Thursday, March 31, 2016

Jim's NC to PA Hike - Epilogue

And now my favorite of all of the hike journals - Jim's epilogue - always a treat for me to read since I often find out things that Jim forgot to share during the journey.....  And I know that the picture attached is a repeat but I can't resist posting it again to reflect Jim's great joy and sense of accomplishment!

We have now been home for a few days, after concluding the hike last week and sharing a long, relaxing Easter weekend with family in CT. I have just re-read our journals that span almost four weeks from February 29 to March 23, refreshing memories of my 400-mile walk in four states over this period. 
What will I remember the most about this hike? Nearly 100 miles of it was on off-road hike-bike trails, most of that taking me through scenic rural areas on converted former railroad routes. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy ( is a national non-profit organization that is working to create more of these around the country. And the East Coast Greenway ( is a mostly volunteer group that is stitching together virtual trails – on and off roads - up the eastern U.S. for hikers and cyclists from Florida to Maine. I belong to both groups and am grateful for the fabulous jobs they are doing to make non-vehicular travel both more available and safer.
In contrast with my previous long-distance hikes, this time I had companions for four days. Thanks to David, Clay and Bob for keeping me company and sharing countless miles and many hours of great conversation. David has agreed to join me as I walk through his home state of NJ in October, and I hope many others will as well.
As is our custom, Jane and I found a number of people to host us along our journey. On this hike there were five separate hosts, putting us up for a total of 10 nights. Our hosts included two classmates from Princeton and one from high school. The evenings we spent with them in their homes, and the conversations we had while enjoying their generous hospitality are truly memorable. We hope to be able to return the favor when they next visit New Hampshire.
I fared well on this trip physically. My blister issues were minor, and the legs and feet held up well under the punishment they had to endure. I am fortunate to have no problems with hip and knee joints, despite the overuse to which I subject them. My sole health problem was a common head cold, which fortunately did not hit until the final week and did not prevent me from finishing this 24-day walk without a single day of rest.
Once again Jane and I were blessed to have decent weather. Temperatures ranged from below freezing one morning to the low eighties several afternoons, but this is a range I can handle by layering clothes on and off. I had to deal with a cold, heavy rain one afternoon that turned to snow before I was finished, but managed to stay warm except for my feet and hands. That day reminded me of several I experienced years ago on the Appalachian Trail, some of the most miserable days of my life. This time there was a warm car waiting for me to take me to a hot shower.
I loved observing the emerging signs of spring as I walked along the roadways. Flowering magnolia trees, forsythia, and daffodils added color to the natural scenic beauty of the areas I passed through. The birdsong was ever-present and loud. In contrast to previous walks along the coastal Southeast states and the early days of this hike, the terrain of the final two weeks was primarily rolling hills. The elevation changes made my typical daily 16-19 miles more tiring than they would otherwise be, but my body handled it fine and I appreciated the variety they lent to each day’s journey.
As has been the case previously, this segment had far too many miles of walking on highways with a lot of truck traffic. Without knowing in advance what a particular road will be like, it is tough to avoid this, but I will seek to stay off federal highways and major state roads to the extent I can as I plan future trips. That will unavoidably add some mileage but it will be a worthwhile price to pay.
This was the third hike where Jane has been my companion, my one-person road crew who always managed to find her way to my daily destination at the appointed time. This trip would not be possible, and certainly wouldn’t be as enjoyable, without her presence and invaluable assistance. Thanks, “Uber-Jane”.
And thanks to all of our journal readers for following along, experiencing our trip vicariously. Your comments, best wishes, and prayers for our health and safety are greatly appreciated. I hope many of you will be inspired to walk a few more miles and experience yourselves the pleasures of pedestrianism.
I have now finished five segments of this walk up the Eastern U.S., a total of 1,600 miles in Florida, Georgia, S. Carolina, N. Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. I estimate it will require another 1,000 miles to hike to my ultimate destination, the Canadian border in Eastport Maine. That’s three more segments of 300-350 miles each. I eagerly anticipate planning out each of these hikes, testing my physical limits, seeing some beautiful countryside, and meeting more great people along the way. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jim's NC to PA Hike - Finale

Mon., Mar. 21 Jim's voice:   I woke up this morning with a bad head cold - stuffy nose, headache, the works.   I lost several hours of sleep early this morning because of it.  So early on today it looked like the planned 17 mile walk was questionable.  But a good breakfast of banana and blueberry crepes at the local French Twist Cafe helped revive my spirits.  By 8:30 I was feeling much better and decided to give it a go, over some objections from Jane.  By 9:30 we parted and I began today's hike on a dangerously narrow road barely wide enough for two cars, much less a hiker!  The car thermometer had read 37 and the strong wind made it feel below freezing.  But I was bundled up and managed to stay comfortable.  For most of today I traveled along a large number of rural roads.  I observed in some of the wetter spots another sign of spring: skunk cabbage is poking up through the ground and now about 6 inches tall.  I was walking through some quite tony suburbs of Baltimore known as the Hunt Valley area.  We're only about 10 miles from downtown Baltimore, so this is an easy commute for those working in the city.  Some of the homes were magnificent and the cars passing me were far above my budget range, including several Teslas.  As I was approaching the 13 mile point I hear this car horn tooting that I recognized - Jane was passing me and letting me know that she was nearby, heading to our next hotel.  Several miles later I was on a busy highway, crossed by railroad tracks.  Baltimore Light Rail actually provides commuter service from here to center city - who knew?  I was getting excited at his point, for I knew I was about to finish today's hike and get on the rail trail that I will follow for 40 miles into PA.  I found the trail terminus and walked it for less than a mile to the parking lot where Jane was waiting for me. 
Miles Today - 16.5.....  Total Cumulative Miles - 364

Tues., Mar. 22Jane's voice:  Today begins the final segment of Jim's 400 mile hike - a two day off-road stroll on a converted rail trail.  He has been looking forward to this all hike, having put up with a lot of unpleasant traffic for the last three weeks.  As we hit the trail head this morning it was 31, but predicted to rise into the upper 50's as the day went on.  I was so impressed when I saw the trail yesterday that I decided to join Jim for the first half hour of his hike, yes, even at 31⁰.   So I was able to get in 3 miles this morning, 1.5 with Jim and then back to the car for me.  This trail is called the Torrey Brown Rail Trail.  Torrey Brown was a politician who served in the MD House of Delegates and was the Secretary of the MD Dept. of Natural Resources.

The Torrey Brown Rail Trail is the official name of the Northern Central Railroad Trail.  After 20 miles in MD, the trail name changes at the PA state line to York County Heritage Rail Trail for another 20 miles.  The Northern Central Railroad constructed this line in the early nineteenth century.  It ran north from Baltimore to York and Harrisburg, PA.   Before being made obsolete by highways and the automobile it was the life line for the many communities along its length, bringing manufactured goods to these towns and transporting their products to the cities.  Jim enjoyed the many historical markers along his route today that explained this history.  The trail is well used with many people biking, hiking, jogging and walking their dogs.  He even saw a classroom of grade school kids with their teachers.  And most spectacularly he saw a team of miniature huskies pulling a wheeled cart with a driver and rider.  There must be a story here but he didn't get it.  There were lots of benches and picnic tables along the way for the convenience of the users.  And there were porta-potties every 3 or 4 miles.  And Jim loved the mile markers which helped him understand that his pace today was slower than usual - not quite 20 minutes per mile.  He said he felt somewhat lethargic all day despite cool temperatures and a helpful tail wind much of the time.  Perhaps as he is nearing the 400 mile mark his body needs a rest.  Or perhaps it is the result of the pretty bad head cold that he is battling.  The trail crossed many roads today and at each one there was a sign indicating the name of the road and distances to the next road crossings - how civilized!  The trail ran close to the Little Gunpowder Falls River most of the day with many bridges taking him over the stream. The sound of the water running over the rocks reminded him of the similar streams we have in NH. 

We had arranged for a 3pm pickup at one of the trail-side parking lots.  Since it was such a beautiful day I decided to get there early and walk the trail to meet Jim.  By my figuring I should probably see him coming toward me at around the ten minute mark of my walk.  Ten minutes, no Jim - fifteen minutes, no Jim - twenty minutes - no Jim.  Since Jim is usually pretty accurate on his pickup time estimates, I got a funny feeling that I was walking in the wrong direction - heading north toward the PA line instead of south toward Hiker Jim.  So I turned around and when the next hiker walked toward me, I said I had a silly question and sure enough he confirmed that is what I did.  I couldn't reach Jim by phone but a few minutes after turning around, I did get a text saying that he was at the car and where was I?  I texted back that I was 10 minutes away.   So the good news is that I walked another two miles this afternoon for a total of five miles for me!  So my great plan to meet Jim on the trail was an abject failure - oh well....  When we first planned this hike we had arranged to spend two nights with Princeton classmate Peter and his wife Susan who live near here.  Unfortunately just before we left NH they emailed us that their house had been hit by that freak tornado that hit parts of MD in February.  A huge tree landed on their roof over the guest room that we would have stayed in.  There is a big hole in the roof at the moment.  We were very happy to still be able to spend a couple of hours with them over a great dinner tonight.  Sadly I forgot to get a picture of the classmates.
Miles Today - 18.....  Total Cumulative Miles - 382 

Wed., Mar. 23Jim's voice:    Oh glorious day - the last one of this hike!  We drove to the trail-head parking lot where Jane met me yesterday.  From there I had less than 1.5 miles to reach the PA state line.  The Maryland rail trail ended there but continued on for the next 20 plus miles as the York County Heritage Rail Trail.  Unlike the case in MD where all the railroad tracks and ties had been removed, here in PA one set of tracks remained and the trail ran alongside them.  Early on this morning the trail took me through a series of small towns and I was never far from buildings and road crossings.  Later the trail wound through beautiful open farmland and followed (as it did in MD) a scenic waterway, which it crossed many times on bridges.  There were quite a few historic and informational signs along the trail, including one that pointed out the three distinct types of bridges I was walking on - arch, girder and truss.  In one of the towns there were the old railroad cars from the Northern Central Railroad that used to run through here.  In the town of Seven Valleys a marker told me that this was where ice cream was first made commercially and then shipped by rail to Baltimore.  I confirmed with Jane by phone (although reception was very spotty) that we would meet up at the parking lot near my 18 mile marker.  As the afternoon wore on temperatures rose into the low 70's - warm but not uncomfortably so.  As I neared the parking lot there on the trail ahead of me was Jane walking to meet me and take a couple of pictures of the hike completion.  One of these pictures displays the joy I felt at having successfully completed this 400 mile journey. 
Miles Today - 18.....  Final Total Cumulative Miles - 400

1 - Inn at Norwood B&B - Sykesville, MD
2 - Another Beautiful Sykesville Victorian
3 - Gilmor's Raid Sign - Capturing Cockeysville, MD in 1864
4 - Torrey Brown Rail Trail - 20 miles crossing into PA
5 - York Surrenders to Save the City
6 - Articles of Confederation in York County
7 - End of Hike Jubilation
8 - Heritage Rail Trail in York, PA

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Jim's NC to PA Hike - Part 5

Here is the journal of Jim's next four days:
Thurs., Mar. 17 - HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!    Jim's voice:   After breakfast we bade goodbye to our hosts, Gene, Elizabeth & Merlin, who have treated us so well these last two days. My hike today took me along the James Monroe Highway directly into the historic town of Leesburg.  Within a couple of miles I passed the entrance to Oatlands, an 1803 plantation that for 50 years now has been a National Trust for Historic Preservation property.  We had heard about Oatlands from Gene & Elizabeth who are active on its board and she was interim executive director for six months.  By noon I was passing through the old section of Leesburg and shortly thereafter Jane and I met up for lunch.  We had a relaxing lunch before returning to the road.  There, near the point of departure was a gigantic Catholic church, St. John the Apostle (dedicated in August, 2012).  We decided that we wanted to see the inside, hoping it was unlocked - and it was!   We admired the interior of this beautiful edifice (see picture), said a few prayers and departed.  
I had now just three miles to walk to finish the day's hike, the destination being the White's Ferry terminal. Tomorrow we will take the ferry across the Potomac River to Maryland.  My "Uber Jane" was waiting for me at the ferry.  We then drove to our next hosts, Beth & Chuck - she is the daughter of a NJ friend.  We were entertained by their five year old twins, Benjamin and Allyson and their dog, Molson, another lovable dog.  
Miles Today - 13.5..... Total Cumulative Miles - 298.5

Fri., Mar. 18Jane's voice:    We drove to the ferry and boarded fairly quickly.  This ferry is the oldest privately operated ferry in the country dating back several hundreds of years.  It crosses the Potomac River on a single cable and the ride takes all of about 5 minutes and costs $5.  Today's route was sufficiently complicated that Jim wanted to drive the route before walking it.  It turned out to be a series of hilly country roads with little traffic - just what he wanted - no trucks spewing fumes, no noisy vehicles passing too close for comfort.  We bought him a Subway tuna sandwich in a nearby town and returned to the ferry parking lot.  Jim insisted on walking from the car down to the river to make sure that his hike started in the right spot - NO GAPS PERMITTED!   Jim enjoyed a cool and very breezy sunny day walking up and down the hills of this part of Maryland.  At 1pm he came upon a county park and sat at a picnic table enjoying his sandwich and banana lunch.  That took 23 minutes and that would be his only rest stop for the day.  A little over 5 hours after starting today Jim walked into the town of Clarksburg.  I tooted the horn as I passed him and found the left turn that he had earlier told me would be there, another successful pickup.  
At this point Jim is almost exactly on schedule but is concerned about the weather forecast for the next two days - cold rain for tomorrow and snow or freezing rain on Sunday.  This will definitely put a crimp in his hike schedule.  
Meanwhile, my day was not quite as good as Jim's since I damaged my car entering a parking garage in Frederick, MD.  It was a tight turn and there was another car coming toward me and I guess I cut it too sharply to avoid the other car as I scraped a barrier of some kind - UGH!   Jim is so understanding as he reassures me that it is only a car - "this is why we don't buy expensive cars, my dear".  *:x lovestruck
Miles Today - 17..... Total Cumulative Miles - 315.5

Sat., Mar. 19Jim's voice:   HELLO TO THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING!  And what a day it was!  We got up to a forecast of rain and possibly snow beginning late morning.  So Jane and I hustled back to yesterday's finish point right after breakfast.  There were two alternative routes for today's hike - one involving far more turns onto small country roads than the other.  So we drove both and I decided to stay on the larger roads longer.  Back at the starting point at 9:30 I donned all my best rain gear.  At this point the temperature was 39 and the rain was light and intermittent.  For the next two and a half hours I stayed dry and was so warm that I had to unzip my rain jacket, fleece jacket and shirt to stay cool enough.  Today's roadside treasures were golf balls even though I passed no golf courses along the way!  I picked up two and left four for others.  At six miles I was in the town of Damascus and made quick use of a Burger King restroom.  At noon I stopped for the only lunch I would have today - a banana and a half dozen M&M's.  By now it was getting quite chilly - obviously the temperature was dropping and I was all zipped up again.  Just a few minutes after "lunch" it started to rain - first light then more seriously.  But my heavy duty rain gear held up well - thanks to Princeton classmate Bruce DeBolt, who delivered them to me when I needed them badly in a cold storm in Washington state in 2013.  A few miles later the rain had turned to a wintry mix including wet snow.  A couple of miles later it was all snow.  Now I was enjoying myself as if back in NH.  I was warm and dry except for my sandal-clad feet which were soaked and cold.  Obviously the temperature had dropped and I would learn later that it was down to 32On the route this afternoon I was walking past many attractive farms of various types.  A number of them indicated that this farm had been preserved forever as farmland, thanks to a conservation easement with the local county.  How happy I am that this beautiful area will not be turned into new housing developments like many I have passed in recent days.  By telephone contact I knew that Jane would be waiting for me at my finish point at the end of 16 miles.  By the time I got there my hands were cold as well as my feet, but I was happy to have finished a challenging day's hike.  Jane's reaction upon picking me up was "and this is fun???"   After showering and relaxing we went to Palm Sunday Mass at the beautiful St. John the Evangelist church in downtown Frederick, MD. 
Miles Today - 16..... Total Cumulative Miles - 331.5

Sun., Mar. 20 - Jane's voice:   We woke up to an extremely cold morning and neither Jim nor I was anxious to leave the warm hotel.  Jim rationalized that today's 16 mile target would still give him a mid afternoon finish even if we started late.  So we dawdled over breakfast and packing up but were finally on the road by 9:30.  The trip back to yesterday's finish was quite pretty with yesterday's dusting of snow making the fields look like they were pancakes sprinkled with confectioners sugar.  Arriving at today's starting point Jim loaded on all of his cold weather clothing including an extra pair of socks - five layers on his torso!  As is our custom I kissed him goodbye, told him to be safe and may God be with you.   Jim was soon walking through many miles of farmland like yesterday - this is truly beautiful country here with rolling hills that are pretty to look at but a bit challenging to hike.  Today's elevation varied over 200 feet from high to low according to Jim's altimeter watch.  But he figures he walked up and down several thousand feet over the course of the day.  This is putting extra pressure on Jim's tired body as we near the completion of this hike.  He seems to be holding up fine.  Around 12:15 I called Jim from the quaint town of Sykesville where we will be spending the night at a lovely B&B.  Coincidentally Jim was probably less than a mile away walking through this town.   The main street is populated with several lovely shops and restaurants and an old railroad station and many beautifully restored Victorian homes.   The bookstore that I went into after lunch was actually serving complimentary mimosas - how civilized!   Jim spent much of the afternoon walking through residential neighborhoods as he approached the major road that would be the last four miles of today's walk.  Although traffic was heavy on this road he enjoyed a very wide shoulder all the way to the end.  In this stretch he walked across two bridges over a reservoir - each of them at least a quarter mile long.  Jim finds it interesting that the counties both here in Maryland and in Virginia have big signs letting you know when you are entering or leaving them.  Near the end of the day Jim entered Baltimore County and a sign indicated he was just 12 miles away from the city of Baltimore.  Tomorrow the hike will take us well north of Baltimore into the Hunt Valley section of Maryland. 
Miles Today - 16..... Total Cumulative Miles - 347.5
1 - St. John the Apostle Church altar - Leesburg, VA
2 - Benjamin and Allyson
3 - White's Ferry Sign
4 - Cars on the Ferry to Maryland
5 - Jim at Day's End on March 18
6 - Waiting for Jim on Stormy Day
7 - Jim's Triumphant Arrival
8 - Jim's Drive Back to Hotel
9 - Daffodils in the Snow