On Saturday I did another hike up Pole Steeple in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. My previous hikes this year and in 2010 were in May, and the cooler weather and fall colors were the draw this weekend. Also my friend Jake had never hiked to this overlook, and I enjoy showing it off.

We parked at the trailhead at the foot of the trail and headed up. The climb was steep, but less steep than I remembered. Practice makes progress, or third time’s a charm? Jake had no trouble with it, as he’s an experienced backpacker and is half my weight. Regardless I made good progress on the climb until the final approach to the overlook, where I had to be careful on the stone stairways. The rock climbers had no such problems. I’d love to learn rock climbing, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to do it, and and as long as I have hiking I’ll be happy.

Speaking of which, Jake had a good time doing the hike his own way, which means carrying a backpack. He prepared lunch on the overlook, enjoying a Mountain House product as he sat hundreds of feet above Laurel Lake. He kept apologizing for the time he took preparing and eating his lunch, not understanding that I was exactly where I wanted to be. I sat on a rock near him, not as near the edge, and ate a bagel in the sunshine and wind.

 After a half-hour atop the overlook, we headed back down, taking the loop route of the Appalachian Trail, the connector between Pole Steeple and the AT, and the park road. We left just as the horde arrived – the largest group of Boy Scouts we’d ever seen. Jake estimated the size of the group at 75 Scouts, Scoutmasters, and parents. How they all fit on the overlooks I don’t know. Fortunately we had moved on by then. So had the rock climbers, as my photo shows.

I had a good time on the hike. No falls, little feeling of being out of breath, and a pace of a bit more than one mile an hour for the whole trip. My feet were a little sore by the end, and I had some swelling in my knees. The latter is normal for many people with artificial joints, and the former is probably a sign I need to replace my trail runners. (Heavier wearers break down the midsole sooner.) As the photo shows, once again I stood at the top; while I don’t quite looked relaxed, I’m not as tense as in the photos of the last climb. Perhaps I’m getting the hang of this.