Appalachian Trail: Pennsylvania Section 1

The last two days we spent backpacking another section of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Err.. ROCKsylvania, as its known. And it’s for real. Really real. Lots and lots and lots and LOTS of rocks. Big ones, little ones, medium ones, pointy ones, slippery ones, foot squishing ones, sideways ones… you get the picture. We knew in advance, we’ve been warned for years! ALL A.T. hikers pretty much know this, in fact.

We did the flat section in Boiling Springs in July when we were nursing wounds and it was 95 degrees as day hikes but I wanted to get a good, challenging overnight in in case this was the last overnight for us together of the season. Mission accomplished! (still sore).

I also had to make it to my son’s soccer game in Kent yesterday at 330 so I didn’t want to be a 4-hours-plus drive away. Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap was 15.5 miles, with a shelter 9.1 miles in. The forecast was for 40’s-50’s temps at night and rain most of Monday. We have done our share in rain and that’s fine, but at those temps it becomes a risky combo that we had the luxury to avoid. Plus it was FIelden Stream’s birthday so we usually do a backpacking trip with one night in an inn and one on trail. So we did this again. And since Monday was actually her birthday we had an even better excuse to stay at the inn that night and wait out the rain.

We got a room at the old Deer Head Inn, right on the trail. It looked really cool last time we were in town. We loved it. The only downside was the live jazz and the restaurant weren’t open on Mondays. We will be back for that experience. We can still stay there after another nearby section. The family that run it were very friendly and we got a great rate. We had a really nice room (no TV at least in our room, but who cares!). I sat on the porch with my sketchbook, drawing the beautiful scenes from the porch while it rained, and listened to jazz on my iphone and had a glass of wine.

We got some great dinner suggestions all around the area but we were supposed to meet with a southbound thru hiker for dinner so we picked a place right on the main strip where the hostel and our inn were. As it turns out he was unable to make dinner, so we could have gone somewhere new. But we went to the Sycamore grill last time we were here when we finished New Jersey and liked it a lot. So we were just fine being there again for dinner.

We had a nice dinner and got to bed early after watching some videos on our phone. See, who needs a TV in the room these days!  We were up early to get coffee and donuts at the village farmer, and had fun taking our pictures in the pie slice and hot dog portrait sign. We also got a fresh loaf of raisin bread and cider donuts to have for breakfasts before and during the hike, and got an Uber to Wind Gap right on schedule! We had a nice talk with the driver who was also super friendly and helpful and then it was a quick climb up out of Wind Gap.

While it was a brisk ascent it was gentle on the feet here still, and it wasn’t long because we were already at 1,000ft coming up this way to the ridge. The other end is a much longer climb, and we even felt that going down it at the end!

Soon after we reached the ridge, the fields of rocks began. And kept going, and going… Elevation-wise this day was almost entirely flat once we reached the ridge. Wolf Rocks was a fun scramble, with much, much, larger rocks that formed the spine of a rocky ledge, with drops about 30 feet down on the mountain side. The views north were very nice, and we met a few day hikers here (and one backpacker) who were also taking the tricky scramble slowly. We got a few photos here and then finished the challenging technical walk as we re-entered the forest. I’m glad we waited for it to be dry, this would have been tricky and I did not want to miss it and take the bypass!

We had two more miles to go after Wolf rocks to the shelter and thankfully 1.5 miles of it was along a jeep road. We passed Fox Gap at the top of the ridge line and then it was only .5 to the shelter. We were told by lots of folks to camp at Nelson’s Overlook just beyond, and clearly many do as we found many fire ring sites. But I’m a Leave No Trace educator, and not about to break rules I teach, as lovely a spot as it was. We also met 3 southbound thru hikers at the shelter, when we thought we might be alone. And we really enjoy talking to the thru hikers, having a picnic table and shelter roof and privy when possible. So we set up on the hill behind the shelter and the water source was very close. It’s a spigot on the grounds of a religious retreat right on the same mountaintop. Wow what a view they have! Anyway the spigot is on seasonally and I called and asked on forums in advance to make sure it was still on, as that’s the ONLY water source on this entire 15.5 mile stretch except Eureka Creek at 1.2 miles south of the start. So I recommend checking that its on before you go, and if not pack in a bunch of extra water.

We had a nice night at the shelter. We spoke to the thru hikers a bit at dinner, did our best to catch the sunset over the retreat, and then retired very fatigued to our tent. It was cold, but we were close together and warm and all bundled up and tucked in so we stayed mostly comfrotably warm. We needed the rest so getting to bed at hiker midnight was no problem. We slept almost a full 12 hours.

We were up early the next morning and spoke briefly to a man who was staying at the retreat and came out to check out the view at Nelson’s Overlook. We then made our way out of camp before 8 am, as we had 6.4 miles to do before noon so we could make it to Kent in time.  The thru hikers had said it was easy and had a long flat road section and the ascent wasn’t bad at all (so our descent shouldn’t be).

Nelson’s Overlook was a wonderful view for sure. Apparently it’s popular with the hang gliders too. We moved on a bit further to a place called Lunch Rocks, where we had breakfast! It too had a great view, including our day’s hike laid out in front of us to the east. The ridgeline ahead stretched south and then east to Mt Minsi, on the Pennsylvania side of the gap. You could see Mount Tammany in New Jersey just behind. We also passed the 900-mile mark to Katahdin, which the thrus make out of little rocks. Always neat to see. From here, it was much less rocky but several uphills caught us off guard because I didn’t have a look at the profile in much depth. They weren’t bad or long but we were tired from the tough first day. But we did eventually reach that long flat stretch of road along the spine of the ridge, and it took us all the way to the summit of Mount Minsi. There was an incredible view south of the Delaware River, and we met two other SOBOs who were friends with the ones we were at the shelter with, and they were planning to meet up. That’s why the thrus were up late and still sleeping the night we were there – they were waiting to catch up with each other as they hadn’t seen each other since New Hampshire.

Just past there was the eastern view directly of the Mount Tammany summit and the gap below. We did that hike last fall. It was so fun to be on the other side of that view. It’s very dramatic from either side.  We began the descent that would take hours. While only 2.4 miles, it felt like double that. Now it had MANY incredible views of the gap all along the rocky rhododendron-lined descent. At several points it was very close to the ledge, and the leaves and acorns made it a little sketchy at times. Again I’m so glad it wasn’t wet. It really felt more like northern New England here. There were several scrambles, and it pushed some of our limits as we were getting low in energy. But the views…

Eureka Creek was flowing, and very pretty. I saw a juvenile bald eagle flying above me on the final lookout but didn’t succeed in getting him on camera. Once we reached the road to Lake Lenape and the parking lot, we were happy to have flat ground. The towering rock ledges on the side of the trail featured a big overhang cave with a steep path up to it. I got as close as I was comfortable climbing up while filming and then headed back down where Lake Lenape was and from there it was about a half mile out to the lot and the road and back down to the Inn. We did it in 4 hours which was my long estimate, but we didn’t anticipate how slow the descent would go. We fueled up at Taco Bell on the way back to Connecticut. Hiker hunger is also very real.

Another great hike in the books. We are at 400 miles now. With luck, we will get one more in this season if we get a warm weekend before Thanksgiving. Its always so hard waiting from October until April to go backpacking again! Photos below.  Watch the video here.

Miles Day 1: 9.1

Miles Day 2: 6.4

Bald Eagles: 1

Spiderwebs in the face: too many to count, a lot!

Rocks: WAY too many to count, a whole lot!

Views: Plenty of great ones!

SOBOs we met: 5

Spent a nice night at the Deer Head Inn

Spent a nice night at the Deer Head Inn Pre-hike

The A.T. goes right up that road

The A.T. goes right up that road

The Village Farmer in DWG, PA

The Village Farmer in DWG, PA

Fun at the Village Farmer

Fun at the Village Farmer

Starting at Wind Gap

Starting at Wind Gap

Rock town!

Rock town!

Rocksylvania

Rocksylvania

More rocksylvania

More rocksylvania

Aaaand more rocks

Aaaand more rocks

Even MORE rocks!

Even MORE rocks!

Frog Friend

Frog Friend ( a break from rock pics)

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Wolf Rocks

Linus on Wolf Rocks

Linus on Wolf Rocks

FIelden Stream on Wolf Rocks

FIelden Stream on Wolf Rocks

Nelson's Overlook

Nelson’s Overlook

The 900 Mile mark from Katahdin

The 900 Mile mark from Katahdin

The Delaware from Mt Minsi summit looking south

The Delaware from Mt Minsi summit looking south

Mt. Tammany, NJ from Mt Minsi PA, DWG

Mt. Tammany, NJ from Mt Minsi PA, DWG

Delaware Water Gap from Lookout Rock

Delaware Water Gap from Lookout Rock

Another view of the gap from Mt. Minsi

Another view of the gap from Mt. Minsi

Delaware Water Gap from Mt Minsi

Delaware Water Gap from Mt Minsi

Lake Lenape

Lake Lenape

Cave near Lake Lenape

Cave near Lake Lenape

Hiker hunger is real

Hiker hunger is real

 

Appalachian Trail: Pennsylvania Section 10

Over the last weekend of June, we were geared up to do a 2-night/3-day backpacking trip to kick off Vermont. However, a swollen knee for Fielden almost took hiking off the schedule completely. She was limping and using a walking stick for days because of this inflammation and I was sure it was a done deal. To be honest, MY knee had also flared up on the last long downhill on last month’s hike. I have since been doing my daily planks a lot which really helps.

Luckily, over the next few days her knee did come back online, and with only minimal swelling and pain. We were feeling better about getting out there for our much needed forest therapy. But I still didn’t feel like it was wise to do the Vermont section in these circumstances. There are several large ups and downs, and it was a 17-mile section, and we had 2 nights planned. I felt it would be too risky to do this section and then have an injury come back miles in (and up), and have to be rescued out. The trail isn’t going anywhere, and we will be back for that section.

Instead, we picked a totally flat section in Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley, and decided to cover the 12 miles in two day hikes and a hotel overnight.  This worked out great, especially since it was in the 90’s both days, and despite my new OR sunhat and shirt helping me keep the sun’s effects at bay, we were happy to be back in the hotel pool after each day’s mileage.

Our planned start point got screwed up because I used an old version of AWOL’s guide and the hotel we planned to stay at so we could walk back to it from the trail, had been demolished and moved 1.5 miles down the road on the other side of the highway overpass. (That guide has since been discarded in favor of my 2019 White Blaze guide… lesson learned! ) Yes we could have walked the extra miles, but 2 miles on a busy road in 95 degrees was not of interest.. So we adapted, and decided to start in the middle and hike to the southern end on day 1, and then on day 2 pick a starting point farther north of originally planned, and hike back to the middle point. With the help of UBER, which was very active here, we got both sections done without a hitch other than me slipping on a muddy spot and wiping out! No matter, I had real hiker cred when we rolled into Boiling Springs and I had dried mud all over me! I’m sure they thought I was a thru at the ATC Mid-Atlantic regional HQ and the outfitter.

A great little town, we loved the walk along the Children’s lake and seeing the old furnace, as well as the chatty geese and ducks who surely know it’s THEIR lake. We ate at an old tavern in town and got recommendations for some other places to check out. Though by the time we were done eating, we were eager to get back to the pool to cool off. The tavern were very hiker friendly, you just have to leave your packs outside.

We also enjoyed roaming and dining in Carlisle’s historic downtown, including a cool vintage shop, a great hard-cider brewery for a tasting and seeing where George Washington visited.

This section’s walk through fields and pastures over many stiles was bucolic, save for the three highway overpasses. It was nice when we got a little shade in the forested sections.  We saw many thru and section hikers, though most of the earlier-start thrus are past here now. We saw some bear scat and tracks on the second day, but no bears. With all the berries out in bloom, its not surprising the bears are active.  We enjoyed visiting the ATC’s Scott Farm trail crew work center which the trail passes right by. It’s said this facility may be closing and there’s currently an effort to keep it active. I hope they do, as the section of trail a few miles in either direction from it was very well maintained and had lots of beautiful boardwalks. So their efforts are palpable and appreciated for hikers. We were short about 1 mille of this complete section but I decided on this on purpose as there is overnight parking at Sherwood Road and not at 944, so this was necessary for doing the next sections north as overnights.

Now that we’ve started Pennsylvania (our state #6!), we may just focus on this state for a while, as the difference in drive time compared to Vermont will dwindle the more we complete headed back towards home. We may work on completing the southernmost bit to the Maryland border, as its only about 60 miles from Boiling Springs to Pen Mar. Then we can head from Carlisle back to DWG next year.  I’m excited for Pennsylvania, except for that climb out of Lehigh Gap. But I’m sure we can do it when the time comes. Just DON’T. LOOK. DOWN! Pennsylvania is one of the longest sections at around 225 miles, so it will take us a while unless we hit the lottery and can take several weeks off to finish it all. I am also considering still doing that Vermont section next and trying to complete the 14-state challenge (do a section in each of the states the trail traverses) and doing sections in the 6 remaining we haven’t hiked in at all yet… but I am such a completist that knowing me, we will continue to check off one state at a time. While we have done 4 miles in North Carolina, they were just day hikes when in the area that didn’t complete a whole section and will need to be re-done to connect the dots. It’s fine for the 14-state challenge though. I don’t know, the jury’s still out.

Anyway, you can watch the video I made of this hike here. Hope you enjoy it! Please subscribe to our channel if you do.

I’ll be back out this weekend ridge running in Connecticut as the bubble is definitely here. As I have some time off this week I may go out a day early and complete the northernmost 10 miles of the Mohawk trail I have yet to complete. This trail used to be the A.T. in the area, and this bit is the steepest and most difficult part of that trail. But also the most scenic, featuring Dean Ravine, and the view from Lookout Point. I almost made it to that point a few autumns ago but there was a lot of leaf cover and the trail on the north side of Barrack mountain was steep and eroded, and I ran out of time allotted because it was so slow going. We will see, but it would be nice to get that done and have an extra night on trail for a change.  Photos below.

Miles day 1: 4.7

Miles Day 2: 7.3

Total Miles: 12

Trail miles: 11.7

— Linus

Day 1 plan

Day 1 plan

Testing my hitch pose in case no Uber

Testing my hitch pose in case no Uber

Starting point

Starting point

Crossing the stiles in style

Crossing the stiles in style

Arriving at the road into Boiling Springs

Arriving at the road into Boiling Springs

Lots of berries out!

Lots of berries out!

Waiting for the ATC regional HQ to re-open from lunch break

Waiting for the ATC regional HQ to re-open from lunch break

At the regional HQ Mid Atlantic ATC office

At the regional HQ Mid Atlantic ATC office

Using this here mud remover!

Using this here mud remover!

A nice stroll along Children's Lake

A nice stroll along Children’s Lake

The old furnace in Boiling Springs

The old furnace in Boiling Springs

Day 2 plan

Day 2 plan

This section along the creek is lovely and well maintained

This section along the creek is lovely and well maintained

Boardwalkin!

Boardwalkin!

The creek, which had kayakers and canoers too

The creek, which had kayakers and canoers too

Lovely trumpet flowers

Lovely trumpet flowers

Scott Farm ATC trail work center

Scott Farm ATC trail work center

Turnstiles decked out with Thistle and Chickory

Turnstiles decked out with Thistle and Chickory

Center Point Knob in the distance beyond Boiling Springs

Center Point Knob in the distance beyond Boiling Springs

Hiker dirt

Hiker dirt

Back at the lot, all done

Back at the lot, all done

 

 

 

Appalachian and Mt. Tammany Trails, Delaware Water Gap

Last weekend we hiked in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area again, completing a 1.5 mile section of the New Jersey A.T to just beyond the Pennsylvania border, and throwing in a climb up Mt. Tammany for some views. Mt Tammany is one of the two main peaks at the Gap, but is not on the Appalachian Trail like its neighbor across the river in Pennsylvania, Mt. Minsi. I did wonder many times during the hike if it used to be, as the views are remarkable. To summit Mt. Tammany its a 3.4 mile loop off the A.T. in the Dunnfield Creek area of DWG.

Because Saturday was a lot of heavy rain and wind, we did just a day hike on Sunday and dropped into Mohican Outdoor Center on Saturday to revisit some fond memories of our section hike through there last fall with our friends.  But also because of the bad weather Saturday, and peak fall foliage in the area, the trail, and especially the parking lots, were overcrowded beyond belief on this gorgeous fall Sunday. It seemed everyone in the state came to hike there that day, and it is one of the most popular hikes in the state because of the views.

There are a LOT of rocks on the loop but nothing too difficult, and despite the crowds, we really enjoyed the scenery. We started the hike on the Pennsylvania side at the Mt. Minsi Appalachian Trail parking lot, doing a lollipop hike over to the Tammany Loop and back. So half the walk was on roads, and a noisy bridge. But even that section had its own nice scenery, and the N.J./PA official crossing.

We now have two 9-mile sections to finish in New Jersey and then we can call that state complete. We plan to finish these in the spring as season warm-up overnights, and then move on to either Maryland, Pennsylvania, or Vermont next. Photos below.

Miles: 7.4

– Linus

Crossing the Delaware on Rt 80

Crossing the Delaware on Rt 80

A waterfall on Mt Minsi

A waterfall on Mt Minsi

 

Mt. Tammany in the distance

Mt. Tammany in the distance

Up the Tammany Trail

Up the Tammany Trail

First amazing view from Mt. Tammany

First amazing view from Mt. Tammany

Mt Minsi beyond from Mt Tammany

Mt Minsi beyond from Mt Tammany

Fielden Stream on Mt Tammany

Fielden Stream on Mt Tammany

Goofy Linus

Goofy Linus

Fielden Stream at the NJ/PA A.T. border

Fielden Stream at the NJ/PA A.T. border

Dunnfield Creek

Dunnfield Creek

Re-Visiting Mohican Outdoor Center

Re-Visiting Mohican Outdoor Center