Friday, May 2, 2014

Spring AT Section Hike - Peters Mountain to Rausch Gap

Hikes the AT

My work had me needing to be in the area of the museum on Tuesday and then again on Saturday for two Earth Day events, so I decided to get a few more miles checked off for the old 2000 miler quest.  

So far, my furthest point north was Peter's Mountain Shelter just over the river and up the mountain from Duncannon, PA.  I figured I would head to the next parking lot north and hike back south to the shelter, then head north again and hike to Rausch Gap shelter.  Finally retracing my steps back to the truck on Rt 325.

Tuesday's Earth Day event was in Shippensburg at the University.  The environmental club had a nice set up and even though it rained throughout the day, I had a good time talking to the people who stopped by the table where I had displayed some information about the museum.  
Howard manning the table at the Ship U Earth Day event
When I finished up, I got some wings at Sheets and headed to the Museum.  When I was eating at the General Store table, two hikers came up.  One was Sequoia, one of our Docents who was out doing some slackpacking before he continues his Thru that was cut short last year.  The other was Rags to Riches (Rags) who was a Class of 2014 Thru Hiker.  He was very interesting and had a clever Golden Ratio theory for marking milestones of the trail.  More on that later.  

The next morning, I was up early and headed out in the dark to the parking lot that would be my starting point for this hike.  The commute wasn't too bad, even though I had to travel with all the rat packers who were going to their jobs in the Capital City of PA.  

The morning was a little chilly.  In the mid 40s, but there was a windy day forecasted and I would soon feel its full brunt.  I grabbed my pack and headed southbound on the trail.  

Rt 325 Parking Lot

The beginning was a 816 foot climb over 1.6 miles.  It was very calm as I made my way up the switchbacks to the top of the ridge.  This was a very good warm up to knock off the morning chill and before long I was sweating nicely.  Once I got to the top, I figured out why it was so calm.  These ridges (mountains) run generally in a East/West direction.  The wind was coming from out of the Northwest and boy was it a wind.  On the ridge top I was struck by the biting chill of the wind and I had to put my fleece back on to keep me a little warmer.  My pace quickened to keep the blood flowing.  

One of my tasks during this day's hike was to check out a listed campsite to see if it was suitable for the nights rest.  My plan was to hike to Peter's Mountain Shelter and then back to this campsite.  I found it quickly and it was a nice flat area with a pine needle carpet, but I was a little concerned on the wind coming over the ridge.  It was on the top of the ridge, but more on the southern side, so some of the wind was filtered by the forest.  I made the decision to come back here and see how the later day wind was fairing.

The rest of the hike to the shelter was a basic ridge walk with some good trail and a few rocks here and there.  I passed three trails that crossed the AT and got a nice vista at Kinter View along the way.  

View to the left

view to the right
Around 10:15am I reached the shelter where I had my lunch and had to put my puffy on to keep warm on the windy day.  I wanted to fill my water as there would be none until I descended the mountain in the morning, and I knew it was quite a walk down to the spring below.  In the fall when I stayed here, the spring was but a trickle that took me 10 minutes to fill my bottles.  This time when I got down, it was flowing nicely and took about 3 seconds to fill.  The walk up took 10 minutes, but I needed the water and paid the sweaty price.  

Working on my register signature at Peter's Mountain Shelter

Just before Noon, I packed up again and started back North.  On the way back I spied this interesting rock formation.  It looked like a very large rock had been split and then separated over the eons.  I wondered what it would take (and how long) to move those two pieces apart.  To me it looked like a stone giant from over on Stoney Mountain had thrown that huge rock across the valley long ago and that is where it had landed, splitting on impact.  
Split Rock - "View of the Day"
I reached the campsite around 2:30pm and after scouting a possible alternate hanging area, I decided to just set up the hammock at the established campsite and hope for the best.  

I have a small paper journal where I write my notes each hiking day and I have a template on my phone where I can type in the general details and upload to one of my sites, (if I have signal).  Below is what I wrote for day one.  

1.  Date: 4/23/14
2.  Day 1
3.  Morning temp: mid 40s
4.  Weather: windy overcast
5.  Time start: 0710
6.  Time stop and miles: 1431 11.8
7.  End point: camp near Rt 325
8.  Events: turkey flush
Log: Up and off to parking lot early. First part of hike was a climb. The rest was a windy ridge walk. Lunch at Peter's Mt shelter. Headed back north to campsite next to trail. Hope the wind dies or I may have to move over to the lee side of the ridge. Good hike good day. May the breeze blow new strength into your being.

Since I finished the hiking day rather early, I just hung out at the campsite and slowly put up my hammock.  I tried a different (lighter) ridge line for the tarp, but the prusik knots wouldn't hold, so I went back to the old trusty paracord.  I made some dinner and was in my hammock, reading while the sky was still rather bright.  And so ended day one...

The night was a typical one for me first night out.  I toss and turn in the hammock, doze and sleep lightly throughout the night.  The wind kept up throughout most of the night, but for the most part I was warm enough.  I still should have brought my underpad, but I hadn't.  By 4am or so the cold started seeping into the sleeping bag.  After a while I decided to get up and get the day started.  It was dark as I packed up my gear and the sun was just rising as I hit the trail at 6:20am.  

Day 2 sunrise
I headed back down the switchbacks to the parking lot where I had breakfast in the truck.  After restocking my food bag, I headed up Stoney Mountain.  The trail heads up the side of that mountain and eventually over to Sharp Mountain.  It is a 1100 foot climb over 3.3 miles.  It was slow going, but not too hard.  The name is a good one for Stoney Mountain.  There were the mountainside was literally covered in very large boulders.  They even used some to make small bridges over the little streams that ran down the hillside.  

Rock bridge
And the trees would grow up amongst the rocks, sometimes grabbing one and having it grow between a crock in the trees.  

Day 2 - a rock in the crock
As I headed up the trail, I came to some old roads.  This area used to have a lot of coal mines and you could see evidence of their presence in the hillsides.  When I reached the mountain top, I came to the terminus of the Horseshoe Trail.  This trail starts in Valley Forge and comes all the way over here, quite a few miles.  After taking a short break, I continued on and arrived at Yellow Springs Village around 11:30am.  This was the location of a small mining town back in the day.  The only thing left are some old cellar holes and piles of rocks that must have been the chimneys or foundations.  

Yellow Springs Village
After lunch the trail just followed the ridge top until it came to Rausch Gap.  These last four miles or so were just your regular PA rocky trail.  I continued on at a leisurely pace and arrived at the Shelter at 2:25pm.  

This shelter was pretty nice.  It had a spring flowing into a trough right in the shelter area. 

Day 2 - Rausch Gap Shelter
Shelter Spring
As I set up camp, (deciding to sleep in the shelter for the night) I noticed my right shoe had a nice rip in it.  This was going to be that pair of shoes' last hike.  I did a duct tape fix and it actually worked very well for the last day's hike.

Day 2 - Last hike for this shoe
I pretty much just laid around on my sleeping bag after dinner reading until I dozed off.  Around dusk, I heard someone coming down the steps to the shelter.  It was another hiker named Lotsa Things.  We talked a bit, and then I just rolled over and tucked myself in for the night.  And so ended day two.  Here is my Day 2 scribblings.  

1.  Date: 4/24/14
2.  Day 2
3.  Morning temp: high 30s maybe
4.  Weather: breezy, sunny, nice
5.  Time start: 0620
6.  Time stop and miles: 1425 12.9
7.  End point: Rausch Gap shelter
8.  Events: 3 mile climb
Log: The cold seeped into my body by 5. Got up around 0550. Did some jumpingjacks to warm up.  Broke camp fast and headed to the truck.  Ate bfast then headed up Stoney Mt. Long up. Was nice along ridge. Ate lunch at Yellow Springs. Got to shelter early and decided to stay in shelter tonight.

Day three dawned pretty nice.  It was definitely the warmest morning so far and even though rain was forecasted for sometime during the day, the sky was clear in the morning and I was sure I could get pretty far before any rain came in.  I cooked some oatmeal sitting on my sleeping bag, packed up and hit the trail.  Once again, just as the sun came up over the mountain. 

Day 3 sunrise
I think that on this third day, I had finally found my stride.  I moved pretty quick over the ground I had covered the day before.  I also had visions of pizza in my head and that always helps motivate me to move.  Today was the first day I could remove my fleece while hiking.  The temps were headed into the 60s and the wind was gone.  I ate lunch at an established campsite on the mountain top where a tower used to be.  All that was left were the cement supports.  

Lunch stop
I arrived back at the parking lot at 12:20pm after I had easily done the hiker goal of "10 by 12".  That means hiking 10 miles by Noon.  It is an indication that you are making good progress for the day no matter how many miles you plan on hiking.  

I was taking some pictures and I heard someone ask me a question.  It was Big Rags.  In the two and a half days I had been hiking my easy 36 miles, he had covered 55.  He was wondering if there was water up the mountainside as he looked at Clark Creek near the parking lot.  I ensured him there was plenty of water coming off the mountain.  

Clark Creek
Once again we discussed the Golden Ratio.  After some back and forth and a little calculation, we determined that the Golden Ratio point of the trail is in NY.  Right at Mile marker 1350.5, near Glenwood, NJ.  For southbounders, it is somewhere in VA.  It is another interesting way to look at the milestones of a hike.  I wrote a little more about it in my next AT Museum Volunteer Newsletter.  

I headed to town and got me some pizza and headed back to the Museum.  I took a shower down at the campground and as I finished up, the rain finally arrived.  

1.  Date: 4/25/14
2.  Day 3
3.  Morning temp: 50s
4.  Weather: clear, nice

5.  Time start: 0645
6. Time stop and miles: 1220 11.3
7.  End point: Rt 325

8.  Events: backtrack, deer's ass
Log: Up at 0545. Out the shelter after a warm bfast. Thru who came in after 7 last night wasn't stirring. Day felt good and so did I. Didn't see any sign of rain yet. Hike back along ridge seemed fast. I was back at the parking lot just after noon. Saw Big Rags again and talked more about the golden ratio. Headed to Carlisle and then Sheets, then back to the Museum. The rain started as I was taking a shower at the camp. No new miles today, but it was a good hike.

Saturday was my second Earth Day event.  This time in Waynesboro, PA.  The other significant thing that was happening that day was that Waynesboro was being designated as an AT Trail Community.  This is a big deal for towns and helps bring in business and notice.

The day was nice, with a little wind but plenty of sun.  On my way down there, I saw a few turkeys.  These two jakes wanted to cross the road and were gobbling at me to get the heck out of the way.  

It was a fun day talking to the other exhibitors and the visitors who came by the table.  We finished up around 3:00pm and I headed home once again.  Feeling good about the trail and ready for another hike.  

Museum Table

Dedication of Waynesboro, PA as AT Trail Community

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