Better late than never, they always say. . . It was a busy 3-day weekend for us, but not a very social one for Independence Day. Instead of hanging around for fireworks and barbecues, my wife and I decided to embark on a long-overdue wilderness adventure. We initially planned on backpacking the 30-mile West Rim Trail along the edge of the 'Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,' but it was going to be hotter in the air-conditioner forsaken states of NY and PA than it was in Texas. The idea of a 30-mile march through a black fly-infested sauna wasn't very appealing.
It turns out that the outfitters who provided shuttle service to the southern terminus of the trail (allowing hikers to trek back to their cars) also rent bikes for use on a different path. We decided, instead of hiking along the upper edge of the canyon for three days, to cycle the Pine Creek Rail Trail. Shady, long and flat, we could move along at a good clip and generate our own breeze along the bottom of the gorge. We decided on going as far as their shuttles would provide service to return us to our cars (about 30 miles) they told us it should take all day.
We started pedaling around 10:00, stopping a few of times to snack, gawk at a bald eagle, or ogle at deer. The highlight of the trip might have been our stop in Cedar Run Village, where the company store sells ice cream. They have very generous scoops. Grasshopper Pie rules! It's like mint-chocolate chip/cookies and cream with fudge injected.
We rode on from there, and made it to the gas station where the shuttle was to pick us up. It was 1:30. The shuttle wasn't arriving until 4:45. There's no cell phone service out there. Luckily the gas station had some cool stuff to browse- it's sort of like a bait & tackle/souvenir shop/deli. It was a long wait, but probably more comfortable there than it would have been out on the trail during the hottest part of the day- we would have been grilled.
The shuttle finally arrived about 5:00. Our ride back to our car took almost an hour- the roads aren't nearly as direct as the trail. On board the 16-passenger van was another picked-up passenger. A stately upper-middle-aged man with a full head of impeccably groomed gray hair. He was living in a hotel in PA and working in the oil and gas industry. I got up the guts to introduce myself and catch his name, Larry, as we de-boarded the van.
I should have caught the name of our super cool driver as well, but he got away. He was a slender young fellow with a surfer-dude accent. He sounded sort of like Michaelangelo the Ninja Turtle.
The air was cooling off by the time we got back to the car, so we hunted down the West Rim trailhead and trekked a couple of miles in before finding a suitable campsite. There we gathered wood, cooked a pasta-side for dinner, and spread our sleeping bags out on the forest floor.
It was time for dessert! We had packed in the key ingredients for making s'mores. It turned out that leaving those ingredients in our packs, in a black Honda Civic, on a blazing hot day, had been a bad idea. The treats had just about made themselves. The chocolate was molten and the marshmallows had formed one massive ultra-sticky puff- it may have even melded with the zip-lock bag. We did the best we could, spreading marshmallow goo on grahams with a stick and then buttering them with the chocolate syrup.
After a good night's sleep under the stars, we had breakfast- hot coffee and fruit bars smeared with peanut butter- then trekked back out of the woods. The rest of the day was spent finding, then hiking another trail to the blue-ridge rocks, climbing around a bit there, hiking back out, and then searching desperately for a state park in the area where we could swindle a shower in the camping area.
I was determined to enjoy a nice dinner out in downtown Wellsboro before we drove home Sunday night, but we were both in desperate need of a shower. The nice folks back at the outfitters suggested Twin Creeks Campground south of Wellsboro, so we drove about half an hour to take $3 showers. Yes, they were worth it. We had dinner at a nice Italian joint, then crossed the street and got tickets to Knight and Day at a little theater there.
We were exhausted by the time the movie was over, and drove on home, seeing a glittering of fireworks above hills and treelines here and there on our way.
That's right, I only came away with one name last week.