Sunday, April 15, 2012

North to Katahdin

Today, Easter Sunday April 8th, marks the beginning of the second leg of the adventure. After four days off the trail I was itching to go. Got up at 4:30 and drove to the trailhead parking lot at Caledonia State Park in southern Pennsylvania and was headed north shortly after sunrise.

The plan is (though best-laid plans "oft gang aglay") to string together out-n-back day hikes from here continuously north all the way to Katahdin. Then, as fall descends and the leaves are changing in the Shenandoahs, I'll go back to Daleville, VA where the adventure began, and make my way north to Caledonia for the grand finale.

It all looks so easy in black-and-white on the computer screen. Step upon step, soaking in nature's wonders, tripping over rocks, deliriously happy one day, beat down and plodding on another - that's the boots-on-the-ground reality. It's a long way. Yet somehow each day seems to be enough by itself - each out-n-back provides a challenge and a fulfillment. And as long as I get up every morning eager to hike one more day hike, I really *don't* care about the destination. I already don't want this odyssey to end!

The transition from Georgia to southern PA was a bit of a shock. In Georgia the mountains are perky - plenty of knobs and peaks to see and traverse. Up here the mountains roll along in lazy, subdued ridges and mounds. There's much less relief (vertical variation) and yet the soil is much more rocky. Therefore so is the trail.

From Caledonia State Park I hiked north to Birch Run Shelter and back, about nineteen miles of hiking, and got only this one very limited vista of the flatland to the west.

The highlight of the day was the immaculately maintained Quarry Gap Shelters - complete with hanging baskets full of pansies, a picket fence and park bench. The shelter caretaker, 'innkeeper' Jim Stauch, shows up most days (judging by the entries in the log book), and obviously applies a lot of TLC here. It's more like a country cottage from a picture book than a trail shelter.

Otherwise the trail was like this - a steady walk along a broad ridge with plenty of road crossings and even a few short road walks. Michaux State Forest is a popular multi-use destination and it is criss-crossed with gravel roads. You can't avoid them. Fortunately they're fairly lightly traveled, so don't detract much from the wilderness experience.

And it felt wonderful to be back to that wilderness experience after the whizz and bustle of the Baltimore Inner Harbor. The rehabilitation of that inner city core area is a marvel to behold and a delight to visit. But on a day-to-day basis, I'd much rather be out in the wilderness, thank you very much.


Here, as always, I've provided a map with the route of today's hike plotted on it, and with little red 'pegs' or 'pushpins' that mark where I took a photo. To see the photos, click the title.

AT Day 88 - Caledonia State Park at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find hiking trails in California and beyond

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