A Roller-Coaster of a Ride: Bear’s Den, VA to Port Clinton, PA
I can’t believe how much happens during 21 days on the trail. So many things have happened in 3 weeks! On and off the trail.
On the Trail, Off the Trail, On the Trail, Off the Trail
When I last wrote, we got off the trail to go to my sister’s graduation. It was a pretty dramatic transition from #hikertrash to dresses. And after walking 10-18 miles a day, being in a car for 16 hours to and from Boston was a bit of a shocker. However, there are a few things that make getting off the trail totally worth it, and seeing Annie graduate was one of those things!
After 5 days off the trail, we took it easy our first day back and walked 8 miles to Blackburn Trail Center. This place, which is owned by the PATC, is a true hidden gem of the trail. Sandi and Trail Boss really know how to take care of thru-hikers. We were greeted with a cold soda right away (it’s amazing how things you’d never eat or drink off the trail become luxurious cravings on the trail), and later we were fed a giant meal of spaghetti, sausage, rolls, and watermelon. Ahhhh, fresh fruit.
The next day we only planned to hike another 8 miles, but ended up hiking 13 to catch up with Spooner again at the Harper’s Ferry Hostel! Harper’s Ferry is the unofficial half way point of the AT, and we stopped to have our photo taken at the ATC. That night, we were taken care of by Loretta at the hostel. She made us leftovers from a recent hiker feed she had – burgers, burritos, and cake. Mmmm! We played cards with tons of other hikers that were there, and also met a really cool dude, What-if, who was our trail angel for the day. Thanks What-if!
A few days later, we got off the trail again for a family reunion (me and Spirit’s fam). This also meant another tearful goodbye to our good friend Spooner.
It felt strange getting off the trail so quickly after we had just been off, but again, it was all worth it to see our family. It also meant another few days of fresh food and a bed! One of the weirdest parts about all this on-and-off the trail business is switching back and forth from trail names to “slave names”, as Neon Mountain calls our real names. I’ve really grown to love our trail names!
In typical Jewish family fashion, we bought way more food than we could eat and had tons of leftover cookies, brownies, chicken, cheez-its, chips, and more, which we left at the trail-head near Smithsburg, MD for fellow hikers as trail magic.
The Highs and the Lows
The first few days back on the trail were magical, but also rough. We’re all still finding our balance, as well as our legs. Spooner describes me as bubbly, effervescent, and determined, but I have to admit that sometimes I find myself in some deep, dark holes. Hiking the AT is a roller-coaster – I ride the very high highs, but those highs come with low lows too. It’s painful and it’s tiring, and it’s rewarding and magical. I’ve truly never been happier, and I’m working on riding those lows with grace and style. Spirit mentioned this great strategy to me one day that she’s been trying out, so I decided to give it a shot: At each white blaze (If you’re not a hiker reading this, there are TONS of white blazes), you either smile, make a silly face, let go of tension, or do all of the above. And let me tell you, it works! Sometimes I feel ridiculous or stupid, but then I laugh at how ridiculous and stupid I feel.
A few days in, after crossing over the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania/Rocksylvania, we had a particularly rough day. It was hilly and scorching hot outside, our feet hurt from all the rocks, and we were all tired. We got to Caledonia State Park in the afternoon, and right away smelled a group of people cooking out. We paced back and forth from our picnic table to the stream, close to where they were cooking out. Finally, after saying, “that smells delicious” 3-4 times, StarTrek, being his bold and direct self, said to one of them, “You look like you have a lot of chicken there. Do you need any help eating it?” And in that moment, our day went from dismal to dreamy and delicious. They invited us over and fed us a meal of rice, home-made tortillas, salsa, chicken, beef, and soda. A few hours later, a guy named Lou who was riding his bike across the country with NO money at all came and told us his inspiring story. We chatted for a while, and then with full bellies and hearts, we made our way up the hill to Quarry Gap Shelter, which I highly recommend staying in if you’re a thru-hiker. It’s the cleanest, prettiest shelter I’ve ever been in.
The next few days were a blur. So much so that I had to have StarTrek write my journal entries for me because I was just too tired to write. We accomplished some of our longest consecutive days so far – 20 miles to Pine Grove Furnace State Park, 17 miles to Boiling Springs, and then 26 miles from Boiling Springs, PA to Duncannon, PA. A MARATHON!
-Getting picked up by StarTreks ’09 hiking buddy, Castanada, who let us stay at his house and cooked us a HUGE BBQ meal.
-Staying at the Doyle, which is THE dingiest “hotel” I have ever seen/stayed in. Also one of the most fun and interesting experiences I’ve ever had at a hotel.
-Running through the corn fields from Boiling Springs to Duncannon.
-Meeting new people, including Jig, Blueberry, Dosu, Lady Slipper, Little One, Pippa, Minnataur, and more. This hike is all about the people you meet.
-Breakfast at Goodies Restaurant. Specifically, watching Dosu attempt the pancake challenge. 8 one-inch thick pancakes. Harder than it may seem.
-Shaving the AT symbol into Spirit’s head after giving her a mohawk.
-Watching Red and BossAnova do the Half Gallon Challenge. 1/2 gallon of ice cream as fast as you can eat it!
Duncannon, PA to Port Clinton, PA
Just for fun, here are a few excerpts from some of my journal entries.
5/29/15 – 26 miles! Tick ridden fields, oh my. The Doyle is WACK. Crocs needed in shower. Duct tape lights. Sketchy fans hanging from ceiling. Beer from jig. Salad. Bed and shower mmmm. FEET OW.
5/31/15 – Ate (check), Pooped (check), Walked, a lot (check), Sat (check). Bed bugs at the Doyle? So itchy.
6/2/15 (our toughest day so far) – RAIN. ROCKS. FERNS. STREAM. LEG.
Walking through rivers
singing in the rain.
We all got the shivers, and then I was in intense pain.
My leg seized up,
but I would not give up.
We walked for 25 miles without stopping,
as my leg was pop lock and dropping.
Twas a long day.
Oh, how I’d love a PayDay.
The trail turned into a stream,
we were a VERY wet team.
Got to camp well before dark,
and here I let my body park.
And that brings me to the current moment. I’m sitting in the Hamburg, PA library with an ace bandage around my leg as we take a rest day, or “zero” day, as hikers call it. Two days ago was the toughest day for us thus far. It was so cold and wet that if we stopped, we’d get too cold. So we pushed for 15 miles without stopping. I hurt my leg pretty bad. We walked a painful 9 miles into Port Clinton, and then StarTrek, Tao, Spirit, and I got a room at the Microtel. Then Spirit got sick, and that was when we knew it was time to zero. It’s been a nice, relaxing day. Pippa and Minna should be here in a little bit to join us!
And I will leave you Tao, wearing this fine display of hiker-trash fashion:
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