A Small Work Up Hike (from last year)
May of ’14 I’m looking for a nice loop trail that will serve as a shake down hike for gear and personal suffering. I found a nice one in the Allegheny Front Trail.
This is a very nice trail for those wanting to do a work up hike before thru hiking the A.T. For those in NY, NJ, PA, or MD it’s not that far away. Links below for websites, maps, etc. The trail; The Allegheny Front Trail (AFT). Location: Central Central PA (both E/W and N/S). Distance: 42 mile loop (East Loop 30 miles, West Loop 31.6 miles, 7 mile connector between the two). Terrain: a little of everything. From PA’s notorious rocks to balds to flat sections to elevation changes, it’s the A.T. in miniature.
My intentions were to hike the entire 42 mile loop in 3 days (best laid plans of mice and man notwithstanding). That’s less than 15 miles a day. I’ve done 18 miles before while using a hand-me-down backpack made by a luggage company. Only on this trip I’ve got a new backpack, decent boots, etc. It’ll be 3 of those previous days back to back. How hard can it be? Oh, that’s right. That 18 mile day sent me home like a whipped pup.
Doing a Thru Hike of the A.T. is much like going off to: fight a war, explore the world, go on a crusade. It’s noble. It’s romantic. It’s grandeur at its finest. While I have some romantic tendencies, I’m also a realist (some claim pessimist). The A.T. is every bit of that but it’s also going to suck some serious balls. Let’s be frank and perfectly honest. It’s going to be long (d’uh). It’s going to be hot. Feet, legs, and quite possibly hair will hurt. Everything is going to be so sore that even the hair wants in on the game. So, why not go on a hike and break myself of the romantic and see if I can do a small amount of the rest.
The AFT isn’t a bad trail at all provided you HYOH and don’t go racing against the clock for mileage. I’m still trying to learn this lesson. (Beware: excuses start here) I went out prior to buying full rain gear. I had a new rain jacket I bought from REI on clearance. It’s considered mid weight but I’d class it on the heavier side personally. No rain pants. So, I want to give the rain jacket a trial run and I’m ok with no rain pants as it’s warm.
Judging from the creeks, there was significant rain prior to my trip. They didn’t present a problem; it’s just they were running a little high and the ground was already wet. Surprisingly very little mud tho. The first day out was sunny in the morning with increasing cloudiness thruout the day. It was a little warm crossing one of the flat open areas (active logging area). It spit rain long enough for me to take my pack off and dig out the rain jacket. Not 5 minutes later, it stopped completely. The rain jacket passed its “test”. Phff. It was rather warm so looks like rain gear will be used only during cold weather.
That evening it was threatening some real rain. Nothing heavy or nasty; just a steady soaking. Luckily it waited until I had picked a spot to pitch the tent. And it was even kind enough to wait until I had a fire started to reheat my dinner. Dinner was half a “crack chicken” burrito from Super Chicken Rico. Coworkers call it crack chicken because once you’ve had it, you can’t quit it. But that’s another story. I was feeling good for having completed about 12 ~13 miles.
During the first day, I saw one guy. A local that was out fly fishing. No idea if he had any luck or not. Turns out he would be the only guy I’d see with the exception of the ranger in the visitor’s center.The next morning was wet. Terra forma remained firm (no mud) but there was a fair amount of runoff water. I used the creek to clean the leaf debris off the bottom of the tent. I gotta get a ground sheet still. The hiking that day was also rougher. Some of that may have been because it was the second day but some of it was also because of a change in the terrain. There were a few steep sections and of course the PA rock scrabbles.
By the end of the second day, the skies were looking really nasty. I needed to make a decision. I headed back thru the middle connector section to get to the ranger station for an update on the weather. When I finally popped out on the road, I was beat. Then another couple of miles on pavement back to the station. I hate hiking on pavement. I swear it’s harder than the trail. It’s mostly in my head but still. Anywho, I talked to the ranger about the weather. Severe thunderstorms expected. My feet are hurting (tho not blistered) from the pavement. I decided to bag it with just half of the overall loop completed. Later, when I checked online, the rain that was looking so ugly never fell. While I was disappointed, it was probably better that I called it short instead of trying to push beyond my limits.
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