I bid my cousin goodbye and continue on my Appalachian Trail thru-hike solo through the state of Pennsylvania as the rains come. Enjoy reading my latest journal entry as I backpack the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. If you missed it, here are my previous entries and videos from the trail.
Noah and I woke up and were on the trail by 8:15. His knees were very sore. After a mile we encountered the rock maze: a section of large rocks where the trail weaved around these obstacles. This most likely exacerbated Noah’s knee pain. There was some rocky downhill sections that didn’t help either.
Noah was reaching his pain limit. When we reached a road, I held out my thumb. A car pulled over and Noah hitched a ride into the town of Boiling Springs. I continued the remaining six miles to town solo.
After a quick descent, the trail left the woods and became very flat as I hiked through miles of farmland.
Boiling Springs has got to be the nicest trail town I’ve been to so far. There was a small lake and tons of old homes. It was very pretty.
I met up with Noah and we ate pizza together. I ordered Sicilian-style and it was good, but not as good as back home—Detroit-style. Willow, Transformer, Nomad, and Landfill were in town as well. After lunch, I bid Noah farewell. His hike had come to an end and he would be getting picked up soon and driven back to Washington D.C.
I hiked on across more farmlands. It was actually quite beautiful and I made great time on the flat terrain. Eventually I reached Darlington Shelter. The previously mentioned hikers were also there, as well as a section hiker named Santa’s Brother due to his white beard. The shelter was fairly new (2005) and Santa’s Brother and I were the only ones who stayed inside. Everyone else wanted to tent. Works for me! I had leftover pizza for dinner and it was great.
Day’s Mileage: 22.4
Total Miles Hiked: 1,145.8
Remaining Miles: 1,053.9
I woke up at 5:45am to my alarm. The town of Duncannon, PA, was about 11 miles away and I needed to get to the post office before it closed at 12:30pm (Saturday). Rain was expected and it was chilly so I wore my rain jacket.
It had rained the night before and so the trail was wet. I walked through grass fields and farmlands. The wet blades of grass soaked my shoes and socks. I warmed up from hiking so I took my rain jacket off and removed my hat and bandana and let them hang off my pack.
A little later on there was a steep climb. Sweat was pouring down my face and into my eyes. I reached for my bandana which should have kept the sweat out of my eyes but it wasn’t there! It must have fallen off somewhere.
So far I hadn’t lost anything on the trail after 70+ days and over 1,100 miles. Well, I almost lost my sunglasses in the Smokies but Michael found them on the ground and retrieved them. I was a bit disappointed; I liked that bandana. I quickly texted Willow to ask if she could keep her eye out for my missing bandana. Since I left so early I figured she’d still have a chance to find it. Turned out she hadn’t even left the shelter yet so there was still hope.
The guidebook said the trail was especially rocky but I didn’t think it was any worse than other times. Soon enough I arrived in Duncannon. I walked past a laundromat and thought about putting a load in but a woman was using all of the new washers. All of them! I walked on; I could always rinse my clothes in a stream later.
At the post office I picked up my bounce box. It and was filled with ziplock bags (my garbage bags and too protect my electronics), fresh ear plugs, extra food, bandaids, etc. I took the items I needed and then ‘bounced’ the box to another post office farther along the trail.
I received a text from Willow that she found my bandana! I was so happy. I met her, Transformer, Nomad, and Landfill at The Doyle. It is a famous hotel on the trail, and for all the wrong reasons. The building is from 1905 and you can definitely tell. Inside it looked as if everything was original. There was a bar where I met Vicky who ran the place with her husband. She had a sharp tongue and a was a riot. Transformer tried to convince me to stay the night. They had gotten rooms but after taking a peek at theirs, I decided not to. The rooms were $25 or so and you got what you paid for. Each floor only had one bathroom.
I decided against staying, but to experience The Doyle, I ordered a burger and 22oz. beer. The food was surprisingly good and the conversation with Vicky priceless.
I continued through the town of Duncannon and stopped at Sled Works, an old sled factory that was now a giant antique store. They had a large collection of old arcade games as well as almost any antique you could think of.
The sun was out though rain was still forecast. I hiked out of town, across the Juniata River and then the Susquehanna River. Soon the trail left the city and highway and ascended back up to a rocky ridge.
I was hoping to reach a shelter ten miles away when it began to rain. My wet socks also seemed to be creating hot spots on my feet. I arrived at Clarks Ferry Shelter which was seven miles from the shelter I was aiming for. I paused inside to decide whether or not to press on.
I was in no hurry to get anywhere in particular. I simply wanted to reach the next shelter since it was new and large. But my current shelter was empty and rain was coming. I also wouldn’t arrive at the next shelter until late. I don’t know why I felt like pushing on, especially when my feet were tired and wet. My last day off from the trail was a week ago. Why was I pushing myself?
I finally decided to stay. I had the shelter to myself and I could use the extra time to plan ahead and actually decompress. I usually hike all day and never give myself time to relax.
Soon the rain came and it poured. I had been so torn over whether or not to press on and what the right decision was when in the end, there was no right answer and yet I ended up right where I belonged. I was dry when I could have been hiking for three more hours in a thunderstorm getting soaked and slipping on rocks.
It was only 5pm so I used my free time to spray permethrin on my clothes. It’s a bug spray that kills insects when they get on your clothes and is effective at keeping ticks away. My clothes had to dry for four hours so now I had the time to finally treat them properly. Everything was working out.
There were some crazy lightning strikes that shook the ground and the rain kept coming off and on. Two flip-flop hikers, Froggy and Shake-N-Bake, joined me in the shelter. I didn’t regret not staying at The Doyle or the next shelter. And my bandana was back!
Day’s Mileage: 15.6
Total Miles Hiked: 1,161.4
Remaining Miles: 1,038.3
I was on the trail around 8am. I bid my shelter-mates goodbye; I doubt I’ll see them again since they aren’t doing very many miles per day. I keep running into section hikers and flip-flop hikers but they don’t have their trail legs yet so I blow past them.
It wasn’t raining yet but I knew it was coming. The temperature dropped and the high was only 58. I wore pants for the first time in a long while. Soon enough the rain started to come down hard.
Just in time I arrived at the big shelter I had hoped to reach yesterday. A flip-flop hiker who was also named Willow was there. She shared some pistachios with me. I made a peanut butter and honey tortilla for lunch and made use of the privy. Choo Choo showed up as well. I thought he was ahead of me but here he was again. I think the last I saw of him was in Waynesboro, VA.
The rain seemed to have stopped so I seized the moment and hiked on. So far I’ve been avoiding the heavy downpours. It didn’t rain the rest of the afternoon. The trail was flat and straight. I hiked in a straight line for hours. It wasn’t difficult but I was tired for some reason. Well, I knew the reason. I had drank less than a liter of water because there weren’t any springs. I hadn’t filled up at the last shelter because the spring was 300 feet down a steep ravine!
Eventually I found a water source and filled up. My day continued, straight as ever. The shelters in Pennsylvania are not spaced out well. It was 18 miles between the shelter I stopped at for lunch and the next.
At last, after hiking down a quarter-mile trail to the shelter, I arrived at my destination only to find the small shelter was full of hikers trying to stay dry. Just as I expected. It was probably packed with flip-flop hikers not used to getting wet. I walked back to the trail and found a place to myself to camp. It was right next to a roaring stream. The rain returned as I set up my tent. I didn’t get too wet and once inside I stayed dry.
So far, I haven’t had to deal with much rain. Besides the first two days on the trail, I haven’t had to hike in torrential rain and most rainy nights I’ve been in shelters or a hostel. I guess my time has come; rain is forecast every day for the rest of the week.
Day’s Mileage: 24.6
Total Miles Hiked: 1,186.0
Remaining Miles: 1,013.7
The days are just flying by now. It’s hard to remember what happened during the day when I write this journal at night. Maybe it’s the heat.
Anyway, I woke up and my tent was soaked. Not the inside, but both sides of the tent fly. I packed up and everything felt damp. The air was heavy. My tent was soaked and covered in dirt as I rolled it up and put it away. Dirt stuck to my wet hands and got under my fingernails somehow. I probably needed to cut them, too.
I hiked onward and like much of Pennsylvania so far, it was flat and straight. I passed several flip-floppers. I met one of these aforementioned flip-flop hikers at a shelter I stopped at for lunch. His name was Baby Bird because he liked to add summer sausage to his dinners but didn’t have a knife to cut it. I think you can figure out the rest. Another flip-flopper showed up. The two knew each other well.
At the shelter the sun came out and the temperature shot up. I was already hot enough but why not take it up a notch to the high 70s. I unpacked my tent and laid it out to dry in the sun while I ate and talked to the flip-floppers.
It’s interesting to talk to the flip-floppers. They seem to think the NOBOs (north bounders) like me are antisocial, and perhaps we are. They told me I was the most talkative so far but I only was talkative because we were at a shelter. They all seem to know each other and started around the same time. They’re their only little ‘bubble’ of hikers, just as the big ‘bubble’ of NOBOs is making their way through Virginia. I don’t really care to talk to the flip-floppers because I know I’ll outpace them and most likely never encounter them again. I’ve been hiking for two-and-a-half months and I don’t need to try and remember more trail names of people I’ll only see once. Maybe all of us NOBOs at the vanguard have become hardened mountain men who don’t have time for the greenhorns.
I left the shelter and continued on. Soon I arrived at another shelter only four miles away. The shelters here are spaced out very poorly. I hadn’t refilled my water bottles today and was quite thirsty. This shelter supposedly had a solar shower (whatever that means) but it didn’t work. I have been in great need of a wash. I feel like I’m slowly devolving into complete and utter hiker trash (and I don’t mind).
There was a caretaker house nearby with a spigot for water. I drank a liter, brushed my teeth, refilled my bottles, and gave myself a rinse off. Do I look any cleaner?
And before I forget, my brain is struggling to remember the days, I passed over a river with a cool old bridge earlier in the day. I also walked underneath I-81 which I can’t remember if I’ve crossed before on the trail.
Back at the water spigot, I hoped my stench had been somewhat subdued; I didn’t have any soap. Inside the shelter were a number of flip-floppers all catching up. It was strange to be the odd man out all of a sudden. I was getting ready to leave when one of them asked if I wanted to go in on some pizzas; a place nearby would deliver to the shelter. I paused to contemplate. It’s amazing how much food can influence my decisions out here! I decided against it and hiked on.
Dusk was falling when I reached my campsite. There were several other tents set up but I found a nice spot to myself a little ways back. My tent was dry but my food stores were getting low. My battery pack to charge my cell phone was also nearly dead. Maybe I should have showered, resupplied, and charged up back at The Doyle in Duncannon!
Now that I’m past halfway, I haven’t been paying as much attention to my mileage. But I noticed today that I have less than 1,000 miles to go! I’m not sure I want it to end.
Day’s Mileage: 23.2
Total Miles Hiked: 1,209.2
Remaining Miles: 990.5
Daily Average: 15.9
This song by Christina Aguilera dropped while I was hiking. I specifically remember listening to this dark ballad as I hiked into Duncannon.