North Cackalacky & Tennessee

North Cackalacky & Tennessee

Hello friends! 

This post is coming to you from Damascus, VA. I’ve spent the last two days here at the annual Trail Days festival. It’s a huge celebration of former thru-hikers, aspiring thru-hikers, and all sorts of other A.T. enthusiasts. There’s been music, entertainment, a vendor village, free food, and even a thru-hiker parade through town. Good times for all!!

I crossed the Tennessee/Virginia state line on Friday, which makes it three states under my belt thus far. Virginia is by far the longest state on the trail, so I won’t be seeing another state line for at least a month. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve had a chance to post anything, so I’ll do my best to share the most memorable moments.

CARLOS EL BADIDO

Bebop at Uncle Johnny’s
While staying at Uncle Johnny’s hostel in Erwin, TN we were treated to a little complimentary entertainment by the boys in blue. To make a long story short-ish, a local gentlemen named Carlos showed up at the hostel one afternoon with a heavily intoxicated hiker. Apparently the two had linked up somehow a few days earlier, and had been cruising around the town on some sort of wild bender ever since. They had returned to the hostel to retrieve the belongings of the spun-out hiker, who had checked into the hostel 4 days earlier, before wandering off with Carlos. Somewhere in the process of packing up the hikers belongings, we all heard yelling coming from the driveway of the hostel. We spun around quickly to see Carlos held at gunpoint by an Erwin police officer. In Carlos’ hands were two trekking poles, which he had apparently picked up as the officer was approaching, in an effort to blend in. As fifteen or twenty of us thru-hikers watched in excitement from the front porch, the officer kept his gun pointed at Carlos and demanded that he get on the ground and don’t move until his backup arrived. It was at this point that the following exchange occurred: 

Officer: (holding Carlos at gunpoint) “God damnit Carlos, we been friends for too long, don’t make me do this!”

Carlos: “Well shoot me then damnit!”

Uncle Johnny: (hostel owner, walking up the front steps) “Entertainment is free here at Uncle Johnny’s!”

Four other police cars arrived shortly after, and detained both Carlos and the shit-faced hiker. It was at this time we learned that Carlos was being arrested for grand theft auto; it turns out that they had stolen the PT Cruiser that they had been whipping around town in for the past 3 days. It all made for a very exciting evening…

MURPHY THE A.T. PUP

Peabody & Murph Dogg
Just outside of Erwin, I had the great pleasure of meeting Murphy, the now famous thru-hiking Australian Shepherd puppy. A story about a hiker finding the 8 week old puppy and deciding to carry her with him to Maine had recently gone viral on social media, and my mom sent me a link to the story, asking if I had met the dog and its owner yet. As it turns out the story on social media wasn’t completely true, but Murphy is stupid cute, and she is indeed being carried to Maine. 

GOOD FOOD AND GREAT COMPANY

My wonderful parents came up one Sunday evening to treat us to a night off the trail in a cabin near Roan Mountain, Tennessee. They rented an awesome little house on a river right near the trail, and brought up tons of beer, food, and games to play. They picked up a few friends and I from the trail around 2 PM and shuttled us down to the cabin. We feasted on pasta and homemade meatballs with sauce, chips and guacamole, lemon pound cake, and many a Fat Tires. We watched a couple of movies and played some Catch Phrase before enjoying a warm bed for the night. We had a big breakfast in the morning and got back on the trail around 10:00 AM. It was awesome to see my parents, and a treat to have a hearty meal and a bed for the night.

Mom & Dad!
Bebop, Blue Indian, Peabody, Me
HIKING THE ROAN HIGHLANDS


The stretch of trail through the Roan Highlands was some of my favorite hiking on the trail so far. It crossed several wide open balds and offered dramatic views. We took our time crossing the balds, and stopped a few times to shoot the shit and enjoy a beer. The weather was great, and it made for one of my favorite days on trail thus far. 

Me, Peabody, Blue Indian

LOUNGING AT OVERMOUNAIN

Me, Bebop, Peabody
We took a short day to make sure we could spend a night at Overmountain Shelter. It’s one of the better known shelters on the trail, and for good reason. It’s a big red converted barn, which sleeps over twenty hikers. It has two stories, amazing views, and tons of flat grass for tenting. We showed up early and lounged around in the grass all afternoon, snacking and napping and talking about nonsense. A local couple even showed up with trail magic, laying out fresh fruit and cookies and nuts on a picnic blanket in front of the shelter. It was an awesome night, and we all took our time getting out the following morning. 

TRAIL DAYS!


Trail Days has been a really good time. Some of the highlights for me were strolling the vendor village and picking up a couple of new pieces of gear, walking in the parade, and being invited for cheeseburgers and moonshine in the backyard of some Damascus residents. That white lightning is the real deal! We also met triple crowner Chimp and his wife Tipsy at a pub yesterday. They bought us beers and hung out to talk trails for a while. Awesome folks. 

Blue Indian, Tipsy, Peabody, Me, Chimp
I’ll be packing up and walking back to the trail this afternoon. The couple of days off have been really great, but I’m ready to cover some more ground. I’ll be walking through the Grayson Highlands in the next couple of days, so you can expect some wild pony pics in my next post. The 1/4 way mark is within sight! 

Cheers, 

McLovin

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50 Liters To Freedom; A.T. Gear List

50 Liters To Freedom; A.T. Gear List

Tomorrow is the day I start my thru-hike, so naturally today is the day I finally gathered all of my gear and put a list in writing.  I’ve accumulated much of this stuff over the years, but have added a few new pieces for this season.  It’s not quite ultralight, but I’m happy to be toting the extra ounces for the few luxuries I’m bringing along.  I’m sure that some of my needs will change and parts of this will get sent home or swapped out, but here’s what I’ll be starting out with:

Pack, Sleep System, Shelter

  • Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 Pack (32 oz.)
  • Marmot Plasma 30 Sleeping Bag (23 oz.)
  • Exped Synmat UL 7 (16 oz.)
  • Exped Shnozzle UL Pump (2 oz.)
  • HMG 8.5″ x 8.5′ Flat Tarp (13.8 oz.)
  • Polycro Ground Sheet (1.2 ox.)

Clothing

  • Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodie (12.2 oz.)
  • OR Helium II Rain Jacket (6.5 oz.)
  • Exofficio Boxer Brief (2.5 oz.)
  • Marmot Long Underwear (6 oz.)
  • Exofficio Long Sleeve Shirt (7 oz.)
  • Ibex Wool Hiking Socks (1.75 oz.)
  • Smartwool Camp Socks (3 oz.)
  • Northface Fleece Gloves (2.2 oz.)
  • Buff (1.2 oz.)
  • Salomon Running Shorts (4.2 oz.)
  • SS Button-down town shirt (5.5 oz.)
  • Arc’teryx Rampart Pants (worn)
  • Ibex Wool Shirt (worn)
  • Altra Lone Peak 2.5 Trail Runners (worn)
  • Dirty Girl Gaiters (worn)

Miscellaneous 

  • Smartwater Bottles (3.2 oz.)
  • Sawyer Squeeze Filter (3.5 oz.)
  • Iphone Chargers (2.2 oz.)
  • Bic Mini Lighters (2.8 oz.)
  • Headlamp (3.2 oz.)
  • 1/4 AWOL Guidebook (2.5 oz.)
  • Pocket Knife (1.7 oz.)
  • Dry Bag/ Stuff Sacks (8 oz.)

Kitchen

  • Ti Spoon (0.8 oz.)
  • SnowPeak Cookpot (4.7 oz.)
  • Snowpeak Gigapower Stove (3.75 oz.)
  • IsoPro Fuel Canister (7.2 oz.)

Luxuries

  • Crocs (10.5 oz.)
  • Platypus Big Zip 2L Hydration Bladder (5.6 oz.)
  • Ipod Mini & Headphones (1.85 oz.)
  • Paperback Novel (8 oz.)
  • Journal & Pen (9 oz.)
  • Leki Corklite Trekking Poles

First Aid/Toiletries

  • TP
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Mini Comb
  • Gold Bond
  • Advil
  • Bandaids
  • Earplugs                                  (4.2 oz.)

And that’s all for now!  My base weight is right around seventeen pounds, but I’ll trim it back to fifteen or so as the weather warms up and I can ditch a few layers of clothing. If you have any questions or see any glaring gaps in my list, please drop a comment below!

Now that the bag is packed, all that’s left for me to do is enjoy one last meal with some friends and family.  Time to put some beers on ice and fire up the smoker.  Next post will be from the trail. =)

Cheers,

Ben

Hong Kong Hikes

Hong Kong Hikes

That’s right- this big city has a lot more to offer than dim sum and neon sky scrapers (though the former is reason enough to plan a visit).

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When you think of Hong Kong, pristine mountain trails may not be one of the first things that come to mind.  This city has enough on offer to keep any semi-ambitous traveler busy for weeks, if not months or years.  The city’s superb public transport, abundance of attractions, and many english speaking residents make it an ideal destination for westerners.  While the roast geese and egg tarts get plenty of well-deserved love from those passing through town, many visitors will overlook the world class hiking that lies just a short cab ride away from the bustling city streets.  As much as forty percent of Hong Kong is designated as Country Park, much of which is laced with well built and scenic hiking trail.  I was able to venture out on a couple of day hikes there during a visit last week, and I feel that I’ve barely even scratched the surface.

Hong Kong Trail Section 8; Dragon’s Back

This is probably the most iconic and well known hike in the region, and for good reason.  Though it ranks near the bottom on the difficulty scale, this hike offers coastal views and sublime ridge walking that would be worth an entire day’s climb.  You can easily reach the trailhead by taking the MTR (HK’s subway system) to the Chai Wan station, or hopping in a cab from Central for about $15 USD.

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After a short ascent from the trailhead, you’ll find yourself walking along an exposed ridgeline with coastal views over both shoulders.  On one side the mountain drops away to the South China Sea, and on the other to the Hong Kong Bay.  Be sure to take your time, as the entire hike is only about 5 miles and this is be far the most impressive stretch.

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After following the ridge for a short while, you’ll begin your descent and quickly be reminded of the metropolis that lies around the bend.  Continue your descent and follow signs for Tai Long Wan to end up Big Wave Bay.  Once there, I’d strongly recommend treating yourself to an ice cold TsingTao and taking a load off while watching local surfers catch some waves.

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Wilson Trail Section 1; The Twins and Violet Hill

This hike presents a somewhat significant physical challenge, and is best suited for those who are prepared for steep climbs and descents.  The section is only about about 3 miles long, but the consistently steep grade will make it seem longer.  The trailhead is serviced by 3 bus routes from Central (6, 6a, 260), which makes getting to this hike a breeze.  Grab a seat on the the upper deck of the bus and enjoy the views along the way.

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Get off the bus at the Stanley Gap/ Wilson Trail stop, where you’ll see abundant signage for the trailhead. The trail begins with a steep climb from the trailhead, be sure to take a few breaks on the way up to enjoy the view behind you.  You’ll continue ascending until the trail skirts the summits of The Twins and drops into the valley on the other side.

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If you decide you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, there is a bailout point about halfway through where an easy path leads down to Repulse Bay, where transportation is available back to Central. While this hike offers spectacular views and rewarding climbs, it should be noted that much of the trail follows STEEP stone steps.  If you’re someone who’s knees are bothered by this type of descent, then you might consider other sections before setting out on this one.

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After continuing up and over Violet Hill, the section ends at The Hong Kong Parkview residences.  Here you can grab a cab or walk a quarter mile downhill to Wong Nai Chung Gap and hop on a bus back to Central.

More info and other Hong Kong hiking trails

These are just two of the many day hikes which are easily accessible from downtown Hong Kong.  I thoroughly enjoyed both of these hikes, and I look forward to exploring other trails on my next visit to HK.  If you’re visiting Hong Kong and interested in doing some hiking, you can find find great information on trails and transportation here. If you have any questions about my experiences in Hong Kong, whether hiking or otherwise, I’d love to hear from you!

Happy trails,

Ben