Twig Adventures

AT Day 52: Jinx & Porcupine

Tuesday September 14th, 2021, 0740-1910
501 Shelter to Sturgis porcupine tentsite, SOBO AT mm 1022.5
25.6 miles
3839 gain, 3665 loss

I was slow to rise after a very late night hanging by the campfire…only my second since the first night in Baxter State Park. It was past 10 pm when I went to bed. I didn’t have a set agenda for the day, other than to make it 13 miles to where a trail angel was scheduled to be doing trail magic. That’s enough motivation to get moving. I watched the light grow from the huge skylight in the roof of the shelter. I hadn’t noticed it when I arrived, since it was dark.

I bid farewell to the 2 NOBOs, who were the only ones still left when I rolled out close to 8 am. They were definitely not in any kind of hurry. I shortly caught up to the SOBO couple, Dairy Free and Prom Night. We crossed the 1000 mile mark together…a nice moment to share with my fellow SOBOs. We all high-fived. With this milestone, I now had around 11,000 miles under my belt since 2017, when I started thru and section hiking.

The couple were getting off trail shortly because Prom Night’s shoes were falling apart..hence the pink duct tape. They were taking a shuttle to a nearby sporting goods store to get new shoes. My shoes were still miraculously intact but close to being done. The sole of my right shoe was starting to separate at the toe and there were several holes appearing in the uppers. Plus the tread was gone, left behind on so many rocks. I had only 40 miles to go before getting new ones. I would have liked to have switched out at the halfway point but the timing didn’t line up. Just over 1000 miles would have to be good enough.

This section of trail had tons of the invasive spotted lantern flies. I started seeing them in New Jersey but they had been the worst in PA. They don’t bother people but do a number on fruit trees, cash crops, and native trees. They have very pretty wings and look like a butterfly. I was finding big clusters of them, which then flew every which way as I stirred them up. Many times they landed on my pack or body, so I can see why officials are concerned about hikers spreading them.

I came to the trail magic just in time for lunch. Jinx was a pro trail angel with amazing attention to detail. She had pre-packed each individual treat so as to prevent against contagions. She also had coolers of soda, Gatorade, water, fruit, root beer floats, chairs, toiletries, chargers and even fans. She’d done this set-up many times in the peak of the summer for hundreds of NOBOs. She’d tried again just the week before, but unfortunately not one hiker had come by. Not wanting to waste her generous efforts again, she’d followed some SOBO Instagram posts, reached out about our locations. She based her trail magic off our schedules…that’s some dedication to the cause, my friends!

At least she got 4 of us SOBOs this day. I had her all to myself for over an hour, so it was nice to be able to have a quality conversation. I really love trail magic in the off-season, since I get a chance to talk one on one with the trail angels at length. I’m always curious about why they elect to do it. Jinx had section hiked a lot of the trail and was also a mom of 3, which really came through in her efforts. She just loves being a part of the the trail in any way she can. For those that don’t have the time to thru hike, hanging out with thru-hikers is the next best thing, I guess. Thanks so much Jinx!

I stayed for around 2 hours, by which time Dairy Free and Prom Night arrived to share in the fun. A few more chairs were filled and it felt more like a proper hiker feed. I hated to leave when I did since it was very hot, I was enjoying the company, and I was feeling stuffed. But all good things must come to an end. I needed to put in a decent effort this day in order to be able to make it to town the following day.

I went a little ways down trail before coming to an area flooded by a beaver dam. I changed into my camp shoes and waded through the muck. It was a pretty smelly bog but luckily there was a good stream afterwards, perfect for an afternoon dunking. I washed off all the sweat and mud, then was able to carry on with renewed vigor. The trail took on a very straight and narrow path for the next 6 miles, following the ridge but just off to the side. This seemed to avoid all the rocks and any topography, so it was a cruise through the green tunnel. I was able to make it to my farthest planned campsite just before dark.

My site was noted to have a lot of porcupine activity. Sure enough, Mr. Porc appeared just in time for dinner, approaching from behind my tent and announcing his arrival with some weird whistling noises. I froze at first, then realized it must be said animal of the hour. I rose to see him in my headlamp beam, making a beeline for my tent. The notes warned of his affinity for chewing on trekking pole handles. I wanted none of that so I decided in a split second that the best defense was a good offense. I stomped my feet, clapped my hands, and made a rush straight at him. My bluff worked…he turned spiky tail and ran back the way he’d come, not to return all night.

Well, so my dinner company plans didn’t go so well but I had a lovely evening enjoying the breeze and the moon shining through the pines. The site was at the top of a big hill, surrounded by pine duff, and mostly free of mosquitoes. It was one of the better campsites I had all trip, despite the prickly company.

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