After months of anticipation and planning, Tuesday, June 28th finally arrived and it was time for us to head up to PA and into the woods to do an overnight backpack trip. As I checked the weather each day for about a week before the trip, it looked like we may have some rain and thunder storms to contend with, but as I did my final check, early in the morning, it looked like the storms were moving through now and would be gone before we got there.
We were all packed up and ready to go before 0800 and we actually hit the road at 0755. We hit some rain on the way up around Westminster and the GPS mislead us into the most back roads possible after Gettysburg which Ginger's stomach didn't like, but we pulled into the AT Parking lot at 1025 or so and crossed the road and entered the AT at 1037. We were on our way.
The hikers were myself, Lisa, Shauni, Alex, Brandi and Ginger. We played with trail names as we headed down the trail towards our lunch stop at the Birch Run Shelter. While we were in the parking lot, a thru hiker by the name of 4 Beards came by. He was moving fast, but stopped to chat for a bit. He was headed for the half way mark of his long hike and a 1/2 gallon of ice cream was waiting for him at Pine Grove Furnace as a challenge to all thru hikers.
After a pleasant walk mostly down hill, we arrived at the shelter and had lunch around a large fire ring. There were two hikers up in the shelter and we said hi and started into our lunch. It was getting hot and we had an uphill in front of us.
We started up the trail once more and Brandi decided that she liked my trekking poles. We got up the hill and before long we were approaching our turn. The map was doing pretty good at showing the way so far. We rested once more for a bit then turned down the forest road that headed down to the lake and our camp site.
After about a half of a Kilometer we came upon a path to the left that I figured was our turn that would take us along the ridge and show us some nice views of the lake and surrounding area. As we hiked, I noticed we were traveling down hill which I didn't see on the map. When we were resting I checked the compass and noticed we were heading NE, which was not on the map either. I pulled out the GPS to confirm our position and when it locked on, it looked like we were still on track. We continued to hike down and crossed a creek. By now, I confirmed that we were on a different trail, but it looked like it headed to a road which would take us down to the lake road and to our camp. When the trail turned back once again, I started to doubt our course some more. What I should have done at this point was scout forward with no pack to see where it went, but what I decided to do was turn back an hopefully follow the creek to the road. That course proved too thick, so I decided to turn around and head back to where I know my position, which was back to the forest road. The grumbles of the group fell behind me as I hurried up the hill, dropped my pack and went back to help Brandi with her pack. Before to long we were back on the path and had probably traveled about 1.5 miles more than planned.
We headed down the path and it was not too bad. We passed the real turn within 100 meters of our wrong turn, but decided to stay on the path which was a straighter path to the camp. There were spots of close brush, rocky path and the heat was pretty stifling, but we continued on and after a while, we arrived at a creek side campsite within a 100 meters or so from the lake. Alex and I scouted some, checked out the lake and found two other camp sites to choose from. My favorite was the one in the middle and we decided to use that one for our night's rest.
We set up the tents and hammock and Alex started a fire. We gathered water from the creek and sterilized it for consumption. Everyone was pretty beat, but we all felt good that we had made it to our resting place for the night. We each made our dinners, rested, took a nap or just explored a bit around the area. It was still pretty warm out, but not too buggy or unpleasant. The shade always helps and this place had a good deal of that.
The day wore on and before too long, the sun had set and darkness was approaching. Lisa had brought smore stuff, and everyone but Brandi, (who was napping) had some. After that pleasant snack, I bear bagged all the food up in a nearby tree. They probably weren't bagged that good, but they were in the air and somewhat away from the tree. It was fun practicing the technique.
Around 9 pm, we all pretty much headed to our sleeping areas. We had 2 two man tents and a hammock covered by a tarp. The hammock was mine and worked pretty well. Lisa and Brandi's tent was something we had bought at at Bass Pro and it turned out to not be too good. First of all, Ginger didn't want to stay inside and kept knocking down the support pole that was staked out the front of the tent. She stayed outside the tent the whole night and didn't sleep that well. Of course Lisa had to keep her hand outside the tent to comfort her, so she didn't sleep well either. Shauni and Alex seemed to have it the best. They had a nice cheap Walmart two man tent and I didn't hear any out of the ordinary complaints. My hammock did fine, but I seemed to keep sliding into a ball in the bottom of the hammock and would have to slide back up when I felt it. It was rather warm when we turned in and I tried at first to put my sleeping pad down and lay on that, but it didn't feel comfortable. In the morning when it cooled off, I could feel the coolness coming from the bottom of the hammock and sort of wanted the pad back by then.
I was up at 0600 the next morning. It looked like another nice day. I made some coffee and then some breakfast as everyone slept on. Ginger and I took a nice walk along the lake for about a half mile and then came back. I was heading towards a Geo Cache, but didn't feel like going the whole .8 of a mile each way and decided it would wait for another time.
Finally around 0900 everyone started getting up and eating breakfast and Brandi finally had her smore. We broke camp and got on the trail around 1100 or so. We had one misstep as I missed a turn because I was watching Ginger, who was off the leash and missed the markings showing a turn. We corrected it quickly and started our climb out of the valley. We made much better time hiking out. Everyone just fell into a rhythm and we moved along nicely. I was trying to count paces with my beads to see how it was working, but got distracted on our way out and stopped for a while. I had measured some distances and as we got to the top of the ridge, I tested it out for some short distances.
I was using 56 paces at first, but that seemed to not be enough. I increased to 60 and still came up a little bit short, but I was getting closer. I increased again to 70 for the last section and it seemed to be pretty close.
We took a short rest when we got back to the AT, then another one at the shelter. We were all alone this time and we read the log book and enjoyed the imaginative writings of the other hikers.
We got back to the van at 1345 or so, took a few more pictures, loaded up all our gear and hit the road. We stopped at the Wawa on our way back down to MD and arrived back at home at 1615 feeling tired, but happy from a nice adventure. We jumped into the pool then soaked in the hot tub to ease our sore muscles. A very good time.