Yesterday, Karen and I, having a common day off from work, decided to take the hour-and-a-half drive to advance the northern boundary of our A.T. experience. We started out where we had left off, at the Appalachian Trail Museum in Pine Grove Furnace SP. We had already toured the museum, which is predominantly a tribute to the earliest thru-hikers and the “firsts” of the A.T.
There, at the museum, the trail begins. It’s wide and smooth for the first quarter mile. It comes to a swimming pond, then parallels a stream. Then, it verges to the right and upward, where nature has carved for herself a run-off for water. Hardly have you begun than you spot a trail into the forest leading off to your left. It looks more like the typical A.T., and it’s evidently been used frequently—but, if you take it, you’ll see none of the usual white markers. It’s not the A.T. Stay with what looks like a gulley. When the A.T. does, eventually, diverge to the left, there will be signs. Many thanks to the A.T. clubs that maintain the trail and paint the swatches of white on the trees, rocks, and other permanent entities! Without those white markers, Karen and I would have been lost a dozen times thus far. Even when we are not lost, they are a comfort and assurance.
It had rained during the night, and the ground was often muddy. The vegetation was still wet, and the wetness contributed to the appearance of lush greenery. Much wetness had given rise to mushrooms of all sorts and other fungi. Karen took pictures. In fact, we both enjoyed having along our new camera. Perhaps, you will notice the added clarity in the photos.
Our trek was moderately rocky, for the most part. There were, as usual, the areas where the trail was nothing but rock upon rock, but these areas were the the exception. Most notable was the absence of physical landmarks. Karen and I had no luck in placing our position on the PATC map until we arrived at the turn-off to the James Fry Shelter. This was 7.5 miles into our 11 mile hike. Shortly afterwards, we crossed a bridge over a creek—our second creek crossing, so far, on this trip (counting the stream at Pine Grove Furnace SP as our first).
Along our way, we ran into only two other hikers. One was traveling southward, from Allentown, PA, to Harper’s Ferry, WV. He was a white-bearded man who, in addition to much other talk, complained of having had nothing to eat for a day. We were happy to give him the joyful news that he was only a mile from the General Store at Pine Grove Furnace SP. The other fellow was a young and skinny speed-walker, with the most misshapen backpack, who caught up to Karen and me. He was on a mission: to arrive at Duncannon the following day; and, he said, he would hike throughout the night to do so. Was it only talk? Karen and I hoped so. After all, one has to look at where one places one’s feet; otherwise, one is likely to twist an ankle or worse—and then, what is one to do but take a forced rest. No, we were not impressed. We wished the fellow well and hope that he arrives at Duncannon without, first, making a wreck of himself.
With this hike, Karen and I saw the last bit of the beautiful Michaux State Forest, which we had entered at Caledonia. After making it up and around Trent’s Hill, we crossed PA-94 and made it back to our car, which we had left on Sheet Iron Roof Road. Only two or three cars might park there, where the trail crosses the road, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving my car there overnight. But, for a five-hour day hike, it proved to be a good enough parking spot.