The Disney bubble surrounding my campsite popped last night when a skunk walked through camp. No one saw it, and apparently it didn’t spray anything, but everyone smelled it. I packed up early and quickly departed the area before it had a chance to return.
When I arrived at the stream at the bottom of the hill, I could see BR’s hammock a few yards off the trail but not a creature was stirring. He is usually an early riser so I guess I must have worn him out with that long day yesterday. Rather than disturb his sleep, I started climbing the hill expecting him to catch up with me later in the day.
Pennsylvania is called Rocksylvania by A.T. hikers and the name is well deserved. I have already hiked through some very rocky sections but had been told that from this point forward is where it gets really bad. Boo Boo, through a series of misfortunate incidences (such as breaking his phone) had taken a double “zero” in Palmerton, PA, and if I put in a really long day today, I could catch up with him there. He had told me that the trail ahead of me “wasn’t too bad” so I thought that I would give it a try.
After climbing back to the top of the ridge line, the trail started out fairly smooth, but I was walking in the clouds and everything was wet. “Smooth Trails” turned out to be just a preview because the feature film “Attack of the Killer Boulders” started shortly thereafter. When I arrived at Dan’s Pulpit, the view was of a white wall of clouds so I continued on scrambling over the rocks.
Part one of “Attack of the Killer Boulders” went on for nearly three hours before I got an intermission and was able hike again at a normal pace. I was making good time and I thought that maybe Boo Boo’s trail assessment had been correct. It was a really gorgeous section of trail, but I was starting to get soaked from the constant moisture in the air.
Then the intermission ended and part two began. Within a distance of three miles, I traversed the Knife Edge, clambered over Bear Rocks, and scrambled over a 100 foot tall pile of boulders called Bake Oven Knob. Did Boo Boo just forget about these features? Actually these would have been a lot of fun except for the fact that everything was wet. I was carefully moving at a snails pace and gingerly placing every step knowing that if I fell, the boulders would win. Even when the trail returned to a semi-normal state, it was still filled with ankle twisting rocks.
Around 6:00 pm, “Attack of the Killer Rocks” ended for the night but the ordeal had left me exhausted. Although the trail had become relatively smooth, it was starting to get dark when I arrived at the George W Outerbridge Shelter located just 1.1 miles away from the road to Palmerton and a cold beer with Boo Boo. I just didn’t have the energy to go any further.
The Outerbridge Shelter is one of the oldest wooden shelters on the trail, having been built in 1965. I had the shelter to myself because, after all, who would stay at an old shelter 1.1 miles from hot food and cold beer? After walking to the nearby spring to get and filter water, I fixed dinner, checked the shelter thoroughly for snakes, hung my wet clothes from every available nail, and settled in for the night. Before falling asleep, I made a mental note to press Boo Boo for very specific details in the future when he described trail conditions as “not too bad.”