A Tale of Peril in the Outdoors
It happened upon the Old Logger’s Path in Northeastern Lycoming County, in north central Pennsylvania. On a weekend in early August my younger brother and I embarked on this 27.1 mile hike for a two day journey. We started early in the morning to get as many miles behind us as possible before the evening hours set in on the wilderness. Truthfully, there was not much to see on this wooded trail other than that; woods. There were a few vista’s and a couple of nice, isolated streams, but miles past behind us as we quickly paced our way. We crossed Pleasant Stream, where a beautiful campsite existed, but passed it up because there was too much daylight left. What lay ahead we did not know, in terms of camping. The next campsite listed on the trail guide was not for another five miles or so and the daylight left was not enough for that. So we began our trudge in a hurried pace up the hollow out of Pleasant Stream as nighttime came closer to spawning. Somewhere toward the top of the hollow was a vista that we kept our hopes and sights on. As we neared this vista the trail became littered with pricker bushes and thorns on all sides. This slowed our pace some. Finally, we came to a road that led us to the most spectacular vista I have ever seen in Pennsylvania. It opened to a rock edge that dropped into a wide valley with hilltops and ridged hollows cutting away on the hills. Stretching nearly 180 degrees, this vista was a spectacular one and there we decided to stay for the night. After talking to a family that drove up in their SUV to this Sharp Top Vista, we slung our sleeping bags in the grassy area behind the opening vista. We were without a tent, so our bags would have to protect us from the wild. We attempted a fire and ate hot dogs and cheese for dinner. Shortly thereafter we crawled into our sleeping bags underneath the stars for something I had never truly experienced. Sleep quickly came after a long day of hiking and I slept comfortably for a couple of hours. Suddenly, I was awakened by the feel of something on my lower left leg, just up from the ankle. My initial reaction was that it was my enlarged cat at home that had not been put away for the night. But of course, this was preposterous, for I was off in the wilderness, miles away from home. Drearily I lifted my head to find none other than . . . a porcupine sniffing my leg that it was perched upon. I did not know what to do. To shake my leg and try to kick it off was beyond reason, for this was a critter full of sharpened spears ready to insert them into my leg at will. I mean, if you were in this situation, what would you do? Instinctively, I froze. When I say froze, I mean, I didn’t move a muscle, twitch a hair, or make a sound. Literally, frozen. Yet, I continued to stare down this creature with burning eyes for eternity (in reality, five to ten seconds, but if you have ever been in a situation like this you know that can seem forever). Finally, it lifted its head and looked right back into my eyes with sudden fear and intimidation. Off it scurried, as fast as its cast iron quills sharpened to perfection, would let it go, into the nearest weeds. Of course, for the next half hour I rolled this over in my mind as the adrenaline slowly left my veins. What if he returned only to plant himself on my head? Or decided to attack, not unlike a vicious, rabid animal that he could be? But these were really absurd stories and slowly sleep filled my eyes again. But not before I tried, in vain, to tell the story to my half asleep brother next to me. Once again I was awakened from my sleep, but this time by my brother frantically telling me, “Tom, there’s a porcupine in the bushes,” with all fear and dread filling his eyes. All I could do was yell, “I know” and roll over to sleep without care of this creature that had once been on my leg, nearly slicing me in half. Throughout the night the ferocious beast could be heard gnawing on the wood above our heads, rustling in the weeds, and huffing and puffing around us as he carried out his night duties. But each time I was awakened I took little care toward him because he already had his chance to turn me into mincemeat, but failed to come through in the clutch. My brother, on the other hand, could hardly sleep a wink, awaiting for death that was near at hand. But fortune was on our side and the next morning dawned. Out we went from the Sharp Point (or maybe Sharp Quilled) Vista and back to our car at the end of the trail with all body parts intact.