Down the Trail: A rocky finish to a long walk

Tom Quinn is in his 30th year as a geometry and calculus teacher at Northern Valley/Old Tappan High School. He was the Golden Knights’ girls soccer coach for 23 years, has been the boys golf coach for 10 seasons and is now back on the sidelines as the JV girls soccer coach. He took his first steps on the Appalachian Trail on January 1, 2019.

Quinn has logged a lot of miles since. He has walked the entire New Jersey and New York sections of the AT and has just about finished off Connecticut, too. He shares some of his experiences, tips and tricks in our semi-regular Down The Trail feature.

The Auburn Lookout was the reward for Tom Quinn's 15.5-mile, 35,500-step hike on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.

Our hike started about 90 miles west of the Delaware Water Gap.  Yes, it sounds like a lot, but I have only completed about 40-percent of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.  The AT meanders for over 230 miles through the Keystone State; the good news is that the blogs and writings of others tells me that the worst part is over … or is it?

This hike was a 15.5 mile, 35,500-stepper starting on Rt 183 (Bernville, PA) and ending at Rt. 61 (Port Clinton, PA).  Myself, my brother Rob and friend Harry were on this hike.  We were looking forward to a good one on this pretty good, wind free November day.

“Rocksylvania” on this hike it was not in the beginning.  Whereas other PA hikes that were loaded with “bus - sized” rocks that one had to climb over and around, the first part of this hike was a simple walk through the woods.  In fact, if you decided to stay on the service road that connected the points on this hike, you could have made this hike incredibly easy and much shorter.  The AT “figure 8’s” amongst this road and crosses it several times throughout the walk.  But we were there to walk in the woods, not on the road, correct?

The only climb came about 8 miles in, and it was a 5-10 minute heart pumper.  That was the only climb of the day.  The majority of the hike was a relatively smooth walk through the woods with limited views.  This couldn’t be, we are in Pennsylvania ….. right?

After about 11-12 miles, the rocks started to come back.  The usual ankle busters started appearing more regularly, and our heads started to stay facing the ground as we walked with some trepidation over rocks of different sizes.  The AT, as usual, was starting to bite back.  The view of the day (The Auburn Lookout) was really cool, but like most AT hikes in PA, the best views are usually after miles of hiking in the woods.  Fatigue was starting to set in our legs and feet.

The end of the hike was where the AT won, as the final mile and a half was a long, hard descent down to Port Clinton.  This might have been the hardest descent that I have done in my near 350-mile journey on the AT so far, and thank the good Lord I didn’t have to climb up it!  The down got harder as it got closer to the end; I was careful stepping over carefully placed rock steps and piles of leaves.  I needed my hiking poles big time, and I took it easy.  This part should not be underestimated!

The trail ends right on the train tracks of the Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad Line.  This train runs all over PA, and its headquarters are in Port Clinton.  For train enthusiasts, like Rob and Harry, this was a big win to the end of the hike.

But it wasn’t the end.  A friend of ours recommended the Port Clinton Hotel for lunch, and added they had the best cheesesteak sandwich in the area.  It was another win for us!  A great way to end the hike and a great way to end the day.  I highly recommend this place upon completion of this hike.  Port Clinton is kind of a neat quintessential PA town worth a stop over on a long journey.