July, 2011 Archives

Pennsylvania has an identity beyond rocks



The trip through Pennsylvania started with outrageous expectations of rocks under each and every step.  As you progressed through the state with nary a rock underfoot the passing rock advice switched from the last half of PA to the last third of PA and finally to the last 30 or so miles.  This was one of those moments where you would be much better off not listening to the advice of others as no 2 people think of a situation the exact same way.  I found Pennsylvania to be a very nice state to walk through with a few concentrated mounds of rocks that acted as obstacles but for the most part the state was a varied course of terrains that provided a few different paths that were wildly different from one another.

I really loved the stretch of farmland on the way into Boiling Springs where you were literally cutting right through fields of corn, wheat, and soy beans.  There were moments where everything else disappeared and the world got very quiet as you were engulfed by the tall crops.  They seemed to shield you from the outside world.  I paused many times within this field to take in the moment. 

Through this state you also pass the ruins of old mining communities.  There are caves and chipped away rocks to let you know that something existed at one time.  You really had to want to see it but if you tried hard enough you were able to transport yourself to this time. 

Found an overlook on the way in to Allentown called Bob Fisher Overlook which, like much of the visible ridges in PA, provided expansive views of the farmland below. 

Paused for 4th of July fireworks at a place called Hahn’s Lookout just before Wind Gap.  I was at the summit and I encountered a couple already there.  Thankfully they were on their way out but they left behind a fire by the rock overlooking the city below and the guy even handed me a box of Cheez-Its for my July 4th celebration.  I saw many different shows down below including some from the baseball game, Dorney Park, and random towns down below.  It was a very nice spot even though Brodie burrowed under a rock the entire time unable to tolerate the many booms that we heard all around us.  Later that night I got no sleep thanks to the large animal that came crashing through the woods closer and closer to my tent.  Did not wind up finding out what it was so it was most likely a deer but I knew that I was entering bear country so I feared the worst.

The next stretch out of Wind Gap had us climbing the toughest portion of rocks that we have encountered to this point.  The climb out of Lehigh Gap is almost laughable as all you see are boulders and rock slabs as you climb out of the gap and up over 1,000 feet.  There were several times that the dog just layed down exasperated as to what was still to come.  It seemed overwhelming at times but thankfully once we got to the top we were riding along a nice flat grassy ridge for the next 5 miles or so. 

Wound up in the Delaware Water Gap and heard rumblings of a church that let you stay on their grounds for free.  I took advantage of this fact at the Church of the Mountain hostel where I shared the amenities with about a dozen or so other hikers with the same plan in mind.  The stay was excellent and we each had access to a hiker floor complete with shower and bathroom and relax room with puzzles and games.  The only time I saw a member of the church was the morning of our departure where a couple of ladies came in to clean the hiker area out for the next group of hikers.  While in town I went down to the pizza place with a few other hikers and decided to try my hand at eating an entire pizza which I accomplished in no time flat.  This and a few rootbeers comprised of my dinner that night.  I found out afterwards that this lone pizza and root beers had caused me to gain 8 pounds.  I was amazed that this was possible.  Gaining 8 pounds in one meal.  But the proof was in the scale.  This weight fluctuation out here is an amazing thing.

I have been traveling alongside a group of about 10-15 people who seem to be on a similar pace.  I am fairly nervous about my prospects as 3 of these people have Lymes disease in one form or another.  As one was talking about just getting back on the trail after 9 days of treatment another was showing the bullseye around a tick bite on his shoulder and he was just going in for his antibiotics at the first doctor he could see.  It is a scary time as this disease seems very real as you can see the results first hand.  They complain of drastic changes in body temperature followed by flu-like symptoms and finally achy joints.  This would be a tough thing to diagnose as you feel a lot of these things on a daily basis from the rigors of the trail.  I only hope that I am somewhat near a city with a doctor once the symptoms occur in me.

Had a scary day heading into the Mohican Outdoor Center just over the NJ border.  We were only pushing about 10 miles from the Church of the Mountain hostel and after passing Sunfish pond Brodie must have thrown up about 15 times from here to the end.  I was very concerned as he could barely make it half a mile without pulling off and going through the vomit motion.  By the end he was basically heaving out a plasma substance so we had to keep stopping.  The 10 miles to Mohican took about 7 hours.  Rest and relaxation in beautiful Stone Ridge, NY can not come at a moment too soon as I need to give the dog a break and put some much needed meat on his bones.

All in all Pennsylvania was a lot of worry over nothing.  The rocks that people speak of are little stones in the trail that make your footing unsteady but you are more than able to walk through them.  I was expecting more of the boulders from the climb out of Lehigh Gap so I will not be someone talking ill of the state.  I will be someone who gives the advice that it gets a much worse rap than it deserves.

The video below shows a snake who crept up on me while I sat along a creek. I wanted badly for it to just slither on into the water but it kept creeping in my direction. The first shaky camera moment was when I picked up a stick in case it came too close and the next shaky camera moment was when I used the stick to fling the snake into the water after it struck at me. Not a good moment.