Posts Tagged ‘backpacking’

IN THE FIELD: The Views Were Worth It

October 19, 2012 34 comments

Quite a few years ago, I went on a weekend hiking trip with a few of my friends on part of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. We started the hike in Port Clinton and headed up the mountain and east to our destination, which is an overlook named the Pinnacle. It is perched high on the top of Blue Mountain, near the Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary.

In our haste to go hiking in super October weather, we neglected to do prudent research about this part of the trail. A few steps from the trailhead begins an almost vertical climb up. The trail consisted of pebbles, stones, rocks, boulders, and tree roots, with a sprinkling of gravel mixed in for good measure. Looking back, it would have been better to do this part of the trail during daylight hours rather than starting at 10:00pm. The flashlights we were carrying were feeble at best and barely illuminated the treacherous path in front of us.

After about an hour and a half of slipping and sliding, numerous scrapes and falls, we made it to the crest of the mountain to set up camp and rest for the night. Finding a flat spot on the top of a mountain is a comedy of errors, so we set up right on the trail. We figured the odds of another group of hikers coming by in the middle of the night were slim.

We awoke a few hours later, emerged from our tent, and were stunned to see how we had perched ourselves on the crest of the mountain yet somehow managed to stay there all night.

After eating breakfast on that glorious Autumn morning, we strapped on our backpacks and continued on our way. Five and a half miles later we met a few hikers coming the opposite direction. We chatted about trail conditions and they told us we should have an easy day of hiking. Knowing what was ahead of them, we advised them to lace up their boots tightly and find a walking stick for balance. We suggested climbing ropes for the way down would be handy also.

A few miles later we stopped for lunch. While dining on our rations, a man ran past us on the trail with no backpacking gear. We thought that was odd. Where did he come from and how did he get there? A few minutes later, another man ran by dressed in some official looking uniform. He stopped and asked if we had seen anyone. We advised him of the direction the first man was headed. The uniformed man sped off down the trail. Where did these two people come from and why did they not appear to be tired or out of breath. We were after all on top of a mountain.

We made our second camp a few hundred yards from the Pinnacle lookout in the daylight hours, thinking it would be easier to find a level spot to put the tent. Amazingly it was. Then we gathered our camera gear and headed out to the lookout to enjoy the views and watch the variety of migrating birds soar on the updrafts.

Another oddity of this trip was seeing a few dozen people at the lookout freshly bathed and in clean clothes. They had driven up to the sanctuary and took the relaxing stroll to the pinnacle overlook. Wimps.

I don’t recall the camera settings I used for this shot, but I do know I used a zoom lens. The farm buildings you see are several miles away from the lookout. I really like the patchwork of colors and patterns created by the harvested fields and those that are still green.