October 11, 2015 (9 miles, 5.5 hours) AT PA Sections 7 & 8
A heavy fog blanketed the region on our 1 ½ hour ride to our shuttle rendezvous point with our shuttle driver, Michael. Today’s segment would take us across the wide Susquehanna River. I hoped that the mist would linger long enough to get a few moody photos on the trail.
We met Michael at the parking lot on Rt. 225. As we approached in the car, he was perched on the pedestrian bridge spanning the highway. From this vantage he spotted us and pointed to the narrow driveway just before a tight hairpin turn in the road. This is a tough entrance to see, especially if you have someone tailgating you up the hill. From there he transported us to Duncannon, pointing out an elaborate garden display on a lawn along the way.
It was a cold morning in Duncannon, the sign at the local bank flashed a temperature of just 48 degrees. The steam of our breath affirmed the cold. It’s a mile or so walk from the center of town to the bridge over the Juniata River, then another half mile on a barricaded pedestrian bridge beside the 6-lane highway crossing the Susquehanna. The traffic is light on this sleepy Sunday morning.
The valley has evolved into a major transportation corridor. Today, train tracks hug both shorelines and a major highway spans the watercourse. This is in sharp contrast to the original 19th century covered bridge that replaced the earlier ferry operated by Robert Clark. A bronze plaque on the west side of the structure memorializes the story.
After crossing the bridge, look to the left beyond 3 sets of train tracks for the start of the trail. It winds up around the base of Peter’s Mountain offering fine views of the river valley below. It breaks the ascent into 2 segments with a bit of level travel on a logging road in the middle. There are also some switchbacks, so it’s not too difficult a climb. Once rounding the top of the mountain there’s 2 sections of slanted boulders that make the next mile or so a bit of a challenge. Nonetheless, we found this a great resting spot and basked in sun and the radiant heat emitting from the rocks. Keep a sharp eye for blazes, we momentarily lost them.
There are a couple of vistas through the trees and it must be spectacular after the leaves have fallen. The birch and sumac leaves littered the ground at our passing and they can be a bit slippery and obscure the path. The view in the winter should be spectacular.
The town of Duncannon has a lot to offer the hiker. The Doyle Hotel has been offering food and lodging to travelers for over a centaury. Its quaint barwith a high tin ceiling is a great respite for the weary hiker. It serves good inexpensive meals and plenty of cold drinks. Today’s daily special was jambalaya, but we both opted for burgers, a veggie for Jane and a ½ lb. beef for me. Also very good fresh cut French fries. A “small” order was plenty good for us. Also in Duncannon, Goodies, across the street from the Doyle is a popular choice for breakfast. There’s also an ice cream stand named 3B’s, that serves colossal servings.