It was a great day of hiking. Not only were we feeling good, but we were treated to some quite spectacular views of the Pennsylvania countryside from the Pinnacle and from Pulpit Rock. Views have been all too rare in this state, especially view unclouded by the haze of the summer. From Pulpit Rock we could see Blue Rocks, which looks like a river of boulers. It's a mile long and a block wide. These rocks were deposited here 40 thousand years ago during the last glacial period.
The trail was quite crowded today with everything from horseback riders to mountain bikers to plain old pedestrians. It was even a tad crowded with thru-hikers for a change. We ran into more thru-hikers than we'd seen in weeks, some of whom I hadn't seen in months.
The last time I had seen 180 was back on March 23 at Rainbow Springs. It took me a moment to recognize him, but there he was out on the trail in front of us. He's lost over 60lbs and has almost lost that amount of weight from his pack too. I can't recall if I'd mentioned it before, but 180's pack had originally contained such luxuries as 7 pair of underwear! He's since learned quite a bit about long distance hiking and just recently celebrated his 50th birthday and looks great.
I also bumped into Bascom Grillmaster, Kevin (a 2nd time thru-hiker), Texas Tapeworm, Blu Bud, and Casey and Casey. Everybody was set on getting to the Eckville Shelter to enjoy a rumored cookout that Lazy and Sunny Days, the caretakers, were putting on. Believe it or not, I passes up free food to enjoy a little peace and solitude at a campsite I found beside a creek about 1.5 miles short of the shelter. I just wasn't up for a big crowd.
That's how I planning on writing my journal today. That about summed up my feelings as I hiked today - toss in a couple hundred more little gripes and complaints for good measure.
It reached 98-degrees today. The humidity was high, the sun was relentless, and water was scarce. I was extremely concerned about Micah all day. I would stop every hour or so, remove his pack, offer hi as much water as he'd drink, and then let him rest in the shade until all signs of panting and overheating had subsided.
It's so strange how drastically things can change in just a 24 hour period. I had a wonderful day yesterday, got a really good night's sleep, and yet woke up this morning feeling absolutely drained.
Well, I'm happy to report that my terrible day was turned around by a few simple kindnesses. FireBall and I arrived at the Blue Mountain B&B hoping for permission to pitch a tent and get some water. Not only were we given permission to tent, but we were greeted with Cokes on ice, apples, and icepops from Jean Wilson. We then found out that 180 was also staying there. He had actually spring for a room and he soon came out to offer us all the use of his shower! - Sheer heaven! Texas Tapeworm had rolled in soon after us and decided to tent as well. Today was his 25th birthday and while we were all standing around talking, Jean offered us all a ride down the road to a restaurant for dinner! I can't tell you how much all these simple kindnesses did for me. It really turned my day around, but I still can't wait to be done with Pennsylvania. :^)
All my time off the trail is starting to concern me. I had always wanted to walk the trail from start to finish with no blue blazing or slackpacking or doing it out of sequence. Now I'm starting to worry about being able to finish on time. I don't want to cut it so close that I have to worry about the possibility of Katahdin closing down before I get there. On the other hand, I don't want to push myself so much on the last 1000 miles that I stop enjoying the trail. I've decided that by mid-September, if I still feel like my finish might be in jeopardy, I will jump ahead on the trail by whatever mileage is necessary to guarantee my summitting of Katahdin and then just get right back on the trail and complete the section I hopped over.
With that decision behind me, I feel more at peace with myself and the pace I'm setting. Yes, there are a lot of hikers that have passed me by lately, but I think the important part is that I'm still out here. This is my hike, and this is how I have to do it to be able to finish. I still have a long way to go, but I think that I've done a darn good job of getting myself this far. i don't want to start hiking a different kind of hike because of what everybody else is doing. When I finish this trail, I want to be able to look back on it without a single "I wish I had done this or that..."
We met Waldo quite a few times on the trail today. He had pulled into the B&B late yesterday afternoon and tented on the lawn. We let him and another southbounder by the name of Ledge use our shower last night. Anyway, Waldo is about 34 and is Russian. He moved to the U.S. when he was 17 and now lives in Berkeley, Ca. He has a fun accent and a colorful vocabulary and he seems to always be ready to smile.
A large portion of today's hike was unshaded and the rocks were out in full force. Pennsylvania slightly redeemed itself in my eyes today - all the unshaded portions of trail were lined with acres of blueberry bushes loaded down with sweet berries. We had to stop and pick! We found a shady spot to ditch our packs and let Micah rest and headed out into the sun's glare armed with little baggies and sunscreen. Waldo told us about making blueberry wine as a child in a Russian summer camp. He said blueberries always brought back good memories for him. We managed to collect over a quart of berries between FireBall and me. Unfortunately, he didn't fasten his bag to his pack securely and lost all the "fruits of his labor" somewhere along the trail. I ended up graciously sharing my blueberries with hime, but now he's the official waterboy for the next few days. :^)
Made camp by 3. We decided to tent a little away from the shelter since the ground was covered in broken glass. It was a good day and I'm glad to be another 13+ miles closer to being done with PA.
This climb was one of the toughest Micah had seen. He was a real trooper though and I only had to remove his pack for one very steep and treacherous scramble. The heat and rocks have been hard on him, but he's doing great.
Once through the superfund site we had to find some water. Trail news was that there was a semi-close ski lodge that let hikers use an outside spigot. Poor FireBall, better known as waterboy since last night's blueberry mishap, tacked on almost two extra miles today making water runs. So many of the springs are dry on this section. he had to do an extra .8 roundtrip to the ski lodge and then it was a full 1/2 mile to a running spring from the Leroy Smith Shelter.
I've never before appreciated water as much as I have during the last few weeks.
Temps were a little cooler today thanks to some cloud cover and a good breeze. We reached camp by 4 and were treated to a heart-stopping thunder and lightning storm and a very welcome downpour just after dinner. The water source is the best one I've encountered in the entire state of PA - a spigot about 200' from the shelter! I volunteered to get the water tonight. :^)
We saw lots of wildlife today. I spotted a buck this morning and then saw 3 does coming out of Wind Gap. I also saw 5 grouse, a female turkey with 3 juveniles running down the trail in front of me, and a fine looking timber rattler that gave me quite a start. It's head was less than a foot from the trail and it was dead even with me when it began to rattle and coil up. After my time spent with Carl and Audrey Hess, I now know that it was "in it's yellow phase." Pretty impressive, huh?