Hiking Thru PA

As the winter winds of this past year began to settle, I once more looked toward another spring hike. In May of 1999, it was Connecticut. In May of 2000, it was Massachusetts. This year, however, my companions and I would look closer to our own. A portion of the trail in Pennsylvania would become both our means and end.us
Disregarding our given names, we would again assume for five days our Trail-earned identities: Dream Weaver, Week Knees, Moocher and myself, Featheredprop, to once more explore a section of the footpath that stretches across the north east section of this great country: the Appalachian Trail.

Monday, May 14, 2001

With Dream Weaver and Moocher secure in the back seat and Week Knees comfortable beside me, I took a determined grip on the wheel and guided my craft generally eastward beneath inviting blue skies and playful clouds. We hoped this fine weather would provide backdrop for our five or six days of walking.
After an early lunch, I dropped off my companions in Port Clinton, Pa. This is where we would begin our walk. But first I needed to take my vehicle north to where we hoped to end our walk. Driving to Palmerton, Pa, I met a very kind United Methodist Pastor who agreed to drive me back. Parking my vehicle near the uptown section of this quaint and hiker-friendly town, I was transported back to Port Clinton.
Gathering our packs we set out. Our first objective was to find the trail. This was easier said than done. We weren’t exactly sure which direction to walk to find the trail so we asked a fisherman which direction was north. He gestured in a westerly way and we took his word for it. After walking a circle and returning to the point where we began, we pulled out the guidebook and took a closer look. I made a mental note not to be so trusting of the fishermen of Port Clinton.

We found the trail where the book said that it was last known to be. Stepping from the berm of Route 61, we entered the woods and at the same time, felt beneath our boots the Appalachian Trail. The smile that I expected appeared on my face. We had returned. Our walk began.

Entering the woods, I thought I might rouse my companions with the stirring words of Britain’s former Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who warned his country at the outset of World War II, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”. Dream Weaver reminded me that Churchill would later resign from office.

2:00PM – We stopped for our first break and Dream Weaver snapped a picture of the restingrest of us sitting along the trail. The weather was outstanding. The sky was deep ocean blue, broken only by feathery twirls of cloud. The temperature was cool and perfect for walking. As we were just preparing to move, a lone hiker appeared. He was moving north as we were, but at a much quicker pace. He stopped to chat and introduced himself as Johnny-Look-See. He had been hiking since December 1, 2000, when he began in Key West, Fl. He was hiking from one side of the continent to the other. He hoped to make it as far as St. Lawrence Bay of Quebec Canada.
One look at Johnny-Look-See was all you needed to tell he was a thru-hiker. He was tall with a long stride and without an ounce of fat on him. From his short runners shorts bulged muscled legs. And from those muscled legs bulged thick, varicose veins that crawled over his calves and thighs. Yet in spite of the mal-nourished look, he had a quick and healthy stride. He was friendly and spoke with us for several minutes. He began his hike by walking up US Route 1 in Florida to pick up the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. He told of hiking through 20 inches of snow in North Carolina and having to “fence-post” with other hikers to make it through the snow. He was in a hurry to make it to the Delaware Water Gap near the New Jersey line to get his mail and meet up with some family. He said he was walking about 20-25 miles each day.

After our meeting, we gathered our packs and continued north. Soon the Trail leveled off and the hike became a bit easier. I moved a bit ahead of my companions as we fell into our own paces.

I met a young couple who were out for a day hike. They were heading south but stopped to talk for a bit. They were parked near Route 61 and had hoped to hike out to “The Pinnacle”, but weren’t able to make it out that far. They said the only other hiker they met along the way was Johnny-Look-See who had paused in his hike to speak with them. They were both impressed with the distance he had hiked.
I spoke with the young couple until my friends arrived and then we all walked north to Pocahontas Spring where I filtered some water. We took another short break and then walked on.

4:50PM – I reached Minnehaha Spring. It wasn’t much more than a stagnant pool. Johnny-Look-See had told us that water sources were low all across the state. This would make it very difficult for the thru-hikers who would be passing by in another month or so. I paused at the spring to catch up on my journal and listen to the quiet. I then continued north and soon passed a lone, heavy set male with John Lennon styled sunglasses hiking south. He had just ascended a small hill and was huffing pretty hard. He breathed out a greeting but didn’t stop to talk.

The walk soon became a gradual descent that was exceedingly delightful. The foliage was thick and very green for this early in the spring. What appeared to be an early bloom of the Mountain Laurel Flower could be seen in its pink and purplish hue, dotting the trail with splashes of color.

I reached Windsor Shelter which would be our home for the night. As I approached, I saw a campfire at the lean-to and recognized Johnny-Look-See preparing for the night. I was surprised to find him here, believing that he would be miles ahead of us. He kindly offered the lean-to, but I declined with gratitude his offer. I found a spot nearby that was level and fit for two tents. I then set down my things and walked back to find my companions. We met and walked to the site together. Week Knees started a campfire as we foraged for firewood. Dinner was made on my backpacking stove but no one seemed very hungry. Johnny-Look-See came down to our tent site dragging two smoldering logs that he pulled from his fire, saying that he didn’t need them anymore. We tossed them on our fire and talked for just a bit with him. He also gave us three small bags of candy. I accepted the gift but really felt that he needed the calories more than I did.

We talked until dark and then crawled into our tents. Moocher and I slept in my two-person tent while Week Knees slept with Dream Weaver’s in his tent. Just after we turned out the flashlight, Moocher felt something crawl down his arm. I turned on the light as he caught in his hand a tick. This unnerved us both a bit so we did a thorough tick-check of our legs, arms and back. No parasites were found and so we turned out the light.

Tuesday, May 15, 2001

7:30AM – It was a cold night and a chilly 45 degrees when we awoke. Everyone slept well and we enjoyed a dry breakfast over coffee. After breakfast, Moocher decided to refresh himself by brushing his teeth. Digging through his pack he retrieved his toothbrush and then applied some paste from a small squeeze tube that he brought. He later admitted later that the paste had a strange color when it came out of the tube and didn’t look right on this toothbrush. But Moocher was not to be denied a fresh breath, so he stuck the toothbrush into his mouth that was unbeknown to him, generously caked with vinyl repair glue.

Moocher spit a lot that morning. We held off our jokes until we were certain that he wasn’t going to get sick. He tried hopelessly to clean his toothbrush but had to bury it in the campfire ashes. It would be a few days until Moocher could brush his teeth again … but more on that later.

We broke camp and I found myself ahead of my friends. Walking through the forest in the morning can be such a pleasant experience. There is newness everywhere. And the newness is there each and every morning to anyone who would look for it. As I walked, I kicked out two doe that were feeding near the Trail. I tried calling them as I heard my brother Kyle call and for a while, the one doe seemed mildly interested. But they eventually scampered off into the woods. Sleek and graceful these animals.

Most of the morning was an ascent, but it wasn’t a difficult one. We were all anxious to reach the top and see the views that the guidebook was describing in superlative tones. Near the first view the Trail became rocky. We would find that the word ‘rocky’ would be an apt adjective for most of our walk this week. These rocks ranged from the small pointed ones to the large boulders that needed to be scaled.

I reached Pulpit Rock with Moocher just behind me. The view was spectacular. From the height of 1,582 feet, we could see The Pinnacle to our left and Blue Rocks in the me_pulpitforeground. The rocks jutted forward allowing one to step to the “pulpit” and examine better this “sanctuary” made of mountains, fields and trees. But in this sanctuary the message is not spoken from behind the pulpit, it is heard there.

On the west side of the Trail, we found several small observatory silos belonging to the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomical Society. They were staggered across a freshly mowed lawn, with their closed windows pointing silently toward different parts of the heavens. I could easily imagine giant telescopes straining inside for the chance to peer into the celestials. This hillside seemed like a fitting place to gaze upward and I saw in my minds eye the excitement of the amateur stargazers as they would find new worlds above our own. And yet here I was, finding a new world within my own.

10:30AM – Moocher and I departed together leaving Week Knees and Dream Weaver to their own imaginations. We walked over relatively flat terrain, but found it to be viciously rocky. Initially, I found rock-hopping fun. But then it became tiresome and eventually it became downright painful. One could walk for hundreds of yards without even touching the ground. Jumping from rock to sharp rock with 40 extra pounds tied to your back makes for very painful feet. It’s easy to see why Pennsylvania is known as “The Boot Graveyard.”

11:30AM – We reached The Pinnacle. I was anxiously waiting for this site. The guidebook describes it as the most spectacular view along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Truly it was grand with an unbroken view of the valley around us. The rich, rolling hills just flowed across the earth like ripples across a pond. As I approached the site, I found a gentleman sitting on one of the ledges enjoying his lunch. We spoke of the sight before us and shared our admiration for it. He told me he had hiked from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Pennsylvania but then had to quit his thru-hike. He was now picking up the trail where he left off and was going to be hiking for about a month.

I asked this gentle soul who flashed a quick smile for his trail name. He said that he started with the name Nomad, but soon learned that “every other hiker” was using that name. Therefore, he said we could just call him Ralph. Ralph was going about his hike in a rather unique way. He was staying at various campgrounds during the night and then being shuttled to the Trail each morning by his wife, Rhonda. He then walked south and would be picked up at the end of each day. The next day she would drive him further north and he would walk south. So, he was actually a northbound hiker, but was accomplishing it by walking south each day.

Ralph was just finishing up when Week Knees and Dream Weaver arrived. He greeted them each with the same soft smile and then moved off from the cliff side and continued his north-by-south hike.

We all marveled at the view and decided we would eat our lunch from this lofty table while watching the hawks soar around us. After lunch we each found a place to lie on bearrockthe rocks and bask in the warm sun. Some of us slept there on The Pinnacle, but I remained awake, watching the clouds float by in a perfect blue sky. Clouds. Silent beasts of the sky. Carrying on their backs the burdens of light, wind and rain yet never braying a complaint. And still, as was found on this afternoon, they found the time to scamper and play across the sky. Rolling, spinning, and falling. I was intrigued and also amused at myself. For I traveled several hours to watch something that could be seen out of my bedroom window. But here atop The Pinnacle, the clouds seemed like new acquaintances to meet. And meet them I gladly did.

1:30 PM – Somewhat reluctantly we packed up and started moving north. The meal, warm sun and quiet rest left us only wanting more of the same. But it was time to move on. We walked for a bit until I had to stop and adjust my pack. Week Knees was leading the group and when he saw I was stopping, he picked up the pace to see how far they could get in front of me. I didn’t know this and therefore was surprised as to how far ahead they were. When I finally caught up, both Dream Weaver and Moocher were ready to relieve Week Knees of his leadership position for driving them so hard.

After catching the group, we began to hike together but I eventually moved ahead. I soon met a southbound couple out dayhiking. They said a friendly hello and kept on moving.

The afternoon walk was pleasant and not altogether difficult, except for the frequent rocky areas. But the perfect weather made it easy to look past this minor difficulty. As I walked, I took note of the marvelous trees that shaded my hike. They twisted and turned in all sorts of directions and were seen in all kinds of sizes. They seemed excited to see me as they waved to and fro in the gentle wind and I remembered what my friend Maria wrote,

“Trees laugh when the wind dances,
and rest in reverence when the wind sleeps”.

Large oaks, thin birches and broad maple trees were carefully planted in a seemingly reckless way all along the path. One tree in particular caught my attention. It was an old oak that was fallen alongside the Trail. Where the bark had once covered the tree, bare wood exposed to the sun had turned a seasoned gray. It had been a tall, handsome tree. But what caught my eye was the base of the tree. There entwined it its roots that were pulled from the ground when this mighty oak fell, was a large rock. The roots were still wrapped firmly about it. So firm did they still hold that when the tree fell, it pulled the bolder from the ground.

Who could have guessed that when this tree stood high among the others, that it stood upon a sure and steady rock? Did its neighboring pines, maples and poplars understand what held this tree firm in the most vicious of storms? I smiled as I thought of those answers. And I marveled at how this great secret of the powerful oak was revealed not in its life, but in its death. For in its final moment, the real secret that was hidden for all its life was finally shown to the world.

4:45 PM – I reached Eckville Road and sat down to wait for my friends. They appeared within 20 minutes and we all walked down the road to the Eckville Shelter. We were confused as to where the shelter might be since the sign was pointing into someone’s eckvilleyard. But we soon discovered that the shelter was actually a small frame building located behind a house built along the road. Inside this shelter we found six wood bunks, a reclining chair, small table and a few chairs. A sign directed us to a refrigerator on the rear porch of the house. It was stocked full of soda, juice and sports drinks that were ours for a donation. We also found a small bathhouse with a flush toilet and a sonar-heated shower. Soon after we arrived, the owner of the house and shelter arrived home. He was a gruff man appearing in his late 40’s. He didn’t speak much and didn’t seem that overly friendly. Yet, what he lacked in social and conversational skills, he more than made up in generosity. Apparently he built this shelter and bathhouse to accommodate hikers along the way. I could well imagine the inviting sight this place would seem to someone doing a thru-hike.

Dream Weaver and I initially took a bunk, but the musty smell of the old cabin made our allergies stand on edge. There were several tent platforms built in the lower yard, so we decided to pitch our tents and sleep outside.

Supper was shared on the picnic table outside. After dinner, Moocher really desired to brush his teeth, so he went out and found a small green stick that he caked with confirmed toothpaste. He said the stick did a good job and I believe that he kept it for the remainder of the hike.

Not long after supper, a lone southbound hiker came into camp. He had been on the Trail about a week and was going to be picked up tomorrow at the observatory silos. He spent the night with Moocher and Week Knees in the cabin. It turned out to be a very quiet and restful night for us all.

Wednesday, May 16

7:20 AM – Woke up to a chilly 45 degrees, but all of us slept comfortably. It was an exceptionally beautiful morning with clear blue skies and bright sunlight raining down all around us. What an amazing thing night is. Some time during the blackness that comes upon us, we find the vigor needed for a new day. And some time during the stillness of sleep we find that weakness and pain is replaced by strength and hope.

We had a hot breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and set off at around 9AM. We walked just a short distance before coming across two hikers who were enjoying their breakfast. They were camped along the trail in a non-designated camping area, just beside a brook. They identified themselves as Flagman and Teaman. They were northbound thru-hikers having started at Springer Mountain, Georgia in February. They were friendly and seemed in high spirits though they wished they had not sent their winter gear home so soon. They knew Johnny-Look-See and had hiked through snow with him in Georgia and Tennessee. They said that their pace was comparable to his and so they were always just in front of or behind him. Flagman appeared to be in his 40’s, saying that he was retired from the military. Teaman seemed a few years younger and though he said he was also retired, admitted that he really just quit his job of truck driving to hike the trail.

We left the men to their breakfast and then moved north. I walked ahead and found this area of forest to be the prettiest that we would hike through this week. The woods were mixed with both deciduous trees and thick pines. A sea of green ferns rolled back and forth around the trail, sometimes reaching out to splash against my legs. And out across this liquid green a broken limb or tree branch would occasionally extend, resembling a porpoise playfully leaping out of the water. It was an exciting place that just seemed to brim with quiet activity and it was good to be wading through it.

The trail eventually became steep and rugged with those countless rocks. But it was so exhilarating to feel the sweat roll off my face and to feel my thighs becoming thick with pumping blood that I didn’t mind while I labored up these nameless hills.

11:00 AM – I reached Dan’s Pulpit where the guidebook said that “hiking’s grand old man,” Danny Hoch would hold Sunday Services. The view was nice but somewhat obscured by the trees. A mailbox was posted on a nearby tree and contained a register. I read a few entries and found that Ralph from Canada had been here earlier this morning.

While catching up in my writings, two women backpackers came by, heading south. They had begun at Delaware Water Gap and were hiking to Port Clinton. Their hike would last about two weeks. As I spoke with them, Flagman and Teaman passed by. They stopped to talk with me and the two women. They told me that my companions were just back the trail a bit. The women soon moved on and in about 20 minutes, my friends arrived. We had a long, leisurely lunch at Dan’s Pulpit and set off at around 1PM.

The terrain was flat but extremely rocky. The pointed stones made it slow moving and hard on my feet. In about an hour, I reached Balanced Rock. This was nothing more than a large rock pile with no particular stone balanced on top of another. The sun was warm here so I decided to sit out and wait for my friends. They soon came along and we all stood out on the rocks for a few minutes. We didn’t have far to go today and so we were in no hurry to get there.

3:40PM – We reached Tri-County Corner. This is the site of the very first blazing of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. A group from the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club made the first trail here in 1926. A side trail led tricornerto a large rock formation where we climbed to find a marker denoting the intersection of Lehigh, Berks and Schuylkill Counties. By wrapping yourself around the stone marker, you have the ability to stand in three counties at once and also make yourself look pretty silly.

I passed around my cell phone so that each could call family and assure them we were still alive. We then sat back to take in the sight and talk a bit. Moocher had moved off to the side to find some shade and had been sitting down for several minutes. He then stood up to move closer into the shade when he yelled that there was a huge snake beside him. We all hurried over to see a thick snake coiled up beneath a rock just a few feet from where Moocher was sitting. We felt it was a rattlesnake and so Moocher touched it with a small stick to see if it would rattle for us. It did. We took a quick picture of it before it crawled back beneath the rock. Apparently snakeit had been sleeping out in the sun and hadn’t noticed us. We were all pretty excited to see the snake. Moocher was excited too, but was startled to think of how close he was to it before seeing the snake. We then packed up our gear and moved off Tri-County Corner.

We continued walking north toward the next shelter area. I mistakenly told my friends it was only about ½ mile away. It turned out to be about one and a half-mile away and we were all beginning to wonder if we would find it. I came upon the Allentown Shelter first. It was the nicest one we had along the way. It was newly constructed in a log cabin style, with two bunks inside and one outside. It was clean and well tended. A picnic table was chained to a stump beside the shelter. A table is always a welcomed sight because it means we can eat while sitting up. But the best part of the shelter was its privy. I walked up the side trail to see it and it stopped me in my tracks. I’ve never seen a privy quite like this one. It was raised above the ground by a set of steps and had a huge ventilation stack reaching far above it. I swore that I saw a dim halo around it and heard an angelic choir announcing this vision. It was clean inside and didn’t have that usual, trail-privy odor. What a nice find.

After my friends arrived, we made camp and walked down the hill to the spring. The water was barely running into the little pool, giving it a very stagnant look. But it was the only source of water we had and it seemed to filter fine. We then made our dinner and had a nice meal together while sitting at the table.

The shelter register was signed by Johnny-Look-See. He had stopped by on his walk but didn’t stay at the shelter. In his entry, he described some “trail magic”. That is, something welcomed and unexpected that happens to you while walking along the trail. He wrote that he was crossing a highway and had really wanted some ice cream. He walked into the next village but didn’t’ find a store selling any. When he returned to the trail, he met Ralph’s wife, Rhonda who was sitting in her car waiting for her husband. She saw his disappointment so she filled him up on Oreo Cookies, trail mix and a beer! He was quite the happy camper after that. We really had to admire Rhonda for helping her husband walk the trail like she was doing. We hoped that perhaps we’d have opportunity to meet her too.

In addition to Johnny-Look-See, our friends Teaman, Flagman and Ralph all had stopped by the shelter and signed the register. It was good to know they were doing fine.

Week Knees decided to sleep in a tent while Moocher, Dream Weaver and I took the shelter. The night was cold and the three of us in the shelter didn’t sleep all that well. Week Knees seemed to fair better than we did.

Thursday, May 17, 2001

7:10 AM – We awoke to a cloudy and cold morning. It was only about 45 degrees and the sky looked like rain today. We had a dry breakfast and then walked down the side trail to the spring to filter water for the day. The side trail then led back to the Appalachian Trail and we started on our way.

The morning walk was fairly level and without a lot of rocks. The temperature remained cool, which wasn’t bad for walking. But upon stopping, the air temperature really made us aware of the sweat on our bodies. It’s weather like this that makes hypothermia a possibility. Cotton clothing absorbs sweat and doesn’t dry fast leaving the body exposed to the cold. Though not very fashionable, my old polyester leisure suit would have been better to wear than Levi’s and a cotton shirt.

11:00 AM – Walking ahead of my companions, I met Ralph who was moving south. We had a nice chat together and I told him about what Johnny-Look-See wrote of his wife. Ralph flashed his easy smile and related the story from his wife’s side. She had heard of Johnny from Ralph and was pleased to meet him. We talked until my companions reached me and then we soon parted.

We stopped around noon for lunch. It was still pretty chilly and so we started a small fire to burn our garbage and warm our hands. The sky threatened rain and occasionally we felt some drops, but thankfully no precipitation fell on this cold day.

1:30 PM – I reached the bottom of Bear Rock. From lunchtime, the trail became very rocky. I put down my pack along the Trail so that my companions would know I was near by. I then ascended this huge rock formation. It was a very nice climb and from the top, offered an outstanding 360-degree view. My friends soon joined me and we all climbed around the rocks. A short lived rain sprinkle sent us off Bear Rock and back to the Trail.

3:00 PM – I reached Bake Oven Knob ahead of my friends. I first examined the west side of the Trail which offered little or no view. But the east side of the Trail was another story. Stepping from the trees to the rocky outcrop, I had to catch my breath. It was a spectacular vista. Probably the best we saw on the trip and in my opinion, better than The Pinnacle. I walked to the edge of the rocks and with stomach up in my throat, looked down over the cliff and across the valley floor. An incredible sight. Surely it is was from places like this that man first dreamed of flight. I could nearly imagine launching myself off the edge and catching the wind under my arms, sailing through the changing drafts of air.

My friends soon arrived and inspected the scene before us. They all agreed that it was a tremendous site. They hung around a bit but the cold wind soon moved them back to the Trail. I wasn’t ready to leave just yet, so I lingered. In silence I enjoyed standing on the edge of the rocks, feeling the very cold wind blow hard on my face. The gray skies, pregnant with rain, offered an ominous backdrop and filled me with wonder. A wonder that I hoped I could carry back with me and examine over and again. And I hope to think that I did. From this height I forgot about the rocky trail behind me. I couldn’t remember the pointed edges or the painful rock hopping. All was swept up in a cloud of lethe as I fell spellbound in my boots. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this special place.

Finally moving north, I caught up to my friends. The descent to camp was exceedingly rocky and even treacherous. We passed over a section known as Knife’s Edge. It wasn’t too bad, but would have been an incredible challenge in the snow or rain.

5:00 PM – We reached Bake Oven Knob Shelter. And as excited as I was over the beautiful Allentown Shelter, I was disappointed in this place. The Shelter was a dilapidated lean-to that looked almost frightening. I picked up the register and read that Flagman and Teaman spent the night here last evening. Another entry claimed that a hornet’s nest was just under the overhang of the roof and an unidentified rodent lived in the back, outside corner. That was all the information I needed to encourage tenting it for the night. We found a level spot near by and began setting up camp. Several of us were disappointed to learn there was no privy at this site.

There were two springs fairly close, but both were dry. We walked to a third spring and found all the water we needed. But it was about ½ mile away and over a very steep embankment. Not the kind of walk we wanted to make again. We conserved our water supply that night.

Not long after we arrived, a 23-year old man came in for the night. His name was Drew and this was his final night of a three-day hike. He had just graduated from Eastern College and was taking a job as Assistant Youth Pastor at his church in just a week. He wanted to use this trip to get away and clear his thoughts before beginning his ministry work. I think he was glad to meet a group of Christian men and share his final night with us.

Soon two young men and two young women arrived and set up camp in the shelter. I got the impression that they weren’t hiking together, but it seemed they hit it off well as they were laughing and having a good time in the shelter. Drew set up camp with them in the shelter and later told us that he thinks they were all smoking something that was apparently lightening their spirits.

It sprinkled on and off through supper and so we pulled our rain gear out. As we retired for the night, we could hear the steady patter of a soft rain against our tents and the giddy laughter of the crew next door. Such is life on the Trail.

Friday, May 18, 2001

6:20 AM – We awoke with rain intermittently falling. When it wasn’t raining, it was misting. A fog hung over the area, but surprisingly, it wasn’t too cold. We had an informal breakfast as we pulled down our tents and packed our gear. The rain made everything dirty and a bit heavier. We originally planned on hiking to the George Outerbridge Shelter to spend our final night and then hike out the following day. But with our gear wet and dirty, we decided we would call it a trip and leave today.

I set out as soon as my backpack was loaded. It was about 7 miles to Palmerton and then another 3 miles into town to where my van was parked. I agreed to move ahead, retrieve my van and then return to the Trail where it crossed Route 873.

The walk was fairly level but again, rocky. I walked about 45 minutes and then removed my rain poncho. Though the rain occasionally fell, the forest canopy provided adequate cover. A bit later, I stopped and removed my sweater. I was moving pretty fast and was really beginning to work up a sweat. The closer to Palmerton that I walked, the less rocky the path was becoming. This was a welcomed change.

The morning walk led me through some very nice forest areas. The rain made it all smell so fresh and gave the earth a renewed look. The heavy fog restricted my view of the surroundings, so I looked at the fog. Fog, when you really look at it, is pretty neat. It’s like flying through a cloud with your feet as wings. I walked with my mouth open, trying to find out what a cloud tastes like. I can’t honestly say that I tasted anything, but then maybe that’s what clouds taste like. Maybe like cloud formations that you imagine in the sky, you just imagine a flavor and they become that to you.

10:20 AM – I reached George Outerbridge Shelter and stopped to take a breather and read the register. I didn’t recognize any of the entries so I just signed my name and continued north. My companions would later tell me that Ralph passed by just a bit after me and signed his name too.

I descended the last half-mile from the Shelter to the edge of the woods. As I neared the edge, I could hear the traffic from the highway and see a bit more of the sky through the trees. I slowed down my pace. Leaving the woods would mean my walk was about over and I wanted to halt or at least slow down this moment. As I found the edge, I stopped and looked back at the Trail. Ending a hike is like reading the last sentence of a good novel. It’s almost a sacred moment. You finish the last few words and softly close the book cover. For a moment you reflect on what the book meant to you and where it took you. You think of the characters and their personalities that you met while reading. You think of the excitement, adventure, romance or whatever it was that wooed you to its pages. And then you pause as you recline in your chair or sofa. You hesitate to set the book down. For when you do, you will draw a defining line between the world created within the pages and the one you must live in. And when the line is drawn, it will be drawn.
And so I hesitated at the edge while holding this book cover in my hands, running my hand along its binder and feeling the time-worn page edges against my finger tips. I reclined back on my sofa, closed my eyes and thought for a moment. And when the moment passed, without pomp or ceremony, I turned out the reading lamp, closed my book and stepped from the woods.

 


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