I was halfway across the long rock slide when I saw the rattlesnakes. There
were dozens of them! My choices were to climb around them on the rocks, hoping
there weren't more snakes above or below me, or return the way I came.
Then the sky opened up and lightening struck nearby. The resulting loud clap
of thunder shook the earth around me, sending huge rocks down toward the Trail.
I was paralyzed with fear.
Fortunately that's the point at which I awoke from this nightmare in a cold
sweat at 2 AM this morning! Thank goodness I didn't find out whether I died
first from a snakebite or being buried in the rock pile.
I gotta stop watching TV weather reports and reading about the next day's Trail section in
the AT guide right before I go to bed!
It was all there: location of the rock slide, warnings about
rattlesnakes at rock overlooks, and predictions for bad thunderstorms in the
area resulting from this week's hurricane.
The good news is that I got finished right before the deluge began. And I saw
The bad news is, there was a bona fide rock slide area on Cove
Mountain to cross and enough boulder mazes on Peters Mountain to satisfy even a
rockoholic. There were so many other rocks on this 27-mile section that I ran
maybe four miles total. Most of that was through the town of Duncannon and
across two rivers (Juniata and Susquehanna).
Today's section began in a valley, soon climbed 700 feet to the summit of
Cove Mountain, followed the ridge for five miles, descended to Duncannon for a
couple miles, crossed the rivers, climbed 1,000 feet up Peters Mountain,
followed that ridge for fourteen miles (no wonder it never seemed to
end!), then descended to Clarks Valley. The high point was about 1,400 feet; the
low point, 380 feet.
Up, down, up, down, and a lot of little ups and downs between that added up
to a lot more elevation gain and loss than you'd think possible.
Both ridges would be beautiful when the leaves are down. They are narrow
enough to see valleys both north and south when you're on the high spots. The
only views you get of the scenic farmlands and rivers now are from an occasional
rock outcrop or powerline.
When the trail gods designed the section of the AT on Peters Mountain I
think the discussion went something like this:
"Everyone is going to love this trail! Look at all the beautiful farms and
the wide rivers that you can see from up here. All the hikers will remember this
section of trail and tell their friends to come here, too."
"Yes, it is very nice when the leaves are down and you can actually see
those farms and towns and rivers, but what about the middle of summer when the
leaves are out and all the hikers see are leaves? What can we do to make the
trail more memorable for them?"
"I know! Let's show them our magnificent ROCKS at the top of the ridge!
Then they'll have something by which to remember this section besides the long green
tunnel. And they won't be able to rush through the fourteen miles so quickly
that they miss our beautiful rock mazes."
And so it came to be: all the hikers were directed up and over darn
near every huge rock to be found on the ridge of Peters Mountain, just so they'd
never forget the place.
Photo below: what trail?? Just follow the blazes
. . .
What's that you say, Jim? Enough already about the rocks?
OK. Just don't say I didn't warn you about this section.
I have to admit the woods were very pretty today. There weren't very many
flowers in bloom but the ripe raspberries made up for that. The forests were
full of birds and other wildlife.
On the downside traffic noise was problematic most of the day, even on the
ridges. They're just too close to busy highways and railroads to escape the din.
In Duncannon the Trail is directed through a mostly-residential area for
over a mile. Some of the houses had beautiful flowers and yards (and some unique yard
art). I was impressed by the number of American flags still flying from the July
4th weekend - about every other house on High Street displayed a large flag.
You still have to run or walk past two car dealerships, a hardware store,
funeral home, headstone shop, dentist's office, municipal building, apartments,
and other assorted businesses through town, however.
Then you get to hug the side of the road for a bit, go under a railroad
bridge, cross the Juniata and Susquehanna Rivers on pedestrian bridges adjacent
to the busy vehicular bridges, cross another busy road, cross three railroad
tracks (big warning about that in the AT guide), and finally disappear
into the woods on Peters Mountain.
Two years ago a pedestrian bridge was built over busy PA 225 on Peters
Mountain so that's one less hazard for the hikers. My AT guide is older than
that; I was glad I didn't have to hustle across that dangerous highway, as the
guide advises back-packers to do.
I didn't see very many hikers on the Trail today, just a couple thru-hikers
going north and a few day hikers going south. There was also a large group of
about 25 very noisy elementary school-age children near Table Rock overlook.
I by-passed the first shelter and went to the second two to sign the
registers and take short breaks. While I was reading the register at the Clarks
Ferry shelter a young man sat down to eat lunch and drool over the register
(i.e., he clearly wanted it and didn't want to wait his turn). His trail name is
"Lightning" but it was clear he wasn't in the mood to talk so I didn't ask any
more questions. After signing the register I said goodbye and left. I didn't
see him any more.
Another hiker was leaving the classy Peters Mountain shelter as I arrived; it
was "Mystic," the guy who smokes. This is a new, large shelter that isn't your
basic three-sided rectangular box. It's well-designed with a large loft, high
ceilings, and integral covered porch with picnic table. "Apple Pie" wrote that
sixteen hikers slept there three nights ago. There was appealing Trail Magic
here (and another place out on the Trail) but I didn't indulge today.
Today my focus was on relentless forward motion, finishing before the rain
started, and minimizing pain. I did well with the first two but not the last.
Three places that were very sore when Lisa gave me my massage on Tuesday were
my right and left hip flexors, right and left glutes, and right IT band. Every one of these hurt very
badly at some point during the first five hours of my run/hike today. After
that my right foot hurt where I had surgery in October. There wasn't one mile
where something didn't hurt. I'm not sure how I'll manage this tomorrow.
Let's see . . . the first twelve miles in tomorrow's section are on . . . oh,
no! Stony Mountain!!
Happy dreams, everyone. (Just ignore any nightmares.)