"A Walk in the Woods, Part 2"

A second 100 mile hike.

May 20-27, 2011


Friday, May 20, 2011 – Weather – Temp 70.  9.3 miles. Rained most of the way to Port Clinton. Quit as I started the hike, rained for about 30 minutes around 12:30, thunderstorm about 5:00 pm. Generally overcast with some sun. 

     Left home at 7:30 am for the drive to Port Clinton with Tina. There was rain almost all the way, and at time heavy rain. Not the way I wanted to start my next 100 mile section hike on the Appalachian Trail.  

     Arrived at Hamburg at 10:00 am and decided to visit Cabelas and give the rain a chance to move through.  Left Cabelas a little before 10:30 am, stopped and picked up a Redbull, and headed for the trail head in Port Clinton.  Kissed Tina goodbye and started the climb up the mountain at 10:30 am headed for Hawks Nest Shelter, 9.3 miles.and an 1100 foot climb. As someone would later suggest, the climb out of Port Clinton would “get your attention”, and certainly did get my attention. 

     On the way I heard grouse drumming and took numerous breaks as I did not have my “Trail Legs” yet. About 3:30 pm I heard thunder while taking a break and decided I better double-time it to the shelter. Not knowing exactly how far I had to go I was pleasantly surprised when I reached the blue blaze about 30 minutes later and made it to the shelter before the storm began. Arrived about 4:15 pm.

      Shortly after arriving at Hawks Nest Shelter Tarz (short for Tarzan) came in, and Brill followed a short time later.  About dark Moose showed up.  Tarz started in Boiling Springs and was doing a long section hike, Brill started in Duncannon and was going to the Delaware Water Gap, Moose was a through hiker headed north. Heard an owl while talking to Tina and later loons created quite a racket. Tarz got his name for his version of Tarzans yell, and it was a good one.


Saturday, May 21, 2011 – Planned on 9.5 miles.  Went 15.1 miles. Weather was sunny and warm, mid to upper 80’s.. 

     Left Hawks Nest Shelter at 6:50 am headed south planning on staying at the Hertlein Campsite.. Tarz and Brill left at 6:30, Moose was still in the sack.  Trail was fairly level but with some spots where I had to bushwhack because of standing, or running, water on the trail.  Springs are full. 

     Arrived at the campsite about 12:30 (9.5 miles). Changed socks and checked my feet. No blisters yet. Called Tina and was told that they were calling for severe thunderstorms later in the day. The campsite was in a deep ravine with a pretty good stream running through it. An additional 5.6 miles would get me to the 501 Shelter, which was a bunkhouse with lots of room and within the delivery area of a couple of pizza shops. I decided to move on since I had plenty of time. Of course that is the exact spot where the trail turned from easy to difficult. 

     The trail climbed sharply to a nice look out and then followed the horseshoe shaped mountain along the peak and across several boulder fields. It was a long 5.6 miles. As I came down off the mountain the white blazes became few and far between and those that I did find where faded.  There were also many side trails intersecting the AT. Finally I came to RT 501, crossed and entered the woods on the other side.  The trail started a downward route and I suspected that I had missed the 501 Shelter. After checking my guide book I returned to RT 501, crossed over and found the blue blaze, and was at the shelter in a few minutes at about 5:00 pm, pretty well beat.

      Chef was in the process of building a fire that he would later cook hot sausages and hot dogs over for everyone who wanted one (I had two) and WindScreen order a broccoli and spinach pizza that he also shared. The shelter had 12 bunks and plenty of room on the floor. There would be 6 of us in the shelter that night, all of them north bounders but me..  I went to sleep with a full belly.


Sunday, May 22, 2011 – 4.1 miles – Weather was about 70 and overcast. Rain forecast.


     Got up about 7:00 am and since I planned to go only 4.1 miles I was in no hurry to leave. After visiting the privy I developed cramps in my stomach. Not a good thing, but if I was coming down with something this shelter was a good place for it to happen.  Tina could get to me with no problem. About 8:30 and with another visit to the privy I began to feel better so I packed up and left for the William Penn Shelter at 9:00 am. 

      The trail was fairly level with some rocks and the forecasted rain held off. Arrived at the William Penn Shelter at 11:00 am. Another section hiker named Slowpoke was taking a zero day at the shelter. He mentioned that the rain was supposed to start around 1:00 pm.  I secured a spot in the shelter and put on rain gear to stay warm. It would be a long damp day.

      Chef, who was supposed to be a north bound section hiker arrived at 11:30 stating that he had hiked back to wait for a friend who was supposed to be coming north. Again Chef made a good fire and cooked the remaining 6 hot dogs for us. Found I liked hotdogs with hot sauce. Several hikers stopped in to have a bite to eat and move on. Spent the day getting to know my fellow shelter mates. Rain finally started about 3:00 pm and continued through the night.


Monday, May 23, 2011 – 13.3 miles – Weather was foggy with a light rain till about noon. Then got sunny in the mid 70’s. Good day for a hike.


     Did not leave as early as I planned…motivational issue-rain. Chef and Slow Poke were still in their bags. Finally left at 7:00 am headed for Rausch Gap Shelter, 13.3 miles. The trail was not very challenging till I crossed under I-81 and went through Swatara Park.

     As I was hiking along I-81 I noticed a good many large blow downs. There must have been some pretty strong winds in the area at some time. As I moving down along I-81 before crossing I was stopped looking for a way around some water on the trail I heard a crack and the sound of a tree falling through the canopy above me. I stood as a tree fell with the top landing about 5 feet from the trail. I never saw that before.

      I stopped under I-81 to check in with Tina.  I never know when I will have cell phone service. 

     The trail then turned more difficult with a pretty good climb. As I crossed RT 443 I came to a creek that required wading. I remember that Tarz and Brill had told me about a way around this creek that required crossing a log over a small feeder stream after crossing a bridge.  I found the log and after crossing I passed the info on to a north bounder who was in the process of removing his boots.

     Passed through the Rausch Gap with a fast running mountain stream thundering through the ravine. Rausch Gap was a  town of over 1000 people from 1828 till 1910. Strip mined coal early on and the repair of railroad equipment later provided the residents with income. There is not much left today except a few foundations, a small cemetery,  and lots of coal chips.

     I arrived at Rausch Gap Shelter at 3:00 pm. About 4:00 pm Chef came in and about 7:00 pm a through hiker also picked out a spot in the shelter. Chef, who was supposed to be headed north, was still headed south. No hotdogs this time and no cell phone service.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011 – 17.5 miles – Weather was sunny and warm, upper 80’s.

Left Rausch Gap at 6:30 to start a very long day.  17.5 miles would be my longest day yet.  I was the first one up and gone. Noticed several hikers camping in the area on the way out. The trail was for the most part level and fairly easy, through the first 11 miles.  The climb to the top of the mountain was not difficult at all.

     Stopped at the top and called Tina and learned that there was a tornado just north of Northumberland.  Also had a message from Mindy wanting to know if I was okay.  After learning about the tornado I understood why Mindy was worried.  Passed through Yellow Springs, another coal town from around 1850. Some old foundations could be seen along the trail.  You could also the remains of the strip mining.

     Further on I surprised a doe bedded down just off the trail.  She stood and watched me while eating. She watched from about 15 feet away as I got my camera out, turned it on, and took several pictures. Also saw several orange salamanders on the trail. Arrived at RT 325 about 12:30 pm.  11 miles done, 6.5 miles to go. Took a break along a beautiful stream and watched a Coke truck streak by on RT 325.  I think I would have paid plenty for a nice cold Coke at that moment.

     After crossing RT 325 the trail headed up Peter’s Mountain, about 800 feet. Seems like these climbs are always late in the day. Finally got to the top and followed the mountain top almost all the way to the Peter’s Mountain Shelter. About the time I though I should be at the shelter I passed a blue blaze that turned down a road guarded by a gate. There was a post outside the gate, but no sign. My concern was that this was the way to the shelter and that the sign was missing.  I moved on and after being forced to make a pretty good climb came to the shelter about 5:45 pm. Long day!!!!

     There were probably about 8 hikers already at the shelter when I got there.  I picked a spot on the floor, laid my sleeping bag out and took a breather.  My tank was empty. Water was down the mountain 300 steps, 446 actual steps. I had to stop and rest three times on the way back up and take another breather on my sleeping bag before cooking supper. A few more hikers came in. One mentioned that he had shipped 10 pounds of gear home and had gotten his pack down to 80 pounds. Wow!!! I figured my pack was about 40 pounds. As I fell asleep two hikers were singing in harmony and another was playing a guitar. Yes, a guitar.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011 – 11.3 miles – Weather was sunny and warm, upper 80’s, low 90’s.

     I wasn’t the first one up but I was the first to leave at 7:30 am. Planning on 11.3 miles to the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon. The trail moved along the peak of Peter’s Mountain, sometime moving up on the rocks. Highlight of the morning was hearing the squawking of a large bird, looking up, and seeing a Bald Eagle fly directly over me just above the treetops. Awesome!!!! Later I would hear that squawk again but did not get to see the eagle.

     I stopped at Clark’s Ferry Shelter to sign the log and to replenish my water supply. A notice on the shelter mentioned that bears had been seen in the area. The decent down Peter’s Mountain seemed to take forever. Long zig zags down to a bench and then moving west along the mountain past a campsite and an old foundation.  Wondered what might have been built there. Finally made it down to the railroad tracks and RT 147 and 322.

     As I was crossing the Clarks Ferry Bridge a north bounder stopped and warned me of an angry hawk on the west end of the bridge.  Good thing he did.  About half way across  the hawk began diving at me. Sometimes coming in off the river and flying over my heard, other times diving under the bridge, coming up the other side only to try to dive a me on the way back across. I used my hiking poles to protect myself. The hawk continued the aerial assault all the way to the end of the bridge.

     Continued on across the Juniata River Bridge into Duncannon.  Stopped at the Lions Club park for a short break before heading on into town. Part way down I came across 3B Ice Cream. I stopped for a med chocolate cone and an ice cold coke and then headed the last five blocks to The Doyle.

     Arrived at 2:30 pm. The Doyle Hotel is a landmark on the AT.  It is primarily a hiker hotel ran by Vicky and Pat. Vicky tends bar and checks the guests in. Pat is the cook and the do what every Vicky needs. Vicky took my ID, asked my trail name, and assigned me a room on the third floor, with a view of main street, the river, and the train.  I took a shower and called Tina.  I mention some frequent urination issues and she suggested drinking as much cranberry juice as I could find.  Possibly have a urinary tract infection. So I headed to the bar for a large cranberry juice on ice.  Very good. 

     A shuttle ran to the local super market at 4:00 pm.  I thought it would be good to get some fresh fruit, a few snickers bars, and a bottle of cranberry juice. Came back from shopping and went down to the bar for dinner. Pat made a pretty good cheese steak with fresh cut French fries. Another cranberry juice on ice also went down well. I had told  Went to bed at dark and slept pretty well till about 2:30 am.  Smelled smoke and was concerned that it might be the hotel. Hearing no alarms I went back to sleep.


Thursday, May 26, 2011 – 11.4 miles – Weather was sunny and warm, mid to upper 80’s.

     Awake at 5:00 am and first one out the door at 5:40 am and headed south to the Darlington Shelter 11.4 miles.

     The climb up Cove Mountain was steep and a real challenge.  Having left so early I was to the top at Hawk View by 6:50 am.  The view of Duncannon and the Susquehanna River was clouded by fog. The hike across Cove Mountain pretty much moved along the top. Mosquitoes were a real issue and drove me crazy. Should have brought some repellant.  Finally made the decent down Cove Mountain and approached RT 840. The trail passed through 5 hay fields in the hot sun before again entering the woods again. Then the trail moved up and over a small ridge before finally climbing Blue Mountain, my last climb.

      Arrived at Darlington Shelter at 12:20 pm. Heard the previous day about a homeless guy that was hanging around the shelter running nude in the woods. No sign of him. Hung up some of my wet clothes to dry in the sun and took a little nap. About 4:00 pm company came.  Devilfish, a north bound long section hiker and a little later One Grey Wolf, a through hiker stopped to spend the night. Several other through hikers wandered in. It would be a full shelter.

     About 7:30 pm the skies became dark and a pretty good thunderstorm rolled in with marble size hail. One of the thru hikers was concerned about three guys he was hiking with that had fallen behind. Later found out that two of them were hunkered down in the RT 944 underpass because a tornado had been reported just south of them.

     About  8:30 pm the third member of his party came in. He had missed the blue blaze and went on almost a mile before turning back and finding it. He told us that there was a man and women doing an overnight trip from Duncannon to Boiling Springs that needed help.  The man was not feeling well and felt he could not make it to the shelter without help.  Three of the guys put on rain gear and headed out. A short time later they came back with the pair. The man was not really a hiker.  He was probably out on the trail for the first time with a lady friend who was experience. He had lost his pizza and coke on the way up Cove Mountain and was sick all day. On top of that he was wet and suffering from dehydration, hypothermia, and severe leg cramps. They guys that brought him in stripped him, put him in his sleeping bag, and give him water with electrolytes. He was very lucky.

     An important lesson was learned. Get prepared and be prepared before hitting the trail. You never know when a simple overnight trip can turn serious. I am certain it was not a fun hike for him.

     There were eight in the shelter and one tenting. Another thunderstorm blew through about 1:00 am. Even with all that had happened it was neat to meet my shelter mates.


Friday, May 27 – 14.3 miles – Weather was sunny and warm with temperatures in the upper 80’s.

I made a trip to the privy about 5:00 am and crawled back into my bag. I waited till about 5:30 and decided I had to get moving.  I hated to disturb the other seven tired souls because there really is no quiet way to pack up.  I should not have been concerned because once I started rolling my sleeping bag the shelter came alive.  Apparently everyone was waiting for someone to make a move. Glad I could help. Packed and was the first one leaving the shelter at 6:00 am.

     My concern for the day was what I would find on the way down to the Cumberland Valley and Boiling Springs. Thunderstorms, tornados and high winds could mean high water and blown down trees. That could make for a long day. I called Tina and told her I planned on being in Boiling Springs between 1:30 and 2:30, but that would depend on what the trail had to offer.  Passed the northern terminus of The Tuscarora Trail and headed down the mountain. Got around, over, or under only three blow downs on the way down. I was thinking this was going to be an easy day. Boy was I wrong.

     As I got down on level ground and made my way to RT 944 the blow downs increased. Nothing too serious. The RT 944 underpass would have been a great place to wait out a storm. From that point on blow downs increased, but I was able to go around, over, or under with not real problems.

     Then I crossed over I-81 and made a right turn down a road between a farmer’s pasture and an electric sub-station. A small stream was flooding the trail and draining out into the farmer’s pasture. The water was 2-3 feet deep. I wasted about 30 minutes trying to get around the stream on the left side with no luck. Frustrated, I called Tina and told her that I might be done. My only option was to get permission to detour through the farmer’s pasture, which was very wet and well used if you know what I mean. Tina calmed me down and insisted that I give the farmer a try. As I walked down the lane I could see that someone was just finishing pumping the farmer’s cellar out.  I knocked on the door and kindly asked the farmer if I could detour through his pasture. He said that I was welcomed to do so but that it was very muddy.  As I really had no choice I thanked him and expressed my concern for his troubles due to the storm. I managed to get across the pasture by jumping from one clump of grass to another, crawling under one electric fence, and by climbing over a gate. I was back on the trail and headed for Boiling Springs. Blow downs continued off and on.

     As I approached Trindle Road two north bounders stopped and told me that a downed tree on a bridge blocked the trail just south of Trindle Road, and that the creek was swollen. I happily took their advice for a detour. After crossing RT 74 I called Tina and told her I would arrive in Boiling Springs about 3:00 pm. As I neared Boiling Springs the blow downs dwindled. I exited the woods onto RT 174 and headed on into town. About two blocks from the AT C Mid-Atlantic Office I noticed Tina standing down the street waiting for me.  It was 3:00 pm. After arriving in Boiling Springs I soaked my feet in the 55 degree water according to tradition.  My second 100 mile section hike was complete. 


Summary:  Overall I would say that I enjoyed my second 100 mile section hike more than the first. I knew what to expect and I feel that I was better prepared for the challenges that I would face. Also because the northbound through hikers were already filtering through the area I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know many more fellow hikers. One very important lesson learned was to get prepared and be prepared.  You never know when severe weather will present itself.  Always prepare yourself properly for a hike. It may not turn out to be a walk in the woods. And as much as I enjoy being out in the woods I find that I enjoy the challenge. 70 miles to go in Pennsylvania….until next year.

PS. Special thanks to my wife, Tina, for all her support. She drove me to the trail head and dropped me off (I think that was her favorite part), was there for me when I need encouragement and support, and was there to pick me up and get me back home.