I won’t keep you in suspense…the Princess and our grandsons, Jackson and Liam, surprised me on the trail near Pine Grove, Pennsylvania yesterday. What a great surprise!
Here’s how it happened. The night before Whiskers had sent me a cryptic text saying he’d found someone who would slackpack us the next day. I assumed he had made arrangements with a woman named Joyce who slackpacks AT hikers in the Pine Grove area.
So we started the day with light packs and cool temperatures. It was so cool we could see our breath. During the day we walked along ridge lines where the forest floor was covered with ferns, heard swarms of cicadas, and had to navigate some rocky stretches of trail (see photos below),
A little over ten miles into our twenty mile day we stopped for a break at the ‘501 Shelter’, so named because of its location near PA Route 501. It is one of the nicest shelters on the trail, fully enclosed with bunks, tables and chairs, an outdoor solar shower, a caretaker who lives in a house next to the shelter, and a couple of cats to control the mouse population. Because of the shelter’s proximity to Route 501 it is possible to have pizza delivered to the shelter. Now that’s luxury. I took a portrait photo of Whiskers and Rocket sitting in the chairs next to one of the motivational posters on display in the shelter (see below).
Whiskers texted Joyce to tell her that we should reach out meeting point on Game Commission Road at 3:30. We picked up the pace during the afternoon even though the trail was pretty rocky. I was a little bit ahead of Whiskers and Rocket when I reached Game Commission Road right at 3:30 and Joyce was nowhere to be seen. I waited for my hiking partners to catch up and then we walked down the gravel road to where it intersected the larger PA Route 183 to see if Joyce was waiting there but no one was there. Whiskers started texting with Joyce, who was apparently having navigation problems – unusual for someone who regularly slackpacks hikers in this area.
We waited for almost an hour as Whiskers tried to direct Joyce to our location. She had said her car was a blue SUV and finally I saw it approaching. She pulled off the main road onto the gravel road right in front is me and I was shocked to see that Joyce was actually the Princess and that Jackson and Liam were asleep in their car seats. Talk about shocked – it took me a while to register what was happening. I was incredibly happy to see them, especially since I had not planned to see the Princess until I reached Mount Katahdin. Whiskers and Rocket were in on the surprise, of course, and we all had a great reunion and a laugh at how shocked I was at the whole affair.
We drive to the hotel where we would stay for the night, had dinner and some great brownies that the Princess had made with help from the boys, and visited until it was time for bed. After the boys went to sleep the Princess and I stayed up pretty late, especially for me, just talking about all kinds of things. I hope she’ll write a post telling about this big surprise from her perspective.
It will be hard saying goodbye to them later this morning but they’ve got to get back home to get ready for visitors on Friday and I need to keep moving towards Maine. Right now Liam is asleep next to me in one bed and the Princess and Jackson are asleep in the other bed. I’m going to enjoy this reunion for a few more hours, then back to work!