May 29. Woke up to a nice morning, a little cooler than the last few. I packed up and walked about a tenth of a mile to Pen Mar Park. There was a great lookout spot there and I ate breakfast with a view of the valley. The bathrooms were not unlocked yet, I was too early, but I filled up with water and moved on. Side note, this was another place where the treated city water tasted horrible! In another tenth of a mile I came to the PA state line and the Mason-Dixon like. Another milestone, 6 states completed, 8 more to go! I hiked on and ran into a bunch of hikers I had not seen since the beginning of VA. The day turned out to be incredibly hot. I drank a ton of water and still felt dehydrated. I couldn’t keep enough fluids in me with all of the sweat pouring out of me. With the heat and cranking out miles I also wasn’t very hungry. I mean, I was, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat. It was easily above 90 degrees in the stale hot air of the mountains. I wasn’t too worried though because I had to stop in Fayetteville, PA for a resupply and I figured I would refuel there. I made it down the hill to the highway by 2 PM, an 18 mile hike in 7 hours in the oppressive heat! I walked 0.3 miles west to a restaurant and had a BLT sandwich. Before I went inside I changed from my hiking shirt to my sleeping shirt, I thought that might make me more presentable. Of course, I ate lunch there by myself, I probably could have left my smelly shirt on. After lunch I walked another half mile to the grocery store and picked up a few days of food, and a pint of strawberry cheesecake ice cream. As I was packing my backpack the store clerk came outside and said his girlfriend had just sent him a text, severe thunderstorm warning with rain and hail, and he said I could stay there at the store as long as I wanted to wait it out. I looked up the weather on my phone and it showed the worst of the storms rolling through from 9 PM to 11 PM and it was only 3 PM. I stayed for a little while but decided the next shelter was only 2 miles in on the trail and I would try to hit that before the rain started, which the forecast said it would around 5 PM. I left town and passed the county park. This place had tons of picnic shelters and places to hide out from a storm but often it is “illegal” to camp in them. I wish that the parks along the way would make exceptions for thru-hikers in bad storms. It’s not like anyone else was down using the picnic tables during a stormy afternoon anyways. I quickly walked past plenty of sturdy looking shelters, taking note as I did. I started up a hill which would lead me up the mountains and towards the shelter. The only problem was I was walking directly into the storm. It started with a few sprinkles, then a few more. It was 4 PM and I had hiked close to 19 miles and I decided that was it. I would rather set up my tent dry than in the rain. I plopped down my pack and surveyed a flattish area for my tent. In my rush I didn’t even realize I almost set my pack on top of a huge turtle! I moved him across the trail and I took the flat spot he had been occupying. I pitched my tent, threw my stuff in it, and hung the bear bag right before it really started dumping. As I tied off the bear bag I looked 30 feet to my left and saw an established, beautiful, flat camp spot…too late. I dove in my tent as the thunder and lightening crashed overhead. It was just before 5 PM…which meant that I would be stuck in my one person tent for at least the next 12 hours. Good thing I ate a lot of food in town! I sat out the rain, after 6 it actually slowed down and just rained the rest of the night. No hail, and I survived the night dry. Before falling asleep I caught up on some emails and my journal, so it was productive time!
May 30. Woke up safe in tent around 5 AM. I wanted to sleep in so I looked around to make sure I was dry and rolled back over. I did notice that my tent was covered with probably a hundred little millipedes, crawling all over the place. I drifted off back to sleep and had a dream about millions of millipedes covering my entire tent, blocking out the sunshine, and suffocating me I woke up, looked at my tent and only saw a hundred or so, but spent the next few minutes trying to distinguish the dream from reality and get myself moving for the day. I knocked all the bugs off my tent before getting out only to see that they covered my shoes too! I knocked my shoes against a tree several times, making sure that the little balled up millipedes were all out before my foot went in. When I untied my bear bag it knocked a few branches of a tree on the way down and it sounded like rain drops hitting the ground…it wasn’t though, it was millipedes! I must have camped on a whole millipede city!
As I came to the next shelter I passed a sign that read “Due to the decline in population of Timber Rattlesnakes it is unlawful to hunt, take, catch, or kill rattlesnakes in this area”. Hmm, a decline in population, good for me, bad for the snakes? Or….no one can hunt or kill them anymore…good for the snakes, bad for me? Another question, who hunts for rattlesnakes!? I try to avoid them at all costs! Either way, within the next few steps we spotted a rattlesnake just off the trail and right next to the shelter I had intended to sleep in! So much for the decline in population!
Around midday I passed the official mileage half way point! From here I count the miles down rather than up! Just past the half way point was a campground and camp store where lots of hikers attempt the “Half Gallon Challenge”, eating a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting. I arrived on my own and decided that I didn’t need to put myself through that, it is a lot of dairy! Instead I ordered a burger and a root beer. I sat on the patio, shoes off, relaxing. I was tired, extremely worn out. Then I realized why, it was 2 in the afternoon and I had already hiked 20 miles!
I packed up, visited the Appalachian Trail Museum and headed out for the trail. I passed a group of hikers who had arrived earlier in the day, ate the half gallons of ice cream, and had spent the rest of the day soaking up the sun down at the lake. If I had showed up at the Half Gallon Challenge with those guys I’m sure that peer pressure and testosterone would have given me the boost I needed to attempt the half gallon challenge…but knowing how I would feel after a half gallon of ice cream, I think it is ok that I skipped it. They all had jumped in the water and I considered it as well. It had been awhile since I showered and thought a dip in the lake would help. Then I looked around and saw all of the little kids swimming in the lake and thinking about what most kids do when they get in water I thought hiking with a layer of my own sweat might be better than a layer of pond water and kid pee. Ha, and the clouds had rolled in so it wasn’t as warm as it was earlier in the day. Around 4 PM I hit the trail and high tailed it north. I ended up hiking another 12 miles that day, I tried to make it to the shelter for the night but as the sun set I had to instead find a place beside the trail to camp. It was a good day, passed the half way point, and hiked a total of 32 miles! I slept well!