Darlington Shelter - Duncannon, PA
Although we didn't set an alarm, we were both up early and ready to get to town for lunch at the Doyle Hotel. The terrain looked fairly mellow and for the most part it was, but then 6 miles before Duncannon, we hit the rockiest section of trail I've ever seen. I had heard that Pennsylvania was rocky, actually I had heard that the trail crews threw rocks on the trail and sharpened them to make it even more miserable, but I couldn't let myself believe it. I do now. Let me just say that if I had grown up hiking sections of the AT in PA, I would probably never have become as avid of a hiker as I am now. There wasn't even a trail, it was just a jumbled mess of rocks that looked as if you could never get down to the dirt no matter how many you threw off the pile. It was miserable but we didn't let that stop us from getting to Doyle and the best bacon cheeseburger I have eaten in many miles. My brother had done really well during the week, but also gotten pretty worn down, and was happy to be at the Doyle with his pack resting in a corner rather than on his back. Pat and Vicki, the owners of the Doyle, are some of the friendliest people I've met on the trail, and have created one of the most hiker-friendly locations imaginable. My brother and I enjoyed our afternoon there immensely while waiting for our parents' friends, Mike and Francesca, to pick us up. After Mike was done with work, he made the 18 mile drive over from Harrisburg to Duncannon and picked us up. After stinking up his car pretty well, we managed to fit a shower in before dinner. We ate at a delicious pizza place and even managed to squeeze in some room for frozen custard afterwards. Thank you so much for dinner and the hospitality that you showed to my brother and I. We appreciate everything you did for us and it was a pleasure to hang out and catch up after so many years. Thank you!
campsite - Darlington Shelter
Although we had stayed up late, we got up early so we didn't have to rush through the day. Since the beginning of the trail, I've been looking ahead in the guide book at the terrain profiles and waiting for the day when I would reach one of the pages that was entirely flat. Today was that day. After a few very small climbs (one of which was the original midpoint) we descended into the Cumberland Valley for 14.1 miles of flatness. One of the first landmarks of the day was the town of Boiling Springs, PA. After getting our bearings we made our first stop, food. It was 11AM and we were the first customers at Amile's Ristorante and Pizzeria and we were not disappointed. Afterwards, we resupplied for the last night and day on the trail and headed on over to the outfitters for more water purification stuff. In the guidebook it warns that the outfitter is mainly a fly fishing store and the hiker selection is limited. It was right and they were out of water purifier. The owner said that if we could wait until 2:30 or 3PM, he was waiting on FedEx to deliver some more. Since the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) had a porch swing that faced the outfitters I pulled out a book of Sudoku problems and kept an eye out for the delivery man. Although annoyed that we couldn't just continue our day, we didn't want to leave without a way to purify our water. It was exactly 2:45PM when I saw the FedEx truck and as soon as the driver left we hustled over to the outfitters, got what we needed, and were on our way. The rest of the day was flat, boring and full of cornfields, but it went quickly and soon enough we were set up at the shelter. It had been a long week for my brother and not long after dinner we were both in our hammocks heading for sleep. Before falling asleep, though, I thought about something Grizzly, a trail friend of mine, said. He mentioned that he had done the math and figured that if you did twenty 25-mile days in a row, it would put you in Vermont. I was intrigued and before falling asleep, I had made up my mind to try and do that.
Michener Cabin - campsite
Today was a really big milestone on my thru-hike, and I'm glad my brother was here to share it. We hit the halfway point!!! It was only a few miles from where we camped so it happened earlier in the day. It was a very exciting moment. Since the midpoint moves every year, there wasn't a sign so I made a sign and got some pictures. Hitting the halfway point means that I have hiked/paddled for 1092.2 miles, and had just as many to go. It was a big psychological boost that came just at the right time. I have been missing 2-Step a lot and it has made hiking the trail kind of a drag, but she's been really encouraging about me staying on the trail, and hitting the midpoint really helped. I was also really glad I was able to share it with my brother and I wasn't just celebrating by myself. This is a big moment and even though 2-Step isn't here anymore, with her encouragement I know I'm going all the way. After a break and some pictures, my brother and I were on our way again. Not long after the midpoint, we passed through Pine Grove Furnace State Park and their general store, which is home to the "Half Gallon Challenge." It's become a tradition to attempt to eat a half gallon of ice cream after making it halfway on the trail, and my brother and I were ready to throw down. They used to give the ice cream to hikers for free, but with the amount of people that hike every year, they've started charging hikers for it. Either way, we got our ice cream and set out to attempt the challenge. Long story short, my brother couldn't make himself finish the last third of the gallon, but I came out on top and made it into the half gallon club. The cheeseburgers we ate afterwards were delicious as well. Of course, because we were both full of cheeseburgers and ice cream we didn't hop right back up to hike down the trail again. That gave us time to go check out the new AT museum that they had just built recently and learn a little bit about the history and people of the trail. After a long break we decided we had better move on down the trail before it got too much later and we had to hike the last 11 miles in the dark. We were looking forward to camp, because at the general store we had met a couple that were hiking with a violin and a guitar. With the terrain that we've had, the afternoon hike went quickly and soon enough we were setting up camp and eagerly anticipating our after dinner entertainment. We weren't disappointed. Vicegrip and Sap were very talented musicians and the style of music they played seemed very fitting for our surroundings. Although we knew we had a long day the next day, we couldn't pull ourselves away from the good music and camping. Eventually, well after dark, we got into our hammocks and called it a day.
Tumbling Run Shelter - Michener Cabin
I had grand intentions of getting out of camp early, but that definitely didn't happen. Breakfast was enjoyable though. I got a Mountain House breakfast from some other hikers. It was a bacon and egg scramble and it was delicious wrapped up in a tortilla with cheese and hot sauce. It went well with a cup of hot coffee and I didn't really mind getting out of camp late, because breakfast was such an enjoyable affair. Once we got going, though, we were off. The short day yesterday was a really good break and after not getting much water, the day before that was a good way to make sure we re-hydrated. It made all the difference because I felt like I finally had gotten my trail legs back. The terrain was very mellow and the rocks didn't slow us down too much at all. It wasn't long before we made it to our first real break spot for the day and had lunch. I wasn't too hungry though, because some nice folks had set out a cooler of trail magic that included Kool-Aid juice boxes, fruit snacks, granola bars, and Rice Krispy treats. I did, however, call 2-Step, because going from seeing each other everyday, to not at all has been hard. I miss her a lot and wish things would have worked out so we could finish together. We will definitely come back and finish what 2-Step didn't get to do someday. After lunch we still had 13 miles to go and set a good pace. We went much faster than anticipated and in no time at all only had 5 miles to go until the halfway point! With that as our goal, we hurried on down the trail. Although it's not technically the exact halfway point (we still have 2 miles to go) there is an awesome cabin that allows us to hang the hammocks under the roof of the porch. It's a good spot to celebrate making it halfway. My next mile marker will be less than 100 miles away. When I reach the 1000 mile countdown, and with the pace I have to keep, I will be counting down the hundred-mile mark every 5 days or so. This will make the time on the trail seem to fly by.
Raven Rock Shelter - Tumbling Run Shelter
Today was a very late start. It was also significantly cooler. Since we were short on water, we ate a dry breakfast and once on the trail, we were all business. Our first stop was a county park that had running water and a great place to re-hydrate. Once that was taken care of, it was .4 miles and across the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania, to the road that led into town. It wasn't long before we had hitched a ride into town and soon enough we were stocked with water treatment...and food. After enjoying a Walmart deli lunch on the floor of their entranceway, we set out to find another ride to the trail. We asked several people before a very nice lady came and asked us if we needed a ride to the trail. Of course we said yes. When we got to the intersection with the trail, we realized the woman had taken us to a road crossing further up the trail than we had left it. Not folks to complain, we thanked her for the ride and set out 2 miles ahead of schedule. After a short walk, we came to a stream crossing and happened to run into my friends, Fuzzy and Sourpuss. My brother (whose trail name is now Brief) and I stopped to see how they have been. It turns out they're going to yellow blaze (ride in a car or other motor vehicle) for 500 miles north to Vermont where the trail starts to become more interesting again. It sounds interesting but I think I can still find ways to enjoy the trail before Vermont. After a short break to catch up, we continued on another mile to our intended campsite for the night. Since I am still going through 2-Step withdrawals, I had to call her first, before setting anything up. After catching up, I continued with my camp chores and am about to enjoy a delicious dinner of mac and cheese with some hot taco seasoning.
P.S. I made it into the 7th state today! Only 7 more states to go!
Rocky Run Shelter - Raven Rock Shelter
Today started out pretty slow, it didn't even pretend that it was going to be hot, it was just started out hot. We took our time getting packed and eating breakfast, and even moving slow we were still sweating. This was going to be a long day. The terrain was mellow and we kept a good pace, but the heat had us beat and we took lots of breaks to try and keep ourselves relatively cool. One of our stops was the Washington Monument; a stone tower that was built by the people at a town to commemorate the life of George Washington. It was very cool and the spiral staircase to the top of the tower led to an interesting view of the valley below. Our time to enjoy it was cut short though because we had run out of our water purification and had to get to the next road crossing to hitch a ride to what we hoped would be a store that carried Aquamira or iodine. To make a long story short, the hitch to the Greenbrier State Park "camp store" was unsuccessful. They didn't carry anything that could purify water. So it was back on the trial hoping we would be able to borrow filters from other hikers as we passed water sources. Shortly after our excursion, we came across the Annapolis Rocks that presented us with a great view despite the rain that had started to get closer to us. Our next stop was another road crossing that took us on another town adventure to a Subway, to get dinner and clean water. We had been lucky throughout the day that clean water sources from water fountains were in such close proximity to us. Tomorrow there is a town with a Walmart where we can acquire some iodine tabs. A lot of the towns that we've been passing, although close to the trail, are not stocked with certain essential camping items that you consume on the trail. This is something that I'll have to keep in mind so I don't run into the problem my brother and I had today. After dinner we had another 3.6 miles and busted it out fairly quickly. It didn't take long for camp to get set up and us to get inside our hammocks.
Harper's Ferry, WV - Rocky Run Shelter
Well it was a bittersweet beginning to the second half of the trail. 2-Step and the pups are off the trail now. We said our goodbyes today and I watched 2-Step and her family drive off as I turned around and once more put one foot in front of the other toward Katahdin. On a much brighter note, though, my brother is on the trail with me for the next 120 miles. I'm glad he could join me. This will help ease me into hiking alone. He did really well today. We didn't start our hike until 1:30 PM, but we made it to camp before dark. The terrain has really mellowed out; the altitude changes are not as severe as they once were. The hike would've felt much quicker had the temperature not been comparable to the Sahara. It was hot, damn hot!! The ice cold Pepsi a half mile from camp helped ease our suffering a little bit. Thanks to Bigfoot for the refreshing trail magic, it made the day, along with our leftover Bacon Pasta. However, I do have to get my trail legs back. I am much more tired than I should be, otherwise this entry might be longer. As it is I feel the need to get some shut eye. Happy trails!
P.S. I made it to the 6th state - Maryland!!