Rocks + Rain = PA

NOTE: This blog post includes a lot of information…it is kinda long. Since I know everyone has a busy life if you don’t have time to read it all I totally understand! I’ll sum it up quickly…Rocks, Rain, and Pennsylvania. PA was all rocks and a lot of rain…that’s about it! That state drove me nuts, I made the state line though and when Amy drops me back off at the trail I’ll be hiking in New Jersey! Before you close this, scroll down a check out a few pictures. Have a fantastic day!

June 2. I woke up early and packed my gear and headed across the street to Goodies when they opened at 6 AM. I ordered another big breakfast and headed to the trail at 7. The trail takes the scenic route through Duncannon before crossing a large freeway bridge and heading back up into the mountains. Lots of people were setting up for a city-wide garage sale and a few people were preparing for a Trail Festival later in the day to celebrate Duncannon as an official AT Trail Town. I crossed the bridge, ran through a ton of very sticky spider webs, and got squawked at by a big hawk that was sitting on a light pole. Every time I took a step forward it made noise, if I stopped, it stopped. Later in the day I found out that other people had worse problems as it nomrally dive bombs hikers as they tried to cross the bridge. It was a long climb back up to the ridge but the rain storm the night before had really knocked down the temperatures. I ran into Jeff, the guy I hadn’t seen since Springer Mountain, at the first shelter and we hiked together for almost 30 miles, and he did it all in Chaco sandles! Later in the day I ran into two hikers that I hadn’t seen since Georgia as well and hiked with them. It has been a lot of fun to catch up with people now 1,000 miles later and see how they are doing! The day rolled along pretty easily, I sat down and took a break at 2 PM, wondering why I felt so tired. I looked at the book and I had already hiked 18 miles, that was probably why! We hiked on through the rest of the day and around 7 PM found a flat spot to camp. It was another 12 hour hiking day and a 30 mile day for me. My ankle hurt most of the day but I was able to push on. After dinner I crawled in my tent, happy to take some time to relax!

The gnats the past few weeks have started to become annoying. They like to fly in little circles in front of my face as I hike, which isn’t a problem. Every so often though, one takes a kamikaze dive into one of my eyeballs…and that is a problem! The other problem is when the fly directly up my nose…they typically don’t come back out!

June 3. It was chilly last night! I woke up twice during the night and added layers until I had on everything that I have with me, including tights and a long sleeve shirt I plan to give to Amy when she visits later this week! Maybe getting rid of those will be a bad idea… I slept in until a little after 6 and I got up and broke camp and filled water and was on the trail a little after 7. It was a chilly morning so I started in my wind pants, rain coat, and fleece hat, but it didn’t take long to shed the layers. Not long after starting I passed a sign by the river showing how a new filtration system there helps to reduce the pH values of the water so it doesn’t kill off the fish. So the water below the filter is where the fish can live…but I had been drinking the water from above it, where the fish die. I sure hope my SteriPEN works!

The trail was though today. Most of it was flat and boring. It was boring because we started to hit the rocks of Pennsylvania so I had to constantly be looking down to see where the rocks were and try to place my foot on a flattish spot. I was on a ridge and off to the side there were views of the PA valleys, but all I remember seeing was rocks and dirt as it passed under my feet. In the afternoon it got even worse! Now it was a flooded trail! The trail must flood often because there were numerous side trails blazed along both sides of the flooded trail. The problem was that with all of the rain recently even most of the side trails were flooded! I crossed one tough section and lost my footing and fell sideways. Somehow I caught myself with my hands as they sank a few inches into the muck and water. The weight of my pack shifted and I could hardly hold my face above the water! Luckily I got through that with only muddy shoes and a muddy leg…I am glad I didn’t fall all the way in! After that I thought to myself maybe it would be better to deal with the rocks again. Well, soon I did have to deal with the rocks again, and the water, all at once! To add to it we were back in an afternoon severe thunderstorm warning, great! I did get rained on a little around 5, but I kept pushing on and at at 7:30 I arrived at the shelter, a 32 mile day and I was beat! I set up my tent and had dinner. I crawled in my tent and used my emergency blanket under me and layers over me, it was going to be another chilly night. All in all it was a good day though, I passed 1,184 miles (which means I have less than 1,000 to go) and I camped at mile 1,202!

Rocks and Rain in PA

It is a good thing Amy is coming to visit me this week! I think my gear knows it too, it is all starting to have problems! My watch has a leak and I can barely read the time through the water drops inside it. My shoes have 1,200 miles on them and have seen better days. My socks have all acquired holes in them in the past few days. My tent even has a few holes in the rain fly! It looks like burn marks from ashes from a camp fire but I haven’t had a fire for a long time, so I’m not sure how they got there.

Rocks Rain and PA
June 4. I woke up early and packed my tent and stopped by the shelter to sign the log before hiking on. When I got there Jeff was there as well, I thought he was in front of me! He told me that early in the afternoon the day before he took a 0.1 mile side trail to a nice shelter where you can order pizza…he decided to order a large and he walked back to the AT and put a note on his trekking pole that said “Tarzan, come down to the shelter for pizza!”. Well, at some point another hiker picked up this guy’s poles and took them down to the shelter and in the 20 minutes that the poles were gone I had passed by and my buddy got his large pizza and had to eat it all by himself! I thought for sure all day he was ahead of me, and he did too, but he eventually pulled into the shelter after dark after taking it slow all afternoon and waiting for me to catch up. In the morning we hiked out together but at the next town he was taking off east to go see a friend for a few days. I passed through the small town of Port Clinton around noon and thought seriously about walking 2 miles off the trail to go to McDonald’s for a Big Mac meal. The trail leads under the freeway and then the book said that civilization (McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and more) was just a short 2 mile walk down the 4 lane freeway. I took one look down the highway and decided that I absolutely did not want to walk 4 miles today along the side of the busy turnpike. Instead I kept pushing on, besides, Amy would be here in a few days and I could get all the McDonald’s I wanted then!

The trail was rocky again, and I suspected it would be for the next several days. Around 5 PM I passed a shelter, a nice shelter that was fully enclosed and had a caretaker, but I thought it was still a little too early and the next shelter was only 7.6 miles away. Typically I can judge my hiking speed around 3 miles an hour, so 7.6 miles would take just over 2.5 hours, putting me in camp just after 7:30 PM. The trail took off up a steep incline and almost as soon as I started up the rain moved in and dumped on me the entire climb up the mountain. I was soaked when the trail finally turned flat, and on the way up I realized that I forgot to take into account that I was in Pennsylvania and that the trail would probably be all rocks and boulders at the top of the mountain ridge. As I started slowly making my way along the rocks and boulders that were now wet and slick from the rain it started to really hit me that it was in the evening and I was probably out on this mountain alone. I was still a few miles from the shelter and most of these mountain tops were so rocky there were few flat places to camp. For some reason it was a really lonely feeling and I actually started to feel a little frantic and concerned that I might have gotten myself in too deep. But, I just decided that I would make it to the shelter tonight even if I had to dig out my headlamp and take it slow over the wet rocks. At one point I did slip and fall on one of the large rocks. I sort of did the splits a bit but ended up flat on my behind without hurting myself. There were so many rocks around though that as I turned to get up my feet slipped again and I ended up on my back, the getting up might be the hardest part! I eventually passed another hiker heading to the same shelter as I was, so that made me feel better. We leapfrogged a few times and I pulled into the shelter around 8 PM as the skies were getting dark. I headed down to get water and when I returned to the shelter J.D. was just arriving. We survived the pouring rain and rocks and made it to the Allentown Hiking Club shelter, a really nice shelter, where only three of us took refuge for the night, giving us plenty of space to spread our wet gear out. We all fell asleep pretty easily that night, for me it was another 30+ mile day.

On a side note, since I don’t hike with and iPod or anything to keep me occupied I have recently been getting some random songs stuck in my head. It typically is one song per day, but it comes out of nowhere. Today it happened to be Will Smith’s intro song to the TV show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” that I sang over and over to myself, it got very old…

Random Trail Thought: That must have been a very expensive taxi ride for the Fresh Prince from West Philadelphia to Bel-Air.

June 5. Woke up in the shelter dry but a little cold. In the shelter I don’t feel like I can keep as much heat around me as I do in my tent, but it is nice to start dry! J.D. was up early so I got moving and ate my breakfast on the go. I had a decent day hiking down into the Leigh Gap area. There were no services near the trail but I stopped in an old parking lot of an empty commercial building and took off my shoes and socks and had lunch. I could see a huge mountain of rocks and boulders across the bridge and I figured this was the crazy rock climb that I had seen in all of the YouTube videos before I started the tral. I crossed the bridge and started up, yup, I was right! It was a tough climb/scramble up the rocks and the only thing I was happy about was not doing it in the rain! There were some great views from the top and I got some nice pictures. The trail then crossed a ridge line and the Palmerton EPA Superfund Site where a century of zinc smelting in Palmerton had devastated the landscape. There were some smaller trees and grasses growing, but it was an interesting stretch of trail. Along this section I walked over a dead baby deer laying in the middle of the trail. At least I thought it was dead. I heard later from a hiker behind me that when he passed it the fawn was still barely breathing. We read some posts in the next trail log that a few hikers before us had the “most amazing day” when they got to play with and pick up and hold a baby deer. Of course, they must have gotten their human scent all over the fawn and the mother never came back for it…so it was the time of their life but it took the fawn’s life.
PA - Rocks and Rain

The trail kept stretching on and I passed a guy I hadn’t seen since the Smoky Mountains around 5 PM camped near a spring. The spring was a half mile down off the trail and the next shelter was still a few miles away, so I pushed on ahead. As it grew closer to dusk I started to feel delirious from a full day of hiking, constantly looking down at my feet and the rocks, and just being tired. My shoes were starting to dig into my ankles and rubbed the skin raw around the tops. Every step hurt, but every step got me closer to camp. The rocks had taken a toll on my trekking poles as well and now both of the metal tips on the ends were gone. I had lost one a few days ago, so instead of “tap, tap, tap, tap” it was “tap, thud, tap, thud”. Well, now it is just “thud, thud, thud, thud”, oh well! I finally rolled into the shelter around 7:45 PM and a trail angel had hiked in three 12 packs of soda! I drank one quickly, filled up with water, pitched my tent, and crawled in. I was exhausted, the day had been a 33.5 mile day! I was happy though, town was only 20 miles away and the next day Amy would be there to pick me up!

June 6. Woke up cold again around 4 AM. I put on the extra clothes that I would be giving to Amy tomorrow, that warmed me up a bit. Around 5 AM I decided it was too cold and I may as well get moving, today is the day I finish Pennsylvania! I had talked to the other hikers in the shelter the night before when I arrived and it was a common theme…we were all really looking forward to putting Pennsylvania behind us! We had heard about the Pennsylvania rocks for a long time and they were tough! Of course, the rocks probably would not just stop all together at the PA/NJ state line, I wish they would, but we would probably be dealing with rocks for the next 20 or 30 miles into New Jersey, but at least they would be New Jersey rocks! It would be a mental win to finish PA today! I packed my gear and hit the trail before 6 AM, 20 miles to the Delaware Water Gap and the New Jersey state line! A few minutes into the hike I came across a gap in the woods for a power line and had a great view of the sunrise. I relaxed there for a bit and enjoyed the view and had my breakfast of 2 packs of pop tarts and an orange soda from the trail magic the night before. A great start to my last day in PA with a beautiful views, clear skies, and a nice temperature. OK Pennsylvania, maybe we can be friends. The hiking was more of the same though. Rocks, boulders, and not much else. I was having a rough go of it until I made it to the last shelter before town when I ran into “Q”, the hiker that Aunt Karen, Seat Belt, and I gave a ride to the trail in Waynesboro, VA before we started our hike a few weeks ago. I knew that “Q” was fast and I had been trying to catch him for the past few weeks. We ended up hiking together for the last 6 miles to town and that really helped make the time go by. When we finally hit the streets of Delaware Water Gap at 2 PM it was 20 miles done, and another state down. Jersey baby!

Beautiful without the Rocks and Rain

“Q” and I headed to the outfitter, he wanted to try on some new shoes. After that we walked down to the Doughboy Pizza place and got a slice of pizza, a big salad, and a big beer to celebrate the end of PA! While we were eating it started pouring rain and “Q” decided to stay at the Presbyterian Church of the Mountain Hostel with me for the night. The church hosts a hostel in the basement and an overflow shelter out back. Before heading there we ordered another 6 pack of beer and decided to relax for awhile. Around dinner a section hiker came in with a trail angel from Duncannon. At the same time my other buddy J.D. walked in and ordered a pizza and 6 pack of his own. It turns out JD did the same 34 miles as me yesterday and had put his tent up near mine last night but he arrived after me and I left before him this morning and had no idea he was there. He had also thought about hiking on into New Jersey but we all bought more pizza and beer and hung out there until they kicked us out around 9 PM. By the time we got to the church all of the bunks were full and everyone was asleep so the 3 of us took the overflow lean-to shelter in the back of the church parking lot…nothing like some good city camping! I had a lot of fun today with these guys, celebrating finishing Pennsylvania, talking about gear, and talking about other trails, so I will be looking forward to catching back up with them after a few days off with Amy!

Pennsylvania was 229 miles of the Appalachian Trail. I entered PA on May 29 and finished the state on June 6, 9 days (8 days of hiking, 1 zero day). My mileage through the state was pretty good as well, especially considering the rocky terrain! The first day was 19.5 miles and I had lunch in town and resupplied groceries. The rest of the days were 32.2 miles, 31.7 miles, 0 miles (Duncannon), 29.2 miles, 32.6 miles, 31.2 miles, 33.5 miles, 20.4 miles to the state line. Not bad! My feet and body hurt but I’m happy to be done and looking forward to a few days off!

June 7. We woke up early in the shelter behind the church. “Q” and I walked down to the gas station and had a gourmet breakfast of a cheese danish, gas station coffee, and orange juice. “Q” and J.D. both packed their gear and prepared to hit New Jersey…it was a weird feeling that I wouldn’t have to hike today, and I was looking forward to a few days off! The church did not offer any laundry services and the town didn’t have a laundromat so I would have some smelly clothes, but the church did have a shower and I thought I should probably at least do that before Amy picked me up! Amy called me and said she would be there in a few minutes so I said bye to the hikers and walked to the post office to wait for her. I waited there and she called back a few minutes later and said she was there…but I didn’t see her! We tried to figure this out and it turned out she was at the Wind Gap post office and I was at the Delaware Water Gap post office, about 20 minutes away. So she headed my way and I waited on the street as the sleepy, small town woke up. I saw Amy drive past me in the rental car and turn up the street to the post office. I started walking towards her and I could tell that she didn’t totally recognize me at first, but eventually she figured out it was me with the long hair and mountain man beard and she stopped and I threw my life’s contents in my backpack into the back seat and we headed to breakfast to kick off a great weekend of hanging out together in Pennsylvania!

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

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