Saturday, February 27, 2016

Southbound on the Appalachian Trail 2015: Pennsylvania

Hot, hazy, late summer days awaited, as we continued walking south through Pennsylvania. I saw Lux for the last time at the hostel in Delaware Water Gap. He would later finish the AT a few weeks before me. I began to slow down and really enjoy the trail from here to the finish. H2Camo and I started hiking more together and became friends, sharing a common bond of an enjoyment of a slower pace, playing guitar, listening to tunes, and campfires. Tennessee Jed and Hobo were still around, and we also met Hakuna, Matata, and their dog Nala. Due to the slower pace that Camo and I began to enjoy, several southbound hikers would begin passing us, a trend that would continue all the way to the end.

Tracks near Port Clinton PA
My memories of Pennsylvania include rocky trail, ice cold springs, hot days, long forested but grassy ridges, and spider webs. Its true Pennsylvania is rocky. Despite my hopes that the rumors were exaggerated, I knew it would be true, and it was. Sections of New Jersey foreshadowed what was to come, but the real rocky stuff started just south of Delaware Water Gap and continued all the way to Front Royal Virginia. Thankfully, the trail was relatively flat through PA which balanced things out a bit. Adding to the frustration though was spider webs. there were spider webs everywhere along the trail so it was common to catch dozens of webs in the face, or be covered with strands of webs by the end of the day.
1000 mile point for Northbounders

Water was pretty good through Pennsylvania. There were some really nice springs along the trail. There were some horrendous springs as well, the water completely orange and filled with iron. For the most part, I remember my thirst being quenched by an ice cold spring more often than not. I will say it again, there is nothing like a drink from a mountain spring. One woman who gave us a hitch into town mentioned how much she loved to drink a glass of water after eating ice cream. My evening ritual after dinner included eating a package of gummy bears, followed by chugging ice cold water. I couldn't believe how much it hit the spot after a long, hot day of hiking!
Hot, hazy evening near the Susquehanna river

Walking through the Cumberland Valley
We were relived of the rocky mountain ridges of Pennsylvania when we hiked through the Cumberland Valley for a couple of days. The trail took us through corn and grass fields, and over major road ways. It rained our first day through the valley which probably was a mixed blessing, as we did not have to worry about getting baked under a summer sun. It was a nice change of pace, taking us into open spaces rather than constantly walking through the green tunnel.
Boiling Springs PA: An incredible spring pumping out enormous amounts of ice cold, crystal clear spring water in the middle of town. Had a funny taste to it though.

H2 Camo and Matata talk with caretaker Jim. This was one of the nicest looking shelters on the trail. Jim has put in years of work at this spot. Unfortunately we had to push on since it was mid morning when we passed.

Morning after being treated to the greatest trail concert I have ever heard in my life. Camo and I met Quiet Earp and Stank here, two fellow Southbound thru hiking musicians. Those guys were professional players, and it was a trail highlight to be able to hear them play.

Delicious ice cold spring water

Crossing the bridge into Duncannon PA.

H2Camo, Slugbait, Flyboxer, Hakuna, Trail Angel Mary, Mata, and Nala the trail dog. Trail Angel Mary hosted all of us for the night. She is an amazing woman.
We had the honor of meeting Trail Angel Mary in Duncannon. I received a text from Lux to giver her a call when I reached town and I'm glad I did. Her concern and care for us thru hikers was clearly evident. She shared a story with us how she met her first thru hikers over a decade ago when she was struggling in life and was homeless living in a campground. Eventually she found steady employment again and got back on her feet. She began hosting AT hikers as they passed through town, and set up trail magic coolers in a couple of different locations along the trail. When we stayed with her, she fed us dinner and breakfast and gave us a roof over our heads for the night. We completed some chores for her in return. Its rare to meet truly selfless people in life, and she is one of them.

After passing the half way point on the AT, the half gallon challenge awaits. The challenge is to eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting. It wasn't really a challenge to be honest. The challenge was that it was a cold rainy day when we arrived, making eating the ice cream an icy test of will power.

AT halfway point

Rocky Pennsylvania

Eventually, Camo and I reached my home state of Maryland on September 14th, 2015. Weather was beginning to change ever so slightly. Some of the trees were beginning to show signs of fall. We had a couple of those memorable cool, crisp, cloudless September mid Atlantic days that remind me of football season, and going back to school. We were just over half way finished the AT. We also were still in no hurry to finish...

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