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AT 2017: Day 90, Yellow Springs Campsite to William Penn Shelter

And so I contentedly live upon eels

Hike with Gravity

The creepy deer that wandered about Yellow Springs Campsite yesterday evening hung around through most of the night. Every now and then I woke up and heard it walking around. Fortunately, though, it didn’t try to eat anything belonging to me or another camper.

To the relief of everyone, it was gone by the time we woke up this morning.

Weather Partly cloudy with a high temperature in the upper 70s
Trail Conditions An assortment of conditions, from smooth and easy to rocky and difficult
Today's Miles 18.0 miles
Trip Miles 1,189.6 miles

Another reason to be relieved was it seemed a little cooler today. Perhaps we’ll have a break from the heat and humidity?

I hoped so, but it is just the start of summer, so I don’t expect cooler weather to last long.

The trail leading from the campsite was remarkably flat and easy, though of course, not without a few rocks.

After walking just nine-tenths of a mile I stopped for water at a small stream. Yellow Springs Campsite didn’t have a good water source nearby, so this was the first opportunity to fill up today.

Just beyond the stream was an unexpected sight: a twisted length of steel cable. Near it was a sign that said “The General’ and pointed down a side trail.

I was intrigued, but didn’t know what the sign referred to.

At about that moment a couple of day hikers approached me from the side trail. When I asked about the sign they explained The General was a rusted, abandoned steam shovel. I later learned it was actually gas-powered, not steam-powered. It was abandoned here after a coal mining operation failed.

I wanted to see it, so I decided to go down the side trail, but was soon deterred. A wide creek flowed over the trail. It was shallow and I could have waded through it as the day hikers had done, but decided against that. I didn’t want to spend too much time here.

After about four miles of easy walking the trail entered the abandoned mining and railroad community of Rausch Gap. The trail through here was wide and flat, making me think this could have been the path of train tracks.

Coal mining began in 1823, and by the time a railroad was constructed through here in 1851 it had become a town of more than two dozen buildings.

The town thrived, especially when the railroad began operating a repair shop here. Before long there were 1,000 people living in Rausch Gap.

That lasted until 1872. The coal mine had already begun to decline when the railroad company decided to move the repair shop.

The place was a ghost town by 1900.

At the bottom of a modest descent the trail made a turn to cross over a creek and then down a road.

I stopped to talk to a couple hikers and then went on down the road, looking to see if I could see any ruins of the town.

At this point something happened that has happened to me a couple times before on this long hike.

With the distractions I completely missed a turn where the trail left the road. The turn was marked by a small sign, but I failed to notice it.

Fortunately, I didn’t walk more that a tenth of a mile before realizing my mistake.

After getting back on the trail I went up and over a modest ridge, then through a wide meadow and twice crossed Pennsylvania Route 443.

At the first of these crossings the trail entered Swatara State Park.

This is a relatively new state park. Land acquisition began in 1971 and the park officially opened in 1987.

The trail was easy to walk and well-maintained through this section. It was dappled by the mid-afternoon sun.

At the second road crossing there was an explosion of wildflowers, mostly of purple coneflowers.

Near a tunnel of rhododendron I met a couple on a day hike. They told me they had met Stick, who was hiking just ahead of me, though they couldn’t quite remember his name. They called him "Fiddlesticks“.

At Swatara Gap the trail crossed Swatara Creek over Waterville Bridge. This bridge has been preserved as one of the last iron lenticular truss bridges remaining in this part of the U.S.

The bridge was not originally located here when it was erected in 1890. It spanned a creek in Lycoming County. When county road officials decided in the 1980s it could no longer safely support vehicles, it was restored and moved to this spot for use as a footbridge.

At one time, a canal was located here as well. Some remnants of it still exist.

Union Canal was first proposed by William Penn in 1690, but construction didn’t begin until the 1790s when anthracite coal was discovered in the area. President George Washington turned the first shovel of dirt in a ceremony at the start of construction.

The canal was not finished until 1828 because of several delays due to the economy and the War of 1812.

As with other canals of the day in the eastern U.S., railroads eventually made the canal obsolete.

After crossing the bridge I met a state park volunteer, who offered me some water.

I asked him what was the origination of the word Swatara. He told me it was a name given to the area by the Susquehannock people who lived here. It was their word for "the place where we feed on eels”.

The trail continued on the other side of the creek on a gravel road which is known as Old State Road.

The road took me under Interstate 81, which was the fourth time the trail has crossed under or over that highway.

From there the trail made a steep climb. Initially, it wasn’t especially rocky.

That soon changed, however, as the trail began to alternate between easy-smooth and ankle-busting.

There was also a section that was so over-grown with weeds I could barely find the path. I feared this was a perfect haven for ticks, but apparently I had protected myself well with treated clothing and bug spray because I didn’t see any.

I did see a large snake, though. It moved quickly off the trail so I couldn’t tell what kind of snake it was. I was pretty sure it wasn’t a rattlesnake, but it might have been a copperhead.

Near here I met a hiker named Kirby, who was sitting in his tent by the side of the trail. He told me he had just talked to "Stick in the Mud”. I tried not to laugh as I told him the name was “Stick in the Woods”.

Stick had finished setting up camp in a tent area across the trail from William Penn Shelter when I arrived. No one was in the shelter and only one other hiker, Sweatpea, was camped nearby.

Around 10 p.m. another hiker arrived in camp and set up his tent by the light of his headlamp. It was Speedy, once again catching up to us.

But now that my jaws are too weak for such fare,
I think it exceedingly rude
To do such a thing, when I’m quite well aware
Little boys do not like to be chewed.

And so I contentedly live upon eels,
And try to do nothing amiss.
And I pass all the time I can spare from my meals
In innocent slumber like this.


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine." ref.