17 May 2021. Day 40. 13.4 Miles + 475.3 Miles = 488.7 Miles. Rausch Gap Shelter to William Penn Shelter.

08:28. A Town Once Here

It had been a perfect sleeping night and I managed to sleep all the way through. A very brief rain had not disturbed the night. I awoke at six and casually took my time packing my gear. By the time I hiked back to the shelter only Free Fall was still there. The word was that Just Gordon had called it quits and Curious George had done his normal early AM departure. Free Fall literally had her gear spread from one side of the shelter to the other. Conversation was muted and I soon wished her well and moved on.

08:29. Decisions- Decisions. Beavers or No

Only 0.6 miles into the hike a decision had to be made. A colony of beaver had successfully blocked a creek ahead and depending on the rainfall recently determined whether you had to balance on sticks, wade up over your boots or use scuba gear. To use the alternate route would have been unacceptable to me so I hoped that the lack of rain over the last few days would allow me to carry Vert T. Go over the dam. There isn’t much worst than attempting to walk balanced across logs and these would be sticks.

08:30. The Forests of Pennsylvania

Once the decision to visit beavers was made I almost immediately hiked into a huge evergreen forest. The trail was quiet and almost intimate. The pine needles made for a silent footfall and I found myself wishing that more of the trail was like this. Soon I could see ahead through the forest a silvery expanse which appeared to be snow or another huge rock garden. Please let it be not rocks.

08:39. Yes I Chose the Beavers

It turned that the silvery expanse was the sun reflecting off of the swamp created by a bunch of very busy beavers.

Water for as far as the eye could see. It was obvious that the sticks would submerge when you stepped on them. I had absolutely no idea how far my poles would sink in the mud when I began. I stayed with my waterproof boots betting that I could defeat Vert T Go and whoop this impediment.

My first step was near disaster. The stick rolled and I nearly joined the Beavers. I turned my feet diagonal and used more than one stick at a time while balancing with my hiking sticks. Occasionally a hiking stick would go out of sight and I’d be stuck fighting to regain my balance and stand erect again.

It felt like forever as it was quite a way across. Even where it was just walking on the dam the footing was treacherous. At one point there were two large trees down above the dam and they proved to be as difficult to navigate as the dam.

Finally I made it and not one bit wet. Vert and I had worked as a team and show them beavers just who was the king of the swamp. But…… my legs were now jello. I would pay for that effort expended later in the day

10:41. Suddenly a Non Rocky Trail!

A short grassy reprieve appeared with a bonus of no rocks. I met two women walking a dog here and they asked a zillion questions about hiking the AT.

11:08. The Least Welcoming State Park on the AT

Entering Swatera State Park was quite enlightening. A sign said “Welcome” but the intent said “Show up and Die”. No hunting, no fires, no ETOH no camping, no trespassing, no breathing, no, no, no…… oh and they had painted over the white blazes with black paint. Hmmmmm

11:12. Vert T. Go Testing Ground with Day Hiker and Pizza Cutter

I wasn’t very excited to see this log. It appears large but it gets higher the farther you go. The higher… the dizzier. Getting back off on the other side was like climbing a mountain.

Day hiker and Pizza Cutter were getting water on the other side and he had opted to Ford the creek. They are through hikers who began back in February.

12:23. Swatara State Park

The foot bridge across Swatara Creek bridge. This side of the state park appeared more hiker friendly. The white blazes were still white!

Day Hiker and Pizza Cutter told me that they had stayed in the camp site before mine last night. About midnight she was awoke by the sounds of heavy footsteps. She woke him up and after listening a moment he decided to investigate. His headlamp settled on two large eyes… bear eyes…. It was within 10 feet of another tent sniffing around. He screamed bear and it bolted.

12:43. Crossing Interstate 81 for the Final Time

12:59. Polkadot

Another NOBO through hiker Polkadot began on Valentines Day. She had been in one of the other tents for the bear event and had heard but not seen the bear. The number of so female hikers is increasing now. They are confident and strong hikers. She literally flew past me on the trail. As usual I asked if I could take her picture. She immediately agreed if we would take a picture of both of us. This happened once before and my immediate thought was they wanted evidence incase something bad happened. Maybe now I could be a possible suspect of some nefarious deed.

15:54. Are You Kidding Me?

17:34. Exhausted But the Need for Water is Great!

Once I crossed the Interstate there was a long uphill without switchbacks and made up of rocky gravel. I was actually resting when I met Polkadot. The climb along with the beaver dam wore me out and I ended up getting only 13.4 miles in. I wandered down to the water supply and sat down next to the spring and just chilled. The sound of the water flowing from the earth was soothing. A few moments later I was ready to return to camp. Curious George was there. An hour later Free Fall arrived. I had also met a young father with his ten year old son who were doing an overnighter. They arrived at final light after battling the rock all day. Free Fall and Polkadot stayed in the shelter while the rest of us opted to tent across the trail. I had a feeling that the next day would be a great day to “hike on”.

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