“I’m standing on a corner in Lickdale, Pennsylvania when such a fine sight I see. It’s BR, my lord, in the right seat of a Ford and they’re slowing down to take a look at me.”

Hitchin’ ain’t easy, but timing is everything. The driver of the Ford is a section hiker and he gave BR and Sunrise their ride to town yesterday. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and now I have a ride back to the trailhead with BR. Sunrise is staying behind in town to deal with her shoe situation.

The trailhead starts at a beautiful old iron bridge over the Swatara Creek that was built in 1890 by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company out of East Berlin, CT. From there, the trail follows an old road until it passes under I-81 and starts the 900 foot climb to regain the ridge line. Unfortunately, my plea to have the heat wave end went unheard by the weather Gods, and I was again drenched in sweat by the time I reached level ground.

Appalachian Trail

Swatara Creek Bridge

Fortunately, there would not be another climb for nearly 25 miles. Unfortunately, this section of trail could be considered the training grounds to prepare us for Northern Pennsylvania as the treadway alternated between smooth dirt and rocky boulder fields. It was not without beauty, however, as I was often walking along in lush green forests in a sea of ferns.

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Actual Trail

Early in the afternoon we stumbled upon the epitome of trail magic. Just where you would least expect it and need it most, Slick, a 2004 thru-hiker, had set up chairs in the shade with coolers full of ice cold soda and Gatorade at Waggoner’s Gap Road. I was soon joined there by BR and Pumba (who I hadn’t seen since Waynesboro, VA) and we cooled down and chatted with Slick for about 30 minutes.

Appalachian Trail

Trail Angel Slick

Continuing down the rocky trail, we passed some nice views at both Fisher Lookout and Kimmel Lookout before stopping at the 501 Shelter for water. The 501 Shelter is most notable because it is a fully enclosed cabin and because it is on PA 501 and close enough to Pine Grove, PA, that you can order both pizza and Chinese food delivery. The water spigot wasn’t working but someone had delivered a nice cache of cool bottled water. There was also a southbound hiker there with a pretty nasty knot on his forehead from falling on the rocks ahead of us.

Appalachian Trail

Pennsylvania Style Trail

Appalachian Trail

View from Kimmel Lookout

Appalachian Trail

501 Shelter

As I was leaving the 501 Shelter, I found BR sitting on a rock contemplating whether to stay put or move on. I was headed to the Hertline Campsite about six miles down the trail and told BR that there was an awesome swimming hole there. That seemed to be just the motivation that he needed, so he put on his pack and followed me down the trail.

The next six miles are notable only for their monotony. I pushed through it while dreaming about a cooling dip in the swimming hole and knowing that I wouldn’t have to walk those rocky miles again. We arrived at the Hertline Campsite around 6:30 pm and I took off to find the lake.

Boo Boo had alerted me to this “secret” swimming hole when he stayed here a few days ago. I don’t know if they didn’t believe me or were just too tired to walk any further, but no one followed me in search of this paradise. Just past the campsites there is a side trail that follows the creek downstream to where a concrete dam forms a small lake. When I arrived, there was a couple there playing in the water, so I set up my tent and started dinner. When the couple finally left, I took the opportunity to strip down to my boxers and t-shirt and waded out into the water. Holy cow! That water was colder than ice so I didn’t stay in there very long. It was not only a totally refreshing dip, but provided a secondary bonus of rinsing the salt out of my undies! Thank you Boo Boo for the tip.

Appalachian Trail

Paradise Found