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I managed to get out on another one of my week long solo trips towards the latter half of July. It was quite an interesting trip to say the least(weather/gear issues.)
So without getting into a long drawn out intro let's just get into the tr.
The first thing about this trip that was somewhat odd was my wife's desire to spend the first night with me on the trail. My wife is more of a car camper. She likes the outdoors but due to a serious asthma issue her ability to cover ground is somewhat limited.
I carried the gear but I didn't want to leave her out so I hooked her up with the Stratos, (she carried her sleeping bag,) and a blue Solo cup.
The weather was overcast and very humid. Granted I personally didn't feel it was necessarily far for us to get to the shelter area(Rt31) but I also had to take into account the fact that she has a serious asthma issue so we did have to stop a few times in order for her to catch her breath. The elevated humidity levels were causing her breathing issues and it was absolutely unnecessary to make any real push to get to where we needed to go.
So we arrived at the shelter area, get situated, and spent the evening freeing our minds of the hustle & bustle of our lives that we had left behind us in Pittsburgh.
It was really nice to get her away from everything. We spent the evening just talking about various things. She didn't enjoy the trip in at all but from the interaction I had with her I did get the impression that there were a few "bright" moments for her.
She still made it "verbally known" that she definitely liked the car camping scene better.
I never fault any of the different camping or hiking styles. The big thing to me is the fact that ya just get just out there and take the time to enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer regardless of your approach.
Anywho, the next day we woke up to mass quantities of sunshine.
I made us a bit of breakfast, we(I) packed up everything, and we made our way back to the parking area.
As we are making our way out my wife looked down and asked "what is that?"
Well no more than 2 minutes away from our shelter area I encounter the largest pile of black bear poo I had ever seen. It wasn't there on the way in the night before so I suppose throughout the course of the evening we had a visitor in the area.
I responded with " a bear must have had too many gas station bean burritos." She just shook her head and we kept plodding along.
I eventually got her back to the parking area, we said our good byes, and off she went her way and I went my way.
As I ventured back into the "land o' trees" from the parking area I was greeted by a familiar friend.
We caught up on what all has been going on since our last encounter and then headed off on our separate ways.
The previous evening my wife and I had primarily relied on the water I packed in(a bottle & my bladder) so I thought it would be a good idea to replenish the stockpile when the opportunity presented itself.
On my trip last summer I ran into an 11 mile span where there was absolutely no water available whatsoever. So with that in mind I thought it was much wiser to top off while I had the chance.
Although there may very well be a stream shown on the map it doesn't guarantee that it will be there when ya come to it.
The weather was very nice. Sunny, not too hot, and the humidity levels were quite low.
Little did I know that Mother Nature had quite a few tricks up her sleeve in store for me as the trip progressed.
As I was plodding along I ran into another familiar friend on the trail who was hiking his own hike.
Not everything is green on the LHHT.
As I traveled along my way I approached one of the many stream crossings along the trail. I kinda wondered to myself what it was like to run across one of these in an Ultra. These crossings are quite slippery when a little water is added. Believe it or not I actually find them slipperier when wet during the warmer seasons than in the winter.
I then made my way to the newly reconstructed LHHT turnpike crossing bridge. There was a bridge here prior to this but it was in pretty bad shape and deemed unusable.
The DCNR did provide a detour that added 8.3 miles to the trip(although I made my own detours at various times(some of which provided an awesome photo opp for drivers tavelling the turnpike.)
As I made my way to the midway point of the trail I figured I would take a minute to stop and sign the trail log book.
I looked for a finger to pull(as instructed) but there were none available so I left a message in regards to my unrelenting desire for mayonnaise as well as a Trailspace sticker in the log. :)
I then made my way to my destination and set camp for the night.
At this time I ran into a few folks that I have had interaction with on the LHHT Facebook page that were camped in the area. They were getting a fire together and invited me over to hang out and chat.
They were really great, friendly folks.
It was a very nice relaxing evening mixed in with a bit of laughter and good conversation.
As the night progressed I gradually began to feel my eyelids getting heavy so I called it a night and made my way back to my little chunk of ground I was calling home for the evening.
The next morning I woke to thunder and rain.
I decided to hold tight and see what the weather did.
I wasn't in a real big rush.
I did kinda wonder how the others were holding up in their hammocks. They did have a 2 shelters very close by so if they needed to bail for any reason it shouldn't have been much of a problem.
After about an hour or so the rain subsided and I climbed out of my green cocoon.
I then got all of my gear together, loaded "Big Blue," and meandered my way back to the trail.
The gentlemen that I was hanging out with the prior evening were behind me. I hiked with them for a few. The sky looked as though it was threatening to once again open up and provide a shower so I as well as the others stopped at an access road crossing to dawn the wet weather gear, pack covers, so on and so forth.
Needless to say for the most part all the sky did was threaten. We could hear thunder in the distance but it seemed to just stay where it was...
In the distance.
After hiking with them for a little while I slowed down my pace a bit and fell back taking pictures of everything and anything that I found interesting.
I stumbled upon this Turk's Cap Lily and had to snag up a photo. I don't see many on the trail and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to take the flower home with me while still leaving it where it was.
I snapped a few photos of the flowers and then proceeded along my merry way.
Shortly after I stumbled onto a blackberry patch. The berries were actually ripe so I decided to have myself a snack. It was at this point I accepted the fact that I was not going to encounter the others again on this trip.
So I decided to keep the snails pace I had going and just absorb as much of the area around me as I could.
You know, that "hike your own hike" thing.
As I traveled the sky seemed as though it had it's own agenda...
It seemed as though everywhere around me was raining except for where I was. Go figure.
As time went on I slowly made my way to Seven Springs Ski Resort. It was also at this time the sky decided to open up. So with that I had a choice.
Keep traveling in the rain or duck for cover and head to the resort for a snack....
Well my stomach overpowered all thought processing at this point and time.
Now before ya ask...
Yes I ate the whole thing myself and sucked down some kind of blue flavored Mountain Dew(picture cookie monster during a feeding frenzy.)
I am personally surprised I didn't eat the box as well.
All of that cheese, grease, and sugar was quite a shock to my system...
...and I didn't regret it for 1 stinking minute. :p
Around the time I finished digesting "all of which that clogs arteries" the rain subsided.
So when my stomach finally stopped making odd noises(think creaking noise of an old pirate ship) I once again donned Big Blue, grabbed my poles, and continued on my way.
It was at this time that I noticed something odd with my poles. I couldn't collapse them. I could turn the shafts but they wouldn't unlock.
Oh well, what could I do? At least they were bound up in the opened position which meant I could still use them.
(For more on that situation please see the update to my review here.)
Seven Springs is very quiet this time of year.
So I passed through the ski resort area, and made my way around the large pond at the top of the ridge. I eventually made my way to one of my favorite watering holes on the trail(for obvious reasons, read the sign.)
So I performed the grueling task of filling my bladder and bottle directly from the water source. This was such a cantankerous task.
(I find it much simpler to just pull out the old filter.... Okay, nevermind, no I don't. This is about as easy as it gets.)
So I topped off all of my water levels and continued plodding along on my way.
I once again came across another brightly colored growth along the trail.
Shortly after that I came to one of the many rock staircases on the trail. These are alot of fun in the winter.
It was at this time I once again encountered a friend that I had earlier conversations with on the trail.
I swear this lil guy is related to Usain Bolt. Regardless of how slow he seems to move when I see him he always manages to overtake me when I am not paying attention.
He is a sneaky lil guy. :)
As I continued on my way I made it to my next destination, Grindle Ridge.
I got there fairly early in the day and had dinner. Shortly afterwards I hung my "raccoon & rodent bag."
I then set camp for the evening and spent the remainder of the day being lazy and listening to all that was going on around me.
Well as the night progressed my songs of nature were interrupted by a cover band that had an unrelenting desire to sing Hootie and the Blowfish songs... badly.
I was fairly close to the sporting range and they must have had some type of shindig going on.
Needless to say the "music" was force fed down my gullet well into the evening/morning hours.
The next morning I was woken to the familiar sound of gunfire.
Ahhhh, things are back to normal.
I still couldn't get those blasted Hootie songs out of my head though.
Anywho, I fed my face, retrieved my bear bag, packed up, and got on my way.
As I was travelling I came to a familiar area that consisted of many rock slots.
As always Big Blue attempted to take advantage of the opportunity and convinced me that this was a really good spot to take a break.
After a bit of r & r I got back to covering small chunks of ground at a snails pace. It didn't take me very long to find another on trail snack.
After another "feeding" I made my way towards rt653. If you look to your immediate left(sobo,) you will see the Dietz Cemetery.
Many of the markers in this cemetery are early 1800s(some maybe older, I never really looked.)
Shortly after you cross rt653(around a mile give or take) I came to the rt653 shelter area.
I once again made camp.
After I made camp I went through the ritual of feeding my face and then hanging my bear bag for the evening.
Now on this trip I was hammering on Hilleberg's new 3 season offering the Anjan 2 for review here at Trailspace.
This was also around the time that I realized I would be resorting to shelters for the remainder of my trip due to incoming storms.
(For more info on that check out the review/click on the blue wording above, I linked the review to it.)
Needless to say it pretty much stormed(rain, lightning, & wind) throughout the course of the entire evening off and on.
So I made it through the evening(somewhat damp) and woke up to clear skies the next morning. As I typically do I decided to explore the area for hidden treasures.
Immediately I noticed that prior to my arrival there was heavy machinery present in the area. There were tire tracks all over the place.
The next thing I noticed there were quite a few trees missing. My initial thought was that they were making room for more tents but after I gave that a bit of thought I kinda nixed that idea because I don't know many that would want to set camp so close to the men's & women's facilities.
Maybe it was an issue with invasive beetles, maybe the trees got hammered by a storm.... I dunno.
Nevertheless it looked like crap to me and really had a negative impact on the area.
I just shook my head and went about my business exploring.
I then headed over to shelter no.5 which I had reserved for the evening and had a seat. The entrance of the shelter faces in the opposite direction of the timbered out area that got my blood boiling so the view was much easier on the ol' eyes.
As I sat there I noticed in one of the stones that make up the chimney that there was a rather large fossil in the stone itself.
So after I studied this fossil for a bit, explored a little more, I packed Big Blue up, and get on my way.
As I was travelling along I noticed this insect which reminded me of the stinkbugs we have in Pittsburgh with an added colorful twist.
Eventually I came upon the "lake in the woods" as I like to refer to it.
I saw quite a few fish in this body of water as well as a plethora of other aquatic wildlife(frogs, turtles, etc.)
Oh.... I also found more blackberries(chomp chomp chomp.)
After yet another "feeding" I proceeded along my way and stumbled upon this old, iron spike.
So I traveled further along down the ol' trail. After an hour or so the weather decided to take a real nasty nose dive(remember I mentioned those storms that were expected earlier?)
...well they came.
The wind picked up dramatically. The sky was also becoming quite "dark."
To make things more interesting I was approaching mile marker 9. Mile marker 9 is the last "uphill(sobo") mile marker that approaches the top of the ridge before Ohiopyle shelters.
It was at this time that all hell broke loose.
I got caught on the top of the ridge by 3 consecutive(5 minutes apart) storms.
(lets shed a little light on the subject(flash)
I have to say that in all the trips I have done up here this was the worst weather I have ever encountered during the warmer seasons.
It wasn't so much the high winds and the rain but more the "cluster lightning" that was hitting the ridge everywhere around me.
Honestly there were times when I was very worried about my own personal safety and well being.
I actually sought refuge under a very large boulder that not only blocked the rain but also kept the wind at bay.
It made absolutely no sense for me to travel in these conditions. Actually it would have been plain and simply put...
I was not only in the worst possible place I could be at on the trail in regards to elevation but I was also fairly exposed. The rain was coming down sideways and at times the gust were strong enough for me to be blown around a bit. The lightning was insane.
So here I am trudging in these conditions with 2 lightning rods in my hands...
Ever seen Caddyshack?
It was most certainly WAY more sensible to duck for cover.
After a few hours of being hammered by the weather everything began to calm down.
It was at this time I decided to proceed along my way to the Ohiopyle shelters. The trail was a mess. The runoff from the storm turned the trail into a stream. I actually had to use my gaiters because the water was flowing at a high enough rate that if I didn't use them the water would most certainly would have made it's way into my boots through the tops of my beloved Scarpas.
There were trees down all over the place. Rather large trees at that.
To make this even more fun the area that I was descending(nicknamed Heart Attack) was the longest, rockiest(alot of loose stuff,) declining gradient on the trail.
Here is what it looks like on a map:
I have on more than one occasion done this trail nobo with a heavy pack. As you can see on the map the southern end of the trail is quite "hilly."
Well, after going down the largest hill on the trail after one hell of a storm I have to say that I do not view starting out with a fully loaded pack in fair weather to be all that bad anymore. ;)
After getting my head pounded in by the storms, making my way down a big old hill(scree field,) while wading a stream the whole way, I finally made my way to the Ohiopyle shelters.
As soon as I got there I stripped down of everything, dried off, put on some dry clothes, and regathered my senses.
...I'm hungry(yeah yeah, I know, what else is new.?)
I then hung my gear in various areas of the shelter to dry.
I didn't have a ton of wet gear(what I needed to stay dry did(my sleeping bag, clothes, etc.)
I then called it a night and got some much needed sleep.
The next(and last) day I woke up to sunshine.
I wiped the boogies from my eyes and did what I had to do to make myself once again mobile(massive amounts of coffee.)
My gear and clothing was pretty much dry.
I couldn't start a fire the night before because everything was just way too wet and I was way too lazy to put a substantial amount of effort into anything other than getting dry & feeding my face.
So I decided to let the air do the work. Luckily it worked out well.
As I was staggering around the area I made a new friend on the trail named Simon.
Simon was somewhat an interesting fellow. One moment he was very pleasant but with the flick of a switch he would ridicule me and tell me how much of a fool I was for being on the ridge during the storms the previous day.
I know he meant well but I couldn't help but think that Simon had some kind of underlying mental issue that was in dire need of being addressed.
Then again he thought the same of me.
Oh well, who was I to judge?
Simon and I then parted ways. I gathered my gear, packed up, and then headed on out for the last leg(6.5 miles) of my journey.
There were alot of ascents and descents but the last day was pretty much uneventful for the most part.
The trail was a complete mess. There were downed trees the whole way out, some I went under, others I went over... There were even some that I had to go around.
The storm from the previous day definitely made a substantial impact.
As I made my way down the ridge to my destination I could see that the Youghiogheny River was quite muddy from the storms that rolled through.
I snagged this pic of the river below Sugarloaf Mountain.
As I made my way further down the trail the dark clouds parted and the sun came out.
I figured I had a shot of the mountain above with clouds so why not end the trip on a happy note with a bit of sunshine?
I then continued along my way to the end of the trail.
Overall, it was an "interesting" trip to say the least. No matter how many times I am on this trail the experiences are always different.
I can definitely say that in this regard I was most certainly not let down on this journey...
With that being said.
I think it is time that I go after something that has been on my list for quite sometime(years.) I am not gonna let the cat out of the bag quite yet as to what I am going to do but I will as I get closer to my departure.
Ya only live once. Make it count right?
Anywho, I hope ya enjoyed the tr.
Happy hiking everyone.