ItŐs about 19:40, my tarp-tent is pitched, my Whole Food's soup is steeping, the sun is invisible though still up, water in the nearby creek is rushing by, and the other hikers here are in their tents. It has been a decent first day even if it has not been a big, even for me, mileage day. It took about 3 hours to drive to PA 501 from my parents house. Mom and I pulled up to the trailhead and were strolling down the trail around 13:50 on a pale blue, moderately warm (mid 70s) afternoon. At first the trail was kind as it meandered through forest that had numerous ferns. The infamous Pennsylvania rocks were not present. But, then they made their first appearance. These rocks are just strewn about at all angles on the ground. They are positioned just so you can get a foot trapped and turn an ankle. You slow down. I slow way down. At least I feel like I slow way down. The reality of the matter is that while I do slow down it probably is not by as much as I think. But, you cannot discount the mental effort and strain the rocks put on a hiker. Still, the rocks were not constant. The terrain was fairly level and the forest was nice.
We hiked together for about half an hour ending our little journey together at one of the many woods roads that seem to cross the trail in this region. We had just come down a gentle, somewhat rock filled, hillside. It was now mid-afternoon and Mom had to head back home and I had to get to a campsite. It would be a close thing; who would reach their home for the night first. Mom had to walk out which would no doubt take less than a half hour, but she had to drive back home some 170 miles. I had to walk about 4.5 to 4.7 miles over potentially rocky terrain. In theory I ought to get there first - perhaps 3 hours of steady hiking. We parted and the "race" was on.
I strolled down the trail that had suddenly become much more rocky than it had been. My pace slowed and my loathing of rocks grew. Now and then a little lookout would present itself but since the sky was still full of haze there really was not much to see. I walked by the Kessel blue-blaze trail without noticing it. I managed to somehow (and I am not the only one) to not see Showers Steps though I'm fairly sure I know where they are. I did take a half hour break at one lookout that would have had a fine view if the sky had been clear. I found, as I left, a note announcing that a farm (Deer Path Farm I think is the name) was opening its doors to hikers. But, it was not quite clear to me where they were. Maybe I will find out tomorrow. Part of the problem was that portions of the note were faded to nothingness - for example, the first digit in the phone number's area code.
On I went. I could hear the sounds of traffic in the distance. Closer at hand birds twitters and now and then something scurried by. I walked. I sweated. I passed 3 girls and a boy (young folks - seemed like teens) who had just come from the spring/pond I am at now. They did not have any water and were clearly just day hiking. I imagine one of the woods roads leads to where they needed to get too. I hope that's the case because otherwise they had still 5 miles to go before they would reach PA 501.
It was getting later. I kept walking down the sometimes steep-ish and rocky trail. Now and then the rocks gave way to soil and my body made the most of that. I kept going and soon the first AT through hiker caught up to me. Chaco (because he wears that brand of sandal while hiking) had started his day at Swatara Gap at a campsite near where I had camped last year. We finished the last tenth of a mile to this campsite together.
We found Feral already here. Another hiker whose name I do not know is also near by. It is now edging towards nightfall. I would not be surprised if the sun was down and we are in the midst of twilight even though it is only 20:45. I have to remind myself that I am now on the eastern edge of the eastern time zone.
I'm going to relax a bit now, pluck (quietly) on my mandolin, and go to sleep soon. Tomorrow I hope to hike the 10 miles to the next shelter. There I hope to learn if anyone else I know is near. Chaco did not know Chick Flick, but he did know some of the other people I had hiked with. They're not far away and I might see some of them.