Day 84: The Second Half

Half Done

Question: What do you do when you’re half done with a huge task?
Answer: The same thing you did every day before you were half done.

I slammed the van door shut at exactly 6:01 a.m. and headed north from the Pine Grove Furnace General Store. Walking out of the Park, I realized I’d forgotten to go to the Appalachian Trail Museum or take a swim in Fuller Lake. I did manage to feed myself, get some sleep, and gear up for today’s hike. So, all in all, I did well enough to keep moving north.

The AT’s Meseta

Northstar and I hiked the Camino de Santiago (Frances Route) with our youngest son in 2017. That Camino route starts just north of the Spain (Basque)-France border in the Pyrenees and crosses northern Spain to the city of Santiago in the Galician highlands. The trail begins and ends in mountainous terrain, with a pancake flat section in the middle called the Meseta.

Pilgrims on the Camino moan about crossing the Meseta, which can be hot, windless, monotonous, and punishing. Or, depending on your perspective, full of beautiful farmland, old villas, crumbling ruins, and historical cathedrals and churches, as well as hot, windless, and punishing.

I’m starting to think Pennsylvania is the AT’s Meseta. It’s certainly not flat, but it is bookended by more exciting terrain to the north and south. And the rocks, heat, humidity, poison ivy, ticks, and many road crossings don’t exactly add to Pennslyvania’s “Wow!” factor.

I liked Spain’s Meseta. I also enjoyed driving across Kansas and Nebraska on our coast-to-coast trip. I had fun seeing west Texas on our drive to Georgia this spring. And I find something to love every day in Pennsylvania. We’ve also met a lot of nice locals. But I find myself looking forward to bigger mountains and cooler weather up north.

A Miles on Trail Day

Putting on my best Meseta attitude, I set out to log some miles and move north. The trail started out flat, climbed into some hills for most of the day, then descended into the rolling farm fields surrounding the town of Boiling Springs.

I passed Hoodie near the first climb of the day, calling him by name as I approached. He turned, recognized me, and called out, “Good morning … … Incident.” Win. He said he planned a short day, leaving him a nero into Carlisle tomorrow to meet his family and take a motel night. After a nice chat, I moved on. I think his normal pace is about 2/3’s of my morning pace.

I didn’t see any other thru-hikers besides Hoodie all day. All the others must have been recovering from the half-gallon challenge or sitting out the heat, humidity, and the forecasted afternoon thunderstorms. Even without a weather forecast, I could feel the humidity ramping up all morning. It felt as if the sky was going to explode.


Just as I stopped for lunch, the sky started rumbling with distant thunder. Close enough to let me know I’d be wet before I got to Boiling Springs, but far enough to politely let me finish my lunch. Hoodie came hustling by as I packed up, demonstrating that he did have another gear, and shouted that he’d decided to make a run for the nearest shelter to wait out the storm, then head for Carlisle tonight instead of tomorrow.

He invited me to run for the shelter with him, but I kind of wanted the shower. Needed the shower. I stunk, my clothes stunk, and salt crystals had started growing in every sweaty crevice. I got my shower.

The tree canopy kept me mostly dry for about 30 minutes until the rain intensified, coinciding almost exactly with when I walked out of the woods and into the farm fields around surrounding Boiling Springs. Then, I got soaked. I thought I’d been wet before along the trail, but today’s soaking was a whole new level of wet.

It turns out I like walking in the rain. Or at least I like walking in a cool rain on a warm day when I know I’m heading toward a (relatively) dry van and a fluffy towel. I walked for nearly two hours in the rain. After a while, you don’t get any wetter, but you do get cleaner.

Rain Gear

Which brings me to a reader’s question about rain gear. Yes, I almost always carry a waterproof rain jacket (REI brand) and pants (Marmot), as well as a rain hat (Outdoor Research). But I rarely put them on while hiking. Here are the conditions in which I wear my rain gear:

  • If it’s cold enough that I might get hypothermic, I’ll wear just enough rain gear to regulate my body temperature. Hypothermia can sneak up on you, so anything below pleasantly cool might mean it’s time to gear up.
  • When it’s hot (and humid), putting on waterproof rain gear, even breathable Gortex, will make me wetter from sweat than from a light rain. Usually, I just let myself get a free shower on hot rainy days.
  • Sometimes, I’ll swap out my hat, unzip or zip up my jacket, or change my underlayers in response to changing air temperatures and rainfall intensity. It’s best to keep the rain gear where you can get at it or stow it easily.
  • It’s more important to stay dry if you’re living in a small tent. In the van, I have more dry clothes options than most backpackers, so I don’t mind getting wet. Wet clothes in a tent generally means a wet sleeping bag, sooner or later.
  • At Camp. If I walk in the rain when I’m backpacking and arrive at camp soaked, I’ll sometimes switch into my rain gear once I get to camp and I cool down, putting on a dry layer underneath.

Rain gear can also serve as survival gear, so it’s definitely worth its pack weight. Thanks for the question.

Boiling Springs

I arrived in Boiling Springs wet and happy. Northstar pulled up a short time later, saying she had found a legal boondocking spot at the Mechanicsburg Walmart. I guess my second half of this hike starts with Walmart.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Pine Grove Furnace State Park (Mile 1105.1)
  • End: Boiling Springs (Mile 1124.3)
  • Weather: Gray, humid, and hot, then a big rain
  • Earworm: Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffet)
  • Meditation: Mark 4:35-6:43
  • Plant of the Day: Indian Pipe
  • Best Thing: Walking in the Rain
  • Worst Thing (besides the humidity): No boondocking allowed in Boiling Springs

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Comments 8

  • thetentman : Jul 12th

    Love the post. Last Sunday I went for a walk in the woods. As I was getting ready it started to rain slightly. I decided to wait a bit. It stopped and I decided to walk. I did have a brilliant idea though. I should bring an umbrella in case it started to rain again. I immediately rejected the idea because I am a dope and started my hike. 20 minutes later it began to rain. Not too heavy, though. Did I stop and go home? I did not. I reasoned that it would stop. I am a fool. For the next hour, I walked in very heavy rain and thought about my very dry umbrella and worried that the rain would kill my phone. It did not and I arrived home very wet and not any smarter. But perhaps cleaner.


    • Jon : Jul 12th


  • DCAlaneKnita : Jul 12th

    So I use my knitting world personna on a trail blog? I suppose so.

    For the past few years, I have followed a few hikers and have gotten so much pleasure from reading the blogs. I don’t know if stumbled upon yours, or The Trek suggested it. But I am thankful.

    I don’t know that I will/could ever do a thru-hike, but we do love hiking and hope to have a van one day. I’m sure my daughter will do th AT one day. She has done a few long hikes already.

    Thank you for the work you have out into the blog and sharing your insights. I appreciate the effort.

    I prefer to follow the AT, as we’ve been to quite a few places along the way. We live in Virginia, so there is that. One day, I hope the timing works out for doing some trail magic.

    Thank you again. Also thank you to Northstar and also she does to support your effort.

    • Jon : Jul 13th

      You’re welcome! Thanks for the kind words and welcome the e-family.

  • Homeward : Jul 12th

    Hey The(re :-),
    Sorry to post a comment about ghosting on this post, but your story saddened me a little bit and I wanted to chew on that a little bit. I sense that you attached most of this incident to how some thruhikers view your hike and you are probably more than 1/2 right. I find myself wondering about its relationship to the “tramily phenomena” that was just starting to be a thing back in 2016. Tramilies were there and everyone knew what they were, but there was certainly no expectation that you had to be part of one. My observation was that tramilies carried a lot of the same social drama and silliness that many of us were trying to take a break from. Now, it seems as though most of the posts on the AT speak of tramilies as being an essential part of the hike, even if you need to “divorce” one and “marry” another. I wonder if being a part of one or more tramilies might not make it easier to ghost those that aren’t just like your smaller community. I will always treasure being a part of the much larger thruhiker community. Just a thought from an old geezer that was never a social butterfly.
    Hike on, my brother!

    • Jon : Jul 13th

      Interesting. People are very tribal, aren’t they?
      I’ve been formulating my thoughts about a future tramily post, but my observations are all from the outside looking in. I wouldn’t mind the company a tramily would provide but don’t need the drama. I’ve been asking lots of questions from those who’ll talk to me.

  • CB : Jul 14th

    Hike your own hike. It’s as simple as that. We all know that. And yet, some would put their own expectations and ways on the others around them. There are many folks who take to the woods to be alone, don’t feel like talking, don’t want to interact, and just want to hike their own hike. They want to live and let live, maybe. Some want to hike from a van. Some want to hit a motel every ten days. Some will only tent. Then, there are those who take offense when encountering these individuals and try to force them into interacting, or changing their ways and imply that if they don’t change, the problem is with them. I’d say the person with the problem is the one who tries to bully the other in that way. “Oh, how dare you not speak when spoken to? I’ll show you.” You’re an excellent writer, Jon. You have a great wife. There are other positives in your life that I know about just from reading your posts. Lighten up on your fellow sojourners, Bro. We’re all in this together.

    • Homeward : Jul 15th

      I’m not sure that “Hike your own hike” was ever intended to cover common courtesy.


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