Note: The keyboard is working fine again – I don’t get it.
I woke at 5:00 – it as chilly, but I was warm in my sleeping bag. I wanted to keep sleeping, but I couldn’t – I needed to have another good day if I wanted to reach Port Clinton by Thursday. I silently started packing while the rest of the gang slept.
I made a rather long trek trying to find an appropriate spot to use the bathroom. When I returned, the sun was rising and everyone was awake. Champa was packed first and I enjoyed watching him try to catch a trout while I ate a quick breakfast.
I finished packing and was on the trail at 7:30. If today was anything like yesterday, I needed to get moving. My feet felt okay – still a little sore from yesterday’s hike, but definitely better than I expected.
I crossed an old iron bridge at Swatara Gap before crossing under I-81 and heading back up to another ridge.
The ascent was short, but tough. The rocks were terrible – I moved slowly, taking my time to avoid the smaller, more painful ones. As I hiked up and onto the ridge, I noticed the skies beginning to get darker. I knew rain was forecast for today, but didn’t know exactly when it was supposed to hit.
At 9:45, I found McDoubles sitting trail side. He was using his phone to shop for new shoes – his Brooks were competed trashed. I paused to check the weather on my phone, taking advantage of the good cell service the ridge provided. Uh oh – we were in big trouble. He looked up and asked when the rain was coming. I told him now, like RIGHT NOW.
We got moving in a hurry. I started hearing thunder rumble in the distance and stopped under a dense grove of trees to put on my rain jacket and pack cover. McDoubles passed and continued hiking north as the first rain drops started to fall. It didn’t take long before the storm was raging overhead – not a lot of lightning, but pretty heavy rains and very high winds.
I stayed put. The trees afforded decent coverage from the rain. And with temps hovering in the 50s, I wasn’t about to get wet in the cold. Again. So instead of hiking on to catch up with McDoubles, Savage and Champa, I stood under the trees and shivered. I tried meditating, but when that didn’t work, I resorted to eating snacks.
About 30 minutes later, the bulk of the storm passed and I started mentally readying myself to hike. Just as I was about to leave, I heard another hiker approaching. I crouched down to see who it was and was pleased to see Black Santa hiking towards me. He was drenched – he got caught on the ascent and, by the time he found cover, it was too late. He was soaked and cold.
The two of us began hiking quickly, trying to warm up. We kept laughing at our misfortune – it’s June and we got caught in another cold rain storm. When will summer be here for good?
At noon, we made it to the William Penn Shelter, only nine miles away from the overpass I slept under. Champa and McDoubles were eating lunch inside – Savage was standing in a single shaft of sunlight, trying to get warm.
Black Santa and I crawled inside and made a quick lunch. Everyone was wet (some worse than others), but we all were chilled to the bone. I started packing up to hike north again – Black Santa advised I wait a few minutes. He was on his phone and saw another storm approaching. Sure enough, five minutes later it hit. I crawled up into the loft to avoid the drafts that were blowing through the shelter.
It was nearly 2:00 by the time the front passed – there was no more rain on the radar. Just as I was about to leave, another wet hiker strolled into the shelter – it was Tortilla. I hadn’t seen him in quite a while – his parents were the ones that provided us with all that excellent trail magic before we hiked into Buena Vista, VA. We chatted briefly before I started hiking again.
Savage, McDoubles and Champa left first – Black Santa and I took up the rear. No matter how fast or hard I hiked, I just couldn’t get warm. And despite the fact that I had just eaten lunch, I was very hungry. We decided to hitch into Pine Grove, PA and get some hot food.
After unsuccessful attempts at PA 645, we started hiking north towards the 501 Shelter. I was a little disappointed, but figured if it’s meant to be, it would have happened. Black Santa quickly disappeared ahead – I, once again, slowed down due to the rocky path.
Because it had been raining so hard, I kept my phone and AT Guide hidden deep in my pack. I didn’t know far the next shelter was or if I might be missing any views or waypoints. Thankfully, I found Tortilla standing off trail in a small clearing. He was photographing the valley below. The storm brought clear skies and I paused to enjoy the view before hiking on.
At 4:00, I emerged from the woods and found Black Santa standing near a group of hikers. The 501 Shelter was just ahead – the hikers were standing by the road waiting for pizza. The 501 Shelter is so close to Pine Grove, the local pizza restaurant frequently makes deliveries. Just as we were considering hitching again (yes, I was still cold and hungrier than ever), the pizza delivery driver drove up. Black Santa asked if we could catch a ride with him into town. He said sure, but we had to leave now – he had other deliveries to make.
He dropped us off in downtown Pine Grove – we walked into the first restaurant we saw and sat down to eat. A hot meal was just what I needed. Warm and full, we exited the restaurant and started trying to hitch back to the trail head. We weren’t having much luck – finally a nice lady asked if we needed a ride.
It was 6:30 when we finally made it back to the 501 Shelter. Savage, McDoubles and Champa were miles ahead and making camp – I decided to stay behind with Black Santa. Even though we didn’t hike as far as I had hoped, staying warm was more important – it was supposed to get into the 40s tonight.
I entered the shelter and found Tortilla relaxing on a bunk – I heard a “Cool Dad” come from the corner. It was Get Weird. She had been here all afternoon and completely missed the storm.
I set off to find a place to pitch my tent – Black Santa and Get Weird followed. We found a cozy little campsite and I was in bed before dark.
* * *
I don’t think I’ll make it to Port Clinton by tomorrow, but I’m gonna try my best – it’s 24 miles away and the post office closes at 4:30. I have more than enough food to make it there so I’m not too concerned.
The wind is pretty ferocious – I can hear it ripping through the trees overhead. And it’s cold. I hope I sleep well.
Breakfast: two 20 gram protein bars, dried strawberries and apples.
Thunderstorm Snack: dried cherries, two LD Oatmeal Cream Pies, beef jerky
Lunch: Chicken flavored ramen with two tuna packets, dried mango, raisins
Dinner: Cheeseburger and fries