Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Day 75: happy tourist day

7/3: Port Clinton - Blue Mtn Summit (PA 309)
Mile: 1217.5 - 1243.5 (26 miles)

I'm not exactly excited to get hiking but I'm all packed and ready to go when I get the sneaking suspicion my shuttle forgot about me. It's only a few miles back to the trail but it's an ugly hitch or walk on a busy interstate. A local older gentleman offers rides but apparently forgot he promised me one. Luckily it's only about an hour until he can get me so by 9 I'm officially back on the trail.

Why I'm not excited to go hiking. That's getting real hot for me.

I heard Pennsylvania was full of rocks and it's certainly not trying to disappoint. I climb back up to the ridge after Port Clinton hopping from rock to rock hoping this won't be my entire day. I'm shocked an hour later when I catch Merlot and we happily walk together for a few hours, I haven't seen her since Waynesboro! She's one awesome lady and a treat to hike with.

The view from Pulpit rock, I am stealthily aiming above the heads of a solid 20 plus tourists.

The rocky sections always seem like they are a million miles long but a lot of the day is actually nice fire road. It's crazy crowded and rocky up by Pulpit Rock and the Pinnacles but people do start to die down after that and even the rocks take a break. The tops of the ridges seem to be the rockiest lately and take some extra time for sure.

The rest of my day is dictated by water. Sources are drying up and while I originally thought to just aim for 20 miles and the Allentown shelter with my late start the water there is unreliable and I don't want to dry camp at the end of an 11 mile dry stretch. These are the games I play all day in my head, to hike farther or not?

Word is that at PA 309 there's a hiker friendly bed and breakfast that lets you camp on their lawn and has a water spigot. As Merlot and I sit counting miles and looking at the half water drop symbols on the guide I realize that it's 12:30 and I have 19 miles to go. It's not ideal but doable depending on terrain. Merlot seems to have no worries about dry camping and is sticking to a 20 mile goal with her slower pace over rocks. I've loved catching up but for me water unfortunately trumps trail friends. Besides we've been seeing each other since Georgia so there's no way it's really goodbye.

Rocky ridge lines and occasional views, seems to be this areas MO. As I hop rocks I imagine all the snakes I'm passing. It seems like perfect snake territory. Which is why I shouldn't be as startled as I am when I see these 3.

Now zoomed in, and a nice wide birth and jittery nerves for the next few miles.

The last 5 miles creep by the worst. My feet move slowly over a mile or so of rocks and then it's mostly nice fire road but I'm beat and can't wait to just lie down. I have a cloud of gnats that circle my head and periodically dive bomb my eyes. It's a long few hours.

I hear music as I get close to the road. For the holiday weekend it's a special live music night. I manage to sneak in right before they close, getting food, meeting at least 8 new hikers and eventually making camp on a beautiful grassy lawn. What a surprising end to this day.

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