Well, last night was interesting. I was about to fall sleep when a Blackhawk helicopter flew over the campsite at an altitude of about 50 feet. Later in the night, police cars were running up and down the road with sirens blaring. Way after midnight, someone fired off at least 50 rounds from an automatic shotgun. Sometime in the midst of all this cacophony, a large diesel dump truck pulled into the parking lot and the driver backed into a spot with his backup beepers engaged. I don’t know if any of these instances were related, but it certainly wasn’t the night in the wilderness that I had envisioned. The campsite, however, was lovely in the morning light.
The water in Clarks Creek smelled funny, so I decided to hike a mile to the next spring before stocking up on water. While I was filtering water at the spring, I met BR. BR is a 62 year old self-described “dirt digger” who has spent most of his life operating heavy equipment in the construction industry. He is from MA and during the winter he subcontracts with the local government to do highway snow removal. BR is quite an interesting fellow and he is fun to listen to because, despite his name, he doesn’t have an “R” in his vocabulary (he wears “shots” when he hikes and sleeps under a “top”). He also records videos with his GoPro and uploads them to his YouTube channel.
For most of the morning, the trail was smooth and flat but it was turning into another day that was Mombassa hot. I spent the entire day playing leapfrog with Sunrise and BR while making forward progress down what was a really pretty section of trail. At my first snack/water break of the day, I stopped at the intersection of the Horse-Shoe Trail where there was a touching memorial to Cyrus C Sturgis, Jr.
Continuing down the trail, I passed through some beautiful stands of blooming mountain laurel until I arrived at Rausch Creek. The bridge over the creek was being repaired, so the ATC had marked out a temporary trail to a point where you could get across the creek by rock hopping over some sofa sized boulders.
Shortly after rejoining the original trail, I got an emergency call from nature, so I went off trail for several yards, stashed my backpack, and went deeper into the woods to take care of business. When I came back out of the woods, I arrived at the trail but hadn’t seen my backpack. A temporary wave of panic swept over me but I took a deep breath and started backtracking until I arrived at the spot where the temporary trail had been routed through the woods. Turning around, I started walking while desperately looking for my backpack until I finally spotted it in the woods. Note to self: When leaving the trail, always leave your backpack on the trail.
From the creek, I started a steep 550 foot climb to the top of Second Mountain. I don’t know what happened to First Mountain but I’m really happy that I didn’t have to climb it too. By the time I reached the summit, I had decided that enough was enough and that I was going to drag my sweat drenched self to the first air conditioned hotel that I could find.
Luckily, the road to Lickdale, PA was only four miles away but I still had a few obstacles to overcome. The first obstacle was a 0.3 mile walk across a sun drenched pasture. I usually love my pasture walks but this one felt like I was crossing the Sahara Desert. When I arrived at the first crossing of PA 72, BR and Sunrise were already there and BR had just successfully flagged down a ride. Sunrise’s feet were in such bad shape the she could go no further. I continued on through the shade of Swatara State Park to get to the second crossing of PA 72.
Now it was time to overcome my second obstacle. It is a sad but true fact that a pretty girl, or someone hiking with a pretty girl, can hitch a ride to town in about 30 seconds. But put a sweat soaked old man who appears homeless on the side of the road, and he has a better chance of surviving the 2.5 mile road walk in then heat than having someone stop to give him a ride. After about 20 minutes of fruitless hitching efforts (even with my award winning smile) I pulled out my phone to look for a cab. Something made me think of Uber, so I downloaded the app, connected it to my PayPal account, and typed in the address to the Days Inn. In what can only be attributed to trail magic, I found a single driver here in the middle of nowhere that would pick me up in 20 minutes.
After giving the Uber driver a nice tip to cover having his car fumigated, I paid an ungodly amount for my room where I set the thermostat to below zero and stood in the rush of cold air for 30 minutes. Life in the a/c world is good. A pit stop on the Interstate Highway System has none of the charm of a Duncannon but it does have a Wendy’s 100 feet away. So after a shower and donning my only dry outfit, I walked over to fulfill my caloric needs.
After standing at the Wendy’s order counter for ten minutes watching the young girl fill orders without taking any new ones (while the kitchen staff stood idle) I began to think she was clueless. Then she opened her mouth and proved it. I ordered a medium #1 with a full sized strawberry mango salad and she said, “I don’t think we can substitute the salad for the french fries.” I said, “You misunderstood me. I want the #1 with french fries AND the salad!” Mercifully, the cash register has pictures of the menu items instead of numbers. The strawberry mango salad, by the way, is top notch.
After eating and helping myself to a couple of gallons of soda refills, I returned to my now refrigerated room to literally chill out. My clothing is all on hangers, following some hiker trash sink laundry, in the false hope that something will be dry by morning. Please, oh please, let this heat wave end soon.