Monday, April 23, 2012

No Theme

Today (Sunday, April 15th) was no ordinary day. I hiked a lot of interesting trail, met interesting people, had a great time. But reflecting back on it, the pieces of today don't seem to form a whole.

Perhaps I'm just lacking inspiration. Maybe I've hiked too many miles in too few days and am suffering from some subtle form of burn-out. Maybe I'm just over-analyzing, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. What law of nature is there that says that a certain bit of time and space has to have a theme? None! It is what it is.

Okay, fine. I'll just let the description flow and forget about trying to find a 'big picture'. I probably ought to do that more often.

It rained overnight - the kind of light, pattering rain that comes with a warm front. So not surprisingly, today developed into a muggy, almost summer-like day. I started hiking with a sweat shirt on because the temperature was cool. But I hadn't accounted for the humidity. I shed the sweat shirt within five minutes and dragged it around in my backpack all day. End of weather theme.

The trail presented me with tremendous variety. From south to north it began with the nearly half-mile walk over water on concrete - the Clarks Ferry Bridge. There's a parking area on the east side which was full up with day hikers this beautiful Sunday. It's probably used by 'park-n-ride' types during work days, but it seems a good safe place to leave your car.

Then the trail crosses three sets of railroad tracks, enters the woods, and begins to climb Peters Mountain. There's a vista point that lets you see Shermans Creek and the south end of Duncannon, but not the interesting center-town section. In fact there is never a good vista of the town spread out before you - just wishful glimpses. The best of these, of the south end of town, came from the top of Peters Mountain. So I'm breaking the south-north spatial continuity theme by presenting it here. Gahhhhhhhhhh!

Back to the ascent. The trail passes an old stone foundation, seemingly intact without mortar, kind of like an inferior form of Inca stonework - interesting, but doesn't integrate with anything else on the trail today - see what I mean? Near there I had my first "You're 'Seeks It', aren't you" moment (Ahhh! a possible theme!) It was the receptionist at the Boiling Springs ATC regional office, out hiking with five friends. I was surprised that she remembered me, given all the faces that must pass through that office. People's recall for other people (ones they don't even care about) astounds me. I'm horrible at it. More than once, I've wondered if I have a mild form of Aspergers Syndrome - which itself is a mild form of autism. I couldn't place her very familiar face because she had her long straight blond hair tied up behind her today. Okay, I've totally trashed the potential theme. It was nice to chat with her again, but I wish I had asked her about her hike, about her passion for the trail, if she'd done a thru-hike ... a million possible things I'd like to learn.

On up the side of Peters Mountain the trail begins to switch back and forth and begins to get rocky. When you emerge on the ridge top, there's a pretty woods that was full of blooming red bud trees with the Susquehanna River as backdrop.

It was there that I had my second "Are you 'Seeks It'?" moment. Three guys with full gear were coming up the trail northbound. The last one spoke the surprising question. This time it was someone I had never met, and I knew it. He said he had been following me on Trail Journals. Wowzer! I was flattered. We chatted for a goodly time and exchanged photo-ops. They are from southeast North Carolina and are out for a week doing the section from Duncannon to Port Clinton. It's likely I'll meet them again as I work my way north in parallel with them. Meet (left to right) 'Cool Hand', 'Desperado', and 'Solar Speck'.

Now the theme turns to 'Rocksylvania'. In roughly nine miles of trail I hiked today, this 0.7 mile section was the only part with honest-to-goodness rocky footing. It starts as you reach the top of the ridge and continues past a couple of popular day-hiker destination vista points with views of the Susquehanna River to the south:

The vistas to the south abounded. After the rocky section, and a temporary descent to pass the Clarks Ferry Shelter, there's another viewing opportunity from a power line clearing. Here you can also get a look at the countryside to the northwest, including pieces of the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers. Then you follow the power line access road - great smooth footing - for nearly half a mile and from there the woods walking is rocky but mostly level and mostly tolerable - meaning not bad enough to slow you down. There's another vista to the south from a campsite.

Another two miles of woods walking on the ridgetop, often with no rocks at all, leads you to the nice new pedestrian overpass of PA 225. After that comes a section of down-and-up trail that bypasses a communication tower. Many day hikers still follow the road past the tower, which the AT takes to farther north, once the tower is out of sight.

Finally my tale without themes ends with a vista with nothing much to see. That is Table Rock. It looks out over a wooded valley to the next mountain south, and that's it. It's a great spot for a viewpoint, 'all dressed for a party but with no place to go'. Kind of a fitting way to end my description of a day full of interest but without a theme. So now it's onward - time to carpe another diem andtry to artificially assign *it* a theme!


Below is a map showing the route of today's hike.  The title is a hyper-link to the site, where I've posted more photos and the GPS data:

AT Day 95 - Peters Mountain at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Pennsylvania

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