It has been to long since I had ventured out into the wild, so it was
the end of July and my Father planned out a trip to Pennsylvania to
tackle a section of the North Country Trail.
The North Country National Scenic Trail is a premier footpath that stretches for about 4,600 miles linking communities, forests, and prairies across seven northern states. It is basically the same thing as the Appalachian Trail (AT) except this one crosses the US Horizontally as opposed to Vertically like the AT.
For More information:
My Father and I drove over from Detroit on Thursday afternoon and set up camp at Willow Bay in the Allegheny National Forest.
My Brother Arrived from Philadelphia a few hours later. After we put up the tents and organized supplies, we headed into Bradford for a good meal before it was noodles and trail mix until Sunday. After dinner we dropped my brother's car 30 miles down the trail so we could use it get back to base camp at the end of the hike.
The next morning we were up at 8am and hit the trail by 9:30. Below is a link to a map a created of the proposed trip.
These are some shots of us at the trail head. One is a shot of my dad recording our journey in a log. A sort of Guest Book for trail hikers.
The trail is pretty primitive, not much wider than a foot, and lots of stumbling over rocks and creeks. Fortunately the trial has blue markers every 100 ft, otherwise I would probably still be lost hiking somewhere along the East coast. That is not true, I would probably have given up hope and sat by a lake trying to flag down a passing passenger plane with my hand mirror.
We did not see too many animals along the trail; a few deer, lots of toads, some large fish which I show below, but the highlight was this creature my brother spotted about 5 minutes into the hike. It is a red-spotted Newt (I had to look it up). I was sure it was some exotic salamander from a rain forest from South America, but I guess pretty common here as you can see by this link
Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens
Once I saw on the map that a Reservoir was 2 miles ahead, I tried to put as much time between myself and the the other 2 so that I could strip down and enjoy a long swim. I made it to the water and as if straight out of some Sahara Desert movie, I stumbled down to the water, shedding clothes as a walked collapsing into the crystal blue water. I think the weekenders lying on their rafts listening to the radio were a bit scared off, but that was of little concern.
I played a little catch-up after the swim and caught up with the group
in time for lunch. We broke camp that night near a lake, and were
fortunate enough to find a spot away from the bugs along a running
stream. There were fast-flowing streams every 20 minutes or so along
the trail so fresh water for drinking and cooking was never an issue. I
used my potable water tablets the first few times, but gave up as the
stream water tasted 10 times better without (I will let you know if I fall deathly ill by Wednesday). I figured as long as I
stood clear of standing pools of water we would be ok.
After cooking dinner, I crashed at about 7pm as I was exhausted. I also
failed to mention that I weighed my pack at 57 lbs before we
left...always prepared, wasn't that the boyscout motto, well I had
everything you could think of. If we ran into anything from a black
bear to an overzealous life insurance salesman, I had something in my
pack to rectify the situation.
In the morning my shoulders were killin' me. My father was also beat as the trail was very technical with a fair amount of elevation changes. He did not think he could go on, so he hitchhiked back to base camp, while my brother and I were to finish the route.
We did 12 miles the first day and had about 10 miles to get to Saturday nights campsite. We made a pretty good pass and mad the campsite by 1pm. This site was a nice spot along a lake. I repeated the same theatrics as yesterday, stripping down and soaking my body for 30 minutes or so.
We took a look at the map and decided to make a push for the summit (the car) that day. This would mean 17 miles total for the day. I was not too sure as my shoulders were ready to fall off.
My brother showed me a pretty neat trick. You know that waist belt on your packs, well if not only buckle it but actually tighten it, it takes most the wait off the shoulders and places them on the hip. I am pretty quick on the uptake right. Well after that little nugget of knowledge, I felt like a new man.
We checked the map and figured we could cut 2 miles off the trip if we hiked up this hill, picked up a forest road and rejoined the trail. I was a little apprehensive because the trail we were on was so primitive that we lost in 3 or 4 times while we were actually following it, so deviated from it, hoping to rejoin it, I thought would be virtually impossible. But the thought of shaving 2 miles was too good to pass up.
Well, I think we know how this one is going to end up. We took the short cut and the map showed we hadto cross a stream, which if was like all the rest, was no problem...well it wasn't. We got across one section on a fallen tree, but the final stretch we had to wade through. Off course being two city idiots, we did not take our boots off to keep dry and just pressed on. Well the last 4 hours of the trip were spent with fishtanks in our boots, and if you know anything about blisters, this is not good (I did not know anything about blisters at this point).
We came to a old Fire Road and ran across some teenagers in a car looking for the beach. We had no clue where to send them, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, "Get in the car, get in th car and make them take you to the end of the trail."
Well, we didn't and I was glad I overcame that moment of weakness. We
actually reestablished the trail and hiked the rest of the way, bitching and crying all along...oh to be outside enjoying the outdoors. We Came out onto the main road around 5pm. We still had 2 miles of highway to
walk to get back to the car.
As fate would have it, a pickup pulled up right as we set our packs down and asked if they could drop us off. You gotta love small towns as this sure would not happen in Detroit. They drove us to the car, I thanked them 100 times and took a picture of them and had them take a picture of my brother and I outside the trading post.
We went inside the trading post and ordered ice cream from the girl
behind the counter. She said, "You ain't from around her are ya?" I
said no, and told her we came from Detroit to hike the North Country
Trail. She looked looked at us and said "Why would you come here and
why would you want to do that." At our current mental and physical
state, we looked at each other and had no rational answer.
We headed back to the campsite to meet my dad and broke camp and scooted home to rest on Sunday in our own beds. I spent Sunday morning at the drug store buying $30 worth of foot creams and oitments with hopes that I can walk by Monday becuase the blisters across the bottom of my feet are making we walk like someone who just rode bareback on Trigger for 4 days across the open range.
Until Next Time