Almost Out of Pennsylvania! (Pennsyl-ROCKS-YA)



Unofficially Halfway

We hiked into Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia on July 2nd. Harper’s Ferry is the unofficial halfway point – it is the town in which a thru-hiker can celebrate, even though the true half-way point is still about 100 miles away. In an attempt to save some money, Quiet Diet and I came on a ridge about a quarter mile out of town and walked in after a long 20-something mile day, around 8pm, to grab a burger and a beer. From the ridge we saw a cemetery, and by the cemetery, a road, which we took to town instead of the Trail, so that we could savor the unexplored Trail to Harper’s Ferry with our full packs the next day.

When we got there, mouths watering, feet sore, almost everything was closed. An historic quaint town, it is built on a hill overlooking the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers – truly an amazing sight. We sat down in the only open restaurant, the Town Inn, and ordered. Two young women sat down next to us. They were dressed in hiker gear, but were far too clean to have walked 1000 miles. They watched as we devoured our burgers in what felt like glory, but must have looked like rabidity. Giggling, they asked us, “Enjoying your burgers?” I looked up with a greasy face, smiled, nodded, and got back to business. We learned they were flip-floppers who had hiked a mile into town, the first mile of their 2189 mile journey. We told them where we were camping, which lit the face of another thru-hiker we’d met earlier, who’d just come in from outside.

He said, “You guys might want to head back to your camp.”

“Oh?” I said, ready to be offended at the assertion. Like he didn’t stink, too. Pssh.

“There’s something big moving in.” We knew he meant a storm.

My face dropped. “Oh. SHIT.” I said as I looked at him. Then I looked at Quiet Diet. “SHIT.” I said. We quickly paid and said our good byes to the two young ladies and ran out the door.

We ran full speed down the main street of Harper’s Ferry. “Where’s the Trail!?” we asked each other. “I don’t know,” we told each other. We reached a stone wall and some woods, but saw nothing. Then thunder crashed and the sky flickered, lighting up our worried faces, increasingly concerned.

We turned around and ran full speed up the steep road toward the cemetery from which we came. “I can’t run up this hill!” I shouted as lightning flashed like an old lightbulb. I turned around and saw that Quiet had slowed to a food and beer induced jog like motion. Then we saw the two chicks.

“HEY!” I yelled. They were taken aback, but calm. “Hah, I mean, oh hey!” I said, as if I wasn’t in a clear panic. “Where’s the Trail – uh – hey, do you guys know where the Trail is?” I asked. “I think it’s gonna rain, heh, and we came here from a cemetery” I said, trying to seem like an experienced thru-hiker, but certainly coming across as an insane vagabond.

The lightning flashed and the thunder rolled louder, and Quiet and I cowered like children under the night sky.

“Oh sure, it’s down this way,” the direction we were running from, of course. “It’s ok, we’ll walk you there,” they consoled us. The sick, sad irony of it all.

We thanked the two Moses’ profusely and hurried to our tent. The rain never came, but we got a good laugh at ourselves in our madness.

Enough Zeroes, Maybe

The next day we decided not to stay in Harper’s Ferry. The second half of the Trail, we needed to speed up. Enough zeroes, enough lolligagging! We hiked on! We hiked on 3.5 miles to Keep Tryst Road, where we decided to stay at the Knights Inn. I mean, technically, it wasn’t the second half yet. And then the next day we did 8 miles, and I don’t remember why. And the following day was the 4th of July. We did 12.5 miles, still failing to reach our goal, as we came to a cooler with a flyer on it. The flyer was an invitation to a farmette called the Doctor’s Inn to celebrate our nation’s Independence with a wonderful family and more than 20 other thru-hikers. I’m a patriot, darn it. I love my country enough to take a zero!

Well, at the farmette, I texted my awesome friend Slack, who I’ve known for years and who thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with me last year. He just so happens to live in Maryland! He just so happens to have a pool! He just so happens to miss and love us dirty stinky hikers and – oops – 2 more zeroes in Towson, Maryland. I regret nothing, and we were still a safe distance from the actual half-way point… How many ways can I justify this before I accept that I am just a zero master? So many ways.

The rest of Maryland was beatiful. We passed through Gathland, a State Park fully loaded with Civil War history – trailside museums, interp signs left and right, even the first Washington Monument! All the attractions one can imagine to slow down a pre-half-way, super nerdy hiker such as myself.

In any case, we eventually did hit the half-way point, which is in Pennsylvania. And yes, we accomplished the half-gallon challenge. Well, Quiet Diet did anyway. I asked him how the heck he got down that half-gallon of ice cream in 27 minutes without a hint of pain. “It’s my job,” said the quiet dietician. “It’s my job.”

In fact, I ate the ice cream and was fine at first. However, after a mile hike to a lake with public bathrooms, I sat down. The cream. The sugar. They wouldn’t settle. I began to sweat. I put my hands over my head. Two teenage girls who were on a day visit to the lake were talking nearby about bad experiences they had drinking their parent’s wine and vodka. The situation was dire, dear readers. I looked up from my ice crem induced daze and found Quiet Diet amusedly snapping a photo. “Oh lord,” I muttered, and it was off to the bathrooms for me. I just couldn’t keep it down. Oh lord. Never again.

Me, in all my darkness, pain and suffering after the half-gallon challenge.

Me, in all my darkness, pain and suffering after the half-gallon challenge.

We are now in the small town of Wind Gap, Pennsylvania – a mere 15 miles from the border! Anyone who has hiked in Pennsylvania will know my joy. While the flatness of Virginia was all a lie, the rockiness of Pennsylvania has been truer than I could have ever imagined. Tomorrow we will be in New Jersey, and then, oh yes, we will speed up. After hiking from the Southwest to the Northwest, and my second time hiking through the Southeast, it is an amazing, astounding, wonderful feeling to be hiking into the Northeast – my home. Today I drank my very first on-Trail Dunkin Donuts iced coffee, and then, when a woman knocked into me with her grocery cart at the store, and I apologized, and she just kept walking – I knew for sure we were nearing New England. The splendor of it all!

My phone is currently broken, but I hope to be getting a new one just as soon as I can figure out how – while keeping mileage moving. When I do, please check out my Instagram and Twitter for photos (@trailbirdcorley) and friend my on Facebook to share your adventures, too (TBird Corley)!

Much love, ya’ll!!

-John Rambo

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