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Mike’s Next Adventure

Two Hours on the Appalachian Trail

I was pretty excited studying the driving options from NYC to Columbus this past weekend, discovering the route crossed the Appalachian Trail (AT) at the Delaware Gap on the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border. There wasn’t much (or any) preparation time for the hike,  but I figured it would be cool to scope out the AT, take in some of the scenery, sweat out the booze from the weekend.

The AT has become the mecca of hiking trails to me ever since reading Bill Bryson’s (review here) ‘A Walk in the Woods’ (plus 3 Nat Geo docs.). Could I really hike the whole thing? How long would it take? Is it paved in gold at the end? Just seeing the ‘ Appalachian Trail – 1 -mile’ sign on 80 West made me a little giddy, singy, and Marti wondered aloud if I might have some brain damage from excessive drinking.

The whole approach is pretty low-key – I mean, I wasn’t expecting confetti and pinatas –  but you pull in to the parking lot, and the trail is literally 10 feet from the asphalt. I expected a bit of a hike, before spotting the famous white blaze on the trees (which you can see just above my shoulder in the above picture…the other shoulder). I also expected to see hoards of day hikers racing passed us, but there was only one; a large, elderly gentleman who gave us a huge smile, and a panting ‘hello’ as we crossed paths.

Majority of the folks headed up Mount Tammany – a strenuous 1,500 foot ascension fording the Delaware River tributary, straight up rocky striated terrain with Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake warnings posted about. As you can tell from the picture I wasn’t exactly prepared for such a hike (though I regularly hike in red high-top Converse All Stars *awaits sponsorship), and forgot rattlesnake repellant.

The goal for the day was to make it to Sunfish Pond 3.75 miles from the parking lot, circumnavigate the 1 mile loop, and head back. We got about 3 miles in (if that); both laboring, sweating away a greasy trucker’s lunch from the gas station off exit 4. It might have been the rough weekend wrestling with Dionysus, but this was absolutely one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done. The rise in elevation is constant, the path goes from dirt – to rocky – to all rock, and there’s no tree cover (yet) from the blazing sun. We sucked down the last of the water, and Marti asked if I could imagine hiking this with fifty pounds of equipment on my back.

No way.

Not without months of Jedi training. At one point the path looked like the burial ground from the film ‘Pet Sematary’, and I thought if I died, I could come back as a trail zombie/have a better chance of completing the damn hike as a mindless brain-craving shuffler than living Mike.

I now have complete and total respect for those who even contemplate finishing the AT. Hikers must have unwavering focus, a screw-loose, and an iron physical constitution. Bill Bryson walked away from the AT after approximately 850 miles out 2,400 – Marti and I did about 6 miles, yet, the trail motivated me to start getting in to better shape in case I DO get the opportunity to hike it again. An embarrassing ass-kicking from Ma Nature is quite inspiring….

Here are some pictures along the trail – not as exciting as the New York City in Twenty-Five Pics and Twenty-Five Words,  i realize (except the part where the Grizzly Bear yelled at me) – but this is how I roam: big city/museums/culture one day – AT solace/nature the next.

Looks like Jason Voorhees doesn’t like guns *scratchscratchscratch

Nature. Goulet!

Gonna make it, gonna make it.

Aww pretty things.

Western Face – Mount Tammany

Ye Olde Path of Twysted Ankell. 

Pet Sematary Burial Ground

(A special thanks to Marti Babcock for taking the opening picture – instead of distracting the Grizzly Bear)


26 comments on “Two Hours on the Appalachian Trail

  1. Brigitte says:

    Years ago a friend of mine hiked a big portion of the AT. I think he took a backpack, one of those wispy little tents and got big time back into nature. He said he didn’t have a mirror so he didn’t even get to look at himself for weeks and it was liberating. Now, I could do a short stroll for awhile. Hubby and I hiked some trails in the Smoky Mountains, but no way no how would I attempt to brave that much nature. My idea of roughing it is a cabin in the woods with electricity and cable and food places nearby. Big Bear looks scary but I’m guessing that is a photo-shopped grisly. :).

    1. mabukach says:

      That’s awesome! I don’t know how I would react to such solitude (presupposing I went by myself). I think I could do without electricity/emails for a while, but not showering….hmmm.

      Cabins are great, though I’ve watched one too many horror flicks in my life. 🙂

      Haha definitely photo-shopped. I’m still searching for the tutorial site about playlists, can’t seem to find the wordpress forum it was in, but I might just write it myself if I can’t find it.

      1. Brigitte says:

        No worries! BTW, the bear photo was way cool. :).

        1. mabukach says:

          I emailed you. Hope it helps.
          Thanks, I think the bear pic might be my new gravatar.

  2. sweetmother says:

    the at scares me sh*tless. loved the you and the bear pic. HI-larious. i’m impressed you and your lady even got out of the car after a night of drinking! lol. you are a better person than I! lol. xo, sm

    1. mabukach says:

      It was really quiet on the AT, a little too quiet. Unnerving even. Yeah, my sweat smelled like mojitos, yuengling and regret.
      I’m coming to your blog now to read this finale!

  3. trail-hike-life says:

    So which is it? Are you added to the bear picture or is the bear added to your picture?

    1. mabukach says:

      Bear was definitely added. Though originally it was either going to be a sasquatch, or mountain lion.

      1. trail-hike-life says:

        I thought so. Not many grizzly bears on the AT. Now a sasquatch would be something!

        1. mabukach says:

          Haha, yeah. The picture isn’t exactly ‘fauna accurate’, but looked better than the sasquatch picture I found. I think I may have run a bit faster had there been an actual Bigfoot chasing me!

  4. Oh, I like the second pic very much… And the shape of the bear’s mouth’s a sight better, huh? Kidding, peace! 😉 Funny narration, thanks for sharing… 🙂

    1. mabukach says:

      Thanks, again 35!

  5. AlisaG says:

    while i didn’t have the pleasure of a grizzly encounter on my thru-hike I did almost step on a grouse which flew up into my face in such a pinhead panic that i screeched, sharted and then fell on my face hitting my head hard enough to cause mild hallucinations (not that i know what a major hallucination is of course). i can only imagine the blogs that would come out of you spending more than a half day on that long and storied Trail of Pain. 🙂 do it for us.

    1. mabukach says:

      Bahahaha! You just made me laugh inappropriately loud at the airport gate. I’ve been mulling it over – the whole AT thing. Maybe if I get sponsored by a decent beer company I’ll do it *waits for call.

      1. AlisaG says:

        three reasons you should do it: 3 months more of material that Bryson missed out on, a whole chapter devoted to loathing Pennsylvania that will take you 7 minutes to write, Starbucks VIA ready brew Italian Roast Extra Bold instant coffee single which are light-years of improvement over that CRAP I had to carry (back when the crust of the earth was still cooling, apparently) Foldgersy little teabags of the worlds worst coffee that only Will Ferrell dressed in an Elf suit could enjoy

      2. mabukach says:

        I love Bryson but you’re right, he missed a lot. So you did the whole AT then?

    2. joseph james says:

      no grizzly in jersey. no grizzly on the east coast, black bear, they dont mess with people. and the pic is photo shopped. grizzly? thru hike? cmon ppl.

  6. AlisaG says:

    sorry – it would appear that I’m not smart enough to be informed when replies happen. probably because of that stupid grouse. anyway, yes, back when the crust of the earth was still cooling (1997) I hiked ga-me in 5 months, 3 days. there were several moments that were so painful that i figured childbirth was going to be a walk in the park. not totally wrong, but not exactly right either. i could still write a book about that experience, all these years later, so vibrant are the images and memories. like when a truck with no brakes and a 118 year old woman at the wheel drove me down a steep hill into Waynesboro, VA while the little cajun dude on the other side of me hollered the whole way something unintelligible, pulled a gun out from under the seat followed by a dirty plastic cup and a 40oz beer which he used to top off the dirty cup because he ‘thought i looked thirsty’. ugly run-on sentence but I’m pressed for time. anyway, even when the alzheimers eats my brain some day I’ll still remember those two and how crazy awesome they were. it’s a whole new level of being Alive. if you don’t have any reason not to do it, you should do it. or something equally as entertaining.

    1. mabukach says:

      Absolutely amazing. Congrats on making it through; an incredible feat. How long did you train, and when can I read about your adventures in book form?

      1. AlisaG says:

        As I am facing imminent unemployment perhaps there will be a few extra moments, while sipping gin and tonics at random hours of the day, to jot some of it down. I’ll get you in on the ground floor and set aside 100,000 copies of the first release for your reading pleasure. As for training, I didn’t really ‘train’ per se. But I DID spend every free weekend I had during the preceding year to run up to the Adirondacks to backpack; I was in it for the pure love of it but it amounted to more than adequate training. I was definitely one of the better physically prepared people at the start. But a lot of people that showed up in less than perfect shape (not including The Marlboro Man, a guy who had smoked his way to a whole backpacking set-up…1700 packs later he had the pack, clothes, sleeping bag, coffee cup… you name it, he earned it) made it the distance. You can show up the world’s fittest person but if your head fails you, you’ll be gone first. After that first couple weeks it is a mental, not a physical, game. If you’re not comfortable with the voices in your head you’ll be in trouble though these days with podcasts of Terry Gross making Bill O’Reilly run away and super-helpful half-hours of how to get those ugly calcified deposits out of your toilet bowl…why I’d imagine so long as the batteries hold out you’d never have to listen to yourself think. Not so in ’97. Lots of quiet time to come to terms with who you really were…not a bad thing but intense amounts of uninterrupted thinking can be exhausting.

      2. mabukach says:

        Wow. I really do want to read your notes, if you DO jot some stuff down. I’ll try to sell your work to my 100,000 friends…really, I only know like 20 people, 16 of which are family.

        Anyways, I used to be a cross country runner, and have battled the mental battle on long-distance runs. But I couldn’t image dealing with that in the woods, alone, for such a long time. Props to you – it’s inspirational hearing about it in such an honest way.

  7. AlisaG says:

    i used crust of the earth still cooling twice. man. and i haven’t uttered that phrase in years. i believe i’m done using it in these replies, officially. that’s what happens when one hurries and one has had past head trauma. forgive me.

  8. joseph james says:

    respect on the attempt. good photo shopping lol (no grizzly bears in the ne). reminded me of my days on the trail. next time in nj check out high point.

    1. mabukach says:

      Thanks very much. haha – yeah, I know. 🙂
      Will do so. Thanks, Joseph James

  9. emilyheer says:

    What a beautiful part of the word! Jealous that you got to experience that.

    1. mabukach says:

      Where are you from, emily heer? You should plan a visit!

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