I was the lucky recipient of a week of unpaid furlough so I decided to get out on the trail for a couple of days. It will be my first long hike of the year.I'm heading out later this morning for a two-day 37 mile trip on the AT in Pennsylvania. I'm starting out north of Harrisburg at the base of Peters Mountain and heading north. Planning to hike 11 miles and stay at the Rausch Gap shelter. Tomorrow I'll hike a little over 26 miles to PA 183. I've only hiked small portions of this section so I am really looking forward to it. Wish me luck.If anyone has read Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" you might remember him saying a few not-so-nice things about the AT in PA. One was that he had never met a hiker that had anything good to say about the trail in Pennsylvania, and another was that it offers no memorable vistas.I really enjoyed the book, but regarding the trail in PA, this guy is no expert. He hiked 13 of the 230 miles and makes comments like this? Yes, PA is rocky, rocky to the point of driving you crazy on a long hike, but I have a great time every time I get out on the trail. One of the lookouts on my hike tomorrow has an overlook of Central PA that extends for over 40 miles. It is breath taking.I'm interested in what others think about it. Any comments on the AT in Pennsylvania or elsewhere?Greg
I did a couple of 1 & 2 day hikes in southern PA - like around Caledonia SP and down into Harpers Ferry in Maryland and found it fascinating. There were some nice vistas, I thought.I lived near Atlanta for many years and have most of my experience there. I've done all of the AT from Springer to Fontana Dam in NC and there are some astounding views there. I've done many sections multiple times down there. Then pieces of it in the Smokies. But I found the difference in geology in PA/MD area amazing. Some of it was very challenging - there were knife-like ridge edges from upheavals. You don't see that down south. Forests are very different too. I got the chance to live near Lancaster for a few years and enjoyed the opportunity to get the few hikes in around there.Day hikes along the Susquehanna River has breath-taking views. Day hiked in Hawk Maountain too. Very nice. And I've done a few hours here and there at the North PA section in the Tri-state area.I suspect that a lot of the middle part of the PA AT could be a bit dull and repetitive, but, I've not seen much of it. I too enjoyed Bryson's book very much. It was fun to recognize his references to places I'd been.Hops
Yes, much of the middle part of the PA AT is repetitive. It's practically just one long rocky path with a lot of similar overlooks of valleys full of farmland. The size, shape, and quantity of the rocks were caused by the repeated freeze and thaw of the edge of the glacier which is unique to Pennsylvania (on the AT). I would agree that the Caledonia SP area is interesting with its old iron furnace and civil war history.If you get the chance, I recommend hiking the section from PA 225 to PA 325 on Peters Mountain. It's a 9.5 mile section north of Harrisburg that has some nice views and some steep climbs (shameless plug - I help maintain that section as a member of the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club). The section that I just finished hiking was very similar to the Palmerton, PA to Deleware Water Gap section that I hiked last summer. Much of it was like walking through a dry creek bed - jump from one rock to the next and hope it's stable. I felt like I had a personal escort on Thursday as A-10 Warhogs out of Fort Indiantown Gap circled overhead all afternoon. They were flying just over the treeline and banking so that I could almost see the pilot's faces. The Rausch Gap Creek area where I spent the night was one of the most peaceful sections of the PA AT that I have seen.On Friday I hiked from 6:40 am to 6:40 pm. That was about an hour longer than I had planned and the last half hour was by moonlight. I was really dragging over the last 8-9 miles as the combination of jagged rocks and relatively new boots caused a few blisters. I don't think I'll plan another 26 mile one day hike again soon. At least not with a full pack. Overall, it was a good hike.Greg
I read "A Walk in the Woods". What a hilarious book! I found myself cracking up out loud often while reading it. The other thing I remember about the AT in PA was the ghosttown that had the coal fire burning underneath the ground. It had enough coal to burn for 10000 years or something. The downtown was nice, new houses, but no people. They had to leave do to all the coal smoke. I might be getting the details wrong, but it was interesting nonetheless. Enjoy your hiking trip!
The city that still burns is is Centralia. A few people still live there, though I can't imagine why anyone would want to with a fire burning underneath them. The government spent millions and still it burns. It can't easily be put out because to do so the ground would have to be opened up which would allow oxygen in and the cause the fire to rage out of control. Here is the history of the fire:http://www.offroaders.com/album/centralia/centralia-history.htmAnother interesting area that Bryson talks about is Palmerton, PA. The zinc mining killed off all the vegetation along the AT many years ago. It is making a comeback. Here is a picture of the mountain in Palmerton taken last July. You can see that the vegetation hasn't made a comeback at the top yet.http://photos.yahoo.com/bc/grkeier/vwp?.dir=/AT+pics&.dnm=Palmerton+AT+01.jpg&.src=ph&.view=t&.hires=tThere are a few other pics in the "AT Pics" folder if anyone is interested.Greg
Nice shots, Greg.I used to drive near there going from Philly towards Lehighton, East Stroudsburg and through the Delaware Water Gap up to Port Jervis, NY.It was always such a shock to the senses to come over the lush green ridges and suddenly see the stark defoliated slopes around Palmerton. Glad it's coming back.Hops
26 miles is a great backpack on a February day. Right now, I would like to hike any distance anywhere. I tore my ACL recently which is I suppose what I deserve for trying to play competitive basketball at 50. I have surgery on Tuesday. My doc says no way I can backpack at the end of May, which was my aim. When I said well I will make it by the end of June then, he was noncommittal. I will, I think. I would love to backpack the PA AT. The AT in my state of MA is good, but not great hiking, except insofar as all hikes are great. Bryson's book was very entertaining. But I thought that his attitudes regarding the trail and hiking the trail were kind of glib. I got the sense that he hiked to write (of course, it is his job to write). I would rather hike just to hike.
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