Appalachian Trail: RT 94 to RT 74

The Appalachian Trail is addictive. The more miles one completes, the more one wants to do. Tod and I are anxious to move our way farther and farther north in Pennsylvania. We decided to do a one day, 11-mile hike from a spot near Deer Run Campground to Rt. 74, just north of Boiling Springs. DSCN0082

It is amazing how quickly we felt a sense of serenity upon hitting the trail. The first mile was definitely an ascent, but very manageable. Switch backs help! We then came to an area that provided us the opportunity to do a bit of scrambling. The trail goes straight through several rock formations and we climbed up rocks, over and around rocks, through crevices, and between boulders. It was nothing unmanageable, just enough to add some variety to the hike. Isn’t it fun to feel like you’ve accomplished something even though, in reality, your 8-year-old niece DSCN0092could do it in half the time?!?


The first part of this hike is a series of ascents and descents. Very gentle, but enough of a variety to make it interesting. I was going on with a sense of determination. “Let’s get this done!” Fortunately, I was with a hiking partner (Tod!) who had a better understanding of what hiking is all about. He stopped walking at one point and said, “Look at the trees! The leaves are beginning to turn colors!” Sure enough, subtle hints of the coming Fall were throughout the forest. It was a great reminder to look up from the trail and bask in the beauty of one’s surroundings.DSCN0094
After stopping near Alec Kennedy Shelter for lunch, we reached Center Point Knob, where one has a great view of the valley below. This area is maintained by the Cumberland Valley Appalachian Trail Club. From here the trail descends to farm land. The trail actually goes through a corn field. After crossing a road, we got a bit tripped up. Well…lost! We missed a cairn that directed us left and instead went straight, continuing into a corn field until we were sufficiently puzzled that we pulled out the map.

OK. Where the heck are we?

OK. Where the heck are we?

Oops! This was frustrating but also humorous enough that we can laugh at ourselves now.

A highlight of the hike is that it goes straight through Boiling Springs, a beautiful town with a river that attracts a lot of fishing. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has an office there and their store is open and staffed by volunteers on the weekend. (Thanks!)

From Boiling Springs, we had less than two miles to go to get back to the car. All in all, it was a very satisfying hike, full of variety and adventure.cropped-dscn0095.jpg







Appalachian Trail: Ashby Gap to Manassas Gap

This past weekend Karen and I hiked the second half of our intended trek last month, when we were forced by heat exhaustion to terminate our planned three-day hike at Ashby Gap. The temperature this time was up to 93 degrees—still hot, but not the 100 degree heat index we were up against last month, and what a huge difference a few degrees can make, especially when the humidity is much lower!

The trail from Ashby Gap to Dick’s Dome Shelter begins with a long, steady ascent. Then the trail passes through meadows, where the tall grass along the path is cut by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. We saw volunteers hard at work.


Our plan was to hike the first day only as far as Dick’s Dome, but we hiked the 4.8 miles in two-and-a-half hours, and as the time of our arrival was still early and there was no one and nothing to do at Dick’s Dome (which, by the way, had little to recommend it), we decided to hike 5 more miles to Manassas Shelter.


Dick’s Dome

We kept up our pace and arrived at this second shelter with still plenty of light left in the day in which to set up, do our cooking, clean up, and relax. We felt that we had sufficient energy left to complete our trek and make it all the way to Manassas Gap (which was only another two miles away), but instead we kept to our plan of camping out one night.

We found Manassas Shelter to be preferable to Dick’s Dome. At Manassas there are four tent sites, all fairly level, the shelter itself is much larger, and—what makes a huge difference—there is a spring producing cold, clear water. At Dick’s Dome there is a shallow stream, but the quality of the water is questionable.

All-in-all, it was a very pleasant hike. Afterwards, since we were in the area, we spent a night camping out at Big Meadows, in our much loved Shenandoah National Park. Since we have hiked the A.T. as far south as Chester Gap (Front Royal), our future 100 miles on the A.T. in Virginia will be all in Shenandoah.