Forget the ramblings….take me to the pictures.

Spent 4 days hiking 50 miles of the 85 mile Susquehannock Trail in north central PA with my two dogs and Ken, one of the members of the group from the BFT trip. I had two main objectives on this trip:

1. To not go hungry
2. To stay warm – temps were to be lows in the 30′s and highs in the 50′s

In light of these two objectives, my pack was heavier than it’s ever been – about 35 lbs with food and water.

Day 1 – Friday

I met Ken in the little town of Cross Fork where I parked my car and drove with him in his car to the start of the loop. I’d be hiking the 50 miles to my car and Ken would be hiking an additional 35 miles to complete the loop back to his car. I was originally planning to do the entire 85 miles in 7 days but I was already behind in the shop so I compromised. A painful and bruised ankle clinched the shortened hike.

We started hiking at 10:30 Friday morning (Oct. 12) in a drizzle. By 11 we realized we were no longer on the trail, so we backtracked 3/4 of a mile and found where we went wrong. Our hike was supposed to be 9.5 miles that day. With the extra 1.5 miles in the beginning and another mile at the end when we somehow missed our campsite, it turned out to be a 12.5 mile day. High temp was 42. Low was 35. But I stayed warm!!!

Day 2 – Saturday
spam.jpg9 miles with only one major uphill. Hooray!!! Still, hips and feet were sore from carrying a 35 lb pack.
Discovered some interesting things today:
1. Spam now comes in foil pouches like tuna and on the back of the pouch it says spam can be used as an air freshener. I kid you not. Check out the picture.
2. According to Ken, you can actually gain weight on the trail. I was having trouble fathoming that because I always starve on the trail.

Day 3 – Sunday
A 10 mile day. Hiked 7 miles into Ole Bull State Park where we ate our supper for lunch. We weren’t sure if we’d have water at our campsite tonight because many of the streams are totally dry, so we decided to eat our cold lunch for supper which wouldn’t require cooking or cleaning up. We got to the campground and sat at a picnic table like civilized human beings and cooked our mac and cheese (me) and noodles (Ken). I opted for a soda from the soda machine – a 20 oz bottle of Mountain Dew. Under normal circumstances, it would have given me a bit of an energy boost for an hour and staved off a caffeine withdrawal headache for another day but I had detoxed from caffeine about 3 weeks ago so it had a little more affect than usual. Between the Mountain Dew and the Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) I took for my my ankle, I practically flew up those mountains after lunch. In fact, if I hadn’t had to stop every 10 minutes to pee out the liter of water I also drank, I would have left Ken eating my dust.

We made it to the campsite by 3:30. It turned out that the stream was running. We ate supper by a roaring fire (our fifth on this trip) with S’mores for dessert (a third for this trip).

Day 4 – Monday – A trail of apples, bees, and blowdowns
15 miles today. Started at 8:30 and finished at 5:45. It was a memory-making sort of day:

Apples – found several apple trees over the length of the trail today. My food supply was getting pretty low so they were a welcome addition – all 6 of them!

Bees – We were heading down a REALLY steep section of trail (sliding down is more accurate) and had to bushwhack our way around a blowdown. As we were just getting back on the trail, I saw Charlie swatting at his face. Some bees were after him. As I was trying to help him, I noticed Ackey….and gasped. She was absolutely covered in yellow jackets. They were just clinging to her fur…probably a hundred of them or more. I started trying to brush them off with my hiking stick but then they went after me. So I grabbed her by the pack and made her run down the trail as fast as we could, knowing there was a good stream at the bottom about a 1/2 mile away. By the time we got to the stream most of the bees were off. I had to pull off a few that were embedded in her fur. But I didn’t have to dunk her in the stream. I watched her for a while concerned about how many times she was stung. I know it wouldn’t take a whole lot to make a 60 lb dog sick or worse. After a while I was able to tell where she was stung as the places swelled up. One was right above her eye and swelled her eye shut. I found only 3 stings on her. Whew!!! I didn’t find any on Charlie. Ken got 2 and I got 4. Who needs caffeine when you have adrenaline?!?

Blowdowns – Blowdowns are trees that have fallen across the trail and you have to climb over, under, through, or around. Most of the time it’s not a big deal to hop over a trunk or duck under a limb. But there was one section of trail about a mile long with blowdown after blowdown where you couldn’t hop over them. You had to either find your way through all the branches – like playing twister on a jungle gym – or bushwhack around them (also no small feat). This mile of trail just kicked our butts – it was harder than any of the mountains we had to hike up. There were several instances where I had to pick up Ackey by her pack and lift her over. On the last blowdown of the series, I watched horrified as Ken took a nasty spill, envisioning myself trying to summon help to get him treated for a broken leg. He was fine though.

It was a S’mores evening after such a tough day of hiking.

Day 4.5 – Thursday morning
Hiked out an easy 4.5 miles to my car in Cross Fork. Called home to get my messages to see if there was a possibility of finishing the trail even though my ankle told me straight out that there was no chance. We grabbed lunch at Deb’s Place. I had one of their Bubba Burgers and fries. Wow…it was quite the burger but I ate every bite of it! Also got the dogs 6 hot dogs to chow down on. Said goodbye to Ken and wished him well on the last three days of his hike and drove the 3.5 hours home. The dogs slept the whole way.

Regarding my objectives:
1. I failed miserably on not being hungry. I once again grossly underestimated the amount of food I’d need. I should have doubled the size of every meal and the amount of trail mix snacks. *sigh* But that would have been sooo much extra weight. :-\

coldackey.jpg2. I did manage to stay warm. Slept in 2 shirts, a fleece jacket, a rain jack, running tights, wind pants, two heavy pairs of socks, a winter hat, a scarf, and a 20 degree sleeping bag. I had to give up the wool sweater I used for a pillow to cover Ackey so she didn’t shiver. Charlie slept in my sleeping bag with me.

Enjoy the pictures below. I gotta go put my pack and equipment in storage for the spring. :-(

Almost halfway up cardiac hill. So glad for the sign.

Beautiful setting for this camp.

Heading down the trail.

Poor Ackey is so tired after our 15 mile day that she won’t even lift her head up to eat.

A tease of a view.

The sign reads, “Spook Hollow – Keep to the center of the trail. Stay within sight of companion. Refrain from looking back. DO NOT TRY TO RUN”

Leave it to Charlie to find the softest place to sleep.

Ken was serious about his sleep with the 5 lb air mattress. He should have had an air compressor to blow it up!

Appropriately named – I was famished!