Three Days on the Canyon Rim: Views, critters & shortcuts

Previously: I set out with Dave Pidgeon and Joe Duff on the 31-mile West Rim Trail on Pine Creek Gorge, Pennsylvania’s “Grand Canyon.” We got delayed when the Millennium Falcon broke down and got rained on late in the day.

The morning sun rises above the eastern rim of Pine Creek Gorge on Sept. 22, 2012.

Darkness. The sounds of the forest rocked me to sleep easily.

And then, the unmistakable sound of heavy rain, so thick that it sounded like sleet as the drops pounded my tarp. Slowly I drifted up from my slumber.

I open my eyes to the black night, barely able to make out the small tarp overhead and distinctly aware that my face is wet. I can feel the rain whipping in from up the western ridge line, raking our camp and nearly rendering my tarp useless.

I fumble in the dark for the button on my wristwatch, find it and peer into the yellow light. It goes out before my weary mind can catch up and read the time.

Hit the light again. 1 a.m. I’ve been asleep for about three hours. I fumble for my headlamp, find it in the hammock next to me, don it, and switch on the light. My sleeping bag is wet, but my body is dry and warm.

Above me, a giant bubble of water hangs heavy in the middle of my tarp. I push up and water floods over the edge harmlessly into the night.

I stay put in the hammock despite the flood in my bladder about to burst the dam. There’s just too much water coming down to venture out to urinate. So instead I search my surroundings to assess the situation. I’m dry except the water coming in from up the hill. I turn to my side when I see part of the hammock is wet. Under me, a small puddle has formed, but it’s seeping through the parachute nylon of the hammock faster than its can absorb into the nylon and Hollofil sleeping bag. Good. (mental note: I need a new sleeping bag.)

Joe and Dave awake from their slumber, ravenous for a trail breakfast. If only their idiot companion would stop posing them for photos. Camp 1, West Rim Trail, Sept. 22, 2012.

I wait. The ground around my hammock is dry. Good. In fact, it looks like everything is dry except a few spots. Eventually the rain lets up and I venture out to pee. Warm again, I settle back into the hammock, ignore the water and go to sleep as the crickets re-emerge from their hiding spots to sing to their mates.

On and off in two hour spurts, I sleep waiting for the sun to peek over the eastern rim of Pine Creek Gorge. Finally, it comes and I can hear Dave and Joe beginning to stir. The stomach calls for breakfast.

Time to assess nature’s mild fit on us last night. Time to get moving again. 21 more miles to go. You can get to my interactive Google-based map here. For the final installment of this series, click here.

Here are the photos from the second day on the West Rim Trail:

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