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[at-l] LHHT Trip Journal, Part 4 (conclusion)

I knew last night when I got the bizarre PHONE CALL from the FRONT DESK
that fun might be afoot: KAHLEY was in town! She’d driven five hours with
FOUR DOGS in her VAN in order to SLACKPACK Gail and me over our first 12
mile stretch of trail. She tried to stay at the same MOTEL as us but they
didn’t want her DOGS around. So she stayed in SOMERSET, the next exit on
the PA TURNPIKE. She told me she’d show up before 7:30am to surprise GAIL.
So when GAIL awoke at 6:15 and started like she wanted to get going, I
rolled over and said I wanted to sleep another hour. Sure enough, by 7am, a
KNOCK on the DOOR. “Gail?” she asked. “It’s Kahley!” GAIL jumped for joy.
WOW! KAHLEY! What a surprise! And then she smacked me with a PILLOW for
keeping it all a secret.

After going back and forth about logistics and the terrible thunderstorms
that hung overhead, we decided to skip the day’s hike and hang out with
Kahley. I’ll need to go back and hike 5.2 miles (in and out, 10.4) to make
my LHHT experience a true thru-hike ... I’d hiked the first segment of the
day on my solo trip in March. Kahley wanted to see Fallingwater, the Frank
Lloyd Wright house on Laurel Mountain. We had breakfast at a very quiet
restaurant. Got to Bear Run Preserve to walk the dogs, and got caught in a
downpour as we found the “no pets allowed” sign. Phooey! But Kahley is
quite a sight walking four dogs at once. “I attract TV crews,” she laughed.
We proceeded to Fallingwater in the rain. The dogs had to stay in the car.
Kahley and Gail were more impressed by the interior of the building than
the touted exterior upon the waterfall. 

We went down to Ohiopyle, at the south end of the LHHT. Our futile search
for lunch ended at the quaint Falls Inn, the only off-season place open, a
combination gas station-restaurant-general store-motel with a lot of
character. Walked to the Ohiopyle falls and around town. Visited Cucumber
Falls, the Chutes, Ferncliff trails and the RR bridge over the rapids.
Still a rainy, dreary day but the thunderstorms passed. Kahley was very
interested in the world of tiny things -- water striders in puddles,
mosses, flowers, fossils in cliff faces -- a true attention to detail. I’m
sure she misses nothing on her hikes!

She had to drive 5 hours home, so she dropped us at the 653 parking lot
around 4:30. A short downhill led us to the shelter area. Many fossils
around this area. The shelter is surrounded by velvet red trillium in
bloom, a few white trillium, and lots of mayapples. The last residents of
the shelter left a lot of wood -- it looks like they couldn’t get the fire
going. It’s a very rocky area, with huge boulders with fossil imprints. I’m
feeling the affects of town food, had to take some antacid. Have 2 blisters
now, one on each big toe. 

Tomorrow is a 12+ mile day. It’s rained on and off all day today, even
though it was supposed to clear up. The nasty storms this morning let them
talk me out of the original 12 mile slackpack plan. Kahley’s intent was to
slackpack us both but Gail wanted to visit, and I can’t blame her! But we
had fun. Pity, if we knew the ranger wasn’t going to show then Kahley could
have camped with us anyway.  

I hope tomorrow’s weather improves! The water is good here, hooray!

Long hiking day. Started at 8:45, ended around 5:30. My feet felt it. Had
to stop quite a few times for pack-off rests. Not used to so much weight on
the soles of my feet, pack or not! 

Many little runs and criss-crossing cross-country ski trails in the first
few miles. Two beautiful large streams with rhodendron and boulders, tiny
waterfalls. Flushed a wild turkey out of the underbrush. More fossil
imprints everywhere in the trail. More big boulders, too. I love it!

At Cranberry Lake (an artificial lake, a dammed stream, like most PA lakes)
saw two pair of Canadian Geese, a new critter for Gail. Also a cup-shaped
large nest in a far-off tree: eagles? I’d love to know. Between miles 12
and 11 there are drippy mossy huge boulders with hemlocks growing on them;
so much water drips from them it forms a permanent run. More boulder mazes
and a couple small springs. Around mile 10 we started to see the far side
of the Youghigheny gorge through the trees. A large cleared area -- logging
or fire? Mass devastation, nonetheless. Miles 9-8 were a slow ascent to the
mountaintop. Great views of the gorge. Around mile 8, a rock outcrop
provides a great scenic view, rocks jut way out of the hillside. From miles
7 to 6 it’s a steep descent past boulder fields, with many wildflowers
including a large number of jack in the pulpit. Found a fossil tree trunk
chunk, had to nab it. Gail found one, too! 

We met Tom, an older day hiker who was getting his daily workout by hiking
16 miles in and out from Ohiopyle. He plans to run the Rachel Carson
Challenge on June 21 -- a 37 mile one-day hike here in Pittsburgh. I’ll
post the details of the race to the list separately ... some of you might
find it possible (and fun!)

At the shelter area, we found 2 ladies staying in #2 -- Kim and Angel. They
carried much too much food and weren’t exactly gear-savvy, but it was fun
to have some fellow females to chat with. We also had our first shelter
mouse experience of the trip. That little critter was bold enough to climb
up on Gail’s pack and sit there while she was eating! It ran across my
feet. Of course we hung our food and packs. I left the pack open in case it
wanted to poke around, not that I left anything yummy in it. Just hope it
stays off of me!

I’m tired and footsore. The train noise down the valley drones on and on. A
herd of deer came up to the water pump (a grassy area) and grazed until
dark. The water is good here, hooray! My attempt at rehydrating veggies
worked well, only I have too many to eat!

Screams in the dark mean the mice are probably visiting the other shelter.
Oh well. They’ll learn.

Another night cold enough for a fire. The stupid mouse climbed on my hand
and I flung it across the shelter. It didn’t bother me again after that. I
slept very well tonight -- finally tired enough to, I guess.

The topos showed “Twin Peaks,” and they didn’t lie. The steep ascents and
descents made me glad I had Lekis. The payoff -- beautiful birds-eye
panoramas of the Youghigheny river valley. In each deep gorge, a massive
variety of wildflowers -- jack in the pulpit, several types of trillium,
chickweed, solomon’s seal, dwarf cinquefoil, and many, many others. Above,
the trail barely clung to the mountainside, dipping over the gorge.  

The first peak was tough. I groaned at the infinite uphill, and my knees
groaned at the major downhill. The second peak was switchbacked, so not
quite the effort of the first one. A waterfall burbled under a high trail
bridge between the two peaks; delicate pale pink trillium nodded their
heads in the cool spray. Gail picked up a few green rocks. In this part of
PA, green = moss, but they didn’t have a coating. Perhaps we’ll figure them
out some day. Gail dared to peer over the side of an rocky outcrop along
the trail; I just used the Kodak to capture the great view. It was drippy
and drizzly but who cared!

After the peaks, the trail settled down to follow the river and parallel
the railroad tracks. It was wide enough to have been a former carriage
road. Water flowed freely across the trail in places. We stopped in
amazement at a brilliant red and black bird in the trees -- it wasn’t a
cardinal, it looked like a tropical finch. I tried to get a good picture.
Then we noticed a pair - two pair - of the same type of bird! Wish I had a
birding manual on hand, I’ll have to look them up on the next trip to the
bookstore. Gail took off at high speed down the trail; I figured with my
sneaking up on the birds, I’d finally gotten her ticked off at my turtle’s
pace. But I love to look at everything. So I walked solo for the next mile,
peering at mosses and finding more fossil imprints in the boulders in the
trail. Found another fossilized log but decided one in my pack was enough.

Gail popped out from a natural cave under a huge boulder. We soon found
mile marker 1, but someone had destroyed it. It lay in pieces on the trail.
Bummer! Within a half mile, the blue blaze for the parking lot where my car
had been for days. She decided to head into town; I had no choice but to
tackle the blue blaze. Good thing we split up, since I swore almost the
entire struggle up the mountainside. Bad enough that we had to drive up
that horrid rocky road to the trailhead; now, I had to climb a steep,
non-switchbacked trail up a rocky gully barely two feet wide to get to the
car. I was steamed. The vulture circling overhead was the final touch. It
was at least a half-mile up that nasty little trail, and in the last few
hundred feet (when it got level) I almost ran to the car. Done! But what an
ending. If I’d known I could have parked the car in town, I would have.

Sure enough, it took Gail minutes to get into town, all flat terrain. She
was sitting outside the Falls Inn when I pulled up. Few cars around. We had
lunch at the Inn again, and then headed back to Donegal to get her car;
pigged out on ice cream sundaes at the DQ, my typical end to every LHHT hike. 

+Evernew Titanium pot cleans up great, no matter what you cook in it! I had
chili, oatmeal, grits, Liptons -- no problem. Helped when I could wipe it
out, but it wiped clean. 
+20 degree sleeping bag not warm enough for PA mountains this time of year.
I sleep cold and it was still too cold if air temp under 40 F. I’ll have to
get a 0 F bag too. Pity I’m allergic to down. And I can’t sleep like a
mummy -- will need a rectangular or semi-r bag for cold nights, since I had
my arms out of the mummy almost every night. 
+love my dehydrated/rehydrated food! Beats Liptons all out.
+learned from the kids book: when the birds stop singing, a storm is going
to hit....if you see hemlocks, water is near. Both turned out to be true!
+gotta get better rain gear. Campmor, here I come (after I work a few days
to pay for it)...

Gail was a great hiking companion, tolerant of my slow pace and need for a
comforting/warming fire almost every night in our chilly weather. I really
appreciated her coming up here to hike with me.

Looking forward to the next hike...
GA->ME 1999	<downs@nb.net>	Visit Cyberwall! http://www.nb.net/~downs
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