New Kitten, New California, New Photos!

OK, so California isn’t new.  But I did finally just post a set of photos from our trip to California: Redwood Trees at Muir Woods National Monument.

In even more exciting news, Kim and I got a kitten last night!  He doesn’t have a name yet, but he is already an internet superstar with his own kitten photos online.

Posted by Anthony on 7 replies

I Love Colorado

We just got back from an awesome trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  I went snow-skiing for the first time ever and had tons of fun.  We got a few inches of snow every day, and 10" on one of the days, and it was cold enough that at times we were up to our knees in "fresh powder" as they say.  People were saying this was the best week for skiing that they had all year.

We had also gone to Steamboat in the summer of 2005, and it was equally awesome during that time of year.  We did lots of hiking, some biking, and almost did some white-water rafting.  (I took photos at Fish Creek Falls and Rabbit Ears Pass.)

In any season, Colorado is a beautiful and amazing place.  Steamboat Springs in particular is a nice and quaint little town that just feels like home.  I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone would want to live anywhere other than Colorado.

I didn’t take many photos on this trip since we mostly just skied, but Kim took some, and I’m sure she’ll post them soon.  The few photos that I took were from the plane and I’ll post them if there are any decent ones.

Posted by Anthony on 4 replies

Funny Warning Labels

Kim and I took a short trip down to Ocean City NJ this weekend.  We had never been there during the winter so it was a new experience.  The place was a ghost town, as you might imagine: entire blocks of Asbury Ave and West Ave that are well-nigh impossible to find a parking spot on during the summer were completely vacant.

There were some people around -- apparently enough that Mack & Manco and Uncle Bill’s are open year-round, which alone makes the trip worth it -- but walking along the boardwalk for a while, we saw maybe a dozen people, and on the beach we saw only 2.

Anyway, at the corner of 8th & Atlantic I saw this sticker on a utility box and had to get a photo:

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Close-up of the best part:

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(show full-size image viewer)

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

Horseback Riding in PA

Last month, Kim and Maria and I went horseback riding at a place called Venture Farms.  It’s an out of the way place on a back-country road with lots of animals: llamas, donkeys, goats, more I can’t remember, and I think nearly 100 horses.

The only other time I’d gone horseback riding was in Colorado.  While the CO ride was through absolute wilderness that was often breathtaking, this local ride was still pretty scenic -- much more so than I was expecting for Pennsylvania.  It’s not that PA isn’t beautiful -- it definitely is -- but in some ways it just doesn’t compare to Colorado.  But we rode along some ridges with nice views of the countryside, in addition to going through some woods and riding on roads briefly.

One thing about the ride in CO is that the horses didn’t run at all: they walked very leisurely.  I was expecting the same thing this time, but to my surprise, at quite a few points during the hour-long ride, the horses started running!  My horse seemed especially eager and probably ran the most out of the whole group.  I would guess that my horse was moving at somewhere around 20-30 MPH, but it seemed extremely fast, and was easily one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced.

My only complaint about Venture Farms is that the woman who was the group leader seemed to be either in a foul mood or was just not very nice.  There were 5 other people riding with us, and the leader constantly told me to keep going when I would slow down to try and keep pace with Maria, whose horse was a little pokey.  And when the ride was over, we were hanging around a little bit checking out all the other animals, but we got the distinct feeling that they wanted us to leave right away.

Speaking of those other animals, one of them was a goat, which had a fresh baby goat with it, and the baby goat would jump up on its mother’s back, and stand up on it.  He just stood there while his mom walked around.  It reminded me of Mario standing on top of some of the bad guys as they move around in Mario 2.  It was really funny, and Kim got a video of it, which I’m hoping she will post on YouTube.

Posted by Anthony on 3 replies

Hickory Run State Park

I just posted the photos from our trip to Hickory Run State Park.

Posted by Anthony on 3 replies


Kim recently had a business meeting in Utah, and despite the fact that airfare to go out west is astronomical, I went along for the trip.  Her ticket was on the company dime, of course.

The farthest west I’d ever been before this trip was Colorado, and Utah is the next state to the west, so it was a new record for me.

Utah is beautiful.  We only had 3 and a half days there, 1 and a half of which were work days, so we didn’t have too much time to explore; we saw Salt Lake City, Alta, and Antelope Island (briefly).  But even just in Salt Lake City, it’s so clean, and there are mountains everywhere; it’s a lovely city.

We took lots of photos.  Here are the ones I’ve posted so far:

Downtown Salt Lake City Sugarloaf Road Hike (Alta)

Update 2006-12-17: here are the final 2 sets:

Night Shots of Air Products in Bountiful, Utah, and Oil Refineries in Salt Lake City The Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island in Utah

Some random interesting things about Utah or the Salt Lake area in particular:

The highways are really wide.  Route 15 is 6 lanes in both directions at some points.

Every shopping center has a pawn shop and/or a payday-loan shop.  Literally every one.  There must be hundreds of them in and around Salt Lake alone.  It’s weird because those kinds of places are so tacky, and there were other tacky/gaudy shops, but then the next block would be really nice.

All restaurants in UT are non-smoking.  That alone is nearly enough reason to move there.

They have this great little restaurant called Noodles & Company.  We went there twice in 3 days if that tells you anything.  I had the mushroom stroganoff and the penne rosa, and both were amazing, for $5.  It is a chain, so I can only hope that one comes to PA soon.

And finally, not really about Utah, but about the flight out there: it was non-stop, which I always figured (you always hear) is ideal, but 2 hours into the 4.5 hour flight I started getting really claustrophobic and fidgety.  And the seat next to me was empty.  I don’t know what my problem was, but Kim also was really claustrophobic on the flight back (due to the huge guy next to her).  So from now on I think I prefer that longish flights like this have a layover.  And I would certainly always rather drive 8 hours in my own car than fly any amount of time.  Of course to go this far west, driving isn’t usually a viable option, but I’m just saying.

Also, they tricked us when we got our seats: they were like, you’re in an exit row, are you willing and able to assist others in the event of an emergency?  And we’re like of course, no problem.  What they DON’T tell you is that the exit row seats don’t recline!!  On a 4.5 hour flight, that’s something they ought to tell you.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

Hawk Mountain Photos

I just posted photos of our Hawk Mountain hike from the other weekend.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Appalachian Trail Hike #4

Yesterday I returned from my fourth Appalachian Trail hike.  Here’s a little recap for anyone interested, and for my own use in planning and packing for future hikes.

(The first hike was in 2001 before this blog was born and I don’t think anyone took photos; I did post commentary and photos about the second and third hikes though.)

This fourth AT hike was a 2.5 day trek in New Jersey, from Buttermilk Falls to High Point State Park.  I can’t find a single online map that shows Buttermilk Falls, but based on a low-quality hand-drawn map of the area and my memory of the roads we took, I’m pretty sure that this is it (in the center of the map, just south of Mountain Road).  High Point State Park is much easier to find online; here’s the parking area next to the trail where our trip ended.  I was able to locate that by looking for route 23 and then using a map of AT shelters to see approximately where the trail crosses 23.

In general I haven’t found a particularly good AT map online, but the "Topo" mode on does show it.  The quality of Topo mode isn’t that great, but it’s still useful because you can find what you want and then switch to the regular map or the satellite photos to see the same location.

This trip featured the usual suspects (me, Brian, Chris, Jason) except that Rolly came along and Josh stayed home.  We covered 22 miles, doing about 9 on Saturday and Sunday and then 5 on Monday (which we finished around 2 in the afternoon).

My pack weighed in at 31 pounds this year, a big improvement over the 48 and 45 pounds of previous years.  The main reason is that I carried much less water (only 1.5L) because there were lots of water sources along the way.  (I think about 2L would have been perfect, assuming you can refill daily.)  I also learned from earlier hikes and brought a little less extra clothing, less food since I always come home with lots left over, and I saved ~3.5 pounds by leaving my camera behind since Rolly, Jason, and Chris were all bringing their (smaller, lighter) ones.

The hike started with an extremely steep climb right next to Buttermilk Falls; there were steps for some of it but they were spaced really far apart so it was still pretty tough.  Once we got to the top of the falls, there were no more steps but it was still uphill for quite a ways.  After about 2 miles, the Buttermilk Falls Trail ran into the Appalachian Trail and we proceeded towards the northeast.

Even though my pack was about 15 pounds lighter than before, I’m about 20 pounds heavier and out of shape, so the going was pretty tough on me.  I did prepare by going for walks and runs and bike-rides about 3 times per week for about 2 months before the hike, but none of the walks/runs were anywhere near 9 miles and I didn’t have a 30 pound pack on my back. So while they definitely helped a lot, I should have prepared more by doing exercises that were longer and more frequent.

My calves and feet were the areas that were hurting.  I decided to wear normal socks instead of the fancy smart-wool type socks that cost $7/pair, and I think that helped keep my feet cooler, but they were still pretty warm, and the bottoms of them were hurting by the end of the first day and all thereafter.  My Merrel shoes are made of water-resistant pigskin so they don’t ventilate your feet at all; I wore them because there was rain in the forecast, but in the future I’d like to take a second pair of shoes that are part mesh and more breathable.

On the second day we got some rain, but overall the weather was pretty great.  It was really cold at some points, like at the top of Sunrise Mountain in the extreme wind, and during the second night, so I was glad to have brought my winter hat.  And those smart-wool socks did come in handy for keeping my feet warm at night and in the mornings while making breakfast.  I did bring one white t-shirt for each day (in addition to socks and underwear for each day), because even though you can’t really bathe, it helps a lot (especially for sleeping) to be able to put on some clean clothes, and t-shirts are pretty light in weight so I think it’s a worthwhile trade-off.

One thing that’s always been sub-par in my camping experiences is the camp pillow.  The technology seems to improve every year or two though, and I got a new one this year.  But I washed and dried it the day before the hike, and didn’t realize there was a small amount of dampness still in it after it came out of the dryer.  I put it into a zip-lock bag and into my pack, only to take it out the first night on the trail and find it cold and damp.  So next time I’m definitely throwing the pillow into the dryer for a second run even if it feels dry.

I found 3 new just-add-water meals that I really love: Mountain House Pro-Pak Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Mountain House Granola with Blueberries and Milk (takes cold water, not boiling), and Maruchan Won-Ton cup-of-soup.  I decided to try a new-looking Beef Stew MRE, but I continue to not really like any of the stews.  I brought mainstays like beef jerky and mixed nuts, and though I did bring applesauce cups, I forgot to bring some fruit cups.  I brought 4 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain cereal bars, but wished I had more of them.  Some things I want to take next time are actual packs of Ramen noodle soup (as opposed to cups), some kind of drink mix and an empty bottle to mix/drink it from, and some Bottle Caps candy like Jason’s which I ate most of.

And on a food-related tip, bring an extra bottle for middle-of-the-night potty use, so that you don’t have to leave your tent and get eaten by the bears.

Actually, we did see a bear, for the first time ever on one of these hikes.  But it wasn’t on the trail; we saw it while driving from the trail-end to the trail-head to pick up the second car.  This young blackbear comes barreling out of the woods, across a few yards of grass, and right across the street!  The little guy was flying and Rolly had to speed up to avoid having the thing run into the side of the truck.  Though clearly young and small for a bear, he was probably 300-400 pounds, I’d say.  Seeing this bear may well have been the highlight of the trip; we were all so excited.

We also saw some really cool bright orange salamanders, and we saw 4 black snakes.  Two of them were seen slithering away under rocks as we came upon them on the trail, but the other two were actually up in the rafters of the Mashipacong Shelter.  After arriving at the shelter area a little ahead of the other guys, Jason and I were sitting at the picnic table there.  But he went to sit in the shelter to get out of the wind, and I joked "how are the bats in there?"  I went to sit next to him and looked up at the rafter about 4 feet above my head.  As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I saw a honeycomb pattern and thought it might have been a bee’s nest, but a second or two later I said "Uh, I think that’s a snake."  We ran out of there pretty quick.  Once Rolly, Brian and Chris arrived, Jason managed to knock the thing down from the rafter (which took several tries -- it did not want to move) and we saw that he was about 4.5 feet long.  Not only that, but there was a second snake up there too.  So although you’re technically not allowed to camp anywhere but the shelters on the AT in NJ, the fact that they’re usually a haven for bats and apparently snakes too means that I’ll never stay in one.  Nobody else does either, if the 3 or 4 other tent-sites we saw along the trail were any indication.

Overall it was a great trip, like the other 3 Appalachian Trail hikes I’ve done (except for that one where it was 30 miles of ankle-twisting rocks the entire time).  It was interesting to see endless mountains and rocks and trees in New Jersey, because I typically only think of either the Jersey Shore or the crusty Camden area when I think of that state.  I hope it’s not too long before I’m back out on the trail again.

Hopefully Rolly will post his photos soon, and I’m going to try to get Jason and Chris to send me their photos so I can post them here.

Update: Rolly’s photos are now online!

Posted by Anthony on reply


Out of the blue I was thinking about the J4 cave today and found your photos after a quick Google search.  Thanks a lot, they bring back some good memories.  I must have been in that cave a dozen times while at Penn State in the early 90’s and didn’t take one stinkin’ photo! 

What’s with the straps in the entry culvert?!  Like you said, if you need handles, you probably don’t belong there.

I understand it’s closed these days; that’s too bad.  I’m glad some of us had the opportunity.  Thanks again for posting the photos.


Posted by Frank on 53 replies

Hells Hollow

Kim and I visited a charming place called Hells Hollow yesterday.  No, really.  And yes, the fact that there is no apostrophe does drive me crazy.

Posted by Anthony on reply

More Colorado Photos!

Kim just added photos of a bike ride and a horseback ride to her website.  Of all the cool things we did in Colorado last month, these were two of my favorite.  The bike ride was so scenic, winding along and crossing over the Yampa river lots of times, and it was a beautiful, sunny, blue-skies day.  The horseback ride was great because I’d never ridden a horse before, and we saw some amazing views of mountains and endless fields and lush green valleys, with no civilization in sight.

Posted by Anthony on reply


I just got back from an awesome little vacation with Kim and her parents in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  If there were such a thing as heaven on Earth, I think it’d probably be in Colorado.  There are rivers and mountains everywhere, and the civilization (mostly farms) is sprinkled so sparsely across the landscape.

The little town of Steamboat Springs is wonderfully quaint and cozy.  There is a walking/biking path that runs along the Yampa river right on the edge of downtown, and it takes you past bridges and mountains and restaurants and stinky bubbly sulfur springs.  From literally everywhere in the town, and for that matter everywhere we drove in Colorado, you can see huge snow-capped mountains either right next to you, or off in the distance.

The only downside is that the sun is more intense there (seemingly a LOT more intense) due to the high altitude, and we got some sunburn pretty early-on in the trip.  The only time I ever wear sunblock is at the beach, so I didn’t really think about it for the mountains.  But on the upside, I wore a baseball hat for the first time in probably 10 years, to keep the sun off my head and face and ears, and I rather enjoyed it.  I think I’m going to look for a hat to wear more regularly now.

Between myself, Kim, and her dad, we took over 2.5 gigs of photos and movie clips.  I’ll be posting some of them here soon.

Posted by Anthony on 15 replies


I am on Canadian soil as I post this message!

Kim and I are on a little road trip to visit Niagara Falls, and it is amazing.  And I’ve never been outside the USA before so this is extra cool for me.  I know, I know... the Canadian side of Niagara is about as close as you can get to the USA without actually being in the USA (er no, wait, that’s California...) but still, I am on foreign soil for the first time in my life.

I took about 200 photos today, so they’ll show up here soon, along with a more full report of the coolness of this adventure.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

Camp time

I’m leaving for my annual Appalachian Trail hike with Brian, Chris, Jason, and Josh.  Looks like it’ll be 30 miles this year.  My pack weights 45 pounds -- mostly food and 4.5 liters of water.  I’ll be back Wednesday night... don’t say bad things about me while I’m gone please  : )

Posted by Anthony on 6 replies

Insane Appalacian Trail Hike

Got back today from an insane hiking/camping trip on the Appalachian Trail.  It was me and my brother Brian, and our friends Chris, Jason and Josh.  We started around 9pm Thursday near Palmerton, PA (right at the intersection of 873, 145, and 248, at a place called "Weiders Crossing") and finished in Delaware Water Gap, PA at noon Sunday.  That’s 36 miles in ~2.5 days.  It was easily the most physically challenging thing I’ve done to date.

The start of the trail is a 1000-foot climb over one mile, so it’s pretty steep.  My pack was 48 pounds.  But we were blessed in that it didn’t rain except for a little drizzle, and it wasn’t windy (yet).  So we hiked up the mountain, covered a total of one mile, and camped.  What’s interesting about this night is we camped on the open face of the mountain.  The view was spectacular, but the openness meant crazy wind.  There were only about 30 or 40 little trees where we camped, and they were all bent over a little.  It was so windy that most of us couldn’t sleep from the noise.  Brian didn’t have tent stakes, so he had to set up 2 big tarps between trees and camp in the V formed by them, or else he’d have blown away during the night, for sure.  I would estimate that the wind was gusting 40~50 miles per hour.  It was just nuts.

Friday was still really windy, but it calmed down as the day progressed.  You could tell that it was always really windy there, because the area looked like a complete wasteland.  For a couple miles there was nothing but lots of short dead trees, and rocks.

The reason the hike was so difficult was that 90% the trail was complete rocks.  Not little driveway-stone type rocks, but rocks big enough that you have to carefully place every step.  Since we did 14 miles each on Friday and Saturday, we grew to hate these rocks.  When you’re just walking on ground, you step, and your leg muscles get to rest for part of each step.  But walking on rocks, your muscles must be constantly tensed because you have to balance your body (and pack) weight differently depending on the rocks your foot lands on.  The bottom line is that walking 14 miles like that is exhausting.

I had a great time on this trip, but I would definitely not hike this particular stretch of trail ever again.  I mean... well, it would take a lot of money, at least.  Pennsylvania has the second rockiest Appalachian Trail terrain, next to Maine.  As Brian put it, if you were hiking the whole AT from Maine to Georgia, you would surely take a car around Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, I left my camera behind to save 2 pounds, which I immediately regretted.  But Brian took a bunch of photos, and I’ll put them up here as soon as they’re developed and scanned.  (UPDATE: Brian’s photos are online.)

Posted by Anthony on reply
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