Moving at an average speed of two miles per hour, it is extremely difficult to arrive at a fixed destination at a certain time. Today, however, I had to arrive at the Post Office in Port Clinton, PA, before they closed at 4:00 pm in order to pick up my resupply package. To provide myself with a little time cushion, I broke camp early and hit the trail at 6:00 am.
The trail seemed to sense my need for speed and provided a smooth level surface that allowed me to crush some miles. I arrived at the Fort Dietrich Monument 3.4 miles into the day at 7:15 am and soon discovered trail magic at PA 183 where I stopped for a short break. Kodak, a Class of 2000 thru-hiker had kindly provided a cooler full of cold soda and tea, so I downed a couple of Dr Peppers to fuel me for a few more miles. Thank you Kodak!
BR is also an early riser and by mid-morning he caught up with me on the trail. One thing about BR is that he can talk continuously while walking so he helped to make the miles go by quickly while entertaining me with his interesting life stories. I told him about my necessity to arrive at the Post Office before it closed and, while he didn’t believe we could do it, he joined me in the effort because he wanted to mail some gear home to reduce his pack weight.
Later in the day we came upon a trail maintainer clearing the sides of the trail with a weed whip. We stopped to chat with her and thank her for her work and learned that she is responsible for two miles and trail and comes out every week to keep them clear. When BR asked her if she gets tired of coming out here and swinging that weed whip in the heat, she replied that she absolutely loves to do it. It took BR about two miles of walking to wrap his mind around that response. When I explained to him that some people love the trail and are honored to have the opportunity to be the custodian of a small part, I believe he finally understood the concept.
As we were chugging down the trail, we caught up with Sunrise. She was feeling great with a new pair of shoe inserts, but was taking it easy because her feet were still sore. Around 1:00 pm we were four miles from Port Clinton when we stopped at the Phillips Canyon Spring for water. I told BR that I would bet him that we made it to the Post Office before it closed, but BR still had his doubts. He wagered a cup of filtered water as a bet and I accepted his wager. About 0.1 miles from the spring the trail turned down a State Game Commission road that had been graded and was headed gently downhill for at least two miles. BR accused me of having inside information about this road and felt like he had been hustled, but I reminded him that the trail always provides what you need. It was all in good fun.
The hardest part about getting to Port Clinton, as is usually the case for every town, is coming down from the ridge line to the gap. Although there were some very steep spots and those awful steps, we arrived at the bottom and crossed the tracks around 2:30 pm (I won the bet). From the rail yard, we had plenty of time to walk the three blocks through town and climb the hill to the Post Office.
As we approached the Post Office, a skinny middle aged lady approached us and after introducing herself as the town trail angel, asked us if we needed a ride into town. She was dressed like a hooker with tight short shorts, low heels, and a blouse knotted at the midriff (not an altogether unappealing presentation), but she was wired like she had spent the morning smoking crystal meth. No red flags waving here! We thanked her for her offer, but told her that we had some business to take care of at the Post Office. I went inside to claim my resupply package while BR sorted through the Priority Mail boxes to find the size he needed to ship his gear home.
When I gave the postal clerk my name he told me that he didn’t have a box for me and that a box with that name was not expected on the next truck arriving tomorrow. I immediately contacted my wife who sent me the tracking number for the package. After running the number through his computer it turned out that my package (which had an estimated delivery date of today) was sitting in Philadelphia with no estimate of when it might get delivered. Time for plan B. Meanwhile, BR had his gear boxed up and ready to ship to his home.
Plan B was to get a ride to the adjoining town of Hamburg, PA where there were multiple resupply options. BR wanted to go there too, but the postal clerk told him he should probably think twice about accepting a ride from the “trail angel” because he didn’t believe she still had a drivers license. Just as we stepped out of the door to the Post Office (I’m not exaggerating here), a shuttle van from Cabela’s pulled up and the driver asked if we were the folks who had called for a ride to the store. We told him that we had not called but we were certainly going there, and we started to load our gear in the van. So here comes the town trail angel down the hill. “I thought you guys were going to ride with me. I’m sort of perturbed because I waited for you.” We apologized for the misunderstanding, thanked her again for the offer, and sped away in the van.
We spent the next 30 minutes driving around around looking for the guy who had called for the shuttle. There had been a guy on the trail who could barely walk (BR named him Bad Shoes) and we surmised it must have been him. We eventually located Bad Shoes and a couple of other hikers at a different trailhead and we were off to Hamburg. The van driver was very nice and when we promised that we would go to the store as soon as we had showered, he dropped us off at the Microtel Inn.
I was going to split a room with BR but after he admitted to suffering from chronic snoring I decided to go at it alone. After showering and changing into dry clothes, I met BR outside and we walked across the street to indulge in a steak at Logan’s Steakhouse. Now it was getting late and it was time to go to work replacing the items in my M.I.A. resupply box. My first stop was the Wal-Mart Supercenter and then I hoofed it the half mile to get to Cabela’s before closing time. The Cabela’s in Hamburg is the largest Cabela’s store in the world and I easily paid for the shuttle ride by purchasing five days worth of Mountain House freeze dried dinners there. The shuttle driver turned out to be the store greeter and I made a point of walking over to him with my armload of bags and thanking him for the ride.
Back at the hotel, I spent the evening sorting and repackaging my purchases so now I am ready to return to the trail in the morning. Earlier I had called a number that Scar had recommended to arrange a shuttle back to the trailhead for $10 and he will be here at 8:00 am. It was either that or calling for the town trail angel.