Another Report From MacAfee of Knob--October 16
January 1, 1970Hi, this is MacAfee of Knob, the Amazing Appalachian Bouncing Dog, sending you another report from the Appalachian Trail that I’m hiking with my companions Leonard and Laurie. I’m happy to be back on the trail after a six-week rest with Laurie’s parents. (They were easy to train and quite obedient. I could swear they understood Doglish!)
The trail in Pennsylvania is rocky, but instead of being on the vertical plane, like in New Hampshire, they are mostly in horizontal piles. The going is easy though compared to New Hampshire and I’m loving every minute of it. L&L constantly talk about water with everyone we meet. They seem to think there is a drought. It’s constantly, “this spring is dry” and “that stream is dry“, but really, every time we stop for a break my bowl appears and is filled with cool, clear water. They worry too much.
L&L told me that we would be alone out here and for the first five days that seemed true. We only saw two hikers and two maintainers. For two full days we did not see another human being! When’s the last time that happened to you?
I’m not sure what’s going on, but we’ve been hiking a little north and a little south and in the middle of things we went to The Gathering of the Appalachian Long Distance Hiker’s Association (ALDHA). There were all kinds of people there, most of whom smell like hikers, and come in all shapes and sizes, and hiker dogs, too. It’s nice to exchange sniffs and tips on handling our people on long distance hikes.
When we returned from The Gathering, I thought it would be another week of lonely trails, but on our first night little bobbing lights appeared to be floating down the trail. When I was a younger dog that would have scared the “woof” out of me, but as an experienced hiker dog I knew it was just hikers with headlamps doing a night hike. The numbers were still amazing as it turned out to be a group of 10 southbound thru-hikers. They didn’t start as a group, but over the last few weeks they had coalesced into this big party.
There were some pretty ugly rock piles on the ridge above the Susquehanna River as we followed the trail along the ridge early one morning. Looking down, we could see a bridge with many headlights streaming across. It was an hour later that we arrived at the bridge ourselves and walked across in a light rain with automobiles and 18-wheelers zooming by a few scant feet away.
In Duncannon, Pennsylvania, L&L led me to a room in a place called The Doyle Hotel. I’ve seen dog houses more inviting and I was a little freaked when we all squeezed into a tiny room with peeling paint, crumbly plaster, bare wood floors and a dirty curtain made of a sheet tacked over the window. I immediately tried to leave, but they held me fast, saying that The Doyle was historical (its one of the original Anheuser-Busch Hotels, over 100 years old) and an Appalachian Trail institution. I guess it was better than shivering in the cold rain now falling outside, but not much.
The next day was clear, cool and blustery, and it blew off the scent of our recent “incarceration”. At the end of a pleasant days hike, we spent the night with the Ice Cream Lady, probably the first person called a Trail Angel. In the 80’s the trail in the Cumberland Valley was entirely on roads for over 20 miles, and actually passed down the street in front of Bonnie’s house. For 11 years she handed out ice cream cones and cold drinks to hot and weary hikers passing by, until the trail was relocated to the woods and farmlands nearby.
Although the relocation was controversial, I found it to be a great walk on soft trails through young forests and along vast fields of drying corn and mown hay. I could smell that this was a high population area with houses everywhere and three major roadways to cross, including U.S. 11, Interstate 81, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Lots of great smells for the discriminating dog, too, like deer, mice, moles, rabbits, groundhogs, squirrels, chipmunks, foxes and skunks. Being a Saturday, there were lots of other cool dogs to meet and sniff too. Terriers, toys, shepherds, labs and even a pair of labradoodles--don’t ask.
In the little town of Boiling Springs, beside the Children’s’ Lake, we stopped at the mid-Atlantic headquarters for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to quietly celebrate another milestone in our hike. I wanted to jump in the lake so bad, but L&L wouldn’t let me. Sometime they are no fun at all, but I still love ‘em--at least as long as we keep hiking this grand Appalachian Trail!