Saturday Hike: October 2, 1999       

Report by Sam Wagstaff


Nine hikers and one pet went to Liberty Ridge: Wolfgang, Joe, Frank, Inge, Vesna, Richard, Kiffer, Lynn and Sam.  Also Trig.  Wolfgang was Commissar. The river level was quite low.  The temperature was near Celsius 15.  The sky was cloudy.  It was a nice Fall day.


We met at the origin and decided to stop at the Dairy Barn in Hillery to get a taste of Blue Hawaiian ice cream.  Alas, the Dairy Barn was closed for the season.  We drove north and into Kennekuk Park admiring the trees whose leaves were turning colors and falling off.  There were a few vehicles, mostly pickup trucks, in the parking area when we arrived, but we saw no one.  We ate the rest of the doughnuts ravenously, and consumed an apple pie as well.


Vesna wore a tee shirt she got for running in the 7.6-mile loop race last Sunday.  This year she ran the race in the same time as she did the previous two years, and this year she didn't train at all for the race.  That shows the value of training.


Let me clarify a bet Lynn and Sam made.  In a report a month ago I stated it was: "Lynn bet Sam that Attorney General Reno will leave that office before the end of 1999."  Lynn reminded me that it should say: "Lynn bet Sam that Attorney General Reno will leave that office before January 1, 2000."  During the hike, Joe bet Lynn that Hillary Clinton will run for the Senate from New York State in 2000.


We carried the supplies down the old dirt road towards Lookout Point.  As there appeared to be a soy bean crop in the field to the left of the road, the first group of hikers continued past the field entrance to Lookout Point, turned left and negotiated the chasm--or is it a schism?  In either case, erosion has deepened it and made it even more hazardous.  Further south, part of the old dam that we always walked across has washed away, making that part of the trail hazardous, too.  We emerged into the bean field and walked along the edge of it. We noticed the second group of hikers, Lynn and Joe, who had been bringing up the rear, ahead of us.  They had entered the bean field at the field entrance, found a mowed path through weeds next to the beans, and followed it to the place where we enter the woods to go to Liberty Ridge.  We all followed the trail along the edge of the ridge to the camp site overlooking the big bend in the Middle Fork River with the Danville power plant on the horizon. Several trees were sliding down the steep slope.  They included several upright trees part way down to the river and an impressive cedar tree rotated by 45 degrees from vertical just at the edge of the cliff.


We gathered some fire wood and ate more food.  Joe produced a big bag of red hot peppers for the hikers delight.  Vesna donated a large package of kitchen matches to the hike.  A long discussion of cooking ensued.  What has the hike come to?  We enjoyed the varied colors of the leaves.  We noticed a plume of steam rising from near the power plant.  We did not remember seeing it before. Perhaps it rises from a heat exchanger.  The Middle Fork River was lower than I have ever seen it here in spite of the heavy rain the previous Tuesday evening. Lynn said that it was even lower last Tuesday morning when he hiked here and discovered the mowed path through the bean field.


I think all of us hiked down the trail to the mouth of the little stream which feeds the Middle Fork.  The stream had a little water in it, nearly the normal amount, probably because of the recent rain.  We found the remains of a camp fire, encircled by a ring of stones, at the mouth of the stream.  It was not from one of our fires, although Wolfgang claimed that the hikers had had a fire here at one time.  Both Trig and Vesna went into the Middle Fork here.  The difference was that Trig intended to go in.  Wolfgang, Joe, Richard and Kiffer lagged behind the others and did not cross the little stream.  They hiked in the valley and returned to the Liberty Ridge camp.


Frank, Inge, Vesna, Lynn and Sam crossed the little stream near its mouth and walked through the bottom land next to the river to the iron bridge with no floor.  Trig actually fetched one or two sticks that Sam threw.  Soon after crossing the stream we found a large and dangerous-looking spider on a web spun between two oak trees.  We did not disturb it.  Some hikers left the trail and got too close to the Middle Fork, where the vegetation is dense and travel difficult.  We eventually reached the bypass, a normally dry channel that floods and cuts off a bend in the river when the water level is high.  It was here that, on June 25, 1994, Dave threw his hiking stick into the air and it became caught in the top of a tall tree.  On many subsequent hikes we tried in vain to get it down.  Beate once climbed part way up the tree but could not reach it.  On this hike there was no sign of the stick, although the tree was still there.  We followed the bypass channel to its downstream end, just upstream from the iron bridge with no floor.  The bridge foundation has deteriorated a little more, but the bridge is still there.  A large gravel bar extends from the power plant side nearly to the end of the bypass.  Several large and small logs lay on the bank.  Vesna and Lynn decided to use them to build a bridge to the gravel bar.  If Dave had been on the hike, he would have rotated a huge tree trunk across the water to the gravel bar and made a fine bridge.  But without Dave to help, Lynn and Vesna had to use a smaller log and produced an inferior bridge.  With the help of two hiking sticks and waterproof boots, Vesna crossed the log dry and made it to the gravel bar and the west side of the river.


At this point, Frank and Inge decided they were cold and hungry and requested directions back to camp.  Sam suggested they follow the bottom land, but not go too close to the river.  Apparently, they followed directions because they reached the fire.  Meanwhile, Vesna climbed up onto the far side of the bridge with no floor and crossed it, hanging on to the iron frame.  Lynn and Sam warned her not to fall because the water was so shallow that she would be hurt. She crossed to the east side and nearly fell in where Shakti fell years ago. (Shakti had to dog-paddle to reach the bank then.)  Vesna descended to the gravel bar downstream from the bridge and walked on the rocks under the bridge to rejoin Lynn and Sam.  Lynn explored the dry river bed while waiting for Vesna to cross the bridge with no floor.  He found a large slab of fine Illinois coal there and carried it back to the fire.  Vesna, Lynn and Sam climbed the hill.  The slope was littered with a farmer's trash:  old refrigerators, washing machines, bottles, bed springs, car parts, etc.  We followed the old road, which once went to the bridge, for a way and then turned left into the woods.  We generally followed the top of the ridge back north. Vesna recalled seeing a certain tree with deep grooves on one side of it.  We crossed a few ravines and entered a field full of goldenrod.  Vesna took a picture of the goldenrod with dark red sumac in the background.  From the north side of the goldenrod field, we followed a trail past the place where we found the elusive mermaid's purse flower on a previous hike.  In that vicinity Sam found an eagle feather, which he stuck in his straw hat. Sam and Lynn disagreed about which way to go.  Lynn wanted to return to the Middle Fork, while Sam preferred going to the valley of the little stream.  Eventually, the three hikers returned safely to the fire, Lynn still toting his slab of coal.


Joe lit the fire with three matches and no paraffin.  Joe boiled the coffee. It was strong, as usual.  Joe put the pound of bacon in the large frying pan and then Frank and Inge cooked it.  Someone put the sliced onions in the small frying pan.  Richard cut some of Joe's red hot peppers and added them to the hikers delight.  Inge cooked the hikers delight and Sam replaced the cholesterol.  The hikers delight was quite hot this week.  Vesna continued her training to cook sausage.  She added some pieces of sausage to the hikers delight and cooked the rest in the large frying pan.  This week she managed to eat all the burned slices and claim that she had cooked them all properly. The sausage itself was extra spicy this week.  Richard and Kiffer toasted marshmallows.


This week we discussed science, such as what causes leaves to turn different colors and whether Neanderthals practiced cannibalism.  We discussed medicine, politics, education and the painting of the Madonna covered with elephant dung at the Brooklyn Art Museum.


About 6:45 PM, Richard, Kiffer, Frank, Inge and Vesna left.  Joe and Lynn advised them to turn right when they reached the field and follow the mowed path back to the road.  The remaining four hikers extinguished the fire at about 7:45 PM and took the same route out.  They found that the mowed path had a self-crossing loop in one place.  An observer of our flashlight beams from high above would surely have been puzzled by their strange movements.  When we reached the cars at about 8:15, Lynn realized that he had left his prized slab of coal at the Liberty Ridge camp.




From Joe:


From  Tue Oct  5 07:34:05 1999


Two corrections:  1) I prudently stayed on top and merely walked around in the general area of the fire. 2) I resent the idea that it took 3 matches to light the fire.  One was quite sufficient.    Joe