pa ROCKS – Days 31 thru 35

I have heard too many people talk about the rocks in PA. For the first half of the state I was disappointed. After the last half of the state I am sick of rocks. I didn’t want to write about the rocks, but it is impossible not to.

Shared Gear

A curious follower asked how Merriweather and I split up the gear. In general we each carry our own stuff. Some is identical, water filter, battery block, kindle. Most is personally selected, underwear, sleep system, backpack.

I carry the stove, fuel, and a pot to boil water. Merriweather carries the ground cloth and rain fly for the tent. I carry the poles, stakes, and main body of the tent. So far it is working pretty well. If we get separated, the tent situation will be interesting. All our meals can be cold soaked, so the lack of a stove won’t keep Merriweather from eating.

Day 31 – William Penn Shelter to Stealth Site

With almost no food in my pack, the 21 miles we hiked today felt pretty easy. The relative flatness of the trail probably helped some too.

Spring has definitely retreated. I don’t think the temperature got out of the 40s today. The Spring green color that was everywhere just a few days ago is gone too.

We passed one thru hiker today, Scout. She started in MD, NoBo, plans to hike to ME, turn around and hike to GA, turn around and hike back home to MD. Wow.

The 501 shelter was a great place to stop for breakfast. It actually has 4 sides and a roof with a huge skylight. We ate at the picnic table in the shelter. Pizza can also be ordered to this location.

I would walk 500 miles.

We hit our 500 mile mark just before the tent site on FarOut where we planned on camping. The spot marked on FarOut came and went with no sign of a tent site. A bit further on, however, Merriweather found a fire pit with a flat spot next to it. Home for the evening. While setting up, we did spot another tent about 50 yards away. I wonder who is there?

Day 32 – Stealth Site to Windsor Furnace Shelter

We made it from the stealth site into Port Clinton pretty early in the morning. We quickly learned that it is impossible to buy a hot cup of coffee on Monday morning in Port Clinton. The random stranger, however, will very graciously clear tools out of the back seat of their truck and take us to Hamburg with it’s massive shopping opportunities.

Cool little railroad in Port Clinton.

Cabela’s first where we met NoName who was tenting near us the night before. Making connections like that in the lobby of a store a few miles from the trail happens pretty often. It is easy to spot (smell) thru hikers.

After Cabela’s we hit the McDonald’s. I got the number 7 lunch and a cup of coffee. Merriweather got a chicken sandwich.

Resupply at Walmart, where else. After some resupply in the future, I will lay it all out and take a photo.

Back to McDonald’s for a blizzard and more coffee.

There was a pretty steep climb out of town. There has to be, after every resupply, especially a 5 day resupply, the ATC requires a steep climb out of town. Sometimes they wait until day 2 after a resupply, but that climb is even steeper.

We met Gideon and George as we were climbing out of Port Clinton. Gideon is from England and doing a NoBo flip flop. They were slack packing South, we should catch up with them in a couple days.

The Windsor Furnace area is beautiful. Pretty much everywhere is beautiful. I wish I had easier access to a thesaurus. We arrived at the shelter fairly early, after passing a tent that looked exactly like the one we say last night. NoName must be near.

The author loves evenings like this. Picnic tables make a huge difference.

Day 33 – Windsor Furnace Shelter to Lookout Hostel

NoName must rise really early. We were on the trail before the sun came up and he was gone.

Today the rocks really showed up. Grapefruit sized all the way to carry on luggage size and some much bigger than that. These rocks are not scattered along the trail. They are the trail. It is as if a massive gravel truck spread these rocks for miles.

Every step must be carefully placed. No looking around. No taking out a Lara bar while moving. Pure tedium. Today was the third time I pulled out my earbuds and listened to something. RadioLab episode about numbers. Rock, rock, rock, all rocks and no play will make Pot Luck a dull boy.

Amateur astronomy club just up the hill from the shelter.

We had entertained staying at or near the Allentown Hiking Club Shelter. When we arrived there a kind, older homeless man recommended that we hike another 4 miles to the Lookout Hostel. In fact, the first words out of his mouth were “The Lookout Hostel is only 4 miles down the trail.” Off we went.

The handsome author just outside the Lookout Hostel.

NoName and several other hikers were at the hostel. He had taken fall number 2 today and was calling it quits. I don’t think he was doing the entire trail, only a few hundred miles. Only. Merriweather said more than once today, “watch your step, the PA rocks will take you out.”

Day 34 – Lookout Hostel to Stealth Site

We got pizza and cannoli for dinner last night and saved the cannoli for breakfast today. Our packs are no lighter.

Shortly after leaving the Lookout the trail goes over the Knifes Edge. Looking back, it was pretty fun. I am pretty scared of heights, actually falling from heights, so at the time I was pretty anxious.

Photo does not do the Knifes Edge justice.

In addition to being full of rocks, the trail in PA is mostly ridge walking with occasional descents to a river followed by a climb back to the ridge and more ridge walking. Today we descent into the Lehigh Gap. Descending wasn’t that bad.

There is an alternate to the climb out of Lehigh Gap. The alternate trail is steep but easy, there are a lot of switch backs. It is called the Winter Route. We did not take the alternate.

Recall that most of our food from the resupply is still in our packs. My pack is way too heavy. The main trail goes straight up the side of the mountain. There are places where all 4 limbs are necessary to move forward. Merriweather loves climbing and was in heaven. This is the sketchiest section of hiking I have ever done. On at least two occasions F bombs were necessary.

It is that steep. This isn’t even the really steep part.

On the ridge again, thunder storms brewing, we encountered a SoBo section hikers. I said be careful. I can’t imagine going down what we just came up, especially with rain eminent.

One again FarOut let us down with potential camp sites and we stealthed again. Every time we have done this, we stumble onto a fire ring and strong evidence of recent campers. In the SNP they say that good campsites are found not made.

Merriweather getting the tent set up just right.

Day 35 Stealth Site to Detzi’s Tavern

Shiloh at Detzi’s Tavern is an angel. Please stop by for a meal. I recommend tacos on taco Thursday.

We slept in a bit today. Merriweather picked the tent spot and it was super comfortable.

The temperature was pretty cold this morning, we slept with our water filters again. We decided to hike for a few miles before breakfast. Into and out of another gap. Hardly worth mentioning after Lehigh Gap.

A grove of pine trees at the top of the climb was the perfect place for breakfast. We had just gotten the stove going when 5 thru hikers came by. First was Smooth Sailing and Casual, then Gideon and George, followed shortly by Finn. This was extraordinary because it is not even the weekend.

We lunched with Smooth Sailing and Casual at the Leroy Smith Shelter. Each of them has a ton of AT experience and we grilled them for information. They were planning on stopping shortly for the day, we had miles to hike otherwise I would have loved to hang out longer.

We ended the day walking a mile into town to eat at Detzi’s Tavern. Shiloh offered to pick us up at the trail head, but it was still early and we were feeling pretty good.

Detzi’s is open for business and everyone inside wanted to know our story.

Between dinner and desert we set up our tent in a wonderful field behind the tavern. While setting up we met the local high school baseball team. They had lost their game that evening but were in good spirits. Sometimes a good meal is all it takes to improve one’s mood.

Tent site behind the tavern. They close at nine and it got very quiet.




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