The Pole Steeple is a rather odd name for a prominent rock outcrop in the Michaux State Forest, near Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Located just off the Appalachian Trail, the Pole Steeple is a popular hiking destination as it looks over the beautiful wooded valleys and rolling mountains of the state forest.
I was in Harrisburg recently for a seminar. After I was done for the day, I decided to do some exploring. After a forty minute drive I found myself in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. It was late afternoon. I parked near the park store where several thru-hikers were attempting the half-gallon ice cream challenge, a tradition among the Appalachian Trail hikers. A few of the hikers were struggling; others were keeping time. One finished his half-gallon after 30 minutes or so.
I was soon on the trail as it explored woodlands along a stream and passed a small pond. The trail followed the creek more closely where I passed another thru-hiker, this one heading south. I passed a young family who were going for a hike. The Appalachian Trail began a gradual ascent up the mountain. I was making good time, but the humidity could not be avoided as sweat stained my shirt. I passed several campsites, empty of people. On the ground at one campsite, someone wrote “1,100”, indicating they were about half-way along the trail’s 2,200 plus miles.
The trail leveled off and I took a side trail to the Pole Steeple. A steep climb brought me to the outcrop and I was treated to beautiful views. I also had it all to myself. Shafts of sunlight spliced the clouds at the horizon.
I sat and enjoyed the view as a thunderstorm passed to the south. Laurel Lake was far below. A faint veil of mist began to spread across the valley.
I retraced my steps and came across a small pack of cub scouts climbing the trail to the view. The kids seemed so small to be hauling packs so big, but they all seemed happy. I said “hi” and one kid exclaimed to me, “We’re camping!” I said “Good for you! Have fun.” “I will!” came the confident reply. I soon disappeared into the twilight of the forest and could hear the kids’ excitement when they reached the view.
I returned to my car in darkness. The thru hikers were gone, on their journeys both north and south.