I awoke at 5.30 am to the whippoorwill still crying his lonely song. I got up, got THE STOVE (!!!!) out and lit it with my lighter: sah-weet! I also found my knife, so my day was pretty much complete before 6.00 am. I boiled some water on the stove, and made coffee with Folger’s Coffee bags. It was absolutely atrocious. But even that nasty tidal water they allege was coffee couldn’t dampen my day.
What I learned: Those coffee bags are totally nasty—get real coffee and find a way to make it.
David was up throughout the night and was bitter about not sleeping much. He asked me to ask God if he could have another hour of sleep, so I said a prayer. He fell back to sleep almost immediately and slept for…an hour. I am naturally a morning person, so being alone in the dawn was just fine with me.
After David woke up, we had three oatmeals between the two of us (perfect!) and some beef jerky. We broke camp and washed our dishes and filled our water bottles on the way out of the camp…now you’re learnin’, boyos! True to form, as soon as we hiked down the hill, we were faced with an uphill climb on the opposite side. We set off past a few other hikers who were also breaking camp, including one bushy-looking through-hiker who had that distinct trail smell. I’m pretty sure we’ll have it by the end of our trip. I wonder if I have it now, and I just don’t know it.
We hiked about 13 miles to Pine Grove Furnace. The terrain was unbelievably rocky, and the scenery absolutely stinks in this area Pennsylvania. First, the rocks. There is a rumor going around among hikers that Pennsylvanians hate through-hikers, and spend the off-season sharpening the stones on the trail. There might be something to this. I likened them to alligator teeth; they all seem to be just the wrong size, and they all seem to be pointing up. Other areas had large turtleback stones. It would have been a welcome change, except that with all the rain, they were slippery and thus, more treacherous than the alligator teeth. Where it wasn’t covered with rocks, it was a low-lying swamp.
The scenery was trees, shrubs and bushes. Trees to the left, shrubs to the right, and bushes surrounding them. There were a couple of points where we came out and there was a clearing, and one spot where we came out to an overlook. It was only about 40 feet down, but comparatively speaking, it was breathtaking. Everything being said: it was some tough slogging. Hay foot, straw foot, one in front of the other.
The other thing is that trail mix, while good and filling, didn’t have enough carbohydrates for me. I started to feel a little uneasy, so David broke out a pound cake, which hit the spot right on time. I also stopped to dunk my head in a stream and dinged my knee standing up. It was tough going as the knee stiffened up a bit, and I poured some water on it (STINGS!!! OW-OW-OW-OUCH!!!).
As I said before, there are characters you meet on the trail. At one point, David and I are walking and talking. We get around to one of two our favorite topics: snakes (the other is The Simpsons). So we’re talking and marveling at how we haven’t seen any snakes. On the trail, things are very secluded, and you get the sense, at times, you could be the last surviving people on the planet, and you won’t know it until you break out into civilization. It’s in this setting, quiet solitude, talking about snakes, that this voice comes from directly behind David: “I SAW SOME SNAKES!” I was in front, and I jumped. David instinctively drew back his walking stick and was about to give this idiot, who had snuck up behind us, the business end of the stick. I think the only thing that saved the guy is the way he looked: like Jim Neighbors with a mustache, wearing shorts and black socks. He chatted for about thirty seconds as he hiked through and moved on ahead—again, we never saw him again. When you see someone on the trail, you immediately size tehm up for the otential danger they present—this guy was saved by the fact that, looking at him, he presented none. I think in hindsight, he will probably not sneak up on anybody again, especially two guys walking through the forest. He might also want to consider carrying tic-tacs in his pocket.
When we arrived in Pine Grove, we went to the General Store and got a Coke. It was still warm, but delicious. I tried to call home, but there was no phone coverage. The park was a disaster, with the storm having destroyed huge sections of trees, trails and park. There were even areas of road washed away. We found an area to set up camp, and did so. Then we hiked down to the stream, about 100 feet away, and I waded in to cool off—so sweet, and so cold. Climbing out, I saw a mouse trapped by the edge of the stream, obviously dying. I took a large log, and finished him. I felt bad, awful really, but it was the best thing to do for him.
So we went back to the camp and made Ramen Noodles with the stove. After dinner, we were bored, so we…took a walk, of course. We added another 4 miles, bringing our day’s total to 17 miles. During the walk out, David got the feeling things were moving, and need to make an unscheduled pit stop. The problem: we had no toilet paper. “Uh…Rob. I’ve got a problem.” The solution? I cut the sleeves off my shirt and he used them. “You’re welcome. No, I don’t need them back.”
What I learned: There are advantages to shopping for camping clothes at Goodwill before the trip. $2 shirts and $3 shorts. You don’t miss them when they are gone.
We came back to camp and got finished setting up, and I went to hang the bear bag. We couldn’t find it. The dilemma then became where was it (lost, dropped) and what could we do to replace it? I opted to put the food in my tent bag and throw that up in a tree. Then David found the bear bag…UNDER HIS TENT! So, the bear bag was under David’s tent, with food in it. That could have made for a less-than-pleasant evening, to be sure. We hung it far from the tents.
That night we saw several people come through on the trail, including one girl who was left by the other people in her party. Class move. She seemed to be catching up, and I have little doubt she did. Still, though…
That night, it rained pretty hard. I stayed dry, but David's stuff got soaked.He was, predictably, miffed...