Off to Richmond, VA (RVA) to see our son Will and his fiancée Laurel, I have had rain on the brain for days. I have two weather apps on my iPhone. On our laptop, the weather channel icon has the position of honor on the tool bar. I’m all over the weather. Reasonably, one might suggest counseling. For the last ten days, rain has been in and out of the forecast for our hiking adventure to Pennsylvania, Virginia, and points south.
After a day of hiking on the Appalachian Trail (AT) near Delaware Water Gap, PA (see blog for November 1, 2014), Hannah and I sack out at the Comfort Inn in Allentown, PA; the morning forecast is for a 70% chance of rain. Make it 100%, it doesn’t matter! We are hiking manana. Be it with ponchos and/or umbrellas. I’m serious; I’ll bring umbrellas on the trail even if I look like Mr. Mary Poppins. Let me tell you, we haven’t driven the long way to RVA by way of I-81 to just drive the long way to RVA. Fortunately, Hannah is game for hiking among the raindrops.
In the morning, thankfully the percentage chance of rain is down to 20%. Rain has been pushed back to the afternoon. Sweet.
It’s nearly a two hour drive on I-78 and I-81 from Allentown, PA to the AT town of Boiling Springs, PA. A town of 3000+, Boiling Springs gets its name from its natural artesian wells. Going right through town, the AT in Boiling Springs is just about the halfway point of the AT’s 2180 miles.
Once in town, we are directed to the far end of the Children’s Lake, home to ducks, swans, and geese, for trailhead parking. As we ready for the hike, a few drops fall; the Universe wants our attention. Dan and Hannah don’t be fools. Pack your ponchos. I’m only going to say this once. All ears, we pack our ponchos with our water bottles and Nature Valley crunchy Oats ‘n Honey granola bars (a personal favorite).
Starting at a modest elevation of 500 feet, we have four miles of trail to the Alex Kennedy Shelter. At our highest point we will climb to the 1060 foot Center Point Knob. Crossing the bridge over the Yellow Beeches Creek, we cross a railroad and hike for the next two miles through soy bean and corn fields. How great is it that Old MacDonald lets us e-i-e-i-o through his fields.
And then light rain starts to fall. Not enough to take our ponchos out but enough to get our attention. In the lead, Hannah turns and says, Did we pack both ponchos? A quick check shows that we did not. Bummer. What to do?
Hike on and hope it doesn’t rain? Blame? (always a “go to” strategy in times of stress). We choose door number three. Just turn the hell around and go back the half mile we’ve come, get the other poncho, and start again. It is what it is. Perhaps something new and cool will happen because of this development. On the plus side, we will get in an extra mile of hiking today.
Going back the half mile to get the poncho is like having a generator in New England. Hear me out. Today it may not rain and thus we have no need for the ponchos; likewise we may never lose power and ever need a generator. But not having to think of the possibilities of rain or losing power settles the soul and allows us to be in the moment.
As you can imagine, the fields are reasonably level and take us through the country side similar to what we might have seen 150 years ago during the Civil War. Just 25 miles, as the soldiers march, north of Gettysburg, Boiling Springs was a stop along the Underground Railroad in the 1800s.
We think back to our chance meeting with T-Bone (her trail name), the thru-hiker we met yesterday. By a fairly direct route, we drove the 145 miles from Delaware Water Gap, PA to Boiling Springs in about three hours; on the other hand she has 173 miles of trails to Boiling Springs that might take her 10 to 12 days. God bless you, Henry Ford!
With the fields behind us, our early afternoon hike during mid-October takes us into the forest. Climbing 500 feet to the top of Center Point Knob, I take smaller steps as my breathing increases. Under overcast skies, but no longer even any sprinkles, I go from Maine sweatshirt to VCU basketball tee shirt.
Once at the top, we descend the mountain heading north on the AT. As with most of the AT that we know and love, we have rocks and roots aplenty. Even so, we do not have the sharp, angular, jagged rocks of eastern Pennsylvania attacking our hiking boots as they did yesterday at the Delaware Water Gap.
Arriving at the Alex Kennedy Shelter after four miles of hiking, we know the rain is acoming. Of that there is no doubt.
Enjoy the shelter video.
A quick bite of apples and granola bars and we are heading back to Boiling Springs to beat the rain. Over nine miles of hiking (including the bonus mile of backtracking), we complete our outdoor adventure in three hours. We now face a choice of how to get to Richmond on this Friday of Columbus Day Weekend.
We can be idiots and drive directly from Boiling Springs to the Beltway around Washington, DC, and then on through the hell that is I-95 from DC to Richmond during the evening commute.
Or we can add 100 miles to our drive by heading southwest on I-81 and then come in to Richmond from the west on route 64.
We like to think we aren’t stupid; we take option two. With five hours of driving ahead of us, we stow our packs quickly as, wouldn’t you know it at this very moment (cue B.J. Thomas) the rain drops keep falling on our heads.
By the way, check out this shelter outhouse on the Appalachian Trail