Posts Tagged With: Appalachian Trail

New Hampshire and Hiking

It is now Friday, Day 13 of our leaf peeping adventure and we finally have sun and blue skies!  That’s great, because we have a short drive east across the rest of Vermont, over the Connecticut River and into New Hampshire.  We are heading toward the White Mountains and Franconia Notch State Park. The colors of the leaves are pretty much near their peak, with oranges, yellows, and reds interspersed with dark green triangles of spruce and fir.  White trunks of paper birch pop out and in many spots there is a bright green carpet of pasture to set it off. With the blue sky and wispy white clouds, this is our best day yet for viewing.



A spot along the way, Beaver Pond, is just the perfect mix of water, sky and fall colors.  Actually, the AT crosses our path here and we took a moment to walk maybe 100 feet of it, just to tell our nephew Adam that we did it.

Further on, the town of Lincoln, New Hampshire also sits along the AT, with several hiker friendly trail stops, and a little bit of crazy with the Hobo Railroad and Clark’s Trading Post featuring bear shows.  

Just beyond that is the start of the state park and we pull off to hike the Flume Gorge. It is a pretty popular spot with the bus tour crowd, but once we got through the gift shop and started uphill it was fine.  I remember coming to this area with my family as a youngster and hiking up through the flume, a cool, damp hike up stairways and ramps. I was not disappointed with this return visit at all.

The gorge is a split in the granite outcropping through which the Pemigewasset River flows.  The entire hike is about 2 miles round trip, but the actual gorge is less than half a mile. I will let the pictures tell the story of the catwalk through the gorge (which is removed in winter and rebuilt each spring).


It was a great hike up and back, not too strenuous at all, and we were soon on our way back to Vermont and camp at Ricker’s Pond.  Since it was such a nice night, we bought some firewood and sat outside around our first campfire (really?) until it got too darn cold.  Mid 40’s is winter for us Georgians!

It is now Day 14 and our last one in Vermont.  Dry camping in Vermont means we are being conservative with our water supply and careful with our propane for heat.  We fire up the generator a bit in the morning and evening to heat food, water and charge devices. We have both been hauling water in a gallon jug from the spigot down the hill to keep the tanks at two-thirds.  One reason is the shower house is metered (feed quarters) and we aren’t certain there is hot water. There certainly isn’t heat in the cement-floored building, so that isn’t an option. That means a very quick shower onboard.  This will be much the same situation in Maine for 5 days – and it’s not a problem, just a shift in how you do things.




Ok, then, on with our day.  We opted to stay close today and take Kodi along for some hiking.  As you can see by the pictures, the colors are even more vivid. We walked the Cross Vermont trail a bit – an old railroad line that actually goes through our campground along Ricker’s Pond.  Then we hiked up a bit more hill to reach Owl’s Head overlook and were glad we did. What a spectacular view of the mountains to the east. Just breathtaking.




We made a loop drive that took us to Danville, where we stopped for lunch at the only place in town that was open: Bentley’s Bakery & Cafe.  Sandwiches were huge and delicious (pastrami panini and grilled chicken with cranberries and walnuts) on fresh made breads. Washed down with maple iced coffee and we were set.  


Actually, we took half the meal back for dinner. The liquor shop next door had some Vermont beer from 14th State brewing that I just had to buy: “Maple Breakfast Stout” made with coffee and maple syrup.  The heck with breakfast, that was going to go great with dinner!



The route back took us up and over rolling hills and bright green pastures, dotted with barns and silos.  One of the cutest towns, and not a tourist stop at all, was Peacham, dating to 1776. Oh my goodness, the houses were charming and everything just looked postcard perfect.  We soon arrived in Groton (pronounced like “rotten”) just as their fall festival parade ended and the town was jammed with people and cars. Just yesterday it was empty. But since there was no traffic light in town, just the Constable directing traffic, it didn’t take too long to pass through and back to the campsite.

Kodi was pretty quiet back in the camper, falling asleep in the passenger seat while Jackie took a power nap and I tried to burn off the last of the firewood.  Tomorrow is going to be a hitch-up and get-outta-town day. Destination: Farmington, Maine (with full hook-ups!).




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Leaf-peeping Journey to New England

Maine Route

Seems like It’s been a long summer at home and we have been itching to start out on our next adventure: leaf peeping in New England. Last fall Jackie declared that she missed the bright fall colors of the northeast, so we started to plan out a route that would culminate in Acadia National Park in Maine.

As plans developed, we learned that our nephew was planning an Appalachian Trail thru-hike and there was a possibility we would find ourselves in Maine just as he was finishing the hike. How cool is that? Unfortunately he suffered an ankle injury in the Pennsylvania/New York section of the trail and has had to postpone the final section of the hike. But he tells us he is planning to restart the hike from there and see how far he can go before cold weather stops his progress, so maybe we can meet up in New England after all.

If you have been following our posts, you know we have had a few repairs that were needed on the motorhome. The refrigerator is now back in operation – turns out it was a small fuse in the back of the unit (who knew?) that failed. Now I have several spare fuses onboard, just in case. We also had a growing crack in the passenger side windshield that meant that half of the windshield needed to be replaced. A few dollars later and we have a new windshield, for the second time (hey, it’s a lot of glass in front!) Such is life in a motorhome.

As we prepare to head north, what is on the list? This trip seems pretty well suited to a true “brew tour.”  Besides some wonderful state and national parks, recreation areas and scenic drives, there are a number of craft breweries on the way that you just can’t pass up. So with a pretty straight shot up to Michigan we can begin our quest with stops at Bell’s, Founders and New Holland Breweries.

The trip will take us across into Ontario, Canada, with stops in Ottawa and Montreal before crossing back into the US and across New Hampshire and Vermont and into Maine and Bar Harbor for our Acadia stay. Magic Hat, Harpoon, Sea Dog, Shipyard, Sam Adams– all breweries along the way. Plus the White and Green Mountains, Franconia Notch, and the coast of Maine, then the return through the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Should be a very different type of trip for us.

So we have the RV packed, have health certificates for the pets (border crossings), reservations made and a full tank of gas. The open road beckons! Check back or “follow” to get an alert about new postings — once I have some good stories and some awesome pictures, that is.

Thanks for joining us on our latest adventure.


First night is a nicely wooded KOA in Corbin, Kentucky:


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The Lure of the Trail

We just had a great weekend for several reasons.  First off, it was the best weather we have had all year – cool, dry air that turned nice and warm with the sun and perfectly clear blue skies.  Secondly, my sister Linda was in town from California (where they supposedly have this weather all the time) and we joined our BrewCrew to volunteer at the Kennesaw Beer and Wine Fest (see the update on the “Happenings” page).  It was a really great afternoon spent pouring beer for the masses and then enjoying local brews after our shift ended.

It was a great day for wearing pretzel necklaces. The “BrewCrew.”

Third, and most important, we were joined at night by more family as something of a hostel/trailhead start to our nephew’s AT thru hike.  Let me explain a bit more:

Our nephew Adam has been planning his end-to-end hike of the Appalachian Trail for years.  With his service in the Army National Guard Infantry Division completed and his college degree behind him, Adam was set for this adventure.  He had his gear and his blog (follow him at ) all set.  He and his girlfriend Ashley drove up from coastal SC to stay the night before driving to the AT Approach Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia.

Once word got out that he was going to get started this weekend, his cousin Alex (our son) decided to join him for the first day and night of the hike.  How cool.  So we also had Alex and Bethany with us Saturday night.  Good thing Doug had cooked up some good barbecue the day before – that made it a lot easier to feed the crew when we got home from the beer fest.

The night before departure.

Stories and S’mores around the fire.

We spent the evening around the firepit, making S’mores and talking about the hike, and other adventures.  There was a bit of discussion about pack weight and necessary v. unnecessary items.  The camp chair was a point of dispute, however Adam declared that it was essential, even if it added weight and bulk.  Jackie and I told about our two short hikes in the area:  the Len Foote Hike Inn Trail (parallel to the approach trail and documented on the blog “Hike Inn Anniversary”) and the hike up Blood Mountain from Neel’s Gap (Not so Smoky Mountains).



My sister shared that she helps as a trail angel on the lower portion of the Pacific Coast Trail and had just finished up feeding their herd of hikers who were just three days into the South-to-North trek in California.  Her husband Norm had walked the three day start from the Mexico border with his niece, so Linda had some fresh tales to tell.  And one more mountain trek connection to share is that one of Alex’s best buddies from college has also just started the hike north on the PCT.  So the lure of the mountains and the summer hike has called to many in our circle.

Sunday morning the boys and their driver hit the road to Amicalola Falls State Park after a hearty breakfast.  Their plan was to hike the approach trail to Springer Mountain and go on to the Springer Mountain camp area.  I think they figured that to be about 10-12 miles in.  Soon we had a few pictures of the first night’s camp.  Alex was going to hike back out the next day and return home to work.  Adam is continuing north and should actually hit another spot in North Carolina near his family in about 10 days.

Adam is ready to start his adventure!

Alex and Adam’s first night at Springer Mountain. Notice the “essential” chair.

And if all of that isn’t enough, our fall New England motorhome adventure should put us at Acadia National Park in Maine the second week of October, possibly the time when Adam is reaching Mt. Katahdin (northern terminus of the AT) in Maine.  So, if timing is right, we might just connect with him at the end of his hike.

Hiking Cousins

Adam and Alex on Day 2

Spring is indeed finally here and the summer adventures have begun for our family.  We couldn’t be prouder of all of them, and of course wish Adam good weather, good friendships and good times.

Thanks for following along.  Our next adventure is just weeks away when we head out to Panama City Beach for paddleboarding, snorkeling and grouper sandwiches!  Stay tuned.

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Not So Smoky Mountains

Finally another posting and story to tell.


Vogel State Park

Since returning from the Florida Keys we have been busy with family and friends this fall, including volunteering at the Acworth Craft Beer Festival (check out Happenings page).  But we did want to fit in one last trip before we winterized the RV, so we plotted an adventure to the Georgia mountains.  Trouble is, as you know we are in the midst of a drought and there are several big wildfires in the mountains of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina.  So the smoke haze that has been felt in Atlanta and the stories of evacuations in the mountains made us rather skeptical we should be heading into trouble.


Smoky view of Vogel St. Park

But it seemed that our destination, Vogel State Park, was in-between the major fires and might be worth a visit.  Off to the mountains we went and what fun it was to drive the many switchbacks of the curving ascent to Neels Gap and Vogel State Park, the oldest of Georgia’s state parks.  There were maybe only a dozen campers in a gorgeous rhododendron-filled glen, but we definitely did see the haze of smoke as we walked around Lake Trahlyta and the campground to get our bearings.  Staff at the camp store warned us about the resident bear, so we were hopeful for a late-night sighting.


Smoky view from the lake at Vogel St. Park

Next day’s challenge was to hike the 4.2 mile Bear Hair Gap trail between the campground and the base of Blood Mountain.  Parts of this loop were on the much longer (12.9 mile) Coosa Backcountry Trail, so we tried our best to watch the trail blazes to stay on the right trail, with a few head-scratching moments at the intersections.  We took the steeper route up and around, preferring to get the tough part over with first.  More than half the leaves were down so visibility was good but there was still a lot of golden brown color, with pops of yellow and red.


Ohhhh Noooo, not Blood Mountain!


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The Vogel Overlook was a good spot to take a break and admire the view.  We passed several hikers on the loop, compared experiences and confirmed directions.  A quiet hike, with no wildlife spotting at all (unlike our crazy backyard refuge). Maybe tomorrow.


View from Vogel Overlook


Made it to the overlook!

Rested and refreshed after a good steak dinner in camp, we set out the next day to hike part of the Appalachian Trail from Neels Gap to Blood Mountain.  In our day packs we had water, light lunch, fruit and snacks.  What we forgot were our hiking sticks (argh!).


Tree of hiking shoes at the hostel.


Walasi-yi hostel


Walasi-yi Interpretive Center

We drove up the road to Neels Gap and the Walasi-yi Hostel and Interpretive Center – a great old stone building constructed in 1937 and now an outfitter post with plenty of hiking supplies.  We spoke with the staff of Mountain Crossings about the hike:

  • 4.3 mile out and back trail
  • 1,471 feet elevation change (gain and loss of 3,000 feet elevation)
  • “You should be fine”

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Off we went to hike a section of the AT on a cool fall day.  With a shift in wind direction, the air was surprisingly clear and free of smoke haze.  The trail starts as a moderate slope upward around the mountain, but soon becomes a series of switchbacks and stone stairways that head up the slope at a steeper angle.  Lots of pauses later the trail seemed to level out a bit and even head downhill just a bit until we reached a section of boulder-climbing and more rocky ascent.

blood-mtn-at-14b  blood-mtn-at-17b  blood-mtn-at-19b

Once past that section we were sure the summit was near, as the trees were more compressed and windswept and there were more patches of bald rock.  Passing several other hikers heading down we were told “it’s just 10 minutes more” or “just ahead.”  Yet the trail kept heading uphill.  Well, we did eventually make it to the rock shelter at the summit (a CCC construction that sadly had trash littered about) and looked for a spot to rest.


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The view at lunch

Facing west, we sat on a rock ledge to have lunch and enjoy the fantastic view.  Here we were on the highest point of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. It gave us that sense of wonder that helps put all things in perspective.  In the distance we could see smoke from fires in the Cohutta Wilderness and drifting further south.


In other views we saw smoke to the east, but where we were was rather clear that day. Spoke with several others on the trail: a pair of college guys headed another 6 miles to Slaughter Mountain; another young man headed for the final 30 miles to Springer Mountain (he started at Mt. Katahdin in Maine); and a few young couples just hiking a version of what we did.  In all, we probably passed about three dozen hikers.  We recalled our own spring hike on the AT approach trail from Amicalola Falls to the Hike Inn lodge (and that’s a story worth reading if you missed it!).


Summit of Blood Mountain


The view southeast


Panorama of Blood Mountain view

Well, on this hike up 1,500 feet, you also have to hike back down again, so down we went.  This part was where we really missed those hiking sticks, since they are a big help in keeping your balance on the rocky and root-filled trail.  But we made it back to Neels Gap just before the center closed for the evening and got ourselves some shirts and drinks.  There was a good crowd outside the hostel sharing stories about their adventures and demonstrating far more energy than they should have (ah, youth!).


Lake Trahlyta at Vogel State Park

Back in camp we had a few adult beverages and took a hot shower, feeling much better and grateful that we had such comfy accommodations.  A six hour hike, not exactly a record-setting pace, but a personal accomplishment for us both.  Jackie felt that this one was a tougher climb that the ones we did out west last year, but it was cooler weather and not quite the altitude. (4,459 for Blood Mountain, 6,000 to 13,000 in the Rockies).  Another great adventure (but the bear was a no-show).

Notes about our motorhome for RV’ers:

You might be interested in our experiences with our motorhome, one that we feel has served us well.  Last time we reported from our Keys trip that we lost the foot and springs from one of the leveling jacks.  In the weeks since that trip we ordered a replacement foot and springs to install.


Leveling jack mid-repair

The tricky part of the install was stretching the springs long enough to be able to place the foot over the bottom pin of the hydraulic cylinder.  I read that by inserting wooden wedges along the spring it can be expanded enough to do the trick (and then when the cylinder and foot are extended the wedges will pop out of the spring as it extends).  Our latest discovery, however, is that the cylinder is not extending at all, so the wedges remain for now and we ponder how to finish the fix on this jack.  Either we lost hydraulic fluid, blew a fuse for that jack or the cylinder is simply stuck in place.  We have been able to level the wheels and the recent site was very level to begin with, but it needs to be resolved.  Hmm, this one may need some professional help.  So it goes.

Next Adventure?  Well, the Winnebago is getting winterized (freeze warnings for the weekend already), so it may not be until March or April before we head out in it again.  But there are always plenty of other adventures that await (some of them covered on our Foodie and Happenings pages).  Stay tuned – and thanks for being a faithful reader.

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Hike Inn Anniversary

Hike Inn Anniversary (3)

Rainy start to the 5 mile hike

You’re gonna love this post. For our 41st wedding anniversary this year we wanted to try something different and extend our adventures to a Georgia mountains challenge. So we booked a night at the Hike Inn at Amicalola Falls State Park. If you don’t know about this place, let me fill you in.

Amicalola Falls

Amicalola Falls


View from Amicalola Falls

View from Amicalola Falls

In 1998 the state built their first backcountry inn as a place that you could only reach by hiking 5 miles into the Chattahoochee National Forest from Amicalola Falls. Officially named the Len Foote Hike Inn, it is operated by the non-profit Appalachian Education & Recreation Services, an affiliate of the Georgia Appalachian Trail club.  The inn is just one mile from the Approach Trail that leads to Springer Mountain and the trailhead for the Appalachian Trail.

Hike Inn (72)

The Hike Inn has 20 guest rooms in four clustered buildings: bunkhouse with lobby and gathering spot, bath house with showers and restrooms, dining hall reminiscent of summer camp, and a library of games, puzzles and sofas with wraparound deck and rocking chairs.  In fact, each building has a wraparound deck for great views.

Hike Inn

Hike Inn

You are provided with sheets, pillow and blankets for your bunk (two to a room) and a washcloth and towel to use in the showers … there were even cloth bathmats!  Afternoon snacks and drinks are ready for you when you arrive, which is a good thing, since you will probably be eager for some of that blueberry crumble or banana bread and iced tea after the 5 mile hike.  Dinner and breakfast the next morning are served family -style for guests.

View from Hike Inn

View from Hike Inn

So you get the picture.  A remote location in the Georgia Mountains that is pretty much on the Appalachian Trail.  An easy way to experience the trail without having to pack in your tent, food and supplies (and didn’t I mention hot showers, too?)  So while we couldn’t bring in a celebratory bottle of Champagne or even a nice Merlot, it was going to be a peaceful, backwoods hike in the mountains.  We hoped to chat up some new peeps and learn about other good day hikes in the area from folks like us — I mean, who else would be there on a Tuesday night in May?  Umm… well it’s a funny thing about being retired teachers: you are never really far from students.

Hike Inn Anniversary (1)

At last! Made it to the lodge.


Len Foote Hike Inn Lodge

Len Foote Hike Inn Lodge

As we joyously arrived at the end of the hike and stepped up to the lobby check-in, it became apparent that something was amiss.  Where were the seasoned hikers and elders who were ready to tell tales of their favorite treks?  We were surrounded by a class of twentysome 5th graders who were staying the night with us.  Seriously?  Oh yes, there it was.  All the familiar behaviors of middle-schoolers-in-training.

A class trip? Seriously?

A class trip? Seriously?

“So, Jackie, let’s go get a glass of iced tea and a snack in the dining room.”  Oh, but of course 5th graders live on sugar and iced tea, so it was slim pickins.  “I hear they have a game of cornhole set up,” Jackie said.  “I really wanna try it out.”  Nah, that location was now some sort of bean bag dodge ball going on.  “Ok, how about that nice porch swing out front?”  Nope, there was a game of musical chairs between the swing and the rocking chairs.  “The library?”  Now that was just too cozy a spot to pass up, if you were a youngster with no internet — so it was a mash-up of Jenga, a half-finished game of Monopoly, a puzzle (?) being worked on by the quiet one and kids flopped about on the comfy sofas.  And did I mention the wraparound decks?  You know, the kind where you can get away from someone who is chasing you and then, like, spy on someone else or maybe, I dunno, cut through the lobby for the fourth time in 15 minutes?  Well, at least there was the 5:00 tour of the buildings to look forward to . . .

Now don’t get me wrong, the location was great, the dinner and breakfast were delicious and there was a group of six other retirees who had hiked in for the night together.  But they were sort of huddled together for safety most of the night.  Oh, and the teachers and parent chaperones for the group (and our teaching buddies will know how that played out) were fun to chat with as we stood at the rail watching the antics around us.  It just wasn’t quite what we were expecting.

Hike Inn (59)

Boardwalk was just that: boards.

As for the hike to the lodge, it was a good workout.  The day started with thunderstorms, but by the time we started the hike it was just all wet, drippy and a bit of slippery mud.  We crossed a few streams and climbed some steep inclines, and saw some woodland plants in bloom.  The mountain laurel that were in bud when we hiked Cloudland Canyon were in full flower here – large groves of them.  The rhododendron had finished, but there were literal forests of them — larger than I have seen.  I would pause to snap a picture, which was a good breather for Jackie, and suddenly we would notice a cluster of something new around us.

Hike Inn (90)

Four-leaved milkweed

Four-leaved milkweed

Hike Inn (78)

Cinnamon fern

Eastern hemlock

Eastern hemlock

False Solomon's seal

False Solomon’s seal

Solomon's seal

Solomon’s seal

There were patches covered in fourleaf milkweed, a delicate pink-white flower, and other places covered with mayapples.  Galax were pushing out their blooming stalks.  The best photo story is when I stopped to snap pics of club mosses and ground cedar (while avoiding the ever-present poison ivy).  As I stood up, I noticed distinct orchid leaves and mentioned it to Jackie.  She quickly spotted a couple of blooms back off the trail and we saw that they were gorgeous pink ladyslipper orchids.  So I navigated my way through the hollies, briars and poison ivy and knelt down to get a shot or two, awkwardly.  But heck, I got the shot, right?  Well, not 10 feet further down the trail there was a cluster of them right at the edge of the path – perfect location, hassle-free.  Oh, well.  It was a large patch of them, and we easily spotted the pink blooms all around us.  How cool.

Pink ladyslipper orchid

Pink ladyslipper orchid

Ground cedar

Ground cedar



Rattlesnake plantain

Rattlesnake plantain

Rhododendron forest

Rhododendron forest

Mountain laurel

Mountain laurel



Four-leaved milkweed

Four-leaved milkweed





Hike Inn (92)

Local wildlife



Thump, thump, thump, thump.  Clackety, clackety, clackety (sounded like someone’s carry-on bag being dragged across the decking).  Oh, it was just our 6 am wake-up call, courtesy of the very active, yet somehow direction-challenged 5th graders.  As we finally stumbled out of our bunks, we realized we only had a half-hour to get to the kitchen for a cup of coffee before breakfast would be served to the masses.  Hurry!  Breakfast was worth the early rise — eggs, bacon, grits and peach spoonbread served up hot in a cast-iron skillet.  And we had one we only had to share with two other adults!

Dining hall

Dining hall

After we showered, turned in our linens, filled our water bottles, tucked in our packs, and collected our lunches (which were awesome, by the way) we waited just a bit for the munchkins to get out ahead of us, but it seemed they lingered around and … well, we finally just asked “So which trail are you taking back down?  The Hike Inn trail or the Appalachian Approach trail?  Oh, the Hike Inn?  Great, good luck.”  Any guess which one we took?  Actually, it was a good trail back, seeming to head downhill more than uphill.  We connected with the portion that went on to Springer Mountain and the AT, turned left and headed back down to Amicalola Falls.  It was just a quarter mile longer (5.25 mi), so it was fine.  And quiet.  We got to the bottom of the trail just as the group of six other adults joined us from the Hike Inn trail and we briefly laughed at our shared experience.

So we had a great anniversary after all:  a quiet, romantic night in a remote backcountry inn, surrounded by the night sounds in a National Forest that you can only reach by hiking five miles . . . well, something like that.  I’ll check the Appalachian Trail off my bucket list and try to remember that even though you can retire from teaching, the kids are never very far away.  (you might recall our posting from St. Augustine of last year).

Next trip is our return to Florida and St. Andrews State Park.

Be sure to check out the gallery in Places and some new pictures in Happenings!

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