I Think It May Be Spring!

Thank goodness, right? If your winter was anything like my winter…ugh.

Father Winter was a big tease with lots of potential, but no big exciting events. In Maryland, we would get icy mix, a little snow, then it would melt and we were left with a few damp, chilly days in the mid-40s. Brrr…rrr

Thank you Goddess of Spring for finally taking control!

Last weekend, I led a “newbie backpacker” trip. We had 4 new and 5 experienced backpackers. The newbies had completed two shakedown hikes prior and felt somewhat prepared.

We began our adventure at Shippensburg Road trailhead on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Saturday started as winter…very cold and windy! We got moving!

As we hiked the seasons turned. A lovely day indeed!

In general, we took this stretch slower, and with more breaks than I would take if I were going alone. Which makes perfect sense for new backpackers. They had plenty of time for adjusting the pack, stretching, resting, and enjoying the woods!

We rolled into Tom’s Run Shelter mid-afternoon, plenty of time for the newbies to set up.

It was a cold night and one newbie had not brought the recommended 20 degree bag. She learned and will pack accordingly next time. Sometimes, we have to learn the hard way. 🙂

Spring rebounded on Sunday! The trail was a slight disaster with tons of water flowing down it and many blowdowns that had to be climbed over, under, or around! Our newbie, who hadn’t slept much due to being cold the night before, just about petered out on the last hill of the day. We got some extra food in her and took it slow…she was determined to finish! She dug deep and conquered the last hill!

Everyone finished sucessfully at Pine Grove Furnace State Park with smiles (and a few emotional tears). I am so proud of these women! We stick together, push through our fears, learn from our miscalculations, and always 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

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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 Rt183 to Port Clinton 6/6/2015

I’m back Pennsylvania!

Thank goodness I found a hiking pal in PA! It has been a lot of fun hiking these last couple of sections with Cindy, trail name “CanDo”.

This time around, I got to the parking area off Rt. 61 in Port Clinton with no major drama, just a little rerouting around Harrisburg due to roadwork.  It is a nice little lot south of the town and has a blue blaze to the AT.  As soon as I got the car backed into a spot (beautifully I might add), a text came in from CanDo.  “I’m in the Rt. 61 lot.”  Ummm…but I am in the Rt. 61 lot and it was clear she was not.  This was soon sorted out…two lots, different sides of the highway.  My lot was deemed the nicer choice to leave a car, so CanDo picked me up and we headed down to the Rt. 183 gameland parking lot.

Pulled in, gathered our packs, then headed up the gameland road to get to the AT.  It was 8:45 and 15 miles were ahead of us.  I like smaller goals, so I set my sights on Eagles Nest Shelter, about 6 miles in.

Intersection of the Gameland Road and AT...right turn and off we go!

Intersection of the Gameland Road and AT…right turn and off we go!

A deer jumped to the side of the road flicking his white tail before disappearing for good into the woods.  Good morning to you too, little deer!

Reaching the intersection with the AT we also disappeared into the woods, taking a right, headed north.  There were no climbs initially, just a few rocky spots, so we soon found ourselves passing Black Swatara campsite and spring. The campsite looks to be large enough to serve a group comfortably.  Someone has handcrafted a gorgeous sign for the site!

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It was a wonderful day for hiking! The rain had finally cleared out leaving us with a morning of cool temps, blue skies and refreshing breezes! The trail was a regular amount of rocky as we stomped on towards Eagles Nest shelter.

Only another two miles until the shelter!

Only another two miles until the shelter!

Eagles Nest Shelter has windows and gutters!

Eagles Nest Shelter has windows and gutters!

The shelter was 0.3 miles off the trail, which meant we added a little over a half mile to our trip by stopping for lunch there. We opted to pass on another 0.1 mile to see the view since we would get an overlook further down the trail.

What a super respite!  We lolligagged for about 45 minutes before heading back to the AT. I took off my boots, laid back on the shelter floor and propped my feet up on the wall. Ahhhh!!!

This shelter even has a mirror!

This shelter even has a mirror!

Taking a break fooled my mind into thinking I hadn’t actually hiked this morning. So starting out after lunch was like starting anew on a 9 mile day hike, not the 15 we had originally undertaken. “I got this!” I said to myself.

The woods was still carpeted with thick ferns, but now the mountain laurel was beginning to bloom as well.  Just gorgeous pockets of mountain laurel blossoms brightened up the darkness of the forest.  We walked through admiring all of it!

Another little break along the trail.

Another little break along the trail.

The miles were just melting away and I still felt good.  The guide book warns of the severe rockiness of the last six miles.  I found the guide book to be wrong in this case.  There were some spots of heavy duty rock hopping, but most of the trail just seemed like regular old Pennsylvania rocky!

Now this ... this is one of the REALLY rocky sections! :)

Now this … this is one of the REALLY rocky sections! 🙂

Feeling pretty triumphant at Auburn Overlook.

Feeling pretty triumphant at Auburn Overlook.

The hardest part for me was the steep downhill into Port Clinton.  Slow go there for sure.  My knees and thighs were relieved when we were in sight of the bike trail at the bottom of the hill. Then another short down on some very suspect steps and we were at the Port Clinton trail depot.  And since we had not had enough walking on rocks all day long…we proceeded to tramp all over the ballast to look at the trains!! Go figure…we are nuts!

Trail comes out to Fire Road, then turns back into the woods...almost missed this arrow!!

Trail comes out to Fire Road, then turns back into the woods…almost missed this arrow!!

Yay! Reached the rail trail!!

Yay! Reached the rail trail!!

The final assault, I mean descent, to the depot.

The final assault, I mean descent, to the depot.

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As we left the train depot, a guy stops and asks, “hey, you two know about the all you can eat spaghetti dinner?”  WHAAAAAAT?!!!!!  Oh, this was the best end to a hike ever!

Oh Yeah!!!!!

Oh Yeah!!!!!

All You Can Eat!!!! Yesss!!!

All You Can Eat!!!! Yesss!!!

All You Can Eat Spaghetti Dinner…$8.

Feeling like real hiker trash…priceless!

Hike on! 🙂

AT – PA Rt. 501 to Rt. 183 5/28/2015

Up with the dogs at 5:30 am, then out the door at 6:30 am.  I thought I was leaving early, but didn’t anticipate rush hour in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania! I mean come on, why is the traffic stopped? It’s a burg for God’s sake. 🙂

Rounding Harrisburg on I-83, my accelerator foot got jittery from the seemingly endless riding of the brakes. My heart soared when I finally zipped down the ramp headed east on I-81… ecstatic to demonstrate some of my NASCAR talent!

On to meet hiker pal, Cindy, at Rt. 183. I pulled into the parking lot right at 9 am … on time! We left my car and drove back to 501 in Cindy’s.  The clouds were many shades of gray and hung low obscuring the ridges.  We discussed the possibility of rain…

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Pulling up to the 501 lot I noticed two dejected looking backpackers sitting on the ground. I wondered what they were up to. “Good Morning! How’s it going?” Their response was indicative of a rough night. Gesturing to the foggy mountainside, I continued, “Did it rain this morning, or is this just coming in?” Now they let loose…they described a hellish night in a wicked thunderstorm. They had been hiking a few days and were now ready to take a day off to dry out in town! We left them waiting for their shuttle to arrive.

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The trail rides the ridge of Blue Mountain which made for pretty nice walking, although a few rocky sections kept me humble. I quickly learned to teeter-totter on the loose stones! Ahhh, new skills…or is that skillz? 🙂
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Here I am showing off those skillz! Thanks Cindy for the pic!

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There were quite a few campsites along the trail. Sweet campsites! Small, but plenty of space for a couple of backpacking tents. We stopped for a long lunch (30 minutes!) at one such site.

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It was great to stretch out…I rarely stop for long when I am hiking alone. I don’t know why…I just don’t! Cindy told me she is the same way. How about that? 🙂

There were also a few excellent views. This was taken by Cindy at Shikellamy overlook. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I still cannot pronounce Shikellamy correctly despite Cindy repeating it several times for me!

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A cute little red spotted newt was hiking the trail today…that I stepped right over without noticing…thanks Cindy for pointing it out!

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We came to Hertlein Campsite soon after the newt sighting. Wow! A beautiful place to camp! The stream was flowing freely. Afterwards, Cindy and I both wished we had filtered some of that fresh, clear, cold water to drink!

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This section between 501 and 183 is interesting as it switches from rock jumbles to mountain laurel groves to blue berry patches…and then there are the FERNS! As far as the eye can see in all directions, ferns!

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At one point we met up with another section hiker who had started at Delaware Water Gap and was coming south. She was ready to finish her section after getting caught in the aforementioned hellacious thunderstorm and almost stepping on a rattlesnake the day before! I don’t blame her! I kept an eye out for snakes the rest of the way to our car!

Our traverse crossed an old pipeline, then entered the woods again for a few more rocks. The trail looks to be in some stage of slight rerouting. It is easy to follow, however, so we were soon at the historical stone marking the location of an old fort.

This historical stone also meant we were nearing the end of our hike…and the crossing of Rt. 183. Whew! Had to take that crossing at a jog!! Blind curve…fast cars!

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Despite a bit of humid weather and occasional distant thunder which kept reminding me that we might encounter our own little scary thunderstorm, this hike was a blast! And we stayed dry!

We exited the AT about a half mile after Rt. 183 to walk down the service road to the Gameland parking lot and my car.

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We will return to do Rt.183 to Port Clinton next weekend. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Ankles beware!
Hike on!!!

AT – PA Swatara Gap – ??? It’s Hot, It’s a Ridge, and It’s Rocky…And I love it!

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This summer I am set to complete the Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail.  I am about half way through the state, having completed Pen Mar through Swatara Gap in May 2014. In June I am backpacking a big section with my backpacking pals, Google & Cindy…but I can only go for a week.  This […]