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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Strolling Near Cooperstown

It's been a long, long week.  We can't even tell you.  One week ago, Kathy was driving south to pick William up for some time at Camp Sharktooth; David was nursing an allergy or cold.  That was only the start.  Thursday, David had lunch with his brother Laird and nephew Isaac with the cold manifesting itself slightly more.  But Isaac sowed enough doubt in David's mind that David decided to get a Covid test.  Problem was, Kathy had the Jeep, and David was stranded until Kathy and William arrived on Friday.  Kathy and William arrived, and David was off for a test.  Unfortunately, on Sunday morning, it came back positive, and we had to terminate Camp Sharktooth early.  Being asymptomatic, Kathy got elected to (once again) drive William home.

From Sunday evening until today, Wednesday, August 25, 2021, we waited out David's light case of Covid.  Kathy got tested (as it turned out, she was negative), with symptoms slowly getting better.

This morning, David felt nearly 100%, so we decided to celebrate with a couple of light hikes in the area near our campground.


Our first walk was a short, 1.2 mile loop in the Fetterly Forest to an overlook with a view of Lake Canandarago.

The trail loops through a conservation area, and the trailhead area is graced with a wildflower demonstration garden that Kathy inspected:

As we headed over to the loop we intended to hike, we ran across this wild display of Fall's first color, which increased our anticipation for what we would see on the little hike:

Here is David at the Overlook Loop trailhead:

A little over a half mile later, we came to the overlook, which, while it offered a limited view of Lake Canandarago, was disappointing in that it is getting overgrown, but we could spot Deowongo Island, one of two on the lake:

The hike gave us our best surprise just as we were heading back along the far end of the loop.  Lo and behold, we spotted THIMBLEBERRY BUSHES!

This is the furthest South and East we have spotted thimbleberries, which we learned to know and love years ago in the Northern Rockies and along the Canadian shores of the Great Lakes!  What a surprise to find some here.  They are luscious, sweet, very fragile, and are only ripe for a few days before they dry out and taste like cardboard:

This got us excited about hiking today.  The morning was beautiful and not yet hot, so we decided to go after another short hike nearby.  It was:


Each of these two hikes were ones that we had chosen for William to walk with us in his Camp Sharktooth visit.  However, that was all cut short by Covid.  In this case, we had been to Glimmerglass State Park before and hiked some of its other, more challenging trails, but we decided to check out the Covered Bridge and the Beaver Pond.

Here is the Hyde Hall Covered Bridge:

It is recognized as the oldest still-standing covered bridge in North America, having been built in 1825.  The bridge consists of a single 53-foot span using a Burr Arch Truss and was constructed by master carpenter Cyrenus Clark with assistance from carpenter Andrew Alden and stonemason Lorenzo Bates. Renovations to the bridge were performed by the State of New York in 1967.

We then hiked from the Hyde Hall Bridge to Beaver Pond, noting the colorful late-summer/early fall wildflower color and the birdhouses gracing the fields through which our soggy path ran:

Eventually, we made our way to Beaver Pond, which, unfortunately, does not seem to be an active beaver pond anymore.  We were lucky to catch sight of a Great Blue Heron surveying his fishing prospects on the pond.  Primitive campsites were occupied by humans along the shore of the pond.

It was a short hike back around the pond and then to our Jeep in its parking area.  We returned to our campground in time for lunch and an opportunity to learn that Kathy's Covid test was negative!

Yay!  We're living to fight another day.  Now, if our relatives can get through their own infections due to exposures to us, our guilt will pass and our happiness return and we can bring you more adventures along our way.

Camp Sharktooth - The Herkimer Diamond Mining Edition

 Saturday, August 21, 2021

Hi Blog!

The purpose of Camp Sharktooth is to give our grandson, William, chances to explore the world in which we live. There were several reasons we chose Cooperstown, New York for the next edition. This area would allow William to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, reconnect with his relatives in Albany, New York and mine for Herkimer Diamonds. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Because of weather and family schedule, Saturday was our day to visit Herkimer Mine. Because there were thunderstorms predicted for Saturday afternoon, we got an early start. William needed hiking boots for school this year, so he brought them with him to break them in. Climbing all over the rocks at the mine should do the trick. There are many ways to lace your boots. Dave shows William some of his favorite tricks.

We arrived at the mining village just after it opened and there was already a line. Herkimer Diamonds are beautiful double-terminated quartz crystals found only in Herkimer, New York. Incredibly, these phenomenal gemstones are close to five hundred million years old. The crystals are magnificent works of nature, found in the rock, having a diamond-like geometrical shape.

After getting checked in and watching the "how to find Herkimer Diamonds" video, we began our search. There is more here than just Herkimer Diamonds. William shows off a nice bit of white quartz.

Dave is busy "sluicing" gravel for diamonds that have already eroded from the bedrock.

Kathy is busy cracking open some likely rocks.

William is busy trying to persuade a small diamond out of a big rock.

Kathy takes some time to sift through some loose gravel for the elusive gem stone.

After gathering some diamonds by sluicing and smashing, it was time for the pan and scan. There are a number of areas in the mine where paydirt has been deposited. If the sun is shining in just the right way, you can actually see the diamonds sparkle right on the ground. This was probably the most success we had all day. By lunch time, we felt we had enough to head home.

There were a number of good rocks that we didn't have time to work on at the mine, so we filled our bag and brought them back to camp to work on. Dave was in charge of the heavy hitting and William did the fine digging and cleaning.

With toothbrush in hand, Sir William began cleaning the collection. We ended up splitting the rocks into two categories:  the milky white quartz and the clear Herkimer Diamond.

William is carefully designing a display case for his diamonds.

The display case didn't hold the diamonds as well as we expected. The larger diamonds created space for the smaller diamonds to fall. Nevertheless, it is still a pretty good collection.

While we didn't strike it rich, some of the small stones are perfect specimens. William certainly earned his mining pin after this outing. 

Camp Sharktooth - The Cooperstown Edition

After a long, 2-days' drive up from the D.C. area, Kathy and William arrived at our campground near Cooperstown, New York.  They seemed to be dressed for the occasion:

It didn't take William long to settle in.  First, he played with Ruby until exhausting her.  Then he taught Baxter how to race him in Mario Kart on Nintendo Switch:

Then, it was off for an hour or two of swimming in the campground pool.

No campground visit is complete without a campground meal -- this time it was hot dogs and mustard, complemented by a delicious Asian-style cucumber salad:

David fired up the campfire wood and eventually it was hot enough to roast marshmallows.  Below, William demonstrates the proper method to eat (and ENJOY) a s'more:

After a long day's ride and these early adventures, it was time for some quiet movie-watching.  Anyway, William needed to tuck into bed and get a good night's sleep for tomorrow's mining adventure!

Camp Sharktooth - The Franklin Institute Edition

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Hi Blog!

It's time for another edition of "Camp Sharktooth." The last edition saw William in Maine with us. However, the trip back from Maine required a 12 hour car ride. We promised William we would not make him do another full day of driving. So for this visit to Cooperstown, New York, we decided to split up the drive by stopping at our daughter's house in Philadelphia. While Katie still needed to work, Kathy took William over to the Franklin Institute.

The Giant Heart at The Franklin Institute is a rite of passage for school children in the Greater Philadelphia area, as well as a “must do” for tourists visiting the city. The first heart was constructed in  1953 at a cost of $40,000, the “Engine of Life” exhibit, as it was originally called, was only supposed to be open to the public for six months. After the exhibit opened on January 29, 1954, visitors flocked to The Franklin Institute for a chance to walk through the four-ton, papier-mâche structure. Due to its immense popularity, The Franklin Institute made the exhibit a permanent attraction. 

Dr. Mildred Pfeiffer was a prominent physician and the Director of Cardiovascular Diseases at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. She often traveled around the state to deliver lectures about the heart and heart health. Dr. Pfeiffer explained how inspiration struck. “Suddenly one day it dawned on me: Why should I go all over? Why not establish a heart exhibit at The Franklin Institute? Kids go there all the time with their schools.” She enlisted the help of medical illustrator Richard Albany and engineer Albert Jehle to help her create a structure that was 100 times the width of a human heart. At 28-feet wide and 18-feet high, the Giant Heart is big enough to fit into a 220-foot tall person. Originally constructed of papier-mâche, chicken wire, and lumber, the Giant Heart has undergone many “surgeries” to keep it in healthy working order for so many decades.

Visitors can enjoy a full sensory experience, as they hear the “thump” of the heart while tracing the path that blood takes through the organ. William wasted no time rushing just like blood through the ventricles.

We spent some time exploring the giant map of Philadelphia. William retraced his route from Katie's house to the Franklin Institute. We also plotted a new route for the way home.

We spent a good bit of time in "Your Brain." This exhibit invites you to think about how you think. It's all about real life and what's happening inside your head everyday as your brain makes sense of the world around you. Here William is working with a brain scan.

The best part of the brain exhibit is the giant neural network that you can climb through. The pathways connect in many different ways allowing you to travel all over the brain.

We finished our Franklin Institute Visit with a trip to the planetarium where we learned all about the various satellites that are orbiting earth.

On our walk back to Katie's house, we found a farmer's market and picked up cheesecake and coffee to share with Dave. 

The highlight of the visit, however, was a chance to meet Katie's new puppy - Beth! 

 Tomorrow, we drive up to Cooperstown. Stay tuned for more Camp Sharktooth adventures.

See You Later Lakes of the Clouds Hut

We slept soundly at Lakes of the Clouds Hut, despite the snoring of EVERY person in the room (including Yours Truly), and woke up Monday morning, August 16, 2021 eager for our hut breakfast and the adventure that awaited us on our return hike to Crawford Notch.  Breakfast was not until 7:00 am, and we were up by 6:00, so we strolled outside to take in the view.  Mist was still draping the valleys below.  While we had jackets on, it wasn't as cold as the forecast 40F would make you expect.  We felt very comfy as we looked at everything in a new light:

We will admit that we were not very wary about the Covid risks of staying at an AMC hut.  We had our masks, and of course we've been fully vaccinated.  But we just didn't think about that fact that the other 90 hikers we would be spending the night with would go maskless the entire stay.  Add to that, that we would be sleeping in a bunkroom with 13 other strangers (😷).  We thought that the hut would require that bunkroom windows and doors be open for ventilation, but that wasn't the case.  In fact, as we were choosing our bunks, an Australian friend we made when we arrived suggested that the room be opened up, but a very aggressive "Karen" nixed that idea, saying that it was, "Far too cold!"  By the time the risks sank in, we were there and committed to stay.  This was probably our least thought-through Covid "adventure"; we regret how it is playing out, and we resolve we won't let this happen again as long as Covid risks are elevated.

Putting our anxieties aside, we enjoyed a convivial breakfast with the other hikers and, since we are veterans of the huts and have seen the Croos' breakfast skits before, we opted to leave as soon as the eating was done and hit the trail.  Here we are with Mount Monroe in the background as we prepared to set foot back on the Crawford Path:

It was cool but not overly cold, and within a half mile or so, we had doffed our outer layers.  The morning sun highlighted the reds in the alpine grasses as we looked out over the Dry River Wilderness from the flank of Mount Monroe:

Kathy paused to take what we thought would be one last look at Mount Washington and its (very tiny) Observatory.

Turning west, we looked out toward Mount Eisenhower, our next peak, which seemed too small to be on our itinerary for a day hike:

We slowly descended toward the col between Mounts Monroe and Eisenhower, into the krummholz:

According to Wikipedia:

"Krummholz (German: krumm, "crooked, bent, twisted" and Holz, "wood") — also called knieholz ("knee timber") — is a type of stunted, deformed vegetation encountered in the subarctic and subalpine tree landscapes, shaped by continual exposure to fierce, freezing winds. Under these conditions, trees can only survive where they are sheltered by rock formations or snow cover. As the lower portion of these trees continues to grow, the coverage becomes extremely dense near the ground. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the formation is known as tuckamore. Krummholz trees are also found on beaches such as the Oregon coast, where trees can become much taller than their subalpine cousins."

The denseness of these small trees is remarkable.  We experienced two effects from the dense, firm, woody growth.  First, the limbs could easily catch on our packs, straps or whatever was hanging on them and either catch us up or spin us as we hiked -- which, with the heavier packweight we were carrying, could cause us to lose our balance.  Second, on the narrow paths, it gave us the feeling of being in a pinball machine, bouncing off the krummholz from one side of the trail to the other.

Kathy, however, did not let this deter her from her main goal as we descended -- to search for those luscious wild blueberries and harvest them for snacks along our hike:

We thought we had hiked so far from the hut that it would not be realistic to spot Mount Washington again, but we were wrong.  Here it popped up again in the gunsight formed by these two little peaks.  We had missed the sight on our way up to the hut because clouds had come in and obscured some of the mountaintops:

Eventually, we reached a viewpoint where we could clearly see our next goal -- the summit of Mount Eisenhower!

On the hike up to the hut the previous day, we had elected to take a side trail around the shoulders of Eisenhower, rather than climb up to the top in the heavy wind and clouds.  That side trail, however, proved very unappetizing and -- since the winds were completely still today -- we wanted to re-hike the summit as we had done in prior years.

As we climbed Eisenhower, we happened to look back and spotted an unnamed tarn, shining silver in the reflected sunlight and boasting colorful vegetation on its borders:

We remember thinking we were happy that Eisenhower is shaped like a gumdrop, because it got less steep, with fewer rock-clambers, as we neared the top:

We had plenty of company at the peak, but found a quiet spot to rest and snack.  We realized we had a nearly full-length view of the Cog Railway as it climbed from the open area in the photo below, up the shoulder of Mount Washington.  We recalled the thrill we had experienced, in traverses from Madison Hut to the summit of Washington, to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, walking across the tracks of the Cog Railway, waiting for the little train to pass, and waving to the passengers as they snapped their photos of the hikers standing there.

Having rested, we continued down the Crawford Path, descending a section of Eisenhower where, 15 years ago, Kathy had slipped on a small pebble and sprained her ankle.  She had had to hike the remaining 2.2 miles to Mizpah Spring Hut on a sprained ankle, wrapped as best we could with an Ace bandage (that event caused us to pack knee and ankle braces with us on every challenging hike thereafter).  Below, Kathy celebrates descending Eisenhower (photobombing in the background).  She found an unusual pebble (just about the size of that little stinker from 2006) and saved it as a souvenir, thinking that she and the Crawford Path were now even.  Little did she know (foreshadowing).

We made it past the Mizpah Spring cutoff and started the last 2 miles of our descent down the Crawford Path, when a root or rock clipped Kathy's boot.  Her forward momentum, together with the weight of her pack, sent her rocketing forward to an unknown fate.  She banged her head, hitting the side of her nose, which started gushing blood.  She thought it was dislocated or broken and pushed it back into place and we then attended to stanching the flow of blood.  Luckily, Kathy's First Aid pack has supplies for every occasion, and she thought of stuffing two dense cotton wads into her nostrils.  As it turned out, the GPS took a whack on its antenna, and Kathy's glasses went flying.  Reconstructing the event, we eventually concluded that Kathy's nose did not take a direct hit, but was slammed from the right side by her glasses, which took the brunt and somehow came out with only a scratch.  As we hiked on down the Crawford Path, Kathy's cotton nose decorations drew the inevitable stares of curiosity and she adopted the response that, "The trail punched me in the face!"  After assuring every one of those dozens of sympathetic hikers that Kathy was okay, we completed our return to the trailhead and the Jeep.

We had parked at the National Forest parking lot on Clinton Road, and had accessed the Crawford Path via the Crawford Connector, but, as we left the main Crawford Path, we thought back to other treks when we had hiked all the way down to the Highland Center to rest before continuing our adventures.  We took a photo of the Highland Center with Mount Washington in the background and thought that this would serve as a fitting end to this blog post.


Wait.  That wasn't the end of this blog post.  We got back to the RV and Kathy thought it would be fitting to memorialize the punch-in-the-face episode with a more cleaned-up version of her face:

We realized that Kathy had apparently not evened the score with the Crawford Path for that unfortunate pebble stumble in 2006, but had somehow newly offended the trail by stealing one of its own.  The trail is patient.  The trail waited.  It found its moment and it struck.  Never disrespect the trail.


David caught Covid from the hut stay and had mild cold symptoms, but unfortunately infected a number of family members before we figured out he had Covid.  Oddly, Kathy either never caught it, or was unsymptomatic and overcame it before she got tested.  As we said above:  lesson learned about taking risks with Covid.

Return to Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Sunday, August 15, 2021 

Hi Blog!

The main reason we stayed in Twin Mountain, New Hampshire, was to be close enough to hike in the White Mountains and visit an Appalachian Mountain Club Hut. When we first started hiking and backpacking, we didn't know anything about high mountain huts. When we joined the AMC to take classes in wilderness first aid and map and compass, we learned all about them. Before we retired, we did three different nine hour trips from Philly. The first trip was the Pemigewasset Huts - Greenleaf, Galehead and Zealand. The next trip was the Presidential Huts - Madison, Lakes of Clouds and Mizpah Springs. On our last trip, we strung together all 8 huts starting with Carter Notch and ending with Lonesome Lake. It was after that last nine day trek that we thought "wouldn't it be nice if we had our house at the trailhead." And thus, the idea of becoming full-time RVers was born.

Each time we come back through New Hampshire on our RV travels, we try and visit a different hut. In 2012, we had an overnight at Lonesome Lake. If you are curious, you can click the link to our 2012 blog. We also had a chance to re-visit Galehead Hut as a day hike on our 13 Falls Backpack. It's hard to believe it has been nine years since we've last been in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, we only had a week in the area this time, so we could only squeeze in a visit to one hut. We decided it would be Lakes of the Clouds.

We spent much of the day on Saturday going over weather forecasts, deciding what layers to bring and stuffing our packs. A thunderstorm blew through that afternoon, and Sunday promised to be clear and cooler. We hit the trailhead early to make sure we got a parking spot. As we hit the trail, Kathy was still bundled up against the chilly morning mist.

We began our hike on the Crawford Connector which leads from the White Mountain National Forest parking lot over to the Crawford Path. The Crawford Path is an 8.5-mile-long hiking trail in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that is considered to be the United States' oldest continuously maintained hiking trail. 

The trail travels from Crawford Notch to the summit of Mount Washington. The first iteration of the Crawford Path was cut in 1819 by Ethan Allen Crawford and his father, Abel Crawford. The trail ascends a cumulative 4,900 feet, first through densely wooded forest for about 3.1 miles, then following the exposed southern ridge of the Presidential Range mostly above the treeline. The sounds of Gibbs Brook accompanied us the first couple miles.

There are certain milestones along the trail. The first one is the Cutoff to the Mizpah Spring Hut. By the time we reached it, we had hiked a couple miles, the jackets had come off and morning mist had given way to dappled sunlight.

After three miles, we left the forest behind and entered the Alpine Zone. We got our first good looks at Mt. Eisenhower and Mt. Monroe. Mt. Washington is still hiding in the distance. At this point, we felt good and our destination was only 4 miles away. 

As we made our way through the col between Mt. Pierce and Mt. Eisenhower, the winds were really strong. The cold front that came through the previous day and brought the rain was still working its way through our area.

We had a choice: go over Mt. Eisenhower or go around. Since we knew we would be back this way on Monday, we decided to go around rather than face gale force winds.

With hats and jackets back on, we ducked behind some rocks for a quick snack.

As we continued along the col between Eisenhower and Madison, we came to a short side trail to Mount Franklin. The "mountain" is named after Benjamin Franklin and is part of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. Although well over 4,000 feet in height, the Appalachian Mountain Club doesn't consider Franklin a "four-thousand footer" because it stands no more than 65 feet above the col on the ridge from Mount Monroe, making it a secondary summit of that peak. However, the open rocky summit makes the perfect place for the helicopter to bring in trail crew supplies.

Off in the distance in the photo below, we finally caught sight of the summit of Mount Washington.  Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288.2 feet and the most topographically prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River. The mountain is notorious for its erratic weather. On the afternoon of April 12, 1934, the Mount Washington Observatory recorded a windspeed of 231 miles per hour at the summit, the world record from 1934 until 1996. Mount Washington still holds the record for highest measured wind speed not associated with a tornado or tropical cyclone. The Mount Washington Cog Railway ascends the western slope of the mountain, and the Mount Washington Auto Road climbs to the summit from the east. 

As we reached Mt. Monroe, the winds were still gusty, so we decided to hike around the base. As we came around to the far side, we got our first view of the Lakes of the Clouds Hut:

The Lakes of the Clouds Hut is the highest and largest hut in the AMC hut system. It was built as a shelter in 1901 in response to the deaths of two hikers the previous year who were caught in a storm on their way to an AMC meeting atop Mount Washington. Although it is the highest of the huts, at an elevation of 5,030 feet, it is the most easily accessible due to its proximity to the summit of Mount Washington, accessible both by car and by the Mount Washington Cog Railway. It is located adjacent to its namesake Lakes of the Clouds, two small alpine tarns, and just below the 5,372 ft summit of Mount Monroe. 

We wasted no time masking up, checking in, dropping our packs and tucking into a steaming bowl of soup.

After lunch, we walked up to view the glacial tarns which gave the hut its name.

Kathy couldn't resist dipping her toes in the icy water. After seven miles of up hill hiking, she reports that it felt great!

While the summit of Mount Washington was only 1.4 miles away, we decided "been there, done that" and settled for a short hike up the Crawford Path that would allow us a great view of the Lakes of Clouds and the hut.

We returned to the hut, put on our crocks and grabbed our Happy Hour snack bag complete with box-o-wine, cheese, french bread and olives. We enjoyed greeting a number of thru hikers as they made their way past and on toward the summit.

After dinner, we bundled up and ventured out into the open col to take in the sunset.

The cold north wind had cleared out most of the clouds. We had amazing views as the sun slowly dipped below the horizon.

As we settled in for the night, we realized we had a problem. The overnight lows were expected to be around 40 degrees. We had anticipated sleeping in our zero degree sleeping bags with open windows, so we came prepared. However, several others did not and protested leaving the windows open all night. We were out-voted. We did our best to keep six feet away, wear our masks and hope for the best.  

The best was not to be.  After returning, David tested positive for Covid and caught symptoms resembling a cold.  But that's another story.