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Every now and then I get an idea that pops into my head and I just go "why not?"
My most recent "epic" idea was to do a circuit of the LHHT. I figured this would also give me a good chance to finalize hammering on a pack I am testing for the Trailspace Review Corps being I was doing this trip w/o a resupply.
This would definitely push the parameters of what the pack was designed for in regards to load and weight.
So if there was a point that I could get this pack to grenade on me this trip would make it happen.
So I got my trip dialed in, loaded up my pack with 87lbs(+water)and headed out on the 26th of June on a 140 mile+ SoBo to NoBo circuit on my all to familiar stomping grounds-the LHHT.
I expected rain but what I didn't expect was the North East's version of monsoon season...
I make my way to the northern terminus of the trail in Seward Pa.(mm70.)
As I make my way up the 1000ft ascent to the top of the ridge I realized something.
My pack is heavy...
Another thing I realized was the humidity was through the roof.
Oh well, it's part of the experience right?
Anywho, I made my way to the powerlines and was hopping around the various rocks trying to snag a photo of a rattlesnake but due to the overcast skies sunning snakes or even seeing any for that matter was not going to happen(although I did manage to accidentally find a nest of ground bees.)
(Notice the pack cover is already out.)
I stood up there for a bit avoiding the bees(they weren't happy) and after a short time I started to hear thunder.
Little did I know that thunder, lightening, and rain by the buckets full was going to be the norm for this trip.
So as I am making my way to the Rt56(Decker Ave) shelter area I am doing my typical "look at every little thing I come across" and I realized that there were quite a few Gypsy Moth caterpillars on the trees.
These lil guys caused a tremendous amount of damage here some years back. I definitely do not like seeing them on trail that is for sure.
After I tell the caterpillars just how I feel about them(yes I talk to insects, they have ears right?) I proceed along my way.
As I travel I come across many lil critters.
(many Red Spotted Newts)
The Newts were everywhere. It was quite moist out and I actually had to watch so I didn't step on them.
As I got closer to the top of the ridge I came across my first view of the Conemaugh & Johnstown.
As I traveled I came across my opportunity for a fresh slug of water courtesy of Mother Nature.
Due to the fact that I was fully loaded with water I passed on this pristine source of water. I know the dead decaying bugs and vegetation floating in this stagnant pool of sludge would have offered quite a memorable kick to the ol' taste buds but regretfully so I passed.
I eventually made my way to the Rt56(Decker Ave) shelter area. I dump the ol' pack, it's contents, and get my sleeping situation arranged.
Seems as though the leafhoppers really like the backpanel & hipbelt on this pack.
As I am sitting there eating my meal for the evening I had the feeling that I was being watched.
I was, by more than one set of eyes.
I thought about it for a few and figured if I didn't bother them they wouldn't bother me.
My logic held true throughout the evening.
I managed to wake up fairly early, to rain.
I packed up all of my gear and hit the trail.
Yep, it's a wet one.
The rain was coming down so hard that it turned the trail into a miniature version of class IV rapids with white caps included.
As I swam down the trail I made my way to one of the vista shots along the trail and realized something.
I wasn't going to see much due to the cloud cover.
Oh well. What can ya do? Can't control Mother Nature right?
No sooner than I got the pack off the sky opened up again. This is beginning to seem like some kind of sadistic game.
...a game in which I am obviously losing. :p
The rain I encountered on this day was a relentless downpour that had no agenda other than making me miserable.
So far it was working.
As I made my way to the Rt271 shelter area I found I was having a discussion with myself and the topic of discussion was whether or not I was a duck.
I really didn't take many pics in the deluge I was experiencing and my primary focus was getting to the shelter area.
Eventually I made my way to the shelter and went through the usual steps of dumping the pack, the gear, blah blah blah.
As night fell I was greeted by Mr. Toad.
After having a brief chat Mr. Toad went along his way to conquer more obstacles and I found my eyes getting heavy.
Around 3am I heard a rustling in the shelter. So I grab my headlamp and hit the source of the commotion with 205 lumens.
Hello Mr. Raccoon.
I didn't have my cam close to me so no pic but he sure was a plump critter. No meals passed up that was for sure.
As I had my light on him I could faintly hear him singing "Blinded by the Light" by Manfred Mann.
...which was then followed by quite a few 4 letter words among other derogatory statements.
Mr. Raccoon was not happy. :p
Sorry Mr. Raccoon. :/
So I wake up Friday morning to a cloudy sky but no rain. There was also a nice warm breeze blowing so I jumped on the opportunity to dry out the boots a bit more.
After I ate I decided to take a photo of the shelter area for no apparent reason.
After a lil bit of lounging around and being lazy I decided it was about time to get moving so off I go. As I made my way to one of the numerous rock slots on the trail I noticed something odd.
The rain quickly returned but it wasn't one the soakers that I was use too. It was more like a heavy non-stop drizzle.
Oh well. At least I am getting somewhat use to it.
Maybe I am a duck.
Anyways, as I am plodding along I make my way through one of the numerous areas that are completely covered in ferns.
...or what I refer to as the Jurassic Park season on the LHHT.
I have to say I love the lush green vegetation out this way but on the flipside it can be a real pain in the rear end when wearing shorts and it is wet.
Gaiters are a must unless you want to get very wet and feel like taking your footwear off regularly to dump fern debris out of them.
As I keep plodding along the rain once again is playing games with me. It stops and the sun comes out.
With the sun comes new critters to greet me as I am on my travels.
Well hello down there.
This was the most sun I have seen in since I arrived and like McDonalds I'm lovin it.
Well the sun doesn't last long and here comes the clouds again accompanied by thunder in the distance.
I eventually made my way to an access road and I noticed something that I found somewhat odd. On one side of the road the vegetation is lush and green.
The other side?
It looks like I am travelling through seasons(Spring to Fall.)
(where I was)
(where I am heading)
Well, there is a reason for this phenomenon.
As I kept plodding along in what I referred to as "the dead zone" I was doing my usual looking at everything and anything I came across and I noticed something that caught my eye.
Looks like Mr. Bear was in the area looking for a snack.
So after looking at the this log for a bit I continued along my way until I made it to the Rt30 shelter area.
When I arrived I was greeted by a surprise in the shelter I had reserved(Thanks Tanner.)
Not having to pump and filter water was quite nice. I didn't finish the whole jug(it was unopened/full) and I passed it along to the next person that would come across it.
Nothing extraordinary this evening. Just another night in a shelter.
Now some of you be wondering why I used the shelters on this trip because normally I do not.
I did have a tent with me which I was using for an update to a review. The last time I had it out it did not fair very well at all in regards to wet weather protection.
I was getting hammered on this trip with a substantial amount of rain.
Honestly, I was reluctant to use the tent in these conditions not to mention I was just plain lazy.
By the time I arrived at the shelters all I wanted to do was just relax and did not feel like fiddling with a tent that may not keep me dry.
...I will touch a little more on that later in the report but I did eventually use the tent in the rain.
Anywho, back to the tr.
Saturday I woke up to a surprise. A mass quantity of sunshine.
This gave me an opportunity to use the sun to try and get my dead phone up to snuff and charge the batteries for my headlamp.
Plus it gave me a chance to once again dry out my boots a bit better as well as socks, so on and so forth.
As I was meandering around the area Mr. Toad once again stopped by to say hello.
I suppose he was happy for a lil sun as well.
After eating, etc I got on my way.
I have been noticing these benches along the trail. It is kinda nice having somewhere flat to sit down and take a break while on my travels. They probably offer spectators of the ultra a good place to sit and watch the race as well.
I continued along my way taking full advantage of the sun and attached my solar panel to the outside of my pack.
I then cross Rt30 and had a choice to make. Do I go up the road to grab a cold one and a burger @ Walat's or do I continue along my merry way?
I figured I would be crossing this road once again on the rebound a few days down the road so maybe I would just stop then.
Along my travels I make my way towards Spruce Run.
Ahhhh, the sandy beaches of Spruce Run. ;)
Fighting the urge to pull out my Sea to Summit Tech Towel and have a relaxing afternoon at the beach I reluctantly continue along my way.
Finally a vista shot where I can actually see something other than clouds. Woo-hoo !!!
...oh wait. There are clouds. Oh well. Beggars can't be choosers right?
After a bit of travelling I made my way to Beam Rock. To get to the top of the rocks one has to take a side trail(blazed red) which takes you to the top of the over-look.
At this time I figured it was just as good a time as any to pull out the stove and feed my face.
Fatty gets hungry on trail... A lot.
So I go through the ritual of feeding my face as I sit and absorb the surroundings a bit. Eventually I get on my way.
As I am travelling on trail my eye catches a DCNR notification posted on a tree not far from the Turnpike shelter area.
Okay, great. There is machinery in the area. It happens.
What I failed to realize is that not only is these machines large, but they also create devastation in their wake due to their weight.
Combine this with the record rainfall and this is the result.
Well at least they were kind enough to provide a somewhat easier way to cross this mess although it was only for a small portion of the area that was wrecked and quite slippery.
There was really not much of a way to keep from getting very muddy in this section of the trail where this "salvage harvest" was being performed.
It was quite the mess.
Shortly after I traverse the sludge I make home for the evening at the Turnpike shelter area.
Now there are some out there that think I am nuts for carrying a Gerber Camp Axe with me on trail. Yes it does add a bit of weight to my pack(around 2lbs) but it is also a great tool to have when one encounters deadfall trees that are blocking the trail.
Granted it won't take care of a tree that one cannot wrap their arms around but it does work well on the smaller stuff with a lil arm work.
Ya know what the other benefit of having one on the trail is?
When one has wet gear, and wet fire wood an axe to me is a must. I will definitely take the added weight of the axe and a warm fire over not having an axe and no fire any day.
As always there was a plethora of bugs in the area.
This shelter area was pretty packed up for the most part. All 5 shelters were reserved. There were a group of Scouts about 200yds above me. Needless to say they were extremely loud well into the evening hours.
A Ranger actually showed up at around 11pm and had to tell them to keep it down because there were others that were trying to sleep.
Oh well, what can ya do. Kids will be kids.
Other than what sounded like a keg party going on above me the night was for the most part quiet and uneventful.
I woke up a lil late this morning. Maybe because I just wanted to sleep in a bit, maybe for other reasons but I ended up back on trail around 1pm. :p
Either way I broke camp and continued along my travels.
Not too long after I left the shelter area I made my way to the Pa Turnpike bridge.
After I traveled a bit further south of the bridge I came to a rocky break in the trees.
Oooh, chance to find some snakes.
...nope, no snakes. :(
Oh well, back on my travels.
I made it to the midway point on the trail.
...if this were a standard thru-hike yes. For me?
Not so much.
On a bright note the pack is getting smaller.
2.5 miles later I reach the Rt31 shelter area, eat, and check my eyelids for holes.
Wake up, eat, pack, blah blah blah
So I am strolling down the trail minding my own business and then out of nowhere I hear a rustling in the brush.
I jump back and what emerges from the foliage?
RUN, IT'S THE TRAILSPACE HAIR MONSTER !!!!!
But who should come to my aid to save me from the clutches of The Trailspace Hair Monster?
After an epic battle between The Trailspace Hair Monster and Simon the Amazing Snail the Hair Monster succumbs to Simon's onslaught of unrelenting "Ninja Snail Skills" and runs off into the brush.
I graciously thank Simon for saving my life and he says "no problem idiot" then goes off on his way.
Simon is such a swell lil snail. I am so lucky to have such a friend.
So after my traumatic experience I made my way up the ridge across from Seven Springs Ski Resort.
(more clouds and rain)
Go figure. Up until this point I have been dumped on at some point and time everyday. No reason for it to change now right?
On a bright note at least there is no lack of water on trail.
I then descend down the ridge, cross County Line Rd, and then back up the next ridge through Seven Springs.
(clouds are the norm)
I eventually made my way to the highest point on the trail.
After on and off rain I made my way Grindle Ridge shelter area and decided to have breakfast for dinner.
Oatmeal... yuck(I am already played out on oatmeal.)
After I eat there was nothing else going on except quite a bit of snoring.
I wake up, blah blah blah, and hit the trail.
I really didn't take many photos on this day. I was getting hammered with rain for pretty much the whole day. Granted there were gaps where the rain stopped but it was typically for 10 minutes at the most and then it just opened up on me again.
My main goal was covering ground as quickly as I could and getting to Rt653 shelters asap.
This was an all day soaker type of day on trail
I did snag up a photo of the Middlefork overlook during a break in the weather though(storm clouds looming of course.)
Just when I thought the weather couldn't get any worse what I was getting pounded in the head with yesterday carried over to today. Only difference?
Wind gusts and lightening.
This day was the worst day so far in regards to the sheer amount of rain combined with storm conditions by a long shot.
No photos other than the one below. I just wanted to get where I needed to be. The weather was that bad.
I made my way to the Ohiopyle shelter area just as nightfall was really setting in.
I did manage to make a new friend at this shelter site.
I ended up falling asleep very quickly on this evening. I was whooped.
Thursday 7-4(Happy 4th of July:)
Today was a day that I was somewhat dreading. I had a 13 mile round trip that consisted of around 2800ft of ascents and descents(estimate could be + or -) in pretty rocky terrain.
I was not looking forward to this with the packweight that I was toting.
What to do, what to do.
Duh, switch the La Sportiva Pamirs out for the Lowa Agon GTX trail shoes, remove the top lid from the pack that converts to a fanny pack and ditch the pack somewhere close to the shelter area very well hidden.
I did exactly that. I loaded up the top lid with some essentials, rain gear, a water filter, and clipped a full bottle to the side of it.
With trekking poles in hand and camera in pocket off I went.
Granted it was still a bit cloudy(more patchy than anything) but the sun was making it's presence well known.
I wasn't so much concerned with taking a ton of pictures on the way to the Ohiopyle trailhead boards(mm0) as I was more geared to covering this 13 miles as quickly as possible.
My pack and all of my gear was stashed and I wanted to get back to it as quickly as possible without killing myself in the process.
Plus with the way the rain has been I figured it would only be a matter of time until it came back.
My plan was to be back at the shelter area before it made it's arrival.
Anywho, I make it to the trailboards in Ohiopyle.
Ohiopyle was pretty packed for the 4th of July weekend.
I debated on hitting Falls City Pub for a cold one but instead decided to play tag with mm0 and head back north up the ridge.
Ya know as much as I wanted to get back as quickly as possible I just couldn't help but snag a few photos along the way.
View of the Yough up the first ridge.
Good thing this sign is here.
So even though I took a few photos I managed to do all 13 miles of this section of trail in a few minutes over 4hrs round trip.
I had the stopwatch going on the ProTrek just to make sure.
Right when I was getting back to the shelter area I realized something. Not only was I hearing thunder in the distance but the shelter that I stayed in the night before and had reserved for that evening had a man and his young son in it.
I approached him and asked if he had the shelter reserved and he stated that he thought so. I then showed him my reservation and he had an uh-oh look on his face.
So I thought about it briefly and decided that it was time for me to break out the Hilleberg Anjan for another wet weather test.
This was his son's first real trip and I am a strong believer in first impressions. I spoke with them and they had all of their gear out, etc.
I was not going to say "hey buddy I want my shelter."
I'm just not wired like that.
He did ask me a few times if I wanted to crash in the shelter with them but I politely demurred.
I did prepare my dinner in the shelter as well as hung some wet clothes up on the line that I had up from the night before.
He was a really nice guy and we exchanged contact info.
He is actually moving down south so he might be looking for some folks to show him around(Gonz, Patman maybe?)
Anywho, so I spent the night in the Anjan... Yeah, the Anjan.
They say pics are worth a thousand words right? Well these pics will convey what happened in a manner that is much more polite & family friendly(as well as less vulgar) in regards to how this tent fared in the driving rains I experienced on this evening.
(sorry, I didn't realize there was a crud ball on the lens)
I spent the evening soaking up water all night with my Sea to Summit towel and the next day drying everything out that caught the brunt of being in the kiddie pool...
...er I mean the inside of the tent.
I have been looking around at various reviews on this model and it seems as though I am NOT the only person that is experiencing issues such as this.
This tent burns me up.
Hilleberg, if you are listening. As I stated on the review that I did on this model...
DROP THE OUTER ANOTHER 2" ON THE ANJAN.
Uggghhhh, so as I was saying I spent the next morning drying my gear out.
As I was drying my gear contemplating the slog ahead of me I was greeted by a very pretty moth. Actually this was one of a few that were hanging out on my clothes that were trying to dry.
After waiting about as long as I could for things to dry out I packed everything up and made my way out of the shelter area towards my 1st obstacle of the day.
...a 1200ft ascent over 1.5 miles(see map above.)
This hill sucks. I don't care if you are going up it, down it, in cool weather, in warm weather..
It just sucks.
Nevertheless staring at it wasn't getting me where I needed to be so up the "hill" I go.
After almost coughing up a lung I eventually made my way to the top of the ridge. It was at this time I realized something.
As much as I hated the constant rain I was continuing to get hammered with I REALLY LOVE WATER !!!!
Water is my friend.
So I suck down as much water as I can w/o throwing up and get on my way.
So far so good no rain.
But we do have a new frog friend.
I continued along my way to one of the best vista shots(imo)that the LHHT has to offer.
I actually sat up here for quite a bit of time. Granted, I was pushing the envelope in regards to whether or not I was going to be doing some night hiking but I really didn't care.
It felt good sitting in the sun up there.
Plus I am not new to night hiking solo. I do it quite a bit regardless of season.
After sitting up there for the better part of an hour I decided I needed get get my lazy behind moving so off I went.
Little did I know that there was another large storm front looming a fairly good ways off behind these clouds and making it's way directly towards yours truly.
I should have expected it though.
As I travel along my way I eventually made my way down the trail towards Cranberry Glade.
...and eventually I make it to one of my favorite areas of the trail.
(sorry but for some odd reason the pics came out a bit blurry)
I then come across something that gets my blood boiling quite a bit.
...dirtbikes on the trail.
I heard bikes on the ridge the 2nd night I stayed at the Ohiopyle shelters and it sounded as though they were going up the 1200ft ridge right above the area. I knew it couldn't have been ATVs because they wouldn't be able to make some of that section of trail due to how narrow the trail is. There is a pretty good drop off down the side of the ridge.
I am so tempted to put trail cams up and catch these nimwits...
Okay enough of my rant.
Around 7pm I make the midway point of this section of trail. The lake in the woods(Cranberry Glade.)
Followed up by an open expanse in the trees.
Then as the sun fell, the rains came. I eventually waddled(remember I'm still contemplating whether or not I am a duck) into camp(Rt653) at around 10pm under headlamp.
I was wiped out.
All I wanted to do was go to my shelter and crash.
Someone was once again in my shelter.
It was a lady who had her son & daughter up there that I previously spoke with a day back on trail.
So the shelter area is packed. I was supposed to be in shelter 2. The ranger that I was getting all to familiar with(from the Turnpike shelter) was up there and she looked at me and said "are you still up here?"
I wanted to say physically yes but mentally nope (which would have been as about as close to the truth as possible.)
Mentally I was on a beach somewhere drinking a Mai Tai.
I said "yep" and she laughed and said with the rain we had been getting that I was basically nuts.
I laughed but deep down I kinda agreed with her.
So I explained the situation and showed her the printout of my reservations. I did notice that shelter 5 was not occupied and at this point and time I could care less where I slept.
Hell, I would have slept in the privy.
I was tired, my feet were wet(nothing unusual,) and all I wanted to do was get dry, eat, and hit the sleeping bag asap.
So I told her that I had a hunch that they were supposed to be in shelter 5 and if this was the case that I did not want them to move.
I would just hit shelter 5 for the night.
She went down, talked to them, and this was the case.
I said "no worries" and headed off to shelter 5.
I looked like a Freightliner hit me.
Everything from that time on was a blur. I don't even remember eating lol.
So I wake up the next morning and I actually feel pretty good. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and there is music in the air. :p
I go through the normal routine of drying out clothing from the day before, eating, blah blah blah(this is seeming repetitive.)
...oh wait, it is.
I once again get another late start but the slog from 653 to Grindle ridge is about as easy as it gets.
Short distance(maybe 6 miles) and relatively flat.
I make my way across Rt653 to Dietz Cemetary.
There were quite a few trees down on this section of trail from the prior storms.
Some of which I was able to clear; others would require the use of a chainsaw(or a flock of Beavers. ;)
After I clear what I can I eventually made my way to the Middlefork overlook.
(more gloom & doom on the horizon)
As the rain passed in the horizon I turned into a 4yr old sticking my tongue out at it going "nah nah nah nah nahhh, you can't get me."
That would turn out to be a mistake that I would become all too aware of the next day.
So after taunting Mother Nature I proceeded along my way to a stone staircase on the trail.
...and shortly after I made my way to Grindle Ridge.
The evening at Grindle Ridge was quite serene. Well as long as you could block out the gunfire from the sporting range at Seven Springs that is.
For some I could see it being a nuisance but I was pretty use to it.
Hootie and the Blowfish cover bands at 11pm?
Well, that is another story.
Do you remember my taunting Mother Nature the previous day?
Yeah well, today is the day that she decided to get back at me in a major way.
So I wake up and although the sky was somewhat cloudy it seemed fairly calm. Today seems like it might be a pretty good day on trail.
Heh heh heh... NOT !!!
As soon as I made my way from the shelter area around mm25(Bluehole Creek) everything went downhill from there in a hurry.
Out came the rain gear, packcover, and any other protective measure I could muster.
No sooner than I battened down the hatches all hell broke loose.
Sideways rain, wind, more sideways rain, more wind.
I leaned my pack up against a tree so the rain hit the cover and just stood there.
On a side note I have to say that the Westcomb Specter is an AWESOME lightweight shell. eVent breathes very well and other than my hands I did not get wet.
Anyways, as I stood there waiting for this storm to blow over I kept saying "are you a duck?"
As much rain as I was getting hit with I had to be a duck...
...or maybe a frog?
So after getting my head pounded in for about an hour the rain decided to lighten up a bit.
I once again donned my pack and continued on my way north.
I eventually made my way to the potable water source that is supplied by Seven Springs Ski Resort.
Off came the pack so I could fill my bladder and in came the rain.
Okay, this is starting to get old quick.
I stood there contemplating my options after I filled my bladder with chlorine saturated freshness.
What am I trying to prove by torturing myself?
I am no longer enjoying this and 11 days of rain most of which were quite heavy is getting pretty old.
Yes, you set out on a 17 day solo circuit of the LHHT but for summer this has to be the worst weather one could ask for over that many days.
Are you even sane?
Are you a duck?
Quack quack quack...
So after sitting there arguing with myself waiting out another rainstorm I figured I would continue along my way and see what happens.
I made my way up the ridge to the high point of the trail at 2950' and found myself in a cloud bank.
I just can't win on this trip.
As soon as I got to the other side of this body of water I found myself getting hammered once again.
It was at this time that I made a decision.
Enough was enough.
I was miserable, the weather was forecasted to get worse, and I just wasn't enjoying my trek any longer.
I learned something a long time ago.
When you are no longer enjoying what you are doing it is time to step away from what you are doing and take a break.
This was one of those times.
Am I a lil down that I called it early?
Do I regret it?
The weather got a lot worse and I am happy that I made the decision to take a stab at this another day.
All in all I covered 115.14 miles.
I think it is safe to assume my boots are broke in.
Now back to that question...
...am I a duck?
I hope you all enjoyed this trip report. Thanks for taking a look at it.
Until next time, happy hiking.
Oh a special mention- JoAnn it was great meeting you and your daughter. I will be greatly anticipating my Snickers bar the next time I am up that way. ;)