Day mileage: 19.2
AT total mileage: 1,223.1
Time: 7 hours
It rained unbelievable amounts over the course of last night. I woke up repeatedly throughout the night in order to reposition my headphones back in my ears and get music playing again in an effort to block out the noise of the rain on the tin roof of the shelter. Liters of water before bed and the serenading of endless rainstorms don't help the mind game of holding back the need to pee overnight. It took me a while to pack up my stuff once the sky lightened up, as I had absolutely zero interest in hiking in the rain. Weather reports showed that the precipitation would taper off throughout the morning and leave us with a partly cloudy day. Pneumo and I eventually hit the trail at 8:30 or so, with 10 miles to go until we reached the road crossing for Port Clinton, PA. The goal was to hit town, perhaps get a hair cut, and make our way via a hitchhike to the Walmart located in Hamburg a few miles down the road. Per our previously laid out schedule for the week we'd hike 24 miles in total today, allowing for a few hours in town without much worry about hiking after dark.
From the shelter, the trail was muddy and wet everywhere we turned. Brief winds would shake rain from trees, and loose water drops on bushes got our clothes damp, but all in all there wasn't much rain left to fall once we began hiking. At one point Pneumo stopped for a few minutes and I passed him, the last time I'd see him for nearly 9 miles and 3 hours. I only hiked a mile or two before deeming my Marmot rain jacket unnecessary for the lack of precipitation and abundance of humidity. I folded it back up in my bag and pressed on, determined to get to town with enough time for a hair cut. While previous photos may clue you in as to the length of my hair, and you may be thinking I'm crazy for wanting a hair cut so badly, I assure you that I normally cut my hair every two weeks. Not having done so since Hot Springs nearly 1,000 miles back has nearly killed me with the heat and mop of hair on my head. A trim was necessary. The miles went by quickly, and around 10:30 the sunlight started peeking through leftover grey skies. The descent into Port Clinton was exceptionally steep, and called for precise steps and extreme use of my trekking poles to brace my movement downhill. The trail crossed over a railroad yard at the bottom of the hill, then across two separate hundred year old bridges before meandering down a side street of Port Clinton. I asked a local resident where I might find the barbershop I had been made aware of, and she pointed me up the block to the lower level of an old building with a small sign stating the residence of a barbershop inside.
A minute later and I had found exactly what I'd been looking for throughout the last few hundred miles. A barbershop seemingly stuck a wonderful forty years in the past, littered with hundreds of out-of-date National Geographic magazines across tables, pin-up dolls and vintage military plane posters on the walls, and a half-dozen salt and pepper haired men slowly leaning back in a row of misfit rocking chairs. Like something out of a feel-good movie, the sounds of Buddy Guy and Miles Davis flowed out of a cheap old CD player as the buzz of hair clippers at work serenaded along with the music. Frank, the proprietor of the Port Clinton Barber Shop alternates conversations between his row of undoubtedly trustworthy gentlemen and the customer in the chair, while attentively dancing around the clientele making precise moves with his electric trimmers. Hearing there was a line of 4 customers in front of me, I hesitated to stick around. Frank offered the cookies he kept out for hikers, and soon enough I sank into an empty space in the line of rocking chairs and settled in for what would be almost two hours of lighthearted and comedic conversations between the older local guys and the long traveled thru-hiker, the latter role played by yours truly. We spoke vintage cars (how moderns 'aren't reliable worth a damn'), politics, and music. The Mayor stopped by to check in on us. Frank is a guitarist, and the barbershop has four or five guitars in the corners, along with a keyboard and a few amps with stacks of classic rock and blues CDs in every spare inch of space. There's a weekly rehearsal that Frank hosts here, with a local physician and a few other members of their band jamming out to arranged blues hits. When the Buddy Guy CD had played its final tune, I wandered over and replaced it with a CD of my choice as if I'd been going to Frank's shop for years. He complimented my choice of the Muddy Waters, and I continued to await my turn. It would end up taking nearly two hours for me to have my hair cut, but it was truly one of those experiences I refused to walk away from. You've been reading long enough to know that I have a soft spot for antiquated and nostalgic places and moments, and this was right up my alley. Now if only I could find a vintage gas station to hang out in front of on Saturday mornings to check customer's oil levels... It'll be a long while before I forget my time at Frank's Port Clinton Barber Shop.
Getting into Hamburg was easier than I planned on it being. A very quick call to the Cabela's outfitter and a van was sent to pick us up from the barbershop. Upon reaching the store I purchased a small fuel canister for the next couple weeks, and a bug net for my head to keep these nasty bugs out of my face as I hike along. From there Pneumo and I walked over to the Dollar Store to do a light resupply before getting lunch at Subway. There were plenty of fast food options for lunch, but I was craving a meatball marinara. After wolfing the 12" sub down, I packed up my newly purchased food into my backpack, and began working on a ride back to the trail. Despite my amicable personality, I had to be a bit short with one gentlemen. I had asked him if he was headed by Port Clinton as he exited the store, and after saying no he wanted to strike up conversation about the trail. It seemed difficult for him to understand that in order for me to find a ride, I had to converse with people who might actually want to give me one. I turned him over to Pneumo for conversation, and lined us up a ride with Ruth, a local fire warden for the Forest Service. We piled into her van and she quickly shuttled us back to the trail. With a planned 15 miles left to go, a quick glance to my watch made me hesitant of those plans. The climb out of Port Clinton was a very steep 1,000' gain that mirrored the descent we made earlier on the other side of the road. Sweating by the time we reached the top, I followed along the trail eventually putting some distance between Pneumo and myself. I'd end up waiting for him at the next shelter and we would hike together for the rest of the day.
Due to the late start this afternoon, we cut our day short. As I've mentioned, my interest in night hiking has severely dropped now that we're in these rocks. There have been reports up the trail of a few thru-hikers with sprained and broken ankles due to the jagged boulders, and I'd prefer to not be part of that statistic. We called it a day at a beautiful vista called the Pinnacle, a mile or so after we came across a local astronomy club's telescopes built at the summit of the mountain. Our view tonight is of the endless valley below, and upon our arrival here we met a husband and wife day-hiker duo named Matt & Kim who graciously supplied us each with Cliff bars and a cold beer. We talked for a while before they headed back down the mountain, as the sun had set and the sky was creeping towards dusk. Cooking dinner in the dark, I retired to my tent at 2130hrs. I'll be waking up a bit early in order to make up the miles we stopped short tonight. The next few days include a few blog readers who are interested in meeting up, so staying on schedule mileage wise is important.
From the comforts of my warm sleeping bag atop Pinnacle Rock in Pennsylvania...