Friday, August 15, 2014

PenMar to AT Museum - Section Hike

It has been over a month since Turk and I hit the trail again, so I better get this written up.

It was time for EarthTone and Kangaroo Joe to hit the trail again. 

This time we hiked on the AT.  I have hiked this section before, some of it multiple times, but it was still a good hike and we met some cool hikers and did some good miles.

Turk (aka KJ) came to the Park and met me at the museum on the Sunday after the Fourth.  We stayed at Junker's place that night.  Junker is the local Ridge Runner and a volunteer at the museum.  He has also offered to shuttle us down to PenMar park to start our hike.  

His place is pretty cool.  He has a part of his land all set up for hikers.  There is a little cabin at the edge of his property with a couple of beds, kitchen and a place to hang out. There is a nice fire ring, privy nearby and he has a shower up by his house that we could use.  

Bear bench at Junker's place
We had headed over there in the early evening and had a little fire into the dark.  The plan was to head out sometime around 8 or 9 in the morning.

Monday, July 7th, 2014

We were up and ready nice and early after a good nights rest.  We arrived at the park and started hiking at 8:45.  Our goal was Tumbling Run Shelter, 8.3 miles down the trail.  This shelter is one of the best. Two structures with a covered table in between.  Also, clotheslines and nice clean firepits.  The shelter maintainers are pretty dedicated. 

KJ at the PenMar Park sign. Ready to start.
The hike that day was pretty easy.  PenMar itself is in Maryland, so within a few minutes of starting our hike, we passed the Mason Dixon Line sign and were back in PA again.  This wooden sign tends to disappear every once and a while, probably stolen by some rebel who is still fighting the Civil War.  Junker had told us that there was a plan to make the sign a little more permanent.  Kind of like when rural people get sick of the rednecks baseball batting their mail boxes and make a box of stone.  At least that is what the plans reminded me of.  From what I hear, it was erected a few days after we hiked by.

Back into the "North"
After the sign we hiked down into the Falls Creek hollow where I had camped on my first section hike.  There was a sign on the bridge over the creek warning you not to even let the water touch you as there was a sewage plant upstream and recent storms had caused escapes of untreated water.  Yuk.

We hiked on and had to detour around a large dead fall.  We made note of the location to report to Junker, so he could come cut it up with his trusty chainsaw.  

The days hike took me past a place where I remembered doing some trail maintenance.  It seems someone likes to dump their used tires over the hillside and the trail happens to be below the road where they dump.  I remember the fun of hauling numerous old tires back up the hill to a truck so they could be properly disposed of.

I helped build these "steps"
Water was plentiful and we passed two shelters before arriving at Tumbling Run at 1:20pm.  It was a beautiful day and the hike was completed early.  There was no reason to continue on, so we stuck with the plan and found a place for our tent and hammock.  This place also has some nice tenting areas and we found a nice place away from the shelter.  

First night's camp
We ate lunch, made camp and started gathering wood.  Tumbling Run the stream was nearby and looked pretty refreshing.  The spring was also nearby, across the creek and it tasted very nice.  We had had a nice first day's hike.

Trail Art
From time to time hikers would come in and hang out for a while and then continue on.  A couple of them stayed for the night and we hung out with them at the table and the camp fire and talked about their hikes.  One was a younger guy, with a spanish trail name that of course escapes me now.  I thought it was the word for sheep, but when I google that, it doesn't look familiar.  (my memory is slow, but it works sometimes.  It was Borrego, lamb, not sheep) Also, I remember that he mentioned that he had to get off trail for a while after a alcohol stove accident and the word Fuego had been added to his name. Fuego Borrego.  He was pretty cool and was a hammock hanger.  He was up and out the next morning before we even got up.

Such a peaceful, easy feeling
Another guy who hung out with us had a name that related to where he was from (Edit: It was Ski, from Colorado I think. Thanks Turk).  Geeze, now I can't even remember trail names.  I need to take better notes, but had forgotten to take my notebook with me.  He was cool, but talked a big talk about sleeping in really late, but still getting his 20 miles in...  We wouldn't see him again until the General Store in Pine Grove Furnace.  He came in behind us.  20 mile days, yeah, ok...

You lookin at me?
In the late afternoon, George and his wife, the shelter maintainers, came by with some trail magic.  Some apples and cokes.  They are very nice people and take pride in their shelter.  We gushed about how great the shelter was and they glowed in accomplishment.  

After sitting around the fire for a while and sipping on some vodka, it was time for bed for me and I headed to my hammock.  As usual, I slept off and on throughout the night.  My usual for the first night out, until I get used to the hammock or my fatigue build up.

My nightly domicile
Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

The next morning was a little cloudy, but it didn't seem that rain was imminent.  We packed up and were on the trail at 7:45am.  Today's planned miles was 12.2, the Quarry Gap Shelter, just up from Caledonia State Park.  I left a little before Kangaroo Joe.  The beginning of the day had us climbing up almost 900 feet to Chimney Rocks, a view.  I thought I would see KJ after coming down from the view, but it was not until later that we would meet up again.  After that climb we headed up Rocky Mountain and ran that ridge all the way to Route 30.  Its name is well earned.  At one point the trail had moved down from the rocky ridge top, but then it took a sharp right and headed back up to scramble amongst the boulders again.  Maybe fun with a day pack, but with 30 plus pounds, not so much.  
Chimney Rocks View
But that is the name of the game and there is no such thing as a Pointless Up and Down (PUD) if it gets you further down the trail.  So we continued on.

Around lunch time we arrived at Caledonia State Park and the snack bar was open.  There were a couple hikers hanging out at the table and we ordered some lunch to go eat in the shade.  We had to wait a while as there was only one girl inside working and the pool people had formed a long line on the other side of the building.  But she did make her way over to us and we placed our order and had some lunch.  

After lunch we made the steep climb (about 500 feet this time) to the Quarry Gap Shelter.  George of Tumbling Run and Jim, the maintainer of this shelter like to have a friendly competition of which shelter is the better and I'm sorry but this one doesn't even come close.  Main evidence is I took no pictures.  I have been here before and it is nice, somewhat.  There are hanging plants and the spring is 10 feet in front of the shelter, but the niceness ends there.  The tent pads are wooden and the group area is down a rocky trail about 50 yards or so.  We arrived at 2:55pm and hung out for a while as this was our planned stop, but KJ had an idea to check out an area about .3 miles down the trail.  

As we hung out, another hiker came by.  Her name was Cherry Blossom (CB) and she was pretty cool.  I think she had gotten off trail for a while too and was just back for as long as she could be, hiking north.  She offered us some berries she had picked and KJ offered her some of his excellent vodka.  A fair exchange.  

She headed out and I took a little nap while KJ went for a walk to scout the other site.  He came back and said it looks nice, so we donned our packs once again and made the day a 12.5 mile day.  The campsite was nice.  Right next to the creek with plenty of flat space for Turk's tent and trees for my hammock.  We set up, cleaned up and I started making my dinner as the wind decided to pick up with the promise of a summer storm coming in. 

Day two camp
Just as I put my food in its cozy to finish cooking the rain started.  I just climbed under my tarp/hammock and sat the rain out.  I should have checked my pack a little better as the downpour let a bit of water into my pack and there was a nice puddle within the cover and some of my clothes got a little wet.  It wasn't too bad and is just part of being out on the trail.  You learn, and re-learn lessons all the time until avoiding them becomes habit.

Wet camp after rain
The rain eventually stopped, but all of our wood was wet, so no fire tonight.  At times like this, I just like to retire to my hammock and read.  KJ hung out for a while around the cold fire ring and had his own adventures.  Night came, and then sleep and then the morning dawned again.

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

We were up and packed and on the trail at 7:25am.  Today was our biggest planned day of 16.9 miles with a possible stop at Tom's Run if we felt like it.  Today's hike would become very familiar for me as I have hiked the last 8.5 miles numerous times with the Road Scholars.  KJ had even hiked a few of these miles when we stayed at the Milesburn Cabin and hiked to Birch Run Shelter last fall.

In the morning I realized I must have left my AT Guide pages at Quarry Gap.  Oh well, I didn't really need them and KJ had a copy.  I just had to recreate the sparse notes I had taken on them into my phone.  

As we talked to the day's hikers, it became evident that moving on was a good idea.  Quarry Gap Shelter had filled up to capacity and event the group area had hikers.  Don't need the crowds.  

Off we went on easy trail after the usual morning climb.  I stopped at the cabin to wait for Turk and we hung out there for a while talking about our fall stay.  When we were there last fall we rebuilt the fire ring, incorporating a nice grill as a keyhole cooking area, but someone had fucked it all up as usual.  They just pile rocks and keep adding ash until it looks like a pile of rocky ash.  Oh well. 

This year's portable halfway marker.  Hikers are helping me maintain it with their duct tape
The day was beautiful and before long we were at Tom's Run Shelter for another break.  We only had 3.8 miles left and I was ready to get them walked.  I headed out and made my way to the end of the hike.  It seemed, that someone had snuck in and added trail when I wasn't looking.  I would be walking along and would think, I don't remember this part of the trail even though I have hiked it about ten times now.  I think that when I am with the group, I go on autopilot as I talk to them and don't remember all of the trail.  At one point, yesterday's storm had knocked over a Very large tree and it was a challenge to get over it.  There were two hikers right behind me when we got to it and I made my over it using my ass as best I could and they found their own way around.  We all made it over eventually.  When I asked Turk about it later, he said he had fallen off it, but then saw an easy way around it using the nearby road.  

Before too long I was walking into Pine Grove Furnace State Park and the end of our hike.  

A lot of the hikers that we had seen over the last three days were there eating their ice cream and it felt good that we had pretty much kept pace with most of them.  I had a cone and waited for Turk to finish his hike.  

We put our gear into the truck, went and got some pizza at Sheetz and then headed back to Junkers for another night in the cabin.  

In the morning, I headed home and Turk headed to State College to continue his hike.

It was a good 37.7 miles hiked in three days.