Kentuck Trail & The Promise of Fall

The promise of Fall! Crisp air with a chilly bite that leaves goose bumps running up your spine and down your arms.  A bright blue sky framing the yellows, reds, and oranges popping forth on the end of branches hanging with the weight of summer gone on too long. That cool, mulchy, smokey scent in the air.  The harvest season, the pies, the pumpkins, the magic! Oh, Fall, don’t make me wait much longer!

I am waiting, somewhat impatiently, for sweater weather.  Despite the humidity, the constant rain, low hanging gray clouds, Sidekick Pauli and I could take no more inside time broken up with quick strolls around the block.  Today, we were on our way west to Ohiopyle State Park to scout a trail for an upcoming Trail Dame camp out.

I questioned my decision to head out in the entrails of Hurricane Florence as I drove through heavy fog and pelting rain crossing the mountains near Frostburg, Maryland.  After coming down a couple hundred feet, though, my path was affirmed by a Bald Eagle swooping down to the shoulder of the highway! What a beauty! (and yes, I do believe in signs given to me by nature…so on I went)

Ohiopyle was crowded, of course, but I was headed up a bit to the Tharp Knob Picnic Area.  I found only one other car in the parking lot…and bathrooms… 🙂  See, it was meant to be! 😀 😀 😀

The plan was a short hike to the campground and back.  Long enough to stretch my legs, short enough for Sidekick Pauli, who has some limitations to consider…back issues, and so on.  This hike took us up to the overlook first, where we sat on a bench enjoying the breeze coming up from the gorge.  From the overlook, I could see the town of Ohiopyle hugging the Youghiogheny River (pronounced Yawkigainy…here is audio!).

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The whole scene…town, river, and even a train…made things feel right with the world. 🙂  After a few minutes, Sidekick Pauli wanted more, so we headed down the Kentuck Trail to the campground.  My shoes sunk into the soft, water-laden, trail as I requested Pauli to wait while I picked my way down the first hill.  There were three blow downs to cross over, around, or through…which meant three more on the way back! 😉

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Headed for a Blowdown

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Moss & Leaves…ahhhh! Breathe it in!

Sidekick Pauli did not have any trouble with her back today and she looked like a puppy as she clambered up and over one particular blow down!

Soggy August, and now September, left a lovely variety of fungi along the trail.  I took the time to look carefully and appreciate each small thing in the forest as I walked.  Being here, in the woods, with my dog, as the seasons change…this is a blessing! 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 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 […]

AT – PA Pine Grove Furnace SP to Trindle Road

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March 16, 2014 Two days and a night at Milesburn cabin with the Trail Dames?  Oh, Let’s go! 🙂 Trail Dames Maryland had rented Milesburn cabin, a PATC cabin, in Michaux State Forest for the weekend. I had signed on for Friday and Saturday with planned hikes on the AT each day. So north on 15, west on […]