North Country Trail 44M, Allegheny National Forest, PA

October 3, 2013 - It was exactly 0352 when the angels roused me to climb
out of my dreamy slumber to go chase another big ticket item on my bucket
list.  Like an emerging newborn grasping hard to hang onto his umbilical I
tried to roll over and again find my place in the comfortable dream I was
having before I got the call from above.  Putting off my angels is not like
shutting off an alarm clock - they're persistent to sometimes an annoying
degree.  Since I knew from experience they were not going to let me go
back to sleep I jumped out of bed by four and embraced the birthing of 
another adventure. 

In a way, each of these adventures is an opportunity for rebirth; forcing one
to step outside the zone of comfort and familiarity to slide into the unknown
for a short while.  The thing is, you can never go back to the way you were
again; the connecting cord to who you were is severed and you find yourself
reset, reinvented, reborn with a fresh perspective on what is really of value
and what isn't.

Heading out in the truck I managed to eventually wind my way north to where
the North Country Trail crosses the northern-most road in Pennsylvania.  By
0615, finally, with a head lamp to light my way, I was making tracks on a
1.4-mile dog-leg north on the NCT to the New York state border.  I wanted to
see as much of the Pennsylvania NCT as I could for as long as I could go.  It
took me 45 minutes to find my way to the NY placard and back to the truck
in the dark before donning my ten-pound backpack to head south just after
seven in the glow of the morning light.  Pennsylvania woods are fairly
predictable in terms of their autumn beauty and I am never surprised by the
rooty and  rocky nature of its trails.  This area was heavily galciated more than
once and is a virtual depository of erratic boulders left behind by the great ice
sheets.  I watched for rattlesnakes, but saw nary a sign.  Through the
morning hours I wound back and forth around inlets of the extensive and
beautiful Kinzua Reservoir, sometimes making tracks along its muddy backwash
before climbing to run the ridges overlooking its vast extent.

My legs were strong and for the first time in a long while I was able to get some
lift and power out of my right hamstring with the apparent healing of my
longstanding ischial tuberosity tendinosis.  After the morning fog burned off,
the humidity remained quite noticeable, especially as the temperatures climbed
past 80 degrees.  I drank generously from the abundant wild waters along the
way.  The morning's blue skies and sunshine gave way to some emerging 
clouds by afternoon.  After losing my map along the way and several times
having to retrace my steps to find the trail I decided to end my jaunt before
dark at 44 miles, at which time I called in rescue from Annie where the trail
crossed Highway 6 west of Kane.

I was prepared to run through the night when I set out, but had not anticipated
how the fresh leaf cover on some of the trails obscured the way.  Blazes were
too often inconsistently spaced, leaving me scratching my head during day
light hours.  Without a map I could only imagine the degree of difficulty would
only get worse at night, so I opted to end my adventure sooner than my body
called for.  As it turned out, it was a good call.  The night brought torrential
thunderstorms.  In hindsight, I probably saved myself from a miserable night
of shivering wet hypothermia requiring continued movement to stay alive,
which could have been problematic if I got off the trail and couldn't find my way.

The balancing act between discretion and valor leaves me to run healthy 
another day.  I enjoyed seeing new country at a leisurely pace without a single
fall or injury and am left feeling regenerated and will sleep with a smile.