My time off the trail was well spent. I completed some more maildrops; spent a considerable amount of time shaving, grooming, and bathing my other two dogs; cleaned and repaired gear; and organized all the clothing and gear I've sent home over the last three months. I tried to get to all of my email, but didn't quite make it through everything. I apologize to those who have written to me and have not yet received replies. I do read all of my mail and I love all the good wishes. I'm always amazed at how many are following my progress. I thank you all.
Mom got us back to the trail around 2:30. With such a late start, we just planned a short day and found a pretty campsite beside Clark Creek. On the other side of the creek we could see another backpacker's campsite. We introduced ourselves as we all were soaking our feet and legs in the creek. His name is Forest Fire (so called for all the spicy seasonings he carries with him) and he's from Warwick, NY.
Micah was thrilled to be back on the trail, even with the warm temps. He had lots of energy on the trail and as soon as we made it to our camp, he started racing around like a lunatic just begging for us to chase him. I love seeing him like that. He was pouncing on innocent sticks as if they were threatening him, then he'd lay on his belly and slide down the creek's banks right into the water. Needless to say he slept outside the tent tonight.
Saw a timber rattlesnake on the trail today. It didn't strike, but it sure was close to the trail and rattled away for a long time as we carefully passed by at a safe distance. Lots of evidence of the mining operations that operated in the area decades ago. Section of the trail are peppered with the glassy slag remnants from these mining sites. There were also lots of telltale horse droppings that always give it away when the trail is being used by a different type of "foot travel".
We ran into Bogie today when we got to the Bleu Blaze Hostel. I don't know if I've mentioned his story before, but Bogie is hiking the trail to lose weight. That is the only reason he's out here. He's extremely proud of the fact that he's lost 60 pounds so far bringing him down to a "mere" 234 pounds at his last weigh-in. He's not a purist by any means. He'll hitchhike various sections if that's what's most convenient, but the fact is being a purist is not his goal. He is achieving his goal and he's still out here after about four months of hiking!
The Bleu Blaze Hostel is one-of-a-kind. The Tobias' have converted their garage into a hiker hostel. There's a flush toilet, a small shower stall, and a couple of bunks and old furniture around. That's about all you need. You're greeted with a soda and an icecream sandwich and all are invited to partake of Dick's tour of his property. Dick straps a white blaze necklace around his neck so that the blaze is on his back and then takes you on a tour that is quite unique. Among many of the sights to behold, we were shown a giant slingshot made from a full grown tree, one of the many rock gardens where Pennsylvanians grow their own rocks to put out on the trails for us, a cork tree (they've downed many a bottle of wine to make this tree), an "unholy" golf course, a dinosaur, a maze, and lots of other interesting things.
We took several breaks with Bogie today. We showed him all the blackberries alongside the trail and he was set from then on. We all would stop and graze for several minutes when we happened upon particularly irresistable bushes.
The afternoon thunderstorms that were promised finally materialized when we were about 2 miles from the William Penn Shelter. I usually just walk through the rain, although many hikers set up temporary tarp shelters and sit it out. I stepped up my pace (it was a real downpour with some wicked thunder and lightning) and made it to the William Penn Shelter only to be greeted by a sea of shining faces within. It was a large troup of girlscouts and the shelter looked too crowded for comfort for me. FireBall, Micah, and I took refuge under the eaves until the worst of the storm passed by and then we headed on for a few more miles.
I'm really proud of us for continuing on. It was late in the afternoon, we were soaked, tired and hungry and I would have liked nothing more than to crawly into a nice dry sleeping bag and make some hot chocolate.
The 501 Shelter that we eventually ended up at is a showplace. It's a large building with over a dozen bunks, a skylight, four walls rather than the standard two, and a huge table to cook and eat at complete with chairs. There are tons of magazines around to browse through and the caretakers sell icecream and soda when they're home. There's also a solar shower, but we were already wet enough when we arrived. We were really happy to see Bogie pull in later on that evening. He said that by the time he got to the William Penn Shelter, 5 other troops of girlscouts had arrived and there was no way he was going to stay there with 60 other people.
These Pennsylvania rocks are just killing me. There are times when I look up the trail to see the trail fading off into the distance as just a gray jumble of rocks. All I can do is chuckle and shake my head. FireBall and I have these ridiculous conversations about how people dealt with this type of terrain before there were such things as Vibram soles. We've decided that there never could have been any Indians in this particular area of PA because they never could have walked around without slicing the heck out of their feet. Today was the most rocks we've seen so far and even though we left the shelter by around 9 a.m. this morning, we didn't get to camp until 7 p.m. It felt so good to be done walking for the day. My feet were so grateful.
When we finally did arrive in town drooling over the famed "World's Biggest Cheeseburger" that we'd heard so much about at the Port Clinton Hotel, we about fell to our knees and started crying at the sight of the CLOSED sign in the fron window. We quickly recovered our composure and went to Plan B--The 3C's Restaurant about 3/4 of a mile down the road. I started off with a cheeseburger and fries for my appetizer and for my main course I had the Virginia Ham Breakfast Platter--YUM!
On to the P.O. where I got letters from Andy, Scott Boise, Grandma, and Bubbles. Patty, Never Ready's wife, had a great little care package waiting there for me filled with special little goodies just for me! (I especially enjoyed the bubble bath, Patty--thankyou).
Carl and Audrey Hess had offered to put us up for a night or two and I gave them a call. I had only "talked" with Carl over email and had never met him or his wife in person. Their offer of a place to stay couldn't have come at a better time. We were thrilled at the idea of a shower, some clean clothes, and a nice cool room to sleep in. Audrey and Carl even treated us to breakfasts and dinners at some local restaurants during our stay!
Carl is an elementary school art teacher as well as a professional photographer. He and Audrey are really into snakes. Their house is filled with aquariums containing quite a wide variety of snakes, including timber rattlers, copperheads, and various constrictors.