Last Weekend/This Weekend: Rain, snakes and service

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Confession.

I have lived around the Appalachian Trail my entire life. I pass the signs regularly as the trail crosses the main state roads in and out of town to the east. I’ve stopped at the AT office in Boiling Springs just to see what was there. Once, I even saw some through hikers give an impromptu concert on a street corner at Foundry Day, collecting tips that – in my imagination – were used to pay for an air-conditioned hotel room and a hot shower sometime later in the trip. Though I suppose it’s entirely more likely the tips bought a couple of beers at the Boiling Springs Tavern a block or so away.

But, I can honestly say I have only hiked the trail one time. It was a crazy rocky patch in Michaux State Forest after a guided tour of the old World War II POW camp. The tour guide gave us the option to go back to our cars on an easy trail or we could hike the AT back. I chose the AT. That ankle-twisting adventure was the last time I had been on the AT until last weekend.

During the First Steps program, I settled into the routine of going on a group run on Saturday mornings, and I hated the idea of breaking the habit I had only just established. So I decided to join up with a group run on the AT north out of Boiling Springs that was billed as “ a relatively flat, easy part of the trail without too much technical terrain.”

Key word? Relatively. There were a few little hills, one fairly rocky downhill, and one swinging branch that my running buddy and I dodged. There was also a little rain, a lot of mud, and a half a dozen hikers who were far more prepared for the conditions than I.

I finished four miles wet and a little chilly with a good bit of mud splashed halfway up my calves.

And I can’t wait to do it again!

Sunday, I took my mountain bike, Blue, out to the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail for the first ride of the season – an easy 10-miler. Last fall, I made the colossal mistake of going on a bike trip without having ridden much over the summer so I’m trying to avoid that disaster this year.

It was a gorgeous day, and the ride went quite well … until the last half-mile or so. I pedaled across the newly installed bridge high above a road below and continued a short distance to the trail’s end. I turned around and started back toward the bridge, and saw a number of people on the bridge. It seemed odd since the bridge had been empty moments before – and even odder when someone else stopped to join the conversation.

When I got to the bridge, a young Mennonite man on a bicycle said, “Did you see the snake?”

THE WHAT??

It is at this moment that I was (one) glad the bridge had high railings (two) annoyed that the only way back to the car was past the snake on the bridge.

As I neared the end of the bridge, staying as close to the opposite side from the snake as I possibly could, one of the people who had gathered helpfully told me it had slithered up through the cracks.

“Great,” I thought, looking down at the crack on which I was standing.

For a moment, the critter looked as perturbed at our presence as I was at his, and it looked like he might take a header off the side down to the street below.

In the end, he went his way. I went mine.

No offense, little dude, but I hope we don’t meet again.

NEXT WEEKEND: On Saturday, I’ll be doing my usual run/walk routine at Adam’s Semper Fit Challenge and Semper Fest 2017  It’s a first time event in memory of a local man, Adam Schoeller, who died in a helicopter crash during a military training exercise off the coast of Hawaii last year.

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