Sunday, October 5, 2014

Swatara Gap to Palmerton, PA - Section Hike - Day 3

PA Hike Day 3
1. Sunsday, Winterfilth, 2. Resupply in Hanover scheduled. Goal - Windsor Furnace Shelter. 14.7 miles.
2. Day 3
3. Morning temp: 55
4. Weather: windy but nice. Perfect for hiking
5. Time start: 0700
6. Time stop and miles: 1513. 14.7
7. End point: Windsor Furnace Shelter
8. Events: Bear
Log: Just a little rain last night but the wind dried it all up. Day started out fast with only some rocks then a loong down hill to Port Clinton. Before that I had a bear come face to face on the trail. (20 feet). We both said "oh shit" and he turned tail and ran. Awesome. We dumped our trash in town, then climbed out of the gap. Arrived at shelter. No one else here yet. Early day relaxing.

Shared from the trail

Another nice morning for getting up and out early.  It had rained for a very short time during the night, but the wind that came after had everything dry by the time I crawled out of the hammock.

It was my turn to lead again and  we were pretty much already up on the ridge and would stay there until the steep descent into Port Clinton.  About 45 minutes into the day as we headed along at a brisk clip, I was approaching a turn in the trail.  I caught a glimpse of something black coming along the trail and at first I thought it was a hiker headed our way.  To my surprise that flash of black became a large black bear with a brown muzzle.

We both said "Oh, Shit" and Mr be
ar exchanged head for tail and headed back down the trail.  I swear I heard the bear say "Oh, Shit" right along with me.  At first I quickly reached for my phone/camera, but realized quickly that I had left the phone off this morning to conserve some battery, but there was no way I was going to get a picture anyway, since he was gone in a flash.

I turned to Sequoia and ask if he had seen the bear and he hadn't.  I turned back and there was Mr Bear running across the ridge top in the woods and we both enjoyed his speedy exit.  It was quite an experience and it got my blood flowing for a good amount of time.  Very cool.

By 1100 we had arrived at Port Clinton.  The descent into the town is pretty close to 1000 feet in less than two miles, but it was the last 500 feet in about a half mile that did me in.  Some of the trail was very loose scree and I slid a couple times, going half down once.  But we did make it down without drawing any blood and we rested at the railroad area where some very big pieces of coal were displayed.

Behind those trees is the steep descent
Big ass piece of coal
Our original plan was to carry two days of food and resupply in Hamburg, which was about 1.5 miles or so down a highway.  We had changed that plan before the hike and had decided to carry four days worth of food and not lose any time trying to get a ride into town and back. (We would figure out later that we might not be carrying enough to get to Palmerton, but all would work out as it always does).
"Downtown" Port Clinton
Under bridge art work
Like all gaps, what goes down, must go back up and I slowly led us up the ridge after we had crossed the Schuylkill River.  We passed quite a lot of pokeweed on the way up, but once we finally reached the crest, it was time for lunch and we hung out at one of the trailside campsites to eat our chosen food.

After we continued along, the going was a little more easy, with the occasional rocky area, but mostly good trail and the last of it was pretty fast.  We refilled our water at Pocahontas Spring, which had enough flow to fill, but also had a resident fish and frog.

We arrived at Windsor Furnace Shelter a little after 3 pm and decided to end the day's hike as planned.  It was still early, but we had done 14.7 miles so far and to continue on would have been a climb back up the ridge to an unknown dry camp, somewhere up towards Pulpit Rock.  Today, there was no one already at the shelter, but we each decided to camp across the dirt road away from the shelter.  A fortuitous decision we would realize later.

After dinner we walked back the .3 miles to Furnace Creek that is the Hamburg Reservoir outlet and filled our bottles for the next day.  Back at the shelter area, I was waiting for my Aqua Mira to do its job so I could take my meds, brush my teeth and hit the hammock and in walks a guy and his dog.

It was dusk and we were about done for the day.  I was once again too tired to make a fire and just wanted to text Lisa, write some, read some and sleep on air.  Right away this guy raised my warning flag a little.  Being out here and seeing all the hikers come through the museum, I get a feel for each of them and their situation.  This guy just seemed a little off and after some conversation we learned that he is basically a trail traveller with no permanent home.  His dog was calm and quiet and was just sniffing around for any fallen snack he could find.

The guy (Wolfman of Helltown) hinted that he was low on money and out of food for himself and his dog.  We had just taken stock of our supplies earlier and both of us realized we wouldn't have enough food to get to Palmerton unless we rationed some.

I basically stated that we were low on food too and we took our leave to our campsite.  It seems the Wolfman was quite restless.  I didn't hear him as much as Sequoia did, but there was an uneasiness in the air all night.  Sequoia said he heard him ranting most of the night.  Around 2:50am I saw his red light moving about the area and I watched as he came towards our camp, stopped for a few seconds then proceeded down the road back to the trail.  Thankfully headed Sobo and away from us.

More on that in my next installment.

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