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. ūüôā

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 – VA Rt.725 to Jim&Molly Denton Shelter (and back!)

Here I am at my desk preparing for the semester, but thinking of the trail!  It is a needed diversion to calm my nerves as I head into a semester fill with many unknowns.

My mind is wandering back to last weekend when I completed a big, three new miles on the AT in Virginia. ¬†This is the crux of the solo hiker…no shuttle means an out and back hike. ¬†But…Excitement of stepping on a new section of trail overrode any misgivings I might have had about retracing my steps! I turned my car towards the Virginia state line, Sidekick Pauli riding shotgun. ¬†ūüôā

The parking area off of Rt. 725 is quite pleasant and shady. ¬†¬†Hmmm…2:30 in the afternoon. ¬†Starting mid-afternoon is not usual for us and created its own challenges in terms of the heat and our energy levels. ¬†After crossing Rt. 55, up the hill we went, headed south to the Jim & Molly Denton shelter.

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The lull of the afternoon had me drifting off into trail daze soon after starting down the soft dirt path.

So I don’t remember if the Bee Lady’s dog rushed us before or after the train tracks, but it was shocking none the less. I yelled up the hill, “I have a dog!!!” ¬†I heard a young woman call to¬†the dog, but of course, the dog was too excited to stop. ¬†Sidekick Pauli, always on a leash, gave a snarl as this young, energetic, white dog came crashing down the hill and right into, then onto her.

The woman, who was calling out louder now¬†(in a way that told me she had NO control), rounded the corner and I could see she was carrying a child. ¬†Luckily, the dog was not aggressive in a “I am going to kick your butt” kind of way so Sidekick Pauli got over her initial annoyance and tolerated the dog until we passed. ¬†After passing, the young woman and I talked a bit. ¬†Her son had been stung by a bunch of ground bees…ouch. ¬†She described where the bees had been and was quite worried that we would get stung if we continued.

Okay, I forgive the Bee Lady and her dog (and hope her son is okay).  On with it!

Soon after stepped across Railroad Tracks

Soon after stepped across Railroad Tracks

On up the hill we went, enjoying any breeze that managed to reach us on this muggy afternoon! ¬†Then an older gentleman came towards us with a full pack. ¬†He asked if I had run into the Bee Lady. ¬†I replied that indeed I had and wondered whether the bees were going to be a problem. ¬†Turns out he had checked it out and apparently the bees had gone back to the ground and were not on the trail. ¬†“You have a trail name?” ¬†“They call me Chicken Farmer.”

Well, Chicken Farmer’s story hollowed out¬†my soul.¬†¬†My eyes watered as he told me his wife had died on June 17 (my anniversary). ¬†His son came to watch the chicken farm so he could retreat to the woods along the Appalachian Trail. ¬†Starting his hike in Port Clinton,¬†he had come¬†south to Harper’s Ferry¬†to visit¬†with friends. ¬†That morning he had again set his feet in motion starting at Chester Gap near Front Royal, then¬†headed north. ¬†I bid him safe travels and again headed up, with a heavier heart and a desire to drop everything and head back to Hoosierland to see my Mom & Dad.

Are there ANY trails without rocks??? Sidekick Pauli is happy regardless!

Are there ANY trails without rocks??? Sidekick Pauli is happy regardless!

Ahhh, we were nearing the top of the hill, I could feel it and¬†I welcomed it. Finding a nice rock to sit on, Sidekick Pauli and I stopped for a long water break. ¬†Tops of mountains are so peaceful. ¬†There is always a breeze that pushes the treetops aside and finds its way down to the weary hiker. ūüôā A chill went down my back as the wind met with my sweat soaked shirt. I enjoyed it…I can definitely tell you I enjoyed that moment!

Once over the ridge, we were excited to see a large field. ¬†We ran a few steps, channeling Maria from “The Sound of Music”, until the reality of a 92 degree day brought us back to our steady plod, plod, plod. ¬†There were several lovely butterflies, even a monarch, that joined us in our trek across the field. ūüôā

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A little road walk between the hills.

Then it was down to a road crossing, then up again to the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter. ¬†I was just plain, old hot at that point, so¬†arriving at the shelter was a happy moment! ¬†Two college guys were hanging on the porch as we walked up. ¬†Pauli was happy to make their acquaintance and I think they were happy to meet her too! ¬†I hung out for a while at the shelter, drinking even more water, and talking with the guys. ¬†Envious, I was! Oh, to be young and on the trail for however long you want to stay out…no responsibility, no timeline other than the beginning of the semester…

Well, the afternoon was quickly heading into early evening and we had to get back to the car.  The crickets sang to us and the cicadas chirped.  Shadows grew longer as we walked slowly back.  No need to rush.

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! ūüôā

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! ūüôā