Week 4 (April 22-28) Mud and Rocks
“As long as I live, I hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glacier and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.” ~ John Muir 1863-1875.
PA 443 (Overnight at Baymont near Pine Grove) 1183.6 to Winder Furnace Shelter 1226.9. Total Miles = 47.3
Music for the trail.
Dessert Queen’s rock walking earworm: Beethoven, “Second Movement,” Seventh Symphony. 1811-1812.
Mr. Rook’s rock walking earworm: Earth, Wind & Fire. “September.” The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1. ARC/Columbia. 18, Nov. 1978.
- Trail Angel. Meeting up with our trail angel and church friend from C’bus, Claire. She picked us up at Greenpoint School Road for lunch and conversation. Thank you Claire for the company and driving us to a grocery store for a resupply. Thank you, Claire.
- The Eagle Nest Shelter is located in a picturesque forest setting. There’s a picnic table and fire circle. (NOTE: No fire due to PA fire ban because of drought caused by the lack of snowfall this past winter 2023). That night there was a sizable crowd around the table sharing their tales about the trail including another female thru hiker. I’ve met maybe ten female thru hikers on the trail. She was a Northbound Flipper and had started in Virginia. (NOTE: A Flipper is one who does a thru hike starting at a chosen location and goes one direction. The hiker then returns to that location and goes in another direction.) Final feature of this campsite. It had a privy…a very nice privy. It was one of those moldering privies that didn’t have that malodorous sewer smell. Instead it had a fresh cedar smell from the wood chip bag near the toilet. (NOTE: Wood chips are used to sprinkle over your business after you go.) Another privy feature I liked was the four ventilation windows, you didn’t need to take a flashlight into the privy at night.
- The Beaver Dam. When was the last time you squished in the mud? (I am speaking to adult readers.) The AT gives all hikers permission to get muddy and wet. Yes, an alternative dry route was provided, but we chose the wetlands created by Beavers. The dam is surrounded by dense woodlands, however this changes when you approach the dam. The trees around the dam have become gray skeletons due to the drastic environmental change. To get across the wetlands, I found my hiking sticks very handy. I used them to test the depth of the water and the stableness of the logs to balance on. However, I still got wet. Several steps included planting my foot in muck that took hold of my pink crock. I could feel the cold mud ooze between my toes. I tugged my foot out and a sloppy sucking sound was produced. It made me laugh. I had to do it again just to get the sound. It made me laugh louder and with fear I’d wet my pants. Sitting down and putting back on my trail runners, I can’t remember when I had a laugh like that post COVID.
- Walking among American Chestnut trees. Most folks know about the blight that killed most of the Chestnut trees in the US. We had just passed the Auburn Lookout (The place with the pumpkin man carving). The trail is littered with the tree’s prickly seed casing. I first thought that Buckeye trees may be present, but none of the trees had the familiar seven leaf pattern. The Seek app identified the leaves. The Chestnut trees still get infected with the blight, but they are living. These trees grow about 15-20 feet and then die. Metaphorically, the tree becomes a symbol of the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Seeing them reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Prodigal Summer and her character who dreams of restoring the American Chestnut.
We met two retired environmental science professors who were section hiking eastern PA to see the American Chestnut in the wild. They talked about the current research happening and maybe in the future the Chestnut will be abundant as it was before the last century.
- Farout map app that indicates your current location. Twice this week we wandered off trail. The first time occurred after the beaver’s dam. We had walked about a half a mile without seeing a white blaze. Mr. Rook brought up the Farout app and we had a good laugh. The trail we headed down was too nice and without any rocks to be the AT. Future hikers should note the white blaze spacing differences based on who is managing the trail: PA Game, PA Forest and hiking clubs.
- A new hat purchased at Cabela’s in Hamburg.
- A shout out to the volunteers at 501 Shelter pulling Garlic mustard.
- Four Twelve Coffee House. Southern pecan waffle and a blueberry muffin with drip coffee at Four Twelve Coffee House in Hamburg, PA.
- The descent into Port Clinton. Wow. If the National Park System wants to improve a section of the trail to prevent erosion and injury, this is the place. The day we hiked this section of the trail two hikers were injured and had gone to urgent care. The end of the trail the rock staircase has been eroded by the tree roots. We were talking to our shuttle driver about this section. He said last year he shuttled about 11 people to the airport due to injuries. Their hike ended here. I said the least the AT could do would be to add a rope to help hikers down onto the railroad area. I then put on my public health hat and talked about how this hot spot for injuries would raise the eyebrows for health insurance companies. I also sent an e-mail to the ATC and the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing club. (NOTE: When we were in New York two thru hikers told us that there is now a rope around the tree).
- I lost my yellow Spalding ball cap somewhere between the Eagle Nest Shelter and the 501 Shelter. It was a present to myself post graduation. Go Golden Eagles.
- It was too cold to take a plunge off the rope swing into one of the AT iconic swimming holes (around mile markers 1196.4-1205.7).
- Saying goodbye to hikers in our bubble: Arctic Fox, Cash and Stitch, Sprawl, Janet, Father Tony, and Dry Bones.
Opportunities and other thoughts:
- Dessert Queen is familiar with Pennsylvania and its rocks. It’s a subject her mom talks about in reference to the family farm. She can’t remember a year her grandfather didn’t plow up rocks. This week we finally met up with the dreaded Pennsylvania pointy rocks and boulder fields. The rocks are artifacts left from the last ice age. When the glaciers began to retreat, it dumped pointy rocks. Then the freezing and thawing process caused the bedrock to crack; and today they are the boulder fields hikers have to climb over.
- We have spent days and countless hours looking at rocks hiking this section. My brain started to see recognizable patterns and shapes in the rocks (think the cloud game). Shapes I looked for included: the shape of Ohio, animals, faces, and hearts. (NOTE: these are ideas for other hikers to take their mind off how their feet hurt)
- I also asked inquiry questions like how the prescribed burn on both sides of the trail managed to leave the pointy rock path untouched.
- I counted the number of red pointy rocks – red from hiker’s blood. I imagined the types of injuries these rocks did to fellow hikers. (Yes, I know the red is from the minerals in the rock).
- I tried to imagine the stories these ancient rocks have seen.
- Finally, I imagined a dialogue in a cigar smoke-filled room with representatives from the PA Game, PA Forest, National Park Service, PA Hiking Clubs, and Earl Shaffer. They are deciding where to put the trail in PA. The group decided that the trail should be through boulder fields and pointy rocks. PA should be known to make or break hikers from completing this portion of the trail.
Beethoven, “Second Movement,” Seventh Symphony in A major, Op. 92. 1811-1812. This link you can hear Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela.
Earth, Wind & Fire. “September.” The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1. ARC/Columbia. 18, Nov. 1978.
Kingsolver, Barbara. Prodigal Summer. Perennial HarperCollins. 2000.
Muir, John. John Muir to Yosemite and Beyond: Writings from the Years 1863 to 1875. Edited by Robert Engberg and Donald Wesling. University of Wisconsin Press. Jan. 1980.
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