Monday, April 10, 2017

Pennsylvania Rocks - April 10

Not only does Pennsylvania rock, Pennsylvania has lots of rocks. I mean, lots of rocks. But it's all good. I love it when a rock wall appears out of nowhere in the woods. I suppose a farmer 100 years ago built it to keep his cows separated from the neighbors cows. Fun to see cool old abandoned stuff out in the middle of the woods. 

We enjoyed the perfect Sunday yesterday. I called the local Mormon church Bishop and asked if a church member could give us a ride. A little while later Bob Buchta called me back to make a deal. On Sunday morning we were sitting on our backpacks on Hawk Mountain Rd at 9:00when Bob showed up right on time. He took us to the Pottsville Branch for an awesome 3 hours of church. Afterward, Brother Whitmer gave us a lift back to the trail. We had just enough time to knock down 7 miles to the Allentown shelter. 

Today we made 10 miles to the Bake Oven Knob Shelter. Took us all day to hike them because of Pennsylvania Rocks.  

Views are awesome enough on their own, but when some kind soul builds a stone bench to sit on to view the view, that's really livin'. 

Shauna had a real go of it navigating "Knife Edge". Hard to tell in the picture, but it's awfully steep on both sides of the narrow rock ridge. Really challenging, but really fun. 

Our food choices have been evolving for the good. For lunch I've been eating cheddar cheese and summer beef sausage on crackers for starters. Then a couple peanut butter and Nutella mini bagel sandwiches. A couple days ago I had the genius idea to put the beef and cheddar on the mini bagel. WOW POW!!! What an awesome combo. 

It is critical to get the proportion of meat to cheese to bread just right. The first time I only had maybe a 1/4" thick slice of beef stick. Not enough. Next time I upped it to 3/8". Better but still not enough. Today I went with 1/2" slices and hit paydirt. Can't wait for tomorrow so I can eat lunch again. Thanks to 31 years with Clark Construction I know the difference between 3/8" and 1/2". 

Check out these two in hammocks. Some folks like tents, others like hammocks. As they say around here, "hike your own hike".  

Today is the beginning of our fourth week and our clean water streak continues. I love being able to see water coming right out of Mother Earth and drinking my fill without any purification. 

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

You've Got the Tent

Near the end of the day today the AT took Best Wife and I near Pinnacle Rock in PA. Since it was a short hike off the trail to the rock cliff to see the view I decided to take a look while Best Wife hiked on. As we were parting ways she kindly reminded me to not get too close to the edge. As I was enjoying her love for me and her great concern for my welfare she continued, "You've got the tent."  I figure I'm at least as valuable as our tent. 

Yesterday Craig from the Rock n Sole Hostel slack packed us to Port Clinton. (Yes, that is two slack packs in a row.) We saw his hostel when we were shifting gear around. Looked like a real clean place, except that we would be way past it by the end of the day. 

That day was cold and windy with some snow and sleet. As long as we were moving we were comfortable, but once we arrived at Port Clinton, PA and were starting to set up camp in the windy, damp town picnic pavilion, we about froze. Craig from the Rock n Sole Hostel brought our packs to us and dropped the hint that we could jump in his car and drive back to his hostel for the night. We said no thanks, the cold damp windy pavilion would work for us. He hadn't been gone 5 minutes when Best Wife reminded me she had no more clothes to put on and was getting colder by the minute. I couldn't call Craig fast enough. He was back picking us up in 5 minutes. 

After a fantastic chicken, string bean and potato dinner we settled into our sleeping quarters in a mint 1958 travel trailer. This thing was inspired by the travel trailer in the "I Love Lucy" camping episode and has been restored like you wouldn't believe. When inside you feel like you've stepped back in time. Even has a CD player with a box full of 1960s greatest hits CDs. 

Best Wife became so caught up in the oldie CDs that after we finished our 1:30 a.m. pee she asked if it would be okay to put the third oldies CD on while we went back to sleep. Iron Butterfly's In-a-gadda-da-vida never sounded so good. 

Check out the check dam diverting water off the trail. This one was doing an exceptional job this morning and was much appreciated. Trail maintainers are unsung heros for sure. 

This huge pile of rocks was started many years ago and keeps getting bigger. When we were hear 6 or 7 years ago it was not this big. Everybody that visits Pinnacle Rock to see the views can't help but add to the pile. I chucked one softball size rock up on top. Couldn't stop myself. 

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Deluge - April 7

Wednesday, April 5 was a fine day for hiking. We covered 13.4 miles slackpacking 9 of them. Slackpacking is when a kind sole hauls our backpacks to the place where we end our hike for the day. What a fun day it is to hike with only lunch and water on our backs.

Mackenzie slacked us on Wednesday and then took us to dinner and a motel. The next morning (Thursday) as we went to a grocery store for a few things we saw how hard it was raining and decided to bag hiking for the day. Good decision. The wind and rain that day were monsoon style.

The trail was under water a good part of the day today. Hiked 15 miles to Port Clinton, PA. Snow and sleet off and on all day but didn't amount to anything.

A couple days ago one of my Croc camp shoes came loose from my pack and was lost. Today (two days and 25 or 30 miles later) I found it laying very conspicuously on a bridge. No doubt some hiker found it and put where I would see it. Very cool.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Not So Hot Stuff - April 4

So Pappy 12 and Best Wife were getting a little cocky about doing 29.6 miles in 2 days. We were not as tired or sore as we thought we would be so we began to feel like we can run with the big dog thru Hikers. We had been at the Rousch Gap shelter about 30 minutes when a seasoned looking hiker we had never seen before pulled in. 

It is pretty common at shelters and campsites to ask each other where they had started that morning or how many days or weeks they had been on the trail. So I asked this dude (Skippy John Jones, picture included) if he came from GA. Yes. When did you start? Jan 8. 

Now he has my respect because he has done enough of the trail to say he is the real deal. Then I ask him how far he hiked today.  29.6 miles. I said you mean you were in Duncannon this morning? Yes. 

Skippy had hiked the same miles in one day that we had hiked in 2 long days. We are not yet running with the big dogs. Then I asked him why he started so early in GA. He said he needs to make it to Kahtadin, ME by about June 1so he will be able to do a yoyo (yoyo means you complete the AT and then turn around and hike it again in the opposite direction, get it? Yoyo)

Now I'm in awe over this guy.  I asked him why he is doing a thru hike in the first place. He said he needs it to complete the Great American Triathlon.  What's that? Well, first you kayak the entire Mississippi River, then you bike from coast to coast, then you thru hike the AT. 

Now I realize I'm in the presence of a guy in his own league, a real superstar. Looking forward to seeing Skippy on his way south somewhere in New England as we are still hiking north. 

Happy 8th Bday to grandson, Big Ev. 

I'd like to shake the man's hand who built this stone bridge. Real craftsman. 

How do you like this piped spring 30 feet from the shelter? The comforts of home in the woods. 

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Friends - April 2

Our Sabbath this week was on Saturday. We did the normal food shopping and laundry, but it was like the Sabbath because we watched three 2-hour sessions of our world wide church general conference. 

The forecast is calling for heavy rain Monday night and Tuesday. In order to sleep in a shelter Monday night we needed to hike 29 miles on Sunday and Monday. Today we did 16.3. New PB for us. We hiked the last 30 minutes and pitched the tent in the dark, but we made it. Tomorrow we will hike 13 to the shelter and beat the rain. 

Signs along the trail are our friends. Hiking every day is as much a mental challenge as it is physical. When we are close to a campsite or some other destination it can get real discouraging real fast when we think we should be there by now, but we aren't. The brain says you certainly should be there by now. 

To keep the brain in check we use a watch to estimate about how far we have hiked. Knowing how fast we walk on a certain terrain, and using signs and the guidebook for distances, we can pretty accurately guess when we will arrive. What else are we going to do all day but run the math in our heads. 

Stone stairs are also are friends. Trail maintainers volunteer thousands of hours to build beautiful rock steps to manage steep slopes. Of course they maintain the trail and shelters in tons of other ways too. Stone stairs are our friends. 

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

3 Dog Night, 4 Hood Day - March 31

Left Darlington Shelter this morning with a steady rain and 37 degrees leading the charge. The rain was our companion until 2 or 3 this afternoon. It was a great test for our rain gear as we can't remember hiking through a steady rain for that many hours.

Gear held up well. Of course there is no pretense of keeping legs and feet dry. There are all kinds of waterproof boots out there. But all of them have this big hole in the top where you stick your foot in. Awfully hard to waterproof that hole when water is running down your legs.

Marmot, you can have your "waterproof" gloves back. Best Wife would have been better off wearing sponges on her hands.

Pulled into the Cove Mtn Shelter for lunch at 2. The leading edge of the shelter floor was a good three feet off the ground. All the other shelters that high have had stairs or a couple boulders to use to get up in the 3 sided lean to. To make things more difficult the leading edge of the floor was covered with sheet metal. Never seen this before.

Turns out local porky pines have been holding frat parties in the shelter. Chewing up all the wood in sight. The sign on the front of the shelter explained the high step and sheet metal are to try to keep porky out of the shelter and in the woods.

The sign went on to say, "If you wake up with a porky in bed with you, let us know how he got in."

Since temps only got up to about 45, Best Wife and pappy 12 hiked all day with all the clothes on we have. Best Wife even had all four of her hoods on most of the day. It's a four hood day alright.

Since Saturday is our food resupply day we asked "Trail Angel Mary" in Duncannon, PA for a lift to a local motel/grocery store. 16 years ago as a homeless women and living in a tent at a Duncannon campground, she found satisfaction in helping AT hikers. A few months later when she was back on her feet she started opening up her apartment to thirsty hikers as well as shuttling them around.

The AT trail guide includes phone numbers for all the local trail support folks from GA to ME. The people that make up the society and culture up and down the trail are reliable, selfless and numerous.