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Country: United States
Begins: Mar 13, 2011
Date: Fri, Jul 8th, 2011
Trip Distance: 6.4
Entry Visits: 1,020
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Painsylvannia and Meltdown Monday
Wow - time flies! I've turned 52 since I last updated. Had a wonderfully spontaneous and fun party during the "Billville" hiker feed in Duncannon earlier this month. My good friend and fellow hiker "Little Bird" ordered a cake for me (with little gummy turtles on top), and set up a line of drinks at the Doyle Hotel bar. We closed that place down and took the party down the street to another local watering hole to finish up the night. It's been years since I celebrated that way, but I loved every minute of it.
That was the highlight of Pennsylvania for me. If you've read much of anything about the AT in the state of PA you've read about rocks. I like to offer any state the benefit of the doubt, but like my hiking buddy "Little Bird" wrote in her Facebook status, "Dear Pennsylvannia, We're SO over, yeah, I want my CD's back, even the rock ones.". I've also heard it said that only the top half of the state is rocky. Lie. True, the top half is rockier, but the entire state 'rocks'.
Monday, July 22nd, will heretofore be referred to as "Meltdown Monday". The day started out pre-dawn at the Palmerton hiker hostel. English Chatter, Little Bird, and myself left the shelter just after 5am. Somewhat pre-dawn, but we had the climb out of Leigh High Gap in front of us (aka Dante's Inferno), and wanted to take out as much of the Inferno as possible.
We'd been having hot, sunny weather, and this day promised more of the same. Happily, we were offered a ride from a local just a few blocks from the hostel, so we were dropped off at the trailhead and started our climb at precisely 5:40am. Leigh High Gap is one of the more famous climbs on the trail. It's steep, and rocky, more steep and more rocky - and longer - than any climb I'd experienced yet on the trail. English Chatter is a strong hiker and took the lead, put distance between him and Little Bird and myself right away. The two of us took it a little easier, taking breaks, loading up on water, taking lots of pics, and enjoying the outstanding views. I promise to get pics loaded on here once I'm back home!
We completed the climb in exactly one hour - not bad. The sun was just peaking up over the top of the ridge and our hike along the top was on the west side of the mountain, so we were spared the sun for another hour or so. Everything seemed to promise a pretty smooth day which was a good thing since we had about 15 miles to go.
9am was pretty much the end of the smooth sailing. It started with a simple missed blaze. Little Bird was ahead of me - Chatter long gone - and I was watching my feet, not the blazing. We had hiked only 100 feet or so past the last blaze that showed us a left-hand turn, continuing up the open power line road. Little Bird stopped, knowing we hadn't seen a blaze for a little bit. I wasn't concerned - it's not unusual to go for fairly long distances without seeing one, and it's usually when you're specifically looking for one too. She walked back the way we came while I took a pee break. She came back and said she couldn't see a turn-off, so we agreed to continue along the power line.
We hiked about a 1/4 mile down the steep road and realize we were definitely NOT on the trail. It was getting hotter by the minute and our open view down the line showed us this quaint little hamlet that promised ice cold drinks. Being the two crazy chicks we are, we actually weighed the possibility of "adventure blazing" all the way down the tower line - close to a mile - (the road had since dead-ended) to Danielsville. Just as I was walking up toward the last bit of road, my feet and hiking poles got tangled up in a twisted mass of dead branches and I did a slow-motion face-plant. Problem for me with faceplanting (and I've done plenty so far) is that I end up nailing my knees. Ouuuuch! It's so painful. Not sure if it's because I'm an old lady, or because my knees are full of arthritis, but it's so painful I have to just lay there until I can move my legs again.
Naturally it looks ridiculous to watch and Little Bird got quite the show. I turned and looked up at her, we both busted out laughing and all I could say was, "I'll stay here, you go get the car.". That caused the start of one of our laughing jags. So basically, I'm laying now on my backpack, the quintessential turtle on her back, she's trying to help me up, and both of us are crying we're laughing so hard.
Now remember, we're not on the trail, which means a 1/4 mile hike back UP the road to try to find a blaze. Sure enough, it's right where we left it, and back on the trail we went; only this time, I'm moving at a snails pace on my banged up knees.
There was a road crossing about 1.5 miles ahead, and the further I hiked the faster I could go, so I had just about caught up with Little Bird by the time we reached the road. Mistake #2. Our guide book pages said that we crossed a paved road, then a dirt road, but the road we both ended up on a dirt road. Hmmmm. No white blazes anywhere across the road. We turned to look behind us - no white blazes there either. How in the world did we BOTH miss the trail? Independently of each other (remember, she was a few minutes ahead of me and I couldn't see her on the trail) we both ended up on a side trail and a mystery road.
My knees were throbbing, it was somewhere in the mid 80's, and we were both nearly out of water. On the verge of meltdown. To our right, we could hear traffic, and occasionally glimpse a car or truck going by. We summized that THAT was the road we were suppose to have come out on. The road also held the promise of an ice cream shop .8 miles to our right.
Little Bird, always knowing the exact right thing to say, suggested we take a field trip to the ice cream shop. I was all in. Since this place was less than a mile on a down-hill road we decided to simply walk it rather than trying to get a hitch. Mistake #3. The ice cream shop was longer than .8 of a mile, which would not have been the worst of it, but it was also closed on Mondays (AWOL, maybe had that bit of info to your guide for next year). The town was another .5 or so and walking pavement, no breeze, mid 80's, and out of water is NO FUN. We did make it to a little corner convenience store with a little picnic table in the shade, that served outstanding hot ham & cheese sandwiches and each had one with a couple of ice cold Coke's to rinse it down. We filled up on water for the trail and promptly fell asleep.
We were awakened by a crazy man. Well, we didn't know he was crazy until he started talking. He wanted to share the table with us, while he smoked a cigarette. The more he spoke, the crazier he got. Luckily, a sane man bearing a close resemblence to Mr. Clean drove up in a red pick-up truck. Little Bird quickly asked him for a ride, which he just as quickly agreed to. Next thing you know we were in the bed of a pick-up heading back to the trailhead, fed and refreshed.
I won't bore you with the details, but our day had many, many miles left in it, with even more than many, many rocks. The two of us played all kinds of mind games to keep our heads in the game and off the rocky trail. Around 6pm we rolled into the shelter, feeling pretty beat up by the trail, but happy to be there.
Meltdown Monday. I hope it's my last! As a PS: Little Bird is a very strong, fast hiker. We're planning a side trip to New York city later this week, but when we get back to the trail I'm afraid I'll have to let my Little Bird hike on. I hope to catch you one day before we reach Katahdin!
Sherry's Excellent Adventure - AT In 2011
I do not intend to tip-toe through life, only to arrive safely at death!
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