After my second day in Harrisburg where I was attending a conference, I met up with my friend Ashley in Duncannon. We got a bite to eat and decided to hike up to Hawk Rock. There were several Appalachian Trail thru-hikers in town, including the same group I saw the day before at Pine Grove Furnace. Other thru-hikers were checking their smart phones or picking up packages.
We began the climb up to Hawk Rock between thickets of wineberries and jewel weed. The weather was incredibly humid, so much so that my glasses fogged up. We passed a thru-hiker coming off the mountain with a dog. He was clearly in pain, his feet were hurting him. Thankfully he was close to town.
We left the Appalachian Trail and took a side trail that snaked steeply up the mountain. We reached a fine view of the vast Susquehanna River and Peters Mountain. Haze consumed the distant ridges.
We continued the steep climb, but soon we reached the top and the trail leveled along the crest of the ridge. We saw someone ahead; it was another thru-hiker who was camped where this side trail met the AT. We said hi and continued up the AT.
Little did we know Hawk Rock was to our right, as we beared left, heading south on the AT. It was a nice trail, with deep woods and rock outcrops as the setting sun glowed through the trees. We decided to turn around as twilight began to descend.
We returned to the side trail and the camping thru-hiker. I gave him some granola bars and crackers, which he appreciated. His trail name was “Quattro” and he had also hiked the trail in 2007. He was friendly and seemed to enjoy the culture and friendships of the trail, saying the people were the best thing on the AT. He also seemed to have a transient nature to him; when we asked where he was from he hesitated and said Key West. It is hard to imagine all the different lives people lead.
We said goodbye and descended immediately to Hawk Rock. It was growing dark as the lights of Duncannon twinkled in the distance. Shermans Creek flowed through a gorge far below.
We left the view as the trail descended from the ridge; the narrow path clung to the side of the steep mountain. The trail passed large talus slopes and the forests became pitch black. By the time we reached the final descent to the road, we couldn’t see anything as we picked our way down the rocks with our hiking poles. We failed to bring headlamps, so Ashley illuminated our way with her cellphone. The road finally came into view as we made out of the forest’s cloak of darkness.