Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sky Meadows backcountry

Almost as "back" as it gets in northern Virginia, anyhow ... not a Starbucks within 30 miles. Scary.

Here's some photos I took today during a hike that did double duty -- checking out the trail I volunteered to care for, and checking out the joints of the carcass I committed to climb The Priest on Sunday. All checks went well.

(If anyone has trouble using the link above, please send me a note. The security settings should be correct ....)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fourth section hike starts Sunday

Headed out again -- this time from Tye River (VA56) on September 4 and up the The Priest (4063 feet), passing by McAfee Knob again.

Appalachian Trail -- Tye River to Catawba

I plan to return September 17, assuming I don't dally too long at the Flying Mouse Brewery.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Just in Time!

With many thanks to the volunteers at the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club!  I plan to stay overnight at Lamberts Meadow on September 15, and will definitely make sure that all food and food related items are safe in the bear vault before I retire for the night.

Appalachian Trail Shelter and Campsite Reopen with Bear-Resistant Food Storage Boxes

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Trail bar baking, continued

Coconut-Apricot bars, my first venture into two layers. Recipe calls for chocolate chips, but I left them out -- too messy for me as a trail snack, also not a fan of chocolate everything.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Getting ready again

Baking skills improving somewhat. I used powdered honey this time.

"If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, 
and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; 
if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, 
and are a free man; then you are ready for a walk."
-- Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Perseid Vigil -- Saturday requiem

Seventeen meteors this morning, considerably less than the uncounted hundreds Friday. Only one memorable, a solitary streak over a quarter arc of the night sky, fortunately a section free of obscuring clouds.  Speed and contrail were different enough that it might have been reentering spacecraft hardware, but it did appear to come from the Perseid radiant.

The rest of the weekend visitors have descended on the camground, prowling the access roads in their grumbling giants in search of a place to roost. Time to leave.

After a few days to clean up and replenish supplies, I will be on the road again for a family gathering in Norfolk. Then, the monthly trail repair crew weekend; next, about three weeks on the AT heading for McAfee Knob. Life is busy and good.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Perseid Vigil -- Friday before dawn

Out of the tent at 1 am, after an evening's rest disturbed by late aŕrivals pulling into the campground ... to greet clear skies full of stars and the first of many meteors. My count was up to four by the time I met Barbara and John for the short drive over the the Meadows.

Many people there, some with cameras,, some with night vision-preserving red lights. By the time we chose a place to set out our chairs for the evening show,  I had lost count of the shooting stars!

So many stars! With some difficulty, we picked out the constellations from all the points of light to orient our view -- Ursa Major, pointing to the Pole Star on the Little Bear's tail, Cassiopeia marking the location of the center of the Milky Way, and there -- Perseus, and the Perseid radiant center of the particle storm intent on breaching Terra's defensive shield.

The large meteors with lingering, wide tracks were almost as common as the narrow lines drawn quickly across star-dusted black. For the largest, there appeared to be a spindle shape for the trail -- growing as the rock heated to incadescence in the defending atmosphere, fading as it was consumed.

One outlier was blue-white. Another, orange-tinted, had an initially spotted trail. Most extraordinary, a track seen nearly end-on, seeming to descend with an increasing wobble.

After a few hours, we surrendered to the cold, packed up our blankets and chairs, and threaded our way carefully past hardier fellow stargeeks with our heads full of beauty and the prospect of sleeping bags. Also, breakfast in a few hours.

Each one of hundreds visible to us in spite of the flares of car headlights from Skyline Drives, arriving and gone in a instant of glory, a message from deep space.

Both comfort and challenge; we are not alone in the universe.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Perseid Vigil -- Thursday after moonset

Partly cloudy.

For a stargeek, this translates as a nearly irresistible lure, even knowing the high likelihood of failure.  So, no Perseids at midnight after moonset, at 2 am, or at 4 am as twilight began to glow in the east.

The stars shining through the cloud breaks were bright and beautiful, though.
A family from Holland strolled by the wooded section where I am camping, and stopped to chat.  They were startled by the uncleared woods surrounding the dozen or so sites, concerned about the safety of living so close to nature.  Are many American campsites so -- spread out -- they asked? 

The husband observed that camping styles say a lot about culture. American camping sprawls out into the land, he noted, while European sites are set next to each other in tight orderly rows, easily distinguishable by nationality.  Campers from Holland can be recognized by their sturdy brown canvas tents, for example, and Italians -- he grimaced -- by their cars. RV's, perhaps? 

What about bears? the wife asked nervously.

I responded from book knowledge and experience -- don't display food and don't threaten unless they do -- and told her that the tiny deer tick is the most dangerous animal in the eastern forests.

Well, excluding humans, of course, they're an invasive species.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Grandma Gatewood

Wearing my fitted waterproof boots and permethrin coated outerwear, carrying my down bag, spare clothing, dehydrated meals, water purifier and butane boiler in a posture conforming internal frame pack -- reading her tale, I'm almost embarrassed to call myself an AT backpacker. Could I have sewn my own carrying bag, walked the trail in sneakers, lived on scavenged food, and endured the conditions she survived?

Her story is a good reminder of the power we all can find in choosing a path and following it with determination.

Emma Rowena Gatewood, recognized as the first woman to thru hike the Appalachian Trail

Anyhow. I plan to be out there again from August 11 to August 13, and again from September 3 to September 15. Come on out when you can, can't be sure how long it's going to last or how many more years each of us has to be physically able to enjoy it!

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Milky Way from|Creative Commons
Clear sky this evening except for one large ... oh, wait, that's not a cloud ... well, it is, sort of, but it's 150,000 lightyears wide!

You know it's a good viewing night when it's hard to pick out the constellations.

We watched the ISS go by, saw a few small ionizing trails from the Delta Aquarids, a few planets. Telescopes were mobbed, so I didn't bother.

I climbed Mary's Rock earlier in the day, reasserting my dominion over a patch of the AT that gave me so much trouble a few months ago.  Still hearing the white blaze siren call --  I plan to be back on it as soon as the summer's heat fades.

Good way to start my 64th year.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Three cups of zucchini never tasted so good

But is it safe to trust this guy with a knife?

Culinary art courtesy of my landlady Kirsten Elowsky, who spent several days gathering up the ingredients. It has avocados, honey, and date paste, too!