AT-PA Rt. 501 to Swatara Gap Rt. 72

The last section of Pennsylvania!!! Woot!

It wasn’t clear whether I was going to be able to get this state done before the end of the year.  I was determined, however, and put an all out call to any of my Facebook friends who might want to do this last 12 miles with me…and one of them said YES!!!!

My friend, Lola, and I opted outside on Black Friday!  I had to leave pretty early from Frederick, Maryland to get to Swatara Gap by 8:15 am.  I pulled up beside the iron bridge with time to spare…only to notice that there are new signs declaring cars will be towed.  Well, this is new to me.  The last time I was here it was okay to park on the side of Rt. 72…NO MORE!  So when Lola cruised in behind me a few minutes later we backtracked, going around to the back of the creek, on the old State Road, in order to park in the “real” parking lot.  Just an fyi folks…no parking on Rt. 72 anymore! (maybe it was always illegal…but lots of people did it, including me, and never got a ticket or anything)

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Ready to go! Last section of PA underway!

With one car properly parked, we headed to 501 to begin the last section of PA for me!!! This day was meant to be.  Warm temps, blue skies, …Black Friday?  Felt like an early spring day!

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We were greeted with a fantastic view just south of 501.  After that it was pretty decent hiking (with the understanding that it is Pennsylvania and there are the regular amount of rocks along the way).

A nice sunny spot was waiting for me at the William Penn Shelter.  I took the opportunity to soak up the sun while chomping on a crisp apple…oh the delights of fall.  “What the heck?…Oh, my phone.”  It was in my right pocket and digging into my hip in a way that was none too comfortable, so I rolled to my left hip and yanked it out.  Apparently, my chapstick felt the need to also exit my pocket in a leap for freedom and promptly fell through a crack in the floor of the shelter to the ground below.   The one item I hated to lose.  *sniff*  “Bye-bye chapstick…so sad you are gone.” 😦

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Moving on, the trail resumed the regular rocky until after the old powerline view.   For about a quarter mile there are some bigger rocks which required a bit of rock hopping.  “Come on rocks, dance with me!” I muttered under my breath as I tipped forward, then backwards, on one of the looser specimens.  At this point, I looked to my left and right.  I stopped, calling back to Lola, who was doing a bit of dancing of her own.  “Look at that” I exclaimed, pointing to the woods beside the trail.  “Do you see ANY rocks over there???”  It was a rhetorical question, as there were NO rocks to be seen anywhere EXCEPT where we were walking…teetering…whatever. Oh, Pennsylvania, you amuse me…

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1000 miles going southbound!

It seems my feet have gotten soft since my backpack in PA this summer.  As we approached the steep downhill into Swatara Gap, they were quite vocal in their disapproval of this 12 miles!  When I stepped onto the road, after following the trail underneath I-81, it felt so good! Level ground, no rocks!

Whelp! PA section is complete!

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Yessss!!!! FINALLY FINISHED PENNSYLVANIA!

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and there are some sections I would love to do again!  I loved this state most for the people who hiked it with me.  Dirigo, Python, Google, CanDo, Queen V, Lola and many other women I met through Trail Dames.  Also, my brother, Albie, who hiked a portion of the trail between Pine Grove Furnace and Caledonia SP with me. He showed me that I could do a 15 mile day! Brothers are awesome!! 🙂 🙂

On to Virginia and softer trails! Hike On! 🙂

 

 

 

AT – PA with Trail Dames of MD: Coming Together, Sharing the Trail & Making Memories

One of the best groups I have ever led on a hike!  I led this hike for Trail Dames of Maryland last Saturday…ten miles on the Appalachian Trail.  We started at Shippensburg Road and hiked south to Caledonia State Park.

This being the beginning of my semester, I don’t have much time to elaborate! However, this mix of personalities just clicked, creating a wonderful, supportive, fun experience.  These women are the reason I volunteer to scout, organize, provide shuttles, and lead hikes! 🙂 🙂

Hike on!

The Dames at Shippensburg Road Trail Head

The Dames at Shippensburg Road Trail Head

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AT – PA Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap (then to parking in NJ) ~18 miles

Day 7: June 26, 2015 Last day!

Snuggled in my sleeping bag in Stempa’s garage I said out loud, “I just had a sadistic thought.”  Of course, Google and CanDo insisted I share.  “Well, if it is going to rain on Saturday, then why don’t we just hike through to Delaware Water Gap tomorrow?  It’s only 16 miles.”  Google had been thinking the same thing and soon CanDo was in agreement.

So off we went to Wind Gap, again slack packing…Delaware Water Gap or Bust!

Of course, there was a climb coming out of Wind Gap and it seemed to go on for a long time!  As usual, once on top it was the usual rocky and we were able to move pretty quickly along the ridge.

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We DID NOT bypass the rocks! It was such a gorgeous day to be on the trail and we wanted to go up and see the view!

Our first landmark was Wolf Rocks about seven miles north of Wind Gap.  So glad we did not take the bypass as the weather was great, the sky was blue and the Rhododendron was in bloom.  Just gorgeous!

Up on Wolf Rocks

Up on Wolf Rocks

Rhododendron!!

Rhododendron!!

Rhododendron!!

Rhododendron!!

Google wondered if we would have thought these rocks were as easy if we would have had to climb over them on day one or two.  Regardless, they were flat and didn’t tip over!  Beautiful walking across them!

CanDo in the thicket...or the thick of it!

CanDo in the thicket…or the thick of it!

Beautiful Day for a long hike!

Beautiful Day for a long hike!

One rock at a time! Google and BoobOnARock coming down from Wolf Rocks.

One rock at a time! Google and BoobOnARock coming down from Wolf Rocks.

Coming down off the rocks was slow-ish…but still not too daunting.  So off to Kirkridge we went!

Woohoo! Props to us, we made Kirkridge by 12:30 pm!

This was a personal challenge day for me and I felt good about progress so far and that my body actually felt good. My face showed my determination to finish this off.

Determined!

Determined!

Why I wanted to get done, I am not sure.  Maybe because seeing that little Bongo on the trail the day before made me miss my own Sidekick Pauli and the rest of the pack. Whatever, I was on my way and not going to be denied Delaware Water Gap today. 🙂

A few more rocks, a fire road walk that seemed to go on forever, then the descent into the Gap was all that was left.

Regular Rocky Trail

Regular Rocky Trail

Google up on Wolf Rocks

Google

A lot of Fire Road Walking prior to Mount Mimsi

A lot of Fire Road Walking prior to Mount Minsi

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The best...like a serpent coming up out of the ground! Across the Gap.

The best…like a serpent coming up out of the ground! Across the Gap.

Of course we got ice cream! How do you think we made it 18 miles?  :)

Of course we got ice cream! How do you think we made it 18 miles? 🙂

It was a great week of challenges met!!

I wish I could say I was finished with the AT in PA, but I need about ten measly, little miles between Swatara Gap and 501.  No problem…I will be back PA when my ankles are again their normal size! 🙂

Enjoy the Flipogram and Hike on!!!!

AT – PA Smith Gap to Wind Gap ~8 miles

Day 6: June 25, 2015 My Dad’s Birthday

We hiked this section starting at Wind Gap and hiking south to Smith Gap.  There were more thunderstorms in the forecast, so we agreed to another night in Stempa’s garage.

I thought about my Dad today as I hiked backwards to Smith Gap.  He has Alzheimer’s and his mind is not what it used to be.  My moving south, instead of north, confused me at times and I wondered if my Dad could relate.  We ran into hikers that had passed us yesterday.  My Dad runs into thoughts daily that have passed him over the years.  Is it now, or is it then?  Have the years passed since meeting you, or am I meeting you for the first time?  I hate what is happening to my Dad.  I hate what is happening to my Mom as she experiences my Dad’s erratic behavior.  I hate that I cannot help my sister and brother who are taking on the brunt of the responsibility for making decisions for my Mom and Dad out there in Hoosierland.  I hope someone reminds my Dad that it is his birthday as I hike down this trail backwards.

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The first climb going south out of Wind Gap is a climb, but not one that deserves much attention.  Here are a few things that stuck like glue in my memory of our hike from North to South.

CanDo at Hahn's Lookout

CanDo at Hahn’s Lookout

1) There was a negative guy wearing snake guards who I never met but I knew him intimately through the stories of other hikers.  My eyes scanned the trail and shelters for this guy all day long…never ran into him!  My takeaway…Be positive, Be polite, Be helpful if possible, and for God’s sake, smile at people on the trail…they are spreading stories about you the minute they run into another hiker!

No sign of Snake Guard Guy.

No sign of Snake Guard Guy.

2) A thru-hiker at the shelter carried avocados with him.  He put a whole avocado on a  bagel, making an impossibly huge, awkward sandwich that I thought he would never be able to fit in his mouth…um, yeah, I was wrong!  As impressive as that was though, it was his care in packing out the pitts that stole my heart. ❤ ❤  🙂  🙂  Well, that, and when his friend got to the shelter, he insisted on the friend relaxing while he went the half mile down to the third spring (the only one with water) to refill all of their water bottles.  My takeaway…Good friends are hard to find and once you have them make sure to continue to nurture that relationship.

Breaktime at Leroy Smith Shelter with the Bagel & Avocado eating thru hiker. :)

Breaktime at Leroy Smith Shelter with the Bagel & Avocado eating thru hiker. 🙂

3) There was a trailer park across the road from the Wind Gap parking area, and Stempa was surprised none were trying to help these hikers who were out of water.  My takeaway…People may not be able to help a hiker if they are in a position where they are having trouble just keeping their lives together.  Or People may just not want to help … or may not know they can help.  They may see a hiker and think “Wow! that guy must have a great life if he can just come out here and go for a long hike.”

It's a great life being able to buzz around on the trail! Water or no Water, part of the fun is figuring it out! :)

It’s a great life being able to buzz around on the trail! Water or no Water, part of the fun is figuring it out! 🙂

4)  Met another section hiker who, just by coincidence, was waiting at Smith Gap in her car when we arrived.  She gave us a ride back to Stempa’s, without a second thought!  We exchanged contact info…I plan to help her with the Maryland section, shuttles and such.  My takeaway…never shy away from the opportunity to build your network of hiking friends!

An Unexpected Ride to Stempa's smashed into the back of an SUV. :)

An Unexpected Ride to Stempa’s smashed into the back of an SUV. 🙂

5) Met Bongo! A boston terrier hiking the trail with her humans.  Adorable!  You can follow Bongo’s journey through her human’s journal.

Bongo!!! Human's admitted that she slackpacks occasionally.  Love this little cutie!

Bongo!!! Human’s admitted that she slackpacks occasionally. Love this little cutie!

It was a fun hike, but lacking the drama of climbing out of Lehigh Gap!  But what I know for sure is this: Sometimes the trail itself does not excite, but the people are ALWAYS interesting! 🙂

Delaware Water Gap or Bust…Hike On!

AT – PA Lehigh Gap to Smith Gap ~12 miles

Day 5: June 24, 2015

Okay. Yes. Um. I’m ready? Maybe. Okay. Yeah. Let’s Go!

The most anticipated day on this section.  I had Googled it, YouTubed it, and sufficiently freaked myself over it!  Then I pronounced we needed to slack pack our way up Lehigh Gap.  I got no argument from Google or CanDo.  Hmmm.  What a surprise. 🙂

I had also found out that the water sources were pretty much nonexistent on the ridge between Lehigh Gap and Kirkridge Shelter (where there is a spigot!).  So why not also stash water at Little Gap in CanDo’s car.  This would make our packs even lighter!  I still carried a liter and a half plus Gatorade…but it felt super light with everything else stashed at Little Gap!

So here we go!

Car is locked, let's go!

Car is locked, let’s go!

Climbing was steeply uphill through the woods at first.  No problem!

When I saw we were coming out of the tunnel of foliage, I knew the hike was about to get real.  My heart started fluttering…argh! too many darn YouTube Videos!!

The First Look Down

The First Look Down

Not so bad...except the blazes go straight up after this. :)

Not so bad…except the blazes go straight up after this. 🙂

I took a deep breath and just told myself “put one foot in front of the other.  This is just another mountain, just another pile of rocks, I got this!”  So I climbed along the exposed ledge. No problems. Doing good! Oh FRICK… WHAT THE HELL??? I have to go where???

I had a “come to Jesus” moment when I got to a place that really pulled on everything I got to get up on the next level of rocks!!!  It was like this: My feet were teetering on a thin little ledge and my arms were fully extended, fingers curled into notches that were barely more than slight indentations in the rock face.  I looked down…oh, absolutely NOT going back down!  I looked up and like a mantra repeated the “F” word several times in a row.  I told myself there is no room to be self conscious about how I get this done.  So I hurled myself up hissing the “F” word, pulled with my arms inhaling the “F” word.  I was pushing like crazy with my legs, my feet flailing and scraping the rock face..more “F” word mantra with occasional short grunts.  Cripes, it felt like child birth!!! Pain in a different place, but still!  But I had that baby, yes, I did!

My

My “Come to Jesus” Moment

No thinking, Just Climbing!

No thinking, Just Climbing! (Thanks Google for the pic!)

Google &  BoobOnARock Making our way UP!

Google & BoobOnARock
Making our way UP!

Crawling over the top...Not a pretty picture, but major concentration going on here.  Climb up, throw poles, climb to poles, throw them again...

Crawling over the top…Not a pretty picture, but major concentration going on here. Climb up, throw poles, climb to poles, throw them again…

I continued to cleave to that mountain until I crossed over the top of it and had a nice sit down by the FLAG…God Bless Freaking America…where you are free to kill yourself on any mountain you want! Whew!!!

I made it!! Happy Day! This is so cool up here! :)

I made it!! Happy Day! This is so cool up here! 🙂  (Thanks CanDo for the pic)

We made it to the top in an hour and a half, unbelievable…we thought it would take much longer.  For sure, wanting to get off those crazy rocks is a mighty motivator! 🙂

Once at the top, the walking is easy and the views are absolutely gorgeous.  I went between feeling like Maria in Sound of Music, to Heidi in …well, Heidi.  Wildflowers, cool temps and great breeze.  It almost felt like hiking in New Hampshire. 🙂 🙂

Google on the ridge

Google on the ridge

Superfund Sign To find out more about Palmerton & Environmental Travesty caused by Zinc Smelting you can access the Lehigh Gap Nature Center Site  http://lgnc.org/conservation

Superfund Sign
To find out more about Palmerton & Environmental Travesty caused by Zinc Smelting you can access the Lehigh Gap Nature Center Site
http://lgnc.org/conservation

On the approach to Little Gap, Google stopped to talk to the Ridgerunner about the water situation.  We were all mulling over different plans in our heads, but none of us was talking out loud about anything yet…just thinking.  The Ridgerunner mentioned John Stempa, who we knew from the FB section hiker page.  Google texted a hiker friend for his number…then we packed up our packs, refilled on water, WATER…like I was now carrying my full pack and nearly 5, FIVE, liters of WATER.  Camel I am NOT!!

Up we climbed out of Little Gap, slowly. Very slowly up a rock jumble hill.  Stepping oh, so carefully, I felt the swing of that water and tried my best to stay ramrod straight!

Arrived at Delps Trail and campsite at 4:30 pm.  CanDo headed for the woods, while Google and I dumped our packs and started talking.  The water situation.  We had enough for tonight, but the spring at Delps was dry, so what about tomorrow?

Taking a break!

Taking a break!

Nice Campsite, but no water!

Nice Campsite, but no water!

We went back and forth.  Google checked her phone and saw that her friend had provided Stempa’s number.  She puts in a call, maybe he can give more info on the water situation.

John Stempa did more than that! What a guy! He enticed us to hike another 2.7 miles to Smith Gap by offering us showers, water, dinner and his garage to sleep in!  We took the bait and hiked that last 2.7 like a boss (after ditching most of the water we had struggled to carry for the last 5 miles).

Dinner at the Kunkletown Pub with John Stempa. :)

Dinner at the Kunkletown Pub with John Stempa. 🙂

If you are ever hiking in the area, look him up…a Trail Legend! $10 to stay at his place, extra for dinner at Kunkletown Pub!

Delaware Water Gap or Bust…Hike On!

AT – PA New Tripoli Campsite to Lehigh Gap 12 miles

Day 4: June 23, 2015

This day garners a “holy shit” in my book.  It began with a 0.2 climb out of the New Tripoli Campsite.  That was just the warm up!  The star of the hour was Knife Edge…we thought it was going to be the big event of the day…but were properly humbled by several more rock piles of boulders tipped at precarious angles just begging us to slip and fall!

When we got in sight of Knife Edge I thought, “Oh, and here we go.”  I don’t know, I may have said it out loud too because just at that moment Google got a look at the Knife Edge and exclaimed, “Oh, I have to pee!”

The Knife Edge

The Knife Edge

Google showing her fancy footwork on the Knife Edge

Google showing her fancy footwork on the Knife Edge

Not to go into details, but the only place to go was on the rocks, and so she did.  As she was in her compromised position, a man’s voice exclaims loud and clear, “That is quite a sight so early in the morning.”  Haha…no room for modesty!!  This was our introduction to ISO, a thruhiker, on his way north.  You can read his account of that moment in his trail journal!

BoobOnARock on Knife Edge

BoobOnARock on Knife Edge (thanks CanDo for the pic)

After the Knife Edge, we continued to climb up and over the rocks that make up Bake Oven Knob.  At one point, during a descent, I stopped, completely puzzled on how I was to get down.  I had come upon a sheer drop off of about 5 feet. How to do it?  I stood there thinking as Google and CanDo approached from behind.  I thought about sitting and sliding, but my legs weren’t long enough to ensure a good landing on the tilted rocks below.  I thought about climbing around it and finding another way down, but after looking around and all the other RIDICULOUS options, I decided NO.  There had to be a way down!  I had been eyeing a tree that had some flexible branches with some interest.  “Hey, I remember as a kid getting down from trees by holding onto a branch and letting gravity gently take me down to the ground”, I thought to myself, “Why not? why not do that now?”  I did it!  I grabbed onto the limb and jumped!  It worked! I was down!

I turned to look triumphantly at Google and CanDo…I did it, I did it!…”Oh crap!” My pack was so heavy it began to pull me backwards…I was moving…falling…gently, but definitely headed down!  I hung onto that limb as if my life depended on it.  Well, my life was depending on it as I slowly bent backwards until, good lord, I was upside down!  “If this limb breaks I am dead meat…Well, I am not letting go until I can secure myself.” Google and CanDo were rollling, and I was laughing hysterically.  But I had to hold on! I couldn’t stop gravity!!  I notched my boots somehow and pulled myself up into a sitting position.  Success! I had Tarzanned down!

And while Google and CanDo may have thought me crazy…Google ended up catching that limb down for a ride also.  Although, she did it more gracefully than me! Haha!! 🙂 🙂

On another rock jumble, we saw a beautiful rattle snake sunning himself up on the rocks.  I didn’t even notice him, and for sure he didn’t see us as a threat! CanDo got a nice shot of him though!

Then the trail got a little nicer and we started making better time.  We met three women headed for Knife Edge.  They told us there was an approaching storm for later in the afternoon, hail, strong winds, torrential rains…oh joy.  We picked up the pace!

In fact the reason I don’t have a lot of pics for this post is because thunder chased us down the trail!  We stopped in at Bake Oven Knob shelter as the sky got dark and the winds were picking up.  A little rain fell, but then nothing else.  So we took off for Outerbridge shelter at a good clip!

Outerbridge Shelter (thanks CanDo for the pic)

Outerbridge Shelter (thanks CanDo for the pic)

When we pulled into Outerbridge, we met up again with ISO. Taking time to rest and have an actual conversation with him was great.  He is a good guy and we decided since we were going to stash water for ourselves at Little Gap (on the other side of Lehigh Gap), that we would stash a gallon for him as well!  There is no water on the ridge!

Hey! A guy offered us a ride on the bridge! (thanks CanDo for the pic)

Hey! A guy offered us a ride on the bridge! (thanks CanDo for the pic)

We walked the final mile downhill to our car motivated by the fact we would be staying at a hotel in town while it stormed outside!

Delaware Water Gap or Bust…Hike On!

AT – PA Eckville Shelter to New Tripoli Campsite 13.3 miles

Day 3: June 22, 2015

Well, after an evening of thru hiker tales, including one about a hiker who took part in “hike naked” day, I conked out before it got dark in the Eckville Shelter!

Up early, ate my granola bars, and was ready to go!  I swore off oatmeal after the last backpack.  Why? I mean it is so good for me!  It’s gross.  It’s mushy.  I have never liked oatmeal and do not see any reason I should eat that crap on the trail…unless it is cold out…then I suffer just so I can have something warm to eat.  But I am working on an alternative to that also… 🙂

Watched several hikers leave as I sat at the picnic table and waited for Google and CanDo.  Wondered for a moment if they would be offended if I just started hiking.  But then I decided it was probably better to stick together since I didn’t want to do anything crazy without someone to spot me!

After getting back on the trail it resumed the regular rockiness.  After a bridge crossing, the trail ascends steeply to the ridge.  Nothing like a climb to get you warmed up in the morning!

Cute little bridge crossing this morning.

Cute little bridge crossing this morning.

After passing the side trail to Hawk Mountain it is just another mile slightly uphill to Dan’s Pulpit.  I was looking forward to this as it would give a view back to the Pinnacle…and I love to be able to look back at where I hiked before.  It was blessedly sunny today, which allowed for a good view at Dan’s Pulpit.

Dan's Pulpit looking at the Pinnacle

Dan’s Pulpit looking at the Pinnacle

Register at Dan's Pulpit

Register at Dan’s Pulpit

Pennsylvania raised its rocky head afterwards! Lots of fun rock jumbles meant tedious walking. Nothing like stepping on a rock that decides to dance with you!  Add to that rising temperatures…whew.  Every once in a while a great breeze would catch me unaware and I would just be like “Yesssssss!”  The heat and the rocks had us slowing down a bit and I was happy to pull into the Allentown Shelter for a break and lunch. 🙂

Passed the Tri-County Corner

Passed the Tri-County Corner

Yay! the Shelter at 7.4 miles.

Yay! the Shelter at 7.4 miles.

Lunch!

Lunch!

I chugged my Gatorade, took off my shoes and rubbed my feet! These rocks were getting to be serious business.  But after the shelter…smooth sailing.  We got to Rt. 301 relatively quickly.  It was flat fire roads again with beautiful ferns lining the path.  Overhead, the blue skies and puffy white clouds went on forever.  A gorgeous, hot day!

Nice trail after the shelter!

Nice trail after the shelter!

We found the turn off for New Tripoli Campsite without any drama…but when we started to go down steeply I was momentarily discouraged.  Down, down, down.  It seemed like forever!  It was totally worth it.  Great campsite with access to a very nice water source, a stream.  How delightful to soak my feet in the stream after a hard day hiking. 🙂

Awwwwwww.....nice and cold!

Awwwwwww…..nice and cold!

It was a long day and when I climbed into my bag I fell asleep almost immediately. Tomorrow – the big day, Knife Edge and Bake Oven Knob. *snore* ZZZZzzzzzzz

Delaware Water Gap or Bust…Hike on!