Entries to Win Afghan

Sign up to receive the Books Leaving Footprints Newsletter. Comes out occasionally. No spam. No list swapping. Just email me! jhyshark@gmail.com Previous gifts include a short story, a poem, and coupons. Add your name, and don't miss out!

Thursday, March 31, 2022

View from a Shelter - Day 121

  The weather forecast for today was for 0.17 inch of rain. Ha! I was fairly wet before I got to this shelter where I thought I'd take a quick break and have a snack. The rain started coming down like a waterfall. Downpours usually only last a few minutes, right? Ha! 40 minutes later it was still a deluge. I ended up taking a 20-minute nap. looking out of a trail shelter

The woods was foggy and gloomy. The rain let up a little bit. foggy woods

Now I have to tell you who my new helper is. It's Marie!!! friends

I called Marie to meet me at the next road, only a little over a mile away, and I would make choices there. I ate lunch in the car, and then things started to clear up.

I left my wet pack in the car and hoofed it for the afternoon walk. Today was sort of a rest day in disguise as a hiking day. I did short miles, and there were almost no hills. The afternoon was pleasant enough. My feet were soaked, but I knew that would happen before I even started and just slogged on.

This is a floating bridge across a wetland. Looks precarious, but it was fine. floating bridge

There were several wildlife ponds. You can see that the day brightened up. pond in woods

I passed today from Cook Forest State Park to Clear Creek State Forest, and finally, my goal for the day, Allegheny National Forest! This is where Marie and I did our first long backpacking trip, with her son, David, in 1994. It's a little like coming full circle. (But we were hiking the other way.)

We always laughed at the "no pack stock." Of course, it means things like donkeys or llamas, but we were hiking with my little dog Chips, who wore a pack. We were newbies back then... we've encountered the sign many more times, but we still think it's funny. Allegheny National Forest Boundary

At the end of the day there was this nice rock stepping bridge across a small creek. rocks in creek

It was a short mileage day, but it was really sloggy- the rain turned everything to mud. I will be doing mostly shorter mileages through the Allegheny based on where road crossings are that I can be picked up. I could backpack and then pickup points wouldn't matter, but then I would have to carry more weight and might not be able to hike farther anyway. Tomorrow things start getting seriously hilly, so it's not clear I could do more miles anyway.

Miles today: 12.2. Total miles so far: 1593.

I am now at the end of 4 months of hiking. This is 1/3 of the year. I'm 7 miles short of 1600 miles which is a third of some theoretical 4800 miles of trail. Given that this should be the most difficult third, weather-wise, I'm feeling reasonably good about this progress.

See Goodbye to Sue

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Goodbye to Sue - Day 120

  Today, I said goodbye to Sue for now. Her month of watching over me is finished, and she did a great job. She will be missed. Although when I show you the next helper that arrived (I'll keep you in suspense till tomorrow) you won't feel too sorry for me.
hiker with two dogs

Of course, this means I had to also say goodbye to Sophie and Annabelle. I don't think I should ask my new helper to lick my face. Of course, I never have to ask Sophie or Annabelle.
dog licking a person

We have enjoyed the hospitality of a host of hosts since my last day off. Yes, I took a rest day today. The day began with ice, and although it warmed later, I would have had to hike a shorter day. I was feeling very tired, and decided to actually rest.

Anyway, here are the most recent people who have graciously offered us a place to stay, and often fed us as well. The first is Carie (and Wade who had already left for work). friends

Next up was Shawn (and Charlie). friends

Then Trudy (and Mark). Trudy also hiked with me for part of a day. friends

After that, we went to Susan and Layne's house. friends

Yes, we've moved a lot. Where we stayed for longer times before, the trail curved around a location. Where it's more linear, we have to move more often or the drives get too long. Also, I'm never posting our current location to somewhat protect our hosts' privacy. But we sure appreciate those of you who have let us stay on your property. You are making this adventure possible.

Finally, since I didn't hike today, I met Tom Moutsos for lunch. He's the (relatively) new Regional Trail Coordinator for Ohio and Pennsylvania. We had a great chat, and a mighty good meal. friends

Tomorrow, it's back on the trail. I'm ready.

See Cook Forest State Park

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Cook Forest State Park - Day 119

  The morning started brutally cold at 13 degrees, but with no wind, it was fine. Water features were a big part of today's beauty. Toby Run was placid and calm. Toby Run

Later in the day, the trail followed the Clarion River. Another eagle lifted off from the near bank- very close to me. Clarion River

And later in the day, I followed Tom's Run. Tom's Run

It was very slow going today. The rocks were hidden under snow, and if it weren't for the blazes, it would be very hard to even tell where the treadway is. Don't think the chapter should remove the rocks... they'd have to take down the entire hill! rocky trail

This was cool- a pathway between the rocks. trail through a rock

The Clarion Chapter likes making cairns to mark the trail. There's no shortage of rocks! This was a particularly nice one with a directional element. cairn

I think I'll leave you with a lovely overlook of the Clarion River. A lot of this section is lined with rhododenron and mountain laurel. In a few weeks it will be stunning! I am whipped. Very hard on the knees. Rest day coming up soon. overlook

Miles today: 15.8. Total miles so far: 1580.8

See What Happened to Spring?

Monday, March 28, 2022

What Happened to Spring? - Day 118

  More snow, sun, wind, snow, snow, wind, snow, wind. Hey, I'm not actually complaining, but today was hard, largely due to the weather. OK, I know it's too early to count on warmer weather, but I'm ready to enjoy it when it returns. The wind was the worst. trees in snow

Sticking to the facts, though, I had ended at Deer Creek. In the summer, this is an easy wade. Not so much at this time of year. Deer Creek

So, Sue took me to the other side to begin hiking this morning. Deer Creek

It was in the teens overnight, and the trail was covered with needle ice, which I first saw at Burr Oak State Park. When I say covered, I mean it. There was so much of this ice it actually made the walking difficult. needle ice

Doe Run is a pretty little creek, and I even saw some doe running! Doe Run

I love it when there is a sign that points to Vermont and North Dakota! North Country Trail Sign

If I don't feel like quitting after today, I guess I'm good to go. The afternoon was really tough. There has been a large logging operation, and about 2 miles of trail are being re-routed. The chapter is doing a teriffic job of getting this marked and built. And the location is nice- by a pretty creek. It's difficult ground to work on. But there was just enough snow to cover the rocks and make the footing very tricky. Then where it was bare clay it was really slippery. And the wind!

Anyway, Sue hiked in for a little over half a mile at the end to walk out with me. I was really happy to see her!

Miles today: 16.0 (and I walked for 7 hours and 50 min. That is walking time, not counting rests). Total miles so far: 1565.

See Tunnels, Bridges, Views

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Tunnels, Bridges, Views - Day 117

  Today, I went back and filled in the missing piece. This included the Kennerdell Tunnel on the Allegheny Valley RR. This is a longer tunnel, at 3350 feet, but it is straighter, so you aren't in the dark for as long. Kennerdell Tunnel

This was what it was like for a great deal of the time today. But between snow squalls, I saw an eagle fly across the river. snowstorm

The bridge at Belmar isn't part of the NCT, but you can see it. (It's connected- you could walk it if you wanted) It's located where the Allegheny Valley RR and the Franklin & Clearfield RR (now the Sandy Creek Trail) "meet." The F&C is at least 20 feet higher, but there are stairs now because both rail beds are trails, and this is where the NCT turns the corner.

The 1361-foot bridge was built in 1906, and was a massive undertaking with only horse and steam power. Belmar Bridge

Imagine my surprise when I discovered there is another small tunnel on the F&C line. You can just look right through it. But it needed interior repairs to make it safe for trail use, so that "liner" was added in 2005. This is called the May's Mill Tunnel Mays Mill Tunnel

This part of the trail crosses Sandy Creek a number of times. Sandy Creek is pretty big for a "creek." And it is a beautiful waterway. Sandy Creek Sandy Creek

Someone has painted this old part of an abutment to look like a train! It's really quite creatively cute. grafitti looks like train

And! I had a hiking companion for about 2/3 of the day. Tracy came and walked with me. She has almost completed Pennsylvania. hikers

Miles today: 17.3. Total miles so far: 1549.

And! Sue completed her NCT Hike 100 and the Pennsylvania Hike 50 today!

See Franklin & Clearfiel RR

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Franklin-Clearfield RR - Day 116

  For logistical reasons, I skipped ahead one day. I'll go back and get the Kennerdell Tunnel and other miles tomorrow.

Today's description is snow, sun, snow, sun, snow and sun, repeat indefinitely. I was on an old rail bed for almost all the miles. This is now called the Sandy Creek Trail, but the road was the Franklin-Clearfield Railroad. Frankly, I'd never heard of it! Sandy Creek rail trail

It turns out that this line was built as an extention of the Lakeshore and Michigan Southern, which was already part of the New York Central system since the 1870s, but operated separately. NYC wanted to connect the LS&MS to other lines they owned in Pennsylvania. Although it seems like they should have been mostly carrying oil in this part of the country, they primarily hauled coal and general freight. The F&C connection gave NYC a complete line of their own to the docks on Lake Erie at Ashtabula.

You can see a narrow seam of coal at the bottom of this cliff.
photo label

The line was built in the first decade of the 1900s, and supposedly has some impressive infrastructure, but not on the stretch I hiked today. My biggest question of the day is the continual, regular crosswise depressions in the rock. Sometimes it seemed like the line might have been laid with concrete ties (yes, this is a real thing. They weight 750 pounds each). But I finally decided I was seeing actual rock. The bedrock in the right-of-way has apparently been leveled where the ties would need to be laid. This makes some sense- you couldn't have some ties higher than others. I was picturing men with sledge hammers, but I suppose by 1910 they might have used steam hammers or drills. Diesel engines had been invented by then, but hadn't been mass produced or used commercially.

If anyone has any knowledge on this, speak up! depressions in rock

The best natural feature of the day was this balanced rock. balanced rock

Most of the snow was "styrofoam pellet" type. It would catch in hammocks of spider webs! snow on spider web

When the sun came out, all the water would evaporate. steamy rocks

The bridges on what I walked today are gone, but some of the abutments remain. railroad bridge abutment

Miles today: 16.7. Total miles so far: 1531.7.

Bonus Section: New independent author: Annabelle Crawford will be revealing her debut work: Fifty Ways to Lick Your Loved One. With a Foreword by Sophie Rose Crawford including tips and techniques.

Preview: 1. The straight up kiss. 2. The sideways swipe to test what's on your spoon. 3. The ear cleaning. 4. The sampling of the fingers to determine what you ate and did not share. And 46 more! dog licking face

See Rockland Tunnel

Friday, March 25, 2022

Rockland Tunnel on the Allegheny Valley RR - Day 115

  Today, I joined a long section of rail trail in Pennsylvania on the former bed of the Allegheny Valley Railroad, built in the 1850s. It was taken over by Pennsylvania RR in 1913. (then ConRail, then abandoned) Allegheny Valley Rail Trail

There are a number of beautiful stone culverts on the line. There must have been two tracks which were not parallel everywhere because I was also standing on a rail berm where the trail is. stone railroad culvert

This mile marker says 102, but I'm not sure where it is measuring to. The historic AVR only went to Oil City, about 60 miles north, so it must be from the PRR era. I saw one other of these stone mile markers, but it was broken. stone railroad mile marker

The very best part of the walk today was through the 2868-foot (just over a half mile) Rockland Tunnel. The AVR wandered for four miles around the end of a long, narrow peninsula. It was often blocked by rock slides and ice, and it had too many sharp turns. The PRR immediately set about tunnelling through the hill to eliminate that loop. Rockland Tunnel

You can see that the tunnel is lined with brick. Rockland Tunnel

I believe these are safety alcoves where maintenance workers could crouch out of harm's way if a train came through. Rockland Tunnel safety alcoves

There was a surprising amount of ice still in the tunnel. Water drips from the ceiling. I actually tripped on one lump- no fall, but I sure was surprised. ice in Rockland Tunnel

There is a slight bend in the tunnel, so you don't see the end until you have traveled part way through. Rockland Tunnel

This was an incredibly cool experience! And there is an even longer tunnel tomorrow. This is all new trail to me, since the rail trail was not part of the NCT when I hiked here before (although a did a tiny bit of this a few years ago)

Miles today: 16.7. Total miles so far: 1515.

See The Magic Continues