I spent Memorial Day weekend in Pennsylvania, including part of the weekend on the A.T. This was the first overnight hike I'd done since I was a teenager. (We don't need to discuss how long ago that was!)
We left mid-afternoon from Hamburg Reservoir hiking west, and set up camp about 3.5 miles in at a place called Pocahontas Spring campsite. During most of the last half mile, we were hearing thunder rolling and were praying that the rain would hold off until we had camp set up and dinner inside us. It did, but just barely -- 20 minutes after we finished dinner, the skies opened up. The trail was challenging but beautiful, and very quiet -- we only saw one other person that afternoon/evening.
We got up the next morning, broke camp, and hiked back to the cars. We'd originally planned to continue our eastbound hike to include the Pinnacle Loop -- the most-frequently hiked section of the AT in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, we were running later than we'd expected, and didn't think we'd have time to complete Pinnacle's 9+ miles and still make it to the other event we were scheduled to be at that evening.
We were determined we were going to hike that Loop, so we came back Monday (Memorial Day). We knew it would be more crowded than the first leg had been, but didn't expect to see quite so many people. I stopped counting after about 2 dozen.
Even though we weren't in full packs this time, the terrain made the first half of this hike more challenging. The hills were steeper and rockier, and of course we were doing 9 miles instead of 3.5. Once we got to Pinnacle, the terrain smoothed out considerably, and parts of it were even along a 2-lane road.
One of the nice things about the A.T. is that the trail is generally very well marked, with white paint blazes showing you where to go, even in those areas where the trail itself is blindingly obvious. Even so, there was one section when we had to cross a boulder field where we had to cast about a bit to find the next blaze.
From what I've heard, the Pennsylvania section of the AT doesn't have that many "scenic vistas," but you couldn't prove that by me. This section has Pulpit Rock and The Pinnacle, both of which overlook some very picturesque valleys. It is also very close to Hawk Mountain Raptor Conservatory, so we got to enjoy some nice bird-watching as well.
This trip also gave me an opportunity to try out GPS navigation. I have a Droid X phone, and downloaded BackCountry Navigator onto it. The demo version gives you two weeks of use, and the full version is only $10. It worked well, although it does seem to be something of a battery hog. It was fine for our outings, but I wouldn't want to have to rely on it for a multi-day outing unless I had some way of recharging the battery.
I go to PA every Memorial Day weekend, and usually manage to get some hiking in while I'm there. Next year I'm considering something a bit more ambitious -- going out several days early and spending them on the AT. I'll let you know how that works out. ;-)