Today we had a relatively short hike of seventeen miles from Clarks Creek to Swatara Gap. The weather was much cooler, the trail was good and we made hood time. Don’t think we’re getting soft though, we’ve got a series of 20+ milers coming up and we’ll be walking in the rain by Friday.
Today was our last day of slack packing with Mossybrown and we will miss her company and her trail magic too. She’s been great to us and we’re going to have to ‘pay it forward’ to some future AT hikers after we finish our hike.
This morning she asked us when we thought we would reach Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the trail in Maine. Whiskers is a planner extraordinaire and he projected August 8th as our finish date. A lot can happen between now and then, so we’ll see how that projection holds up.
Today we passed the sites of two small settlements at Yellow Springs and Rausch Gap, both former mining villages from the mid-1800s which are now abandoned. There were hardly any signs of buildings but at times the trail followed raised road beds, there were occasional piles of dark chips of coal, and there was an old cemetery. It’s hard to believe that 150 years ago these were busy villages with as many as a thousand inhabitants.
For several days we have been hearing cicadas, seeing holes in the trail from which they emerged, and seeing carcasses of dead cicadas in the trail and on bushes and small trees beside the trail. Today it felt like we passed right through a large swarm of them. If you haven’t heard them, they sound like a high-pitched alarm that might be part of the soundtrack of a Hitchcock movie. You know, the sound effect they play when something bad is about to happen.
As we passed through the area where the sound was the loudest we noticed that the trees were practically covered with cicadas, some living but mostly dead. Apparently we were in a swarm of Brood II cicadas that emerge every seventeen years. The sound that we heard is the mating call made by the males. Cicadas only live for a couple of weeks. The newly hatched babies will burrow into the ground and stay for seventeen years until it is time for them to emerge. It’s all very interesting!
Here is a photo of Whiskers and Rocket reading the register at Yellow Springs and a cicada eating a leaf.