Thursday, July 10, 2014

Appalachian Trail - Wind Gap to Wolf Rocks

Yesterday was officially the day I kissed my 20's goodbye - my 30th birthday.  Yikes!  I had a planned vacation day from work, so despite being in recovery mode from that awful sinus infection, I was determined to do one of my favorite things in the whole world - hike on the Appalachian Trail.  This is the third year in a row that I have done an AT hike on my birthday, and I saw no reason to break tradition!

I started in on Section 1 of PA ("Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap".) and I had been putting it off for a little while.  I had considered buying myself a shuttle for my birthday, so that I could leave my car at DWG, be dropped off at Wind Gap, and hike the 15.8 miles back to my car.  Still, that is a lot of miles and shuttles are an expensive thing to pre-plan when you are dealing with something as fickle as mother nature.  My other option was a bit frustrating - start at Wind Gap and hike out to....the nearest good landmark for a turnaround point was "Wolf Rocks" and it was 7 miles out.   That is...a 14 mile round trip.  Also a long day.  And then there was the 500ft elevation gain in a mile.... Oh just get out there and hike!  So, I did.

I took only Perri with me.  There were zero for water sources along this stretch, and that means carrying enough water for whatever dogs are along and myself.  Carrying water for two dogs on a hot July day is...heavy.  And Molly is a wrecking ball over the boulder fields and has to be kept leashed and she was still tired from the big trial so, Perri.   Sheesh, even more thinking - get out and hike!

We parked at the Wind Gap trailhead and it is truly thru hiker season on the PA AT.  We saw someone being dropped off after a visit to town.  The trail wasted no time going straight UP and I attacked it - I knew that the rest of the trail leveled off on top of the mountain so I wanted to get it over with.  My lessened hiking schedule was very apparent though, I am glad I have started walking in the mornings or I may never have made it with my less conditioned body and snot lined sinuses!

Up and up , then even more up on some narrow and steep switchbacks and then...the blessed level off.  It was a nice break and time to catch my breath!  I let Perri off her leash almost immediately.  Perri is a very insecure dog while hiking, but you would never know it as long as Molly or Ein is along.  Today, with neither dog to boost her confidence she was spooking at nearly everything and walked the first two miles at a careful half crouch.  It is completely heartbreaking to me.

Not so heartbreaking that I didn't take a photo of her running for her life around a small blown down tree (the tree did not blow down while we were walking.  It was just there.  Being all abnormal.  And scary.)

For some reason I did not imagine that we would have much tree cover.  But we did, and it made being out on a mid-80's July day reasonably comfortable.  So grateful!

We saw ferns!

We stopped off at a little hiker-made fire circle / tent area for some early lunch and water break.  Perri really perked up after that and started acting like a "normal dog".  She was even willing to greet some thru-hikers, in particular a female hiker named "Slim" who praised her beauty, manners and trim condition endlessly and also sang "Happy Birthday!" to me.  (I had told her that I took a vacation day from work to hike the AT - a decision that made perfect sense to her!)

I got all artistic...

We saw one of those old AT markers...

Things got even rockier...

There were lots of mushrooms!

And even more rocks!

We got to Wolf Rocks and it was...underwhelming.  To the point that I am not even sure if it was the real Wolf Rocks...  The summer growth obscured any view that may have been worth seeing, though the AT guidebook billed it as an "impressive view."  Perhaps I did not hike far enough?  

I pinned my location on my phone's GPS, and it looked to be the same point for Wolf Rocks in comparison with my paper AT map.  Hmmmm.  The mystery will be resolved the next time I hit the AT - I will be starting at either Fox Gap or Tott's Gap and meeting this same point.  Wolf Rocks or Faux Wolf Rocks, we will find out!  

Regardless - it was a loooooong hike.  I was completely exhausted and truth be told, cursing every rock and every mile more that I had to return back to my car.   I knew going in that it would be "too much" after being sick, but I needed to do it.  An exhausting day on the AT is more uplifting than a sedentary one elsewhere.  I am sore and happy and so very glad that I Got Out.  

And Perri got to pose with a hat on - what a lucky dog!

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