October 21, 2017
Pennsylvania’s mining history is ever present on the Appalachian Trail. Leaving Port Clinton, we crossed the Schuylkill River, then crossed railroad tracks at the Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad Station. I was delighted to see a display of anthracite coal! The boulders resembled giant pieces of obsidian (black volcanic glass), but when I rubbed one with my fingers, black dust came off. The juxtaposition of polished, gleaming surfaces becoming black dust with the touch of a hand fascinated me.
Hiking the AT in October brings us into contact with many hunters as the trail runs through several sections of Pennsylvania Game Lands. One early morning, we saw two bow hunters loading a deer into their truck. Another evening, we passed a group of hunters camped in a small hollow. This morning, we saw blood spots dotting the trail for about a mile as we walked. Later in the day, a pile of entrails beside the trail attracted flies and yellow jackets. Many signs at trail heads warn us to wear blaze orange or other bright colors, and we are careful to stay on the trail!
October 22, 2017
History continues to capture our imaginations with a monument to Fort Dietrich Snyder, used in 1755 during the French and Indian War. For several miles afterwards, we imagined how a war would affect our attitude as we hiked through the forest. The peace and renewal we find were certainly not present in 1755!
This evening, we camped at Applebee Campsite, near the Pilger Ruh Spring. I went in search of water, following blue blazes downhill through deepening dusk. A burbling, splashing sound brought me to a lovely spring. Nearby, a historical sign commemorated Moravian missionaries led by Count Zinzendorf, who stopped to rest here on their way to the Indian towns of Shamokin and Wyoming in 1742. As I filled my water bottles and headed back to our tent by flashlight, I could see a group of missionaries, building a fire, laying out bedrolls, feeding horses. In my imagination, our simple campsite suddenly was full of shadowy visitors from long ago.
October 23, 2017
We woke to dense fog obscuring the sunrise, extending the night. An hour after rising, enough sunlight began filtering through to allow us to see color, but the fog continued to wisp around tree trunks. As we hiked, a cross-bow hunter suddenly stepped out onto the trail about 20 yards ahead of us. He didn’t say anything, just turned and walked away, disappearing quickly back into the fog.
This afternoon we met another hunter as we crossed Swatara Creek and PA Route72. Scott chatted with us for a few minutes. He told us he was hunting pheasant, and kindly let us take his picture.
October 24, 2017
Once again the sound of raindrops inches above my face wakes me. It is 5:00 a.m., very dark, and rain is pouring out of the sky! We doze, secure in our dry tent, not willing to go out in the cold and wet. At 7:00 a.m., the rain begins to lessen, and we finally rise an hour later, with only drizzly drops from trees as our company.
We hike through the waterlogged forest, skirting puddles in the trail. Four miles into our day, we cross Rausch Creek, and meet the only people we will see today, four boys and a girl who have ridden bicycles along an old railroad bed to this bridge. Jay notices that the old road is graveled with bits of coal! There are several signs here, telling of a limestone diversion well which helps to neutralize acidic water coming from old coal mine drainages upstream.
Tonight we camp just past Rattling Run, on top of a ridge with many pine trees. A lookout tower once existed here, the only reason this part of the ridge is relatively free of rocks. Someone has built furniture around the campfire circle, and I find a lovely tree to guard our food bags. The pine trees scent the air with freshness, and we go to sleep with hopes of a beautiful sunrise tomorrow!
October 25, 2017
The morning dawned in beauty and warmth. Two squirrels eyed us as we ate breakfast. I’m sure they could smell our sardines, and wondered if they were good squirrel food! A train whistle echoed up the ridge, sounding far away from our beautiful spot. The allure of our campsite made it hard to leave this ridge top.