The Backpacking Trip that Never Was – Hiking the Susquehanna River

Getting our Bear Grylls on. Hiking with a full overnight backpacking load-out & zero intention of actually sleeping outside.

When an iffy forecast caused us to cancel an overnight backpacking trip we had planned about four hours from home, we decided at the last minute to still get outside.  Only instead of a full backpacking trip hours from home, we decided to grab our already packed gear and hit a local spot for a day in the woods.  Backpacking meals, hammocks, a tarp in case it rained earlier than expected, etc.  The only thing that wasn’t in our plan was to actually sleep out there.  And then things didn’t go to plan.  Again.

In the end, it was a great, fun day.  Certainly not what we expected, but better than sitting on the couch (well, all day at least).  We got some exercise, Sara had some of our favorite camping foods, and I got to test out some gear and packing techniques.  The moral of the story?  Do weird stuff.  Sometimes it pays off.

Trailhead Parking Location: Rock Run Grist Mill parking area. This is a decent sized parking area by the Rock Run Grist Mill at the intersection of Stafford Rd and Rock Run Road in Susquehanna State Park.

GPS Track Data for this trip can be found on my Trip Data Page.

Total Mileage: 4 miles
Total Elevation Gain: A whopping 225′

Susquehanna River Day Hike Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Notable Gear Used

Packit Gourmet Pico De Gallo salsa and Pasta Bolegnese
Denali’s Dog Backpack – “One Tigris Cotton Canvas Dog Pack”
Denali’s Collapsible Dog Dish – Doggone Dish
Toaks 750ml Titanium Pot
ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack
Generic Canister Stove
ALLPOWERS 21W Solar Charger
Notch Hat (Classic Multi-cam Operator model)

Aerial Photography – DJI Mavic Pro
Primary Camera – Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

Hammock Camping with my Dog – Seneca Creek Hiking & Backpacking Trip

Join my dog Denali and I for some Hiking, Backpacking, and Hammock Camping in the Seneca Creek Backcountry.

For this hiking adventure, my pup and I will be visiting the Spruce Knob-Seneca Creek National Recreation area, within West Virginia’s greater Monongahela National Forest. Our route will be a “lollipop”style hike – meaning we’ll use an “out and back” section of trail from the Spruce Knob trailhead parking area to connect with a series of other trails that form a loop. After completing the loop portion of the hike, we’ll backtrack out using the same section of trail from day one.

The Spruce Knob-Seneca Creek Backcountry offers around 60 miles of trails (marked with blue blazes) with an elevation range of 3,000 to 4,800 feet above sea level. The beginning of this particular loop is actually the highest point in all of West Virginia – Spruce Knob – standing at and elevation of 4,861 feet. Below is a list of trails for each day, along with stats for elevation gain and mileage.

Trailhead Parking: Spruce Knob Parking area (right by the observation tower).

Parking Notes:  No parking fees or overnight permits are required.  There are restrooms and bear-proof trash bins available for use.

GPS Track Data for this trip can be found on my Trip Data Page.

Trails used, Day 1

  • Huckleberry Trail
  • Hornton Trail (just for a short bit)
  • Judy Springs Trail
  • Seneca Creek Trail
  • Hammock Camp along Seneca Creek.

Day 1 – Seneca Creek Loop elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 1 Mileage: 6.5 miles
Day 1 Gross Elevation Gain:  221 feet (pretty much down hill all day)

Trails used, Day 2

  • Seneca Creek Trail
  • High Meadows Trail
  • Lumberjack Trail
  • Join back up with Huckleberry Trail
  • Arrive back at Spruce Knob Parking Lot

Day 2 – Seneca Creek Loop elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 2 Mileage: 10 miles
Day 2 Gross Elevation Gain:  2,173 feet (pretty much up hill all day)

Notable Gear Seen in the Video

Denali’s Hammock – 2T’s Hammock Chair from Dutchware
Denali’s Dog Backpack – “One Tigris Cotton Canvas Dog Pack”
Denali’s Collapsible Dog Dish – Doggone Dish
Dutchware Chameleon Hammock
Hammock Gear Burrow 40 Top Quilt

Hammock Gear Phoenix 30 Underquilt
Hammock Gear Cuben Hex Tarp
Katadyn BeFree Water Filter
Toaks 750ml Titanium Pot
Vargo Windscreen
Esbit Solid Fuel Cubes
ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack

Aerial Photography – DJI Mavic Pro
Primary Camera – Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

Winter Camping with a Sled

For this Backpacking Trip, we use a Pulk Sled to go Winter Camping in the Deep Snow of the White Mountains.

Mike and I originally planned to do a long overdue return trip to Mt Crawford for some winter backpacking and camping, but as is usually the case, the notorious weather of the White Mountains thwarted our efforts.  With a higher summits forecast from the White Mountains Observatory calling for -60° wind chills due subzero temps combined with high winds and gusts upwards of 90 MPH, we opted to stick to the lower elevations instead.  So we shelved our higher elevation idea to camp on Mt Crawford, and instead started scouting for a new location on the fly.

Basically, we were winging it in terms of trip planning, but fortunately I was armed with a full set of White Mountains AMC maps to keep up safely prepared on whatever trail we ended up cast upon by the winter hiking gods.

In the video we do some snow campsite selection and setup, tons of firewood collection, snow furniture building, campfire cooking, trail sledding on the rather steep Airline Trail, and overall just plain having a fun time out in the snowy woods of New Hampshire for a few days.

Downloadable GPS data for this trip and others can be found on the Trip Data Page.

Winter Sled Camping Route Overview – Sintax77

Time of Year
Mid February

Parking Location
Appalachia Trailhead Parking Lot
44°22’17.6″N 71°17’19.9″W

Trailhead
Appalachia Trailhead on Presidential Hwy (Hwy 2), Randolph, NH

Trails Used, Day One

  • Valley Way Trail
  • Randolph Path
  • Airline Trail
  • Setup Camp near Airline Trail
  • Located in the middle of the triangle formed for the Airline, Randolph Path, and Valley Way Trails.We used this campsite with significant snow pack on the ground so leveling out a decent platform for a tent was no problem. Based on my experience in this general area on previous summer trips, I would assume it would not make a very accommodating tentsite without snow, due to the steep and rugged terrain.

Day 1 Mileage: 2 miles
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 1,122′

Winter Sled Camping Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Trails Used, Day Two

  • Airline Trail
  • Return to vehicle at Appalachia Trailhead Parking Lot

Day 1 Mileage: 1 mile
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 6′ (pretty brutal, I know)

Winter Sled Camping Day 2 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Notable Gear Seen and Used in the Video

AMC White Mountains Full Map Set
Camp’ brand backpacking Snow Shovel
MSR Whisperlight Universal Stove (we were using white gas)
MSR Flex Skillet
Coghlan Camp Grill Grate
Nemo Losi 3p Tent
Z-Lite Sleeping Pad (Yellow pad used for bench, I stacked it on top of a Big Agnes Q-Core SUL pad for sleeping at night)
Therm-A-Rest Pro Sleeping Pad (Mikes sleep pad)
Hammock Gear Burrow 0° Top Quilt
Scandinavian Gear Backpack (my red pack)
Gregory Palisades 80 Backpack (Mike’s pack)
MSR Denali Ascent Snowshoes (my grey snowshoes)
Atlas 10 Snowshoes (Mike’s snowshoes)
Coghlan Fire Sticks (Fire starter used on day 2)
Sled – I’m honestly not sure what brad it was, but below is a pretty highly rated, heavy duty gear sled listed on Amazon.

Hiking the Grayson Highlands – Solo Backpacking Trip

Join me for 3 days of Solo Backpacking, Hiking, Hammock Camping, & Wild Ponies on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia’s Grayson Highlands.

For this backpacking trip, I’ll be hiking and camping solo in a section of the Mt Rogers National Recreation Area, within the larger George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.  I’ll be using a portion of the Appalachian Trail to create a 3 day, 2 night backpacking loop of around 20 miles or so.  The Grayson Highlands are known for their high winds and unpredictable, rapidly changing weather, so being that I’m doing the trip in March, I’ll be packing amount of warm weather and rain resistant gear.  If you’re interested in a detailed account of everything that I packed, check out my previous Winter Ultralight Backpacking Gear List blog post and video.  That will give you a look at exactly what I packed for the trip.

Grayson Highlands Backpacking Trip Route Overview – Sintax77

Below is a daily rundown of the trails and campsites used for each day.  Full GPS track data can be found on the Trip Data page.

Parking Location

Grayson Highlands State Park, Overnight Backpacker’s Parking Area at the Massie Gap Parking Lot.  N36° 38.012′ W81° 30.322′

Trails Used, Day 1

  • Depart Massie Gap Parking Lot
  • Rhododendron Trail
  • Appalachian Trail South
  • Wilburn Ridge Trail (it’s also possible to stay on the AT)
  • Rejoin the Appalachian Trail South
  • Setup camp about 200 yards past the Thomas Knob Shelter.

Day 1 Mileage: 4.25 miles
Day 1 Elevation Gain: 2,096′

A spring is about a 100 yards down the trail behind the shelter.

Camping options for tents and hammocks are available a few hundred yards past the shelter, heading south. Tenting spots are on the ridge to the left, hammock camping opportunities are in the trees to the right.

There are also some nice campsite opportunities about a 1/4 mile or so before the shelter as well (AT north from the shelter)

Grayson Highlands Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Trails Used, Day 2

  • Continue on the Appalachian Trail South
  • Mt Rogers Trail Towards Grindstone Campground (not to be confused with the Mt
  • Rogers Spur Trail which hits the summit of Mt Rogers.  That trail is available shortly after leaving the campsite.  I’ve heard it doesn’t have any views, but it holds the distinction as Virginia’s highest peak).
  • Lewis Fork Spur Trail (turn here a couple of miles before hitting the campground).
  • Cliffside Trail
  • Crest Trail
  • Scales Trail
  • Setup Camp near the intersection of Scales Trail with the Appalachian Trail

Day 2 Mileage: 11 miles
Day 2 Elevation Gain: 1,320′

There are a number of hammock and tent camping opportunities on the edge of the field opposite from the AT intersection.

There is plenty water in several directions from the intersection. The particular campsite I used (tagged in my GPS data) has water right next to it within 20 yards or so.

Grayson Highlands Day 2 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Trails Used, Day 3

  • Continue on the Scales Trail South (note: it is possible to continue on the AT
  • South and eventually make your way back to the Massie Gap parking lot as well.  I chose the scales route because it is considerably quicker and I had to do a long drive home upon reaching the lot.)
  • Seed Orchard Trail (this wasn’t on my Nat Geo Map, but after coming out of the woods, you’ll see a sign directing you towards the AT by turning right.  Instead, look left.  You’ll see a water crossing with a brown Grayson Highlands State Park sign listing various rules and regs.  The path along the fence over there is the Seed Orchard Trail)
  • Follow signs towards Hickory Ridge Campground.
  • Past the campground, there will be a large metal gate for a Horse Trail
  • Follow the Horse Trail (there doesn’t seem to be a fancier name for it)
  • Appalachian Spur Trail towards the Backpacker’ s Parking Lot
  • Return the Massie Gap Parking Lot

Day 3 Mileage: 3.5 miles
Day 3 Elevation Gain: 499′

Grayson Highlands Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

 

Trip Grand Total Mileage: 18.75 miles
Trip Grand Total Elevation Gain: 3,915′

Map Used for this Trip: National Geographic Map #318, Mt Rogers High Country

A Tour of Texas – Hiking Big Bend & Mexican Border Road Trip

Join me for a Tour of Texas, from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to a Hike in Big Bend NP, via an adventure along the Mexican border. 

For this adventure, I’ll be travelling (via air) from Philadelphia to San Antonio, Texas.  After landing, the plan will be to grab a rental car and immediately travel 7 hours west, following a route along the Mexican boarder, to Big Bend National Park.  Big Bend holds the distinction as America’s largest protected swath of Chihuahuan desert.  Another of Big Bend’s unique distinctions is that around 118 miles of the Mexican / American boarder lay within it’s boundaries, hugging the deepest point of the Rio Grande.

My plan is to arrive at Big Bend National Park before sunset on day one and make a mad scramble for the Window Trail, which is said to boast some amazing sunset views across the Chisos Mountains.  Assuming I pull this off, my next task will be to awake just before that burning globe comes back around again, and make way for the tallest peak amongst the Chisos Range – Emory Peak.  After that – a quick retreat to the car, a modest rehydration and clean up, and then it will time to hop back in the rental car once again.

Just to keep thing interesting, my plan will be to take an alternate 7 hour route, further to the north, to return to San Antonio.  At that point, I’ll scoop up Sara and head an additional 3 hours west to the Gulf of Mexico.  More specifically, the Corpus Christi region, for some beach front camping, which would be a first for us.

Of course, all of these plans assume that everything goes as expected.  I mean, they never get unexpected or sever weather on the Gulf Coast, do they?  Wait…  do they?

That Time I Hiked with a Broken Face – Backpacking the Great Gulf Wilderness

Join TJ & I for 3 days of hiking, camping & backpacking in New Hampshire’s Great Gulf Wilderness.  Oh, & I also fall on my face.  

For this adventure, we’ll be revisiting an attempt at a hike that I originally did as a solo backpacking trip a few years back.  A rather aggressive loop, chalking up 30+ miles and over 15,000 feet gross elevation gain, the plan was to give it another go while giving TJ an ultimate sampler platter of the White Mountains.  As fate would have it, things would corkscrew towards another outcome…

Great Gulf Loop Route Overview - Sintax77

Great Gulf Loop Route Overview – Sintax77

Trailhead Used: Imp Trailhead on Rt 16 – N44° 19.408′ W71° 13.016′

Full GPS track data and waypoints for various POI’s on this trip are available for download on the Trip Data Page.

Trails Used, Day 1 (in order)
Road hike north on Rt 16 to Dolly Copp Campground
Daniel Webster Scout Trail
Appalachian Trail South
Sphinx Trail
Camp along Sphinx Trail, just before junction with Great Gulf Trail

Great Gulf Loop Day 1 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Great Gulf Loop Day 1 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 1 Mileage: 12.5 miles
Day 1 Gross Elevation Gain: 6,661′

Trails Used, Day 2 (in order)
Double back on Sphinx Trail
Appalachian Trail South
Trinity Heights Connector to Summit of Mt Washington
Have a Chili Dog at the Summit
Nelson Crag Trail
Appalachian Trail South
Great Gulf Trail
Camp near Gulf Trail along ridge

Great Gulf Loop Day 2 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Great Gulf Loop Day 2 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 2 Mileage: 9.2 miles
Day 2 Gross Elevation Gain: 3,658′

Trails Used, Day 3 (in order)
Great Gulf Trail
Short road hike back to car parked at Imp Trail Head

Great Gulf Loop Day 3 Elevation Profile - Sintax77

Great Gulf Loop Day 3 Elevation Profile – Sintax77

Day 3 Mileage: 3.9
Day 3 Gross Elevation Gain: 108′

 

Mileage Grand Total for Trip: 25.6
Gross Elevation Gain Grand Total for Trip: 10,319′