The St. Croix River Valley, revisited

All good journeys begin on the trail! -Mike Hohmann, ’09.

 

River Trail

River Trail, Interstate State Park, MN

 

I recently revisited Interstate State Park along the St. Croix River, near Taylor’s Falls, MN and St. Croix Falls, WI. The two parks are located near the junction of Hwy 8, Hwy 95 and the St. Croix River. One park is in MN, the other in WI, each across the river from the other. It may be of interest that neither town is actually located on or near any ‘falls.’  There is a hydroelectric dam at St. Croix Falls, and sometimes, according to a Ranger I spoke with, the dam ‘overflows’ creating a temporary ‘falls. ‘Go figure!

 

St. Croix River watershed map

 

The last time I visited the Park, about 6-8 years ago, I was camping with my oldest grandson, Charlie! He must have been 6-8 years old and we also had my Black Lab, Kolby, along for a few days in the woods. We camped on the MN side of the river, hiked a bit, split wood and made fires, and spent a few nights in a tent. What fun!

We also made a couple of trips into nearby (25 mi) Stillwater, MN -a great old ‘small town’ located right on the river. We went in for lunch one day because I wanted to show Charlie the lift bridge that crossed the St. Croix, and we ate at a small restaurant on the corner of where you turned to cross the river -excellent burgers and malts! We walked Kolby in the nearby city park adjacent to the bridge -I’m hoping I can find an old picture of the lift bridge to include in this story.

I also took my youngest daughter there camping about 25 years ago -I have a couple of great pictures but they’re not digitized so you’ll just have to take my word for it! So yes, I’m revisiting.

And, one day in a few more years, I just may be lucky enough to take my grand daughter camping there as well, although I’m sure her mother (and maybe dad as well) would accompany us!  A family affair… Maybe a family reunion of sorts? 😉

 

A foggy morning on the river.

 

On this trip, I arrived about 8 a.m. on a very foggy morning. This St. Croix River, I’m sure there are many others, is a tributary of the mighty Mississippi. It’s about 165 miles (275 km) long, and flows in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The lower 125 miles (210 km), forms the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Much of it is a National Scenic Riverway.

The St. Croix begins at Upper St. Croix Lake, about 20 mi. south of Lake Superior in WI, and it flows southwest. It is joined by the Namekagon River, and then becomes much wider. It joins the Mississippi just south of Stillwater, at Prescott, WI. Interstate Park is about 60 mi. NE of Minneapolis.

 

 

Fog in the St. Croix River gorge

 

 

 

St. Croix River, MN

 

St. Croix River, MN -the morning fog is lifting

 

Glacial Potholes, St. Croix Dalles, MN

 

There are many glacial potholes in the Interstate Park, as described above -a tale that begins over a billion years ago with volcanic activity, then followed by glaciers about two million years ago, and their melting about 12,000 years ago creating wild glacial rivers which created the St. Croix Valley and the potholes like Lilly Pond and hundreds of others.

 

Lily Pond Pothole, Interstate Park, MN

 

Lily’s Pond pothole was very dark in the heavy shade, and was covered with lily pads and dense algae. The smaller pothole below is much more descriptive, although it is less than a tenth the size of Lily Pond. The center, round pothole below is about 3′-4′ in diameter.

 

Pothole, St. Croix River, MN

 

The St. Croix, as the fog is finally lifting

 

 

Nature’s forces split this boulder

 

Split boulder, another view.

 

The trail continues…

 

 

A close-up across the river

 

 

 

Interstate Park, St. Croix River, MN

 

Trees growing in rock (1), St. Croix River, MN

 

Amazing how such trees continue to grow and thrive in such conditions. We see this continually, and I am always amazed. Of course we also see others that have lost the fight and succumbed -hanging off a cliff by their roots or laying below rotting or waiting to be washed downstream in high-water conditions. It’s that way in the wild, and in everyday life to an extent -only the strong survive!

 

Trees growing in rock (2), St. Croix, MN

 

 

 

Mid-morning -the boats are out on the St. Croix River

 

Kayaks on the river

 

 

Earlier I mentioned the Stillwater Lift Bridge. In the past month, the Lift Bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic, and is now only open to pedestrians and bicycles. However, it still operates as a lift bridge to facilitate river barge and boat traffic.

There is a new bridge a few miles south of the Lift Bridge, that has opened to carry vehicular traffic across the river. It is much larger and can handle vastly increased traffic flows. The new bridge connects with MN Hwy 36.

Construction of the new bridge was very contested by many groups and local communities, and issues were addressed in various courts over the past decade. The older lift bridge had traffic tied up in Stillwater on a daily basis, and weekends were especially bad. The decades-old design, running through narrow city streets could no longer operate effectively, and it was impacting local businesses along the congested streets. The issues were argued, and the new bridge was built.

I took the picture of the new bridge shown below, and I found those pictures of the old lift bridge (along with Charlie and Kolby) -from 2010.

 

The ‘new’ Stillwater bridge replacement, ’17

 

Stillwater Lift Bridge, 2010

 

Charlie and Kolby, Stillwater Lift Bridge, 2010

 

I hope you enjoyed my quick revisit of the St. Croix River Valley.  As the cooler weather of fall moves in, I’ll likely head out again for some more vigorous backpacking -out west or in the southwest. I hope to obtain my General radio license from the FCC in October, thus I should be on the air AND on the trail before the snow flies!

73, de Mike, KEØGZT

~~~~~~~

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Field Day 2017…radios, antennas, and meeting new folks

As you may have read in earlier posts, I was out for nearly two weeks hiking and camping with my grandson, Mikey in mid-June. We returned just in time to catch the ARRL’s Field Day 17 weekend -June 24-25, 2017.  ARRL being the Amateur Radio Relay League -amateur radio’s association which works to support amateur radio operators and the industry overall. Field Day is a big deal in the Ham radio community because clubs all over the country gather to get-on-the-air and test their skills with a variety of emergency communications radio equipment, some using conventional power, others using battery power to mimic the environment after natural disasters where normal communication modes are not working -cell phones, the Internet is out, etc.

It was a busy weekend -getting all the camping gear cleaned up and put away, catching up on yard work, and getting ready to depart town again – early on the Monday after Field Day weekend. So much to do, and only the weekend to get it all done. This report is a bit late, but ‘better late than never’ might be my motto in this case.

I couldn’t miss Field Day if at all possible. It would be a great place to meet more local Ham radio operators and learn more about operating more efficiently and effectively. I helped get things set up for the joint Richfield Amateur Radio Club (RARC) and Bloomington Amateur Radio Association (BARA) Field Day event, on Saturday morning, in the Richfield Community Center. The Community Center is located in a municipal park that’s full of large trees -perfect for supporting several dipole antennas.

After helping get tables and chairs set up and hauling  various boxes of radio gear and refreshments into the building, I helped get a couple dipole antennas set up in the trees outside, near the building. Then we got things all connected -to power, to batteries, to analyzers… radios, tuners, computers… yada, yada.

About lunchtime, I headed home to eat and get some backpacking gear organized for Monday’s departure. After a few hours, I headed over to another park to visit another Ham Club’s Field Day activities.

The Twin City FM Club was taken by surprise when they found a regional soccer competition being held in the same park they were using for Field Day activities. The parking lots were all full and hundreds of people were wondering the park -to say nothing about all the soccer fields that had been set up throughout the park. All the competing soccer teams and family/friends/vendors tended to overshadow the Field Day activities. In fact, I think the large sports crowd and lack of parking actually tended to keep the radio folks away -which was too bad. I renewed my membership and talked with a few Club members, but didn’t spend much time there.

I returned to the RARC/BARA activities to see how everything was going. Some of the members from the morning were gone, and other members were there to take their place. There were always at least three hf (high frequency bands) stations running, and there was also some VHF/UHF and crossband operators as well. One of our members even got a large U.S. Army mobile radio vehicle set up in the parking lot for people to visit. Most stations were phone/voice operations, but there were a couple of people using CW (continuous wave/Morris Code) as well. It was a great idea to combine both Club’s Field Day activities. I’d say it was a major success!

There were people operating radios and people logging contacts for them, and others watching, talking/listening and learning. There were people in their teens (and below), and people in their 70’s and beyond, in attendance. I talked with quite a few folks and met a few new Hams as well -expanding my radio network.

I only stayed an hour or so and had to get back to my other activities. I returned again on Sunday morning for an hour or so, and talked with station operators and others milling about. There was a lot of activity; people were enjoying themselves. I’m glad I was able to help make Field Day a success, and I enjoyed meeting some new Hams and others interested in learning about using amateur radio as an emergency communications medium. I took some pictures on both days, and included a few below.

~~~~~

A suburban newspaper covered the RARC/BARA Field Day in a nice article the following week, dated 7-6-2017: link no longer active, see article below.

                           Radio operators have fun, prepare for the worst                                  Story and photos by Andrew Wig

 

Standing outside the Richfield Community Center, Bloomington Ama teur Radio Association Vice President Bill Mitchell, left, holds an antenna as he and fellow club member Dan Royer listen for a satellite passing overhead on June 24, which was Field Day for amateur radio operators around the country. The radio operators used the day to test their capabilities in the event their services would become indispensable due to a failure of regular communications networks. (Sun Current staff photo of Andrew Wig)

It’s easy to take cellphones and the internet for granted, but a group of hobbyists are standing by should some calamity befall such everyday communications networks.

“We’re Plan B,” said Matt Holden, president of the Bloomington Amateur Radio Association. Holden’s club met up with its Richfield counterpart for Field Day June 24 and 25, when amateur radio operators from around the country tested their capabilities over the airwaves.

“We’re the what-if people, so when the cellphone network goes down, how do you communicate?” Holden explained.

The radio clubs hunkered down in the basement of the Richfield community center from   1 p.m. June 24 to 1 p.m. the following day, attempting to make basic contacts with other far-flung radio operators conducting the same mission.

“This is just to test for what we could do” should amateur radio operators’ services become indispensable due to any variety of disaster or hiccups in traditional communications networks.

 

“Hams have helped out in tornadoes. They’ve helped out on forest fires. They’ve helped out in hurricanes, the tsunamis that happened over in Asia,” said Avery Finn, secretary of the Richfield Amateur Radio Club. Don Clay, local co-chair of the amateur radio Field Day event June 24, looks at a laptop as he programs channels into a portable radio. (Sun Current staff photo by Andrew Wig)

They’ve also make their presence felt at local community events; members of the local radio clubs were recently on hand for Bloomington’s Summer Fete July 3 and Richfield’s Fourth of July parade.

Although technically amateurs, ham radio operators are part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s official communications community, a measure signed into law in 2006 following disasters including the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

“All hams everywhere in the country are part of Homeland Security,” Finn emphasized.

That’s what they call themselves – hams, originally a derogatory term used to describe amateur Morse code operators in the 19th century.

 

Operating one of three radio stations in the basement of the Richfield Community Center for Field Day June 24, Bloomington Amateur Radio Association President Matt Holden joins Merrick Falk and his father, Adam Falk, both of Lester Prairie. (Sun Current staff photo of Andrew Wig)

Also, within their radio club environs, the hams introduce themselves to one another with their call letters, in person or via broadcast. Richfield club member Don Clay, who co-chaired the Field Day locally, uses the on-air moniker of his late father.

“He liked to say, ‘Rich from Richfield, KC0TJ,’” Clay said. Those call letters, he added, are on his father’s tombstone. The younger Clay has the same plans for his own eventual grave site.

Radio, after all is part of who he is. “I’ve been doing it for 46-plus years, since I was in diapers, basically,” said Clay, 46.

Finn, 76, has been an amateur radio operator since 1956, taking up the hobby as part of a school club in St. Louis Park.

Through the years, he’s maintained a special affinity for Morse code. “It’s almost like another language, like Spanish and French or whatever,” Finn said.

Bonding over the airwaves

Amateur radio operators, all partaking in the same niche hobby, speak the same language in the sense of their kinship, too, Finn said.

Any place in the world, when a ham sees another ham’s antennae, “you go up and knock on the door and you almost instantly have made a friend,” he said.

Some hams travel the world in quests to make as many connections as possible, from as far away as possible. Holden’s quests have taken him to locales including Suriname in South America, the remote Northern Mariana Islands near Guam in the Pacific Ocean, and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean.

Bloomington club member Bill Mitchell traveled to Heard Island, located between Madagascar and Antarctica, to be one of the few radio operators ever to make on-air contact from the island.

“Only twice in history has there been any radio contacts from Heard Island prior to his trip,” Holden said.

Hams can do more than send sounds, having been able to transmit photos before the advent of text messaging or email, Finn mentioned. He said his father used to send pictures of snow-covered Minnesota to astonished fellow hams in Brazil.

Other hams, Clay added, have the goal of making radio contact from every county in the U.S. But amateur radio operators maintain their local relevance through partnerships with public safety agencies as they bolster emergency communications networks. That’s how Richfield resident Tom York became a ham – through the city’s Community Emergency Response Team.

York, 49, learned radio communications out of a sense of civic service, but as one of the newer hams in the Richfield club, it became his new hobby, too.

“I’m thinking, why didn’t I do it 20 years ago?” York said.

                     Richfield Sun Current, ECM Publishers,   7-6-2017                                 Story and photos by Andrew Wig

~~~~~

 

 

 

 

 

There’s at least 3 antennas in these trees, but they’re hard to see

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

73,  de Mike KEØGZT

~~~~~~~

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hiking The Presidential Range, White Mtns., NH

I joined my old friend, Madison Jon, in Connecticut Sunday evening July 2, 2017. Early Monday morning we drove up I91 to St. Johnsbury, VT. We then headed east on Hwy 2 to Gorham, NH and south on 16 about ten miles to Joe Dodge Lodge (in Pinkham Notch) –our base station while we hiked The Presidential Range, in the White Mountains of NH. We would start there and end there after four days of hiking.

We had dinner and spent the night at Joe Dodge where we left our vehicle while we hiked. Early next morning, Tuesday July 4th, after a great breakfast, we began our journey -taking a shuttle to AMC’s Highland Center (in Crawford Notch), where we started hiking north to the AMC Mizpah Spring Hut -our first day’s destination.  Mizpah Hut is adjacent to the Nauman Tentsite, and both are located along the junction with the Appalachian Trail (AT). The hike from Highland Center was only about 3 miles with a 2,100′ elevation gain to Mizpah. However the first mile had a gain of 1,700′ coming up a rocky, bolder-strewn creek bed/trail -welcome to the Whites! And, for the record, AMC is the Appalachian Mountain Club, with over 19,000 members -myself and Madison Jon included.

 

Crawford Path headed up from Highland Center to Mizpah Hut

Crawford Path headed up from Highland Center to Mizpah Hut along the AT

 

The Crawford Path is one of the oldest hiking trails in the country, it was originally built in the 1800’s. It was used as a horse trail from the ‘Crawford House’ (now AMC’s Highland Center) up to Mt. Washington. It coincides with the AT for 5.2 miles, and extends an additional 3 miles to Highland Center.

 

AMC Mizpah Spring Hut

AMC Mizpah Spring Hut, AT, White Mtns. NH

 

Reservations at Mizpah (and all AMC Huts) are recommended. It accommodates 60 guests using several rooms with bunk-beds. Restrooms, potable water, kitchen and dining hall, breakfast and dinner, and a full staff are provided. Additional information on the lodges is available on the AMC website.

 

AMC Mizpah Spring Hut

AMC Mizpah Spring Hut

 

Nauman Tentsite is adjacent to the Mizpah spring Hut. Most Tentsites have a caretaker, and usually charge a nominal daily fee for their daily use. Tentsites provide some type of composting toilet facility, and a water source is usually nearby. All water should be filtered/purified (or boiled/treated with a chemical).

 

Nauman Tentsite platform

Nauman Tentsite platform, AT, NH

 

Several platforms at Nauman Tentsite

 

A few campers at Nauman Tentsite

 

Trail from Nauman Tentsite to Mizpah Spring Hut

 

Mizpah Spring Hut

Mizpah Spring Hut

Many huts are open year ’round and are heated. Winter hiking and skiing are popular in many parts of the White Mtns. Again, check the website for details, including special programs.

We arrived at Mizpah Hut in early-afternoon, Tuesday. We explored the immediate area, including Nauman Tentsite, and got our gear put away in our room. We met Jess, the hut caretaker and ‘guy-in-charge’ -he assigned us our room and also served as a great cook and baker, and seemed to always be busy in the kitchen. The hut also had a nice library upstairs. Dinner and morning breakfast were served family-style, and everyone had plenty of delicious food to eat.

We were  planning to stay in huts each night out, with two meals a day provided. That meant we didn’t have to carry our meals, a stove, cookware or fuel -very nice indeed! We did each carry a small backpacking tent, and a water filter -just in case severe weather forced us off a mountain or ridgeline. And we each carried 2-3 liters of water daily. Severe weather is always a possibility in these mountains, so we had to be prepared for that, with raingear, maps, compass, head lamp and batteries, etc. I’m guessing we each carried 20-25 lbs. -very light weight.

Wednesday morning after breakfast, Jon and I hit the trail by 8 a.m. and headed north along our planned route -Crawford Path and the AT to the AMC Lakes of the Clouds Hut, just past Mt. Monroe.

 

Appalation Trail (AT)

Appalachian Trail (AT) with white blaze, headed north to Mt. Pierce, Mt. Eisenhower, Mt. Franklin, Mt. Monroe and beyond.

 

AT in the Whites

AT in the Whites

 

 

Madison Jon along the AT, White Mtns., NH

 

Mike along the AT, White Mtns., NH

 

AT, White Mtns., NH (1)

 

We climbed right over Mt. Pierce and I didn’t even realize it – at 4300′ it was only a couple of hundred feet gain at the top. At Mt. Eisenhower we skirted the peak (which was only a 200′-300′ climb) staying on the main, more traveled AT route.

 

AT, White Mtns., NH (2)

 

AT, White Mtns., NH (3)

 

AT, White Mtns., NH (4)

 

AT, White Mtns., NH (5)

 

As we approached Mt. Monroe, the ridgeline began rising and we encountered more boulders along the trail, slowing our pace significantly. We decided to break for a drink and maybe an energy-bar, but swarms of biting gnats and flies soon chased us away. The AT skirted Mt. Monroe to the east and then around to the north again. As we rounded a corner of boulders, the trail began dropping and suddenly the Lakes of the Clouds Hut came into view below us in the distance. A welcome sight!

 

AT, White Mtns., NH (6)

 

First view of Lakes of the Clouds Hut, White Mtns., NH

 

Lakes of the Clouds Hut with helicopter delivering construction supplies below

 

The helicopter crew was taking advantage of good weather and hauling in large waste storage tanks for the Clivus composting toilets, and probably kitchen waste as well, along with lumber. There must have been 10-15 deliveries that day. When the full systems are disconnected, they will be hauled out and the new tanks will be installed. This needs to be done every couple of years.

 

Work crew with supplies being delivered by helicopter

 

New waste disposal tanks and lumber

 

Propane tanks also delivered by helicopter

 

Dining Hall at Lakes of the Clouds Hut

 

Lake of the Clouds Hut was well above treeline, with very scenic views. It accomodates 90 guests and has a small retail store with energy bars, safety-related items, maps and some clothing.

All huts provide morning weather forecasts for today and the next day. The reports come in by radio and are hand transcribed on a std. form. I believe amateur radio frequencies are used, because one fellow mentioned he doesn’t operate the radio because he doesn’t have the FCC license.  But they may use a combination of radio systems, I couldn’t find out for sure.

At each hut I spotted thru-hikers on the AT. They might have been hanging around outside around the hut, or inside -bartering for food and/or sleeping space. I’d been out here before and met them on the trail. I’d shake their hands and congratulate them, enjoying the smile it brought to their faces. This trip I met a couple of groups that had started in Georgia in late Feburary and early March, hiking north. They had already accomplished an amazing feat, and they had nearly completed their trip – another few weeks and they’d be climbing Katahdin in Maine. I climbed it in 2014! It was always fun talking with these folks as they approached the end of their journey. Congrats to them!

 

Hiker takes a seat to watch the sunset at Lakes of the Clouds Hut.

 

Sunset, Lakes of the Clouds Hut, NH 7-5-17 (1)

 

Sunset, Lakes of the Clouds Hut, NH 7-5-17 (2)

 

Cairn above Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Cairn above Lakes of the Clouds Hut marks the trail.

 

In dim light, heavy rain or snow, or foggy conditions, the cairns mark the trail. Even in clear weather, it can be hard finding the trail in large boulder fields. We actually found ourselves on the wrong trail and had to backtrack for twenty minutes to find where we had missed the correct trail -and that was a clear day. In good conditions, we could sight 3-5 cairns in the distance and plot a straight course through the boulders, avoiding the zig-zag between individual cairns. There really was no trail, only the cairns pointing the way across the unending boulder fields.

 

Evening sky over Lakes of the Clouds Hut

 

Mount Washington locked in morning clouds

 

Leaving Lakes of the Clouds Hut

 

It was a good climb up and through numerous boulder fields to get out of Lake of the Clouds and back on the AT/Crawford Path trails. After about 3/4 mile, we took a fork north on the Westside Trail through more boulder fields and avoided the direct climb up to the peak of Mt. Washington -a climb of an additional 600′-700.’  There is a roadway and a railroad that gets people all the way up to the top (from the lowlands below), and a weather station and snack bar to boot! It actually gets crowded up there. We avoided the boulders, the climb and the crowd, and probably saved ourselves a couple of hours in the process. Alas, no pictures from the top.

 

Trail up to and around Mt. Washington, headed to Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams and Madison Spring Hut.

 

The Westside Trail connected us with the Gulfside Trail (also the AT), which would take us past Mt. Clay, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Adams, to the Madison Spring Hut. The first mile was an easy walk along a ridgeline that followed a relatively constant elevation.

After passing Mt. Clay, the trail elevations began going up and down through boulder field after boulder field, hour after hour. Hiking got difficult. And it stayed that way as we circled the ridge around the top of the Great Gulf Wilderness cirque, on our way to Madison Spring Hut. This is where we didn’t want to hit bad weather, because escape routes off the ridge were relatively few and most would be challenging in bad weather -very steep and rocky.

 

Rough trails to AMC Madison Spring Hut

 

From this point on, the trail became very challenging and I took nearly no photos.  The boulder fields were deeper now, and hiking poles tended to get stuck in cracks and holes between the boulders. Breaking and/or bending hiking poles was a distinct possibility, to say nothing of falling and breaking a wrist or arm or ankle. We were also being hit with wind gusts that must have been 50+ mph, which impacted our ability to hike/jump boulder to boulder safely. I was getting tired. The boulders were getting bigger! Where the hell is the Hut!

We climbed down the boulders into a narrow ravine -it was difficult to fit between the walls of what was a dry, narrow waterfall. We dropped hiking poles and grabbed rocks, easing ourselves downward, tossing packs ahead, jumping to lower levels -wondering if this was even the dam trail! I’d sure hate to have to climb back up and out of this if we were wrong -this late in the day!

We reached the bottom and crossed a dry stream bed, then began climbing boulders and following cairns again. After 50 yards, we stopped, dropped our packs and sat down along the trail -it was break time. We each had an energy bar and a half liter of water, rested five minutes, put on our packs and hit the trail again, glad we were still on the trail!

 

On the trail to Madison Spring Hut. Good place for a break!

 

Rocks and boulders continue to slow us on the trail

 

Madison Spring Hut? Must be just over the horizon.

 

AMC Madison Spring Hut in the distance

 

The best sight we’d seen since passing Mt. Clay earlier in the morning, before hitting the boulder fields. But there were still more boulders all the way down… we wondered what was for dinner!

 

Approaching AMC Madison Spring Hut

 

All the huts used solar energy, most had a dozen 750 watt panels on the roof and some also had hot water panels to pre-heat water, then used on-demand propane water heaters. I believe all huts had back-up propane generators for charging batteries and providing emergency power. Human waste and kitchen waste was composted using aerobic processes and recycling. Restrooms used the Clivus Multrum composting system. Most huts used electric water pumps, and required about 2-3 kwh/day. We had headlamps and AAA batteries to meet our needs whenever required.

We had nearly completed our journey. Madison Spring Hut was the last in the Presidential Range hike.  The huts were a nice feature -I’d never done that before. I’d always backpacked with a tent, carrying all my food and cooking gear. I often carried 55-60 lbs. or 40% of my body weight. I liked the hut option!

 

 

AMC Madison Spring Hut

 

It was great to arrive at Madison Spring Hut! I was exhausted. We got our room assignment and dumped our packs, saying hi to others sharing the room -there must have been a dozen of us in our room. I took off my boots and put on my Crocs to relax and walk around the hut and meet a few other hikers. We also got out the maps and explored our options for returning to Joe Dodge Lodge Friday morning.

Dinner was great! We hit the sack early Thursday night, and slept well! Friday morning we could definitely feel the effects of Thursday’s hike. I took a Tylenol and went to get breakfast. We savored the food and enjoyed the hot coffee.

The Friday morning forecast included a good chance of rain. Our original plan was to take the Osgood Trail/Madison Gulf Trail/Old Jackson Road Trails south, back down to Joe Dodge Lodge. It was a 8+ mile hike and included a 3,500′ loss in elevation, including a 1 mi. section that dropped 2,000.’ It looked like it would be difficult, especially in the rain.

Examining the map, we found two other trail options (the Valley Way and Air Line Trails) that departed north and down the backside of the cirque to a shuttle stop on Hwy 2. Both were about 3 miles long and would be tough -but they didn’t include anything like a 2,000′ drop in 1 mile (Osgood option). We talked with the Hut manager and he recommended the Air Line Trail route over Valley Way for good reasons related to slope. The Air Line Trail it would be! We had to make a shuttle pick-up at 11:30 a.m to get us back to Joe Dodge Lodge for the night. We figured it would take us at least 3 hrs. to reach the shuttle stop at Hwy 2.

We departed Madison Spring Hut at 7:45 a.m. Friday, heading down the Air Line Trail. While we were headed down, we first had to head UP! Seemed natural, we hiked up and over a high point on the horizon, then faced another… and then we finally headed DOWN!

 

Air Line Trail heading ‘down’ from Madison Spring Hut

 

Air Line Trail heading down from Madison Spring Hut is very steep and rocky for 2 miles then enters forest with a more moderate decline.

 

It was exhausting. After an hour, I could already feel the effects of yesterday’s workout. My upper thighs, the muscles, were yelling at me. This was new. In the old days, before my heart surgery (triple bypass in 12/16), I’d be out of breath, stopping for a break and nearly panting! I never got winded on this trip -at no time! My new limiting factor was muscular! Amazing! I can build those muscles. I can deal with that.

How fast were we moving? Did we have time for a break -my legs were killing me. At one point, Jon yelled, Mike! I’d inadvertently started hiking a drainage, and had gotten off the trail. Easy to do, but dangerous! Glad I wasn’t hiking alone, I might have missed the shuttle! Finally nearing the roadway (I figured), I had to sit down on a flat rock on the forest floor to give my legs a rest – maybe a minute or two. I got up and what a difference a couple of minutes rest made! We continued and reached the shuttle stop with fifteen minutes to spare. We dropped our packs. I was done! Totally!

 

Dangerous weather warning posted on all trails going up to the mountains and ridgelines.

 

Appalachia shuttle stop, near Randolph on Hwy 2, connects direct to Madison Spring Hut, via the Air Line Trail. Just north west of Gorham, NH.

 

What a trip! We had a long ride back to Joe Dodge Lodge -going west for 90 minutes around the mountain, rather than 30 minutes southeast.  It was all good -I needed a rest anyway. I used a shuttle stop to pick up some ice for some warm beer back at Joe Dodge Lodge – and that was my first task upon our return… putting the beer on ice! Then a hot shower, and a great dinner. Then a cold beer out back with a small Cohiba… this was an amazing trip! Sooo glad we did it! Thanks Jon!

And, my sincere thanks to Dr. Peter Dyrud and the team!! 😉  Thanks all!

 

73, de Mike, KEØGZT

~~~~~~~

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments