Dear Herm’s Hikers,
Another great week for hiking! For the first time in 2 weeks, I did not have a hiking partner. I sure do miss the companionship of my brother Mark and Mrs. T, Rainbow Brite. Yes, it does get lonely out there sometimes. In all honesty, I’m a home-body so I often wonder what in the heck am I doing hiking up and down the mountains when I could be sitting out on my deck with a cold Natty Boh and a dozen of steamed crabs. But when that happens I immediately think of the great people that I’ve met on the trail and the real reason (Herm’s Hike) why I’m out here. At that instant, everything immediately comes back into focus, although my feet still hurt.
The weather for the week was sunny and hot, much preferred to rainy and cold. In all honesty, I am a hot weather person, a hiking camel in many aspects (I always tanned well). Yeah, I know that I’m saying that now and as soon as the temperature top 90’s, I’ll be wishing that I was singing in the rain.
Leaving Maryland at Pen-Mar Park brought back a lot of sweet memories from my childhood. Just down the road from the park is Fort Ritchie, now an industrial park. Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s when the fort was a thriving Army base, I attended Read more »
Dear Herms’ Hikers,
Finally, after 500+ miles, nearly a quarter of the AT, Virginia is history. Whew, what a relief! I hit the VA/WVA line somewhere on the Rollercoaster, a 13.5 mile stretch of eroded rock fields that included 10 steep climbs. I swear I heard John Denver singing in the background “Take me home, country roads. To the place I belong.” You have to hand it (whatever it is you want to hand) to those people at the trail clubs. They have a stroke of pure genius in the PR and marketing department. When you don’t have a trail, you simply put up a sign with a catchy name and let the AT hikers have at it. It’s a wonder that I didn’t wear out the toes on my boots in stumbling and staggering up and down the hills. Did I mention stubbing my toes? One thing I did wear out was the toes on my feet. Down hill was a killer. I would rather hike up a rocky steep hlll than down it, anytime, anyday. Made it to ther Bears Den hostel after a 16 mile day. The stone, castle-like building, owned by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and managed by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), was a great reward after an extremely hard day on the trail. For $25.00, you got a bunk with sheets and a pillow, laundry, a shower, a Tombstone pizza, a soda, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. You have to hand it to those people at those trail clubs. Put up a sign with a catchy name and let the AT hikers have at it. And have it, we did. It made me want to take back all of those nasty things I said about the Rollercoaster. Needless to say, it was a delightful stay. I spent most of the evening in my bunk reading The Shack. Yes, they even had reading lights over the bunks. By morning, I was rested, despite the professional snorers in the bunkroom, and ready for the 20 mile hike to Haper’s Ferry. It was another long day that included 3 hills on the Rollercoaster and a stop at the Blackburn Trail Center, another bunkhouse run by the PATC without the amenities of Bears Den.
It was a very good hiking day until I hit the last seven miles. That’s when Read more »
Dear Herm’s Hiker,
Greetings from Front Royal and the northern terminus of the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park! It was a tremendous week to hike. The weather was good (There were a number of violent thunderstorms in the evening, but they were in the evening after we had stopped for the day) and the trail was relatively good. Of course, there are no easy miles on the AT so “relatively good” means each day wasn’t a hike up and down Mount Everest. There were a number of steep climbs even though the mountains only topped out in the mid to upper 3,000 ft. range. So why was the week so tremendous? The weather, the views, the fact that I was finally heading out of Virginia. Well, possibly, but not the correct answer. The week was tremendous because I had the chance to hike with my younger brother Mark. Mark met me in Waynesboro and together we hiked over 100 miles and shared hundreds of memories about our childhood and lives. It was a sheer delight to have a steady hiking partner. We were just 2 guys over 50 enjoying the great outdoors and leaving the worries and cares of everyday life far behind. It doesn’t get any better than that. Road gypsies for a week! Before I recap the week, let me congratulate my brother on his section-hike. It’s not easy stepping away from your desk for a week, grabbing your hiking boots and backpack, and hiking 100 miles on the AT, no matter what section of the trail. But he finished the hike in the finest tradition of an Army ROTC cadet and Army officer he once was. Some of the mountain ascents were tough, and some of the mountain descents even tougher. The hike from Mary’s Rock was a 1,200 ft. descent in less than 2 miles over of trail of rocks and boulders. Every footstep had to be carefully placed to avoid a fall or injury. The journey was slow, tedious and meticulous but my brother soldiered on without complaint despite having sore knees. Even I had sore knees afte that hike. And to boot (no pun intended), my brother is a rather big-boned guy who played defensive line at Washington & Lee which makes his success even more remarkable.
Our first night we camped at the Loft Mountain campground which has campsites covered in lush thick grass that was like a shag carpet. It was nature’s top of the line mattress to sleep on. We had a great night’s sleep while the deer roamed freely around the campground. But the first night almost proved disastrous when Read more »
Dear Herm’s Hikers,
Greetings from Waynesboro, Virginia! 852 miles down and “only” 1,326 to go. Will be meeting my brother Mark who will hike with me along the Skyline Drive from Waynesboro to Front Royal/Linden. It will be nice to have a trail buddy for a week. He’s promised to bring plenty of food. and as long as he’s carrying it, I’m all for it. He’s psyched about Herm’s Hike, and I’m psyched about taking that last big step to Harper’s Ferry, one of my favorite spots on earth.
But before we head to Front Royal, let me take a look over my shoulder to see where I’ve been. Crossed Apple Orchard Mountain (at 4,225 feet, one of the last 4k’s for quite a while.). It was once the site of an Air Force radar station, complete with barracks and service buildings. Now it’s just a moutain top meadow. The next day, I descended the moutain ridge and corssed the James River Foot Bridge, the longest foot bridge on the AT at 623 feet. It runs parallel with a railroad brdge, and it’s quite a site to be standing on the bridge in the middle of the river when a coal train rumbles by. Since I love trains, rivers, and bridges, it was a perfect combination. Hitched a ride into the town of Glasgow to resupply and spend at night at Howard’s Family restaurant and Motel. The good news was the grocery store and Dolllar General were open, but the motel/restaurant closed 3 months ago, too late to be updated in the trail guidebooks. The town did have camping available behind one of the buildings and a park pavillion if it rained (more on that later). Decided to spend the night and spent the afternoon drying out my clothes and Read more »
Dear Herm’s Hikers,
On many days, the hike is the same, and that’s the reason for the blues, especially in Virginia where the trail (539 miles) covers almost a fourth of the AT. The present mile looks exactly like the last mile which is going to look exactly like the next mile. It can be a boring as hell! Just when you think that you can’t take another mile of woods and mountains with no scenic views, somebody comes to the rescue! What a great trail!
Out of Pearisburg, the hike continued to be rocky with a lot of steep ups and downs. The mountains still dominated the hike in this region of Virginia. It was a hard four days on the body and mind from Pearisburg to Catawba. The weather was mostly wet and cool. The few days of sunny weather were a tease to keep us moving north. Of course, that only brought thoughts of warm, sunny, summer days of hiking in the mountains. It was enough to keep me moving at a brisk pace and pray for the calendar to miraculously jump to June.
The highlights of the trip from Pearisburg to Catawba were the Audie Murhphy Monument and Cove Monument/Dragon’s Tooth. The Murphy monument is roughly a 4′X4″ chunk of granite/marble on top of the mountain where his plane crashed in 1971. It has an inscription about Audie’s war exploits and his death. There was a wreath, an American flag, a Texas flag, and a stone cairn next to or on the monument. I paused and said a silent prayer for Audie and his fellow WWII vets.
I couldn’t help but think about my father and his exploits in the Pacific. From Pearl Harbor to Peleliu, he fought alongside the Marines as a US soldier. The family always wondered why my father spoke so highly about the Marines (I think that’s what influenced my decision to join), and after some research we found out why. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Herm was with the 27 Infantry Regiment that supported the Marines as they swept across Guadalcanal. After OCS at Fort Benning, GA, he was assigned to the 81st Infantry Divison (321st Regimental Combat Team) who fought alongside the Marines in their sweep across Peleliu to dislodge the Japanese from their concrete bunkers in the coral mountains at Bloody Nose Ridge. While on patrol up that ridge, my father was shot in the foot/ankle after being ambushed by Japanese machinegunners. He spent a number of years in Army hospitals recovering from the injury that almost cost him his foot until being discharged in 1947. But like the rest of the WWII vets, my father did not speak a lot about his war experiences. Every once in a while, he would recount his exploits on December 7, 1941, calling himself a witness and not a survivor since he was at Schofield Barracks when the attack began on that Sunday morning. Regarding Peleliu, he would only say that he had a “gut feeling” that it was going to be a very bad day after seeing a number of dead Marines and burning tanks along the road. Read more »