Porcupine Alert (June 20-21)
June 20. I end my hiking late tonight. It’s been an eventful day. Three friends from my pre-trail running club came to the trail to visit me. I’m honored! They took me out to dinner and then even hiked a few miles on the trail. I love having friends and family hike pieces of the AT when they visit. I can explain and describe what it’s like out here all day, but there is nothing like experiencing it for yourself. In this case we hiked up a steep, rocky mountain, but despite the climb I think everyone appreciated the beauty of the evening in the forest. Todd hiked up the mountain with my pack on his back, getting the full AT experience! (His idea!) As usual, I felt light as air without a pack.
After we part ways, I continue hiking to the Cove Mountain Shelter. I peek inside the shelter and right away hear an enthusiastic, “Old Soul!” It’s my friend Grey Eagle, a 75 year old thru hiker. He is funny, feisty, and tough as nails even in the face of all these rocks. (He hates the rocky trail here). When we hike together, he has no trouble keeping up with me, which amazes me to no end. It makes me think twice about complaining about anything- when you have a 75 year old hiking with you, it’s hard to avoid feeling inspired.
It looks like Grey Eagle was just about to turn in for the night, but he crawls down out of the shelter to sit with me while I eat. (Second dinner). He points out the signs on the shelter. This is one of the wildest things I’ve seen lately. They say:
There have been numerous sightings of porcupine inside and outside this shelter.
Salt from perspiration is a definite attraction…as an experiment sacrificial plywood has been placed where hikers like to sit. Aluminum flashing has been added to the front edge and facing, and a rock step placed out from the edge. We’re hoping the gap is too wide for a porcupine to bridge, and the flashing roo slick for claws to grab. Your results may vary.
Someone was having too much fun when they wrote these signs. They’re not kidding, the rock step truly is far from the shelter, requiring some leaping action. Which is actually reassuring, given the circumstances. Grey Eagle asks, “Well, are you going to put up your tent?” but I’m feeling unnerved enough to stay in the shelter tonight. Better protection up there than in my nylon tent! We sleep in the two highest bunks in the shelter!
No wildlife sightings for us overnight. I can’t remember ever seeing a porcupine in the wild, adding to how bizarre this seems to me. In the morning we awake well rested and looking forward to eats in Duncannon, which the trail passes directly through. After taking final pictures of the “porcupine shelter”, we set off.
June 21. This is the summer solstice, also known as naked hiker day! I’ve heard many rumors about this tradition. Some hikers partake, but I suspect most do not. Back when I was hiking with the German couple, they said, “We don’t have a problem with hiking naked as long as people don’t point and laugh and stare at us!” I thought that was pretty funny. They may come from a more open culture, as far as nudity is concerned! I have to wonder if they ended up participating!
I see very few hikers on the trail throughout the day, which has been the usual lately. I only hear one funny story about the day. A friend of mine tells me he spent all day in a shelter (clothed), just relaxing. All the sudden he heard, “Is everyone decent in there?” It was a woman leading a group of young kids on a hike, and each of them wore a blind fold on their forehead for ready access, “Just in case”. Pretty funny. This woman was prepared!
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