Thursday, June 14, 2012

PA Rocks

     I recuperated for a day or so before I regained my strength enough to start hiking again.  I was dropped off at the same spot that only a few days earlier I barely hobbled out of.  I felt much better, still not a hundred percent, but definitely healthier.  It is crazy that I can feel so good one minute and then like I'm on my deathbed the next.

     The trail followed a ridge and was lined with rocks.  There was not much elevation gain or loss, but the heat and humidity made it hard going.  My body fell into the routine of walking.  My feet quickly danced around the sharp little rocks without much conscious input.  I kind of zoned out and before I knew it, it was late in the day and I found a nice little spot next to a river to set up my tent.  The skeeters and gnat were all over the place so I decided to build a fire.  I have never been that good at starting fires, I struggle with getting them set up right.  I build tepee versions and log cabin versions, but none of them seem to work for me.  So I figured I would try the gravity fire I was so critical about when I first saw "August" build them way back in Georgia.  So first I laid a few large logs across the rocks in the fire pit, then thick branches, then smaller branches and twigs.  I packed some dry leaves in it, put the fine kindling on top and lit it.  It caught right away and I didn't need to tend to it for quite some time.  I did not build a towering monstrosity like I had seen, I kept it somewhat small.  The smoke pushed away the bugs and I sat watching the crackling logs as the day faded into night.  Hmm, gravity fire.
August and a gravity fire

     The next day was just as hot as the previous.  The trail was much like it had been for miles, up on a ridge and covered in intermittent rock fields.  It wasn't overly strenuous, just tedious.  I found a nice little log to sit on for an early lunch.  I took my backpack off and started munching on some granola.  Something caught my eye and when I looked up there was a visitor at my little picnic site.

     The deer was no more than ten feet from me and showed no concern that I was there.  It was really cool.  This was not the Shenandoahs with their tame deer that you could saddle and ride if you wanted.  This was Pennsylvania where deer are hunted everywhere.

     Late in the day I made it to the campsite that I was meeting my father at again.  This little section was a trial to make sure that I was fully recovered.  While my stomach was not perfect, my appetite was better that it had been.  I spent the night in my dad's RV and in the morning I was back out for a long stretch.

     The day started out muggy and warm as the trail climbed steeply uphill to a high ridge.  About halfway up I ran into a thru hiker named "Houdini" that I had not seen since Hot Springs, NC.  We spent the whole day catching up on who we have seen and what we had been doing.  He is also from New Jersey so we were fast friends.  Evidently he used to have a job working with juvenile delinquents  where he would take them out on long backpacking trips in this very area.  I normally hike alone all day and only have interactions with other hikers at camp, but we walked and talked the entire time until we rolled into a shelter that looked more like a house.  It had four walls, bunks on the inside and a huge octagonal sun light in the middle of the ceiling.  This shelter is also know for it's ability to have a pizza delivered to it, just not on Mondays, and what would you know, it was Monday.  Kinda bummed out, we were about to give up on ordering food when a lady pulls up next to the shelter in a car and starts bringing out freshly cooked food.  She said she comes up on Mondays and brings the hikers something to eat because she knows that everything in town is closed.  She brought spaghetti and salad and tuna casserole and sweet tea and biscuits and all sorts of other stuff.  It was a proper feast.  After gorging ourselves on copious amounts of goodness we helped the nice lady load the car up and then passed out with full happy bellies.

     I woke up to the sound of pouring rain on the shelter roof.  "Houdini" and I set off early and began trudging down the wet trail.  It wasn't long before everything I was wearing was soaked completely through.  There is nothing you can really do about it though,  just adjust your mind to be okay with soggy clothes.  As the day wore on the rain increased in intensity and even the locals were huddled inside.

     The good thing about the rain is that it also brought cooler weather.  No longer was I drenched in sweaty clothes, now the rain did that for me.  Late in the day we came to the town of Port Clinton where "Houdini" was meeting up with some old friends for the night.  We walked two miles down the busy highway and both got rooms at a local hotel as a reward for braving the weather all day.  When I got to my room I stripped everything off, took a nice hot shower and then passed out in the marvelously soft bed.

     I woke up feeling fantastic.  I had the best night's sleep for as long as I can remember.  I met "Houdini" in the lobby and we ate some of their complimentary breakfast.  We heard that Cabela's across the street offered a free shuttle back to the trail so we mosied on over and inquired.  They informed us that the van was in the shop and a shuttle would not be happening.  Oh well, so we explored the inside of Cabela's for a while and I narrowly escaped being trampled by stampeding impalas.

     We went outside and down to the Dunkin Donuts around the corner and had another breakfast.  When we finally started walking down the highway back to the trail we were passed by an RV with a space monkey on the back.  My father just happened to be driving by at that very moment and spotted us on the road.  He pulled over, picked us up and drove us back to the trail.  How crazy it that?

     Finally hiking again and the day was magnificent.  The rain was replaced by a cool crisp breezy day.  It was perfect.  Not too hot and not too cold.  The miles came real easy and I felt great all day long.

     Late in the day I was up on a ridge aproaching the shelter I was staying at for the night.  I was going through a boulder field when I just kind of let my body do what it wanted.  It felt like I was taking my hands of the steering wheel and just watching what happens.  My pace quickened and I bounced from rock to rock light as a feather.  I felt no effort or had nor perception of choosing a path.  It was such an odd disconnected feeling, but at the same time it felt great because I was covering a large distance on very difficult terrain without any effort mentally.  Before I knew it I had arrived at my destination.  I set up my sleeping bag inside the shelter and slipped off to sleep.

     Next morning I set off really early by myself.  I was meeting up for a resupply with my dad later in the day and I wanted a good start.  The boulder fields from the day before disappeared for a while and I made great time, but it wasn't to last.  Eventually I came to a spot called the Knife's Edge.  It consisted of miles of large boulders that were extremely difficult to negotiate.

     And so it went mile after mile until finally I came to the road crossing for my scheduled meet up.  I am now only two days away from crossing into my home state.  It feels surreal when I think about the fact that I have walked here...and also how big my beard has gotten.



  1. One of the +'s is that rain will wash your wardrobe. Two days to NJ. Rita and I are in Andover, NJ. It would be good to see you and offer a good meal and a beer or three. Stay well.
    Frank Schafer

    1. I can't believe I missed you! A beer or three would be very welcome.

  2. Enjoying the posts. Glad that you're back on your feet!

    1. Thanks Kate, it makes me happy when I hear others are enjoying following along with me :)

  3. As always great writing and cool videos - that knife's edge looked really tricky. Do you ever get dizzy up there just from the heights and not the caffeine? Some of those paths look very dangerous so it's glad to hear you get into the zen zone and your body knows just where to step.
    And how's that for your Dad driving by just when you needed him - more of that mysterious synchonistic trial magic!

    1. I was seriously considering calling this post synchronicity for what you wrote last time.

      Haven't been dizzy from the heights, but lots of dizziness from fatigue. Haven't quite figured out how to keep my body purring yet.

  4. Great writing as usual Frenchy. BTW do not venture into the ponds up in Maine when you get there, especially after a 20 mile day. Just found out a North Bounder named Achilles drowned up there swimming in a pond after a 20 mile hike.

    Of all the things that go through your mind when plannign a hike as to what can happen to you, "drowning" is one near the very bottom.

    See the link...So sad

    1. I was wrong on the hikers identity, the guy that drowned is known as Parkside. I am sure you might have heard about it already. I know news travels fast out there.

    2. Holy cow, that is crazy! I just read that. I haven't heard anything about it on the trail. I used to be a lifeguard at a water park that has actual mountain water for some of their rides. I had to save people who knew how to swim regularly because the cold would make them freeze up.