Monday, July 20, 2015

More Pennsylvania

When it comes to Pennsylvania, the AT comes with all kinds of warnings, caveats and nicknames, Rocksylvania, it is extremely rocky, Pennsylvania will eat your shoes up, your feet and ankles will ache more than anywhere else on the trail, the rocks of Pennsylvania are horrendous, etc, etc, etc.  However, we have been told by others that Pennsylvania is actually pretty nice, flat and fast, until you get to Palmerton/Lehigh Gap and then the rocks become horrendous on up to the PA/NJ border.  Up until Dan's Pulpit we have found the later to be correct, overall Pennsylvania has been flat and fast (unlike Virginia) and no more rocky than the rest of the trail.  But north of Dan's Pulpit, Pennsylvania has begun to show its rocky side and has begun to try our feet, ankles and nerves.  We are taking it mile by mile though, and have traversed far more challenging sections of trail in Maine and New Hampshire, so we know we will make it through. 
Our biggest irritation with Pennsylvania has been the lack of proper trimming back of vegetation along the trail.  The moment you hike out of Pine Grove Furnace State Park and Potomac AT Club's (PATC) section of trail maintenance you know it, as PATC is amazing in their dedication to maintaining the AT. The other AT clubs do not seem to have the same standard of dedication when it comes to trail maintenance!!  We have been told by local residents that part of the problem of the lack of trail maintenance/trimming north of PATC's area is due to the fact that the members in the other AT clubs are older, unable to physically help with trail maintenance and younger people are not joining and taking part in the AT hiking clubs maintenance responsibilities.  As a result, we have been spending our days trudging through the briar gauntlet getting slashed and gashed by the thorny briars, stinging nettle and limbs.  With the overall responsibility of the maintenance of the AT falling on the ATC, the ATC may need to help the local AT clubs come up with some courses of action to ensure the trail is properly maintained.
We are also becoming irritated with the choice of routing of the AT through some sections.  We are in no way fans of the "let's route the trail through this terrible, extremely physically demanding area, just because".  I cannot believe that Benton McKaye would approve of the physically challenging adventure trail that a majority of the AT has become.  The physical demands of the AT today exclude more people from coming out and enjoying nature than encourage, which is unfortunate.

Wednesday 1 July 2015
PA 72 near Lickdale, PA to William Penn Shelter-1486.7 miles
We took 3 zero days (28-30 June) sitting out more rainy weather and enjoyed meeting and spending time with my CVMA brothers and sister, Road Dog, Hammer & Mustang of CVMA 22-5.  Pennsylvania is usually known for being extremely dry and hot during the summer, however, this year it has been anything but dry, as rain and thunderstorms have abounded.

Several other hikers were not pleased with this creek crossing, but having already hiked NH and Maine we were quite happy with this "bridge".

A gorgeous butterfly on a pink cone flower along the trail

Cherries!!!!  They say the trail always provides and lately we have been provided with fresh ripe cherries and black raspberries.  Hendo picking cherries.
Thursday 2 July 2015
William Penn Shelter to PA 183 - 1500 miles!!

A sampling of the Rock of Pennsylvania.  Hendo's Mom rock hopping up the trail.
Thru-Hikers, weekenders and day-hikers not practicing proper tail-etiquette and Leave No Trace practices is unfortunately becoming more and more prevalent along the AT.  I believe the solution is going to be more patrolling of the trail by Law Enforcement personnel who can issue individuals citations for such behaviors.  "Doing the Right Thing" in order to protect the environment and ensure an outdoor experience for generations to come does not seem to be enough of a motivating factor to get people to do the right thing and follow the rules/laws/regulations.  Issuing tickets and taking people's money may be the only way to get the point across.

6 teenage jackwagon hikers spent the night at the William Penn Shelter tentsite area and left this 5 pounds of trash behind.  Hendo hiked it out 2 miles to the next road crossing and called the ATC Mid-Atlantic office letting them know what had happened and that the trash needed to be picked up.

Lush green ferns covered the forest floor, they are loving all of this rain.

It is great to learn of all the various history along the AT.  Historical marker just south of PA 183 along the AT.

Sporting our festive 4th of July headbands, Hendo's Mom and Hendo celebrate completing 1500 miles at PA 183 with our usual shot of Jack Daniel's
Weekenders were invading the trail for the 4th of July weekend and were getting on my/Hendo's last nerve, so when we arrived at PA 183 we called our friends Cindy and Todd nearby in New Ringgold, PA and asked if we could spend the weekend with them.  Being fellow long distance hikers and triple crowners they gladly took us in and showed us a great time.  Friday evening we attended an awesome outdoor concert at The Stacks in Bethlehem, PA.  A former Ironworks factory, The Stacks was an amazing backdrop to a great night of music.  Saturday we zero'd at Cindy and Todd's and enjoyed an awesome cookout with amazing fireworks Saturday evening!!

Monday 6 July - Tuesday 7 July
PA 183  to Port Clinton, PA - 1515.2 miles
Cindy and Todd put us back on trail and we headed on north and made it to Port Clinton.
Wednesday 8 July - Tuesday 14 July
We got off trail at Port Clinton and took off a week to go to Harrisonburg, VA in order for me/Hendo to meet with Dr Matthew Bowen for the Combat Veteran Oral History Project and drive Hendo's Mom's car up to Vermont. 
Wednesday 15 July 2015
Port Clinton to Reservoir Rd
The downside of going down into town is that you have to climb back up out of town.  The climb out of Port Clinton was not as treacherous as the climb down into Port Clinton, but it was a climb none the less.  My friend Cindy, head of the non-profit organization River House PA 
was hosting River House PA's monthly potluck dinner and hike Wednesday evening, so she offered to pick us up at Reservoir Rd so mom and I could partake in the fun.  It was a great evening of camaraderie and delicious food!!!
16 July 2015
Reservoir Rd to Eckville Shelter - 1529.7 miles

Today was a great day of hiking, Earl Shaffer was right when he stated that the AT should be routed back along the Forest Service roads that it used to be routed along and off of the crazy obstacle course rocky ridgelines that it often traverses now.  Today we actually enjoyed ourselves and the woods around us as we hiked 5 miles on an old forest road from The Pinnacle to Eckville Shelter.  Rather than having to concentrate on the immediate trail below our feet because of the rocky trail, we were able to look up and enjoy the scenery around us as we hiked along the smoother forest road.

We haven't seen any snakes lately, but it has been pretty wet.  However, today it was nice and sunny and the below Timber Rattlesnake came out to enjoy the sunny weather.  We saw this one just as we were cresting the ridge to Pulpit Rock.  It was 6-8 feet off the trail, 4-5feet long and 3-4 inches in diameter.  We left it alone and it left us alone.


 Hendo and Hendo's Mom living on the edge at Pulpit Rock
 Hendo and Hendo's Mom enjoying the view at Pulpit Rock
 Hendo enjoying a post lunch nap on The Pinnacle
This Eastern Gartersnake was napping down in the rocks on The Pinnacle.  Yes, we noticed the trash next to it, but I wasn't going to reach down in there and grab the trash with the snake.
 Rain has been bountiful in Pennsylvania this July and this creek was literally gushing out the side of the mountain.
Friday 17 July 2015
Eckville Shelter to Allentown Hiking Club Shelter - 1537.1 miles
Unlike yesterday we did not and were not able to enjoy today's hiking.  The Rocks of Pennsylvania reared their nasty head today and the overgrown thorny gauntlet continued.  The rocks severely slowed our progress today and our feet and ankles were hurting by the time we got to the shelter.
 The overgrown thorn and briar gauntlet, also known as the AT in Pennsylvania.  It is not even close to being trimmed 4 ft wide.
 Hendo's Mom being engulfed by the overgrown trail.
 A Clymene Moth hanging out on a fern
Saturday 18 July 2015
Allentown Hiking Club Shelter to Bake Oven Knob Shelter - 1247.1 miles
Today's hiking started out nice, but quickly deteriorated to bad and really bad.  The traverses over Knife Edge and Bear Rocks were unnecessary and in no way appreciated.  If the trail is going to be routed over such locations it needs to be in a matter which is safe for hikers to traverse while wearing 30-35 pound backpacks.  Otherwise the main trail needs to be routed around the base of such locations with alternate trails leading up to the summits/overlooks.  That way we would not be forced to put ourselves in often dangerous situations. 
The condition of Bake Oven Knob was atrocious and completely unacceptable.  The trail leading to and area surrounding the shelter was completely overgrown and nearly impassable.  The trail down to the spring was extremely steep, overgrown and nearly impassable as well.  Walking/hiking 2185.3 miles in and of itself is a challenge, the added rugged and unmaintained condition of the trail is unwarranted.

 Hendo climbing/bouldering across Knife Edge
Just when you think you have seen it all, stupidity proves you wrong.  Today we were passed by two people mountain biking/camping ON THE AT!!  Just to clarify, bicycles are not allowed on the AT.  But apparently in this day and age rules/regulations/laws are simply suggestions.  The only way the situation on the AT is going to improve is if individuals with Law Enforcement authority patrol the AT and start issuing out citations to those who break the laws.
 Yes, those are bicycle tire tracks on the AT.
Sunday 19 July 2015
Bake Oven Knob Shelter to Palmerton, PA - 1554.4 miles
Today's section of trail was not as bad as yesterday's, however, today was hot as balls.  If it isn't one thing it is another. 
We met 2 section hikers on the trail today who offered us a ride into Palmerton, so we graciously accepted.  Palmerton is a great trail town and key stop along the trail for we hikers, but the one key feature it lacks is a place for we hikers to spend the night.  There is no campground, trailside tentsites, hostel or hotel/motel in town.  The one and only hostel (Jailhouse Hostel run by the city police department) in town shut down after some hikers were stupid last year. 
Mom and I were pretty beat up after the last several days of hiking and were hoping we could find somewhere to stay Sunday night near or in town.  As always, the trail provides...Tracy, the owner of Bert's Restaurant amazingly offered me and Mom and two other hikers showers in her back restaurant office shower, and to spend the night in her garage behind the restaurant.  It was perfect, we showered, did our laundry at the laundry mat next door and had a good nights rest inside our tent screen in Tracy's garage...she even gave us a fan to help us cool off!!!  Tracy and other business owners in town were/are frustrated by the city closing the one and only hostel without consulting with the business owners.  Tracy says the hostel's closing has significantly reduced the number of hikers who come into town, and this is unfortunate.  So if someone is looking for a new business venture, opening a hostel in Palmerton, PA is a definite option!!!

 Hendo enjoying a break in an Adirondack chair along the trail just north of Ashfield Rd.
 Hendo recently purchased an umbrella to use in rainy weather during the summer.  It works great keeping the rain and sun off!!  Hiking in the shade is quite nice.


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