Thursday, 22 April
|Destination: PA 873 (1,259.7)
|Today’s Miles: 7.3
|Start Location: Bake Oven Knob Shelter (1,252.4)
|Trip Miles: 40.1
This is being posted a day late from the comfort of my recliner with a real keyboard instead of a phone!
In posting yesterday’s update in the cold, I neglected to mention some additional fun on the trail. Climbing over the rocks is never fun. You can never tell which rock will move when you put your weight on it and which is solid. It requires a lot of concentration. So Bob and I came to a powerline with huge towers along a ridge of boulders. For some reason, most of the crossing was covered in heavy duty black plastic. This meant we had to cross a 50 yard boulder field when you couldn’t always see the boulders. We poked with our poles and decided to take a step. Poke some more, take the next step. It was also really windy on the ridge making you want to rush a little. Slow going but we made it with no falls. We never did figure out why a football field sized area would be covered in black plastic. We also saw another section of the powerline covered the same way. At least we did not need to cross that section.
Bob and I had the shelter to ourselves last night. Fortunately, the wind died down overnight. Forecast was for temperatures around freezing. Our water filters will not filter out viruses after being frozen so we had to sleep with them in our sleeping bags. Filters were put in plastic bags, tucked in dirty socks and put in our bags.
Bob mentioned he saw a few snow flakes during the night while we were having breakfast and packing. My thermometer showed 27 degrees but we did not see any snow until we started hiking a little after seven. There was a light dusting of snow on the dead leaves. The forecast low temperature was 37 when we started our trip. So the temperature was a little surprise but we stayed comfortable at night. We started hiking with long sleeve shirts but shortly stopped to add rain jackets to break the wind which had kicked up when the sun came up.
The hiking was pretty easy and we were making pretty good time. When we were dropping off my truck, a couple hikers coming north told us there was a side trail that we should take. A trail maintainer had told them about it. The side trail was marked with a sign that we could not miss. After about four miles we came to a sign for the South Trail that said scenic trail 1.1 miles, reconnects with the AT. Smart seasoned hikers would have looked at that sign and said “scenic” – that means on top of the ridge. In Pennsylvania – that means rocks. Oh by the way, it is really windy. Smart seasoned hikers would have passed on that side trail. We took it. After a little bit there was a sign that said “Loose Rocks Next 1 Mile, Hazardous When Wet”. It was a little too late to turn back but we spent the next hour taking careful steps with great views and trying not to get blown over. Finally we were back on the AT in the woods and off the ridge top.
A little bit after getting back on the main AT trail we came to a sign for the North Trail. Another side trail marked scenic. This time we made the correct decision and continued on the AT.
No real climbs today. There was a steep 500 foot descent over the last half mile to the truck. My truck was the only vehicle in the parking lot. Only a little dusty from sitting. It was nice to get out of the wind and into the warmth. A forty minute ride brought us to Bob’s SUV. There we made a change of clothes since our destination, the Port Clinton Hotel & Restaurant, had a note in the guide that said “Make sure you shower before entering restaurant”. Guess they are used to hikers.
There is a divided highway in Port Clinton. Not sure how far we would need to drive to turn around, we decided to walk to the restaurant. Great atmosphere, friendly waitress, 12 ounce burgers, good fries and Yuengling on tap. Perfect end of the journey. There was quite a menu. This is a place worth making a trip to even when not hiking. They did a pretty good business after one. Another great part of backpacking is that you feel no guilt for that big meal at the end. A week of pepperoni and cheeseticks in a tortilla for lunch, and freeze dried dinners makes it extra special.
Three and a half hours later, home, unpack and a nice hot shower. Ahh!
We went five days without getting our feet wet. This is a personal best for hikes with Bob and I. Another bit of luck is that we missed the rain that came through on Thursday. Waking up in below freezing temps to put on wet clothes and shoes would not have been pleasant.
There is a rumor that gnomes come out at night in Pennsylvania and turn all the rocks pointy side up. Bob and I can vouch that the rumor is true after hiking 40 miles in PA.
Here is a short ten minute video that gives a good idea of what it was like to go over the Knife’s Edge on Wednesday. Bob and I did not have to worry about snakes since it is too early in the spring. The trees have no leaves so the drop off looked even scarier. We crossed slower or it just seemed that way with the adrenaline flowing.
I plan to post a summary of the trip and it will include a guest post from my hiking partner, Bob. Be sure to check back for that!