feet Jack. In reality even though there was more flooding, there were also more beaver dams to cross on.

Beaver flooding

Beaver flooding

Wet spot

Wet spot

After a bit of flooding the trail ran along the Oswegatchie River, and as I walked along I heard a dull roar – High Falls. I got to listen to the roar of the falls for a few more minutes until the trail dove back into the cover of the forest and I instantly missed it. The trail and river both meander along, occasionally bumping into each other until the Oswegatchie finally decides to part ways for a while, leaving you to be swallowed up by the silence of the forest.

Oswegatchie River

Oswegatchie River

Old railroad grade

Old railroad grade

The interesting (or not) thing about this part of the hike is that you can see far ahead on long corridors of trail. The trail is smooth, so you can actually look ahead instead of looking at your feet. I passed the junction to Big Shallow, vowing to one day visit that part of the Five Ponds, and before I knew it I was at the junction to High Rock.

View from High Rock

View from High Rock

It’s a short .1 mile side trip, and the view is a classic. There are campsites and a privy, but surprisingly no lean-to. It’s a beautiful spot, but only 3.6 easy miles from the trailhead. If you want an easy hike, or don’t mind company this is a nice overnight destination. Me, I’m just passin’ thru.

The rest of the trail from here on out is what I would classify as boring. At one point I was trying to judge distance by comparing the trail to how many blocks that would be in my neighborhood. Maybe I’m better off not being able to see ahead, lol.

Aaaah, that's about 1 1/2 or 2 blocks i'd guess.........

Aaaah, that’s about one and a half or two blocks I’d guess………

Finally I could tell I was at a low point; the ridge on the right disappeared and the Oswegatchie River appeared in a marsh on my left. One last flooded spot to squish through (thank you very much Mr. Beaver) and that was all she wrote. The time was 11:30 am and when all was totalled I would drive about 13 hours to hike for 5. In my opinion it was very worth it.

All in all it was a nice, easy, peaceful trip. I didn’t pass anyone on the trail in two days, and although some of the walk can be a little monotonous, I’d like to come back. If I can find the time I’d like to dust off the pulk and snowshoe to Cat Pond this winter (as well as climb Cat Mountain) and I’d also like to do a 4-5 day trip traversing the entire Five Ponds Wilderness.  As always, so many trips, so little time.

 

 

Digging Deep on the Burroughs Range

Psalm 121:1-3

“A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber”

He who knows not smiles a lot

He who knows not smiles a lot

For Trip Pictures Click Here

Due to injuries in the early part of 2015 (a strained shoulder, then a full distal tear of the left bicep) I hadn’t been on the trail since last December . Happily, my recovery has progressed to the point that I can once again cruise the piney woods and make up for lost time.

Matt and I discussed a number of options and settled on the Catskills, since neither of us had ever backpacked there before. We wanted a loop hike, and settled on the Burroughs Range. We would start from Woodland Valley, cross Whittenberg, Cornell, and Slide Mountains, finally returning via the Phonecia-Eastbranch Trail. It looked like a nice tidy little loop of about 14 or so miles.

We arrived at the parking area at the Woodland Valley Campground around 9:30 am and paid the $6 parking fee at the campground office. The nice lady at the window informed us that the trail we were taking was rated extremely difficult. Undeterred, we thanked her and saddled up for our adventure.

Trail uphill

Trail uphill

Three things became evident right out of the gate; 1) whoever mapped this trail was in a hurry to gain altitude, 2) he obviously never heard the term switchback, and 3) this old man is out of shape (correction, my shape after 9 months of no exercise is round). No matter, I was just happy to be in the mountains.

While the climb was steep, it was nice to gain some altitude for a change. We came to a nice level spot with a sorta view, and decided to break for an early lunch.

Sorta view

Sorta view

While it wasn’t the sweeping panorama that one dreams of when in the mountains, it certainly was encouraging to see just how much we had already climbed.

Back into the fray, we continued on our upward journey until, finally, we hit a fairly level stretch. Not the kind of level that says “we made it”, but that kind that says “get ready sucker, cause it’s gonna end soon”. We passed a spring that was flowing good, and took that as a sign that they all were flowing as well. We took a break at the junction of the trail to Terrace Mountain Lean-to, since my map indicated the next 1.3 miles to the summit of Whittenberg would be steep.

Hiking up Whittenberg, ha ha

Hiking up Whittenberg, ha ha

In places the climb was steep and unrelenting. There were ledges to scramble over, and if I were in better shape it would have been a blast. As it was, we just met each climb head on and claimed our victory one battle at a time.

Matt trudging ever upward

Matt trudging ever upward

Finally, a little past noon, we reached the summit of Whittenberg Mountain, with it’s fantastic views over Ashokan Reservoir. Sitting in the breeze, taking it all in, the struggles of the morning seemed to vanish.

Ashokan Reservoir from the summit of Whittenberg, 4180 feet

Ashokan Reservoir from the summit of Whittenberg, 3780 feet

View north towards the Devils Path

View north towards the Devils Path

We finally pried ourselves away, and started the trek toward the summit of Cornell. Cornell summit really doesn’t offer anything in the way of views, and was more of an obstacle to our ultimate destination for the day; the col between Cornell and Slide. Someone told us the climb up Cornell was a cakewalk, but we found there was more ledges and scrambles, and at one point we had to take our packs off, and hand them up a small chimney like ledge.

Whittenberg from Cornell

Whittenberg from Cornell

Chimney ledge

Chimney ledge

Matt checking out Slide Mountain from Cornell

Matt checking out Slide Mountain from Cornell

After what seemed like an eternity of downward scrambles the trail leveled out in the col between Slide and Cornell. We reached the first designated campsite and it really looked kind of dismal. We were pressing on to the spring anyway, so we decided to go to the next campsite near the base of Slide. As we moved on we passed a hiker who informed us that the spring was dry. I was down to my last few swallows and because of  the exertion and my water rationing I started to feel nauseous. As I sat and attempted to recover, Matt went ahead and looked for the next campsite. A nice couple out for a day hike offered me an extra bottle of water they had and I gladly accepted. It wouldn’t be enough to get me past my malaise, but it was a welcome help. They also offered that there was a flowing spring 1/2 mile and 500 vertical feet up Slide. I thanked them and plodded on, finally catching up with Matt at the campsite.

The wind had picked up and it looked like rain, even though the Weather Channel had assured me otherwise. Matt had a 1.5 liter Nalgene of water, so we decided to call it a day. First order of business, before I ran out of steam or it rained, was to make camp. We got set up in record time, but I had my concerns about my tarp choice for this trip. Since I thought it was going to be nice I had brought a paltry little Asym tarp. Now it didn’t look like much coverage, but I’d have to make do. Maybe it won’t actually rain !!??!! Saving that 3 ounces over my cuben full coverage tarp wasn’t so smart after all!

Woeful little tarp

Woeful little tarp

I still wasn’t feeling too hot, so I sat and ate some crackers as Matt cooked his dinner; a big, fat, 15 ounce steak. He kindly shared some with me, and I finished off my dinner with a blueberry Odwalla bar. I was disappointed not to eat my Pakit Gourmet Texas Fair Chili, but that wouldn’t have been very wise given my condition.

We settled in a little before dark and I drifted in and out of a light slumber, until I awoke to the sound of large raindrops hitting my tarp at 12:45 am. The wind was howling, and with every gust my silly little piece of silnylon lofted like a hot air balloon, letting the rain pelt me directly. I knew I didn’t have a choice, so I threw my rain jacket on, lowered the tarp as much as possible, and generally tried to batten down the hatches. To add insult to injury, I went to sit in my hammock and missed, landing flat on my back. Well, at lease there weren’t any rocks. Grumble, grumble, dust myself off and back to bed. Feel around – everything isn’t perfect, but it’s much drier. Finally, back to sleep.

Day 2

By the time morning rolled around the rain was done. I wasn’t quite feeling normal, but forced myself to eat breakfast anyway. Matt and I talked as we broke down camp, and we decided to cut the trip a little short. Instead of hiking the Phonecia-Eastbranch Trail we would cross Slide and hike down to the parking area at the base of the mountain and try to get a ride back to my truck. As we headed out, the trail decided to get steep again, but we were ready this time. After a few more dicey ledges we finally reached the spring. We tanked up and filled our bottles, taking a few minutes to rest.

Cornell and Whittenberg from the shoulder of Slide.

Cornell and Whittenberg from the shoulder of Slide.

While this climb was steep, including some ladders, we were in much better spirits.

Ladder on Slide Mt.

Ladder on Slide Mt.

Slide is the highest mountain in the Catskills at 4190 feet, but the climb to the summit wasn’t all that bad. We had fought the hard battle the day before, and before we knew it we were at the summit rock. Sadly, there were no views due to cloud cover.

Slide Mountain summit rock

Slide Mountain summit rock

Burroughs plaque on Slide Mt.

Burroughs plaque on Slide Mt.

The trail down the west side of Slide Mountain was a cakewalk compared to everything else we had endured on the Burroughs Range. The trail used to be an old carriage road to bring wealthy tourists to the summit.

Old carriage road on Slide Mt.

Old carriage road on Slide Mt.

The hardest part of the walk out was the constant rocky downhill the whole way. As we hiked lower toward the valley, quads screaming the whole way, Matt said,” Well, I can check the Catskills off my bucket list” to which I replied with a chuckle, “Next week we’ll be talking about how great this trip was!”.

When we finally made it to the parking area we saw a couple of fellows we had talked to the day before. Thankfully they agreed to take us back to my truck. Some people call that “trail magic”, but I know a blessing when I see one.

I saw Matt at church last Sunday.

Matt: How you feeling?

Me: Pretty good

Matt: That was a good trip.

Me: Yeah it was.

 

 

It is Well

It Is Well With My Soul – Horatio Spafford

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.”

IMG_2424

“Been a little quiet over that WWTS these days George.” You betcha! Haven’t been on a hike since December 2014, and the prospects of one before September of this year are glum, as evidenced by the above photo. It’s been a rough 2015 so far, but oh boo hoo. These things have been a blessing of sorts. This is the first time in my life I’ve been able to slow down, and I can truly say it is well with my soul. I have a few new things that are now coming to the forefront, and  I believe everything that has happened is a part of God’s greater plan. Maybe I could live vicariously through one of you. Tell me about how you’ve been walking with the Son!

Staff Sergeant Thomas William Logan Sr.

American Soldier by Toby Keith

“I’m an American soldier, an American
Beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand
When Liberty’s in jeopardy, I will always do what’s right
I’m out here on the front line
Sleep in peace tonight
American soldier, I’m an American soldier”

 

 

Uncle Tom

Staff Sergeant Thomas William Logan Sr.    December 8, 1942 – March 27, 2009

A few days ago I decided I didn’t want to do the same old Memorial Day post. I wanted to memorialize an individual who represents the heart of Memorial Day. I see posts that say “Happy Memorial Day”, but the reality for anyone who has or had a loved one who served, it can be a very somber day.

I decided to write about Staff Sergeant Thomas William Logan Sr, or Uncle Tom as I knew him. My first recollection of Uncle Tom was when I was very young – maybe 5 years old. You see I was born in 1964, and my Uncle Tom did 3 tours in Vietnam, so when this soldier showed up at the house and was hugging my mom I was wondering who this guy was. Tommy, as my mom called him, was her twin, and he was on leave, and had to shovel through 18 inches of snow to visit.

Uncle Tom earned two purple hearts in Vietnam. On one occasion he was riding in the back of a duece and a half (2 1/2 ton truck) with another soldier who was on his way home. The truck ran over a landmine and both men were throw into a rice patty. My uncle had a shoulder wound, but “commandeered” a motorcycle from a local to ride and get help. Sadly, that soldier never went home. Uncle Tom signed up for another tour in Vietnam after that, and completed 3 tours.

Sadly, my next memories of Uncle Tom were running into him when I was about 30 years old. He sometimes worked with my Uncle Jack, and I saw him on a job site. I would see him on a rare occasion, and he always would laugh and joke with me. I regret not getting to know him better.

In the above picture Uncle Tom was 66 years old. Even as the war and it’s memories followed him through life and eventually caught him, he was still proud to be an american soldier. Rest in peace Uncle Tom. God Bless the American Soldier!