Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Southbound

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

I awoke to my last day in Buffalo at the usual early morning hour. My body was still on the work schedule of the last year and told me it was time to get up. I doubt I could have slept in anyway because there was a certain excitement to begin my long vacation. I was ready to see what was out there.

There was a light dusting of snow on the ground and the air felt bitterly raw after the mild weather of the last two weeks. I loaded my van with the remaining items from my apartment, cleaned up the floors and bathroom, and after several checks to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, drove to meet Jenny.

It took us a couple hours to drive to the storage facility and fill out the paperwork to store my van. By the time we got back to the city, I was ready to head south and leave Buffalo for warmer climate. Thanks for everything, Jen.

The drive to Pittsburgh was uneventful. I had to keep reminding myself to slow down and save gas. At $4 a gallon, a little extra drive time will help a lot with expenses. Apparently, there are not many worried about how much gas they burn. All the way to Pittsburgh, SUV’s and heavy duty pickups flew by me like I was standing still.

Right now I’m enjoying a couple of days at Karen’s. She and Zack took me out to eat to celebrate my “retirement”, and then I went with Noah, Nate, and their Dad, to watch Noah play in a soccer game. All three kids are good athletes and it’s always fun to watch them play.

Karen has been helping me decide what gear to pack for my hiking adventure. I think I’m just about set. I know I will be carrying too much, but you can never tell what the weather will be in the mountains. Better to be safe than sorry. Tomorrow I will head towards Georgia.

Vagabond

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

This week has gone agonizingly slow. I’m ready to get out of town and reckon back to the days of wanderer, ready to take a walk in the woods and see what lies over the next hill, and more than ready to stop living someone else s version of my life. All I have is one more day of responsible, dependable employment, and then I can revert to being a vagabond again.

Tomorrow will be sad good-byes to all the employees at work and the staff in pharmacies where I deliver. I always have a good relationship with my fellow workers and people I meet on my route, and they will be missed. When I told the pharmacy employees of my intentions, it brought many groans and sad expressions, but encouragement in the belief that I was doing the right thing. Who knows, maybe some day I will be back for another run of employment and see them again.

I have most of the apartment empty. I loaded everything into my new van except for an air mattress and a few clothes for tomorrow. On Saturday, Jen will help me take one van to a storage lot where it will remain until I come back from my southern adventure. The plan is to drive my old van down to Georgia, either park or junk it, and walk for a while in the Appalachian Mountains. Then I will shuttle back or forward until I arrive at someplace sensible. It’s no good having too much of a rational plan or it wouldn’t be much of an adventure. My friend at work told me he had a video that I need to watch before I start hiking in Georgia – you guessed it – “Deliverance.” Good one, Ron!

My first stop will be in Pittsburgh to see Karen and the boys. I will leave a few things with her in case I last more than a couple of days and need something mailed to me. It’s always good to get her input on the right gear to pack. Even though I’ve studied my supplies pretty thoroughly, she has that analytical ability to plan a hike much better than I do.

That’s about it. Things can and will change along the way, and that will be all right. I’ll try to update when I do something interesting…and, I guess even when I don’t.

p.s. It didn’t take David long to figure out how to toggle my phone to the computer.

The New Ride

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Here are a few pictures of my van. It is presently equipped with captains’ chairs that swivel, and a bench seat in the back that folds down into a bed. There are shades on all the windows, ducted A/C and heat, diverse interior lighting, and a nice sound system from the radio and TV. The inside is finished in plush carpeting and wood-grain paneling.
1997 Ford Conversion
Van

I tried to figure out a way to save the seats and incorporate them into my camper van design, but the center seats took up too much room, and the fold-down bed was uncomfortable and cramped. So today I decided to remove all the back seats and start over with an empty space.
Van 036
Van 043
The modifications will progress slowly. I still need to use the new van as a backup in case my work van breaks down. I will probably build the cabinets for the kitchen and bed storage area, but still be able to remove them without a lot of work.
Van 044

WordPress made a mess out of this!

Solo on the AT

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

That was about it for our hike. We descended South Mountain and walked about three miles along the abandoned railway into Harpers Ferry. We were there so early hardly anything was open. A row of restaurants line the lower streets in the old part of town, catering mostly to tourists that visit the museums and relics on weekends. It was Monday morning and we couldn’t find anyplace to eat so we rode the shuttle bus to the Visitors Center and picked up Karen’s car. 

On our way out of town I ran an idea by Karen. I was still feeling good and not in any hurry to stop hiking. I had plenty of trail food left and plenty of time for another short hike. The transportation was not a problem, Karen could drop me off a ways north and I could hike back to my van. The more I thought about it the better I liked the idea. 

We found a pizza parlor and gorged ourselves on wings and pizza, googled a nearby cinema and went to see the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, and then checked into a motel for the night. While I did laundry – my hiking clothes were stinky – Karen found a highly recommended Mexican restaurant on Yelp and we ate some more. 

The next morning, Karen dropped me off 20 miles north of my van and I continued on another section of the AT. It was fun meeting the same hikers we met two days before and seeing their surprised looks, answering puzzling questions at how I got ahead of them.  I saw three black snakes, even stepping on one, but no rattlers, thank goodness.  

The weather was great for my extra hike and I made good time to Tumbling Run Shelter, my stopping place for the night.  Tumbling Run is a unique area:  Twin shelters – new, clean, well cared for-  showcase a campground with decks for picnic tables, fire pits, clothes lines, a nice privy with sanitizer, and numerous tent sites. I chose a tent site away from a group of day campers and set up camp. When I returned to the shelter area, the camp host was in the process of kicking out the day campers. The shelters are for hikers, and he told us how campers park at a near-by road and walk in to party.   

There were only three of us then. We practically had the area all to ourselves. I gathered wood for a fire and we talked until dark. One of the thru-hikers was going home in a few days to attend graduation. He was some kind of math major at a prestigious college and had graduated early, leaving him time to hike the AT before the ceremony. He didn’t think he would be back to finish the trail. He missed his family too much. 

When I awoke the next morning, both thru-hikers were gone. There was a heavy dew on everything so I hung around camp for a while, hoping my tent would dry a little before I packed it. I had plenty of time; there was only nine miles left to finish. If I would have known what was just up the trail, I would have probably left sooner, when it was cooler. 

For about three mile, I walked through some of the worst mosquito infestation I’ve ever seen. They were relentless, and Deet didn’t seem to phase them. I think I used half a bottle trying to keep them from devouring me. They even bit right through my clothes. With all the rain in the last few weeks, the standing water made perfect breeding grounds. 

It was almost 2:00 pm when I reached my vehicle. I still felt good after 60 miles and would have probably kept on hiking if I had a way to get back. I hope Karen and I can do another hike this fall and get some family to join us. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Appalachian Adventure – Part One

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

On Monday, 5/23/11, Karen and I completed our backpacking adventure on the AT. We climbed through rolling mountains, traversed long scenic ridges with expansive views, scrambled over rocks and boulders, trudged up slopes that made sweat run down our backs, and descended knee jarring switchbacks into lush valleys. We met a lot of nice people and a few that were a bit odd. We mixed in with hikers that were decidedly grubby, a little bit smelly, and always hungry. We were transported into a place where nature decides your every comfort level and the world moves at a simple pace. 

Our path traversed the whole width of Maryland along the South Mountain range. For forty miles, high above the Cumberland Valley, from Harpers Ferry to the Mason Dixon Line, the AT visits historic sites of the Civil War. This area was alive with skirmishes and battles leading up to the major conflicts of Antietam and Gettysburg. We enjoyed mixing in a little history lesson, now and then, as we hiked through State Parks and Monuments. 

On our first day, we hiked about 9 miles to a dreary looking place called Ensign Cowall Shelter. When we got there we found it already occupied by two hikers. One young fellow sat outside making a pair of gaiters out of an abandoned garment someone had given him. We later learned that he was from Germany, and had the urge to travel to America and thru-hike the AT before he started his career. He turned out to be a delightful, friendly, intelligent guy and both Karen and I enjoyed his company. The other character was a piece of work. He lay in the shelter wrapped in his sleeping bag, sick from exhaustion and drugs. This was the first time he had ever been in the woods in his life, and he was so ill prepared for backpacking that he was a danger to himself. It was hard getting a story out of him that any of us could believe, but we gathered that he had come on the train to Harpers Ferry with a pack that weighed 150 pounds, and had walked for 10 days to get to this shelter that should normally be only two days hike. Besides being  way out of shape and grossly overweight, he had nothing even practical for backpacking. What little clothes he had were soaked from walking in the rain, and he was living on some kind of Army rations. We heard stories of fishing in the river for catfish and building lean-tos for shelter. It didn’t take much thought for Karen and I to move to the area behind the shelter and pitch our tent for the night. 

No sooner than we had settled in to our campsite, along came a troop of fifteen Boy Scouts. They pitched their tents in every available space in the area, surrounding us with their noise and chatter well onto the night. At one point, Karen even spoke to them, asking them to be quiet. They finally settled down and we got a few hours of restless sleep. 

In the morning, we packed up early and planned a 14 mile hike that would put us well beyond the range of the Scout Troop. 

To be continued…