AT – VA Dripping Rock to Rockfish Gap

Backpacking with my gal pals last weekend! How is it to know these women, these outrageous trail bitches who understand this is not a frivolous hobby? We understand each other in a deep way even our life partners don’t get. We see the desire burning in each other’s heart for the outdoors, for the forest, for walking in and not having to walk out right away. Hiking and backpacking is something we do because it is what makes us whole! and it is what makes us reasonable human beings in all the other areas of our lives.

With that in mind, we all piled into Akela’s minivan, WHICH HOLDS ALL SEVEN OF US AND OUR GEAR!! Headed south to Dripping Rock, one of us has forgotten her cell phone…turn around, back to Rockfish Gap…OKAY, now we headed for Dripping Rock … for real! 😀

A sunny, but very chilly morning, at 20 degrees! Thankfully, climbing first thing. It is a lovely stretch of trail up the mountain. Some of us hike a little faster, some a little slower, … all of us hike with optimism, smiles, and support for one another.

The views at the top were amazing, of course! We stopped for lunch at the highest point of our hike. A nice break on the sun splashed rocks until the sun went on hiatus and the wind decided to pick up and play chicken with us. Okay, okay, we are going, seriously! Gloves and hats back on! Ladies, someone has an issue with letting us soak in the sun!

We felt good as we started down towards Paul C. Wolfe Shelter. Golden leaves covered our path in spots as we hiked one way, then the next, zigzagging down the mountain on a kazillion switchbacks. A big nice trail for the most part!

It was a great day filled late Autumn forest magic. A gust of wind showered us with leaves, a beam of sunlight warmed us for a few minutes, a deer silently sneaked a peek at us, and birds called out to each other as we passed. I arrived at the shelter free of all regular life stuff. No place but here, no time but now.

I got my tent up and had dinner as the forest went dark. The moon was almost full giving me all the happy vibes. 🙂

A couple of dads and their sons were camped at the shelter. “NO worries about bears tonight”, I thought, as those boys ran up and down each side of the creek having the time of their lives.

I crawled into my tent, broke open some ‘hothands’ to warm up my tootsies and my sleeping bag, then fell promptly to sleep…at 7:00 pm. Woohoo! Hiker midnight!

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Morning now nigh…Dang, it is always a tough time getting out of the bag on a cold morning!! Deep breath and up I was. Packing up warms you up, so move, move, move! And, oh crap, I have to filter water…oh, but what a nice view I had!!

Hot oatmeal warmed my insides and coffee made me a little more coherent, then it was down the trail we went. It was much warmer on Sunday morning and with temps climbing we were soon plenty warm. The trail had some disaster blow downs which gave us an aerobic edge to our hike. We were shedding layers like crazy! “Lost&Found” had to do an extensive striptease on the trail since she needed to get her long johns off…if that would have been me, I know a fricken entire boy scout group would have appeared! Luckily, she got it done without any such embarrassment!

We spent several minutes at the Lowe cemetery. Akela suggested that it would be a good cleanup project. I have to agree. A tree had fallen over a few graves in the back of the cemetery.

Next stop was Mayo Homestead…a very nice place it must have been with that big fireplace! I can imagine riding a horse up to the cabin and seeing smoke drifting up out of the chimney. A promise of freshly baked bread or other delight waiting for me!

Along the last stretch we met ‘Walking Spirit’, a south bound thru hiker. He was sitting by a nicely flowing spring, enjoying his break. That is what is great about solo hiking. You hike, you break, you eat, you sleep, all without needing to check in with anyone. On the flip side, you get to an amazing view or beautiful tree and you want to share the awe with someone, but all you have is you.

I love solo, but my trail gals…awwwww yeah… that’s my heart!

Hike on!

First Solo Backpack – Adventure Hiking Trial, oops, I mean Trail!

The Adventure Hiking Trail provided me with some unique challenges during my first solo backpack this weekend.  I couldn’t anticipate all of what was in front of me, but I did research the trail as extensively as possible.  It is a 22 mile loop around O’Bannon Woods State Park.  A big shout to Ron White of the Ohio Valley Backpackers for the heads up on the trail head parking, recommendations for water caches, and some other general stuff!  The Hoosier Hiker Council website was a great resource as well with links to a few good maps of the trail.

I had never hiked a trail where I had to cache water and was a little nervous that my cache would disappear before I got to it!  Didn’t happen, my water was waiting for me!

This trail is in southern Indiana, which has a Karst topography.  This topography includes highly soluble rocks such as limestone.  There are many underground drainage opportunities, in addition to caves and sinkholes (of which I saw several).  The water just doesn’t hang around on top, so all the creek beds are dry.  Oh you might find a small pool here and there, but not nearly enough to keep one hydrated.  Thus the water cache.

Friday night I checked into the Forest Office, then stashed water at two trail crossings, the crossing on Cold Friday Road and the one on Old Forest Road.  Driving down Cold Friday Road was an adventure unto itself! Gravel, rutted in spots, and with one place where the road fords the creek (must happen only in a big storm because it was just a low bridge when I went over).  As I placed my gallon of water, with my name and date of pickup labeled clearly, a rumble of thunder sent a chill up my spine.  Okay, good enough, behind a tree…now for cache number two!  Old Forest Road was a regular paved road. What a relief!  I pulled off the road, thunder and clouds rolling, threw my gallon up in the woods and ran for it!  I swear, I love and I hate thunderstorms and it all depends on where I am when they hit.

Anyway, water cached successfully so I headed back to Corydon, Indiana where I had a room at the historic Kintner House Inn.  No hiker trash hotel for me!  The woman who owns place is super accommodating and I recommend it to anyone coming to this part of the country.

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The Joe Zimmerman Room at the Kintner House Inn.

They made me a special early breakfast so I could get to the trail early.  It was a decent day for the middle of summer, mid-80s, low humidity, and no storms!  My car parked at the 462/Old Forest Road lot (space for maybe 3 creatively parked vehicles), I did a last minute check of gear, then headed in a counter-clockwise (west) direction headed for the Ohio River Shelter.

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Test #1: Do you like spiders?  Or rather do you like spider webs…in your face, in your hair, draping from your nose and your cheeks to your ears and your chin to your chest?  I looked like a freaking drum major marching down the trail raising first one hiking pole and then the other in  quick succession in order to catch as many of the webs as possible before they hit my face once again.  Every once in a while, I’d get lulled in a false sense of security, then WHOP, right in the face, spider on my eyeglasses, ugh.  After about the billionth spider web, I gave up.  I just started to plow right through them, with my lips tightly pressed together.  NOTE TO SELF: Buy a hat with a brim and put mosquito netting over it.

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My hiking poles were used as weapons of mass destruction. Sorry to the Spider Subdivision.

Test #2: Do you like wet feet?  My feet were wet from dew in about 30 minutes of starting my hike and they didn’t dry out all day.

Test #3 Do you like to bushwhack?  Because if you don’t, then stay off the trails in southern Indiana in the summer.  All those winter pictures of the Adventure Trail that I found online…yeah, totally get it now.  In general, I backpack at an average pace of 2 mph.  It took me 5 hours to go 5.5 miles!!! Holy moly! When I reached the Iron Bridge, I sat down to have lunch just shaking my head.  Was the rest of the trail going to be like this?  Bushwhacking takes a lot out of you!  On the positive side, the trail is extremely well marked!  After I would fight through another bunch of overgrown grasses, briars, and young tulip poplars I was immediately rewarded with a trail marking.  The emotional gratification of that trail marking cannot be overstated here!

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A lesser bushwhack that greeted me just after starting the trail.

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A more substantial bushwhack…do you see a trail…THAT’S BECAUSE THERE ISN’T ONE (or so you think)!  This was on day 2 between Homestead and Indian Creek Shelters.

The trail improved after the Iron Bridge, so I was able to make faster forward progress, which put my head back in the right place.  I followed a nice wide fire road from the Iron Bridge up to the Horseman’s campground.  This was a planned water stop for me.  While at the campground, I also took the opportunity to wash the spider webs out of my bandannas and clean my glasses which had so many webs crisscrossing them it was hard to see! Felt like a new woman!

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The rest of the trail to the Ohio River Shelter was lovely.  Well marked, well maintained. I reached my destination at 3:30pm.  Shortly, afterwards, two guys came in from the other direction and we had a fun conversation about what we each had experienced thus far.  They were out for a long day hike.  In fact, I had just passed their water cache, which they had put in a tote bag, and chained to a tree…omg!  I told them, “I was wondering about that bag and thought, wow, there must be something pretty special in that bag.  I might have just found a use for my pocket knife…”  They were good guys!  Terrible, I can’t remember their names now…I’ll just call them the Evansville crew.

The Evansville crew gave me some good info on the trail ahead.  There is more bushwhacking and the last two miles (their first two miles) was like my first 5.5.  They also said, “There will be a place where you literally can’t see which way to go.  Go straight ahead. It won’t look like it, but go straight ahead” I gave them my map and they pointed approximately where they thought that place was located. God, I felt like I was in Hunger Games.

The Ohio River Shelter is a popular spot.  I was visited by a bunch of trail riders, a fellow backpacker from Indianapolis who I continued to leapfrog with all weekend, and a nice family who were taking their kids on their first campout.  I tented, Adorable Family got the shelter, and I was totally okay with that!  The shelters along the Adventure Trail are nice, but too closed in for my liking.  They seem dark and dank.  I preferred my tent.

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Please don’t let that horse poo by my tent!!!

It was a beautiful first night out, with a bright moon shining down on me.

The next morning I was up and on the trail before anyone in the Adorable Family was stirring.  It was going to be very hot today and I was hoping I could finish hiking at about 2 pm.  First stop was Cold Friday Road to get my first water cache.  Yay! There it was, waiting for me!  I filled up my 3-liter bladder and 1.5 liter bottle, then drank what was left.

While I was there, my Indianapolis buddy came by.  This is when I found out he had not cached water.  He had a filter and thought he would be able to get water on the trail….oh, buddy.  He started up the next hill and I followed after smashing the now empty gallon jug and attaching to my pack.  I caught up with him again, sitting on a slab of limestone in the middle of an almost dry creek.  He had found a small pool at which to filter water.  Thank goodness!  I continued on up to the Homestead Shelter for a lunch break.

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Homestead Shelter, great tent sites here! Also, a little history behind this site…original chimney!

Indianapolis buddy passed me while I was munching away.  However, it wasn’t long before I caught up to him again.  Honestly, I was kinda worried about him.  He definitely was not drinking enough water, but I didn’t have any extra to offer him, but would have given him some if he had asked.  The bushwhacking had come back full force today and it was freaking hot, like 95 degrees.

We hiked together then until we reached the Indian Creek Shelter, my stopping point.  I know my limits…and heat is one of them.  The bushwhacking was a trial for me and for Indianapolis buddy.

Ohhh…I forgot Test #4!

Test #4 Do you like climbing over blowdowns?  If so, then you would love this trail!  I lost count at 50.

It was nice to have to someone to share the bushwhacking and blow down hopping experiences with, for sure.  I mean, here I am, in the middle of bushes that are taller than me, and I have to decide what to do when I don’t immediately see a blaze.  It’s unnerving.  I had to backtrack at one point to regroup and think it through.  God, and it was so hot! I was so glad to stop hiking that day! Poor Indianapolis had to hike out…5 miles and less than a liter of water.

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Very little tent area at Indian Creek Shelter, but I managed!

I took a look inside the shelter, immediately saw spiders.  I sat down at the picnic table, immediately had a teeny little tick crawling up my leg.  What is this place?????!!!!!  Ummm…I think I’ll tent again.  When I rolled up my tent the next morning, ants everywhere…I knocked off as many as I could…the rest have met with an unfortunate demise within the folds of Big Agnus.

Officially ready to end my first solo backpack, I headed down the trail immediately meeting my first blow down of the day.  Despite the blow downs, this section from Indian Creek Shelter to Old Forest Road is definitely the prettiest section I hiked.

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Gorgeous morning view!

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Last Bushwhack!

There was more bushwhacking, and it took a while to get to the road, but it wasn’t as bad as day 1 or 2.  I had my last water cache at the road.  However, when I exited the woods the weather had taken a turn.  Thunderstorm was on the way!  The wind picked up and I left my cache and took off down the road to my car (1.5 miles away).  Walking as fast as I could, I watched the clouds blacken and start swirling around.  Thunderstorms in Indiana, oh god, yeah, great, a fitting end.

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Angry clouds!!!

Test #5 Do you like hiking in Thunderstorms?  Me either.  After I passed a field of cows, I started looking for houses.  The sky was seriously black now and really scary.  I pulled in to a house and knocked on the door.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to Carol K. for going out of her way and giving me a ride back to my car.  Whew! That was a close one!

This trail tested me and I rose to the occasion, but I am paying an itchy price.  Chiggers, poison ivy, ticks…and despite my using copious amounts of bug spray, my waistline is covered with red welts where I plucked off one little bugger (could have been a tick, could have been a chigger).

So while I dab on another layer of Calamine and pop another Benadryl…Hike On!

 

Going Out Solo…Sasquatch Beware!

Done teaching my summer class, so now I am breaking free!  I started preparing for my first solo backpack at the beginning of June.  Over the last two weeks I have checked the weather where I am headed a gazillion times, changing my route each time to accommodate thunderstorms.  But now, hooray! Thunderstorms are no longer forecast!

I usually do a long section of the Appalachian Trail in the summer, but that wasn’t going to work out because of the summer teaching gig and I wanted to go back to Indiana to visit family.  So I have combined the family visit with a short backpack.  I grew up in the woods in southern Indiana.  My dad would scare us silly about things that lurked in the woods…like Sasquatch!

Well, I can assure you that in my preparation for this trip, Sasquatch has been showing up in my dreams…as have tornados (A little PTSD from the annual viewing of Wizard of Oz when I was a kid).

I have tried to do everything I can think to be prepared.  Like call the Forest Office (no answer), the state park office (*gasp* “you’re not going by yourself, are you?), check hunting seasons (it’s crow, bullfrog, and turtle season just in case you are wondering), and tracking the weather.  I have the map memorized and know exactly where I am going to cache my water.  My route is mostly finalized, but, if you backpack, you know how that goes…

With each little piece of planning, the trip becomes less daunting and more exciting.  I can do this!  It will be fun! So watch out Sasquatch…because I am coming to dance with you!

Hike on! 🙂

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 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 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!