A Sweet Side Quest

Day 83:

Well, I did sleep in a little today. “A little” being all the way to 6:30, so not exactly a LATE day, but I felt less tired than the past few days. We had breakfast in the hostel, and kinda meandered around for a little while. I never like leaving hostels super early, but by 8 I had had my fill and was ready to hit the road. So, that’s exactly what I did.

The morning started off beautifully. It was a crisp, clear day, blue sky for miles. I passed by a very pretty lake about 10 minutes in, which brought a nice wet coolness to the air, and a couple of good benches to sit on. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I make it a habit to sit on every bench on trail, and say “good bench” every time. And these were indeed good benches.

After a short climb away from the lake, I hit the ridge line that I would be following for most of the day. The ridges in Pennsylvania are different from those in Virginia. Firstly, the climbing up them isn’t as bad. But they also don’t have quite the same views from up top. What they do have, however, is great big mazes of rock formations that you’ve gotta scramble through and navigate. This presents a pretty fun challenge, to be honest. Not only is it a break from the usual out one foot in front of the other hiking, but it really does make the trail feel like an adventure story. So yeah, safe to say I’ve enjoyed that a lot.

My original plan had been to get lunch at a general store that was about 10 miles away from where I started the day. Here’s the problem; About 7 miles into the day I realized that I had left my book at the hostel. Which is lovely. So now I have no map, no guide, and no way to tell which of the road crossings was the right one for the store. And what do you know, I missed it. No biggie, I still enjoyed a peanut butter tortilla, it was all good. But it is a little annoying to lose the book. It’s not a HUGE deal, the other is pretty well laid out, but it was nice to have. Plus it was a gift from a friend, so I feel a little bad. But I guess I’ll just pick a new one up in the next town.

After lunch there was a short, steep climb up to the top of a knob. It had a bit of a view, through a bunch of trees, but it was kinda hard to see, so it wasn’t all that cool. On the other side was a loooooong sloooooow decent down to an elevation of about 3 feet above sea level. And then it’s literally flat for 14 miles. Not that I’m doing all that today, but some thrilling hiking coming up soon.

The first thing I noticed when I got down the climb was the smell. It smelled AWFUL. At first I thought something had died. Then I realized I was just in Pennsylvania farming country, and everything smelled like manure. Cool cool cool. Really looking forward to 14 miles of this. But it was pretty cool to walk through the wide open corn fields.

This was a field. It smelled awful

There was a camp site right before the town of Boiling Springs that I stopped at for the night. Lindsey was there too, and Imom showed up a little bit after me, so it’s a bit of a party. We went into town for snacks and pizza, so that was very nice. When we got back, Martian and PBG had arrived, so it was a big party! And we all just hung out for the rest of the night. The lightning bugs are finally coming out, so that’s really fun to watch. I do love me some fireflies. There weren’t quite ten million though.

This was a sign in the town, i just thought it was funny

I spent a while today thinking about whether the trail has kinda lost its “luster”. I noticed a little while ago that things haven’t been as thrilling as they were in the beginning, so I wanted to figure out what was going on there. And I think it’s a couple of things. First, the scenery simply isn’t as breathtaking. Don’t get me wrong, Virginia, Pennsylvania, all beautiful in their own right. But it’s just not the same as being in the mountains, climbing up them and looking down. It’s pretty in a quieter way, which I appreciate too. But I don’t think it quite inspires the same wow.

Second, I think that so many things that I was conscious of in the beginning have just become habit and routine at this point. Like the whole process of setting up camp, or breaking it down. We’re in such a flow that it’s hard to pause and appreciate some of the little things we do now that we were in awe of at the beginning, but have since become menial. And that’s ok! It’s good for things to become routines! But sometimes you gotta sit back and appreciate all the little habits that you’ve spent so much time to build. I’m trying to be more aware of those.

Quote of the day: “I think that ice cream just hit my colon”

Today I’m thankful for zoom, clouds, and cannolis.

Day 84:

So the camp site we were at last night was next to the train tracks. Which was really inconvenient at 1:30 AM when a train went through. And again at 5 AM. But other than that, a great night. I got up around 7, packed up camp, and walked over to town for a hot breakfast.

Martian and I met Imom and Lindsey at a little cafe in Boiling Springs. Town food for dinner AND breakfast is crazy. We’re really spoiling ourselves. And going broke, but that’s a later problem yknow? We ate our breakfasts and sat around chatting as the outdoor tables around us filled up. Boiling Springs is a nice quiet town, even on a Saturday morning it wasn’t super crowded. Imom and DK started breakfast a little before us, and headed out before us too. Martian was waiting for PBG, but I headed out around 8:45.

The first 14 miles of trail today are insanely flat, along all the corn and wheat fields that are basically the entirety of this part of Pennsylvania. But honestly, that pet of the trail went a lot nicer than I expected. I thought that there would be no tree cover, and I would basically be baking in the sun for the entire morning. But turns out between every field is a row of trees, which the trail mostly skirted. So I had plenty of shade.

A nice idyllic lil farm house. This was most of the morning

The only major event of the morning was when I accidentally got lost for a minute. The trail was SUPPOSED to take a sharp right and follow a road for a little ways. Did I know that? No I did not. And right across from me was what I thought was the trail, heading off into a wheat field. I followed what I thought was the trail until the wheat got about chest high, at which point I got a little suspicious. I looked off in the distance and saw that the “trail” I had been walking in was in fact just a tire path from a tractor. So that was a fun 10 minute detour. But eventually I figured it out.

I ran into Imom and DK at a farm stand around 11:30, where they were chomping on a raw head of broccoli. Unadulterated, raw, broccoli. To each their own I guess. But we dilly dallied there for a little, as we are want to do. Eventually though, we decided to keep it moving and finish up the flat section before the day got super hot.

After we finished our 14 miles corn field tour, we were surprised by a giant climb up to a ridge line. “Giant” is relative, it was really quite short, but it was rocky and steep, so it felt pretty annoying. Fortunately we had just had lunch, so we were powered up and ready to go. We summited the ridge, and continued our way along. We were back in the forest, back to our natural habitat.

Or we were for about 5 minutes. Because what we didn’t know was that we had only climbed half way up the ridge, and there were still PLENTY of farms between us and the top. This time there was no shade cover, and it was the hottest part of the day, so we were kinda getting cooked. There was also no good place to fill water, so it was tough out there. But eventually we made it.

This was the field we walked in to in the afternoon. See the difference? I sure don’t

The second climb was what I personally like to call “bullshit.” It was ALSO steep and rocky, but this time there was not a singular switch back. 1000 feet, 1.5 miles, literally straight up. Not necessarily the worst we’ve done, but far from comfortable. And when you’re already at 19 miles on the day, it really gets to you. But we climbed that one too.

At the top we were greeted with the most classic Pennsylvania terrain imaginable. The last mile and a half were filled with fist sized rocks sticking out at odd angles. I could hear the cries of snapped ankles resonating around us as we walked. It made for pretty slow going, and I don’t think I looked up from the forum for the last 45 minutes before the shelter. But we did make it safely, with only a couple trips.

The shelter is about 0.2 miles directly downhill, which is gonna suck tomorrow. What sucked today is the water is another tenth of a mile straight downhill. Which means a tenth of a mile straight UPHILL to get back. I love it here. But other than that the shelter is fine. Imom Lindsey and I did some planning for a fun little side quest we’re taking on Tuesday, so stay tuned for that 👀.

I felt kinda weird today. Firstly, I think I was kinda tired from the train last night, so that never helps. But it was also a weird day where I just couldn’t ever feel comfortable. When I was hiking by myself, I felt quite lonely, and very much wanted to be with other people. But as soon as I got with other people I found myself getting quickly irritated and wishing I was back on my own. And I did a good mix of both today, it just jumped back and forth the whole time. I really am not sure WHY it felt like that, but I sure didn’t like it. I’m crossing my fingers I was just tired, but if not I guess I’ll have to dig a little deeper.

Quote of the day: “SEVENTY DAYS??? HOLY FUCK” – some 16 year old at the shelter with us

Today I’m grateful for breakfast skillets, ramen, and top bunks

Day 85:

The good news? I slept til almost 6 today! The bad news? I actually would’ve loved to wake up a little early. We were planning on doing 25 miles today, and with a town stop also on the agenda, an early start would’ve been lovely. But oh well, I’m grateful for a little extra sleep. We got going around like 6:15, so not exactly too late. The breakfast place doesn’t open until 7 anyway, and the outfitter til 9, so we weren’t in some crazy rush.

The early morning was grey, and it truly felt like a storm was coming in. Windy, and there was just a feel in the air that I can’t really describe but normally means rain. We weren’t super worried about it, but definitely keeping an eye out. The entire morning hike was 3.5 miles essentially straight down stone steps. Which, again, was nice for a while, but after a time my quads were burning and I was ready for it to be done.

It finally got done around 7:45, when we broke on to the rod and turned to walk into the town of Duncannon. We ran into Martian at the laundromat, and the 4 of us headed over to the breakfast place to eat. Did I get another skillet? You’re absolutely damn right I did. It was ok, not as good as yesterday, but good enough to satisfy. Around 9 we rolled over to the outfitter for a quick resupply. I had to pick up a new filter bag, my old one split open, which I found. What I didn’t find was a damn guide book, which was annoying. So I guess Im going blind for a bit. Or I’ll bite the bullet and get Farout. We’ll see.

When did I get started again? Oh, yknow, 11ish. Not super conducive to a long day, but it is what it is. The next 2 miles or so we’re straight up rod walking. At first it was nice, walking through a small little neighborhood that reminded me of my home town. But eventually the trail turned to follow the highway across the Susquehanna river. It was cool to walk across, I’ve driven across the susquehanna a bunch but never walked across. But I don’t love walking along highways. It wasn’t too long though until I crossed the river, a set of train tracks, and back into the woods it was.

The Susquehanna!

And back to uphills it was. This one wasn’t the worst, but it was steepish and pretty rocky, so it took me a while. And it was incredibly rocky at the top too. This is the Pennsylvania I know and hate! But there’s nothing to do about it but walk. I got lost a fair few times when trying to maneuver through the rocks, but other than that it was pretty smooth going. It was still super windy for some reason, but the sky had cleared up and it was a nice day out.

I’ll be totally honest, the next oh, i don’t know, 10 or so miles was kinda a blur. It was basically the same as I described above, and the problem with the rocks is they don’t really let you look up and around a whole bunch. Well, I guess you COULD, but you’d end up with a nice close up view of the rocks for it. So yeah, not super interested in that.

Is this a trail? A random patch of rocks? Who’s to say really

Around 6 I was ready to be done for the day, but I still had about 4 miles to do. I needed water though, so I stopped at a spring to fill up. Who did I find there, already setting up their tents and cooking? Well Imom and Lindsey of course! Why were they 4 miles short of where we were planning on going? Well they decided it would be smarter to do 25 on a day when we weren’t stopping for 3 hours in a town. And they had a good point. So I ran back, grabbed my stuff, and got set up. We’ll do 25 tomorrow, it keeps us on the same track anyway. Plus there’s water here, so that’s a win.

I was really tired today. And hungry! Weird that the night when I got the most sleep is the day I’m the most tired? And I had a good breakfast too. So I don’t really know what’s going on. The hunger keeps concerning me though. I know I’m not eating enough, but I literally cannot carry more food. Most days are fine, but occasionally I just get so hungry for a day that I need to eat like every hour. I wish I knew WHY. Well I guess I know why, but I wish I could do something about it.

Quote of the day: “Oh are we unpacking traumas around the fire?”

Today I’m grateful for trekking poles, breakfast skillets (yes, again), and CNOC bottles (please sponsor me)

Day 86:

I managed to sleep all the way til 6:30 today! Woohoo! And I laid in bed til 7, because I feel like it! I promptly got out, packed up, and sat with Imom to have breakfast. Lindsey was already gone, as per usual. I left around 7:45.

After a short downhill, I started on the long, shallow uphill that took up most of the morning. On a topographical map, this climb looked pretty intimidating, but it was so long and shallow that it was really that bad. It was also a relatively clear path, so it was easy going.

After about 4 miles of the uphill, I started on a much longer, much slower downhill. This part was so flat that you wouldn’t even know that it gently slanted down, except for the changing forest landscape. I noticed it as I moved down. The trees got thicker, the undergrowth got thicker, and the air got just a touch more humid. It’s pretty cool that I can pick up on these little things after being out here so long.

At the bottom of this long long decent, I hit a couple river crossings. After the second one, I sat to eat lunch. Right after lunch, I hit a part of the trail that was quite literally underwater. Like fully submerged. Not in a river or anything like that. Just straight up under water. Why? Well, apparently some beavers heard the river running and thought “oh hell no” and blocked it up. So, no dry trail for us.

It was a tough, but fun crossing. There were logs lain down across the way, which was most of what I used to cross. But some of the logs were unstable and moved. I almost fell a couple times, but I made it dry. I wish I could show you guys a picture of it, but my phone storage was full, which I couldn’t fix in time to get a photo. I’ll try and get one.

The next 5 miles flew pretty easily. It was another short up, followed by a much shorter down. But after that 5 miles, I came to another road crossing. There was a sign that pointed to a hostel 200 feet down the road. So, I went over to investigate. It was a pretty nice place, they just opened and are still doing work on the building, but it’s clear it’s gonna be SUPER nice when it’s done. As it was, it was a great place for snacks and a break. I hung out for like an hour.

The last chunk of the day was also pretty easy. There was a steep, but short climb immediately after the hostel, which brought me up on to a ridge line. The ridge walking was fun…. ish. There were a couple rocky sections, and lots of places where the plants can up to nearly my waist. Which would be fine, except that half the plants were blackberry bushes which are full of thorns and sliced my legs open. So yeah, that wasn’t great. But other than that? Lovely stuff.

Look how tall the ferns are!!!

I got to the shelter for the night around 5:30. I feel pretty good about that timing for a 25 mile day! Lindsey was already there, and already eating. I cooked, and while I was eating Imom rolled up. So we hung out with a few other people who were there, and then curled up for the night. Taking it a little early, but tomorrow is gonna be a fun day 👀.

When I was walking up to the shelter today, I had a strong feeling that I wanted to be by myself. But the. I realized that I didn’t really want to be with myself, I wanted to just be with my friends, not with strangers. I think that’s part of why I’m so hesitant to go off on my own. I’m worried that I won’t ever really want to interact with other people. And that sounds lonely. But I don’t know how to get past it. Maybe just practice? I don’t know, but maybe I can find out.

Quote of the day: “If you can’t fit your tent in your hip pockets, you’re a bad packer”

Today I’m grateful for gatorade, fallen trees, and bandaids.

Day 87:

I did not get a great night of sleep last night, but that’s ok. Why? Well we’re only hiking 4 miles today. Then we’ve got ourselves a fun little side quest: Hershey Park. How did we get this idea? Honestly not really sure. But we decided a few days ago we’re doing it for sure, so doing it we are.

The morning hike was easy. It was a little chilly this morning, but once we got moving it was beautiful weather. And flat and smooth, except for one rocky section, but it was pretty short. We arrived at our shuttle pickup around 9:15, and just waited for our shuttle until around 10.

From there it was a short 35 minute drive to Hershey. We got there a little bit before the amusement park actually opened, so we went to chocolate world and did the tour first. I haven’t been here since high school, but it was a pretty fun time. When we actually got into the park, the crowds were a little overwhelming at first, having not really been in civilization for a couple months. But after a while it was fine, and it wasn’t so crowded that we had to wait too long for anything. I’m not gonna go into all the ins and outs, but suffice it to say, it was a lovely day.

Hershey Park!

We left the park around 6:30. How could we end this day any better? Well with pizza of course! The way we made this day work is there’s a shelter that’s basically along a road, and along with hitching a shuttle you can order pizza! So pizza we ordered. Our shuttle driver was actually nice enough to stop and let us pick it up so we didn’t have to deal with delivery. So we did! And then we went on to the shelter.

I’m gonna be so honest, ^ this is exactly where I fell asleep while writing. But there’s nothing else to add really. 10/10 day, no notes.

No quotes either cause I can’t remember.

Today I am grateful for yellow blazing, pizza, and tents

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Comments 1

  • Chris : Jun 13th

    I’m actually surprised more folks don’t take a Hershey side quest. Not only is the park fun, but it’s got a water park too! Plus if you REALLY wanted to treat yourself, you could stay at one of their hotels. The Hershey Hotel will give you a full sized chocolate bar for each person staying in your room,.. and if you want another, just go to the front desk, they’ll give you more. Granted, it’s pricey, but SOOoooo nice.


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