Friday, June 13, 2014

Days 101 - 106: Enter Rocksylvania

Day 101: Clark's Ferry Shelter to Campsite on ridge (11.8 miles)
This was a hot and humid hike! We intended to get a little further, but a 2 hour lunch break impeded our progress. We ended up camping with a section hiker couple from Jacksonville, Alll Right and Half Left. They were pretty cool to talk to. Talk about a small world where we meet people from Jax in Pennsylvania on the AT! There was no water at this campsite so we ate cold and went to bed early. 

We had spoken to a ridge runner at the Doyle in Duncannon who said that the rocks really start north of there. He wasn't kidding, but the rocks seemed like the type of rocks you find on top of any ridgeline in Virginia. I was skeptical. 

Day 102: Campsite to Spring, Campsite just before Rausch Shelter (12.8 miles)
Well, so much for an early morning! We finally got up around 9 or 10 and headed down to the spring at the bottom of the hill for brunch. We were done with this short & sweet day around 5pm when we set up camp next to Rausch Creek, which we learned is too acidic to sustain trout populations. To combat this, engineers installed these "filters" which diverts the creek water into a flow-through cistern filled with limestone so as to raise the pH of the water. The result is just a change of 1 or 2 pH units, but it allows brown and spotted trout to thrive downstream. The "spring" next to our campsite that fed into the stream was very rust-colored. We weren't sure if this was from too much iron in the water or some sort of nutrient imbalance. Anyway, we ended up camping out with Pooh Bear and Twizzler, and Cowgirl pushed on past the shelter. It was a quiet night. Still no horrendous fields of rocks. 

Day 103: Campsite to 501 Shelter (17.6 miles)
501 Shelter is famous for a few things. First and foremost, you can order pizza delivery. Secondly, there is a shower. These are the things that really matter to a thru-hiker. We left Rausch Gap a little later than we intended but the hiking was pretty easy. We crossed an old iron bridge at one point and made a tough climb up to the top of the next ridge. The mountains in Pennsylvania are really just parallel ridge lines, so the AT will follow one for a while and then jump to the next, resulting in easy hiking dotted with a few steep climbs and descents. This next ridge, Blue Mountain, was completely covered in poison ivy. Chase and I have never had a reaction to poison ivy, but the fear remains! Once we reached the 501 trail crossing, we jumped the gun and ordered some wings and a chicken parm sub. We waited at the parking lot for our food and ate there. We then carried our trash up to the shelter with the expectation that we would be able to dump our trash there. Alas, when we arrived we found a sign that welcomed pizza boxes but said pack out your own trash! We would have to carry our greasy styrofoam container with us into the next town. 

Day 104: 501 Shelter to Eagle's Nest Shelter (15.1 miles)
We saw a timber rattlesnake! That was the only exciting part of the day. The rest of it was rocky and awful. The trail so far in Pennsylvania seemed to be either sections of nice, flat, rock-free trail, or large boulders that you have to hop across, or small, sharp rocks that stick up out of the ground stabbing your feet to death, or a combination of small and medium sized rocks that slow you way down and annoy you to no end. The rocks are really supposed to start getting bad after Port Clinton. My feet hurt a lot even with just this measly amount of rocks and I was worried that my overuse issue was coming back. We were excited about Port Clinton and the Cabela's to look for new footwear. The camping at the shelter was really nice, and we spent the evening bullshitting with the old guys; Gwalker, GreaseSpot, and Banter. 

Day 105: Eagle's Nest Shelter to Port Clinton, PA; Microtel in Hamburg, PA (9.0 miles)
The started out with me being annoyed at the lack of landmarks mentioned in the guide. Then we had a really steep descent into Port Clinton. A lady with 8 kids ranging in age from 5 to 19 asked me about Sheila and her breed. I told her if she wanted an aussie that they are great dogs but they need a lot of exercise and attention, and also she should consider rescuing one. She said they tried that and had to put the dog down because "it was crazy." I hope she never gets a dog. 

Anyway, Cabela's came to pick us up and take us into Hamburg. That place is HUGE. We were expecting something the size of a Dick's Sporting Goods, but dayum! We then walked across to the 5 Guys Burgers and Fries to have lunch with Cowgirl and Pooh Bear, who had arrived in town the previous night. We then all went back to the Microtel to check in and have a beer with Cowgirl before she hit the trail again. One beer became a chorus of "una màs!" several times, and it was clear Cowgirl wasn't leaving town that. She ended up ordering The Ramen Shaman a pair of Ariat boots to hike in because she swears by the brand and also because she was drunk. Pooh Bear came with the two of us for a steak dinner, and Cheez-it picked out some new shoes; Merrel Moab Ventilator lowtops. Sleeping in a bed and having a shower is always awesome. 

Day 106: Port Clinton to Windsor Furnace Shelter (5.7 miles)
We were supposed to be out of town much much earlier, but Cheez-it decided her new boots were too narrow in the toe box. That's the trouble with these things; you never know how those shoes are going to fit until you wear them for a good long while and take them on the trail. I could tell just by walking across the street that they were too narrow. So it was back to Cabella's as everyone else hit the trail. After a few hours, I decided on a pair of Salomon XRMission trail-runners, and so far they have been great! We then had lunch at Cabella's and had to wait around until 2:30 before getting a ride back to the trail. We wasted more time at the post office in Port Clinton sorting through the dog food and sending home a few things. We actually started hiking around 3:30p. 

The shelter was a little creepy. There were a few people sitting around, but none of them were planning to stay. We set up camp and started making dinner when we heard something crashing through the woods near camp. I saw a big black thing walk across the trail and quietly told Chase, "I think there is a bear over there." He got up while I held onto Sheila and chased it away, yelling and throwing sticks. I'm sure it was just going down for a drink of water at the spring. Regardless, we bear-bagged for the first time since North Carolina that night. 

No rocks just yet, but that would soon change!

The next 4 days were spent searching for Cowgirl's dog, Cooper. This was a really intensely stressful and emotional time for us, so I would like to do it justice by speaking about it in a separate post. We've been trying to keep our mileage up to stay on schedule for finishing at Katahdin by the first week of August, so I haven't had much energy to write but I will do my best to work on the next post throughout the week. 

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