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.

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.

Forest near Thayer Brook

Forest near Thayer Brook

Appalachian Trail south of Kent, Connecticut.

I don’t often shoot straight into a dense forest but this scene had so much going on I thought I’d give it a try.

This is the forest right near Thayer Brook which the Appalachian Trail crosses south of Rt. 341 and Kent, Connecticut. Many times this place (it also has large tulip trees that I like to photograph) is my final destination but this day I continued down to Bull’s Bridge, hiking the entire eight miles of Schaghticoke Ridge which is a tough hike.

Given that my truck was up at the start of my hike on Rt. 341 and I was on my own, I had to text my wife to pick me up and drive me back to my truck. Good thing she was home and available, otherwise it would have been a long day.

Abstract water patterns

Abstract water patterns

On the Appalachian Trail south of Kent, Connecticut.

I hiked south on the Appalachian Trail from Rt. 341 in Kent to Bull’s Bridge along Schaghticoke Ridge.

There was moving water in all of the streams and while Thayer Brook is the biggest one and has the most photo ops or moving water, this small stream at the southern end of the ridge proved better for these kinds of abstract moving water shots.

Hiking north to south I was going against the grain of the 30+ thru hikers I passed along the 8 mile tough stretch of trail. I’ve never seen that many thru hikers in a day before and I was told that the big bubble of them is moving into Connecticut this week so there will be at least this many every day for a week or two. I’ll see them again up in Massachusetts as I maintain a section up there too.

I stepped over a large downed tree (we call it a “step over”) that will need to be cleaned up and there was a “leaner” that forces the taller hikers to bend over to get under it. That too will need to be pulled down and cut up. That’s another trip in the next few days with more tools than a camera.

Haley Farms fields

Looking toward Mt. Greylock from Haley Farms

Looking toward Mt. Greylock from Haley Farms

Haley Farms Trail, Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts.

I met my old hiking partner Dave (who lives in Vermont now) for a hike up the Hopper Trail to the top of Greylock and down the Haley Farms trail. We’ve done this hike countless times before in every season including on snow shoes. Great hike and we were so busy talking and catching up neither of us took many pictures.

The grass in the field had a nice softness to it so I took two shots, one looking back toward Greylock and one looking the other way toward the trail head. The softness brought to mind an Andrew Wyeth painting.

The Ricoh GR continues to amaze me with its ability to pick up detail I’ve not seen other compact cameras pick up. Now, if it would stop picking up dust on its sensor I’d be even happier.

Haley Farms field

Haley Farms field

On Mt. Russell

Test Go Pro

My flickr contact Lady on a Rock (Christy Rosander) took this great panorama with a GoPro Hero 3 camera. I think it turned out quite well and gives a great sense of the exposure on that ridge which as I remember is significant (I was there over 30 years ago).

I follow her hiking blog (one of the better ones) at Lady on a Rock. Here’s her post on her Mt. Russell climb: Climbing Mount Russell: The Beast.

Christy isn’t a climber and Mt. Russell doesn’t involve roped climbing, but traversing that exposed ridge to get to the summit is quite an amazing feat as you can see in her images of the hike. Mt. Russell is just north of Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the “lower 48” and both Russell and Whitney are over 13,000 feet which means you really feel it when you’re up there.

Christy and her family are extremely strong hikers as you’ll get a sense of in reading through her hiking weblog.

In my youth, I climbed the east face of Mt. Whitney (an easy but long roped climb) and Mt. Russell by the same route Christy took and I remember having an altitude headache for much of the time.

Go Christy!

Walk over Ten Mile Mountain

Swamp reflection

Swamp reflection near Rt. 55 and the New York border

Gaylordsville, Connecticut.

We hiked the Appalachian Trail between Hoyt Rd, on the New York/Connecticut border to Bull’s Bridge over Ten Mile Mountain with one of the heads of the Connecticut Appalachian Mountain Club. I’ve decided to take this section of trail, closer to my house and with this club which, amazingly since I live in Connecticut, I’ve not worked with before.

It’s a great section, about 4 miles long with plenty of photo ops along the way, including this nice swamp on the southern end and the Housatonic River (which is very low now) on the northern end.

I’m still maintaining the Race Brook Falls trail for the Berkshire AMC as well.

If I’m not fit this summer with plenty of new images, I’m not doing my job.

Housatonic River at Bull's Bridge

Housatonic River at Bull’s Bridge

Oak tree on Ten Mile Mountain

Oak tree on Ten Mile Mountain

Ten Mile Mountain, Bull’s Bridge, Connecticut.

We went for a hike on the Appalachian Trail south from Bull’s Bridge up to Ten Mile Mountain. Once I started looking at these gnarly oak trees through my camera I thought I remembered shooting them a while back but I can’t find the images now so thought I’d post this one.

This is the Ricoh GR’s high contrast black and white filter with the grain added. The RAW had more detail but I liked what the grain did to this image so used this one. It’s more dramatic.

Race Brook above the falls

Race Brook above the falls

Race Brook Falls Trail, Southwest Massachusetts.

This was our first hike on this trail in a long while without snowshoes or micro spikes. There were patches of ice in places but it was easily traversed without slipping.

Race Brook was running high because of the snow melt which is just the way I like it.

These two shots were taken on Race Brook above the upper waterfall which is about one hundred yards behind me.

I’ve taken many images along this part of the brook when the water is high because it has just enough drop to create interesting micro-rapids and an occasional small waterfall.

The Ricoh GR wide angle lens attachment helped create a more dramatic landscape by capturing the forest on either side of the brook.

Race Brook above the falls

Ice patterns

Ice patterns

Appalachian Trail, south end of Schaghticoke Ridge.

Nora and I used micro-spikes to hike three miles up the south end of the ridge to a small stream I’ve photographed ice on before, hoping to get a few ice shots this year. The hike was great although we had to push it because of the incoming snow storm. And, the stream did not disappoint; it was loaded with ice formations which it has taken me a while to sort through.