I'm ba-ack! Bet you're wondering what happened to days 80 and 81 - ?
Not enough to write an entry, so I got lazy and will summarize them here.
We enjoyed another day in Vermont on Monday (Day 80), mostly resting up from
the race, icing sore spots, doing laundry and some shopping, figuring out the
next couple weeks' hiking segments, and preparing to leave for Port Clinton. We
loved our week in Vermont and it was hard to leave.
I'm so glad Jim enjoyed being there because he wasn't looking forward to
either the race or going to Vermont. He has a very different attitude about the
area now. It's not the same as hanging out for several days or weeks to
acclimate at Leadville or Silverton, CO before the hundred-milers there, but the
Woodstock area of Vermont has a lot going for it and we'll be back.
And someday Jim's gonna thank me for "making" him do the race! Now he's got a
qualifier for Western States. Meanwhile, he's having fun teasing me about his
sore feet and stiff legs being all my fault. I admit the idea was mine.
Too bad I wasn't able to get qualified, too. <sigh>
Tuesday (Day 81) we hit the road. Although it took only eight hours to haul
the camper from Port Clinton to Quechee, it took nearly two hours longer to return to
Port Clinton, thanks to some accidents on various freeways.
It was a long day on the road and we didn't get to bed last night as soon as
we wanted. It's still hot in Pennsylvania and I need to get on the Trail
earlier than I've been doing previously. I managed to start about 7:15 this
morning but hope to be getting out there at 6 or 6:30 AM as long as it's really
hot in the mid-Atlantic states.
ON THE TRAIL AGAIN
Ya know, eight days off the Trail felt like starting all over again. I had to
think about what to put in my pack for today's segment and I forgot to make my
recovery drink for afterwards. I was also pretty stiff the first couple hours
until my body got well warmed up.
I did another "backwards" day, going south. The profile looked as grim
heading out of Port Clinton as it was coming down last Monday. Since my
piriformus/glute hurt the most going uphill on Saturday, I decided to come
down the steep hill north of town (from 1,300 feet down to 400 feet in just over a
mile). The climb where I would start was more gradual, going from 600 feet up to
1,500 feet in three miles, and another 100 feet soon after.
On the way to Eckville we drove up and over Hawk Mountain and by the
world-renowned wildlife refuge located there. It was the first sanctuary in the
world to offer protection to birds of prey. The sanctuary contains exhibits and
trails and is staffed by professional curators who live there. This would be a
great "side trip" for runners and hikers who are interested in wildlife.
There was a gradual three-mile climb where I started near the Eckville
shelter on Hawk Mountain Road. Thru-hikers love this shelter, which has a
caretaker. It sits behind someone's home and looks like a guest house, not a
three-sided box. The caretaker also provides ice cream (for a donation), a big
factor in the shelter's popularity!
ROCKS WITH A VIEW
While I was getting my pack on, three young back-packers from the shelter
began hiking north on the Trail. I started south. Although the AT guide said
"the footway is rocky all the way" in this section, I was in for a nice
surprise: the first five miles were mostly on nice forest roads through
Game Land property until I got close to The Pinnacle, a rock out-cropping with a
beautiful patchwork-quilt view of farm fields in the valley to the east and
Believe it or not, I actually went off the AT eighty yards on a blue-blazed
trail to The Pinnacle - through a boulder field, no less! I'd heard the view was
great, and I hadn't dealt with many rocks yet this morning . . .
Near the Pinnacle I had to
laugh when I saw a huge pile of rocks in the largest cairn I've ever seen. It was about ten feet high and at least twenty feet at the
base, loose rocks piled on top of one another. I thought it was an interesting comment on Rocksylvania! It wasn't hard for
me to find another rock to add to the pile.
Two young men were moving around in a tent perched near the rock outcropping
but I didn't interrupt them. The morning was clear and sunny, there was a nice
breeze on the rocks, and I stood there for several minutes drinking in the views
of the peaceful valley below.
The Trail was very rocky the next few miles to Pulpit Rock, below:
This was the only other panoramic view today. Otherwise, I was in a green
tunnel on top of Blue Mountain, with no breezes until I came off the end of the
ridge above Port Clinton.
The Trail dropped 800 feet from Pulpit Rock to Windsor Furnace, site of an
early pig iron works. The Trail was fairly smooth on either side of this
now-grassy area. I could see some glassy slag in the footpath but not the
remains of an old engine foundation in the undergrowth or the 30- to 50-foot
wide charcoal hearths (burning sites) that the AT guide mentioned.
On the way to Port Clinton several day hikers and back-packers passed me
going north. A few of them asked if they were going in the right direction to The
Pinnacle, apparently a popular hiking destination. There are several blue-blazed
trails that intersect the AT, and they aren't marked well. I even lost the white
blazes on a rock maze near The Pulpit and an observatory, but finally found the
right way after about five minutes of scouting the rocks. There were several
places in this section that could have used more blazes.
The Trail was alternately smooth and rocky. Probably 50% was runnable (by me,
even!) today but I had to keep my stride short and pace moderate to avoid pain
in my butt and back of both knees. It was frustrating to be on smooth flat and
downhill trails and not be able to run!
Four miles from Port Clinton I met a cheerful young lady going north who
asked me if I was thru-hiking; most folks don't think I am because of my small
pack. After I told her why I was going south instead of north she asked me if
I was "the trail runner!" That surprised me, because I hadn't mentioned running
yet. She's read my shelter register entries and knew I was in the area after
being off a week.
Her name is Fatima and she's a student at Georgetown University in
Arlington, VA. That's where her trail name, Fati (pronounced like "fatty"), comes from. She's been
section-hiking this summer from Damascus, VA and will end Sunday at the PA/NJ
border at Delaware Water Gap. That's a good chunk of the trail. She hopes to
finish her thru-hike in a few years.
I told her it'd be a lot easier to complete while she's young than when she's
56 and falling apart like me! She laughed.
I didn't go to either shelter today or find the register on a tree at The
Pinnacle. Hopefully, I'll find a register tomorrow and see where folks are.
DOWN TO THE RIVER
The descent to PA 61 and Port Clinton wasn't nearly as steep as I thought it
would be. It was rocky but there were switchbacks and none of the steep "steps"
or loose rock that plagues the descent on the southwest side of town. It wasn't
the "free fall" I expected.
The Trail goes under busy four-lane PA 61, which is so much nicer than
dodging traffic, then follows the Schuylkill River for half a mile. This is the
only place I saw flowers today, and there were lots of blackberry and raspberry
bushes (picked clean of ripe berries!). The Trail follows a street in Port
Clinton for a block, goes over the river (below), and through the Reading
Railroad property I talked about on Day 73. I stopped at the end of the bridge
where Jim picked me up last week.
It's neat to see the Schuylkill River near its source. It's the same wide
river that flows through Philadelphia and dumps into the Delaware Bay. Today I
reminisced about running the Philly half marathon two times back in the 90s; the
race course followed the river on one side for several miles, then crossed a
bridge and followed the other side back to the finish area. I enjoyed watching
the college students out rowing on the river during the race.
Tomorrow I'll start from Hawk Mountain Road and go north again, hoping to
catch up to some folks I saw in Virginia and Maryland. I saw a note on the Trail
today for "Cucumber," the young lady hiking in a bikini in Virginia. I'm glad to
see she's still out there.
Gosh, it's good to be back on the Trail again!