Paul’s Perambulations

July 19, 2007

Risk Taking, Not Thrill Seeking (re Backpacking Donut Hole Trail)

Filed under: Family,Recreation — admin @ 6:18 pm

The phrase above is how Fran described herself in her response to my ad on five years ago (see Comment below).   Sounds good, although I may not have fully understood what I was letting myself in for.  I could hardly have preferred it the other way –Thrill Seeing But Not Risk Taking.  That might be eating cotton candy on the boardwalk and riding the roller coaster.  Blaaaa. 

Monday evening we returned from a three-day backpacking trip on the Donut Hole Trail in Sproul State Forest.  I got my dose of “Risk Taking, Not Thrill Seeking.”  The area where we hiked, and the Donut Hole Trail in particular, are described as follows:  “North-central Pennsylvania features the most isolated and expansive forest lands between New York City and Chicago. The experienced backpacker looking for an isolated trail will appreciate the lonely Donut Hole Trail…maintenance may be a problem…with inconsistent blazing…stinging nettles…expansive isolation, deepwoods experience, and the opportunity to witness wildlife” (quoting from Backpacking Pennsylvania, by Mitchell — the backpackers’ bible).  We can confirm that Mitchell speaks the truth.  We were lost twice and each time eventually found our way back to where we went astray (easy to do with ”unestablished trails” (Mitchell) and the inconsistent blazing.  Encountered bears and snakes, including a timber rattlesnake.  I think I’m phobic to poisonous snakes.  The local backpacking stores do not sell snakeproof gaiters (they seem to carry all other types), so I adapted some heavy canvas gaiters (WWII surplus that I already owned) and these were comfortable and efficient to use (although, thankfully, never tested). 

I found an answer to the snake problem in my Britannica (Rattlesnakes…11th ed), but the implementation poses some difficulty.  “The surest way of clearing a ground of them is to drive in pigs, which are sure to find and to eat them, without harm to themselves.”

I am the one who suggested this trail and helped prepare myself with a solo hike on the Tuscarora Trail in May.   But we hope to tone down the Risk Taking somewhat for future backpacking, which sounds like the wise thing.

Here’s the complete story of our hike.  Pictures are available at

1 Comment »

  1. The whole story of our first meeting, in the woods behind Swarthmore College one night in the rain, is told elsewhere. At that first “date” I got a sense of Fran’s personality, and I liked it. What I felt then has been confirmed in the years since, as follows:

    Great mental health

    Some aspects of personality can represent both positive and negative traits simultaneously. I call these Fran’s IOU’s, also evident at our first meeting.

    Focus (“On target”)
    Untidy (meaning that her vehicle was littered with equipment from taking her boys on a camping trip, but that reinforced my sense of other traits listed above).

    By the end of our hike it was clear that very significant things were happening.

    Comment by admin — March 1, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

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