Epic Failure Report: The Loyalsock Trail

This weekend, I attempted to hike the Loyalsock Trail end-to-end. Needless to say, I didn’t finish. Actually, I barely got started. There are a few small reasons, and one very big reason.

I left a day early so that I wouldn’t have to get up so early to make the 3 hour drive on Saturday. Of course, I wasn’t wearing my hiking clothes, but rather some other stuff. About 2 hours into the drive, it dawned on me: I left my trail runners at home! The sandals I was wearing are OK to hike in, but would never have held up to a 4-day trip. So I wasted 2 hours trying to find cheap, acceptable replacements. I settled on a pair of Merrell low hikers, which ended up hurting my feet.

My next small mistake was discovered when I was settling in for the night. I was rationing out dog food when I noticed that something looked wrong. I had brought the saddlebags for my dog’s backpack, but not the harness. This meant that I had to pack an extra 5 or 6lbs of stuff into my pack. Whining and complaining soon followed. At least I was carrying the Gorilla. My Murmur would have never been able to hand the extra load.

My next failure occurred as we were setting up our shuttle. I moved my pack from my car into another car, without realizing that my water bottle had fallen out. All I had was my 32oz Gatorade. This wasn’t a huge deal. I just figured I would just have to refill more often. I did have an empty 2L Platypus bottle, but it would have been a pain to deal with while hiking.

Now that you have the backstory, here’s what happened on the trail. We started our hike from the LT’s western terminus on Rt 87, North of Montoursville, PA. The climb from the road is immediately steep. Every step forced you to choose between wet rocks or loose dirt, either one of which could have caused you to slip and roll back down the hill. By the time we got our first mile in, I was exhausted and dripping with sweat. I was the last one up the hill, behind a group of hikers that I could have normally been out in front of. I chalked this up to the fact that I’m not very strong on steep climbs, and once things flattened out a little, I did make my way to the front of the pack.

After a treacherously slippery descent to the Little Bear Creek, I was a few minutes ahead of the group. We stopped along side the creek at mile 4.85 for a quick snack at some picnic tables. By this point, I had already finished my Gatorade, refilled the bottle with water, and finished that. I immediately fetched and treated another liter. After our snack, I felt pretty good. We hit the trail, which was another nasty climb. By mile 5.25, I was done. I couldn’t pick my feet up. I could barely keep my poles in my hands. At first, I thought this was related to the beer I drank the night before, but I had done much worse in the past and never had adverse effects like this on the trail. I wasn’t feeling anything that even remotely resembled hangover symptoms, but I couldn’t think of any other possible cause. I sat down for a moment, and the last guy in the group stopped with me. I told him that I didn’t think I’d be able to finish out the day, let alone the whole trail.

At this point, I dropped my pack and decided to catch up with the others and let them know I was bailing. I walked for over a mile, whistling and shouting the whole way. There was no sign of them. After almost throwing up on the trail, I decided to turn around and head out. I returned to my pack, which my comrade was diligently guarding, and we headed back down to the creek, where there was a road crossing. We hitched a ride back to my buddy’s car, and we headed back to the Eastern Terminus to pick up my car. Along the way, we stopped at a car we had staged in the middle. I left a note for the others, since they were probably confused and/or worried.

The drive home wasn’t great. I had to stop 2 or 3 times to keep myself from passing out behind the wheel, but I eventually made it home. When I got home, the fireworks began. My wife had a pretty bad stomach bug a few days before and suggested that I had picked it up from her. That definitely explained it. I was sick as a dog all night. Come the following morning, I was still very dehydrated, but my other symptoms had subsided.

I was mad at myself for bailing, but it was definitely for the best. Guess I’ll have to try this one again sometime….

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