Appalachian Trail: Pine Grove Furnace State Park to PA-94.

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

Appalachian Trail: Shippensburg Road to Pine Grove Furnace State Park

After a great time in Shenandoah National Park, we longed to knock off a few miles on the AT. The problem? Finding time to squeeze it in given our work schedules. We decided to do a short overnight hike of 8+ miles.

A smooth trail!

A smooth trail!

Only 8 miles?!? Sometimes you’ve got to take what you can get. We started off Sunday evening at Shippensburg Road and found a wide, gentle path ahead of us. This was an ideal path that descended gradually. After about 1.5 miles we came to the turn off for the Michener Memorial Cabin. Now, the trail turned into the woods and a more traditional woodsy hike ensued. Mountain laurel were in bloom and they blanketed the entire forest. How beautiful!

We crossed a small stream, then walked a short way before a small bridge led us to Tom’s Run Shelter. A couple of years ago, one of two shelters burned to the ground. Now, a nice covered picnic area takes its place. This shelter has tons of tent pads and picnic tables. The privy, however, is among the worst yet. (You really don’t want the details!)

Our tent site. Pretty sweet, right?

Our tent site. Pretty sweet, right?

The best thing about the shelter was that a wonderful group of folks were staying there. There were two “old guys” (their term, not mine) who are brothers doing bits of the trail each year. “Shortbus”, a through hiker, and “Hendo” and “Hendo’s mom” were also staying overnight. A father/daughter team and a couple of other through hikers were there.

For the first time, we experienced a pretty significant thunderstorm overnight. It was still raining in the morning but that didn’t deter us a bit. We got a later start than everyone else but we quickly came to the AT halfway point (see picture).IMG_3858 Eventually we made it to the State Park’s General Store, where we met up with all our new friends from the shelter. Many ate the traditional half-gallon of ice cream, which is what the store is known for. Others opted for hamburgers. It was just nice to hang out and chat about the trail and about hiking. It was tough to leave the trail for home but it is good to know that even short hikes can be enormously enjoyable.

Hanging out at the General Store.

Hanging out at the General Store.

Appalachian Trail: Pen Mar to Caledonia State Park

During Saturday night, before our eighteen-mile hike, there had been a downpour such as no pedestrian would want to get caught in. It rained in buckets. The forecast called for more of the same on Sunday. Karen and I deliberated, and with the hope that we would reach our camp before the rain set in, we decided to go as planned. As it turned out, the forecast was wrong, and–throughout Sunday, though we kept rain covers on our backpacks and our wet weather gear accessible–we only got a few drops during our two days on the Appalachian Trail.

Mason Dixon

We started out at Pen Mar, on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. Hardly had we begun, when we crossed the Mason-Dixon line. The air was warm and humid during the morning, and Karen and I were soon drenched in our own sweat. By noon the humidity had dropped. We stopped for lunch at Deer Lick Run Shelters and met a couple of thru-hikers. One had made it so far, last year, as Deer Lick Run; then his visa expired. So, with his pass renewed, he was picking up where he left off.

K among Ferns Antietam Creek

A couple of hours later we reached Antietam Creek. It was an idyllic setting, spread out among the trees, with the creek running through the middle of Antietam camp. There, where the trail makes a 90-degree turn, we ran into a group of hikers assembled around a water faucet, where cold, clean water is available year-round. Karen and I refreshed our water supply, I filled up our dromedary, and we set off again toward our camp, which was a mile further north, at Tumbling Run.

Tumbling Run Shelters Camp

When we arrived, we were the only ones at Tumbling Run Shelters. It was a very nice camp, kept that way by George and his son, who soon arrived. George had been keeping the shelters and camp grounds clean for twenty years. Karen and I set up our tent close by the shelters and, perhaps, two hundred feet from a spring, where cold, clear water was available. George boasted that the water was just as clean as at Antietam. One does, however, have to be sure-footed to cross the current of Tumbling Run and reach the spring. I didn’t risk it more than twice.

Monday morning, proceeding north, we began our hike with a mile ascent, which proved to be the toughest part of the day’s walk. At the peak, we paused for the view at Chimney Rocks. We stopped for lunch at the merger of the blue trail leading to Rocky Mountain Shelter. As we proceeded we found that we soon had to do some scrambling over big rocks. This wasn’t too tough, though it did slow us down. As we approached the end of our journey, Karen and I were taken by surprise by the charge of a wild turkey, a hen protecting her chicks. The turkey got to within about eight feet of us before it stopped its assault. We were prepared to use our hiking poles for defense, if necessary, but were very glad not to.

The view from Chimney Rocks.

The view from Chimney Rocks.

Wild Turkey on the War Path.

Wild Turkey on the War Path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All-in-all, it was another wonderful experience upon the Appalachian Trail.