Over the past year or so, hiking has become one of my favorite pastimes (besides running, that is!). I’ve written about two hiking experiences (both here and here), but after Saturday, I have a new favorite hiking spot, and it’s less than an hour away. An added bonus? A nearby lake to swim in!
On Saturday, we left in the early afternoon, completing the 45-minute drive to Pine Grove Furnace State Park to hike part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, more commonly referred to as the Appalachian Trail. For those of you unfamiliar with the Appalachian Trail, it’s a 2,180 mile trail that runs from Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia. And, yes, people do sometimes hike the entire thing.
While that wasn’t on our agenda for Saturday, we did plan to hike a few miles of it. Using this guide, we were able to easily hop onto the trail, as well as make it a loop, so we could get back to our car afterward. The heat and humidity were much more bearable under the shade of the trees, which was a welcome relief. The trail was well-marked, and we had no trouble picking it up, but the first mile or so was very steep.
For a Saturday afternoon, the trail was very quiet, and we didn’t see many other hikers. However, one hiker we passed warned us of a pile of rattlesnakes up ahead. Luckily, we never came across them, or I may have gone screaming the other way. After about three miles, we stumbled across the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail.
Yep, for those hikers on a mission to complete the entire route, the halfway point is located right along this hike. It was marked with a sign, and a mailbox with a notebook for hikers to leave correspondence. There’s also a “half-gallon challenge,” in which hikers competing the whole trail take a break to eat a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting.
Sadly, no ice cream for us for reaching the halfway point, so we soldiered on. For a section of this hike, you have to climb over boulders for a good 15 minutes, and it was pretty tough. We did see a snake here, luckily, just a garden one, but it certainly scared both of us when it slithered out from under a boulder. I’ll admit that I screamed.
Overall, we hiked about five or six miles and it took us over two hours. We’re both fairly active, but this was one of the more difficult hikes we’ve done. At my request, we made sure our hike ended near a lake, and packed our swimsuits. Fuller Lake, which is free and open to the public, was jammed with beach dwellers. The lake was freezing, but it felt so refreshing after being in the heat all afternoon. I’d highly recommend spending an afternoon here. I think it was one of my favorite summer days thus far. Just keep the snakes away.
Have you hiked any part of the Appalachian Trail? What hiking trails should we explore next?