On the Appalachian Trail

Abandoning cozy comforts, nine individuals of the Carlisle Barracks community recently backpacked a segment of Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Trail from Caledonia state park to Pine Grove Furnace. Bruce Nielson and Sue Bower, of MWR’s Outdoor Recreation program, led the small group of hikers as they trekked through the woods for two days and nights.

The first evening consisted of a short trek to one of the best maintained and most beautiful shelters along the AT, The Quarry Gap Shelter. 

“To get ready for this hike, I heard there was an ultralight backpacking class, so I went over to MWR …, and Bruce gave me instructions,” said 71 year-old Jerry Mock, who utilized the trip in order to train for the El Camino Frances in France. 

The El Camino Frances or, “The French Way,” is the most popular route of the Camino de Santiago, or “Way of St. James,” which is a pilgrimage route to the shrine of the Apostle St. James. The Camino de Santiago was also the subject of the recent film, “The Way,” starring Martin Sheen. 

Mock has her sights on hiking the El Camino during a pilgrimage in August and used the Outdoor Recreation camping and training hike to prepare her for the upcoming trek through Europe. 

For the camping trip and training hike, the hikers trimmed down their gear and food to whatever they could fit in a 40 liter backpack. Items brought included: a sleeping bag, tent, rain gear, hats, a plastic ground sheet, a water filtration system and food. All of which had to snugly fit into the pack. 

“Bruce has been so kind and nice… gone above and beyond what I could have expected, Even going as far to set up these kind of training hikes,” Mock said. 

The second day the hikers set off to Birch Run shelter, which was an 8 mile hike northeast. 

The forecast called for rain that afternoon, so there was a need for haste on the trail, in order to set up tents before the rain hit. 

The route took the hikers over several steep inclines, which made more than a few of the hikers question, did I actually need to bring all this food? 

All the hikers arrived at Birch Run shelter before a cooling rain hit the trail, which finally gave the group an opportunity to sit and talk while having dinner and looking out from the shelter’s deck. 

The hikers awoke on the last day of the hike and camping trip to weather cool enough for a jacket. 

They packed up their gear and trash, and after breakfast, started on their way to Pine Grove Furnace. 

The end of the last day’s hike came quickly, and the Outdoor Recreation hikers voiced their wish to stay, Just one more day, one more day with Bruce and Sue, one more day in the cozy comforts of the beautiful forests of Pennsylvania.

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