Sunday, June 10, 2012

All About the AT

Today the AT was king! We hiked about 8 miles, saw thru-hikers, eavesdropped on thru-hikers, visited the museum, met some historical figures, and got some trail magic! All we need now are trail names!

This morning, just as I was getting dressed, the freakin’ LP/CO2 detector went off.   The only pattern I can find here is that it goes off on Saturday mornings when I’m camping with Dad.  Makes no sense.  This time I was in the bathroom, not doing anything close to anything that might have set it off.  Guess I’ll take it in for them too look at.   Even though it’s baffling what’s setting it off it’s kinda good because the propane stuff and the the thought of the alarm going off was something that worried me – these false alarms are kinda like drills, now I greet the screeching the alarm with expletives and know exactly how to shut if off!

We decided to take advantage of having 2 vehicles and do a longer one way hike!  This is a rare opportunity for me so I was excited!  Covering 8 trail miles in one day is the longest section I’ve hiked at once!  We parked the RV near the main area of the park, which is about a 1/2 mile from the campground, and drove the jeep up to the trailhead.  We walked back to the park, got the RV and went back for the jeep. 

As soon as we pulled into the trailhead parking area a thru hiker came up, heading north.   We chatted with him for few minutes and then he headed down the trail.  Dad saw him later heading out of the park.  A few other thru hikers passed us as we hiked, they were pretty much the only other traffic we saw on the trail the whole day!  Crazy since it was a lovely Saturday, I would have expected to see a lot more people!

There was a crazy amount of Mountain Laurel in full bloom at the higher elevations!  As we hiked it was almost a tunnel of laurel! I’m glad we were there when the laurel was in bloom, the trail wouldn't have been that interesting without the laurel! 

We continued down, down, down…sometimes it was almost flat, but then we’d go down more.  It wasn’t steep, or very rocky, so it was easy hiking. 

About 1/2 way we reached the Tom’s Run Shelter, a 3 sided structure for long distance hikers to stay overnight in.  There we chatted with a section hiker (an AT who plans to hike the whole trail, just not at once, I consider myself a “section hiker”, I just hike very small sections and I’ll probably never finish the whole trail.) who’s pack was about 55 lbs!  He had stuff bungee corded to the outside!  The purpose of his hike was to figure out what he could eliminate!

Very soon after the shelter we reached the official halfway point of the AT!  We were a little more than 1000 miles from Springer Mt in GA and a little over 1000 miles from Mt. Kathadin in ME.  So now I’ve been to the beginning of the trail, the middle of the trail, and possibly this summer I’ll be at the end of the trail.  So, I’ll be done right?  Oh yeah, there’s all those other miles! ;-)

We mostly blew through the rest of the 8 miles hike, continued down, down, down.  The last 1/4 mile it was getting really long – I was expecting the road to show up any time and it wasn’t coming.  Finally of course we reached the road. 

We walked back into the park and had lunch on the porch of the General Store.  There were a few thru hikers sitting around shooting the breeze so we kinda eavesdropped on their conversation while we ate.  After lunch we got some ice cream and engaged in our version of the thru hiker tradition. Since Pine Grover Furnace is so close to official halfway point, thru hikers traditionally eat (or attempt to eat) a half gallon of ice cream, in one sitting! You can tell that it’s thru hiker season because the flavor choices of the 1/2 gallons the store had were very limited!  We did not eat an entire half gallon, we settled for one scoop!

Up next was the AT Museum!  I think this is a new feature, something they are just getting off the ground.  It was one room, but it was filled with neat exhibits about the trail and some of the people who have made it what it is, along information about several of the 1st thru hikers.  They had the original sign from Kathadin, other trail signs, gear from the 1st thru hikers, even an original shelter! 

After we checked out the exhibits we walked down to a nearby picnic pavilion where they were having inductions into the AT Hall of Fame.  I'd never heard of the AT Hall of Fame before and had no idea how one got in.  I need to google this when I get home.  There were a handful of people sitting in the pavilion so we wandered in.  When we got there they were talking about the opening of the museum and we were a bit confused, but after a few minutes the real action started! 

One of the 1st, and more noteworthy, thru hikers was a woman named Grandma Gatewood.  She was an older woman – in her late 60s and 70s when she was hiking the AT in 1950’s – and she hiked in sneakers, usually Keds, and carried her duffel bag over her shoulder.   She died in the early 70s, but her granddaughter (or it might have been her daughter, she was introduced as Grandma Gatewood’s granddaughter, but she referred to Grandmas Gatewood as “Mama” and she told us she was 84…) was there and she read to us from Grandma Gatewood’s Diaries from her 2 thru hikes and her section hikes!  Lucy was a bit of a pistol herself and she did a great job telling Grandma Gatewood’s stories!  I need to learn more about the legendary Grandma Gatewood!

The next speaker was Gene Espy.  He was one of the 1st thru hikers and hiked at the same time as Earl Schaffer, the 1st thru hiker. I had never heard of him until today!  I had a hard time understanding him but he told some great tales of the early days of the AT!  He is also the only living member of AT Hall of Fame! He’s written a book, that I think I need to read!  He was very entertaining and I’m looking forward to learning more about him!

I’m so glad we were here to listen to those two historical AT figures speak!  What a treat!  We’d sat and listened to them for 2 hours and it was time to move a bit so we walked down the AT towards the lake and day use area of the park.  Compared to the quiet of the picnic pavilion area the lake area was crowded!  People everywhere!

As we were walking along the paved AT/Bike Trail, one of the thru hikers we met last night at the Ranger Program, Diesel, approached us.  He’d set up some Trail Magic and offered us some! We didn’t need any snacks at the time so we thanked him and moved on, but it was fun to be included in the hiker community and offered Trail Magic! 

After checking out the lake area we walked back to where I’d parked the RV and drove up the mountain to get the jeep.  Back at the campground Dad called Mom (I have cell signal which I’m using to text, hadn’t occurred to me the I could make a phone call if I wanted to!), and I took a shower, then Dad took a walk to the shower house. After we got cleaned up we made dinner and enjoyed a walk around the campground.  Dad has built another fire, we gotta use up the wood he bought, and I’m about to finish my blogging before dark!

The battery on the computer is dying, so it must be time to finish this up!  Tomorrow we are both driving home and I think we are getting an early start since he has a 5 hour drive and I have weekend chores to do! 

Pine Grove Furnace State Park: 6.9.12

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