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
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
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
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
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
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.