Posted by: fiddlehead | March 22, 2013

Jamming with the Aboriginals in Oz

Having done a lot of world wide travel in my life (especially from 1989 to 2004), I am sometimes asked about my best experience.

Of course, there have been so many great experiences and some of them I have written about.     I don’t like that word “Best”, as it implies other times are not as good.

But, here’s a story of one that I will consider one of the best times of my life.

In 1992, in my attempt to travel the world without flying, I found myself hitchhiking from Broome Australia to Darwin.

Broome is in western Australia, miles from anywhere and has some of the highest tides in the world.  Very interesting place.
Not many Ozzies have even been to Broome but, we were blown there by a cyclone while sailing from Timor in Indonesia to Darwin.
So, our skipper was heading eventually to Perth and we wanted to go to Darwin and then Alice Springs in route to Sydney eventually.  (we had a general plan of attack but, basically went with the flow)

So an English girl and I and 2 other guys decided to hitchhike the approx 1500 kms from Broome to Darwin.
Of course, that’s too many to hitch so we split up.
The girl (sorry, I forget her name now) and I teamed up and the two guys decided to stay near town and only accept a ride that was going all the way to Darwin as they were not keen on getting stuck in the outback in the middle of nowhere and have to spend the night.
The girl and I, let’s call her Sheila (Ozzie slang for “girl”) decided we were a little more adventurous and would accept any ride offered.

The 2 guys were nice enough to hide until we got our 1st ride and we didn’t see them again until Darwin where we all agreed to meet at a certain guest house.

Now, there is only one road that goes through western Australia in the north and although you would think it a major highway after seeing it on a map, in reality it is only a 2 lane road.
And the outback doesn’t have many trees and is a hot and lonely place.

We got some interesting rides.
I remember one of them was a government employee who’s job was to go visit the aboriginals and help them in different ways:
Trying to make sure they were aware how bad alcohol was for them.    Trying to see what they needed and help them get it.
We asked what were some of the things that they wanted and he told an interesting story about the leaders of a tribe had collected and saved a good bit of money (the Oz govt. gives them each a monthly stipend), and they asked how much it would cost to buy one of the machines that print money!

We found there were on average a car or truck driving on this road approximately every 20 minutes.   There was no shade, usually and sometimes we had to hide next to these tall towers of dirt that turned out to be termite mounds or villages,  just to try to get some shade from the hot sun.

didgstory aus

Maybe every 3rd or 4th car or pickup would pick us up, but we discovered that almost no one drives at night and we found out why one evening when we got to town just after sunset.      A kangaroo was seen on the road about 500-700 meters in front of us (1/3 of a mile?) and our driver slowed down immedietly.  We wondered why at first but then saw the “roo” was having trouble and panicking from the crossing of the road with lights coming at it.    It was slipping and sliding and humorously falling and getting up in it’s panic.    We eventually had to almost stop and let him find his way.   Funny but serious enough that many people had “roo guards” on their front bumpers.

Anyway, each night we would stop in a town for the night and get a room and discover a bit about outback village nightlife.

One night, we happened to go near the center of town with my guitar in hand (I usually carry one when travling) and saw a group of perhaps 8 0r 9 aboriginal people sitting in a circle.
They were drinking a bit and the women were standing near the nearby bank.

They said something (hard to understand what exactly) and pointed to my guitar.
I saw they had some didgeridoos so I walked over and they  motioned for me to sit down with them.
I heard a song or two and tuned my guitar to the main note that came from their instruments and started playing some mellow, Pink Floyd type music behind them.
Well, they were impressed with Pink Floyd, and I was totally impressed with their music and rhythm of their music style.didgeridoo

In all my years of playing music, this was perhaps the best sounding thing I’d even done.
After a few songs, they started passing the wine bottle to me and Sheila and we were tourists no longer (to them)

I started noticing that their women were pan-handling from people going to the ATM machine nearby.
Whenever they scored some cash, they would wait for the people to leave and then come over and high five everyone (including us).

Then they would hit the liquor store and buy another bottle of wine.
We ended up jamming probably a few hours, I don’t remember but the music was just awesome and the walls that are built up through different cultures and classes was easily shed.

I only wish someone had a recording of this great night because I know it is a once in a lifetime experience.

For a footnote to this story, we got to Darwin 5 days after leaving Broome and went to the aforementioned guesthouse to see if our 2 friends were there.
They were.
We asked them how their trip went and they said they waited in that spot for 4 days and finally got a ride going all the way to Darwin.
When asked how long they had been there before us, they said “5 minutes” !

Posted by: fiddlehead | June 30, 2011

Back to the high route trail of Phuket after a year off.

Feb 26, 2012

OK, was back out there two days ago and once again, this trail is just tough.
I don’t mind that I’m now in the most remote part of the whole island (just south-east of the airport in the high mountains to the east driving up), and it now takes me 2 hours just to get up to where I left off.
I’ve been up there 3 times now and each time, was turned back because it’s so thick up there on top with no trail found going the direction I desire.

But, finally, I persevered  and finally found some trail.
Of course it was short-lived (as always up there)
And in another hour, I was once again blazing (hacking) through thick vines and thorny bushes with blood running down my legs.

But, I would continually find trail, only to lose it again, over and over.
This gets hard, especially when it was one of the hottest days of the year so far.
Luckily we had a bit of rain in the past week so, I did find some small seeps of water to drink.
When I was at one of these (after falling down the steep bank surrounding it, I heard a noise  and looked up to see the biggest, fattest, and fastest wild boar (pig) that I’ve ever seen charging around the top of the ridge and coming my way.   Knowing my pepper spray wasn’t real handy, I started screaming and getting my machete ready for a charge.  Luckily he veered off when he heard my scream and turned away.    Whoo!   Talk about an adrenaline rush.

So, I realized after 3 hours or so, that I was not in as good of shape physically as the last few times I’ve been up here and was getting exhausted quickly.
So, hoping for good trail, I sometimes would get a little off my preferred  course to follow some trail that hunters use.
I believe they are hunter trails because I don’t know why else anyone else is up there and I did find a few empty shotgun shells and what looked like an empty .22 caliber ammo box.

Saw a few old, small camps where fires had been built.  Maybe someone was living up there???

Anyway, eventually I was so exhausted that I realized I wasn’t going to make it to the Jung road that was a GPS point I had marked and I bailed out where I saw some rubber trees down below.
Got cleaned up pretty good at a nice small swimming hole I found near a house, but no people.
Walking out the road however, I saw some Thai men drive by on their 3 wheeler looking a bit grim at me.
Usually I get smiles and a wave from Thai people.     Anyway, I finally got the big road and flagged down a  motorcycle taxi who took me back to my bike hidden in the jungle where I started.      It was right on his way so, he was happy for the 60 baht I gave him (he asked for 40).
Next time back, I plan to come in the other way  (from the road) and just meet up with where I left off.  Should be easy ( Yeah Right!)

Below are older posts:

Some of you may recall that I was attacked by a gibbon while doing my trailblazing for my hiking trail of Phuket last year.
I was so worried about going back into his territory that I put it off for over a year.
I wanted to bring some bear (pepper) spray back with me from the US last trip but then found out it is illegal to bring on a plane.

So, I waited and finally bought a small sprayer here in Thailand and went back out there this past week.  Twice.

I had to redo the whole section before the ape as I had accidently  erased the track from my GPS and I do need to have the track complete.   My goal of course, is to create a downloadable track or path so that anyone with a handheld GPS can go out there and hike the trail.
It is far from an easy section and starts with a bushwhack up a very steep mountain with cut bamboo at the top that is a lot like “pickup sticks”.   Very difficult just to get to where I left off from the last section.
Since I’m up in the mountains just to the east of Talang right now, this is by far the wildest portion of the island of Phuket.

So, I went out last week and redid that steep mountain with the bamboo on top and did find a few faint trails on the northern side and eventually got to about 200 meters before the spot where the monkey got me.  (I had marked the spot on the GPS last Feb)

I then found a good trail heading east and took it all the way down to a dirt road about 2 kms before the turn off for Ban Pae waterfall.

So, yesterday I parked my motorbike there (after the pack of 6 or 7 dogs guarding the rubber tree shack there tried their best to get me)  and started back up the trail.    Just before I got to the spot where I came onto this trail, I found a faint trail going right towards the monkey encounter spot.

So, I took a break, got my machete out in one hand and the pepper spray in the other and proceeded very quietly up to the spot.     Guess what?   No monkey today!    I was so glad but, that’s not to say it was uneventful.   About 200 meters past the spot, a swarm of bees seemed to come out of the ground and got me.  I ran and yelled as 2 of them stung me (only) I saw about 15 of them.

I always see many big spiders while doing my hiking here.  I have found that they are not harmful (at least to me) and I look on them as good luck when I see them and try not to bother their webs.

So, the area is abundant with faint trails as the gibbon rehabilitation people must go in there a lot to put food out or whatever.  I did see a cage with fruit inside at one point.

Sticking with my white track on my GPS (this is my preferred route that I designed on Google Earth 4 years ago that connects all the high mountains via ridges and is my desired trail)    I did my best to use their trails when I could with only about 20% bushwhacking in this area.
A few steep climbs later (and a nice swimming hole), I finally left their area (they use red paint on trees to define paths sometimes)

I was up on top and out of the monkey area and now had to decide what to do.   If I bailed out, back down some of their paths to a road, I would have to come through there again.   I wasn’t at all fond of this area after the attack, and even though I wasn’t properly prepared  (I didn’t have much food), I decided to continue on.
I’m not always the smartest planner and should have realized that this section is the wildest part of the whole island, with no access that I could see on Google Earth but, I continued anyway.

Big Cicaeda

Found some trails and one after a while that was right up there on top where I wanted to be.
Came to a junction of trails that seemed recently used that I assumed was a bailout point to the east and the one continueing straight on the ridge, where I wanted the trail to be.
This was probably my worst mistake of the day as I continued on as it was only about 12 noon or maybe 1 PM.

I did find a deep ravine that had water coming out of the rock.  Ah perfect spring and I needed one about now.   Drank the rest of my water and 2 more half-litres and continued.

The trail went for about 500 meters and then (of course) petered out.   Bushwhacking again.   What to do.  I wandered around looking for something as I knew I had to go a long way and didn’t want to go back.  (another mistake)
Finally I decided I had to bail out or risk losing daylight.  (plus I was hungry and tired)

According to my GPS, there was a road to the west exactly one km away.   You think that isn’t far until you are bushwhacking down a steep mountain that is thick with vines, sticker bushes and even mud sometimes.  (I figured this mud is made from rootings of wild pigs as I had heard they were prevalant in this area, although I have yet to see one)

At one point, after a steep slide, trying to stop but not grab thorny vines to slow down, I once again was attacked by a swarm of small bees.   The stings were like a bad jellyfish sting as it was over a square foot area or so.      Once again, I did my best to run away.

I stopped to rest a few times, eating a small portion of my food each time and eventually found a stream that was getting bigger and bigger although it really wasn’t going in the direction I wanted.  I followed it.

A few times it got so thick that I just had to walk in the water and try not to fall down the slippery rocks.  I fell in once and my camera and cell phone got a little wet but, i tried to dry them out right away.   By this point, I was so wet from sweat that the fall in the water didn’t make me any worse except perhaps my shoes were worse.     I was using up all my salt in my body and although I was drinking a lot of water (now that I was following a creek), I would pay for the salt loss later.

Finally about 5 PM, I got to a rubber tree shack and a small dirt track out of there to a road.    
I sat and waited and finally a few motorbikes came and after lots of discussion (they spoke absolutely no English and didn’t seem to understand my Thai) one of them decided to drive me back.
It ended up being about 20 kms back to where my bike was.   The dogs were crazy again but I headed out of there.
Stopped at a restaurant and ordered 2 meals, had a gatorade and ice cream for dessert.

Got home and took 2 magnesium pills and went to bed.  But I couldn’t sleep.  My body  was just cramping up all over.   My neck, hands, legs, feet, even my one finger,  just kept cramping up.    I went out and bought more Gatorade and finally 2 bags of chips for the salt.    Had a fitful night and here I am, still cramping and poor circulation in the morning writing this up.
I hope to go through my camera soon and add some pics to this post.
Thanks for listening.

June 5, 2013

OK, been out a few times since this last entry (above) and getting her done now.
I guess 3 or 4 times since that post above and last week  I bushwhacked back into where I left off last, looking for my GPS track which I do my best to turn on and off when I’m either on my trail or hiking in or out so that I know the way in again.
So, I was glad to be back in some good jungle with wild plants, not much sign of man until I got to the top where, lo and behold, I found a great trail again.
So, it was right where my white line (preferred route) wanted it to be.
I followed all the way down until about 300 meters from the blacktop road (route 4027?) I came to a rubber tree plantation guy’s shack and there was an old guy there who spoke no English (I don’t even know that he spoke Thai as he didn’t seem to understand mine).
He had one broken flip flop on and one good one (although they didn’t match) I felt a bit sorry for him but he seemed right at home up there.

A few more shacks with their dogs barking madly at me and I came to the road which I named exithere as I created a waypoint there.

There was a small store not far away and I was pretty thirsty so, I stopped and bought 2 Thai energy drinks (not the M150 but the sportsdrink) and there were 2 guys there.  I asked them for a ride and said I’d pay them but, on second thought, they looked pretty drunk so I just walked away.   I was walking down the road and a nice, new white SUV stopped and a farang named Peter asked me if I wanted a ride.  Turns out he has a company that does weddings so, we talked business and hopefully we’ll get some from him.

So, today, I went back and parked my bike back at that store after asking.
And went back into the rubber and palm plantations.
Didn’t take long for the dogs to start barking and then I had my first ford of a stream.   (picture to the right) 2013-06-05 10.16.09
It wasn’t deep, but I don’t like swamps and figured I’m going to have a lot of them coming up as it’s pretty flat for the next few miles.

Sure enough, 2 more fords, feet and shoes getting muddy but eventually I found some cattle tracks and followed them a bit.
Got to a power line which was where I need it to be but that got real  swampy fast.
Eventually I came to a small dirt road and hiked out to get a drink at a shop.
I was only about 50 meters from where I wanted to cross the big road and right near the airport.

Planes that were landing were flying right over my head.
So, my goal of reaching the airport today was successful.
I crossed the big road (carefully) and there was a steep bank on the other side so I had to walk the shoulder until I came upon a guy selling cotton candy or something and he had a little log bridge he built across the drainage ditch and right up to the barbed wire fence.
I asked him if I could use his bridge and he really looked at me funny as he didn’t understand at all where I wanted to go (in the rubber tree farm behind him)

Rubber tree farms are the easiest hiking there is here so, I made great time and did another mile, crossed a road and then was bushwhacking in some thick stuff again when I found this big, deep (killer) hole in the ground.   If I fell into that thing, I was dead. I knew that, but had to get awful close to it.  I relied heavily on my walking stick that I always carry as I have to bat down sticker bushes and stuff.

Anyway, a little later, I found some concrete steps in the middle of nowhere and they lead down to a well.
I guess the one before had been abandoned and they just left it.  Very dangerous.

Climbed up again steeply through bushwhacking and bananas and rubber and came out at a small road which I marked cutbank on my Gps.
Great views from here and I took some pictures back (south) of the airport runway and a beautiful WAT (temple) or so I thought.,
I ended up checking it out and a guy there told me it was going to be someone’s house!!!

2013-06-05 11.54.25  Phuket airport from Luxury House.


June 11, 2013
Out again today even though we’ve had 3 days of hard rain.
You can tell the end is in sight because I normally don’t like swamps and I had to walk in a lot of water today.
But, before that, I had one of my hardest descents from the hill with all the radar towers on about 2 miles north of the airport.
Coming off the north side, I had nice trail for a while and then I didn’t.
It wasn’t too bad at first as I could follow a barbed wire fence even though it was very thick.
I just had my machete sharpened and that was totally necessary as I chopped through a lot today.
Got stuck in vines a lot and had a steep, descent in thick thick jungle.
Had a few minor falls, once on rocks but was OK>
Told myself when I got to the bottom, I’d call it a day, but then it got easy.
Actually had a bridge to cross a stream that was roaring.  Even stopped to take a picture of it.
Wasn't sure it was going to hold me

Wasn’t sure it was going to hold me

Then I got to a large cleared area on the last real hill.
It was easy for a while but then I ran into where it had just been cleared and lots of brush around.

Met some workers there who were clearing it.
They were a little surpised to see me I think.
Seemed  like a whole family, perhaps Burmese people, about 5 or 6 or them.
Down the other side was full of mudslides and then the nicest rubber plantation I ever saw>
Only problem was between the rows there was often water I had to walk through.
Once it was thigh deep.
Got really far today but eventually came to a big, moving stream (normally) that today I’ll call a small river.
I wasn’t going to ford that as I had no idea how deep it could be and it was moving pretty good too.
So, I had a long hitch back and ended up paying a guy 200 baht ($6) to take me 9 kms.

Traffic back home really sucked and it took me 1 1/2 hours as I had the truck today because I was expecting rain.

I’ll take the motorbike next time.
If I’m lucky, and can get across that river, and not too many hurdles, I think I can finish on another long day!

We’ll see.

Friday June 21, 2013:  SUCCESS at Last!

Finished the trail today!   Put in a long day as I figure I went 10 kms on the trail and then walked over the bridge into Phangnga looking for a nice restaurant for a celebration dinner and then walked all the way back to my truck.  So, at least 20 kms today.

After contemplating Google Earth for a while, it looked like a crossing that perhaps motorbikes use about 100 meters from my Big Creek waypoint where I couldn’t get through last time.  So, sure enough, the river was wider and shallower there and motorbikes had used it in the drier parts of the year.     2013-06-21 12.03.09

After crossing, found some nice country for walking and often small trails that I connected together.    Went by only a few houses and then some fairly big coconut plantations.
I knew there were 3- 5 star hotels nearby so I wanted to stay away from them but Phuket really narrows here so, I ended up walking under a huge powerline for a while until it got too swampy as I was walking in knee-deep water for too long.    So, after clearing the last big hotel (JW Marriott)  I headed for the beach and walked the woods nearby until I got to the restaurants and then I hit the sand.    Came around the point and got my first glimpse of the bridge.   Good feeling and nice country here as it is a National Park.

Watched some fishermen throwing their nets around the point as I had to go about another km after 1st eyeing the bridge.
Finally got up on the bridge and called my wife.    After congratulations, I asked a Chinese tourist to take my picture in the middle of the bridge.

2013-06-21 14.20.18

Then I walked over into PhangNga and turned right (east) to the end of that road looking for a good restaurant as the one near the bridge looked closed.   On the way back, I saw some people were eating there so, had my congratulatory dinner there within sight of the bridge and got the waiter to take my picture.    Had to walk all the way back to my truck as I had to go through the police/army checkpoint this time and no one wanted to pick me up for that.   So, I got my exercise in today.    20 kms.
A good feeling all around.

Except:  Now what?

What’s next?

We’ll see.

Success and Dinner.

Success and Dinner.

The entire route has now been uploaded to a website where anyone can download it and install it on your own GPS and go out and follow my route.    The link is here.


Good luck!   Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Since many people ask me about this trip that we did 8 years ago in the USA’s 3 longest hiking trails, here are our journal entries for the first leg of that journey: The Appalacian Trail.
We started out from Mt. Katahdin in Maine (northern terminus of the AT) on Oct 14, 2001 and finished this leg on Feb 10, 2002 at Springer Mt. Georgia (southern terminus).
Sorry, the logs are backwards starting at the end.  But the dates are correct.

Springer Mountain final arrived.  What a grand finish to such a demanding trail.  It had rained over night leaving a heavy overcast day with mist.  After seven miles we made it.  On top there were a total of  eight including  our selves.  Seven of the eight had 92,000 miles between us.  Know that is some walking.  The list of friends goes like this;  Diamond Dave, Looney, Shirt, Sly, Nimble Wheel Nomad, Fiddlehead, Tom Horn, and myself Pieps.  We partied as hard as eight people in the woods could. We even had some of that Tennessee corn liquor left.  It was hard to say good bye to all of our friend.  Shirt has also left us.  Shirt you are missed.

Feb 09th
Via Diamond Dave:

I came in last night with some much need supplies.  Had a little warm-up celebration at Neals Gap.  Great Weather.  They say they are starting to see more and more people. I  wanted to see what it’s like to hike with the Big Dogs .  I jumped in from Gooch Gap to High Tower.  I stayed with them for maybe 4 miles, but I could see their brakes smoking. They were like horse going to the barn at the end of the day. They were kicking rocks back at me as I labored up the slopes. I looked down and they were gone.  Hay! don’t think I’m pumping these guys up.  If I can do it anybody can.  We worked on the van at lunch, replacing a few ignition parts. Looney took it to the next nights site, and in her words, the van was “responsive and a pleasure to drive.”  Team triple crown is ready to get their road trip on.

Feb 7
From the driver’s eyes:

Drove into Hiawassee yesterday and got a Holiday Inn  Express room…not quite sure what the express was….unless it had something to do with the presence of a coffee maker, refridgerator, microwave, iron, ironing board, phone in the bathroom, hairdryer, pull out couch, two beds, (all in the room), not to mention the pool, Jacuzzi, gym and laundry.  So,  if a person were to take advantage of it all, would it really be an “express” experience??  “GAWD”, what a luxury for Team Triple crown.
Did a little grocery shopping with the boys, sent them on their way at Dicks Creek gap,  spent the day with Tom Horn and Shirt at Unicoi Gap, sent them ontheir way, and  was reacquainted with F and P…looking forward to watching Bob Marley on DVD tonight.  Yup, life is rough for the driver!

All right, I’m back…just finished the Bob Marley DVD….the thought of the night:   Fiddlehead may have to start drinking from a sippy cup soon.  He’s been having problems with spillage as of late.

AND I forgot to mention this before, but yesterday…I found out that my cat Emma, who escaped the night before I came out on this trip was found, and my wallet that I left on top of my car as I left a gas station is safe and sound at the Kernersville Police station.  So…good vibes are flowing.

Feb 6
Well I failed to write a log for yesterday, so I will do so now.  The 5th we hiked 17 miles to end at Deep Gap or so we thought.  We were to meet the van at the gap for the end of the day.  Well the van was not there.  We built a fire and hung out for an hour before heading down the road the only way out via road.  After walking on the road it was obvious that no cars had been up the road in some time.  We walked an extra 5 miles to get to a gate were the van was waiting for us.  It end much better with a camp fire and banana boats.
Today started with the birthday of Robert Nesta Marley.  It started snowing around 6 o’clock in the morning.  It snowed about 3 inches before it turned to rain.  Today has ended with a hotel room at the Holiday Inn with a Jacuzzi.  We also hit the all you can eat as well, with one planned for tomorrow.

Feb 4
Pieps here writing tonight.  What a sucky  day today was.  It all started with a phone call to AT&T.  Do I need to say anything else.  They want me to verify an address with two forms of I.D.  Well I can not do that.  The price for being homeless “priceless”.  I told them the whole list of general delivery address.  Well enough of that.
We meet Tom Horn yesterday.  What a great person.  He is out on his yearly winter hiking trek.  He told us he has hike about 22,000 miles on the A.T.   Now that is some walking.  We all got our super bowl game on last night as well. With the aid of  some white lighting and cold beers.  What a game that was.
It has turned cold fast.  Not three days ago it was  65 and full sun for us in the Smokies.  Tonight it is already down to 22 degrees and it is only 8:00 pm.  Sure do love my 40 below zero sleeping bag.

Jan 31st
Here at Fontana Dam after my biggest day so far,  40.3 miles today!    From Newfound Gap today, I didn’t see one hiker or ranger or signs of any.   Hard to believe the Smokies could be 50-60 degrees on the last day of January and nobody out here hiking it besides us.     I guess it was 9,700 feet of climbing today and 13,000 feet of descent.   My calves are a bit sore but not too bad.  I’m getting in shape!    Again with the warm weather, we got the spring like smells even though it still looks like winter.     Enjoyed the free showers here at the Fontana Dam Visitor Center.

Jan 30th
What an awesome 2 days in the Smokies!    I’ve hiked here 4 times and every other time it was either raining or snowing.  And that was in April and May!     We’ve had 60 degree temps and clear blue skies and no one on the trail.   Except for a pleasant surprise running into Big Jon and Gourmet Dave this afternoon near Charles’ Bunion.   They came down here from the Ruck to hike about 130 miles and saw us on their first day.     We have been experiencing what seems like spring days with the smells of decaying earth, and new plants.    It just doesn’t’ seem to make sense that it is still January!      Stayed in Cosby Knob Shelter last night with the shelter mice and built a nice fire inside.    It sure has been a pleasant journey through the 1st half of the Smokies.    Also, we saw our 1st northbounder that started this year,  a guy named David and he is here at Newfound Gap eating some food with us.   He started Jan 1st.

Jan 28th
Well, we did our 35 mile day coming into Hot Springs.   Twas  a beautiful day and mostly downhill at the end when the legs started getting tired.   Yesterday we took off at Sly’s house in Black Mt.  and watched some football     Looney came back as our driver and we said goodbye to Sly and Cheryl.    Had a great time with them and lots of stories.   Now today we hiked to Brown’s Gap from Hot Springs (23 miles)  and drove back to Max Patch to watch the full moon come up and take some video. (Pieps is actually breaking out the tripod!) Today was in shorts and shortsleeves all day as it was in the 60s.  We stopped so many times today to enjoy the smell of spring, and the beautiful views from the balds.

Jan 25th
After Beauty Spot Bald camp,  we woke up to rain, rain , rain.   Hiked in all day Wed. and then partied with Beer Styk and Nathan in Johnson City, TN.   Woke up to rain again and took a day off at Sly’s house in Asheville.     Felt Great.   Now we are camping at Devil’s Fork Gap in NC after a 21 mile day from Spivy Gap.   Beautiful day over Big Bald and had great views, lots of pictures.  Met our 1stsouthbounder today;  DJ.  He’s been on and off the trail since May and we showed him how Team Triple Crown does lunch.  In style!    They seem to have been working on the road at Sam’s Gap for decades now.    We’re hoping for a big mileage, nice day all the way to Hot Springs tomorrow.   We shall see!   fh

Jan 22nd
22 miles today to Beauty Spot and an awesome spot it is!   An eventful day as Sly, our present support driver,  was not at the prearranged spot and as we went on, later in the day, he showed up on the trail, northbound!    Said the road was all ice and he couldn’t get it either up or down.   We had forgotten to tell him about the chains.   So we had to hike down the mtn. to the van and put on the chains,  then he drove to Beauty spot where we met him for a beautiful sunset and view up here.   The trail has about 2-3 inches of snow on it and much has melted and frozen again and is black ice.   It’s a challenge but fun.

Jan 21st
Got up to rain this  morning at 5:30 AM.    I had a rough day.     I  took the old AT by mistake and got lost.   Then hit the Sugar Hollow road and got attacked by the pack of dogs there.   3 were rottweilers, and 3 or 4 others all were loose.   They circled me and all I could do was pick up a very rotten stick and acted super tough with it.    Took a while but I walked backwards until I got away.   Talk about scared!!!    Then while I was still shook up,  I went the wrong way and went about 4 miles before I realized it!    Makes for a long day.   But the afternoon was so beautiful with Little and Big Hump and Round Bald Mt.  With about 4 inches of snow and ice on the trail, they were truly spectacular!   Got lots of pictures and finally made it to Carvers Gap about 5: 30 PM.   Long Day but was pleasantly surprised to find “Beer Styck”   (thru hiker we met in Maine while still with Boss Hogg)     So, I’ve got to go party, later, fh

Jan 18th
Said goodbye to Jack and Jan this morning and headed back out to the trail at TN rt 91.  It was so good hangin out with them and enjoying all their hospitality!   It snowed last night and early this morning so we had about 2 inches of snow until about noon.   Turned out to be a beautiful day as we came in to the Watauga Dam section of the trail.    Blue sky, clear,  great views of the lake and dam.   Saw some green grass today so you know we’re in the south as it’s the middle of winter up north in Yankee country.  Going to Dennis Cove and a hostel there to meet “Slyman”  as he will  be our next driver.  fh

Jan 17th
We’re here at Jack’s.  (insufferable drunken hog)  and Jan’s for our 3rd night.    Took a day off yesterday after hiking into Damascus and seeing Lone Wolf, Skid, Jack and Looney all at Dot’s!     good to be here after such a long state.    Today we entered Tennessee and got styled out 3 different places on the trail.    Lone Wolf and Gypsy met us at our mile 11 with treats this morning, then Looney met us at mile 14 with lunch and then Jack hiked into the shelter and had a fire and second lunch ready when we got there.  Damascus is a great trail town and we haven’t been disappointed at all.   Saw old friends, resupplied,  got on line, partied and hiked into  a new state.   It’s all good, fh

Jan 14th
Today marks the completion of 3 months on the trail and one day away from finishing VA!    Also we are now ¼ of the way through the year.    And what a great day it was.  One of my favorite sections of the trail south of the whites, today we hiked through Grayson Highlands State Park with it’s wild ponies and western style terrain with open views throughout the day!     Very beautiful although the pictures didn’t come out too good today because it was a cloudy day.      But no complaints for sure!     Did the side trail to the top of Mt. Rogers to bag the highest peak in Va.    26 miles total and I’m tired as we did our share of climbing today rising to the high point at 5,780 feet on my altimeter.     Looking forward to Damascus and a badly needed day off tomorrow.   fh

Jan 13th
Well,  Bucky and Bearcharmer Sue went home after Looney got here.   We were camped near Bland , Va.    They were great supporters and saw us everyday on the trail as they did a lot of hiking while they were out here with us.     So, we hiked 26 miles that day, then 19 yesterday to get in early to watch football at Atkins where we got a motel room.   Watched the Eagles kick Tampa Bay in the 1st round of the playoffs!    Left early this morning and hiked 26 miles past the Mt. Rogers Forest Service building and new shelter (only people with permits can stay there,  doesn’t make much sense to me to put up what must be a $20,000 shelter and then not let hikers stay there unless they can procure a permit somehow)   who knows what lurks in the minds of these people who make those rules!!!     It was  a beautiful day but cold, with snow on the ground but deep blue sky.

Jan 09
Here we are at Va rt 606 near Dismal falls after doing 23 miles today that felt like 28.    Left Pearisburg at 7 and climbed Angels rest with good views looking back at Pearisburg.  Shirt says:  “when your shoes have more than 2500 miles on them, they’re not gonna grip very good on the snow!”       The snow was such a consistency today that Bearcharmer built a snowman.   We met up with her and Bucky for lunch near the tower and view.   Met a fat guy at Wapiti shelter who told us about a murder there in the 80’s  (and other things)     Twas a beautiful day and the snow has mostly melted now.     Finished the day off with fiddlehead’s favorite meal:  curry chicken with rice and corn while listening to Pink Floyd with my awesome friends.    Hot Chocolate and chocolate Christmas candy’s  mm  mm good,        can’t get no better than this!!! fh

Jan 08
Here in Pearisburg Va after 27 miles.   Spent a cold night up on Salt Sulphur Turnpike.   It was windy and blowing snow and ice all night and we were glad to be in the van while Bearcharmer Sue and Bucky slept in their tent!    They are hardcore!!!    The hike today was all in the snow and very very scenic!    Beautiful white twigs and branches all day with blue skies.   Met up with Bucky and Sue at Rice Field Shelter where we had incredible views.    Got to town hoping to go to the hostel but found out it is closed for the winter.   Once again, we find an AT classic spot closed for the season on us.   We did see 2 other hikers at shelters that they had slept at last night.   It’s good to finally see other hikers out here.   That’s 3 thru-hikers and 2 overnighters in the last 4 days!

Jan 07
It was a snowy 25 miles.  The snow is only about two inches deep, so walking and running was not a problem.  The feet were however wet and cold.  Yesterday the 6th was a zero day meaning we hiked zero miles.  Stayed with Purple Haze and watched football all day.  The day   off was also a snowy and rainy day, so setting around doing nothing while the weather was foul was extra nice.  Purple Haze is a fellow thru hiker who hiked the A.T. in 95.
We all are having thoughts of warmer spots (i.e. New Mexico)  soon enough.

Jan 05th
Hiked 23 miles today to rt. 621 where we are at the closest point to Blacksburg, Va where my friend: Purple Haze lives, so we are heading there for the night.  Came over Dragons Tooth this morning on a beautiful day!     Saw some hunters who hunt with dogs for bear.  They were pretty excited about a bear they were after.      Saw 2 northbounders today:  Oato and Sy  (sp?)      talked to them for a long time.   They had southbounded in 96 and now with they’re nov. start,  should once again see practically no other hikers out here.   Great day!

Jan  4th
After enjoying and AYCE dinner last night and the Shoney’s AYCE breakfast this morning,  we slowly climbed up the mtn this morning to Tinker cliffs and MacAfee Knob.    It was a beautiful day, warmer,  bright blue skies,  less wind, with no pollution to hamper the views.     Saw Bearcharmer and Bucky as they hiked about 10 miles after moving our van for us.    Took lots of pictures today on Tinker and MacAfee.  Now we are camped and cooking our own food again.   With Joyce gone and the restaurants behind us,  it’s back to hamburger helper tonight.    Everything was great today except Pieps still hasn’t paid off the bet he lost to me on the championship game last night.   Oh well,  you can’t have everything.      fh

Jan 03rd
Hiked 28 miles today in some cold weather and about an inch of snow.   Shirt is getting in shape pretty quickly for being off so long.   Buck and Bearcharmer met us at the 3rd shelter today (Fulhart Knob Shelter)   And we finally met our first northbounder!   A guy named “Frosty”  who expects to get to Katahdin in April!    We don’t understand how he could get through the whites at that time,  but,  good luck to him!       So we enjoyed a quiet (no traffic at all)  hike today parrelleling the Blue Ridge Parkway.    The wind’s have picked up and we have a wind chill now that’s bitter.    But, we are in a motel tonight in Cloverdale watching the Championship NCAA football game.   Pieps went to Nebraska but they are getting hammered.      Enjoyed and AYCE at the Country Kitchen.  Looking forward to the AT famous “Shoney’s AYCE”  Breakfast Buffet tomorrow.

Jan 01
I guess it’s been a few days again since I wrote.   We are now in the middele of VA.  We crossed  the James River this morning on the new million dollar bridge.  Can you believe the Federal government would spend that kind of money on hiker trash?  It was nice.  The weather is cold and the  river was partially frozen.  Yesterday being New Years Eve we spent the night in a hotel and throw back a couple of cold ones in a nice heated room.  We faild to stay awake for the midnight dropping of the ball.  It is hard to stay awake after the sun sets.  Joyce has been treating us right.  She always has hot lunches ready along with hot water for tea, and for that very reason I must end this log.

Dec 29th
Twas a long night last night till we finally got  “30 seconds” here.   We couldn’t believe the size of this 5’2” girl’s pack!   It’s the biggest pack we’ve ever seen.  I don’t know how these people can carry a pack this size.   Anyway,  it was really windy, last night,  so much so that Pieps’ tent pole broke.    Had a big breakfast this morning and headed out early and hiked past Rusty’s cut off, over the mtn and down to route 56 at the Tye river where we are camping.   We’re ready for the BIG climb tomorrow that’s called the “Priest”!     Cold day with lots of wind, snow in the air, it seems like winter.   But we can’t complain after all the unseasonably warm weather we had thru southern New England to Pennsylvania.    It’s all good.

Dec 28th
Well, our 2nd day back with Shirt and he was the 1st one in today.    We are out of the Park.    Have a little saga going on with the “Dog” (Greyhound)    But , for now, we are camped near the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Blackrocks.    Cooking dinner waiting for another call from our friend who is riding Greyhound for the 1st time and is not with her luggage, not near where she’s headed,   not getting here on the correct day,  and , well to tell you the truth,  we have no idea where she is anymore.       More on that later……………
Did 24 miles today and went on a hunt for mail, buses, friends, backpacks and the van!  Good to be out of the park though and camping again near where we start and end the day.    Rules, rules, rules have turned us off from the beauty that comes with the park.

Dec 27
Sorry, I haven’t done the log for about 3 or 4 days now.   We’ve been home for Christmas.     Drove home on the 23rd, and chilled out on the sofa watching football for a few days.    Then on Christmas Eve, the parties started   we ate lots of great  food, saw lots of old friends,  (my whole family was home)   Had a big party on Christmas night at my house and woke up with big hangovers but tons of leftover food and headed back down here to the Shenendoah Nat. Park where it’s cold again.   But we have “Shirt” back with us again.   He decided this was better than working so he came back out and met us here yesterday.    Hiked about 26 miles today to break him back in properly.   One more day and we’ll be out of this park.   The rules are getting longer and longer and I can’t even remember them all anymore.    So, we’re back, with Joyce driving and the 3 of us hiking together again.    We have so much food in the van right now.   I think everyone we visited gave us Christmas cookies and we are lovin THAT!       Good to be back.  fh

Dec 21st
Just finished our biggest day so far;  39 miles from just north of the Shenendoah Park, to Hawksbill Gap!    And on the winter solstice.   So  our longest day was done on the shortest day, if that makes any sense.     It was a ccold day for this first day of winter.  Ice on the rocks again.  We haven’t seen THAT since the whites.   But it was blue skies and maximum visibility although very windy with bitter cold temps.
This Park has some strange rules which is going to make things tough for us.  There are only 4 access points in this 107 miles and they are all closed except from 8 AM to 5 PM every day.   I saw an albino deer among the many deer in the park.   I stopped counting at 30 and that was around 10 am.    So we are going to a Motel as Joyce is coming to run support for a while and Rainman and Bridget are heading home for the Holidays.   Once again we thank our support people so much.  We couldn’t do it with these big miles without them in this weather.   So we are now about a week ahead of our schedule although we will be taking 2 days off for Christmas at my house.   fh

Dec 19th
We’ve been havin so much fun, I haven’t written in a few days.   Hiked into Maryland on Sunday and got done early so we could go watch football at a bar called “Blondie’s” near Pen Mar.   20 miles Sunday and 22 Monday into Harpers Ferry where we went to the ATC headquarters and got our picture taken by Wendall who was volunteering that day.  Tried to see Brian King and Lori but they were too busy.    Had a great stay with Rerun who has hiked the AT at least 2 times and maybe 3!   He is now 83 years old and tried again in 99 only to stop in New England after he thought he was getting in peoples way.  Then yesterday, (Tuesday)  we hiked into Harper’s Ferry and stopped to do some shopping at the Outfitter there and hiked on to do another 22 miles.
Today, we did about 23 to Sky Meadow’s State Park just after Ashby Gap.  Rainman and Bridgett are cooking us beef stew in the dutch oven tonight.   Her brother drove her all the way down here from NH and then turned around and drove home.   We hear that there’s lots of snow now up there and it’s nice and warm here.   Glad we’re southbound.

Dec 15th
Hiked 25 miles today to this dirt road (Swamp Road)  about 5 miles south of Caledonia state park here in Pa.     Easy hiking again today and it’s so easy to tell it’s a Saturday as we saw at least 10 day hikers.    The sun was out all day but the temps dropped about 20 degrees from yesterday.   The rain filled the creeks and springs and Rainman cooked us chicken and broccoli and mashed potatoes.    It doesn’t get much better!     Last night we enjoyed Shawn’s company at the Iron Masters Hostel in Pine Grove Furnace so we all watched our Led Zeppelin DVD with some Pete’s Wicked Ale !    Should cross the Mason-Dixon line tomorrow.

Dec 14th
Here at Pine Grove Furnace State Park after 20 miles in the rain today.    Gonna call it a day.   It’s nice to have an experienced AT hiker for our driver with Rainman.   He meets us a few times a day and has the place checked out for water, camping, people, etc.     PA needs the rain so we ain’t complainin!  It’s Friday night and our friends from York may be over to greet us.   Hope so.   The Delorme map program we’re using is working great.    Rainman’s been experimenting and we’re getting profile maps, (of the AT)  distance between any points we enter.     The hiking is easy.   It’s all good.  fh

Dec 13th
Hiked 25 miles from the “Doyle”  to the ATC regional office here in Boiling Springs, Pa.
Last night we had a nice visit from Yahtzee who was with us in Maine.  It was great to see him and tell the Boss Hogg /war stories.    He finished his AT hike a month ago and is missing the trail big time.    Thanks for the Yuengling , Yahtzee! Easy hiking here in Pa and the flatlands of the Cumberland Valley.    Saw Rainman at 13 miles for some lunch and finished our 25 by 2 PM!   Drove to our friend’s Deb and Gene Galbraith in Holly Springs.   Deb is a massage therapist and Joyce called in an order for a massage for each of us.    So, not only did she cook us a great dinner, but also worked most of the evening on our muscles!    Had a great stay.   Life is good.

Dec 12th
Here in Duncannon Pa after a few days of setting up shuttles and then hiking and heading back home afterwards.    But now we are on the road again with Rainman driving for us so, it’s no wonder that we find ourselves at the “Doyle” Hotel here today having a few beers.    Met a northbounder in the bar there too.   Amazing how many people we see off the trail but haven’t seen many at all on the trail.    Anyway,  Rainman had some problems yesterday driving down from NH and Hoffy has once again saved the day!    Rainman broke down about 8 miles from our exit on I81 and got towed into St. Clair and Hoffy’s to get his wheel bearing fixed.    We owe a lot to our mechanic.   Now he’s even keeping our support crew in tune and running again.    So, we have the woods back to ourselves again and it’s nice!     An easy 17 today as we got a late start, but the miles should pick back up tomorrow.   fh

Dec 10th
Haven’t written in a few days because we’ve been HOME!   Got to Eckville and Lazee’s house on Wed.   Had a few beers and stayed there.   Then we hiked to Port Clinton and had the biggest cheese steak I’ve ever had there.  So, we went back that night with 11 friends and had a big dinner.   They sure give you HUGE portions.     Lots of hunters in the woods, so we took the next day (sat) off.    Yesterday we had a few friends: Woody and Shmitty hike with us between Port Clinton and 183.   They tired quickly but did good.   Now that we are home,  so many people seem to be trying to outdo each other and bake us cakes and goodies.   We are trying to eat it all but it’s getting tough.   The refrigerator here is so full and we must leave here for good after tomorrow.      Rainman is coming tomorrow to drive for a while.   That’ll be fun as we’ve hiked lots of miles together.    Can’t wait.

Dec  5th
We’re here at Lazee’s place after hiking 20 miles today and 25 yesterday with Larry (Mr. Blister)  driving the van.   He cooked us a big dinner in Wind Gap and then we went to my buddy Joe’s house (after he spotted us on the I80 bridge over the Delaware river the other day)   Joe cooked Thai food for us but gave us some terrible news:  Gelzen (our Sherpa from Nepal)  was turned back by immigration at the NYC airport and sent back home to Nepal.     It’s been a rough one to handle and I’ve certainly been contemplating the problems this causes all day.    It’ll be tough to do much from the trail.    Anyway,  we’re near my home and hangin out at Lazee’s waitin for him.   The trail is rocky but relatively flat so the big miles are pretty easy.   Water is becoming a problem though as most of the springs are dry.    We see there’s a southbounder one day in front of us,   it would be nice to see one but, tomorrow we’re planning a day off at my house with some more work needed on the van.     Big Bear came for Larry today so he’s helped us move 3 times now.     What would we do without our friends?    Oh yeah,  today the temps were in the high 60’s.   It even smelled like springtime out there in this crazy December!

Dec 3rd
We’re here with Larry “Blister” in Wind Gap, PA.   Larry’s cooking us a big dinner with mashed potatoes with garlic butter and cream, roasted chicken, 3 kinds of sweet corn, mixed, apple cider and for dessert, a huge cake (pound)   !   It just keeps getting better!   Nice easy ridge walk hiking today.  This is actually the 1st place I ever hiked on the AT. Back when I was about 13 years old with the Boy Scouts.   I bet I was carrying a heavier pack back then.    Saw my buddy Joe on the bridge as we were walking across this morning.   (how wild is that?)     Good to be in PA.   Life is good. fh

Dec 1
Said goodbye to Gazelle and aTiff this morning after a BIG breakfast  after last night’s AYCE (Chinese)    Great visit and now they are moving our van to Del. Water Gap.   So today’s hike was 28 easy miles finishing up NJ.    What a beautiful day with the unbelievable 60 degree weather.   It brought out the people though today.   Must have seen 50 people on the trail today.   Nice ridge walk and another state down.    We are feeling like we need a day off .  I think it’s been since mid  Vermont  since we had our last 0 mile day.   So, tomorrow is going to   be low mileage with a day off soon.    We are getting the cooler and cupboards stocked almost everyday with all of our NJ friends.  Thanks so much.

Nov 30
Made it to Culver’s Gap in NJ after 20 miles yesterday and 25 today although it felt like more as we hitchhiked last night to a motel to watch the football game as Kansas City (Pieps’ hometown)  vs.  the Philadelphia Eagles.    So we made our bets and got a room.   We finally got some rain today as we got on some ridge walking and the rocks are slippery.   I fell twice on the same spot of my hand.      Mr. Blister is here with homemade pizza and we are going to Gazelle’s house for the night.      Almost to PA.   Feelin Good!

Nov 28th
Just said goodbye to Big Bear and Mr. Blister after they moved our van today and came out to see us.   (PCT 96 buddies)    This is a great way to see many of your old friends.     So we’ve got full cupboards and many choices for what we eat.  Life is good.   Anyway,  25 tough NY miles today .    Camped here about 6 miles after the Greenwood Lake section.  A place called Longhouse Rd.        Sore knees for me today,  the 1st time that’s happened since VT.
Yesterday we camped with Scott and Ann Hoff,  our mechanic, who came up to do some adjustments on the van.   We owe him so much as our engine blew up 10 days before this trip started and he put the new one in!!!    Now he drives up to check on it and us.    So 25 miles yesterday, and 25 more today.

Nov. 27
Today we hiked/ran 25 miles.  No records were set until we got into camp.  The trail became rocky and have been told that it will stay rocky.  The trail is currently crossing ridges instead of  following it.  So it is a lot of up and down.  Scott and Annie Hoff came out and joined us at Harrimen State Park here in New York, which we are only about 35 miles form the city.  Scott fixed the small van problem we have been having so the space ship should be in good working order.  We were also joined by Big Bear who will be moving the van along with Mr. Blister.  The records that were set last night were the three Yuengling beers FiddleHead and I drank.  For some reason people think we are drinking a lot of beers.  We are not.  Thanks Scott, Annie, Big Bear, and Mr. Blilster.

Nov 26th
Left John and Patty’s this morning after getting them to wake up at our usual 5 AM reveille.   Twas a great stay with lots of: food, hot water,  warm beds, football, and great hospitality.     I forgot how nice NY is on the AT.
Yesterday we got John to come out and hike with us.   He was surprised at how nice his surroundings are having moved to Pawling only 6 months ago.   He led most of the day and surprised  us at how fit he was.   We’ve been out here 42 days now with only 3 days off and he kept up with us.
Today was full of lakes, viewpoints, and oak trees,   yet not many people out here this close to NY city.    We did 26 miles to S. Highland Rd.  where we are camped.   Looking forward to seeing some old friends tomorrow.

Nov  24th
We’re here at our friends house ;  John and Patty Branham’s here in Pawling NY.   Hiked 19 miles by 11AM today because it was raining.    So, we didn’t see a whole lot today except a group of about 15-20 people hiking in the worst part of the rain.   Couldn’t figure that one out.   But we entered NY state today.    Another one bites the dust although Conn. Was very good to us.   We had our speed hike with Ed Kostak,  thanksgiving dinner,   a great visit with the gamemaster; Campfire, and now we’re staying in a beautiful house with our friends from PA who now live here.

Nov 23rd
We’re here with an old hiking friend:  Campfire in New Milford, Ct.   Took a short day after our Thanksgiving dinner.   Only hiked 12 miles today and came to get cleaned up.  Another beautiful day in Conn.     Joyce met us after the river walk and hiked with us.  Saw the website today with the new pictures.   Awesome.    We never know which pictures Boss Hogg is going to put on there until we see them and are usually pleasantly surprised.   Thanks again to our webmaster Boss Hogg.   And all of you who are signing in with support on our message board.    Just when we are wondering how we are going to get the van moved for the next state,  we get messages from friends in that exact area volunteering to help out.    The hiking is the easy part.    No really, we are so thankful to everyone for helping out.

Nov 22nd
Thanksgiving Day!
3 days have passed since I’ve written and it’s getting nicer and nicer the further we go south.    From Tyringham,  we had rain in the morning so I didn’t bring the camera.  Then after trying to have lunch at the bar at rt 7,  (closed on Tuesdays)   we ended up doing 28 by 4pm staying at the picturesque Glen Brook Shelter!     A bit of snow on Everett and into Conn.      Then Ed Kostak  (set the new record for hiking the long trail in 4 ¾ days)  came out and moved the van for us.    Then this morning after camping with us, he hiked 14 miles to Cornwall Bridge with us.   We moved a lot faster today for some reason.   Cornwall Bridge was where we rendezvoused with Joyce who drove up from PA this morning after cooking us an amazing Thanksgiving Dinner complete with all the works!   Turkey, filling, corn, biscuits, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and soon dessert!   Anyway, it’s been one incredible day here in Connecticut along the Housitonic river.

Nov 19th
Stayed in Kay Wood shelter last night aprox. 3 miles south of Dalton Mass.   Rainman and Bridgett and Shirt moved the van for us to here at Tyringham road.   48 miles in 2 days.    I gotta tell ya,   we noticed a big difference from Vermont to Mass:  1st there’s blue sky vs. clouds almost all the time (so far)   2nd,  within a mile of entering mass, we saw our first rhododendrums.   So, the alpine plants are gone and we’re seeing oaks and rhodos, etc.   3rd,  it’s warmer here,  much warmer.    We’re down to shorts and tee-shirts today and had our first shower from the van since northern maine back in mid-oct.    Also, the terrain is definitely  easier,  we did 24.5 today before 3pm!    But the hiking is not so easy as all these oaks drop lots of leaves over the rocks.   I fell hard today on my hip.    So, Shirt went home to make some money so he can continue and now it’s just the 2 of us.    Our friend Ed Kostak is moving the van tomorrow for us and we’re looking forward to Thanksgiving coming up in a few days.   We’re starting to eat like thru-hikers!

Nov 17th
Watched the Leonid Meteor Shower kick off this cold November morning.  A beautiful day for our last day in Vermont. Several  hunters out this morning along the trail. An easy rolling trail all the way to Massachusetts.  Rainman moved the van to Mount Greylock and we will see him again this evening. Nice pools along Sherman Brook which we followed into the town of North Adams.  The climb out of town was a steep one up the shoulder of Greylock . At one lookout a glider sailed by close enough to get a good look at the pilot.  As planned we met Rainman  at Notch Rd. and had a few snacks and hot drinks. We all piled in his van and went to the summit since it was a beautiful blue sky day to see our last weeks route and the upcoming trail. No camping here so we went  back down the mountain and out of the preserve. Rainman cooked up steaks for us. He’s been to see us in four states now and really taken care of us. We are looking forward to tonight’s meteor shower peak and if they don’t lock the gate we’ll be going back to the summit sometime around 3am

Nov 16th
Here at Rt. 9 near Bennington, VT.  after  2 days of 20 miles each from Manchester where Karine dropped us off.    Easy hiking and bit variety in shelters.   Spruce Peak was an enclosed cabin with woodstove,   and Kid Gore and Canawaugagwa were tiny, rustic cabins built before WWII!      Ready for another state tomorrow.   Slept at Story Spring Shelter which was visited by a pack of coyotes around 9 pm last night.     The “Shithouse door”  was lit around 6.     Now we’re hoping to see Rainman again tonight as he usually comes out to camp with us on Fridays and then moves the van.    The miles are getting easier but the days shorter.    Lovin it!   fh

Nov 14th
Here at Bromley where Blister Sister helped us put our van this morning.    Slight drizzle,  easy day:  only 17 miles.   We’re not making big miles right now, but having lots of fun and stylin out at Blister Sister’s house every night.    We call it resting up for when we do have a driver again.    Boss Hogg says he is coming back to help as is Joyce for Thanksgiving.    Saw a bull moose today.   1st one I’ve seen in VT.   the heater was on at the warming hut at Bromley peak.  Nice.   Looking forward to seeing Rainman again this weekend.   Moving the van ourselves tonight and using Blister Sister’s truck.  Thanks again.      fh

Nov 12th
Sitting here at Magic Mt. Taking a day off.    Came over Killington yesterday with about 4-5 inches of snow.    17 mils yesterday to Clardendon.     It’s been cold and now it’s hunting season in VT.    we heard a bear was shot near us from a hunter on a 4 wheeler all dressed in orange.   We saw 2 hikers in the last 2 days.   That’s pretty rare except when we realized it was a weekend.     Blister Sister is sure taking care of us here with a big home cooked dinner last night complete with apple pie ala mode!      So, it’s football and watching the snow flurries from a warm spot instead of hiking in it.    Seeing the website for the 1st time in a while.   Great job Boss Hogg!    The whites look very arduous  with all the snow.   The deepest snow was on our climb up to Moosilauke.     fh

Nov 11
Today was a short day.  We did 15 miles and they felt great.  Yesterday (nov 10)  was a day  off or a zero day.  Let me tell you now there is nothing better then setting around and eating, along with some Monday Night Football.  Blister Sister has put us up for a couple of nights while we hike.  The hot showers and the warm house is out of  this world.  Blister Sister is a hiking friend of the three of us from the PCT and the AT.   Thanks Sister.
The days have been in the mid 30’s  and the lows in the low 20’s to upper teens.  The 15 miles today came easy.  We had not had a day off for about 10 days now and the body was screaming for a day off.

Nov 9th
Came into Hanover NH yesterday after 17 miles from the DOC skyway.    Cool weather. Great for slow jogging.    So, we hit the big town, checked email’s at the college, found Baltimore Jack.    Went to his place and got cleaned up and met his landlord: Dave.  Good guy with lots of stories  Went back to town for pizza and beer.    Today we got those guys up early  (5:30AM)   to say goodbye and hit the trail on a windy day.  Easy terrain here in Vermont after NH’s tough mtns.    Nice fields,   saw a northbounder about to finish today.   First thru hiker we’ve seen in about 10 days?     Hiked 20 today to Vt rt. 12 where we are going to camp.

Nov 7th
Left Big Jon and Rhia at the “Hiker Welcome” in Glencliff early this morning and climbed Mt. Cube and Smarts Mt.    Snow above 2000′.    Very windy and cold on top of Smarts  but we met Shirt up there.   Descended to Lyme-Dorchester road where we camping.    20 miles today and finished by 4pm after a late start.   So the miles come much easier since the whites.   Saw our first hunter in the woods.  I guess he was hunting deer although we haven’t seen one yet in over 400 miles now.    I doubt he’ll have much luck.       Tomorrow should bring us to Hanover and the Vt. border.

Nov 6th
Here in Glencliff NH, after another snow day.   Coming over Moosilauke today with over a foot of snow and 50-60 mph winds.  Pieps says it was full-on up there.   Hiked 15 miles total.   After yesterdays 8-10 inches of fresh snow, we are a bit worn out.   Looking forward to having dinner with Big Jon and Rhia tonight at the “Hiker Welcome” hostel.  Pieps says it was a big snow day with drifts up to 3 ft.   near the top we thought we saw someone elses track but after following them for a while, realized they were fresh moose tracks up there.    Crazy moose is all I can say.

Nov 4th
Here we are at Franconia Notch after some tough, but beautiful miles over the Franconia range.   Left Rainman and co. early yesterday morning and after some awesome views from zealand peak lookout,  continued up to Garfield ridge with all the weekenders.   About 12 people spent Sat. night in tents while we had the shelter and a fire.     Early this morning, Lafayatte was covered in ice and when we got to the top,  we found 4 French Canadians who spent the night there.    The sun burnt through while we were up there and it was another great day above treeline.     2 more days in the whites and then things should ease up a bit.

Nov 2nd
Just finished out marathon hike over mt . Washington!    26 miles from Pinkham notch to here at Crawford notch.   And 260 yds up the hill to the van makes it a marathon distance!    Shirt moved the van and then hiked all the way up to mt. Wash. too.  We met right near the top.   Then we cruised down some tough trail to get here just at dark.  Had some great weather for Nov. though.   A bit windy but relatively warm.   Saw about 6 other hikers in those 26 miles.   None near Washington though.   Rainman is supposed to meet us here but hasn’t arrived yet.    Bridgett is cooking dinner but we may start cooking something ourselves as we are quite hungry, tired, sore, and just plain worn out.
This is a 2 day log as yesterday we took a day off and didn’t write anything.   Spent most of the day with Pieps’ friends:  Bob and Jen who live in Maine but not far.   They have a lot of dogs.  (Sled dogs)    After the 21 miles across the Carters and then with Mt. Wash. coming up,  we were glad it snowed so we had an excuse for a rest.    I’m so glad we waited as it would’ve been tough in all the snow that was up there yesterday.  Today most of it melted.

Oct 31
Went to town yesterday  and shopped.  Gaiters, water bottle, mittens, for me.  Ate at Burger King,  which really sucked.   We’ve been eating good , cooking in the van when it’s cold and outside when nice.     Today was a classic day with all the carter’s, wildcat, moriah,  and all the rest.    Great views all day.   We kept thinking ; maybe we should’ve climbed wash. today!    The hiking is great.    Nobody out here but us.   Except in carter notch hut,  it was crowded and hot.     Tomorrow is the big day.    The camera is not liking this cold weather.   Hopefully we’ll figure it out.    On to hot showers.

Oct 30th
Here at Gorham, NH.   After an overnight at Gentian Pond shelter.   It was 2 cold days hiking through the ice and snow.    Using the icewalkers to go up the steep stuff.   Mahoosic Notch was truly a playground with the snow and small pack.   Finally out of Maine and into NH.   It was a rough but beautiful state.  Bologna sandwiches are calling me.   (we’ve been talking about them for days)   Might have to get some warmer gloves and better gaiters for the rough trail ahead.   Right now it’s off to the PO to mail this to Boss Hogg.

Oct 28
Last night we erected our van tent.  It was a true success, stopping the wind and adding about ten degrees to the outdoor temperture.  The party how ever was short but sweet, with Burt, Christine, and Alden. Today we climbed Moody Mtn., Hall Mtn., and the Bald Pates for a twenty mile day.   With the snow that has fallen in the last two day all the peaks were icy.  The Bald Pates are above tree line and they were extremely slick.  The three of  us only had on running shoes so a lot of falls.  In one fall I tore my new gloves and bent my new trekking pole.  Maine has been tough and at times unforgiving.  With the snow and ice I wonder how tough Mt. Washington is going to be.  Well soon enough we will know.

Oct 27
Drove up from Peaveys this morning after a great stay!   Left the van and headed into the flurries from Maine 17 near Oquassic, Me.      Met some northbounders “Little Train” and Heatmiser.      It snowed most of the day on this first day of deer season for Mainers.  Saw no hunters in the woods.   But a few in their pick up trucks.    We don’t know why they don’t like walking in the woods.     Came over Old Blue and there was Christine (my niece) and her dog, husband , Bert, and son, Alden.    She hiked up to find us and now we are camped at south Arm lake.  Put the tent up on the van for the 1st time.    Now it’s party time.

Oct 26
We ar now at Peavey’s place laying over on our first day off.    Two days ago, we left Maine hi-way 27?  Near Stratton, Me.   It rained both days.   Maine is supposedly having it’s worst drought in over 100 years but we see it raining almost every day.   I do believe that the climb southbound up north Crocker mt.  Is our toughest climb so far.    It was 4.9 miles to the top.      We ran into our friends Yahtzee and Beer Stick again.    Stayed with them at the Poplar Ridge Lean -to.     They are doing 10 mile days so we may see them again after this day off.     The climbs have gotten tougher but we’re finally starting to get used to it.    The knees are aching but not as bad anymore.     The days are getting shorter but our muscles are getting stronger.    If the weather holds in the whites,   we’ll be …………………well, lets see what happens.  Peavey and his wife have been so good to us.   The Hot tup is 102 degrees and the food has been coming hot and fast.    Breakfast this morning was about 4 different courses.   And I’m heading back to the hot tub in a minute.

Oct 23rd
Stratton Me.
We’re camped near the hiway 27 in the rain.    It was a rough day over the Bigelows as we got up this morning to 19 degree temps!    But we finally got a look at our new website and our itinerary and noticed that we are right on schedule.   I don’t know how that happened since we haven’t seen it since before we started.   Very cold on Avery Peak today and no water at the spring at Horn Pond.     Did see a few people on the trail today which is a rarity anymore.   Beautiful views today even though it was cold.   Winter’s coming.     Check out our pictures that Boss Hogg’s been putting on the web.

Oct 22
Got up early this morning to ford the Kennebec!    It was wide but shallow.   Walked to Pierce Pond Shelter before we put our socks back on.     Easy day with not many mtns.  Now we’re camped at East Flagstaff road with the van and Boss Hogg has just cooked us up an awesome spaghetti dinner with cheesecake and hot dogs for late night (maybe we’ll stay up till 8 tonight)              we have some cell phone signal finally so we’ll try to upload to our website tonight.    We heard that there’s a bunch of people wondering where the hell we are since noone has heard from us since we started.    It’s pretty remote up here in northern Maine.   It’s still the 3 of us hiking , and looking for a driver so  Shirt can keep on truckin .    Lots of Ponds today and beautiful scenery.   Bigelows tomorrow and pass through Stratton and lots of old friends for me (fh)   as I used to live here.

Oct 21st
Left Shaw’s and hiked to Moxie Pond Lean -to where we spent the night in a beautiful shelter on a Pond.  The Loon’s were calling all night long.   First thing this morning, we headed up the mountain on a beautiful morning and at the top we had the momentus occasion to meet Brian Robinson!    This was such a great place to see him as it is a bald mtn. with a great view.   Spent about an hour talking about many things as he has only 140 miles to go and we have about 7,350 miles to go.      We’re glad the meeting happened in a nice place and that it is finally behind us as we were thinking about him way too much.    Now we can concentrate on our own hike more.    Ran into 4 AT hikers today who are here at our van keeping dry right now.    We are all talking about how we will get across the Kennebec in the morning as we are near Caratunk.    We are hoping to ford.  Hope it’s not too cold.       Great dinner again tonight by Boss Hogg.    Gotta go socialize.    Later………………….

Oct 19th
Spent the night at a ccold 22degrees near the Long Pond road crossing.   Boss Hogg picked up two more hikers and brought them along for the journey.    So we only hiked 17 something today.    And now we are at Shaw’s in Monson.    Had a long hot shower after limping in with 117 miles in 6 days!    Saw a moose and a coyote today.   Had an awesome meal at a Barbecue Place right near Shaw’s.    Unbelievable meal complete with Whoopie Pies for dessert.      Shirt says “OW”   (we all have sore knees)

Pieps’ trail tip for the day:  To get your mind off of pain,  take a handful of red cayenne pepper,  and smear it all over your toilet paper in the morning,   guaranteed to keep your mind off of your knee pain.    More tips to come.

Oct 18     day 5
Somewhere in the middle of the wilderness.   We’re at the van tonight after 2 tough days of  re-learning these Maine climbs. Went over 4 mountains just today : Barren, Chairback, 3rd, 4th, Monument,  and a few others I think. But the big story is: fall has turned into winter in only 2 days.! It was only 2 days ago we took pix of lots of autumn leaves, but this morning we woke up after 2 days of rain, to cold temps and winds. We are now in our winter gear with the temps around 28 or something. We all have sore knees and bodies. Looking forward to the end of the wilderness.

Day 3
Just got to Jo-Mary road which is at mile 56 or something.   Stayed in our first shelter last night atWadleigh Stream lean to.    All cooking on our alcohol stoves .  And into bed early.   A bit of rain throughout the day just made it seem more like Maine.  It’s been really dry here as we can see from the low levels in the ponds.   Some springs are dry but creeks are running.    Today (16th)  is a beautiful fall day once again.  Lots of pictures today.    Passed both the nicest spring on the whole AT and the nicest Privy!  (Shirt vouches for that one)        Boss Hogg showed up with the support van and a fresh supply of food and CD’s and water.  (These afternoon showers sure beat the smell of these Northbounders)            OK,  gotta go eat. Appetizer:  Chicken Corn Noodle soup and tonight, it’s sausage, red beans, and rice, and we’ll see what else.

Three great days of hiking in the North Maine woods.  Looking for more.

1st day!                  Oct 14, 2001
Gotta say, thanks to our friends: Rainman and Bridget and Raymond and our Support Crew:  Boss Hogg to come see us off and party with us.  Ate pretty good the night before with Lobster and Yankee Pot Roast!  (and lots of beer)   Got up early and left Abol Bridge at 8 AM and got dropped off at Roaring Brook.  Hiked to Chimney Pond and then went up the Cathedral trail.    Beautiful trail.    But steep.   The weather was great , great views, lots of thru hikers finishing on top.   Had to wait in line for pictures.   Stayed on top an hour and left at 12: 40 (noon)    It was pretty exciting after all these months and months of planning.   Shirt stayed with us all the way.   The Foliage is prime right now .    Colors couldn’t be better.    Only saw one ranger (girl from London)   Came down the AT and only saw 4 people on the whole way down.   Two moose spotted,  both females.   Got back to abol bridge after hikeing 20 miles today,  15 on the AT and the other 5 going up on the Cathedra l trail.     Scott Hogg (body) is cooking sausage and noodles after our hot showers and going to get some more beer.        GREAT DAY!

Posted by: fiddlehead | February 4, 2010

Attacked by a Gibbon monkey

As some may know from reading past posts on this blog, I have been trailblazing a hiking trail on the island of Phuket here for the past 2 1/2 years.   I have been putting a route over the high peaks of the many mountains here that when completed, will go from Prom Thep Cape (the most southernly point) to the Sarasin bridge (it’s northern terminus).

I have been out exploring for more than 50 days now over those years and started in the south and am now up north and east of the Heroine’s monument (which is the center of the island)
The mountains are much more wild up there than in the more touristy south.
Which means access is very difficult and trails, roads, rubber trees, and easily walked paths are hard to find.
So, I now take a machete with me and two days ago, I set out with my full backpack, including tent and sleeping gear, stove, fuel and a food for 2 days, one night.

I spent  the first 2 1/2 hours bushwhacking up this steep mountain to where i had left off before.

Good trail near the National Park

Not too far after that, I found a small trail that basically went in the general direction of my proposed route and followed it, lost it, followed another one, lost it, and made my way all day to this area where i had gone to see about access last week near a National Park.

Well, there’s also a monkey (gibbon) rehabilitation center nearby and they reintroduce gibbons back into the wild after they fix them up.

So, it’s about 4:00 PM and I am bushwhacking when this monkey attacks me from above. He first came down and took my hat. and made noises, then he jumped down again and grabbed my watch and broke it.   Then he jumped on my pack (which was on my back) and started pulling my hair and trying to grab my arm.   I was freakin out.    I had my machete in my hand and would have killed him if I could, but he was too fast.
He pulled my tent stakes out of my side pocket and my big water bottle out and threw it.  He was big, about 3 1/2 feet high?

There was a lot of bamboo nearby so whenever I could take my eyes off him, I would chop a big piece and then throw it at him.  He was too quick.  Even when I had a great throw, he would dodge it.  Finally after a good 10 minutes (felt like an hour) he slowly left.

So, I gathered up all my stuff and continued my journey, found another trail and got the hell out of there.

Sign on tree near swimming hole

After about another 15-20 minutes, I found a beautiful swimming hold on a good trail. There was a sign there explaining the gibbon project and telling you that they can be aggressive.
(Unfortunately, they didn’t have signs before I had this encounter)
But, then i lost the trail again (or it went the wrong way) and i found myself bushwhacking again until the light of day started fading.

I thought about setting up my tent somewhere (already had water) but then i heard a monkey again.
There’s no way I was going to camp there.
So, i bailed.
Sorry to say, I was near the park that I knew about so, found the trail that I had GPS’d last week and hiked out and hitched a ride back to my motorbike. (real dark by now)
When I told Thum (my Thai wife)  she was mad that I go out there by myself and all that.
Simon, my 4 year old son was very interested and wanted to hear all about it.
I am quite cut up from all the bushwhacking too so he was impressed.

Anyway, in all of my 20+ years of backpacking or trekking, I have never been attacked by a wild animal before and let me tell you, it is scary.
That monkey could have bitten me or done a lot too me and maybe even killed me if he wanted to.
He was that fast.

It was scary!

Posted by: fiddlehead | January 28, 2010

New ways to save money Jan 2010

I posted ways to save money before here but came up with some new ones for the new decade since the recession has seemed to turn into a depression and jobs and money continue to be a challenge for us all.   So, there is more desperation which calls for MORE DESPERATE MEASURES!    Here are some ideas that will hopefully help you.  (Many of them are probably much healthier than the life you lead now also.)

Walk more or ride a bike to work

Collect soda cans you find along the road.  They are worth money.

Learn to fish.  I’m sure you heard the saying: “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day,  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for the rest of his life.  (In Thailand, they eat the guts, head, and everything except the bones which they feed to the dog).

Get rid of your tv (you don’t need tv AND  internet) get rid of the more destructive one

Get a motorcycle and a good set of long underwear, a facemask, helmet liner, warm socks and gloves.

Don’t eat snacks at night  (I’m hungry but there’s no way i am going to eat right now at 4AM)

My neighbor is cheap: she has a fire going everynight outside to cook her dinner.   She picks up every scrap of cardboard, every newspaper she finds, and saves and sells them to the scrap dealer,   she finds old thrown out, ripped up tarps and sews covers out of them to cover her junk that she is saving for the scrap man to come around.

Take up hobbies that don’t cost much: hiking, back country skiing, bicycle, jogging, swimming (lakes), volleyball, badminton, tennis, yard-sale-ing (especially selling, not necessarily buying)

Switch to instant coffee or lipton black tea

Join the library, read more (for free) learn something in the process.

Take up photography (instead of watching tv perhaps?) it’s almost a free hobby anymore  (unless you obsess with the newest cameras/software)

Learn to ebay (it’s a sellers market, especially now in the recession)

Buy all your clothes at thrift stores

Drink more water

Plant a garden (start a compost pile to give it a boost)

Plant a fruit tree for the future (it can become your breakfast)

My wife told me a new one today: When you think you finally have ALL the toothpaste out of the tube, then cut it in half and squeeze another brushing out of it.

More to come.

Posted by: fiddlehead | January 21, 2010

Phuket High Trail North (and East) of the Heroine’s Monument

Since I haven’t written a blog entry on my exploring lately, I will take up from where I left off just north of the Heroine’s Monument in the middle of the island.
From there, our trail heads east and crosses the highway near the older cashew factory and store about 500 metres north of the monument.

There is a narrow rubber tree area just to the right (south) of the cashew factory.
I went through there and then had to do some ziz-zagging around some houses and residential area and then find a bridge across the small river about 1 km in.
After the bridge, there are more rubber trees and then a huge field that was just being planted.
Eventually I got to the mountains again and breathed my sigh of relief from all the development and farms.  (for some reason, i don’t consider the rubber tree farms as farms because they feel like being in the woods of jungle)

Lots of bushwhacking over on this side of the island as it is more remote.

After attempting to follow my “original white” trail on my GPS, i made it to a waypoint that I call “ravine” which had a good path leading down to a road so I roadwalked back to my motorbike rather than do all the bushwhacking to get back.   (I didn’t have a machete that day so was quite cut up and it was slow going)

The next day I went out, I parked my pickup truck near where the dirt road meets the blacktop road in the valley and walked back up to the “Ravine” point.  From there, I found some decent trail for a bit until I got into some more rubber trees.

This time, I had my machete with me and carry it in a badminton case as I don’t want the locals to feel threatened by me in any way.    Didn’t really matter as I didn’t see any locals until near the end of the day when I came across a huge road being built.   I cannot figure out where or why this road is going.    There doesn’t seem to be much of anything on either side of the mountains here and is a very remote part of the island of Phuket.   But yet, the road seems to be big enough for 4 lanes and there’s a lot of big machinery up there putting it in.
I ended my day at a house that I called “NamHouse” as I asked for and was directed to their running water supply.  They weren’t the friendliest people but were probably scared that their land was being infringed upon with the new road so close and now a farang walking right up to them.    I was somewhat tired at that point so turned around and headed back to where I had left the truck.

On my 3rd day in this part of the island, my goal of the 4th big (and highest) of the bumps of land or mountains was to be obtained.   I knew I didn’t have too far to go and by using Google Earth, could find the road and trail into the “NamHouse”  waypoint that I had made last time.
But from there, after only about 200 meters up and down through some rubber tree woods, I was bushwhacking up the steep side of this 4th mountain.

At least the jungle here seemed virgin with no chopped out areas, which always makes the bushwhacking very difficult.
Hiking through virgin jungle is always easier because the big trees (and some of these were very big) block out all the sunlight that makes the underbrush grow so fast and thick.   Without that thick stuff, my biggest problem this day was the steepness of the climb.
Near the top, I got into a lot of bamboo, some of it being very big.   This can be tough going, especially when it gets thick and the dead bamboo can pile up like pickup sticks.

Eventually I got through and made it to the top.
From my experiences so far on the 48 days of this exploring of the island of Phuket and laying out this possible, future hiking trail, I have found that usually there is some sign of man at the top of these hills or mountains and can usually expect to find a way down that is easier than the route I took up.   Not so today.   I walked around up there for about 30 minutes and it was thick and no sign of man at all.    No views because there were big trees around.
I wasn’t really looking forward to bushwhacking back down the way I had come up because it was tough going.  But I had no choice.

So, I got a bit cut up with thorns and used my machete a lot this day (this was on Jan 19, 2010) and am wondering how I can get back up to the top and the point that I had marked “Hungry” on my GPS as that was my reason for turning around at this point.  I was hungry and didn’t want to get deeper into a spot that I couldn’t find my way out of.

So my dilemma now is that when I get a full day to go back up there, since it is so far away from where i live and takes almost an hour to drive there, do I have to bushwhack all the way up that big mountain again.  It took me at least 2 hours of climbing/walking plus the hour of driving, and to do that backwards to get back is just too big a part of the day.

I believe on my next day out, I will go to the Bang Pae Waterfall and look for a possible road heading into my needed direction.  On Google Earth it looks like there might be one heading south from the waterfall.

Stay in tune for more entries for this wilder side of Phuket.

Posted by: fiddlehead | August 10, 2009

Best Views in Phuket

The word “Phuket” comes from a Malay word “bukit” meaning Mountain.   It is a very mountainous island approximately 30 kms long by 7 kms wide.

I live near the southern tip of Phuket, in Rawai, so many of these locations are more towards that end of the island.
I also enjoy hiking in the jungle and find some great views up there looking down as well as some beach scenes.  Phuket is a beautiful place and there are some great viewpoints throughout the island.

Many of them you can drive to.   Here are my favorites.    (all of these you can drive to)

1Big Buddha

The Big Buddha statue is just east of Kata and north of Chalong.   It is a prominent landmark for much of the southern half of Phuket.  I have been going up there for 7 years now and remember the first few times, it was just the base of the statue.
The 45 meter high statue of Buddha took 8 years to build
(they are still putting finishing touches on it) and

the windy road  is now paved 90% of the way.

So, what’s keeping you from going up and enjoying the famous structure as well as the great views of Phuket town to the east, and Laem Prom Thep to the south, and Kata/Karon beaches to the west!
(There is a small lookout behind the small sitting Buddha to the south near the top.)  (picture on the right)

2. Khao Khad Views Tower

Cape Panwa Tower Khao Kwa

Cape Panwa Tower Khao Kwa

This is a new structure, having been completed 2 years ago over on Cape Panwa.panwalookout
The 360 degree lookout was built on the highest point of Cape Panwa and is very spectacular.

Once you go up the 100 steps to the top of the tower, you will find maps for each compass point with descriptions of what you are looking at.

You can even see Ko Phi Phi on a clear day.

Last time i was up there, it was a beautiful sunset and there were 4 other people there (Thai couples)

So, if you like to see a nice sunrise or sunset view, that takes a bit of climbing, with peace and quiet around you, and,

you like spectacular views, this is one of the best!

There is even a restaurant near the parking area at the bottom.   Enjoy!

3. Laem PromThep

This is the southernmost point on the island of Phuket.

promthepsimonBut just above the point (at the water’s edge) is a mountain of hill called Laem PromThep.promtheprestaurant

There is a big parking lot nearby and then steps up to a

very fine lookout and great place to catch the sunset over the Andaman sea.

There is a statue of a Thai mariner on top and a huge plaza type area that fills up every night and especially on the weekends.
There is also a great restaurant nearby with the same stunning views of the sunset.
(The owner is a bonsai expert too and the gardens are as spectacular as the view.)

4. Karon Viewpoint


Between Nai Harn and Kata beaches on the back road over the mountain, you’ll come to a great lookout called Karon Viewpoint. (Also many locals call it Kata Viewpoint)

The best views are looking north at Kata and Karon beaches. You can also spot the Phuket Beach Meridien’s private beach as well as Kata Noi from here.

A very romantic, and picturesque spot.

There’s a guy that has 2 eagles that hangs around up there and you can have your picture taken with the birds (for a fee)
This is a very scenic road in the daytime and also has 4 elephant trekking companies within 3 kms between the two beaches

5Rang Hill in Phuket Town


This is a romantic hill with it’s great views of Phuket Town and the South China sea to the east.

To get there, go to the north part of Phuket Town and look for signs.

There is a very nice restaurant near the top and it’s very popular with Thai locals and young couples.

Also there is a fitness park nearby.

6Windmill HIll


If you start at the top of the list with Big Buddha, you will notice a large, modern windmill in the southern view.windmill

This is the 2nd high point coming north from Laem PromThep and a beautiful view also.

One of the highlights of this view is looking almost straight down at Ya Nui Beach, which is a small beach that has good snorkeling and kayak rentals.
Looking northwest, you can see the famous Nai Harn beach and it’s Yacht Club hotel.

Another great sunset viewing lookout.

Every evening you can usually find some people with their homeade gliders and remote control boxes flying them through the view.
Parking is limited

7. Monkee Hill in Phuket Town

This is the hill that can be seen from most of Phuket town that has all of the TV and radio towers on top.
On the way driving up (or walking) there are literally hundreds of monkeys nearby.
They often come out when people arrive to feed them.
Careful though, they do bite sometimes. Especially if you get between a mother and her baby or a fight going on between the males.

8. Lookout near the top of Mae Sip Song


Mae Sip Song is the big mountain with the golf-ball looking structure on top.sipsonglookout
This is actually a Thai Navy radar station.

Many people think that this is actually the highest point on the island. Many publications say it is so.
It is not though.  If you read through my blog, I have an entry on how I determined there is a higher point to the west of the Kathu Waterfall.

But there is still a good lookout from the last big turn before the top on Mae Sip Song mountain.
One word of warning:  If you drive up this road, you will pass 2 signs saying “No Trespassing”  Miltary Base or something similar.
The 1st time i was ever up here, i hiked up through the jungle while planning my hiking trail (available on this blog elsewhere), and got to this beautiful lookout overlooking Patong to the west.
While i was enjoying it, about 15 4 wheelers with tourists riding them drove up and stopped and everyone was instructed to get off and enjoy the view.      I have been up about 6 times since that 1st time and never been hassled in any way.   That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.


This list is a small one compared to the numerous possibilities of great viewpoints throughout the island.
There are so many really good views that i find almost weekly when driving around and sightseeing.
Like heading up to windmill hill from Nai Harn Lake, there’s one spot where someone cut some trees back and there is a fantastic view of Nai Harn beach. naiharn beach

Or, up at the Small Sea View restaurant and sunset view spot on the back road between Kata and Nai Harn.  (head towards Kata Noi and turn sharp left and go up the smseaviewreststeep hill about 1 km to the now 3 restaurants built to take advantage of this great view overlooking Kata Noi beach.

Another is the view up at Pub Pla restaurant which is now closed and for sale.  But this restaurant commands a spectacular 360 degree view which is between Kata and Chalong and just SE of Big Buddha.   I believe the road is now closed so you can’t drive up there.  Perhaps someone will buy it soon and open it back up.

There are also many great viewpoints that have to be hiked up to.

As well as the unlimted beach views, from the sunrise shots on the eastern side of Phuket, to the great sunsets on our island’s more famous beaches.

Mai Kao Beach from our campsite

Mai Kao Beach from our campsite

1st beach north of Patong

1st beach north of Patong

Posted by: fiddlehead | June 15, 2009

Laguna’s 4th annual Phuket Marathon

So, i just finished my 4th  “Run Paradise” Marathon at Laguna yesterday.
I am a bit sore today of course.

I would like to say it is a professionally run venue with a lot of thought put into every aspect.
Medical teams were spaced on the course, aid stations were well stocked and plentiful with smiling, helpful staff at all of them.

The time and money put into the start/finish line is impressive.  Speakers are everywhere, free 10 minute massages after the race, food for the runners, and a big VIP area (never been inside there)

Also, this year for the 1st time, they had the registration area at the start/finish line.   It was a huge tent put up complete with air conditioning and many vendors as well as the helpful staff for all your needs.

Despite a small mixup in my pre registration, they got me sorted and one funny story comes to my mind: I went to get my “packet” of some free stuff from the sponsors and a nice singlet shirt from Nike.   I was the first one there and I asked for a size XL shirt (they are always so small).  I thought i’d better check the size and sure enough, they had given me a Medium.     So, i showed them the size and asked for an XL,  once again, with smiling faces, they gave me a Medium.    I tried to tell them i really needed an XL (I am not that big but am aware of their sizing)   and finally had to go back and show them where the XL’s were.   They showed me on my race number where it said “M” and this is why they kept giving me a Medium.    The “M” on the number is for Male.    Anyway, it was no big deal, just know to check these things.

The marathon race had 2 choices:  A 4 am start or a 5 am start.   Since i knew that i was going to be slow, i opted for the 4 AM start.
I had to work the night before and didn’t get finished until midnight.    So, i arrived at the parking area around 12:45 and slept in the back of my truck.   Although it was quiet, it was a hot night and i didn’t really get much sleep.   Oh well.   We all make our choices in life and perhaps this wasn’t the best one.   But i didn’t want to drive 45 minutes only being half awake so i chose this way.

My longest training run had been 20 kms.  That was my biggest mistake.
I did great for the first 20 kms.    Then my legs started tightening up and felt heavier and heavier as we went along.
I started switching between walking and running.
Luckily I can walk fast (many years of hiking trails makes for a fast, easy pace)
I had a few comments out there on the course that my walk was almost as fast as some people’s run as i would switch between walking and running and pass the same people many times.
You get to have a lot of friends that way and there were 3 or 4 of us who talked a bit.

Many were from Singapore and one guy must have taken 200 pictures.   Turns out there was a photo contest for the race and he was out to win it.    He had 3 sets of batteries and would take pictures with all the pretty girls at the aid stations as well as many of the runners.

Running is a lonely sport.   Training can only be done when you can make the time and in Thailand, only early morning or early evening.    Then there is pace.   It’s hard to find 2 runners that can run the same speed enjoyably, especially two who are compatible and have the same time available.    Like i said, it can be a lonely sport!

But, being in a race of 42 kms, you find your pace and then discover that there are many people with a similar pace.   So, for once, you can talk while you run.     I enjoyed this aspect of the race probably more than any.

I have a good friend from the states who comes here every year for this marathon.  He used to live in Thailand and loves coming back for these visits.    His name is “Wall”  (nickname of course) and this time, he had just summitted Mt.  McKinley in Alaska 10 days before the race.    He had frostbite on his toe, 70 mph winds, 60 deg. slopes to contend with as well as having to carry a 130 lb. pack.  He beat me by 2+ hours.   Of course he always beats me as i am not a fast runner at all.    But, to come from that extreme temps and climate and fly 12 hours to Bangkok and then another one to Phuket, arriving the day before, to this heat and humidity, well, let’s just say we are both very tired and a bit sore today.

All in all it was a good time alhough my legs haven’t hurt that bad for many years now.
Thanks to all the organizeres, staff and Laguna for a well done job on the race!

Posted by: fiddlehead | May 2, 2009

LOSO Concert last night at Phuket Brewery

My favorite rock & roll band in Thailand played last night at the newly opened Phuket Brewery across from Tesco Lotus.

2 of my good friends and fellow rock and roll lovers, Kim and Cathy went along with me.  I had checked the website for the newest venue for hosting big groups, the Phuket Brewery but it being new, didn’t say much.   Just basically had a poster on there saying Loso, May 1st.
So, we hopped in my truck and headed over.  

Sek Loso at "Phuket Brewery" May 1,2009

Sek Loso at "Phuket Brewery" May 1,2009


We got there about 8 PM and followed a few cars heading in and followed the car park signs.   While waiting for a mini-bus to move, the best parking spot in the whole place, right in front of the entrance, opened up so we pulled right in, pretty impressed with out luck at finding it.     Walked up the steps and saw a ticket window with only one or two other people in line.    I went over and the girls followed and we got in the short line and when it was my turn to be first, 2 Thai people immedietly crowded in from both sides and started arranging for their tickets right through me as if i didn’t exist.      

The girls had just come from a Thai culture course as they were school teachers and it was required.   Apparantly one of the things they learned was to have patience, especially in lines so they told me to chill out and just wait, this was the Thai way.   So, i waited about 5 minutes and then it was my turn.   I said “three tickets for LOSO please” and she said.  “Sorry, finished” !  Since Kim speaks good Thai, she asked if it could be possibly sold out and the lady said yes but we could wait for cancellations.    We may have looked a little bummed out because a farang man (caucasion) and his Thia girl friend asked us if we had a problem.    We explained the situation and they said they had room at their table.  
The girl went back up to the head of the line and her and Kim came back with 3 more tickets to join them.   Great!  

Looking around the place, there is what seems to be a semi-outdoor restaurant area off to the left but the big room, for the shows, is straight ahead in the back.   It is Huge!    

Best seats in the crowded house!

Best seats in the crowded house!


So, we went inside the huge arena and were escorted up to the front all the way over on the side.   There seemed to be some confusion about our tickets and their boss came over to help and showed the girl her error and proceeded to take us right up to the very middle and the very first table right next to the stage!    Could this be our seats?  With aprox 300 tables in the whole place, we had the best one? 

Sure enough, a waitress came over and we ordered a round of dark beers in pitchers and checked out the new hall.  It is really big with about a 100 foot stage complete with lights all over the ceiling and a big sound system.    Soon after, our beers showed up and the place started filling up.   4 more of the Thai girlfriend’s friends showed up and they were some beautiful Thai 20-30 year olds and we introduced ourselves all around and ordered some food to go along with the drinks.      Here i was with one other guy and 6 or 7 girls in the best seat in the house (big house) with the best parking spot outside.   What great luck!  

xbrewry04The beers came.  It’s rare to get a good, heavier, dark beer in Thailand.  Not that Thai beers are not good but they aren’t very heavy and if you like darker, heavier beers, check out the Brewery.    The place was filling up fast and soon enough, a magic show started on stage right in front of us.  
There were girls who twisted like a pretzel, magic, a guy spinning plates (about a dozen at a time) and a guy shooting mouth darts at a volunteer from the audience holding 4 balloons.     Then the house band played some numbers with a woman soloist and two guys soloing a few songs and then it turned into one of these comedy acts that are so famous in Thailand although not really my cup of tea, where two guys start joking and one of them is older and dressed like a woman.    Thai people laugh so hard at these things.   Of course, i had no idea what they were saying but then, they pointed at Steve (the Farang who got s the seats and is in the brown shirt above (picture) and started coming on to him (the transvestite anyway)      I was so glad it wasn’t me.    Someone told him to offer the guy a sausage from our food plate and he did and the guy started making some obscene gestures and eventually ate the sausage after playing with it for a while.    

Finally, the moment we were waiting for arrived and the curtain opened once again to find Sek Loso and his 4 piece band opening up the set to some of his great hits.   
Immedietly, people started filing past us to get in the small space between us and the stage so we knew it was time to stand up and start dancing along and partying to some great rock and roll.xxloso021

Going to a live rock show in Thailand with one of the the more famous superstars can be quite a treat.    Thai people love their music and party hard.   Almost everyone sing along to almost every song and they all knew all the words.    Having been a LOSO fan for a long time, i knew the tunes but of course, didn’t know the words.     Once again, i couldn’t believe that i was standing and dancing about 10 feet away from Sek Loso and watching his every move and emotion and hearing his guitar come through so loud.  

The more he played, the more the people came up to dance and party as close to him as they could.  Which basically meant, at our table.   This was great fun as i like being close to the action and am not one to hide in the back at concerts.       After they played about 8 or 9 songs, Sed proceeded to take off his shirt and sunglasses (his trademark) and then some other musicians came out of the wings to join along.    He switched over to some western standards and played Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze as well as Cocaine by Eric Clapton and these two other guitar players took over on some fast solos while Sed sat down on the drum riser and had a drink.

He came back to join them with some showing off and playing with his teeth and running around.   I must say i think he had a few to drink which was probably one of the things the crowd around me loved about him.    

xxloso03xxloso04   LOSO stands for Lo-Society and he is from the poor northeast corner of Thailand known as Issan. I think he is actually from Korat.   I’ve heard he writes a song a day and has many many hits in this country.   He had toured in England and Europe and possibly the US also (not sure) and he had a Farang band for those tours.   Tonight, he had a Farang drummer but the bass player and rhythy guitar player, as well as the two solo guys that joined in, were Thai.

After those 2 or 3 western covers, they brought out his acoustic guitar and he went into some more big hits and the crowd (who had been a little quiet for the western songs) rose up in unison singing along to every word once again.

After about 1 1/2 hours, I headed for some air and realized i might not be able to come up that close very easily once leaving. xxloso051


In the back, i ran into some friends who were there and was talking a bit (something that was impossible to do at our seats)   The sound was great all over the big hall.   I would estimate that there were 2-3,000 people there filling up the place.    I did take one picture from back there although it didn’t come out too good.  

I went outside for some air and Kim and Cathy kept running out to tell me the great views they are having from moving all around, including up in the balcony where they sat for a bit with the performers in the beginning of the show (magician and pretzel girl, etc) and they found free beer up there.

About 2 AM we left as they had to go to work the next day.   The band was still playing.  I was still recognizing the hits and they were going on their 3rd hour of non-stop music.    I dont’ know how long they played but I know it was longer than most any concert i remember.   We definitely got our money’s worth as the tickets for the show had only cost 299 baht each!    (about $9.00)

Thanks Mr Sek Loso.   And keep playing the Great Music! 




Posted by: fiddlehead | March 30, 2009

Rate Your Hiking Ability

Ok, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and finally got it finished. I invited a few of my more experienced hiking friends to help out and we made some changes to this final rendition.

This quiz if for experienced hikers.  I say that because if you don’t have more than a few hundred miles of hiking experience, you will probably not do well.

Unfortunately, the software wouldn’t allow me to create my own ranges at the end.
An average score turns out to be around 25%     The highest score so far has been around 70%

You may not agree with all of the questions and how they relate to hiking experience.  I feel they do although will admit that I added a few questions related to mileage because the software rates each question only to a +or- 6.   So, sorry for the repeat questions near the end but it is required for a topic that i feel is most important:    EXPERIENCE!

So, please click  HERE to take the test, or quiz, or whatever you want to call it.

Feedback welcome!    Enjoy.


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