Rausch Gap Shelter Halfway Hilton

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July 15, 1983 Friday (1033.7 mtg) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

Today marked the two-month anniversary of the start of my hike. I am over half way to my goal, yet it still seems so far away. I am now in Pennsylvania, known for its' legendary "Rock Monster," the one that eats your boots and cripples many hikers. The whole section of trail in this state has a reputation of being one of the nastiest parts of the Appalachian Trail. With this in the back of my mind, and the prospect of the heat wave that seemed to be settling in over us and drying up all the springs along the trail, I was not looking forward to continuing. Regardless, this morning I was up and ready to go - first stop, the post office to check one last time for mail. I was disappointed to find, once again, that there was no package for me. I gathered the letters and post cards that I had written, and boxed up some unneeded stuff to be sent home, and proceeded to send them off. Just as I was on my way out, the postmaster caught my attention and handed me a package that had just arrived and been sorted. It was a package from Dave Szabo! I quickly wrote him a card, mailed it, and stepped out into the morning heat. I attempted to refresh myself by buying a "farewell to Duncannon" A & W Rootbeer, but had to settle for a Frostie Rootbeer instead. I did not receive the package Mom had sent to Duncannon, PA that contained some Agfa Film, probably some insect repellant, and other items now forgotten.

The trail first crossed the Juniata River on PA 849 and then the Susquehanna River on the Clarks Ferry Bridge, turned right and began the climb up Peters Mountain. I don't know who this Peter was, but I know his mountain seemed to show up everywhere just like Brushy Mountain in Virginia. The initial climb to the crest was the only really bad part. Once I reached the crest the trail followed it in a nearly straight line with little elevation change for many miles according to the profile map. It was a hot, tough climb out of the valley, and then seemed to become a jump from boulder to boulder for a while. So much for the level easy grade along the crest. I moved on to Earl Shaffer Shelter, which was only nine miles out of Duncannon, where I had intended to spend the night. I met many hikers there including Julie Settle and Eric Olson, and Claudia Gross and Frank "The Merry Slav" Krajcovic. I figured I would need some water, so I began the journey to the spring down a side trail near the shelter. The guide book says that water is difficult to obtain at this shelter. They were not kidding, I went down, down, down, over very rocky trail to find the spring which surprisingly was a very good one. The climb up was just as bad, and I probably drank the majority of the water I gathered to replace the water I lost in sweat.

I sat around in the heat until about three o'clock when it suddenly hit me - there are too many people at this shelter! (Apparently more arrived later as I found out in 2012 that Marcel Montville and Mark Dimicelli also stayed there that night.) I packed up my gear and took off hoping to make Rausch Gap Shelter by nightfall. What was I thinking?! It was another 17 miles to that shelter, and I was starting at 3 pm? That gave me roughly five hours to cover those miles before darkness began to set in. I boogied and boogied. I began by traversing the crest of Peters Mountain for the next six miles. A nasty drop-off from that mountain of almost 1000 feet brought me to the floor of Clark's Valley, where I crossed PA 325, and then began the ascent up part of Stoney Mountain and further on to follow the crest of Sharp Mountain for the remainder of the day. I just hiked and hiked, with little to no stopping. I even passed up a big rattlesnake on the trail near the Yellow Falls Village site, but it seemed to ignore me as it slithered southward on the trail and I continued north on my quest for Rausch Gap Shelter. I couldn't take the time to stop and chat, I just said "Hi" as I passed. I could sense the impending nightfall as the light level began to dim. I had just under five miles to go.

I arrived at the Shelter, also known as "The Halfway Hilton" at about 8:15 pm or so to find "Fuzzy Jim", Pete Headon, Tim Platts, Bruce "The Yak" Berlin, a female hiker named Terry Zimmerman, and "Roving Mike" Svetecz, a schoolteacher from Allentown who was the only non-thru hiker of the bunch. Too tired to cook, I ate granola and drank lots and lots of water. The shelter was known as the Halfway Hilton since it was "roughly" halfway to Katahdin from Georgia, and it sported a nice rock patio with an aquaduct that brought the spring water right in front of the shelter. A nice touch. The company brought a sense of joviality to the place as there seemed to be continuous laughter while the evening drew to a close. The night air did not provide much relief from the afternoon heatwave, and despite wearing myself out on my mad dash to the shelter, I slept little, mostly because the raccoons on the rampage around the shelter looking for food kept me awake.

Twenty-six and seven tenths of a mile total for the day, plus a tough trip to the spring at Shaffer shelter (This shelter is now part of the exhibits at the Appalachian Trail Museum in Gardner, PA.) The best part was that I caught up with a fun group of hikers. Mike, the local, had so much fun, he told us that he would meet us at the Allentown Shelter in four days and bring party supplies.

Mom went to the post office in Highland, Illinois today and sent out a package to me containing the items we discussed yesterday and sent it first class to me at Delaware Water Gap, PA (cost $3.21).

(Note Feb 25, 2012 from Marcel Montville: Terri Zimmerman started the trail in Georgia hiking with another nurse as her partner, presumably Tina Detwiler, she continued on solo after Tina quit about half way through based on the fact that they appear together in a photo taken at Harper's Ferry ATC headquarters.)

Note: The Rausch Gap Shelter was rebuilt in 2011 - 2012 and many of it's unique features were kept. See Original shelter built in 1973. The whole project can be seen in a slideshow at http://www.bmecc.org/rausch_gap_work.html thanks to the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983

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