There Must Be Magic

By GirlWithACamera

Home Away from Home in the Quehanna Wild Area

The weather forecast said the temperatures would approach 80 degrees F on Friday and Saturday. And since I don't work Fridays anymore, we decided to head out on our first backpacking trip of the season, into the Quehanna Wild Area.

The first backpack of the year is always the most confusing. It's hard to remember all of what to take, and sometimes you forget basic things because it's been a while. This is the reason I keep a packing list, which I referred to frequently as I packed up my backpack on Thursday night and stuffed all my gear into stuff sacks.

Friday morning, we made some sandwiches, bid farewell to that loyal tabbycat, and packed all of our gear into my husband's car. We were gone by mid-morning, and by early afternoon, we were deep in the back-country of the Quehanna Wild Area, setting up camp amid the pines, overlooking the Valley of the Elk.

It was indeed quite a toasty hike to the campsite, though the one back out on Saturday  afternoon would prove to be much stickier. My husband wore shorts, but I never backpack in anything but light tan pants with elastic at the bottom.

Why do I wear such pants? So I can spot ticks easily and quickly, of course! Ticks are a problem everywhere in central Pennsylvania, and indeed, we removed quite a few: between us, we got and removed 10 ticks on Friday, and 13 more on Saturday, for a total of 23. We sure hope we didn't miss any!

I am always the first to set up my tent, and that is exactly what I did as soon as I had put down my gear and cooled off a bit. I also arranged our little friends, Alex, Little Bear, and Tiny Tiger & crew on the tree to the right of my tent, so they could relax and enjoy the fresh air too.

Tiny Tiger is such an adventurer, and he loves to make new friends. So you can only imagine how excited he was to spot a woolly worm caterpillar. He even briefly wore it as a hat, though the look on his face was a bit trepidatious, I'll admit. Just two stripey fells having a lark together, on a summer-like afternoon. (You may see that photo in the extras.)

And then we grabbed our water shoes and headed down to the creek, where we cooled our hot feet in the cold water. It was running a bit high, and seemed clearer than usual. By summer, the water is much lower, and not nearly as fresh.

I spotted my first butterfly of the year, a mourning cloak. It quickly flittered right past us, clearly using the waterway for navigation purposes. I had my feet in the water at that point, and did not have my camera in my hands, so alas I have no photo to show you of the year's first butterfly.

Then we dried our feet off, put our boots back on, and headed back up to the campsite. I'd made us a half-dozen ham and cheese sandwiches before we left home, with lettuce and tomato on the side so they wouldn't make things soggy.

So we had sandwiches whenever we wanted, and I'd even brought along an ice-cold Diet Pepsi and a piece of fried chicken. These are treats you'd pay a pretty penny to have shipped into such a remote back-country site. It definitely takes planning, but is well worth the effort.

I had brought along a string of battery-powered blue LED Christmas lights, as ever since we'd gotten them, I've been fantasizing about taking them along to the woods. And indeed, amid the growing darkness, I had the prettiest campsite around - my tent looking so festive, decked out in Christmas blues!

We walked out to the rock overlooking the creek to watch the sky turn pink at sunset. And when we turned around to go back, we discovered the most awesome, portly little bat had set up sentry around our campsite. It juked and dived and entertained us prettily in the gathering dusk.

There are elk and coyote in these parts, but alas, on this visit, we did not hear a single bugle, squeal, bark, yip, or howl. In fact, it was a relatively quiet but very starry night in the back-country, with just a hoot-owl mournfully bidding us good night, good night, as darkness fell.

My soundtrack song is Eddie Vedder, with Setting Forth, from the soundtrack for Into the Wild.

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