Days 114 – 117 (6/22/15 – 6/25/15)

Day 114, 6/22/15

Start: Wind Gap, PA
Finish: Delaware Water Gap, PA
Miles Hiked: 15.6
Miles To Go: 895.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 1293.4

It is a 2.6 mile hike from the trailhead to the Travel Inn and yesterday we were lucky enough to get a quick hitch. Our luck did not continue this morning. We walked the full length back to the trail. Miles and Oliver are faster hikers than me, but I can keep up with them if the terrain is relatively flat. Leaving Wind Gap, the trail goes up for about 600 ft. and they pulled ahead.

The trail continues to fight us with every step as rocks litter the ground. For miles, hikers must carefully step from one pointy rock to another. Ankle and knee injuries are especially common on the PA section of the trail, so most hikers are forced to slow down their pace and reduce their daily miles. Over the last few days, I have rolled my left ankle several times. It is swollen and a little sore, but not bad enough to keep me from moving.

More PA Rocks

More PA Rocks

I stopped at the Kirkridge Shelter for lunch and joined Miles and Oliver in our daily gluttonous ritual. Just a few days ago we were all capable of hiking 20-25 mile days, but are now happy making 10-15; the rocks do not discriminate and we are all hurting. We finished eating and headed out together.

Just a few miles before Delaware Water Gap, our day turned much more interesting. Standing in the middle of the trail was a bear! He didn’t seem to care about us hikers and slowly walked into the woods. We watched him for about 5 minutes and were able to get some pictures – Very cool!

Bear sighting!

Bear sighting!

Bear in PA

Bear in PA

This was the second bear I have seen, but the first I really got to watch for more than a second or two and the experience was one I will remember for the rest of my life. We were still talking about the bear when we spotted another great sight. An ice chest sat just off the trail with a note congratulating us on making it this far. It was loaded with soft drinks and Gatorade! I took a lemon-lime Gatorade and guzzled it down, the other two grabbed cokes.

We walked the remaining miles to Church of the Mountain Hostel for a free night’s stay. I was surprised to see several hikers I knew already there and it was great being able to catch up with them. Just before bed, I noticed a scale in the corner of the room. I’ve lost exactly 40 lbs. I now weight 187 and haven’t been under 190 in close to 10 years!

Cards with Swahili, Scout and PeaceDog

Cards with Swahili, Scout and PeaceDog


Day 115, 6/23/15

Start: Delaware Water Gap, PA
Finish: Delaware Water Gap, PA
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 895.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 1293.4

Sooooo…I was totally planning on hiking today, but quickly lost motivation when a fellow hiker read the weather report. A storm system that had already dumped inches of rain and spawned a few tornadoes would be bearing down on us around lunchtime. It was 25 miles to the next shelter and 0 miles to my warm, dry bed – No brainer!

Loading up on calories!

Loading up on calories!

Of the 20 hikers here, more than half rolled over and went back to sleep. Today was my first zero in about a month and I spent the time resting, eating town food and playing cards. Oh, and when the storm finally arrived, several trees came down along with a power pole and that was just on our block. I think we definitely made the right call. Hopefully everyone out on the trail was able to find shelter because that was one nasty storm. I’m pushing for 25 miles tomorrow and hope to leave pretty early. Night night!

Rainy Day at the hostel

Rainy Day at the hostel


Day 116, 6/24/15

Start: Delaware Water Gap, PA
Finish: Brink Shelter
Miles Hiked: 24.8
Miles To Go: 871
Overall Miles Hiked: 1318.2

Miles, Jeopardy, Rock Boat and I left the hostel early and after only .3 miles we stopped and took off our packs, we had just hiked out of PA! Pennsylvania has the third most miles of the A.T. and in just over two weeks I was out!

I was now in New Jersey, home of the highest population of black bears along the A.T. After walking across the Delaware River, the trail enters the woods and immediately goes up. Due to all the rain we’ve been having, the path looked like a river and it was nearly impossible to keep our feet dry.

Watery Trail

The trail finally dried up once we climbed the Kittatinny Ridge and arrived at Sunfish Pond. This body of water is the first glacial pond along the A.T. and is one of the 7 natural wonders of New Jersey. We stopped for a quick snack and moved on.

Sunfish Pond

Sunfish Pond

Kittatinny Mountain

Kittatinny Mountain

Just before a steep uphill climb, the trail crossed a road and we were delighted to find a former thruhiker named Irish hosting a trail magic feast of soda, cookies, fruit, beer, water and several other wonderful items. Irish is actually a triple crowner, meaning he has completed the A.T., P.C.T. (Pacific Crest Trail) and C.D.T. (Continental Divide Trail.) Only about 200 hikers share this designation of Triple Crowner. Irish said the A.T. is the most physically demanding and hardest of the three trails even though it is the shortest! We thanked him for his hospitality and got busy hiking.

Trail Magic

Trail Magic

All day, we crossed endless blueberry patches. At first we stopped at nearly every one, but we knew we would never make it to the shelter if we continued on like this. So, we instituted a rule: One blueberry stop per 30 minutes. All told, probably a few thousand berries were consumed among the hungry lot of us! Soooo good!

Blueberry pickin'

Blueberry pickin’

Blueberries

Blueberries

Just before we reached the shelter, we ran into a group of kids out for a 3 day camping trip. They were part of an Outward Bound program based out of New Jersey and they all seemed to be having a great time. It’s good to see younger kids out here enjoying themselves in the outdoors.

We made it to camp and called it quits on a long day.


Day 117, 6/25/15

Start: Brink Shelter
Finish: High Point Shelter
Miles Hiked: 19.6
Miles To Go: 851.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1337.8

Miles, Rock Boat, Jeopardy, Roker (formally Oliver – I’ll get back to that in a minute!) and I headed out early and set our sights on Culvers Gap where a quick side hike would bring us to Jumboland Diner. We gorged ourselves on three-egg omelets and ice cream and returned to the trail feeling quite satisfied!

Two nights ago, the night the bad weather came through, Oliver had his eyes on the weather all day. He would keep us updated, but every time he would say it was about to get bad, the skies would clear up. It got to the point where several of the hikers would just assume the weather would be the opposite of what Oliver relayed to us. It wasn’t long until Rock Boat began calling him Al Roker – Now, it’s just Roker. It took him 1300 miles, but he finally got his trail name!

High Point, NJ - Highest point in the state

High Point, NJ – Highest point in the state

We may be out of PA, but we are not out of the rocks! They are still scattered about the trail and continue to wreak havoc on my feet. Just when I decided I couldn’t go any further, we noticed a side trail on our maps leading to a beach with a concession stand. The best part was it was only a mile up the trail. I sucked it up and hiked on. The lake is in High Point State Park and offers a full concession stand, free showers and a beach with lifeguards. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and that was 15 miles ago. I ordered a chili cheese dog, double cheeseburger, mozzarella sticks, chili cheese nachos, two sodas, Gatorade and ice cream. I ate everything except for the nachos. I didn’t go swimming for fear that I would sink, but I did take a shower as it was much needed!

It was only another mile to the shelter, so I managed to stay relatively clean. When we arrived at the shelter we met Hunterdon County Parks and Rec campers out for a 2 day hike. Rock Boat and Jeopardy were both former camp counselors and told the campers some corny jokes, it made for a fun time before bed.

Happy campers

Happy campers

Days 110 – 113 (6/18/15 – 6/21/15)

Day 110, 6/18/15

Start: Port Clinton, PA
Finish: Eckville Shelter
Miles Hiked: 14.8
Miles To Go: 956.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 1232.3

I checked out of the hotel and hitched a quick ride over to Wal-Mart to resupply. Usually for lunch I will eat Ramen or candy bars, but I’ve been wanting to mix it up lately, so I bought tortillas, pepperjack cheese, pepperoni and Doritos. I crush up the Doritos and put them in my wrap to add a little flavor and texture. The cheese lasts about 4-5 days and then starts to get kinda nasty, so I try to eat it fast.

I was back on the trail for 10:00AM and started hiking. It rained all night and now a thick mist filled the woods.

6/18 Mist

6/18 Mist

In conditions like this, I put my rain cover over my pack, but I don’t hike with my rain gear on because of the heat it traps in. It’s been raining almost everyday for the last week and now the trail has turned to mush; it doesn’t make for fast hiking.

Wet Trail 6/18

Wet Trail 6/18

Today I hiked mostly with Miles and Oliver. We passed the time swapping trail stories and before we knew it, we had arrived at the road we thought led to the shelter. We didn’t see a shelter sign, so we kept walking. After going a mile the wrong way, we checked the book again and realized we passed it up! We turned around, hiked one more mile back and finally found the shelter.

Salamander

Salamander


Day 111, 6/19/15

Start: Eckville Shelter
Finish: George W. Outerbridge Shelter
Miles Hiked: 24.2
Miles To Go: 937.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 1256.5

Miles, Oliver and I left the shelter just after 7:00AM and just had the most wonderful time hiking the same mile of trail for the third time! So nice, we hiked it thrice! Oh well, we made sure to check our trail books more thoroughly today!

Rocky terrain 6/19

Rocky terrain 6/19

Water is starting to get harder to find. Even with all the rain, many springs are dry and you have to walk several tenths of a mile down steep side trails in hopes of finding it. When you have to walk miles and miles everyday, any extra walking that doesn’t count towards A.T. miles just sucks!

Just missed a bad storm

Just missed a bad storm

The trail is getting worse every mile. If you aren’t sinking inches into the mud, then you are balancing yourself on pointy rocks. The rocks are taking their toll on both my feet and my gear. One of my hiking poles broke today. The bottom half of it got stuck between two rocks and it broke at its joint. I’ll try to superglue it tonight. Hopefully, it works because I definitely need it on these rocks.

Knife Edge Rock Formation

Knife Edge Rock Formation

My feet are also in rough shape. I’ve had wet feet for a few days and blisters are beginning to form. With weather like this, you can’t get anything to dry. My boots, socks and other gear have been wet for a solid week…and it’s only going to get worse. I usually strap my wet socks to the outside of my pack. It’s smelly, but it usually works when I am trying to dry them out. Unfortunately, with the consistently wet weather like we have had recently, everything stays damp no matter what we do.

Wet feet

Wet feet

It was a long day battling rocks and wet weather and I arrived at the shelter completely exhausted. I was so tired I almost skipped dinner…keyword: Almost! After shoveling a chicken flavored pasta side down my throat, I passed out.


Day 112, 6/20/15

Start: George W. Outerbridge Shelter
Finish: Leroy A. Smith Shelter
Miles Hiked: 16.7
Miles To Go: 916
Overall Miles Hiked: 1273.2

It rained most of the night, but cleared up just before we started hiking. A mile after the shelter lies the town of Palmerton, PA and home to the Palmerton Zinc Superfund site. That’s right, the A.T. takes hikers right through one of the most polluted areas in the state! The hike through the Superfund starts with the slope of Blue Mountain and boy is it steep! I had to put my hiking poles away and climb up nearly vertical rock face for several hundred yards.

What I have left to climb, straight up

What I have left to climb, straight up

Several times I looked down behind me and thought how crazy it was to be scaling this mountain. One wrong step and a thruhike could easily end in a very tragic way.

Ascent up from Palmerton

Ascent up from Palmerton

After slowly negotiating the rock face, I sat down and drank from the 5 liters of water I was carrying. Over the course of my hike today, water would only be crossed once and it was .6 miles off trail and I had no intention of adding over a mile to my day. This has been the most water I’ve carried thus far as I usually only have about a liter on hand. The extra water added around 10 lbs. of weight to my pack, but there weren’t many alternatives.

After the steep ascent, the trail flattened out a bit and I was surprised to see several blueberry bushes loaded with ripe fruit. I haven’t seen any ripe fruit bushes other than the mulberries and now, on one of the most polluted landscapes in the country, they were all over. Needless to say, I didn’t pick any!

Superfund selfie!

Superfund selfie!

After a few miles the hike through the Superfund ended, but the rocks did not. By the time I reached the shelter I was pretty wrecked. My back is the most sore it had been this entire hike, most likely due to carrying extra weight and I have two nasty blisters on my feet. What’s worse is that in just a few hours the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill will be rolling right over us. I’m hunkered down in a shelter with Miles and 5 others while we await the storm. At least my hiking pole survived the day!


Day 113, 6/21/15

Start: Leroy A. Smith Shelter
Finish: Wind Gap, PA
Miles Hiked: 4.6
Miles To Go: 911.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1277.8

The rain came down all night, but at least we avoided the wind and lightning that was forecasted. Miles, Oliver, Samaritan and I made the easy decision to head into town. We were all sore and running low on food and dry clothes. Plus, Wind Gap, PA has a movie theater and we all wanted to see Jurassic World!

We made the four and a half mile trek into town in record time and checked into the Travel Inn. Rooms were $80, but thankfully we split it between the 4 of us. We cleaned up, washed clothes and resupplied. After that, our attention turned to food! Right across the street is the Gap Diner. We took a seat and ordered a late breakfast. After several plates of omelets and french toast were cleared, we headed back to the room and relaxed in the A/C.

Resupply time! With Miles (left) and Oliver (right)

Resupply time! With Miles (left) and Oliver (right)

The movie started at 7:00PM and only cost us $5 a ticket, gotta love small town USA! Jurassic World was much better than the second and third installments, but failed to surpass the patriarch of the franchise. Overall I give it a B+! We walked back to the room and surrendered to the end of a long, wet and rocky week.


Days 106 – 109 (6/14/15 – 6/17/15)

Day 106, 6/14/15

Start: Duncannon, PA
Finish: Clarks Ferry Shelter
Miles Hiked: 4.3
Miles To Go: 1038
Overall Miles Hiked: 1151.2

Blade and The Cuts, DG, 50+ and I left the hotel and got a ride back to the Doyle where we waited for Trail Angel Mary to bring the guys to the bus station. I’ve enjoyed hiking with these guys. When we first met way back at the NOC in North Carolina, I had no idea that we would become such great friends. Even though Pie now lives in Finland, he visits the U.S. regularly. The next time he visits he said he will take a few days to “come down to the bayou” for a crawfish boil – I’m looking forward to it! I haven’t told my wife yet, but I plan to reunite with Click and Cheese Beard next year at Trail Days. Click hopes to have his book completed by then and may rent a vendor tent to release it. I don’t know if Blade has any intentions of coming back to the U.S., but if he does, I hope we can find a time to meet up – I’ve really enjoyed hiking with him and beating him in Mau Mau! Mary showed up and we said our goodbyes. They said they will try to catch back up with me, but I honestly don’t see that happening. That’s just the way the A.T. is, but I’m glad I’ve made some great friends out here.

I had some phone calls to make and some things to take care of, so I was not in any rush to get back to the trail. I posted up at a Subway for several hours and took care of my to-do list. I finally made it back to the trail around 3:00 and made my way up a very steep and rocky path until I reached the shelter. There were already about a dozen hikers camping, so I was forced to take a spot in the shelter next to DG. We played some cards and talked about the trail until hiker midnight, 9:00. There were 5 people in the shelter sound asleep until 10:42PM, when a hiker walked up with his bright headlamp on. He kept his light shining on the shelter until a few of us started stirring and then he asked me and DG to move over. Hiker rule of thumb: There is always room for one more in a shelter, so we moved, albeit begrudgingly. He then took about 40 minutes to get settled in, still with his headlamp on!  Now we were getting pissed! Finally, the light went off – 10 minutes later he was snoring louder than I ever thought possible. I only got a few hours of sleep – Got to love shelters!

PA Rocks

PA Rocks

I thought the trail was supposed to be rocky?

I thought the trail was supposed to be rocky?


Day 107, 6/15/15

Start: Clarks Ferry Shelter
Finish: Rausch Gap Shelter
Miles Hiked: 24.7
Miles To Go: 1013.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 1175.9

After not getting much sleep, thanks to our late night visitor, I was a little groggy this morning and started gathering my things around 6:30. Everyone else was up except for the   headlamp guy. When every one else in the shelter saw that I was awake, they started making as much noise as possible, no doubt having hatched a plan of revenge! I laughed and joined in. After a few minutes the guy woke up. He offered an apology, but hardly anyone so much as glanced at him. I don’t have a problem with him coming in late or asking for a spot, but when you wake up an entire shelter and then take nearly an hour to settle in, you get what you deserve!

I was the second out of camp – No spiderwebs! The trail is becoming a little rockier with each passing day, but for now it is not too bad. The A.T. in PA is known for their rocks, so it will only get worse.

After 8 miles, I made it to the next shelter and ate lunch with the section hiker who left camp before me. We chatted a bit and then I moved on. He would be the last person I would see until 8 hours later when I arrived at the Raush Gap Shelter.

Trail view 6/15

Trail view 6/15

Two weeks ago, I would have struggled being alone on the trail, but now I’m fine with it. I am happy again to be out here and look forward to reaching Maine. To everyone reading the blog and to those that took the time to write me – Thank you, thank you, thank you! I use your words as motivation and cannot describe how grateful I am. Now when I walk alone, I use the time to think constructively as to how I can become a better husband, friend, brother, son and employee. If I would have left the trail, it would have been devastating because I realized that in my first three months I didn’t actively try to better myself. I’m out here for several reasons, but this is one of the biggest ones. Now, for several hours a day, I pick a topic and think about it. I will continue this past Katahdin and I see changes within myself already. The A.T. can be pretty damn tough at times, but knowing what you are hiking for makes all the difference!

6/15 Rattler

6/15 Snake


Day 108, 6/16/15

Start: Rausch Gap Shelter
Finish: 501 Shelter
Miles Hiked: 17.5
Miles To Go: 995.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 1193.4

It has been raining just about every day for the last week and last night was no exception. Around 11:00PM, a storm rolled in and woke up the entire camp. We even heard a tree or large branch come down somewhere near the shelter. Dead trees or dead branches are known as widow makers and they are a real threat out here. Earlier this year, a hiker was killed on the A.T. in Maryland when a tree fell on him. Whenever we look for a campsite, the first thing we do is look up, but I guess you just never know.

Trail View 6/16

Trail View 6/16

I ate my breakfast of Snickers with the others and headed out. Just off the trail was an old graveyard dating back to the 1850’s, so I stopped to take a quick picture. The woods were dead still and an eerie haze filled the canopy – It was a spooky setting and I left in a hurry!

1850's Graveyard

1850’s Graveyard

The heat and humidity have been pretty bad lately and I’ve been drenched in sweat within minutes of leaving the shelters in the morning. About once a day, I’ll rinse off in a stream and feel somewhat clean until I start hiking again. About halfway into my hike, I came across an interesting stream crossing. A big tree had at one point or another come down across the stream and is now used as a cross over. The trunk was wide enough, but I suspect one or two people have a close call each year.

Fallen tree over stream

Fallen tree over stream

Since Georgia, I have been determined to photograph the most elusive creature in the woods. Everyday, I see about a dozen of them cross the trail or sit just off the trail in the woods, but as soon as I reach for my camera they disappear. But today I succeeded, behold the mighty chipmunk!

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

Cute little animals, but they must be the most scared things in the woods because they bolt off as soon as they hear or see you.

For the last few miles I hiked with 50+. He has been sectioning the A.T. for the last few years and only has 600 miles left to go. In another year or so he will have it done. I have enjoyed hiking with him and love listening to his hiking stories of everything he has experienced over the years.

6/16 Trail View

6/16 Trail View

We arrived at the 501 Shelter which sits just off PA Hwy 501, making it possible for pizza deliveries! I ate a large sausage and bell pepper pizza and called it a night!


Day 109, 6/17/15

Start: 501 Shelter
Finish: Port Clinton, PA
Miles Hiked: 24.1
Miles To Go: 971.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 1217.5

For the first time in a long time I awoke to clear skies and cool temperatures. Days like today were made for hiking and I was actually excited to hit the woods. I was the first one out of camp, which meant spiderwebs and boy were they thick! Not sure why I haven’t thought of this before, but I started hiking with one pole raised before me in the air and only relied on one pole for support. The raised pole did a great job of breaking the webs and it was smooth sailing!

I had headphones in today, which is not something I usually do, but it made for fast hiking…So fast in fact that I averaged 3 mph over the course of the day, which is flying by my standards! I keep the volume low in case someone comes up behind me, so I can let them pass or in case there is another bear in a tree. Well today I can add another reason to keep the volume on low. I was listening to Hook by Blues Traveler and was puzzled when I heard the faint sound of maracas that seemed to be emanating from my headphones. The problem was that I know there are no maracas in that song – Yep, it was a rattlesnake. He was just off the trail to my left. His back half stuck out on the trail like a small branch. I wasn’t planning on stopping and was just going to walk on, but it wouldn’t move. I got out my phone and used my hiking poles to get him going. He wasn’t happy, but moved nonetheless. Two days ago I had another close encounter when a rattler went off about 2 ft. to my right as I was cruising along. By the time I registered what it was, I was already 6 ft. ahead. Pennsylvania’s rocks definitely bring out the snakes.

A few hours later I ran into this colorful guy:

Box Turtle

Box Turtle

I haven’t seen a box turtle this color before – Pretty cool!

After a rather uneventful day, I reached Port Clinton, PA and checked into the Port Clinton Hotel. I did laundry, showered and ate wings and a burger at the restaurant on the first floor of the hotel. I followed up with Leigh and some others and called it a night.


Days 103 – 105 (6/11/15 – 6/13/15)

Day 103, 6/11/15

Start: Somewhere in the PA woods
Finish: Little Dogwood Run Campsite
Miles Hiked: 14.7
Miles To Go: 1071.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 1117.3

Everyone who participated in the half gallon challenge lived through the night! We broke camp and started hiking. Immediately, we knew it was going to be a hot one as sweat began to pour. Within 30 minutes, we looked like we had just climbed out of a pool; we were absolutely drenched. The air in the woods was stagnant – Not a leaf moved on its limb. I’m not sure how much water I drank today, but it has been the most of any day so far.

Around noon, we were looking for a place to bail out of the heat for a few hours and saw the Green Mountain Store was just up ahead, so we walked .2 miles down a state highway to its front door. Inside, I ordered a hamburger and some gatorade and sat down in front of the A/C vent. Even though the burger patty was cooked in the microwave, it was delicious! After eating our various sandwiches, we relocated outside in the shade and didn’t move for the next two hours. Every so often, one of us would go back inside and emerge with chips, ice cream, a soda, or some other snack. Thruhikers spend a lot of money at small establishments such as these and even though we are smelly, the owners are always pretty nice to us.

Break time

Break time

Just before we left, Pie had the idea to get some hot dogs and buns so we could grill them up around the campfire tonight. We each carried a part of tonight’s meal and headed out. It was about 3:00 and 85°, so hiking was slow on the flat parts and even slower on the ups. The only fun part of our hike today was through the Rock Maze. The Rock Maze is about a half mile section of the trail where the A.T. zigzags in and out and up and over big rock formations. There were several times when our poles had to be put away so we could use our hands to scramble. It reminded me a lot of Albert Mountain back in North Carolina and the descent off Dragon’s Tooth in Virginia.

Rock Maze

Rock Maze

Rock Maze

Rock Maze

We finally made it to our campsite in the woods where I immediately washed off in the nearby stream. It was very cold, but very refreshing! I downed 5 hot dogs and a Snickers and spent the rest of the evening playing cards. Life could be worse!


Day 104, 6/12/15

Start: Little Dogwood Run Campsite
Finish: Darlington Shelter
Miles Hiked: 18.3
Miles To Go: 1052.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 1135.6

We were hiking by 7:00, drenched in sweat by 7:15 and it only got hotter as the day went on. Thankfully though, the trail was very flat. For 13 miles the trail meandered through corn and wheat fields until finally going back uphill into the PA mountains.

Hiking through a corn field

Hiking through a corn field

Boiling Springs, PA sits right in the beginning of the flat section and the trail goes right through the heart of town. Click, Pie and I ate a quick breakfast at Cafe 101. Any chance I get to eat town food I’m jumping on because I’m worried I’m not eating enough on the trail. I can’t really afford to lose much more weight and I’m only halfway through.

Even though the trail was flat, we were forced to take several breaks due to the heat. In conditions like these, low 90s with very high humidity, heat stroke is a real possibility. Every few hours we took a break and downed as much water as we could. A few of our break spots had mulberry trees nearby and I ate as many as I could! A mulberry tastes like a raspberry, but not as sweet. In any condition they are great, in heat like this they are a juicy miracle!

Mulberry Tree

Mulberry Tree

Toward the end of the 13 mile flat section is Scott Farm Trail ATC Crew Headquarters, which serves as a trailhead and work center for A.T. maintenance. We took advantage of their shade and unlimited supply of water and held tight for several hours. No one was in any hurry to get going again!

Scott Farm

Scott Farm

Finally around 6:00, we took the first reluctant steps back onto the trail and slowly hiked up a 900 ft. climb to the shelter. I was so hungry I actually ate two Knorr’s Pasta Sides – That’s a first!

The mountain in the distance is where we hiked from today

The mountain in the distance is where we hiked from today

Just when we were about to get in our tents thunder could be heard in the distance, so I checked my phone for a radar image. Not good. We were in for some serious weather, so we ensured our tents were staked soundly in the ground and our gear would stay dry. Click, Cheese Beard and I rode out the storm for 2 hours in the shelter along with 11 others until it finally passed. A few small branches and a thousand gallons of water came down, but everyone seemed to ride out the storm okay. When I got back in my tent, it was a little wet from splatter under my rain cover, but it wasn’t too bad! Hopefully that is all we get tonight.


Day 105, 6/13/15

Start: Darlington Shelter
Finish: Duncannon, PA
Miles Hiked: 11.3
Miles To Go: 1042.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 1146.9

Thankfully, the weather cleared and the rest of our night passed without incident. I walked over to the shelter with my food bag for some breakfast and was surprised to see 50+ already there eating. The last time I saw him was about a month ago at Wilson Creek Shelter in Virginia. He is getting  close to completing his section hike and we spent some time catching up. After eating our various breakfast bars, Blade, DG and I headed out. Our hiking books made special note of an upcoming section of the trail that was “very rocky” – Yeah! When we got to the pipeline that started the rocky section we were pleasantly surprised. In my opinion, it wasn’t any worse than the miles and miles of A.T. behind us. Pennsylvania is supposed to be extremely rocky. If the trail stays like this section, I would be happy, although I don’t think it will.

Duncannon, PA

Duncannon, PA

A few more miles brought us into downtown Duncannon. Blade and The Cuts will be boarding a bus in the morning headed to New York and will be there for 9 days. I will probably not see them again on the A.T., but hope to meet up again with them at some point down the road. We have talked about a possible reunion next year at Trail Days – We will see! It’s been great hiking with you guys. Enjoy New York and good luck with the rest of your journey.
BBQ Lunch

BBQ Lunch

We intended to stay at the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, but it was a little too run down for some members of our group, so we made other sleeping arrangements. I would have been happy to stay at the Doyle Hotel and encourage any future thruhiker to at least take a seat at the bar on the first floor. The walls are adorned with hiking photos and memorabilia and you can just feel the history within the walls. DG, 50+, Blade and The Cuts and myself all had one last dinner together at the Ranch House Restaurant and turned in.

Days 100 – 102 (6/8/15 – 6/10/15)

Day 100, 6/8/15

Start: Tumbling Run Shelter
Finish: US 30
Miles Hiked: 9.6
Miles To Go: 1107
Overall Miles Hiked: 1082.2

We left camp around 8:00 and immediately had about a 1,000 ft. climb up a very rocky section of the trail.

Today's view of the trail

Today’s view of the trail

Some pretty nasty weather was supposed to come in just after lunch, so we decided before we left camp this morning that we would go into town and split a room. Blade, Click and I got to the road leading to town first and started thumbing.

Hitching a ride into town

Hitching a ride into town

10 minutes later, we got our hitch and checked into the Scottish Inn and Suites. A few minutes later, Pie and Cheese Beard arrived. We got showered up and walked across the street to the Flamingo Restaurant. The portions were huge and the food was very good at a reasonable price. Blade and I had hamburgers. Click had the veal parmesan and Pie and Cheese Beard elected to go with the breakfast option and had eggs and pancakes. We have all lost a lot of weight, so we look to town food to refuel our bodies with much needed calories. We finished out the evening watching the storm roll in. It did get pretty nasty, but we would have been fine in a shelter in the woods.


Day 101, 6/9/15

Start: US 30
Finish: Quarry Gap Shelter
Miles Hiked: 2.4
Miles To Go: 1104.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1084.8

We had big miles on our minds, but plans changed just 2 miles into our hike. The day started out great – We ate again at the restaurant and got a quick hitch back to the trail.

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Even the trail started out great as it was flat, next to a stream with no rocks. Unfortunately though, just before we got to a shelter, Pie began throwing up. We thought it could just be from the beer he had last night, but after several trips into the woods, it was apparent that he wasn’t just hungover. Hopefully it is nothing serious like Noro because by morning we will all be sick. We made it to the shelter and quarantined Pie. The rest of us passed the time with a few card games Blade taught us – Mau Mau and Schnauzer. They both only use the cards from 7 up to Ace and are a lot of fun. We checked on Pie several times, but it doesn’t look like he is getting any better. If worse comes to worst, he will hike back the 2.4 miles and go back to town tomorrow – We shall see!

Playing Mau Mau

Playing Mau Mau

Intense game of Mau Mau!

Intense game of Mau Mau!


Day 102, 6/10/15

Start: Quarry Gap Shelter
Finish: Somewhere in the PA woods
Miles Hiked: 17.8
Miles To Go: 1086.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 1102.6

Last night just before bed, Click asked if I wanted to learn a few things with my camera.  It was a clear night and the stars were out, so I wisely took him up on the offer. He taught me and Cheese Beard some light painting techniques and the results were really cool.

Light Painting

Light Painting

After that, we took some longer exposure shots of the stars and you could actually see some rotation after only 4 minutes – Very cool!

Great shot of the stars - Thanks again, Click!

Great shot of the stars – Thanks again, Click!

I thanked him for the lesson and we all climbed in our bags, but sleep would have to wait. A horrific sound reached out to us from the dark woods. The hair on my neck stood up on end. “What the $#!^ was that?” Cheese Beard cried. God’s honest truth, it sounded like a woman screaming. It was absolutely terrifying. It happened every minute or so, sometimes there would be three or four shrieks back to back. I thought it could be a screech owl, but a quick YouTube search for owl sounds ruled that out. Click and Cheese Beard thought they were going to be murdered by the sound’s owner. I was a little creeped out as well. More searching on YouTube brought me to the sounds of the red fox…Bingo! Perfect match. I was immediately put at ease, but decided not to share the good news with my buddies. It went on sporadically all night and in the morning it was obvious Click and Cheese Beard didn’t get much sleep! Blade had his headphones in and slept through the entire experience, while Pie was still sick and couldn’t care less.  We packed up and headed out.

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Blade hiked full speed ahead and left us behind. Pie was struggling and took it slow. After 9 miles of hiking, Cheese Beard, Click and I walked out of the woods into a parking lot and were greeted by two trail angels! Marie and Dennis treated us to an amazing spread of hot dogs, hamburgers, Oreos, chips, fruit, soda and other goodies. It was their first time giving out trail magic for hikers, but it didn’t show – They did a fantastic job! Thanks again!

Hanging out with trail angels Dennis and

Hanging out with trail angels Dennis and Marie

Just one mile after our feast was another amazing sight…The 2015 official halfway point at 1094.6 miles! With just one more step, we would be closer to Katahdin than Springer! It was a great sight. For all thruhikers who have made it this far, great job! It is a hell of an accomplishment! We were very proud of ourselves and high fives were rampant, but the celebration was short lived.

OFFICIAL HALFWAY POINT!!

OFFICIAL HALFWAY POINT!!

The halfway point meant that just ahead on the trail was Pine Grove Furnace State Park, home of the “half gallon challenge.” For years, hikers have sat down at the state park’s general store with a half gallon of ice cream before them, taunting them, daring them to finish. The reward is a small wooden spoon and respect from other ice cream warriors. Blade and Pie sat out, Click, Cheese Beard and I sat down. Click chose Neapolitan, Cheese Beard selected Vanilla, and I disregarded the warnings from the store worker and went with Cookies n’ Cream.

Ready for the half gallon challenge!

Ready for the half gallon challenge!

So far, the fastest time of the day was 70 minutes – We were determined to beat it. We dug in. The first 15 minutes were a breeze, but Click and Cheese Beard started slowing down around the 20 minute mark. PoBoy forged ahead with amazing focus and an iron stomach. At minute 24, I put down my spoon and stood up in celebration; my container was empty. I had prevailed! A few minutes later, Cheese Beard and Click put away their last spoonfuls of ice cream and entered the record books. The 3 of us completed the task in less than 30 minutes. This feat will most assuredly be talked about among hikers for years to come. Our story will enter the vaults of hiker lore! Well done boys!

Challenge Complete!

Challenge Complete!

30 minutes later, Cheese Beard was stretched out in the sun, not exactly feeling 100%. Click and I were sitting at the same table with cheeseburgers in front of us. Sick, I know! After knocking out our burgers, we walked slowly out of the park and into the woods where we found a nice camp spot alongside a stream. Amazingly, the three ice cream eaters feel fine. We will see if our luck holds in the morning.

…Midnight update – All is well!