Appalachian Trail: Blue Mountain (October 2008)

Eckville Shelter to Dan's Spring

This is the first hike Joe and I have done since we missed each other on the Grand Canyon Trip. I was looking forward to getting him back out into the woods. I knew he needed it. Joe has a new baby and it is his second in a 2 years...need I say more!

 

About the Blue Mountain Section of the AT

Thru-hikers know Pennsylvania by the name Rocksylvania. Before too long, day-trippers on this 15-mile hike along the Blue Mountain ridge discover why. Truth be told, there are some early stretches of this walk through a maturing oak forest where a footstep will land on soil instead of sharp rock. Enjoy them. By the hike's end they will be distant, obscure memories.

Mostly there are the rocks: gray-green, often jagged, quartzite shards, ranging in size from pork chops to pumpkins to Plymouths. Hikers will find them generally unsorted by size, and occasionally unsecured. Natural history feature: Auburn Lookout. Social history feature: Port Cling, "Buzzard Capital of the Northeast."

 

The Hike

We started at the Eckville Shelter and hiked to Dan's Spring. We brought only enough water for the hike up expecting to be able to fill up a the Spring.

Inside the Eckville Shelter

Joe at the start of the hike.

Me of course. The hike up was about what we've come to expect in PA, NJ and NY. Rocky, steep and some sections, and not a lot of water sources. You really need to plan accordingly.

Dan's Pulpit

Providing inspiration since 1997!

The view from the pulpit.

This view was REALLY nice. I think I want to buy a farm. Seriously.

Dan's Spring... Dry as a bone unfortunately, halting our progress and forcing us to camp for the night and double back first thing in the morning.

I would have liked to go for longer, but we ended up getting a late start, which altered our route and camp site, and then the lack of water made us stop and reassess our strategy. Both Joe and I are heavy drinkers so no water was not a good thing.

A good fire can take away the thirst a little bit... unless you get too close. This bad boy was HOT.

The fire at half blast. There were a number of really good campsites on this hike. I thnk more good campsites than i've seen on any of my other AT hikes so far.

Joe getting it going at full blast. It was a VERY bright moon last night so there was no need for the fire to see for sure. But a campsite is not a campsite without a fire.

The campsite first thing in the morning. Lot's of yellow this time of year.

A little closer.

Morning Glory

The white blaze.

Man... this really is one of the rockier kikes I have ever been on.

The view from the Pulpit on a foggy morning. Quite a bit differnt than the day before.

 

 

Appalachian Trail: Delaware Water Gap to Mount Tammany via Red Dot Trail (April 2008)

 

About the trip

I hiked the Blue Dot trail last weekend and returned this weekend with Joe to go the Red Dot trail. This time, we took the right trail to the top.


The hike up via the Red Dot trail is a little more difficult than the Blue Dot Trail, but we pretty much took it easy and didn't go too hard. Saw a couple of hawks again this weekend, but not as close as last week.

 

fasdf

The Waterfall at the break between the Blue and White Trails.

The Green Trail (Dunnfield) going towards the Holly Springs Trail

 

 

My Travelling Companions

 

Trail Map

 

About the Delaware Water Gap Section of the AT

The Delaware Water Gap is on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where the Delaware River traverses a large ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. A water gap is a geological formation where a river cuts through a mountain ridge.

The Delaware Water Gap is the site of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which is used primarily for recreational purposes, such as rafting, canoeing, swimming, fishing, hiking and rock climbing. With a fishing license, one can fish in the Delaware for carp, shad and other fish.

The ridge of the Appalachians that the Delaware crosses is called the Blue Mountains in Pennsylvania and the Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey. The New Jersey mountain is Mt. Tammany (located in Worthington State Forest); the Pennsylvania mountain is Mount Minsi. The summit of Tammany is 1200 ft (360 m) above the river. The Appalachian Trail threads the gap, and climbs the Kittatinies alongside Dunnfield Creek.

The Worthington State Forest is to the immediate northeast on the New Jersey side of the river. Interstate 80 passes through the gap on the New Jersey side via the Delaware Water Gap Toll Bridge, while the New Jersey Cut-Off mainline of the old Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad—now owned by the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Rail Authority and operated by the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad—passes through on the Pennsylvania side. Pennsylvania Route 611, which is adjacent to the railroad for most of way through the Gap, occupies the right-of-way of a former trolley line. Interstate 80 occupies the former right-of-way of the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway.

 

 

Red Dot Trail

Difficulty: The Red Dot is challenging, due to rocky trail conditions and a rapid rise in elevation. Hikers must be in good physical condition and willing to hike over large rocks and boulders. Care must be taken during warmer weather to avoid rattlesnakes, often present among the rocks.

Length: The trail rises 1200 feet in 1.5 miles to top of Mt. Tammany, 3 or 4 miles total depending on return route.

Trailhead: The Worthington State Park trail, marked by red blazes in a white circle, begins at the Dunnfield parking area on I-80 West just before the last exit in New Jersey. The Red Dot Trail can also be accessed from the small picnic/rest area located just before the Dunnfield parking area on I-80.

The climb up the Red Dot to the summit of Mt. Tammany on the NJ side of the Delaware Water Gap involves traversing rocks and boulders. The trail begins its sharp rise immediately via a series of timber-and-rock stairs. The steady ascent approaches an overlook high over I-80 and the Delaware River a few hundred feet below cliffs that drop nearly straight down.

The trail heads a short distance away from the cliffs for a while, going through a very wet, rocky area, near the base of a very steep, rocky climb, probably the most difficult of the hike. At a few places here, you can tell where the "trail" is only by looking for the blaze marks painted on the rock surface. The trail again traverses woods until it reaches the open, rocky summit of Mt. Tammany, 1549 feet above sea level. By carefully maneuvering down the bare rocky slope at the top, you will get a most spectacular view to the north, west, and south. Chances are excellent that vultures, hawks, and occasional eagles will be soaring below you. Enjoy it.

An alternate return route brings you down the Blue Dot, over a wider, gentler route that merges with the white blazed Appalachian Trail a short distance from the Dunnfield parking area.

 

 

Appalachian Trail: Delaware Water Gap to Mount Tammany via Blue Dot Trail (March 2008)

 

About the trip

I have not hiked since September of last year, in the Canadian Rockies. And I don't have any buddies to hike with this time. So I picked a simple loop and did some exploring on my own.

When I got to the parking lot, I mistakenly asked a couple which way the Red Dot trail was, and they pointed my in the direction of the blue dot trail. So instead of taking the red dot trail up and coming down the Blue Dot trail, I did the loop the opposite direction and came down the Red Dot. I'll come back another time before my trip to the hike the Grand Canyon and do it the right direction, and maybe even go on and hike up to sunfish pond.


The hike was nice. The hike up via the Blue Dot trail was a little more gentle than what I was looking for, especially given I didn't bring my normal pack I take when I'm training (filled with all my climbing gear). But the view up top is nice. And as they tell you, I sat down to eat an apple, just as I had put my camera away, and a huge black hawk, hovers over and lands about 20 feet away from me. And as soon as I fmble and get my camera back out, get up and start walking towards it to get a shot, it flies off. Talk about frustration!

My Travelling Companions

 

Trail Map

 

About the Delaware Water Gap Section of the AT

The Delaware Water Gap is on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where the Delaware River traverses a large ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. A water gap is a geological formation where a river cuts through a mountain ridge.

The Delaware Water Gap is the site of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which is used primarily for recreational purposes, such as rafting, canoeing, swimming, fishing, hiking and rock climbing. With a fishing license, one can fish in the Delaware for carp, shad and other fish.

The ridge of the Appalachians that the Delaware crosses is called the Blue Mountains in Pennsylvania and the Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey. The New Jersey mountain is Mt. Tammany (located in Worthington State Forest); the Pennsylvania mountain is Mount Minsi. The summit of Tammany is 1200 ft (360 m) above the river. The Appalachian Trail threads the gap, and climbs the Kittatinies alongside Dunnfield Creek.

The Worthington State Forest is to the immediate northeast on the New Jersey side of the river. Interstate 80 passes through the gap on the New Jersey side via the Delaware Water Gap Toll Bridge, while the New Jersey Cut-Off mainline of the old Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad—now owned by the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Rail Authority and operated by the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad—passes through on the Pennsylvania side. Pennsylvania Route 611, which is adjacent to the railroad for most of way through the Gap, occupies the right-of-way of a former trolley line. Interstate 80 occupies the former right-of-way of the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway.

 

 

Red Dot Trail

Difficulty: The Red Dot is challenging, due to rocky trail conditions and a rapid rise in elevation. Hikers must be in good physical condition and willing to hike over large rocks and boulders. Care must be taken during warmer weather to avoid rattlesnakes, often present among the rocks.

Length: The trail rises 1200 feet in 1.5 miles to top of Mt. Tammany, 3 or 4 miles total depending on return route.

Trailhead: The Worthington State Park trail, marked by red blazes in a white circle, begins at the Dunnfield parking area on I-80 West just before the last exit in New Jersey. The Red Dot Trail can also be accessed from the small picnic/rest area located just before the Dunnfield parking area on I-80.

The climb up the Red Dot to the summit of Mt. Tammany on the NJ side of the Delaware Water Gap involves traversing rocks and boulders. The trail begins its sharp rise immediately via a series of timber-and-rock stairs. The steady ascent approaches an overlook high over I-80 and the Delaware River a few hundred feet below cliffs that drop nearly straight down.

The trail heads a short distance away from the cliffs for a while, going through a very wet, rocky area, near the base of a very steep, rocky climb, probably the most difficult of the hike. At a few places here, you can tell where the "trail" is only by looking for the blaze marks painted on the rock surface. The trail again traverses woods until it reaches the open, rocky summit of Mt. Tammany, 1549 feet above sea level. By carefully maneuvering down the bare rocky slope at the top, you will get a most spectacular view to the north, west, and south. Chances are excellent that vultures, hawks, and occasional eagles will be soaring below you. Enjoy it.

An alternate return route brings you down the Blue Dot, over a wider, gentler route that merges with the white blazed Appalachian Trail a short distance from the Dunnfield parking area.

Appalachian Trail: Blue Mountain (June 2007)

 

About the trip

This was my very first trip after tearing up my knee playing basketball, and right before my Canadian Rockies trip. first creating my life list. Overall, it was a great trip and exactly what I had hoped it would be. A gateway to a good deal of new and rich experiences. I met a lot of great new people, had a chance to fall in love with rock climbing, experienced one of the most beautiful desert areas in the US, and saw just how out of shape i had let myself get!

My Travelling Companions

 

About the Blue Mountain Section of the AT

Thru-hikers know Pennsylvania by the name Rocksylvania. Before too long, day-trippers on this 15-mile hike along the Blue Mountain ridge discover why. Truth be told, there are some early stretches of this walk through a maturing oak forest where a footstep will land on soil instead of sharp rock. Enjoy them. By the hike's end they will be distant, obscure memories.

Mostly there are the rocks: gray-green, often jagged, quartzite shards, ranging in size from pork chops to pumpkins to Plymouths. Hikers will find them generally unsorted by size, and occasionally unsecured. Natural history feature: Auburn Lookout. Social history feature: Port Cling, "Buzzard Capital of the Northeast."

 

Appalachian Trail: Culvers Gap to Buttermilk Falls

(June 2007)

 

About the trip

This was my second trip on the AT, but my first trip after I decided I would explore the entire thing and document it on the site. Joe and I did our first leg of the AT on the Bear Mountain Trail, starting out in sleet and snow, and ending in 85 degree heat, all in 2 days! This trip was not nearly as crazy weather wise, but still pretty difficult.

My Travelling Companion

Lessons Learned:

  1. Pack Lighter. Much Lighter. For some reason, both Joe and I tend to pack for a trip to the North Pole, so we end up with way too heavy of a pack.
  2. The elevations on the map can be deceiving unless you are looking at it from top down with countour lines. The Descent to Buttermilk Falls was VERY steep.
  3. Everything is steeper, harder and further when you are at the end of the day as opposed to the begining. It felt like forever getting to the falls, to the point that we thought we were going to die getting back up to the main trail the next day. But in fact, it took as just a little bit longer going up than it took us going down. A fresh start makes all the difference.

 

About the Buttermilk Falls Section of the AT

Buttermilk Falls is actually a side trail off of the main white blaze trail of the AT. Clearly marked with a sign and a blue blaze, the falls sit 1.9 miles off of the trail, about 1 to 2 hours walk depending on speed. The grade is pretty steep in some sections, particularly the end.

The falls cascades spectacularly down the red shale face of the Kittatinny Ridge. It is the only waterfall in New Jersey, apart from Great Falls, with a developed viewing area. The National Park Service has erected an interpretive display and built a wooden walkway to the top. There is also a platform that can be used to pitch a tent and sleep along side the falls (actually you're just above them).

Buttermilk Falls is in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, alongside a gravel road south of Walpack Center.  The Park Service does not advertise Buttermilk Falls, keeping the location a pleasant secret.

While the way to get to the falls from the AT proper is the blue blazed trail, if you are just interested in the falls themselves without the excercise to get to them (think romantic walk with the girlfriend) there is a parking area near the bottom that connects directly to a road.

 

Appalachian Trail: Bear Mountain (????)

 

About the trip

This was my first trip on the AT. It was WAY harder than I thought it would be. First off, the trail is much steeper than I expected. Second, it is much more rocky than I ever imagined it to be. And third, I was way more out of shape than I realized. :-)

My Travelling Companions

Bear Mountain Bridge

Lessons Learned:

  1. Pack Lighter. Much Lighter. For some reason, both Joe and I tend to pack for a trip to the North Pole, so we end up with way too heavy of a pack.
  2. The elevations on the map can be deceiving unless you are looking at it from top down with countour lines. The Descent to Buttermilk Falls was VERY steep.
  3. Everything is steeper, harder and further when you are at the end of the day as opposed to the begining. It felt like forever getting to the falls, to the point that we thought we were going to die getting back up to the main trail the next day. But in fact, it took as just a little bit longer going up than it took us going down. A fresh start makes all the difference.

 

Appalachian Trail History and Bear Mountain

New York and Bear Mountain can claim a central role in the early developmentand building of the Appalachian Trail, the world’s most famous long-distance hikingtrail. Without the efforts of New Yorkers, the A.T. project might never have gotten off ofthe ground.

Why did New York play such a critical role in the success of the A.T. and whyultimately was it so successful?

A confluence of factors accounts for the success but most important was theefforts of a handful of energetic and dedicated trail figures. Most prominent were BentonMacKaye, Major William A. Welch and Raymond H. Torrey.

Earlier proposals for long distance trails, except perhaps for the Long Trail inVermont, had not taken off before Benton MacKaye announced his idea at a meeting inJuly, 1921 at the Hudson Guild Farm near Netcong, N.J. The two other people at themeeting, Clarence Stein and Charles Whitaker took an early role in publicizingMacKaye’s idea.

The setting symbolized MacKaye’s overarching idea. He wanted the A.T. to be alinear park where residents of bustling cities could get a respite and reconnect withnature. The farm was then owned by a cooperative in the Chelsea section of Manhattanfor that very purpose.

After being encouraged at that meeting, MacKaye wrote an article whichappeared in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, edited by Whitaker, inOctober, 1921. The three men began circulating reprints of the article and MacKayetraveled around the eastern U.S. speaking to leaders of hiking groups, landscapearchitects, regional planners and others.

In the spring of 1922 MacKaye spoke to members of the recently formedPalisades Interstate Park Trail Conference. Inspired by MacKaye, the group took on the A.T. as their big project and began the first trail-building specifically for the A.T. This also established the principle of the A.T. being primarily the work of volunteers.

Raymond Torrey, at the behest of Major Welch, personally took on the task of scouting the 16-mile section from Bear Mountain to Ramapo that became the first section of the entire Appalachian Trail to be completed. Torrey, who wrote a hiking column or New York newspapers for more than thirty years, also wrote the first newspaper article about the A.T. Torrey, along with Frank Place, also authored the first New York Walk Book in 1923, which has become the definitive guide for hiking in the New York area. MacKaye, who had many friends in New York, continued to spend a lot of time inthe area, both at the Hudson Guild and a friend’s farm as well as in Manhattan. He alsoattended a meeting in April, 1922, at which Welch became the first head of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. At a series of meetings in the spring of 1922, MacKaye got these leaders of the New York hiking community excited about the A.T. project.

Welch, who was the long-time General Manager and chief engineer of thePalisades Park Commission, had begun the development of Harriman and Bear Mountainparks over the previous ten years. The initial donation of land from the Harriman familyhad taken place in 1910. Welch encouraged the hiking community and had initiated thebuilding of the park’s first long-distance trail, the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, in 1920.

On Oct. 7, 1923 the first stretch of the A.T. across Bear Mountain and Harrimanwas dedicated at Bear Mountain. Later that month, at Bear Mountain Inn there was athree-day conference on the new A.T. project gathering hiking leaders from the northeast.This was the first large meeting promoting the new trail project.

In 1925 the Appalachian Trail Conference was formed in Washington, D.C. withWelch as first chairman and Torrey as treasurer. The two also served on the commissionwhich designated Great Smoky and Shenandoah as the first two national parks in theeast. Welch also designed the diamond marker, which was used to mark the A.T.

In short the success of the trail project in its early years can be attributed to theremarkable energy and vision of MacKaye, Welch and Torrey. New York had had anactive hiking community for years. New Yorkers especially needed a place where theycould connect with nature. With the start of Harriman and Bear Mountain parks and thePalisades and New York-New Jersey trail conferences, Welch and Torrey and othersgalvanized this community into an organized force for trail building. MacKaye suppliedthe goal with his powerful vision of a trail covering a large sweep of the eastern UnitedStates.

Sources:

  1. Appalachian Trailway News, March/April 1983.
  2. Appalachian Trail Conference Member Handbook
  3. “Benton MacKaye,” by Larry Anderson (Johns Hopkins University Press,Baltimore, Md., 2002).
  4. “In the Hudson Highlands,” (Walking News, Appalachian Mountain Club, 1945.)
  5. “Pioneer Conservationists of Eastern America,” by Peter Wild, (MountainPublishing Co., Missoula, Mt., 1986.)6. “Palisades: 100,000 Acres in 100 Years,” by Robert O. Binnewies, (FordhamUniversity Press, New York, 2001.)

 

About the Appalachian Trail

The trail was conceived by Benton MacKaye, a forester who wrote his original plan shortly after the death of his wife in 1921. MacKaye's Utopian idea detailed a grand trail that would connect a series of farms and wilderness work/study camps for city-dwellers. In 1922, at the suggestion of Major William A. Welch, director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, his idea was publicized by Raymond H. Torrey with a story in the New York Evening Post under a full-page banner headline reading "A Great Trail from Maine to Georgia!" The idea was quickly adopted by the new Palisades Interstate Park Trail Conference as their main project.

On October 7, 1923, the first section of the trail, from Bear Mountain west through Harriman State Park to Arden, New York, was opened. MacKaye then called for a two-day Appalachian Trail conference to be held in March 1925 in Washington, D.C. This resulted in the formation of the Appalachian Trail Conference organization, though little progress was made on the trail for several years.

At the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s, a retired judge named Arthur Perkins and his younger associate Myron Avery took up the cause. Avery, who soon took over the ATC, adopted the more practical goal of building a simple hiking trail. He and MacKaye clashed over the ATC's response to a major commercial development along the trail's path; MacKaye left the organization, while Avery was willing to simply reroute the trail.

Avery became the first to walk the trail end-to-end, though not as a thru-hike, in 1936. In August 1937, the trail was completed to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine, and the ATC shifted its focus toward protecting the trail lands and mapping the trail for hikers. From 1938 to the end of World War II, the trail suffered a series of natural and man-made setbacks. At the end of the war, the damage to the trail was repaired.

In 1948, Earl Shaffer of York, Pennsylvania, brought a great deal of attention to the project by completing the first documented thru-hike. (In 1994, a story appeared in the Appalachian Trailway News describing a 121-day Maine to Georgia thru-hike in 1936 by six Boy Scouts from the Bronx.The story has been accepted by some individual members of ALDHA, though a great deal of doubt has also been expressed;this earlier thru-hike has never been verified or accepted by any responsible hiking organization or group; therefore, Shaffer's 1948 journey is still universally recognized as the first A.T. thru-hike. )

In the 1960s, the ATC made progress toward protecting the trail from development, thanks to many sympathetic politicians and officials. The National Trails System Act of 1968 paved the way for a series of national scenic trails within the national park and national forest systems. Trail volunteers worked with the National Park Service to map a permanent route for the trail, and by 1971 a permanent route had been marked (though minor changes continue to this day). By the close of the 20th century, the Park Service had completed the purchase of all but a few miles of the trail's span.

The Appalachian Trail should not be confused with the International Appalachian Trail, a 675-mile (1,100 km) extension, running north from Maine into New Brunswick and Quebec. It is actually a separate trail, not an official extension of the Appalachian Trail. An extension of the International Appalachian Trail, to Newfoundland, is still under construction.

 


"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."    — Robert A. Heinlein

Home | Trips | Calendar | Gear | Weekend Warrior | About | What's New | EmailThis page updated on 8/19/07