AT from Susquehanna River to PA325 Backpacking Trip


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This 16.2. mile moderate linear backpacking trip occurred the weekend of July 1-2, 2006. Participants were Charlie Johnson, Tom Stevenson and myself.

It's amazing that this trip even occurred. We were facing threats of rain earlier in the week. They had severe flooding in PA in the days before the hike. We even moved the hike from the section just north of the one we did because we were reading about severe flooding along Swatara Creek, PA. But, in the end, it all came together.

Saturday, July 1, 2006- Tom S, Charlie J and I met at the Hardees in Dauphin, PA around 9:30AM (Yes, I was late!). Tom and Charlie had already checked out the southern trailhead parking to make sure that the parking area at the eastern side of the Clarks Ferry Bridge was not under water. It wasn't. So we were still able to stick to the plan.

We drove all 3 cars to the northern trailhead where the AT crosses PA325, then drove Tom's vehicle back to the southern trailhead and began the hike around 10:30AM. The initial up was sort of steep, and seemed to go on for a few miles, but then seemed to level out. As we were ascending Peters Mountain we could see the raging Susquehanna River below. It was over it's banks in certain places. Adjacent fields were flooded and the river itself was a muddy torrent.

Once on top of the mountain we would basically be ridging for the next 12 miles or so. We took a lunch break around 12 noon around the 3 mile mark. Then we stopped at the Clarks Ferry Shelter at around the 4 mile mark and took another break. It was here that we realized that we needed to pick up the pace as the Peters Mountain Shelter was 7 miles away and we wanted to get there with some time left to enjoy the daylight.

So we started off. I noticed a lot of red raspberry plants so I immediately thought 'bear'. A few miles later, I saw a huge pile of bear scat, so I then knew that there were bears up here. I would be proven correct within the next 24 hours.

The trail itself was fairly level. Since the trees were in bloom, the views were limited. I would think that early spring and non-hunting season would be the best time to hike this stretch. The only real obstacles were those dreaded Pennsylvania rocks. They were OK most of the time. But, occasionally, they would make one's footing very rough. Charlie twisted an ankle and I basically blew out a pair of older boots that I was wearing. My regular boots were being repaired at the time. Toms feet were getting swollen as well, in part, due to the PA rocks.

We made it to the PA225 bridge, the 7 mile mark, around 5:00 PM. This bridge was built within the last few years and takes the AT over this road, which is a lot safer then crossing it. We hit the Table Rock Overlook at around 5:30 and the Peters Mountain Shelter around 6:00PM.

This was a nice shelter. 2 levels, not that old, it made us decide to stay there instead of tenting. There were 2 thru-hikers there already: 'Dick Tracy' and I forgot the other's name. There was also an old shelter about 100 feet north of this one that hiking legend Earl Shaffer supposedly built. It looked like it was in the twilight of its lifespan. The only bad thing about the Peters Mountain Shelter was that the water source, a piped spring, was 800 feet down the mountain. It was a long, tough and rocky walk down. The spring was gushing with water and it tasted great since we had all ran out before we reached the shelter. I got extra water with one of the plastic jugs at the shelter. I took alot of breaks carrying that heavy water back up the mountain.

So we ate our dinner and were talking with the 2 thru-hikers. They were telling us that they were doing a 'mini southbound flip-flop' from PA443 because the flood waters prevented them from hiking this stretch a few days earlier. They also told us that the bulk of the northbound thru-hikers were holed up in Boiling Springs, Carlisle and Duncannon to wait out the rain and subsequent flooding. So we ate, then talked, then called home (cell service is good at this shelter), then all retired to bed around 8:30 as we were all very tired. We heard the noise of fireworks between 9 and 10PM, but no one got up to see them because we were all 'plum tuckered out'.

Sunday, July 2, 2006- The 2 thru-hikers got up around 5:30AM. I heard some commotion through my ear plugs shortly after. One of the thru-hikers saw a huge bear on his way to the privy (or latrine, as he called it). The bear crossed his path, just looked at him, and kept going. He told the other thru-hiker and Tom, who were all downstairs. Then he told Charlie and I when he came up to the loft of the shelter to pack his stuff.

We were disappointed that we didn't get to see the bear. Looks like my premonition from yesterday came true. But this would not be the last of animal sightings that we would encounter. The thru-hikers left around 6:30AM. We were on the trail by about 7:45. I really enjoy hiking in the morning. Everything smells fresh, the air is cool and it just feels like a great place to be. That's why I come out here.

The trail was a lot like yesterday: rolling, rocky and a tree canopy overhead. We would take turns leading as one person would stop to eat, adjust their pack, etc. Around the 13 mile mark I passed Tom and was starting to hike along a long rocky section when I saw Charlie up ahead. He was waving and whispering. I knew that he had either seen a snake or a bear. It was a timber rattler that he came upon. It was partially on the trail and rattled as he got within a foot of it. He jumped back and was now trying to figure out how to get around it. I went and looked at it and it was pretty big. Since I tend to speak loudly, I think the sound of my voice must have bothered it as it slowly started to slither down the mountain and away from the trail. Charlie threw a good sized rock in it's direction just to be sure that it was gone. It was. Crisis averted.

So we ridged a mile or so more and then started a long down to PA325, the end of the hike, and our vehicles. We had ice creams afterwards at the Double B ice cream place at the intersection of PA325 and PA225, shuttled Tom back to his car, said our good byes and headed home.

I think we were all hurting a bit after this one. It seems like these trips get a little tougher each year. But the enjoyment of nature and the sense of accomplishment is why we keep doing it. I hope that I can keep coming out to do things like this for a long time.

Mike C
View while ascending Peters Mountain
  View while ascending Peters Mountain.
  By Mike Calabrese
Tom and Charlie at mile 1.5
  Tom and Charlie at mile 1.5.
  By Mike Calabrese

Clarks Ferry Shelter, PA
  Clarks Ferry Shelter, PA.
  By Charlie Johnson
Raspberry bushes along the trail
  Raspberry bushes along the trail.
  By Mike Calabrese
Tom S at PA225 bridge
  Tom S at PA225 bridge.
  By Charlie Johnson
Swollen Susquehanna River at mile 8
  Swollen Susquehanna River at mile 8.
  By Charlie Johnson
Peters Mountain Shelter, PA
  Peters Mountain Shelter, PA.
  By Charlie Johnson
The shelter that Earl Shaffer built
  The shelter that Earl Shaffer built.
  By Charlie Johnson
PA rocks around mile 12
  PA rocks around mile 12.
  By Charlie Johnson
Snake at bottom of image
  Snake at bottom of image.
  By Charlie Johnson


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