Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In Which I Get the Willies on the Appalachian Trail...

With the bride away at her parents' for a couple days, I worked a long day around the house and yard on Sunday, then debated whether to go for a run or not.  I was supremely unmotivated, but figured that I REALLY should drive the 17 miles over to the Appalachian Trail at Caledonia Park (PA) and take a run.

Well, I got a late start and was on the trail at 5:00 pm.  From where I parked it was nearly a mile on the flat to the start of the AT section--a good warm-up, because I HATE starting a trail run with an immediate macho uphill section.  That, to me, is Hell, or at least Purgatory.  Anyway, the uphill section goes up some 1200' or so over 3 miles, passing en route the Quarry Hill Shelter.

Here is where I saw a gaggle of Boy Scouts dragging their butts into the shelter after what obviously was a long day's hike. They look pretty bedraggled, and no wonder: the temp was about 90 and any breeze was practically nonexistent down at ground level in the forest.

At the 3 mile mark I hung a right onto the Hosack trail, the day's destination, as I had never hiked or run it.  It loops back towards Caledonia Park and has the potential to be part of a short loop or a long loop.  I aimed for about 8 miles due to time and daylight constraints.

The Hosack trail from its junction with the AT is decidedly different in character (single track vs. rocky jeep road) and almost immediately begins a descent into the adjoining hollow, one over from the hollow that holds the Quarry Gap Shelter and stream.

The trail was in great shape and easy to follow. As the trail plunged, the trees became larger, presumably from the increased difficulty in logging them out of this narrow ravine.  There was much mountain laurel and rhododendron, and finally, at the bottom, I reached the small run that drains this little valley.  It was cold and pure, with no human habitation upstream.  In short, it was a beautiful, shady scene, well worth the run (or hike if that's your druthers).

But--and that's a big but--I quickly realized that I was alone and nobody else was going to hike that trail in the remaining couple hours before sunset.  Suddenly I got all paranoid, fearing that I'd take a dive, hurt myself, or have some medical issue and nobody would even know where I was.  Sure, I'd told the bride, but I seriously doubt that she'd recall any trail names.  I could kick myself, having just watched 127 Hours, about how Aron Ralston was nearly undone by not telling anyone where he was going with any specificity, and wound up self-amputating his arm to survive.

My paranoia was lessened somewhat by taking another trail at the next junction that led in fairly short order to a forest road and thence out to the highway.  I attribute my willies to being 59, and having the life experience to now know that bad stuff doesn't always just happen to other people. 

When I was younger--like Aron Ralston--of course I was bulletproof, running the backcountry with impunity and sometimes without an itinerary.  About the only time I was ever seriously paranoid was running on the Pinhoti Trail when I was on a business trip to Fort McClellan, AL (since closed).  I had no cushion of time and I elected to run anyway on a new (to me) trail, and emerged from the woods as night was falling.  Not my smartest move, but that's a separate post.

Anyway, I must do better--probably the best, as well as the easiest, method would be to just call my son and leave a voice mail with explicit locations, times, etc.  How hard would that be while driving to the trail, or while getting parked and started?


1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty sure I'm still bullet proof. At least I don't give it much thought til I'm half in to the muck. 59 is a wierd age. I starting to wonder what I going to do now that play time is coming to an end lol.