October 2-4, 2015
As we sat cozy and dry in Lancaster listening to the rain dripping off the roof for three days straight I thought about how lucky we had been in our last six weeks of hiking. We ran into a long streak of Happy Hiker Weather and enjoyed so many clear, sunny days all the way through Katahdin; through all of New Hampshire and Maine we hiked in the rain one time. We got out just in the nick of time. Maine got drenched with over 7 inches of rain the week after we left leaving behind extra slick and muddy trails and a few impassable stream crossings.
Our good luck couldn’t last forever and more rainy hiking was inevitable.
Dad and Alisha arrived in Lancaster Friday evening and we got all of our gear packed up and looked over our prospective route. Dad originally planned to arrive early enough Friday afternoon to hike a few miles in to a shelter and give ourselves a shorter day on Saturday, but a few vehicle issues put an end to that plan. Fortunately, by this time we are pros at dealing with unexpected plan changes. We were checking the map for trail access points further north when Dad mentioned that he’d like to go ahead and try our original plan. Since we only had a day and a half that meant hiking longer miles Saturday, but Dad was game and so were we!
Saturday morning Alisha drove us an hour through a light drizzling rain to the Route 11 trail head. At the last minute we ended up started off Appalachian Dr, a little over a mile further south.
Our first five miles of hiking were drippy and lush through open, green Pennsylvania forests and alongside rolling fields. We’ve been hiking in New England for so long that the wide, smooth paths felt like something out of a pleasant dream. Once we did start climbing the trail stayed wide with lovely switchbacks all the way through lunch.
After lunch the trail amped it up a notch. We threaded and stumbled our way through the famous Pennsylvania trail-rocks as the rain from earlier transformed into a cold, damp mist along the top of the ridge. We tramped on and on chatting with Dad about the joys and and occasional troubles of hiker culture. He can now hold an informed conversation on yellow blazing (hitchhiking past difficult or long sections of trail).
The low-hanging clouds brought on an early, gloomy dusk and by 6:45 we got to introduce Dad to the wonderful world of night-hiking. It was slow-going but the adventure factor was high. We got to the shelter at 9:15, chilly, wet, sore…the list could go on, but all that really needs to be said is that we were terribly relieved to arrive. The shelter was covered with signs warning about the porcupine population and the steps leading to the platform had been replaced with a boulder set a few feet back from the shelter. We learned from one of the signs that this was done to discourage porcupines from coming into the shelter when hikers were about and chewing things.
Before long we were dry, warm and and chowing down on a nice big pot of hot-mash, scanning the darkness outside for signs of porcupines. I don’t know whether I was more relieved or disappointed that no porcupines visited.
The morning was grey and overcast but the clouds weren’t very interested in raining on us. We had four miles left to hike down into Duncannon where Alisha was picking us up. Levi woke up with an unhappy tummy Once again, the trail was a mess of rocks but navigating them by the light of day was a big improvement.
Every look out point we passed the day before had been shrouded in clouds, but we finally reached a view we could actually see.
The descent to Duncannon was a nice, knee jarring series of stone steps down the scree-covered end of the ridge. Dad patiently strode along with only a few choice words directed to the makers of the stone steps. Just after 11 we reached Duncannon and were joyfully reunited with Alisha and some bottles of Gatorade.
And then we reached an odd moment. Our packs were stowed in the car, our final miles were hiked, we had changed into clothes that were clean and dry. Suddenly all that remained of our summer of hiking was a long drive home.
We climbed into the car and set out and I’m not ashamed to admit there wasn’t much on my mind beyond taking a nap.
Going home is a wonderful feeling when you know family and friends are waiting for you. The sun was setting as we passed through Columbus and I realized how much I had missed my Ohio sunsets.
And then we arrived, arrived to hugs and laughter and a table of good food surrounded by happy family.
It’s good to be back.
Section Miles: 19.1
Total Miles: 1,154.9 of 2,189.2