Day 22 – Defining Roads

No man ever followed his genius till it misled him.  Though the result were bodily weakness, yet perhaps no one can say that the consequences were to be regretted, for these were a life in conformity to higher principles.  If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal – that is your success.  All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself.  The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated.  We easily come to doubt if they exist.  We soon forget them.  They are the highest reality.  Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man.  The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tines of morning or evening.  It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.  – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods

Most people we talked to over the last few days wanted to know if we were taking US 30 or PA Highway 31 west.  The answer was a little of both, but also at times neither.  Our Google walking directions seemed to have a shortcut using some side roads.  Most people seemed skeptical of our route.  We decided to follow it anyway.  What’s wrong with a little exploring, right?

A new walking partner?

Tara wants to stop and swing every time she sees a swing set. Today, she couldn’t resist the urge.

A nice place to rest.

Make sure to get my good side

The bison were afraid of us. The carts must make us look intimidating.

Tara soaking up the warming sun

Our first dirt road of the trip. Not a single car passed by when we were on this road. It was very peaceful.

Apparently this is not a rolling stone

The shortcut was proving to be a success.  We had little to no traffic to contend with, and beautiful scenery to enjoy.  We stopped by another covered bridge to have lunch.  We knew we had a mountain pass to cross before the day was over, so we wanted to have plenty of energy.

A perfect spot for lunch

With the mountain pass looming ahead, we set off after lunch with a little trepidation about what was in store.  When we saw the road we would be using to climb the mountain, we started second guessing our walking directions.

Google says this is a road. Tara does not agree. She says it’s a path at best, and insists she will be writing Google a strongly worded letter.

For those of you familiar with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, when you go through a tunnel marked Allegheny Mountain, you are going through the mountain that we had to walk over. The climb was hard enough with the steep incline and rocky terrain.  Add in snow, and it was almost impassable with our carts.  Almost.

John-Michael is starting to see Tara’s point.

She wants to know what all the fuss is about. Apparently walking up this mountain isn’t an issue for her.

Several hours later, we reached the top of the mountain and were in the Pennsylvania Highlands.  A few more miles of walking brought us to Shanksville.  We walked by the Shanksville Fire Department and saw a man getting out of his car.  We introduced ourselves to Ben and asked him if we could stay behind the station.  He said he wasn’t sure, but would call the Fire Chief to ask.  A few minutes later, Ben returned with the good news that the Fire Chief said we could camp there.  Ben also told us about a small store down the road where we could get some food.  We set up our tent and then headed to the store.  It turns out the store is also a restaurant and ice cream parlor.  You would never know by looking at it, but it’s the place to go for all of the locals.

While sitting on a bench and eating some pizza, a man walked up and introduced himself as Brad, the Fire Chief.  Brad stayed and talked with us while we ate dinner.  He knew everyone going in and out of the store.  In a town of 250 people, there aren’t many strangers.

Brad, Chief of the Shanksville Fire Department

As the sun started to set, Brad excused himself and headed home.  We walked back to our tent exhausted but a bit proud of the walking we had accomplished today.