Coco and Magnus — Days 90 through 106 — Rocks, a Rattlesnake, and Fear Mongering

Another 267.1 miles have passed and we have almost completed hiking through Pennsylvania. Less than half a mile to go!

To begin, some random thoughts:
* We rarely see stars at night.The sky is almost always cloudy at night. Since Day 1 of this adventure, Magnus has been carrying a star map and has not yet had an opportunity to use it.
* People love to tell you what to do and how to do it.
* More often than should ever happen, human poop is found on the trail. It’s horrific. Here I will exemplify the point above — dig a cathole! If you are so lazy to dig a cathole, don’t go hiking! And while I’m telling you what to do, bury your toilet paper! Quite literally, no one wants to see that shit.
* Every morning for the past month our tent is covered with anywhere between three and a dozen spiders. Many different kinds. We have named our tent Spider Queen.
* You might think that sleeping during a thunderstorm in a wee tent would cause a loss of sleep. In actuality, we sleep most soundly during these times and have difficulty sleeping indoors.
* Virginia is not flat. Virginia privies are the gold standard.
* Pennsylvania hurts.
* Birds sing non-stop. Whip-poor-wills, wood thrushes, and finches are common, as are barred owls who we call Party Owls because they always get rowdy right around the time you want to go to sleep. The Eastern Wood-Pewee is another favorite. When it calls, it sounds like, “Hey guys…?! Hey guys…?! Awwww… ” Poor lil’ Pewee. Makes me laugh every time.

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Many of our friends have made the decision to leave the trail. Some started the trail with the expectation of stopping prior to Katahdin and others made a change in plans. I am proud of all of them for their outstanding accomplishments and growth. Hiking over a thousand miles (or even one hundred!) is something most people only dream of doing. If you haven’t done this and you think it’s hard, you don’t know the half of it. Wet shoes with blisters for days, wet sleeping conditions, dripping sweat off your face, dirty clothes and body for a full week giving you a stench you never would have believed your body could create, near-constant hunger, mountains to climb whether you’re ready for them or not, rocks, tripping over roots, giving away loved belongings because they weigh a few ounces and that’s just too much, numb toes, frozen fingers, broken gear, pooping in a cathole in the rain, pain in muscles you didn’t know you had, gnats dive bombing your eyeballs and sometimes succeeding, legitimate fear of being struck by lightning, regular encounters with wild animals and disease-carrying insects, boredom, and so on. This is life on the trail.

There are of course outstanding and beautiful experiences, also. All my friends who have ended their journey and those still on it know these well. We’re a part of an elite group of athletes regardless of our weight, strength, or physique. We know the thrill of carrying ourselves and our homes over mountains. We make friends based on common experiences and situations — friendships that might not have surfaced and sustained in the other world. We persevere. We look into the sky to make decisions based on what we see and feel. We allow our minds to wander. We roll with the punches. We get really excited about fresh fruit. We hug each other even when that ungodly stench reaches unsurpassed levels. We find luxury in small things. All of these things arise even in the presence of the daily struggles we encounter. Outstanding and beautiful. All of my friends who have attempted the trail are my heroes and they inspire me.

6/5 Friday — Day 90
* We had breakfast with a few bikers from New Jersey and the motel’s manager. A wonderful place. By the way, the manager Abi loves coffee and philosophical conversations. We got along famously.
* This day, we met Team Aussie Legs. A mother and two daughters from Perth. These women are amazing! We hiked and/or camped with them for the entirety of this post. Met on Day 90, separated on Day 106. (aussielegs.WordPress.com)

6/6 Saturday — Day 91
* Six consecutive days of rain or something like that. Who’s counting?
* Maryland! Met several hikers attempting the Maryland Challenge (all 41 miles in one day) and the Four State Challenge ( hitting four states — VA, WV, MD, and PA — about 47 miles, in one day). In the words of Amy Poehler, “good for them, not for me.”
* The original Washington Monument!

6/7 Sunday — Day 92
* We crossed the Mason-Dixon Line! Officially in the north and in our seventh state. I frequently repeat to Magnus and myself the states we’ve hiked through — Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and entering Pennsylvania. A helpful mantra.
* With much self-control, Magnus and I resisted the temptation of going into town with Moon Unit, Comrade, Switchback, Pokey, and Bandit (collectively Team Seal Team 6). That’s okay. We had tiny bottles of whiskey! We were also graced with the presence of our beloved friend Obi-Wan! Hugs, chats, and a shot or two of whiskey.
* Future hikers: the Rocky Mountain Shelter area has no good camping spots. It’s not worth it. Camp about 100 feet south of the blue blaze to the shelter.

6/8 Monday — Day 93
Nero! Trail family member Yellow picked up Magnus, Obi-Wan and I at Caledonia State Park. First, Caledonia SP. There’s a pool, water slide, and a snack bar! I wasn’t able to enjoy any of these, but you should if you don’t have a wonderful friends picking you up. (<-- future hikers) Dear, sweet, wonderful Yellow and her fiance The Driver hosted us, helped us resupply, gave us a place to stay, and we watched Game of Thrones for hours. Sleeping inside was exceptional tonight as there were some very intense storms that afternoon. Yay! Also, there were two guinea pigs (Quinoa Sunflower and Bonnie Bear) and a teeny kitten (Ghostface Killah). Heaven. 6/9 Tuesday -- Day 94 * A sad day to leave Yellow, The Driver, and the menagerie of tiny animals. At least there was a lot of coffee and fresh fruit smoothies. * Official halfway point!!!! * Gorgeous mountain laurels everywhere. A delightful 16 mile hike that felt like a walk in the park. * Good job, everybody! Magnus and I celebrated by reading in our tent and sipping on a new small bottle of whiskey. 6/10 Wednesday -- Day 95 Perhaps for the first time, we were the first to leave camp. Excitement was in the air. This was the day of the Great Half Gallon Challenge (or the Half Gal Chall). It is tradition for thru-hikers to attempt to eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting. I was not up for the challenge. I know my body's limits and these limits exert their firm boundaries somewhere around 10 ounces of ice cream. Magnus doesn't have these limits! My man ate a half gallon of ice cream in 68 minutes. He dominated the Half Gallon Challenge! I dominated the two scoop challenge. I had mint chocolate chip -- duh. Magnus had Neapolitan, Birthday Cake, and Raspberry. It is likely he will never eat them again. Yay, Team Moco! What to do after so much ice cream? AT Museum, French fries, swimming with Varsity and Red Panda, and a total of 19 miles on the AT. A good day. Toward the end of our day, we hikes through two areas known as the Rock Mazes. So much fun! We raced the sun trying to make it to our campsite before dark. We were successful. We camped with Yellowbird, Bear Claw (these two were also Half Gal Chall Champs), and Qui-gon. 6/11 Thursday -- Day 96 How about a nero? Sounds great. We hiked a mere four miles in to Boiling Springs. We ran into Team Seal Team 6 at Caffe 101, lovely crew that they are. A delicious breakfast -- ohh sweet, sweet Eggs Benedict Florentine -- as a minor celebrity to the locals who wanted to know all about thru-hiking. We then took the road up to Allentown Resort through the charming town of Boiling Springs. Once within the Allentown Resort property, we were a little bewildered. This place has $40 rooms? After a few missteps, we followed the old folks descending from their shuttle into the reception lobby. They were there for the AYCE lunch buffet and matinee theatre performance. My kinda people. I'm going to be the best old lady. After being informed that our room wouldn't be available for several hours, we made good use of our time in the pool and jacuzzi. We missed the water aerobics, but that's okay. Then we wandered through the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum that was on the grounds. We finished out the day with some microbrews and cable. Mistake: we missed the theatre performance. Next time around, I'm going. Team Aussie Legs and Wren were also staying in the hotel. Friends! 6/12 Friday -- Day 97 As if Allentown Resort couldn't get better, their Conti B (Team Moco speak for continental breakfast) was spectacular. After our nero, we made up for lost time and hiked 22 miles and ended up at Cove Mountain Shelter. Rocks. As night approached, the cool breeze indicating a storm started to blow. Moments later, it sounded like a freight train. I've never experienced anything like this before. We could feel the storm coming right for us and within moments the storm hit. Our fantastic tent (I promise MSR isn't paying me or compensating me in any manner) withstood the storm but our friend John Solo didn't fare quite so well and he needed to retreat to the shelter. True to form, we slept like little babes. 6/13 Saturday -- Day 98 We hiked into Duncannon, PA in the morning. I met a woman who has lived in the town her whole life. She was making mac and cheese for the American Legion's picnic, told me about how the trail has changed over the past 40 years within Duncannon, what used to be good and bad neighborhoods, and shared many other opinions within our seven minutes of knowing each other. More importantly, we ate breakfast at Goodies. Please do this. It's cheap, full of calories, and the coffee refills come quickly. Holly hustles, man. I'm pretty sure she runs that town. If she doesn't already, she will. Just give her five minutes. We resuplied at a convenience store. Not ideal, but it did provide variety. More rocks. 6/14 Sunday -- Day 99 Sleeping next to a father and son watching videos and laughing at each other farting didn't yield a night of good sleep of us. Please: reconsider the orange blow-up plastic-y ultra-lite sleeping pad from Thermarest. Anyone sleeping near you will regret your purchase. I've never slept on one (I do use the self-inflating Trail-Lite Thermarest, though, which is near silent) but I have slept near them many times. If the orange blow-up pad was getting a progress report in elementary school, the remarks would say "Orange is disruptive." Not sleeping did have a positive unintended result, and that was being up and out of camp by 6:15am. Personal best! Magnus and I hiked into Port Clinton, PA. The last few miles were wearing on me and I needed a break. Ten minutes were all I required, but I don't know if I could have made it without that time. Good thing, too, because it was a steep, slippery descent into town. Magnus is a champ and did it without poles. Once in Port Clinton we were in a daze. No real plans and nowhere to stay. A guy with dreads on a motorcycle rolled up to large group of hikers to share the Good Word that the Firemen's Social Club accepts guests. Everyone else seemed comfortable in their plans. Magnus and I were damp, tired, stinky, and had nothing to lose, so we boldly went to the Social Club and rang the doorbell. Miraculously, we were granted access. A man called Junior said we could be his guests and we were officially entered into the books. Dollar beers, cheap bar food, and local news. Perfect! Eventually Junior left and we became the guests of Razor. Thanks, fellas. More documentation. Some time later we left the bar and headed to the Pavilion for a free place to sleep. More stream bathing. One might call it swimming, but we had ulterior motives. "Free" has a price. The free camping was between a highway and train tracks. The night was loud, but we had a roof, so everything was fair. We reconnected with so many hikers (including Tough Little Biscuit and Optimist!) and had a lovely evening. 6/17 Wednesday -- Day 102 Know what's hard? Hitching into town during morning rush hour. It didn't work for us, so we hiked on the highway. It's unpleasant and I don't recommend it. We did survive, however, and made it into Hamburg, PA after a couple miles. With the graciousness of a hotel employee, we were allowed to use their laundry facilities. Then we ran into Varsity and Red Panda and were able to take showers! The trail provides. All clean. What next? On to the biggest Cabela's in the world! Hitching back to the trail was nearly as unsuccessful as our way in -- but we received a hitch during the last quarter mile! You might not think this is significant, but it truly was. The last quarter mile was over a bridge with very little shoulder and a 60 mph speed limit. Treacherous.¬† We jumped in the car and the trip was so short that there wasn't even a sharing of names. Thanks, ladies! We hiked up the mountain. Dripped sweat. I led the charge. At one moment, something caught my eye on the trail about 15 feet in front of us. "Is that a rattlesnake?" He shook his tail as if in reply. I left a note for hikers behind us letting them know of the snake (with time and date) and we took a long route off trail to give him wide berth. The snake was about four feet long, fairly fat, and rather irritated by our presence. First rattlesnake on the trail! I hope all encounters are this simple. 6/18 Thursday -- Day 103 * Lots of rain. * Lots of rocks. * Magnus stepped in some lazy hiker's poop. * I got some bug bites on a toe which later transformed into horrendous blood blisters atop a supporting blister. Disgusting. I have pics if you ever want to lose your appetite. 6/19 Friday -- Day 104 * Rocks! By this point, the tread on my shoes was completely worn down. Like hiking in flip flops. * Knife Edge was a particular rock feature we hiked over. Challenging and beautiful and I could recognize that it was fun after we safely descended. At times it was so breezy that I stood frozen on Knife Edge waiting for the wind to let up so I could continue with fewer death-defying feats. * Stop the presses: Magnus got his first blister on his foot. He's got nothing on my dual-level bug bite/blister combo. * Slumber party with the Aussies! We spent the evening chatting from tent to tent. Red Back, Fire Bear, and Muddy Duckling all sang the kookaboora song which I so dearly loved as a child. Then Muddy Duckling treated us to Aussie Jingle Bells which practically needed to be translated into American due to all the Australian slang. * Future hikers: no tent sites available at George W. Overbridge Shelter, so use the stealth sites about 0.2 south of the shelter. 6/20 Saturday -- Day 105 * Magnus and I were itching for a hot breakfast and decided to hitch into town. Within five seconds we got a hitch -- from Wren's dad, Arthur! Wren's poor sisters had to ride with our stinky selves. Sorry, gals. And thanks to the family of Wren for the ride and sugar snap peas! It truly made our morning. * In the McDonald's (our fine hot breakfast establishment), a guy sneezed and proclaimed, "Frickin' sneezin'! I'm sneezin' every frickin' day!" For better or for worse, this is my impression of Pennsylvanians. * We hiked the incredible ascent out of Lehigh Gap. So fun and hard with a fantastic view.of the towns below. * Just beyond the boulder scramble, we walked through a Superfund site. Yay! Actually, it was quite beautiful. There were wild blueberries everywhere and it was hard to resist them, though we did. Y'know, extreme toxicity and all that. * At times, life on the AT can be draining and we were feeling it despite the beauty of nature and people around us. Rather than one more day to get to town, we decided to split the difference between our next few days and hike into Delaware Water Gap a day early. That meant sucking it up and hiking further this day. * Lore of impending thunderstorms grows and grows from hiker to hiker. First we heard there might be half an inch of rain. By four o'clock, we were hearing estimations of four inches. Know what happened? It rained all night like it often does and we survived! 6/21 Sunday -- Day 106 * Father's Day and Hike Naked Day! I left a message for my dad and hiked but with clothes. So, I only celebrated halfway for each holiday. My math says that's full celebration. * Joyously, we hiked into Delaware Water Gap, PA. It's adorable! Know what's not? Pocono Inn! Future hikers: don't stay at the Pocono Inn if you like clean rooms and appropriate rates. It wasn't the worst, but c'mon. I paid $70 for a room, so I would like one that is clean. They were clear about letting us know "what you do in your room is your business." They seem to think we are more exciting than wanting to shower, do laundry, and watch tv. * Village Farmer is the best. We ate there a total of four separate times. 6/22 Monday -- Day 107 * Zero day! * We got a care package from our dear friends Shyamali and Clint and it was completely exploding with care. Seriously guys, thank you -- you saved us a full resupply. We even received horoscopes and a Demetri Martin book. MUAH! * We missed Scott Jurek who is attempting to break Jennifer Pharr Davis's record for fastest supported¬† thru-hike. Ah well. Lots of our friends saw him, though! * I got new shoes. Magnus got new poles. Hallelujah. * Pizza, beer, and cable... and Village Farmer twice. * More fear mongering about storms.

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