Thursday, October 12, 2017

A - Maze - ing Rocks

The creative visionaries who laid out the Trail in the Cumberland Vally must have decided that stumping along the borders of miles of farmland would be tedious qnd might dilute Pennsylvania's reputation. They fixed the problem by routing the white blazes over and through a remarkable boulder maze.


Pretty cool, actually.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Shelter from the storm

Up before dawn again, carefully gathering my gear and trying not to disturb the southbound tramily scattered over the shelter floor in their bags. Last night, I offered to leave so that they would have more room, but they said it wasn't necessary ... later, I wished that I had insisted on moving out to my tent. It's hard to fall asleep to the sounds of a half dozen squeaky air mattresses.

Four miles downhill, mostly open tread with few interfering VERTZ (Vertically Embedded Rock Trip Hazards). Trail construction quality and care improved when I reached the section maintained by the Cumberland Valley ATC.

Sophos, the fastest of the tramily, finally caught up with me at Scott Farm an hour later while I was waiting for the shuttle.

As the driver took me south across the valley, heoffered an answer to confusing information we had about the Trail in this area. The Trail's old route had indeed run along fourteen nauseating and terrifying miles of narrow, diesel truck jammed, two lane traffic, but a recent reroute slipped along the wooded strips between farmers' fields. Given the drizzly weather, I still felt that the shuttle fee was worth the price and damage to my AT hiker purity.

In Boiling Springs, I found a coffee shop that serves white chocolate mochas, so I had one to go with a second breakfast. Then, looking outside at the wet gray road, I ordered a second one with a carnitas taco lunch and busied myself with finding a dry place to spend the night.

Not that I didn't want another night of companionship with the SOBO tramily. Strictly out of support for their higher goals, wouldn't want to disturb their morning repose again.

The McConnells rented me a bunk in a backyard shelter and made me welcome. Mixing Scriptural metaphors -- safe in the company of their animals, I passed through the night on dry land.

Kind of me to bring along such a nice cat bed
Tomorrow, back on the trail headed for Mount Holly and the last campground I plan to stay at this trip. That will likely be a wet one.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Taj Mahal privy

Bonus photo ... interior view of the "Taj Mahal" privy at Darlington shelter, considered to be the largest such structure in the area.
Note dual toilet seat and tank design

Rocking the Rubble

She said I needed the practice, and she was right.

6:20 a.m. goodbye to the Doyle, leaving the key in the door and slipping out the back door. First climb, 800 feet.

Three younger and less burdened climbers with Mediterranean features climb past me in lightweight tennis shoes, pausing only to ask how much farther it is to the Hawk Watch. About half way, I reply ... when I reach it, they are admiring the view and taking selfies.

View from Hawk Watch

Onward. Energy fades, ankles grow sore as I climb toward Darlington Shelter. A sign at a stream warns that Darlington Shelter's spring is unreliable, that hikers should get their water here ... four miles and five hundred feet away. So I carried four liters up the mountain, recalling my climb up the Priest last year.

How about a phone for a delivery service?

The Mountain Club of Maryland seems to have the same attitude about rocks as the Keystone Trail Association out east. Trails are routed up boulder rivers, across fields of rock shards. 

Darlington Shelter

Sign inside Darlington Shelter

Attention Hikers! 

The state of Pennsylvania apologizes for all the rocks you will or have experienced.  
So we started a new program.  
We ask each AT hiker to move some rocks. 
If each hiker moves one rock per mile to the side of the trail we will have a decent trails sometime before the Sun turns into a red giant and engulfs the Earth.  
Your help is appreciated.

Another clutch of SOBOs swirled into the shelter here (no guitars, though). Tomorrow, Scott Farm and a shuttle to Boiling Springs, bypassing the walks along two lane roads with diesel-belching trucks going by.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Après le déluge

Not that this sort of weather is unhikeable or anything, but it does limit the oppotunities to enjoy the view.  Other hikers are champing at the bit, heading out today as soon as the rain eases, but I am waiting for tomorrow morning.

Duncannon -- Indigenous Peoples Day

Reflecting on Life &c in the 2nd floor foyer (sans towel)

With the usual shipyard disclaimer that plans are most important so that we know we're not following them, here's my intentions for the last week of this wander.

Date Day Goal Notes
10/10 Tuesday Darlington shelter Hawk Mtn views? And, rocks.
10/11 Wednesday Boiling Springs Shuttle past hwy shoulder walk
10/12 Thursday Mount Holly Springs
10/13 Friday Pine Grove Furnace St Pk AT Overnite Parking lot, est mid p.m.

Time to get off the Trail for a while! Pennsylvania will not be formally done until I complete a small bit from PG Furnace to Caledonia State Park, but a weekend ramble will take care of it. In any case, the trees, rocks, and white blazes will still be there when I return.

The posts for the two missing days before I reached Peters Mountain are published, detailing trail guide unreliability in identifying useful water sources. Here are links back to those posts.

Moss Removal: Swatara Creek crossing

Moss Removal: Got water?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Rocked out

Rock hopping along a ridge spine, I can't help but wonder about rumors that the Trail maintainers in this State actually sharpen rocks when they can't find paths that are naturally difficult. At least SATC seems to lead more trails over boulders conveniently arranged as stepping stones or stairs, rather than through the random rubble that KTA prefers.

Charles Ferry Shelter, on time, two hour lunch break, still enough water. Duncannon visible down below, almost there! But the Trail leads away along another rocky ridge, dives down and climbs back, and finishes with a half mile stretch just about the thundering trucks on US 322.

Duncannon, just a few short miles away ...

Susquehanna River

Clarks Ferry Shelter

Finally. Across the bridges, double frogger through Friday traffic and then down the streets of Ducannon like an unwashed bum, collecting a resupply package from the post office and limping uphill to check in at The Doyle.

With a brief stop for recovery, of course. The creator cautioned me that the fudge might be hot.

3 B's Ice Cream

Large S'more Sundae

Forecasts of heavy storm activity on Monday have leaned in on concerns that certain joints need a recovery time out. I do not plan to leave here earlier than Tuesday, October 10.

I plan to post backdated trail notes and photos from the week later.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Water, water everywhere... UPDATED

Raining in torrents outside Peter's Mountain Shelter tonight ... ironic, someone just headed down the three hundred stone steps to the only viable spring in this stretch of trail.

Water is pouring out of the shelter's gutter. The two Army vets and I, having already stumbled down to fill up, smile and wave to the latecomers who see the sign and look back at us for hope and courage. It's down there, really.

Not to mention the part without steps

... and these are the steps!

While rehydrating to make up for several days of short rations, I bemoan my slow progress to my companions. No worries, they say, only 11 miles to Duncannon, now that you've got water. Even a Navy vet can make it tomorrow, you're doing fine. Actually, since there's a storm coming in and no more water sources until the doubtful one at Clark's Ferry, you really should make it tomorrow.

Ohh-kay. Tomorrow (Friday), I will push on toward Duncannon, aiming to arrive and go to ground before the weather hits. Could delay my arrival at Pine Grove Furnace by an additional two days or more. Then, time out.