Skip to main content

AT 2017: Day 94, Eckville Shelter to New Tripoli Campsite

You've been judged in the balance and found wanting

Hike with Gravity

What do you get when you add one heavy backpack, hot and humid weather, heavy rain, and poor trail conditions?

Mix them all together and you get one unhappy hiker.

Weather Hot and humid, with increasing cloudiness; late afternoon thunderstorm
Trail Conditions Alternating sections of rocky and smooth
Today's Miles 13.3 miles
Trip Miles 1,245.9 miles

After yesterday’s late run on the Bekka Midnight Express into Hamburg to resupply, Stick and I agreed we would be in no hurry to leave the campsite this morning.

I made sure I kept my end of the agreement by sleeping in until 7 a.m.

Thanks to the cranky pants caretaker who won’t let hikers leave garbage here, we didn't want to bring back from Walmart any unnecessary packaging. We quickly emptied the contents of boxes and larger food packages, and dumped them into Walmart bags so we could leave the trash at the store. As a result, one of the chores for this morning before leaving camp was to sort that food so I’d be able to find what I wanted when I reached into my food bag.

From the start of my hike last April, I had been using Platypus collapsible water bottles, but now they were starting to get a little gross. They’re not easy to clean, so I decided to replace them with bottles a lot of hikers use. While at Walmart last night, I bought a couple of bottles of Smartwater.

One of the reasons I liked the Platypus bottles was they came with a handle, with which I could clip to the shoulder strap of my backpack. This made the bottle easy to reach.

I could see why the slender and lightweight Smartwater bottles were popular, but they don’t provide a way to latch on a backpack with a carabiner. To fix that, I discovered some parachute cord tied to a nearby tree. After untying it from the tree, I created my own attachment loops for the water bottles. They worked well and I was "leaving no trace" by removing the rope.

From the start today, the trail was rocky.

And then it was smooth.

And then it was rocky again.

Rinse and repeat.

At times the rocks were especially treacherous. I fell three times in a short span of time, partly due to the rocks and partly due my increasingly unstable ankle.

I arrived at a viewpoint called Balance Rock just before 11:30. That was a little early for lunch, but I used this spot as a lunch stop anyway, if for no other reason than to give my ankle a rest.

Near the viewpoint was a steel box bolted to a tree. It looked like a mail box designed by an armored truck maker. I think the intent of it was to provide a dry place for a hiker register book, but this seemed like overkill.

I did not sign the register.

A little more than two miles from Balance Rock was the Allentown Hiking Club Shelter. While I was stopped here a couple of southbound section hikers told me the trail ahead got better. This was good news, but I also knew it couldn’t get much worse.

I continued on through what was becoming a monotonous section of trail.

At least the hikers who said the trail got easier were right.

Or they were right until a thunderstorm dropped a giant bucket of rain.

So much rain fell that in some spots the trail was completely flooded over.

Later, the downpour diminished to a steady but light rain. Where there was better drainage the trail was easy to walk, so I tried to make up some of the time i lost while falling down and the other stops I made.

At 6:30 I arrived at Pennsylvania Highway 309, also known as West Penn Pike. A restaurant and B&B called the Blue Mountain Summit was located just a couple hundred yards off the trail.

It had a reputation for not being hiker-friendly, but I decided to walk over there just to be sure Stick hadn’t stopped. He wasn’t there, so I limped on.

I had two more miles to go before reaching a power line. I knew that a side trail there led to the campsite where Stick and I planned to stop, but when I reached the spot it took a little bit of looking to find it.

About that same time the rain stopped, which I was glad for because the trail to the campsite was a long, steep drop.

Stick and a hiker named Supe were the only ones there. It was a big site with room for plenty of tents. There was a decent water source nearby, so we were in good shape.

But was I?

Daniel walked in bent but tall, spat upon the floor
Let me see these words - well, hmm, yes - I've seen them before
They simply mean your days are numbered; fact, they're even run
You've been judged in the balance and found wanting
Your royalty is just a gift - your father learned that lesson
By losing both his kingdom and his reason


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