Into the Woods with The Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club
Jun 27, 2016 01:28PM
By Susan Ryder
If a perfect hiking day existed, although almost any day is a better day if hiking’s involved, this was it, low humidity and coolish with the sun high in the cloudless sky.
Today, I planned to hike 6.2 miles with the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club. My friend Tina Thomas, an outdoorsy kind of gal, was coming along, too.
The club makes it easy to pick the right hike for you.
Each hike is listed on the club’s site and has a meet up point with GPS coordinates, which when plugged into Google Maps will give you directions. We met at the Route 114 Park & Ride in Silver Spring Township, near Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Each hike also has terrain and pace codes. This particular hike’s pace code “A” denoted an average pace 1-3 miles an hour. Its terrain code described as “M” for moderate difficulty, including rocks, inclines and descents up to 1000 feet. Helpfully, the description also included total driving distance to and from the hike, 80 miles today.
In many ways a text book extrovert, even I was a bit nervous about hiking with complete strangers. What if we hiked to fast? What if we hiked to slow? What if nobody talked? Or worse, what if nobody kept quiet? All of those feeling quickly dissipated when we pulled into the lot, exited our car and met the hike leader, each hike has one, Cindy Radich. I asked how long it would take us to hike today. Radich joked, “An hour!” A chuckle came from the group. She added,”About 2 ½ to 3 hours.” The group of seven chatted before loading up into our cars. We decided who would drive. I hold the title of Mrs. Motion Sick, so I volunteered.
Trails heads can prove hard to find especially when, as in our case, the road to the entrance is closed. But traveling with experienced hikers like Mark Press, who’s hiked with the SATC since 1995, has its benefits and Press guided us around to an alternate entrance.
Our destination Caledonia State Park, a first visit for me, and the Hosack Loop Trail which would take us past the Quarry Gap Shelter, a luxury shelter when compared to most on the Appalachian Trail.
We parked and “circled up,” each person shared their name then headed off into the lushness of the Pennsylvania woods. The mountain laurel bloomed and the lacy ferns stood at attention.
The terrain required some concentration. On more than one occasion roots and rocks caught our boots and put us off balance. There is one down side to rugged hiking— it can keep eyes on the ground and not enjoying the view, so remember to look up occasionally.
Trekking poles are invaluable in this type of hiking. I’ve only been using them for about a year, but in my experience they have increased my speed, have prevented me from falling on my face, and allowed me to relax and experience the scenery.
As we continued, one in the group acted as the lead and one as the sweep, taking up the rear. Faster hikers hung out with the lead, slower with the sweep. No competition here. Everyone was simply out to enjoy the outdoors.
We experienced some long inclines, which made me grateful for the short respite we took at each crest. We moved along at what I considered, a comfortably brisk pace.
I met Gayle Brossman who is section hiking the AT, hiking the entire trail in pieces. She will finish the trail this summer with her last leg in Maine. She’s started section hiking by day hiking with the SATC, ten years ago. Day hikes turned into longer hikes and she’s nearly reached her goal.
After nice conversation, some quiet time and lots of sweat, our hike ended, as all hikes do, much too soon. My disappointment blunted, though, by the realization that many more opportunities exist to experience the stunning, Pennsylvania woods. The SATC and clubs like it, allow for easy access to such opportunities.
For other hiking clubs in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, check out my my April blog.