AT from Scott Farm to Susquehanna River, PA Backpacking Trip

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This 16.6 mile moderate linear backpacking trip took place the weekend of September 9-10, 2006. Participants were Charlie Johnson, Paul Kaercher and myself.

Saturday, September 9, 2006- We all met around 9ish at the Hardees in Dauphin, PA. The weather was to be perfect for hiking. It was a little warm, but almost perfect. We then dropped Charlie's car off at the Park & Ride at the east end of the Susquehanna River Bridge, dropped my car off at the south end of Duncannon where the AT comes off the mountain. We then dropped Charlie and our gear off at PA944, then Paul and I drove to the Scott Farm, where we started the hike. All very complicated. We got started late but at least we got started around 11:15AM.

Paul and I day hiked the first few miles along Conodoguinet Creek. It was flat and very nice to hike. We met Charlie after a few miles at PA944. We took pictures, geared up, then prepared to leave the flatness of the Cumberland Valley in our trek towards the Susquehanna River.

There were 2 major ridges that we had to climb over to reach our goal. The first one was moderate, about 500 feet. We climbed to the intersection of the AT, Tuscarora and Darlington Trails. I had seen this intersection many times on a map but finally got to view it in person. We then stopped in at the Darlington Shelter after about 4 miles and took a break. It was 1PM in the afternoon. The shelter design used to construct the Darlington and Cove Mountain Shelters is the same design used along the Tuscarora Trail in VA.

We now had 7 miles to do before it got dark. So we set off on a big down, then through a farm field and finally across PA850. We then started a BIG up (about 1,000 feet) and after what seemed like an eternity, finally got up on top. We would then be ridging until we reached the Cove Mountain Shelter for the evening. Paul and Charlie left me in the dust while ascending this mountain (as usual). Ridging was made more difficult by the abundance of 'PA Rocks' along the trail. I was dragging. I ate my dinner alone on top of the mountain around 5PM. I also told the guys that if I didn't make it to the shelter by dark, don't worry as I would be camping along the trail and would join them the next morning.

Turns out I made it to the shelter by 7PM. We did about 12 miles. We were all whoopped since we were out of shape. There were 2 other hikers at this shelter. The first was 'Stretch', who was a southbound thru-hiker. The other was 'Gray Wolf', who was a 1996 Thru-Hiker who was out for about a week on the trail to recapture the magic. They were both very interesting gentlemen. We talked at length with them about hiking, places we'd seen, etc. Gray Wolf told some ghost stories. What made it sort of eary was that 2 people were killed at the former shelter at this site in 1990. I figured that since there were 5 strong guys here, nothing would happen tonight. The shelter was nice. The water source was about 300 feet down a STEEP trail. That made it tough carrying water back up to the shelter.

Sunday, September 10, 2006- It was a pleasant night and only got down to 60 degrees. No critters seen or heard except for a mouse and a chipmonk within the shelter. We all got up around 6:30AM and started our morning rituals, which included visiting the privy, getting water at the spring way down the mountain, eating breakfast and then packing up. We did all this, said our goodbyes to the 2 southbound hikers that we shared the shelter with and started off. It was a slight up back to the trail, then the next 2.5 miles would be all ridging, then the final 1.5 miles would be mostly down. At one point, the trail went up about 300 feet, then back down again. before the last quarter mile and the road where I had left my car. We cursed the trail planners and accused them of being sick so-and-so's.

At this point, I was done. Paul decided to stop as well as he was under the weather. But Charlie, being the purist that he is, was determined to walk through Duncannon, PA, cross the Susquehanna River and hike exactly to the spot where we started our July, 2006 hike. This was an additional 1.2 miles. We took Charlie's pack back to his truck and were going to meet him at the famous Doyle Hotel for lunch. However, we arrived at 10:30 on a Sunday morning and the Doyle didn't open until 12 noon :( So we gave Charlie his car keys and he hiked back to his truck, then met us back in town for a pizza at a local pizza parlor that was open. We said our good-byes and headed for home.

I think that the length and challenge of this hike were just about right. It had it's share of nice views, fairly good water sources and good shelters. Like alot of prior hikes, I thought this was a tough one. But, like previous hikes, I was out of shape. However, I do believe that this section of the AT is an ideal weekend backpacking trip.

Mike C

More Pictures

Paul K and Charlie J at PA944
  Paul K and Charlie J at PA944.
  By Mike Calabrese
Darlington Shelter, PA
  Darlington Shelter, PA.
  By Mike Calabrese

Cove Mountain Shelter, PA
  Cove Mountain Shelter, PA.
  By Mike Calabrese
Mike C at 2 mile mark
  Mike C at 2 mile mark.
  By Paul Kaercher
Charlie J at 3.5 mile mark
  Charlie J at 3.5 mile mark.
  By Paul Kaercher
Trail sign at 3.8 mile mark
  Trail sign at 3.8 mile mark.
  By Paul Kaercher



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