Hiking

Remembering Dave Koerber

Dave Koerber on the Appalachian Trail.

I’m sad to report that my good friend Dave Koerber passed away yesterday. Dave had triple bypass surgery a little over a week ago and came through the surgery extremely well. He was recovering and was at home when he had a stroke and died a few days later. I talked with him a few hours before he had the stroke and he was in great spirits, anxious to get back out on the trail. This is a great shock to me; Dave and I had gotten close over the past few years and we enjoyed each other’s company, hiking and doing trail work.

In the summer of 2012 I was hiking down the Race Brook Falls trail in southern Massachusetts and ran into three members of the Berkshire (Massachusetts) Appalachian Mountain Club. They asked me if I’d seen the log bridge that crosses Race Brook above the falls and what shape it was in. In fact, the bridge was broken and hikers were crossing Race Brook in the water, which is what I told them. They told me who they were and that they were going up to scout out rebuilding the bridge. This sounded interesting to me so I asked if they needed help. They said they’d love help and we exchanged contact information.

It took numerous trips up the Race Brook Falls trail to rebuild the bridge which was a wonderful experience. The leader of the project was Jim Pelletier who was the head of the Berkshire group at the time. Dave Koerber was on many of these trips although I didn’t know him as well at the time.

Dave Koerber (left) and Jim Pelletier lifting a hemlock log that will be half of the new Race Brook bridge.

After we finished the bridge I was asked to become the maintainer of the Race Brook Falls trail which is a “blue trail” which connects up to the Appalachian Trail in southern Massachusetts. Never having maintained a trail I needed to be trained and my trainer was Dave Koerber, the Overseeer of all of the various maintainers from the Connecticut/Massachusetts border to an area just above Great Barrington (the bottom third of the state).

Dave on the AT near Mt. Everett, Massachusetts.

Dave on Mt. Everett, Massachusetts.

Dave taught me how to build and repair water bars, how to blaze, how to clear blowdowns and a lot more. I was also learning from other members of the Berkshire group but Dave was my direct “boss” as he oversaw my section of trail and we spent the most time on the trail together. And, he was retired as I am so we had time to get out on the trail mid-week to avoid crowds.

He was an excellent teacher, he knew more than I did but he allowed me, a person with plenty of outdoor experience to try whatever I wanted and if my way was better than his way, he was glad to adopt my way.

Dave (left) and Dave McCullough crossing a beaver dam at Pine Swamp in Connecticut.

Dave and I enjoyed doing trail work together over many years. But, we also enjoyed just being out hiking or snowshoeing together and if both of us were around and one called and wanted to get out, we’d make it happen even though we live a good distance from one another. It was easy to meet half-way but I was glad to hike nearer to him and he came down to Connecticut to hike trails I maintain down here as well.

Three years ago another section of trail opened up, the Appalachian Trail between Sage’s Ravine (the Connecticut border) and Mt. Race. This is one of the most scenic sections of the AT in southern New England and I decided to move from Race Brook Falls to maintaining that section, which I still maintain. This section was also under Dave’s leadership and so, not much changed between us. Dave helped me get set up on the section and we did a lot of work on it over the past few years.

Dave and Loren Kahn on the south ridge of Mt. Race (my new section of Appalachian trail).

Dave and I were on opposite sides of the political divide and while politics certainly came up on our hikes, we both decided that while those issues were important, it was more important to remain friends and get out on the trail where political issues can easily be put in a box and tossed aside. We did that successfully over many years and while I guess I played a part in making that truce, he was so good-natured that it was easy to like him no matter what he thought about anything.

Dave was a great hiking partner and friend and I miss him. I guess the best medicine for this is to get back out on the trail but of course, I’ll miss him there too.

Life is fragile, treasure it.

Dave crossing the Race Brook bridge in winter. This is the bridge we rebuilt years earlier when I first met him.

Reflection

Reflection

On the Appalachian Trail, Gaylordsville, Connecticut.

A few weeks ago we had a day of high winds in western Connecticut and because this area is pretty rocky and trees aren’t deeply rooted, wind can uproot and knock over even very large and old trees.

The section of Appalachian trail between the New York/Connecticut border and Bull’s Bridge is called “Ten Mile Hill” and it’s a very nice four mile hike. The recent wind took down over 20 large trees on this section and we had a big crew of “sawyers” and “swampers” to clean it up. It was a lot of work and I was pretty sore when I got home (nothing beer and ibuprofen won’t fix).

Toward the end of the day I took a few shots of a nice reflection on a small swamp. I was so tired my hands were shaking and I was pretty sure none of the shots would turn out but thankfully a few did.

Swamp

Swamp

Mattatuck Trail, Warren, Connecticut.

I took a hike along this new section of the Mattatuck trail that’s right in our little town. It crosses this swamp and I had to bushwhack in deep snow closer to this viewpoint through what looked to be a tick-infested jungle of branches to get this shot.

Around here Lyme disease is a real worry so going off trail in a place like this is a risk. I thought this shot might be worth the risk but having had Lyme disease I can tell you, it wasn’t. I like the shot but Lyme disease is no fun at all and if I had it to do over again, I’d have skipped this off-trail bushwhack.

Wolf tree

Wolf tree

South Egrermont, Massachusetts.

We snowshoed from Jug End east on the Appalachian Trail toward Sheffield. This large oak tree (sometimes called a “wolf tree” as it prevents other trees from growing up near it) is a thing of beauty, with some of its branches actually growing underground. There are a number of magnificent trees on this section of trail although this was the only one we had the energy to get to as the snow wasn’t great and the trail was unbroken.

We couldn’t get closer to this tree because of an electric fence. Too bad, closer framing would have been better.

Ice in a rut

Ice in a rut

Southwestern, Massachusetts.

I did some shooting with my iPhone 8 on our hike the other day. This is a small rut on the trail with some rather large ice crystals growing in it.

As most folks know, modern smartphones have excellent cameras in them and I’ve seen some amazing images coming from iPhones of all vintages on Flickr and elsewhere. I’ve had an iPhone of one sort or another for years but I’m still not as comfortable as others in using it as a primary camera. Not sure quite why that is, it sure is convenient and easy to carry.

Bear Rock Creek

Bear Rock Creek

Southwestern, Massachusetts (The Connecticut border is two miles south/left) in this frame on the Appalachian Trail).

We hiked from this point up onto Mt. Race on the Appalachian Trail to check the section I maintain. Cut one tree that had fallen across the trail but otherwise the trail is in good shape for this time of year. Pockets of ice that us old men have to watch out for but it was a nice hike.

This creek flows from Plantain Pond which is the recreational lake at the YMCA Camp Hi Rock down to Rt. 41. Behind me about 50 yards is a nice waterfall.

There were lots of ice “udders” (stalactites) under rocks and trees but I couldn’t get close enough to photograph them without falling in.

Ice on the Shepaug

Ice on the Shepaug

Mattatuck Trail, Warren, Connecticut.

We hiked along the Shepaug River looking for interesting ice. We’ve had plenty of cold weather but the kind of weather that makes good ice is extreme cold, a thaw, then more extreme cold. We’ve sort of had that but not quite extreme enough in either direction (warm and cold).

I did find some nice crystals near the shore and attempted to get a shot. I could not get stable enough to get steady for sharp focus so this isn’t quite as crisp as I’d like it. Consider it a place marker for better ice in the next month (hopefully).