Friday, June 28, 2013

Working On The Bucket List



It’s always a great feeling to cross something off your bucket list and yesterday I was able to do just that when my wife and I walked on the Appalachian Trail. We didn’t walk very far but we left our boot prints on the trail and that is enough to cross it off the list. It is because of that simple list that we drove about three and a half hours each way just to hike for about two and a half hours.

Our trip this week did not begin on a good note as we sat in traffic on the Schuykill Expressway for about an hour waiting for a multi car accident to be cleaned up (Thank you KYW for the heads up after we put our car in park on the expressway). Once we passed the pile of morons (seeing the aftermath I can say for certain that stupidity was involved), the highway cleared up and we were finally making progress. The rest of the drive happened without incident and we arrived at Gardners, Pennsylvania in the Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

Once we arrived we immediately calculated in what direction and how far we would have to hike by chatting with some section hikers who had just emerged from the woods. We found out that about a three miles hike south would do the trick and get us to the halfway point. Now that we had our bearings it was time to start walking.

We passed the park’s namesake…


...with flowers blooming beside it...


…and the local hostel (which is quite full this time of year)…


…and made our way into the woods (no musical interlude needed thank you).

The first part of our hike was uphill and was not assisted in any way by the hot and muggy day… the kind of heat and humidity that makes us dread the oncoming of summer. Shortly after beginning it was made very clear that an overweight, out of shape, smoker on the trail does not move very fast. Much of this was explained by Bill Bryson in his excellent book “A Walk In The Woods” but his account isn’t really fully appreciated until you experience your fatness firsthand.

While the hike was hard for those of us in, to put it nicely, non hiking shape, there were times of even terrain that allowed us to find our breath and enjoy the path weaving in-between the trees.


There were also a few spots along the way that opened up and provided a small secluded wilderness oasis.


Throughout our excursion, we walked on a wide variety of surfaces from rocks…


…and plain old dirt…


…to little streams…


…and bridges.



We walked on logs (used as stairs)…


…through logs…


…and beside many fallen trees.


After about 75 minutes on the trail we had decided to push ahead for another 15 minutes to see if we could make it to the half waypoint. Shortly after resuming, the trail became a little too much for the fat man and his wife as the overgrowth covered the forest floor hiding the path and the footing that was tenuous at best. With a questionable trail and an evident imbalance between desire and ability we decided to turn around and try another day when we were both in better shape.


The hike back seemed much easier and enjoyable than our blind trek into the thick woods a short time ago and before we knew it we were passing signs in the trail that we clearly remembered.


As the cabins appeared in the distance and the rain began to drum the mountain canopy we could see trail open up and the asphalt get darker and darker as the AT thrust us back into civilization. A short walk down the road we were warmly greeted at the Appalachian Trail Museum which was right next to the parking lot where we left our car for the afternoon.


After a quick tour of the one room tribute to the trail, a few quick conversations with some weathered thru hikers, and we were heading back to the car leaving our last few footprints on the trail before we went home.


Our hike ended just in time as the off and on rain of the early afternoon was gearing up for an early summer onslaught.


But even with a nearly four hour drive home, I had crossed an item off my bucket list and that makes for a great day no matter how long the commute might have been.