Backpacking: AT – Swatara Gap to PA 501

Girtong has never been backpacking before, but he’s been reading trailournals all summer, and so he wanted to try it out. We scraped together enough borrowed equipment to outfit him for adventure and headed for the Appalachian Trail.

Yesterday morning, we arrived at a very foggy Swatara State Park, where we saw some intrepid kayakers.

Kayakers on the Swatara

We climbed up the mountain, took in some scenery, and pitched the tarp near the William Penn Shelter.

A toad along the AT

Girtong observing scenery

It was windy and cold camped up on the ridge, but we survived the night. This morning, we fortified ourselves with some instant oatmeal and highly concentrated tar instant coffee, and pushed on to route 501.

There are lots of nice views of the Lebanon Valley to the south.


It was a nice overnighter. We had good weather, and kept the mileage very low.

There are a few more pictures in my gallery, but for some damn fool reason, my camera was in 640×480 mode the whole time, so nothing terribly high-res this time.

Journey of a Thousand Miles

Did you know that if you hike all 798 miles of State Forest Hiking Trails in Pennsylvania, they give you an award?

Well, they do. You get a certificate, a patch, and a “ceremonial walking stick.”

I would really like to have my very own ceremonial walking stick.

I’d also like to finish walking all of the Appalachian trail in Pennsylvania. All together, it comes out to about a thousand miles of walking.

At the end of this, I will be a grizzled old mountain man.

With a ceremonial walking stick.

You will all, no doubt, be greatly jealous of my grizzled manliness, and of my walking stick. If you ask nicely, I will whack you in the head with it.

My walking stick, that is. Not my grizzled manliness.

Ich will ein Titan Trockenbrennstoff-Kocher

So, I’m looking through the German version of the Esbit catalog (pdf), and look what I find.

That’s right, bitches. It’s a Trockenbrenstoff-Kocher. For those of you who don’t sprechen the Deutsch, that means super-bad-ass esbit stove.

It weighs .4 ounces.
It folds up eensy-weensy, teeny-tiny.

I can’t seem to find any for sale here in America, and the minimum import order is 300 pieces.

Anyone know of somebody who’s importing these things?
Anyone know how hard it is to setup an import business? Esbit makes all sorts of cool stuff that I’ve never even seen before!

Coffe Maker

Ist das nicht süß?!

Update: It looks like used to carry them, but now they are out-of stock… grr..

Update 2: I spoke with a sales rep at AGS, which is evidently the only Esbit distributor in the US. She says that they don’t carry this particular stove, but will start carrying it early next year.
I’ll check back in a few months.

Backpacking: West Canada Lake Wilderness

This past weekend, I went with my Evil Sister and Klinutus to backpack around the West Canada Lake Wilderness in the Adirondacks.

We left immediately after work on Thursday night, as it’s a 9 hour drive from Harrisburg. We finally got to the trailhead at 3:00AM Friday morning. There was a clear sky and no light pollution there, so I flopped my bivy down right next to the car, and stared off into space and time until I fell asleep.

After a few hours, but before the sun came up, I had an intestinal emergency. I fumbled through my pack for my flashlight and poop shovel and ran off into the forest to dig a hole and unburden myself.

A few hours later, I awoke to the morning sun, which revealed a perfectly good outhouse right across the parking lot. Doh!

As a public service, I have included this outhouse on the map, so that others needn’t poop into holes in the ground.

At first light, we hiked down the French Louis trail, where we encountered a filthy looking backpacker who informed us that we were the first people he’d seen in 3 days.

We were not very far into the woods, when we came upon this little fellow. I nearly sewered him with my trekking pole before my sister alerted me to his presence. It was still pretty cold outside, and he was a little slow trying to hop off into the woods. This is how I was able to get my camera right up close for a picture.

There are these little Adirondack lean-to shelters all over the place. Many of them are built right on a lake, so you have unbelievable views in them. A couple of them had cooking implements hanging from them, so you don’t have to bring your own, if you don’t mind cooking with unclean pots of indeterminate origin.

We found one of these shelters unoccupied Friday afternoon and claimed it for ourselves. It had quite a view.

Beaver HouseSaturday morning, we futzed around in camp until quite late making breakfast and coffee and looking at the view. When we finally did get underway, we found that beavers had constructed a dam, which caused a detour of the trail, forcing us to hike around the beaver pond.

Klinutus dances the monkey dance
The extra walking did not dampen Klinutus’ spirits, as evidenced by his insane butt-monkey dance on the bridge over a stream crossing.

We had perfect weather for the whole endeavor. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, day or night.


Extreme Pano

Saturday night, all the lean-tos were full, so we found another spot with a nice view of the lake. Klinutus built a fire, we had dinner, watched the sun go down, and slept out under the stars.

Klinutus Builds a Fire

Sunset from Saturday Night's campsite

Sunday morning we had a fairly easy 5 mile walk back to the car, where we saw (but did not photograph) a beaver and two grouse.

It was a wondrous trip, even though my legs are so sore I can barely walk a day and half after I got off the trail.

There’s a few more pictures in my Gallery, in case all these pictures didn’t do it for you.

LVRT Extension Map

So, I did a little digging in the TIGER data and the Yahoo Satellite images, and I was able to figure out where the proposed extension to the LVRT will be.

You can see it as a dashed blue line heading north out of Lebanon. In reality, it would get much closer to the eastern end of the SCRT, but I lost the railway in the satellite imagery after it crosses interstate 81.

In any event, it will be awesome to be able to ride all the way from Elizabethtown to the mountains without having to worry about traffic!

LVRT Northern Extension

Click the map for an interactive version.

LVRT Meeting

The Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails people are trying to extend the trail another 7 miles to Swatara State Park.

They are having a public meeting about it on Oct 15th, if you are interested in that sort of thing.

From Swatara SP, it’s only 3 miles to the East end of the Stony Creek Rail Trail, so I really hope they are able to build this extension.

Pine Creek Rail Trail Camp Out

I’m back from my weekend bike-camping trip to Pine Creek. It was a very nice trip, but I am too tired to blog about it. Here are some pictures instead.



Cedar Run General Store

Spooky Old Graveyard

Fog on the mountains

Handsome Devil

My Bike, all dressed up

This Weekend: 65 miles
Oct: 75 miles
2008 Utility Miles: 350
2008 Total Miles: 784 miles

Bailout Pork

On page 205 of the PDF file, of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, there is some pork for bicycle commuters!

Looks like Uncle Sam will give $20 a month to anyone who:

“regularly uses the bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between the employee’s residence and
20 place of employment”

There’s also a somewhat nebulous “bicycle commuting reimbursement”:

for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during such calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment.

I hope this means that the Federal Government is going to buy me a new Atlantis to ride to work, but I kind of doubt it.

I think it’s safe to say that the country has now officially lost its mind.

Update: The deal is done. The Bike Commuter Benefits Act is now law.


Today: 10 miles
Oct: 10 miles
2008 Utility Miles: 350
2008 Total Miles: 719 miles

Pure Genius

What will they think of next? These are Khakis with reflective stuff inside, so when you roll up your pants to get on your bike, you’re already reflective.

They put some in the back pockets, too, so you can turn them inside out and have big goofy reflective butt-flaps.

Here’s a video of how it looks to a person in a car.

They cost an astounding $95 bucks, and the biggest size they make is a 38, which I haven’t fit into since about the 5th grade.

Maybe someday when I’m rich and skinny, I’ll get a pair. In the meanwhile, I might get a roll of scotchlite off ebay and sew some reflective goodness into my cuffs..