Pointless Ups and Downs

Happy Hill Shelter, Vt., AT NOBO mile 1,737.3, Sunday June 8, 2014 — The sky is blue. The leaves are brown. The trail goes up. The trail goes down.

I recited this little ditty all winter. It’s still true except that the leaves are now green. Today was a pleasant hike that was all about PUDs – pointless ups and downs.

Trail conditions were the only other remarkable note. The mud in this section has dried up for all intents and purposes. Only residual blood sucking insects remain. They were relentless today, but oceans of DEET kept them at bay.

The uncut weeds are a problem. A study last year proved that the vector for deer ticks, the carriers of Lyme Disease, is trailside vegetation against which hikers brush. They also help spread invasive species in the same motion.

It’s a jungle out there and all if us are concerned that we won’t find all the deer ticks that find us. I just wish the trail overseers would be more diligent about keeping the weeds and other vegetation cut back.

Four miles to Starbucks in the morning. Indeed! I can use the caffeine.

Last night my blog was so boring that I fell asleep while typing.

True story. If it’s reputation holds true, I think NH hiking will eliminate the boredom.

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Slaying Vampires

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Gotta call it like I see it.  Ticks are vampires.  They engorge themselves with mammalian blood.  The redder, the better!

 Ticks aren’t picky.  They want blood, and don’t much care where they get it.  They love all 31 flavors.

 Worse yet, ticks are stealthy.  They hang out on tall grass, weeds and low hanging branches.  The idea is to score a passing Happy Meal in the form of a hapless mouse, squirrel, deer, bear or even the occasional hiker. 

Hikers must taste good ‘cause the ticks sure seem to like ‘em.  Unfortunately, they are too small to drive miniature wooden toothpicks through their evil little hearts.

Currently a research scientist funded by grants from the National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is thru hiking for the purpose of studying ticks.  He has reported in his trail journal that most hikers attachment to ticks seems to come from trailside vegetation, not the shelters where he has found few ticks.

 The Hoodlum maintenance crew gathers on the third Saturday of most months to groom hiking trails in the northern district of Shenandoah National Park. This trip tick habitat reduction was the mission of my work team.  That’s a fancy way of sayin’ weed whacking and pruning trailside trees and bushes. 

 Even if you’re a yard work klutz at home, you’ll really jump on this.  It may be more fun to saw blowdowns or build check dams, but anything done to reduce exposure to Lyme disease is all good. 

 So what do trail maintenance crews do after the equipment is cleaned at the end of a hot sweaty and buggy day?  Here’s the secret.  You don’t have to ring the dinner bell more than once! 

 The North District Hoodlums retire to the Indian Run maintenance hut where some camp overnight and most everyone shares in the potluck dinner, swaps stories and revels in party games until the stars brighten and the fire fades.

 The AT is a complex system with a rich culture.  Trail maintenance is done by thousands of volunteers from Georgia to Maine.  It is usually hard physical and dirty work.  Some of it is mundane.  All if it is necessary to keep the AT active and safe.  Best of all, it’s time well spent with fascinating people who share a common love for the Appalachian Trail.

For those who discover this blog in preparation for AT hiking, I hope this little bit of insight deepens your understanding of the behind the scenes work that helps improve the the trail and improves all of our odds for success.