Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sometimes You Just Need to Take a Hike

I wrote this one day a few years ago, after I played hooky from work and headed to the trail for a little scout trip.  Ahhh, the joys of little supervision.

I sat at my cubicle desk in the middle of the cubicle farm and finished up a review of my tenth award board recommendation of the day. I had quite a few thrown at me the evening before and I just wanted to get them back to the board and be done with them.

The weather outside looked a bit dreary, but that didn't stop me from thinking about my latest obsession. An overnight hike and camp in the Michaux State Forest in South Central Pennsylvania. I had been thinking about it for a while. The drive wasn't too far, the area looked like a perfect place to practice some bushcrafting skills and I was in need of a get-away.

Suddenly I had a thought. My work was done for now. There would be more later of course, but I could monitor my emails with my phone and respond as needed. It was time for a quick scout trip. I decided to head out and drive up to PA from my office in Washington, DC. I quickly logged off my computer and headed to my car.

The rain was falling lightly and the traffic wasn't too bad as I headed around the Capitol Beltway and pointed my car north. Before I knew it, I had left the cityscape behind and had entered real farm country. In about 1 hour and 40 minutes I was pulling into Caladonia State Park and finding a parking place in the virtually empty lot.

There were a few fisherman trying their luck in the creek that ran through the park. I gathered my EDC pack, took out any non-essential items and headed for the trail.

The trail started out winding through the park on its way to the climb up Chinquapin Hill. The climb actually starts out as rock steps fitted into the hillside and the climb is rather steep as I wound my way back and forth a bit to the top of the hill. From there the going leveled off for a while through a mature woods. I noticed at this time how quiet the woods were. I stopped and listened and heard nothing at all. There was no nearby water running and I was far enough away from the road to not hear the cars, but what I noticed more-so was the total lack of birdsong. I continued on.

As I headed to a junction in the trail, I suddenly heard the call of a bird. Not being a bird enthusiast, he didn't recognize what it was, (experience has taught me that it was a Pileated Woodpecker) but it seemed to be the only feathered creature out there. Shortly after that I also heard the knocking of a wood pecker, so I knew that I wasn't completely alone in the woods.

When I had started his trek, it was still raining very lightly. Now the rain had stopped, but it remained cloudy and the threat of more rain was in the air. As I passed the junction of another trail that also appeared to be somewhat of a road, I spotted another hiker up ahead who was coming my way. I had a short pleasant conversation with the older man who had been out on the trail for about three days. He seemed in good spirits despite the weather and continued on his way south as I headed north.

After turning off the road, I noticed a tall boulder strewn hillside coming up on my left. This was Quarry Hill, a quite impressive sight. Also, as I headed up the trail, I noticed the unmistakable sound of rushing water. As I came within sight of the creek, I also noticed that the rhododendron was pretty ubiquitous around the trail. As I entered the gap, I noticed an old bridge going over the creek and some foundations across the stream. I thought it would be nice to explore them next time I was in the area, (and did on my first section hike in 2011) but I had another goal in mind today and that was the Quarry Gap Shelter.

The trail headed steadily north and the rhododendron formed tunnel like pathways as I walked along. Before too long, I saw a clearing up ahead and then I caught site of a very nice looking building. I had arrived at Quarry Gap Shelter; the best kept shelter on the AT. (Since then, Tumbling Run Shelter has taken over that title in my opinion)

I rested a while at the shelter, refilled my water bottle in the nearby spring and explored the area a bit. This was surly a nice looking shelter and the caretaker definitely had earned his reputation. After a while it was time to head back down the trail.

The going down was just as much of a challenge as coming up, but it wasn't too hard. Before long I was back at the park and at my vehicle. I put my gear into the the truck and hit the road.

The road home took me through Gettysburg and it looked pretty interesting. Another possible trip in the making. (have done some exploring in the area, but still have plenty to see)

It was a good get-away for me and I was very happy I had taken the time to do it and now I was ready to get back to work.  Some times you just need a break from the daily grind and heading to the trail is the perfect way to lighten the mental load.

Keep on Hiking,
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