Hike 6



Our sixth hike of 41 miles from 6/6/02 to 6/11/02 started at Route 183 in PA.  The hike began pretty lousily.  We got out of the car in pouring rain.  We donned our ponchos and pack covers and started out in a downpour.  Most of the Appalachian Trail is worn down from the boots of many hikers and makes for a great river during a heavy rain.  Much of the first leg of this hike entailed hopping from one edge of the path to the other in the undergrowth that typically lines the path to avoid the inch or two deep water running down the pathway.  We hiked this way for about three hours in the rain to the Eagle's Nest shelter.  About the time we arrived at the shelter, the rain stopped.  It started again later and rained fairly hard most of the night.

Next morning, we hung out our wet duds to start the drying process.

We soon got hiking...with wet clothes hanging from our packs attempting to help them dry.

The Mountain Laurel (Pennsylvania's State Flower) were in full bloom everywhere around us!

Once the sun got warmer, we stopped and hung out our wet clothes again to dry.  I started using "Trekking Poles" this hike and I'll never go back to "two legged" hiking again.  I never tripped and fell once this trip which is several less than my normal hike.  In addition, my bum left knee never hurt a bit this trip which was the real reason I got them.

Before long we arrived at the Auburn Lookout which looks north toward, you guessed it, the town of Auburn.

The trail is rocky as usual for PA.  Sometimes it is VERY rocky. (Erica looking back the trail to me.)

Some trail crews make good use of the plentiful rocks and line the path.

We camped on the "cliff" above Port Clinton and in the morning descended into the town. (The town was named after the man who built the Erie Canal, not the president who doesn't know what 'is' means.) Port Clinton was a relatively famous canal port and later train center for shipping Anthracite coal.  

Here the girls and I are standing in front of one of many large Anthracite chunks in the tourist center rail yard.

We crossed the Schuylkill  River on a small train bridge.  We visited the "Appalachian Outfitters" shop and bought some unneeded supplies.  They have better prices there than Dick's Sporting Goods on their well stocked hiking/outdoor equipment.  As we were leaving town, we remembered that we hadn't unloaded our trash bag, so I carried it back into town and paid a local lady 85 cents to put my trash bag in her burn barrel.  She attempted to refuse the money, but I told her I didn't want to carry the change on my hike, so she relented and took it off my hands.  The girls got a chuckle out of that story.  I felt the lady might need the 85 cents, because her husband and a couple companions just dropped a tree onto the roof of their house.

Once we climbed the hill out of town, we came to an unnamed lookout that looks South toward the town of Hamburg.

While passing through the Windsor Furnace recreational area, we found a couple of large black snakes.  Erica decided to try out for the Crocodile Hunter show and picked up the larger of the snakes by the tail.


We climbed to Pulpit Rock late that afternoon.

And both girls (Erica left, Heather right) found good resting spots overlooking the valley to the South. 

We thought we were in a secluded area that was quite difficult to access until we discovered that not 100 feet to the West of the lookout there were at least 1/2 a dozen various RVs and campers parked in what appeared to be a campground.  We listened to their horse shoes, loud yelling and laughing, and air conditioners into the night...not exactly what we had expected out in no-man's land after a multi-hour hard climb up the mountain.  

Next morning we hiked the relatively short jaunt around the mountain to The Pinnacle.  (The Pinnacle Lookout is the bump in the silhouette behind me in the picture above from Pulpit Rock.) According to the AT Guide Book, The Pinnacle is the most spectacular lookout on the PA section of the Appalachian Trail.  That may be true, but it is also the most heavily visited by non-hikers.  As we hiked the 5-6 miles past it to the nearest road access, we must have passed 20 to 30 people in groups up to 6 or 8 people.  The little salamander Heather found is only about an inch long.

We did get to see our first Ruffed Grouse, which is the Pennsylvania State Bird.  It spooked out of the brush to our side and ran across the trail directly ahead of us with its tail all stretched out in a fan.  My picture shows it with its tail closed because it took me a few seconds to get the camera out.

We needed water and somehow missed the supposedly gushing Gold Spring, and had to resort to getting water at Panther Spring.  This spring is in a beautiful Hemlock forest where we stopped for an extended rest and wash-up.  The water there tasted awful, but it was wet.  I guess there must have been a one pack leaning limit on the Hemlocks there...

On a trip into the privy thicket while at Panther Spring, I chanced upon my first Rattlesnake.  That was exciting!

We descended to Eckville and then crossed the Hawk Sanctuary Swamp a.k.a. "Mosquito Factory" and climbed the hill to Dan's Pulpit overlook.  It is more Overgrown than Overlook, but if you stretch your neck, you actually can see out pretty far.

We camped just below the crest of the hill and then proceeded to the Balanced Rocks overlook.  Here we checked out all the big rocks and were startled by a big Buzzard bursting from the rocks down below us.  We suspected there might be a nest near there and after some careful searching we found it.  There were two baby Buzzard Chicks in the narrow cave nest 4 or 5 feet deep under the lower face of the rock pile.  The babies hissed at us when they saw us and it took me several trial and error camera shots at arms length around a slight corner to get the picture.

We still couldn't figure out what the "Balanced Rocks" deal was until I noticed where someone had painted "Lift" on the end of a stack of three large multi-ton rocks.  When you actually do lift there, you can tilt the whole stack of rocks back and forth about an inch.  They must be very well "Balanced" to move that amount of stone.  Each of the girls moved the stack by themselves.  In this picture they are working together to try to get light to shine under the edge where their hands are, but unfortunately the curve of the rock where it rested prevented that.

There are many rock outcrops where the rocks are more like piles of huge gravel than rock formations.  At this one, the Mountain Laurel was in bloom all around and we spent some time doing a bunch of posed photos of both the girls and me.  Our new Thru-Hiker friend Woodman,  his son Chopper, and friend Sanchez happened by and we took a few posed pictures of them to email to their families.

On the hike toward the Tri-County marker at the juncture of Berks, Lehigh, and Schuylkill Counties, Heather found another snake that rattled its tail, but we believe it was a Black Rat Snake since it didn't have a rattle and its head is more oval shape than the rattler.  It was about 4 1/2 - 5 feet long.

We stayed our last night on the trail in the Allentown Shelter with four Thru-Hikers trail-named Greyhound, Radio Flyer, Yabut, and Mainframe.  They were all very nice, but the snoring in the shelter nearly drove Heather batty.  They were all up and gone early.  When we finally left about 8:30 which is about the earliest we have ever left a camp site or shelter, we only had 4 miles left to hike to our pickup spot at Route 309.  We had plenty of time to leisurely stroll along.

We planned to grab brunch/lunch at the widely proclaimed Blue Mountain Summit Bed & Breakfast, only to find it closed Monday through Wednesday.  This being Tuesday, we just sat there on their front porch, drank their free outdoor spigot supplied water, and waited for Mom (Cheryl) to come pick us up.