Thursday, July 29, 2010

Appalachian Trail: Knives

Knives are a big concern among many hikers planning to hike the Appalachian Trail. Concerns range from what kind of knife to carry to the legality of carrying knives along the Appalachian Trail.

What knives are being carried?

In 2010, hikers along the Appalachian Trail were carrying everything knife-like -- from large, heavy machetes to small, ultralight, single-edge razor blades. During our recent section hike, we noted a significant number of swiss army style knives and folding buck style knives.

In our own preparation, we bought a cheap $1 folding buck style pocket knife and a small, fisherman's multi-tool for $5 at Walmart. Post-hike, it's clear that we should have left the folding knife at home. The blade on our multi-tool was more than sufficient for nearly everything we had to cut. The only exception was cutting some original moleskin. Neither the scissors nor the blade on our multi-tool was able to trim off a piece of moleskin. The folding knife allowed us to hack off a piece. God bless "Scissors" for having her dad's old swiss army knife at Quarry Gap shelter. Her scissors cut the moleskin just fine.

Our recommendation is to go with the smallest, sharpest knife that you can get by with. Your pack is going to weigh more than you would like, so cut some weight here. Many ultralight backpackers carry only a single edge razor blade. We may downsize to a razor blade for future hikes ourselves, provided we can get our hands on a set of lightweight keychain screwdrivers for tightening our hiking pole clamps.

TIP: Test your knife or substitute many times before departing for the trail.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Greyhound Bus: Lynchburg VA

We arrived at the Greyhound bus station in Lynchburg VA around 8 a.m. on a Monday morning. The northbound bus from Knoxville, TN stops in Roanoke before continuing on to Lynchburg. The bus follows a very scenic route through a pass in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Coming in to Lynchburg from the south, the bus passes Liberty University and then the modern commercial area of Lynchburg with all the chain stores. The bus continues north and then exits the expressway, circles right and over, and continues up a large hill into the older historic Lynchburg. The bus then pulls onto a cobbled street and up to the train station.

The Lynchburg-Kemper Street Station is a multi-storied building set on the side of the hill with the parking and bus area above and the tracks below. Our bus took about a 20 minute break, just enough time to get fresh water, dump some water, and check out the station.

Entering the door finds ones self in a small, but nice lobby. The ticket counter is to your left and the restrooms are towards the right. There is no restaurant and we don't recall there being much food or drink available. We noted no stores or food services along either the immediate arrival or departure routes. Recommend you bring some food or snacks with you if Lynchburg is your final destination.

There seems to be a local bus that circulates near the station that also serves the Liberty University area and the big box stores area.

Backpack Cover for Flying

Several past visitors arrived looking for information on backpack covers for flying. While I haven't flown with my backpack, I have ridden several buses with a backpack.

On an earlier shakedown hike in California's Big Sur, I used a large lightweight nylon duffel to over-pack my 5500 backpack. I bought my nylon duffel at Academy Sports for about $15. The dark green Timber Creek duffel we bought has a large piece of webbing sewn around the duffel to create two large hand straps. Actually, the straps are so large one could almost wear the duffel as a pack itself. We used a small carabiner to clip the two straps together to make picking up much quicker and easier.

Once at our destination, we folded the duffel into a packet and placed it on top of the closed main compartment, flipped the top pocket back over, and fastened the retaining straps. When we returned to the Greyhound station at Salinas, we opened our pack, expanded the duffel, dropped our pack inside, and attached the new baggage tag.

While we've not done this on the trail, we did experiment at home and discover that we could turn the duffel inside out, which positions the handles inside and prevents them from snagging on branches along the trail. The duffel doesn't quite unzip the entire length, so there's a small "hood" that one can place over the top of one's backpack and the duffel will naturally hang over the pack. Its an easy task to take a spare nylon strap, like the ones used for attaching sleeping bags and pads to exteriors, and wrap it around the pack and duffel. As our duffel is longer then our pack, we found we could under-fold the excess material so the top of the duffel material overlaps the bottom and secure the entire fold with the nylon strap.

Hope this is helpful to those of you flying to the Appalachian Trail.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Greyhound Bus: Charlottesville VA

We arrived at the Greyhound bus station in Charlottesville, VA on a Greyhound bus arriving from Lynchburg and Roanoke, two towns further south and near the Appalachian Trail. The bus crosses north beneath I-64 and continues straight into town. Our bus arrived about mid-morning.

The Greyhound station in Charlottesville VA is an older building. There is no restaurant, but there are vending machines for soft drinks, salty snacks, and cold sandwiches. The restrooms were fair, which puts them at the upper end for Greyhound. The ticket counter is at the right-hand end when entering from buses.

Stepping out the main entrance we spotted an international food store just across the street and down to our left. As our bus had arrived late and we expected our interconnecting bus to arrive at any moment, we did not explore the store.

We did inquire of the ticket counter about shuttles to Rockfish Gap. They informed us that no such services exist. It seems these Greyhound employees are unaware of the underground transportation system that exists among Appalachian Trail hikers. As its about twenty miles to Rockfish Gap, recommend arranging a shuttle from one of the many people recommended by ATC or on

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Appalachian Trail Pennsylvania: Henicles Market

During our 2010 section hike along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, we resupplied at Hennicle's Market in Fayetteville, PA. Henicle's is located less than a mile off the Appalachian Trail, just down the street from Caledonia State Park. We first showered and cleaned up a bit at Caledionia S.P so as to not render undue suffering on customers. Showers are just $3 at Caledonia State Park.

Arriving at Hennicle's Market, we dropped our packs outside by the two grocery carts. The door in the middle is the entrance and the door to the left, which I first entered, is actually the exit. Locals will be entering through the middle and circulating counter-clockwise. Best you go with the flow also.

Henicle's is a small compact store with a bit of everything. After entering and turning right, the first area has disposable cameras and some limited hardware.

Moving up the same aisle you'll find fresh fruit and vegetables to your right. Henicle's had small tubs of sliced melon for just sixty cents the day we were there. We also found oranges priced at three for a dollar. Bananas were available and reasonably priced.

At the back of the aisles and store, you'll find the deli and meat case. Henicle's offers a number of sandwiches and sides. The day of our visit found a quarter roasted chicken (leg and thigh) priced for less than two dollars. We also found some hard salami in the meat case and bought a half pound for our trek. We kept the salami cool in our Bubblelope freezer bag cozy.

The middle two aisles contain most of the groceries. Propel is available in three flavors; we bought lemon. Tuna is also available, but most was in cans. There were also packets of tuna, but those available were family sized and priced at about three dollars. We bought a can of tuna to be consumed within the first 24 hours. Ramen is available in flavors of beef, chicken, and shrimp. We dearly love pork, but bought several packs of beef ramen. We found instant potatoes in the middle of the aisle and only two packets were still available. We bought one packet and left the other for hopefully another hiker.

We looked for beef sticks, as in the larger, meatier ones that can be sliced and added to potatoes and soups. The best we found were some small cans with small and very dry bits of beef. Some jerky was available nearby. We recall the dried meats being on the end of an aisle.

The last aisle which aligns with the exit door has frozen foods and dairy products. We found several local brands of orange juice and tea very reasonably priced and bought a pint of each.

Checkout was very friendly and fast. We spent about $22 to resupply for five more days on the trail plus a very nice Memorial Day feast to share with a thru-hiker.

Outside Henicle's Market you'll find a pay phone, just in case you wish to reach out and touch somebody while waiting for a lift. We didn't wait very long before a local with a pick-up truck offered us a ride back to Caledonia S.P.. Kudos to trail angel Paul.

If you're planning thru-hike or a longer section hike, consider adding Henicle's Market as a resupply point. If anything, stop by Henicle's and grab something luxurious to add to make your time at the famed Quarry Gap shelter more special. You'll be glad you did!

Henicles Caledonia
7798 Lincoln Way East
Fayetteville, PA 17222

Henicle's Market accepts Visa, Mastercard, EBT/SNAP, Discover and American Express Cards

Store Hours:
Monday through Thursday 8 am - 8 pm
Friday & Saturday 8 am - 9 pm
Sundays 9 am - 8 pm

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Greyhound Bus: Harpers Ferry WV

First, there is no Greyhound bus service to Harpers Ferry, WV.

However, there is Greyhound bus service near Harper's Ferry WV.

How to Get to Harpers Ferry by Greyhound

Greyhound serves three relatively nearby cities. Greyhound currently serves Hagerstown MD, Fredrick MD and Washington DC. Of these three, it is far easier to get from the Greyhound stations in Washington DC to Harpers Ferry WV. Here's how we did just that for our 2010 section hike from Harper's Ferry WV to Harrrisburg PA.

Arriving at Union Station

Being in the southwest, Greyhound routed us to Washington DC via Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Charlottsville VA. (We'll add posts on their bus stations shortly). This bus stops at Union Station minutes before stopping at the Greyhound station up the street. The Greyhound bus we were on came in behind the U.S. Capitol and entered on the right (north) side of Union Station. The bus goes up a ramp in the rear of Union Station to the second floor deck level. This is were most buses including tour buses arrive and depart from.

After claiming your bags, you proceed east towards the building and the ramp. Follow the crowds down the escalator into Union Station proper. At the bottom of the escalator, you should see McDonalds ($1 value menu offered) to your far left at the north end of the departure area. The MARC departures are at gates one through four (1-4) to your far right and just before the liquor store and the men's room. You likely need to purchase a MARC ticket for the train to Harper's Ferry, so just continue straight ahead and then turn to your right where the ticket counters start. A ticket to Harper's Ferry is currently $11 one-way on the MARC. The Harper's Ferry MARC is an express which skips about a half dozen early stops.

As you're likely early, you might like to back track and locate the exact location of the MARC gates. There is a MARC waiting area just to the right of the gates with a departure video display.

If there's still time and you're hungry, just walk past the liquor store and hang a left. There a series of cafes along the west end of Union Station. Prices are largely the same from eatery to eatery. If you'd like some fresh fruit or bread, just continue south past the bookstore and outside. There are about a dozens stalls on the west porch that offer water, fruit, bread, flowers, and other commuter favorites. This is also the smoking area if you venture much further.

Boarding the Train

Closer to boarding time, head on back to the waiting area. Note that commuters line up just outside the MARC gates and then rush the trains as they open for boarding. Don't feel compelled to join the stampede as there are plenty of seats. Many of these early arrivals are regulars and are competing for seats on the upper deck.

When your train begins boarding follow behind the crowd. We jumped in the first door we found open. You might take a moment and confirm with a commuter that you are in fact on the train to Harper's Ferry. Find a seat on the lower level and get comfortable. (We sat on the left hand river side and it didn't seem to matter. There wasn't much to see on this leg.) Slide your ticket into the metal clip on the top of the seat in front of you. The conductor will be by around departure or just after to check your ticket. Don't be surprised to see a police officer at the far end near the stairs. Its post 9/11 after all. No one searched our pack, but we were given an eyeballing a few times.

Arriving at Harpers Ferry

The train arrives at the foot of Union Street and much of Harper's Ferry business district will be closed.

Lodging & Camping

There are two bed and breakfast inns across the street from the ATC office and the post office is just a few blocks past them on the same side of the street.

If you'd like to stay at the Comfort Inn, then just follow the AT south to the Shenandoah River bridge. The AT heads south at the bottom of Union Street and goes up stone steps past the Catholic Church. Jefferson Rock is along this short section of the AT. Comfort Inn will be just to your right at the bridge. Hikers give the Comfort Inn mixed reviews, so caveat emptor.

If you want somewhere free to stay, then just head back to the train bridge you just rode across and walk back into Maryland. Hang a left on the C&O canal and walk two miles upstream (left) to the Huckleberry Hike & Bike camp. We had it to ourself mid-week. There are several tent areas, a picnic table and a BBQ grill. We found several good trees to hang our hammock from which gave us a nicely framed view of the Potomac River.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Appalachian Trail Videos: Maryland Section Hike Part 2

Finished uploading the second set of photos from our Memorial Day section hike of Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. Here's the second video which covers from Annapolis Rocks, MD to Caledonia State Park, PA.