We were never really lost

It never fails:  on a sunny afternoon with time on our hands, the GPS leads us off the beaten path where we see things and go places we have never been before.

Like today.  How many of you know where Ridge Rd. comes into Mt. Holly Springs?   You probably don’t want to know unless you 1) have a pick-up truck or jeep that navigates stony dirt roads pretty well and 2) you wouldn’t mind backing all the way back down this stony road if you meet a vehicle on its way into town. As Ridge Rd. comes off the ridge (or as you go up the ridge) there is only one lane and no place to pull over.   (For the record, the only vehicles we passed were on top of the ridge where there was enough passing room.)

But once at the top with the trees leafless and bare, you can see out over Mt. Holly Springs, across the  Cumberland Valley, the distant I-81 and the mountains beyond.  And if you are lucky, you might see a posse (we looked it up) of turkey crossing the road.  No, they didn’t wait around to get their photo taken; it is hunting season after all and they were on the move.

There were some rocks marked on the map that looked like a promising outcropping to overlook the other direction towards Pine Grove Furnace.  So we parked the truck and walked down an overgrown forest road in the direction of where we thought these rocks would be.  The dry oak leaves made a huge racket as the two of us and our two dogs tramped through.  Maybe the noise was a good thing; we had forgotten to wear orange for hunting season.  We walked maybe a half hour and there were no rocks, no cliff, until finally the forest road petered out into an overgrown path.  Since that path seemed to be heading back up to the ridge, and the GPS thought we were not so far from the road at the top,  we decided not to turn around  but to try this new path.  So we weren’t lost exactly.

The path led us to a place that had just been clear cut of most trees.  I suppose we had a great view.  But have you ever tried walking over broken limbs and left over trunks and gouged earth?  That wouldn’t have been too bad except that we had the dogs on leash to keep them from running off into a hunter’s territory.  A dog likes to jump when I need to be a little more cautious in where I put my feet in order not to twist an ankle.  You get the picture.

We picked our way uphill and hoped that on the opposite end of the clear-cut we would find a road where the heavy equipment had come in and which would make our walking easier.  Forget the rocks we had been hunting; there was no sign of them and no sign of a service road leading out of the clear-cut.  So we checked our position on the GPS, determined the best direction of Ridge Rd. and decided to bushwhack.  The first ten minutes weren’t too bad since we were no longer scrambling over broken trees but through the taller trees with scattered bushes.  But then we abruptly came upon a clear-cut from several years ago.   The small second growth trees—some pines, some thin leafless trunks—were thick and very close.  Rotten logs littered the ground.  Branches scraped faces.  Leashes got tangled.  We stooped and ducked, stopped and sidetracked.  The sun was making more progress getting lower in the sky than we were through that jungle.

Finally we literally stumbled into mature growth again, a forgotten campsite and another forest road.  It is hard to describe how wonderful it is to be able to walk upright and unimpeded again.  The grassy forest track we found was not marked on the GPS, but it seemed to be heading for something called Cold Spring Rd which would eventually take us back uphill to Ridge Rd—we hoped. Unfortunately, the forest road took us downhill.  (The more downhill, the more climbing back up).  But anything, even a longer, round-about path, was better than bushwhacking, and there was no way were we turning around now!

There was nothing left to do except to start enjoying the walk again on this crisp afternoon with a bright sun lowering behind the trees.  Sure enough, in twenty minutes or so we hit a genuine dirt Cold Spring Rd., climbed back up the mountain and turned right onto Ridge Rd.  We passed a parked car (hunting?).  A bicyclist and a couple of faster horses and riders passed us by.  And just as we were wondering how much farther to the truck,  we saw them—

The rocks we had been looking for all along! They were massively piled up where the road took a turn.  Huge boulders jutting upward, making nooks and crannies and caves and ledges.  All sorts of graffiti was painted in bright colors.   Lots of broken glass bits indicated that this has definitely been a party place.  Standing on the stones, we could see farmland way down to the left, we knew that the Appalachian Trail was nestled on the opposite ridge, and we couldn’t quite spy Pine Grove Furnace in the direction where the sun was now getting close to setting. 

By now you do realize, of course, as we did standing on the rocks, that if we had just kept driving down Ridge Rd for another mile instead of stopping to walk, we would have found Hammond’s Rocks so much sooner and easier. We were never really lost, but we sure did do things the hard way today.  And before it was all over, we still had another estimated mile or so of walking to the truck…and another chance to spot a turkey posse.



  1. Hmm… If I had written an account of our excursion, I’m not sure you would recognize it. Amazing how differently people see the same thing.

  2. Well, for one thing, you actually liked the bushwhacking :-/