Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Half way

This might be a little hard to explain, but as of today (Tuesday, April 10th) I've completed the entire southern half of the Appalachian Trail. That includes hiking I did last year and previously. I still intend to hike the entire trail twice (out and back) during this single calendar year of 2012. But setting that goal aside for a moment, my footsteps are now continuous from Springer Mountain to Pine Grove Furnace State Park, and for that I'm a proud puppy today :-)E <-- note the emoticon with appropriately bushy beard.

Today was thoroughly delightful despite chilly winds and afternoon overcast. I parked at the Pine Grove Furnace store (closed until April 21st) and just down the road from the Appalachian Trail Museum (shown at left, only open half a day on Saturdays and Sundays until Memorial Day). I hiked south into more of the scrubby woods typical of this part of the state, with lousy, rocky, low-nutrient soil, crossed Toms Run where the vegetation was a bit more lush, passed ‘Halfway Spring’, which seems all but abandoned, and then ascended a side slope through what has to be the ugliest section of AT I’ve encountered to date.

What do I mean by ugly? It looked like a bombed-out war zone. Worse, it is almost completely dominated by invasive species including multiflora rose, Japanese barberry, and mono-culture stands of tree-of-heaven, half of which were dead - blanched white ghosts - trashy standing sticks poking up through their squalid, broken-off and blown-down slash.

North I went to Toms Run Shelters on a not-just-for-foot-traffic gated road, then back to the park, then south for another leg.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park is more like what I expected from Amicalola Falls State Park - it's pretty, but its assets are secondary to the development of trails and picnic areas. There's the historic iron works and a couple of nice man-made lakes with artificial beach swimming areas too. All in all a fine get-away for locals, but nothing to go out of your way to see.

The AT follows paved and/or smooth pea-gravel trails for more than half a mile before ascending on an old woods road. This part of the trail is a popular day-hike, the destination being Pole Steeple (which, surprisingly, is not within the State Park).

Pole Steeple: it's billed as the second most spectacular viewpoint in Pennsylvania. It's a half mile side trip from the AT to the top of Pole Steeple; and I chose not to take the detour because I hadn't done my homework beforehand. This is what I missed:

Maybe I'll make time to return here while I'm in the area - make a little side trip on the weekend so I can check out the AT Museum at the same time. We'll see.

Meanwhile I went a ways out beyond Pole Steeple and came upon a little taste of 'Rocksylvania', otherwise it was just a nice woods walk and then back 'home' in time for dinner.


Here's the map of today's route, with link to more photos:

AT Day 90 - Pine Grove Furnace State Park at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Pine Grove Furnace State Park

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