Friday, December 16, 2016

Day 14: United Flight 93

July 18: The weather forecast today called for rain, and I hit the trail at first light in an attempt to get in as much walking as I could before the rain hit--which, if weather forecasts could be believed, would start at around 8:00. I was hiking by 6:00, but the skies looked completely clear and blue! Maybe there wouldn't be rain?

Rockwood, PA, early in the morning.
The clear skies didn't last long, however, although it didn't start to rain at 8:00. I kept hiking, without taking a break. It certainly looked like it could rain at any time, and I still wanted to get in as many miles as I could before anything started.

By 10:00, I heard thunder in the distance. Still no rain, but it certainly wouldn't hold off much longer.

And it finally struck at about 11:30. It was a sudden, torrential downpour. Buckets of water fell from the sky, leaving the trail with a thin layer of water on it. I pulled out my umbrella and found it difficult to push the stroller with one hand through the thin layer of mud now on the trail. Maybe I should have used a poncho on this trail instead to leave both hands free, but it was too late to do anything about it now. On the other hand, I still had to take photos for Walking 4 Fun, which meant I needed an umbrella to protect the camera from the rain. Hmm.... I wondered if I could somehow tie the umbrella to the stroller. My other problem with the stroller were the cup holders--they started filling up with water. I liked the idea of a cup holder, but would it have been so hard to leave a small hole in the bottom so liquids (rain or spilled drinks) could drain out easily?

The rain only lasted about 10 minutes before tapering off--a relief to be sure--but that was all it took to soak me completely through. The rain didn't last long, but it was ferocious during that time!

The rain looked like it could come back at any time, and I pushed onward. I was even mostly dry--until two hours later when another ferocious squall struck. Thunder clapped loudly, shaking the ground like a small earthquake. I pushed on, umbrella in one hand and the stroller in the other. I was glad the trail angled downward. I'd definitely have needed both hands available if I had been heading even slightly uphill.

Again, the squall lasted about 10 minutes before tapering off, but once again, I was completely soaked through by the time it ended. The storms were dizzying in their intensity, even if they didn't last long!

I arrived into the town of Confluence at around 1:00, still wet from the last squall, after having pushed a whopping 20 miles. Twenty miles by 1:00! Phenomenal time!
The skies still looked angry and the weather forecast called for rain all afternoon, so I figured now was a good time to quit. I wouldn't be camping tonight, though. Amanda was flying out for a quick visit, and she didn't have any camping gear. Nope, I'd be spending the night indoors for the first time since I left Washington. My only question was whether to stop in Confluence, or the next town 11 more miles up the trail at Ohiopyle. Given the weather and the weather forecast, I decided to stop in Confluence. I'd already done 20 miles for the day--it was a solid day of hiking despite the early stop time.

I called a couple of B&Bs in town to check availability and rates and proximity to the trail (I didn't want to walk too far off trail!), and settled on the Riverside Edge B&B not more than about 5 minutes off trail. I was immensely glad that my cell phone was working again. It was very handy.

Art made from some bicycle parts. Bike art was very popular along the trail!
Then I gave Amanda a call to tell her where I'd be and find out how far out she was. She had already landed in Pittsburgh and told me that she wanted to visit the nearby Flight 93 memorial before driving out to Confluence. Flight 93 was the United flight that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11. I have to admit, I didn't have any idea where in Pennsylvania the flight had crashed and had absolutely no idea it was anywhere near the trail until Amanda told me that she was going to visit it on the way to Confluence.

And... I kind of wanted to go too. So I told her this and asked how far away from the trail the crash site was. Maybe a half hour drive? So we decided that she'd pick me up in Confluence, then we'd go to the crash site together. And in that case, she'd be in town within an hour or so. Awesome!

I walked into town and checked into the Riverside Edge. The owner told me that I was the only person who had made a reservation so unless someone else showed up unexpectedly, Amanda and I would have the whole building to ourselves. Cool! =)

I left the stroller outside--it was quite dirty from the muddy trail--but hauled all of my other gear into our room and the first order of business was to take a shower. It would be my first shower 12 days. (Although to be fair, I did swim in rivers 6 times during that timespan, so I wasn't as smelly as I might normally have been after 12 days without a shower.)

After getting out of the shower and dressed in my camp clothes (which were considerably less grungy than my hiking clothes), I got a call from Amanda asking where I was.

"I'm at the Riverside Edge," I answered. "Where are you?"

"At the Riverside Edge! WHERE are you?!"

I described the location, behind the Riverside Edge Cafe. "The stroller is out front. You can't miss it!"

"That's where I am! I'm looking at it now, but I don't see you anywhere!"

Turns out, Amanda had even gone so far as to enter the building and looked through all the rooms, but she didn't see me because I was in the shared bathroom. My backpack and other gear I threw on the floor behind the bed because I knew Amanda would be bringing a heavy suitcase and left space by that side of the bed for it. Looking through the B&B, though, she saw absolutely no evidence of me in it anywhere and thought maybe she was looking in the wrong location--apparently not hearing or noticing that the bathroom was occupied and the shower was running.

So I stepped outside and there was Amanda. I hung up the phone. I could just talk to her face-to-face now. =)

Despite the weather forecast for rain all day, the skies had mostly cleared up and the sun was shining by the time I finished my shower and met up with Amanda. It wouldn't rain again the rest of the afternoon. I totally could have made it to Ohiopyle--although I wouldn't have had time to visit the Flight 93 memorial, so it worked out well enough.

On our way to the Flight 93 memorial, we stopped at an Eat 'n' Park for a late lunch and early dinner. Neither of us had ever been to one. I didn't even know what they were, but a lot of pilots apparently liked to eat there and Amanda had wanted to try one. And anyhow, there was a giant elephant in front of it. We both wanted pictures of it! =)

We parked the car, then ate. Should have been called Park 'n' Eat. It was fine. Kind of like a Denny's, but nothing to get really worked up about. I wondered what Amanda's pilot friends saw in the place that I didn't.

We continued the drive on to the Flight 93 Memorial, and arrived a mere 4 minutes before the visitor center closed. We had checked the hours of the memorial before coming and had expected it to be open much longer, but it turned out that the visitor center closed much earlier than the rest of the park which took us by surprise. So we had exactly four minutes to quickly walk through the visitor center before we were hustled out again.

The visitor center is located a short ways from the crash site, and Amanda drove town to the parking for the crash site while I took the leisurely walk down to the site.

There's not really much to see at the location. The plane crashed into a largely empty field in the middle of nowhere killing all 40 passengers and crew on board. As well as the 4 hijackers, but screw the hijackers. They certainly don't deserve a memorial. Not surprisingly, it's a sad and somber location. The flight path of the doomed flight is marked in the ground. The plane passed over near where the visitor center was located (where another line marked the flight path) and crashed just beyond it at the impact site. The force of the impact created a crater that was later filled in after investigations were completed. Now the point of impact is marked with a large boulder and is off limits to visitors. We can only see it from a respectful distance from the direction the plane flew in.

We left soon after that and headed back to Confluence for the night and didn't really do much of anything else. The rest of the evening I spent online catching up with emails and fixing bugs on AQ. I was a little surprised at the number of minor bugs being found and reported on the website. It's fairly common when I've been updating code, but I hadn't made any changes all month. But by around 11:00 in the evening, I was done and went to sleep.

Notice the small caterpillar on the flower? =)

Another tunnel, another place to escape the heat of the day! It would have been a good place to wait out the rain as well if only I was near it when the squalls struck! The Pinkerton Tunnel was repaired, restored and only reopened to pedestrian traffic just last year (2015). Before then, the bypass was required to get around the closure.
Casselman River, as viewed from a bridge crossing the river.
I'd like to say my incredible skill as a photographer got me this photo, but I'll admit... getting the bee hovering in mid-air like that was really pure luck. =)
This caterpillar looked like it was begging for food or something!
When the first rain squall hit, I covered my hear with the trash bag again.
At least my flower still had a smile on its face! I wasn't especially happy about the rain!
The rain caused the trail to develop a thin layer of mud which made pushing the stroller much more difficult!
The outskirts of the town of Confluence.
The trail is tricky here! Watch out! =)
The elephant in front of the Eat 'n' Park is telling Amanda a secret!
Near the Visitor Center for the Flight 93 Memorial, this path (and the gap in the walls) follows the flight path of the doomed plane.
I took the long, scenic walk around the memorial to the impact zone.
This is as close as we're allowed to get to the impact zone. The mowed grass follows the flight path to the impact zone which is marked with a giant bolder in the distance. (You can see the boulder in the photo, but it's quite small from this distance!)


Karolina said...

Wow, 20 miles by 1 pm - I am impressed!

Amanda from Seattle said...

It is just as well we only had a few minutes in the exhibits. I would not have been able to take much more than that anyway.