Tuesday, May 08, 2012
ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL AT LAST
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Weather: Mostly sunny, warm, muggy
Started at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA (the halfway point, which I've reached since stopping my 2009 hike in Harpers Ferry, WV)
Went to James Fry Shelter, 7.5 miles (+ 2 miles missed turn = 9.5)
Three years later..... finally I am starting.
Amazingly, there was a marathon festival going on in PGF State Park today as I started! Runners were 4-5 hours into it when I started hiking. Distance choices were 50K (31 miles), marathon (26.2 miles), 15K (9.3) & 5K (3.1). Shucks, if I'd known, I could have gotten here at 7am, run a marathon, been done by 1pm, and then hit the trail. Yeah, right. Like I'd have done that.
One of the race volunteers directing runners was, of all people, Trail Angel Mary, an AT celebrity I'd seen on TV on a Nat Geo Channel (I think) documentary about the AT. What fun to meet her! She signed my hiking stick (a few marathoners went past the intersection, undirected, while she did that.) For a short distance, the AT follows the paved hike/bike path the marathoners were using. They passed me and I called out, "Great job! Five more miles! You got it made!" It was lots of fun. Trail Angel Mary passed me slowly in her car, patrolling the race course and looking for stragglers. I waved and walked on. There weren't many white blazes but the walking was easy and I made good time.
However, after maybe 45 minutes, back comes Trail Angel Mary, opens her window, and says, "Um... I should have told you to turn off back there where we met. Get in." LOL! Poor Mary.... had been directing all the marathoners to go straight and forgot to tell me to turn into the woods and up the hill. She returned me to the turnoff and I got a picture of the two of us right in front of the double-blazed tree that warned of a change in trail direction. Poor Mary. Me, I'm 2 hours into my hike and already I've missed a turn and ridden in a car.
Later I came upon a group of out-and-back overnighters: Moe, Larry, Shemp, and Curly. I asked which was which and they said they each assume whichever identity is appropriate for whatever situation. They were loaded down with heavy gear; they had lawn chairs lashed to their packs. One had a GPS with a blue "You Are Here" dot, and he watched it more than he watched the trail. We all stopped at a crossing while they decided which way they wanted to go, and the GPS guy (it must have been Curly) looked at his monitor and said, "Hey, we're at some kind of crossing, see here?" Ya think? The AT goes straight (see the white blazes?) and this other path crosses it. I was sure glad he had that GPS. After a while, I left the Stooges. They were fun but they were goofing off and really slow.
The James Fry Shelter was empty. It's too early in the season for many thru-hikers this far north. I pitched my hammock. Later a guy came and set up a tent rather far from the shelter. He had a dog named Georgia. I wonder if the guy's name was Maine. We didn't introduce ourselves; he seemed intent on his solitary wilderness experience.
I only found one branch suitable for hanging a bear bag, and it was much higher than most I choose. It took me about 20 tries to heave a rock over it (attached to my rope.) After I ate it was nearly dark, so I was glad I'd roped my branch while it was still light. But when I started hauling my food bag up, my rope broke. Crap! I did what you're never supposed to do: I slept with my food. I hung it on my hammock rope, in a trash bag so that if anything tried to get it, it would be noisy and I could scare the marauder away.