Day 89: Hello, Rocksylvania
Today’s forecast called for heat, humidity, and early afternoon thunderstorms. It delivered on two of three. I’d planned a 22.6-mile day, rejecting the shorter 13-mile option as inconsistent with my goal of getting out of Pennsylvania in six days.
Halfway up the 1,000-foot climb that kicked off the day, so drenched in sweat I looked as if I’d just been rained on, I started reviewing my options. But I went on, counting on the afternoon showers to wash me off again.
Finally, Some Rocks
When I crested the Blue Mountain Ridge, I finally hit some long patches of rocks. Midway through the first big rock river, I caught up to a day hiker slowly picking his way across the minefield. He looked up, completely frustrated, and asked how long I thought the rocks would last. I just laughed, and said, “Sir, I have no idea. I’ve heard everything from ‘there aren’t any rocks’ to ‘the rocks will last into New Jersey.’ I’m just going to keep going north until they’re gone.”
I don’t think I helped him.
But as a matter of fact, none of the rockiest patches lasted that long. And the majority of the trail was no rockier than it had been yesterday or the day before.
I also discovered I have a pretty decent rock-walking technique developed from 40 years of hiking rocky central Arizona trails and a career of fieldwork in bouldery streams. Whenever possible, I only step on the biggest, most stable rocks. I avoid the wet, smooth, and sloped ones. And I keep moving. Above all, I keep my eyes on my feet and never forget that one bad step can end my hike.
I took a break near the turn off to the William Penn Shelter (or as Seri calls it, the William Pennsylvania Shelter) to decide if I needed to make the downhill trek to a spring to refill my water supply. A pair of young thru hikers came up the side trail, but didn’t see me, and went north. I like having other hikers out front, as it motivates me to keep moving. So, I gave them a decent head start, and set out again.
Unfortunately, they stopped 15 minutes later to talk to another hiker, ending the chase. I nodded silently as I passed, but they stopped me for a little trailside palaver. What a pleasant surprise. We talked about the alleged rocks, agreeing that they hadn’t been particularly bad yet and that we’d all heard that the really rocky section was still coming.
Personally, I’ve started to think that we’ll be met at the PA/NJ border by ATC agents in dark suits and sunglasses. They’ll be hosting trail magic where they’ll feed us spiked drinks and will program us to repeat the lie that Pennsylvania is rocky.
The trio of thru hikers cheerfully volunteered their trail names (Lucky McShorts, Goldie, and Builder(? – I didn’t catch that one due to his Belgian accent), and then asked for mine. A normal trail interaction. Was that so hard? Not wanting to press my luck, after chatting briefly, I said goodbye and moved on.
Trail Magic. Real Trail Magic.
A day hiker coming south gave me the heads up that a church group was doing trail magic at PA 501. I no longer needed a rabbit to chase. I put it in high gear and headed for free food and cold drinks. I hadn’t seen a real hiker feed since April.
I walked up to PA 501 to find shade tents, sack chairs, a choice of eggs and sausages or chili dogs, coolers of ice water and sodas, and tables of snacks and cookies. They even had power banks for charging phones and were offering rides into town for anyone who wanted them. Chumbawumba was there, who I hadn’t seen since Tennessee. She remembered my name even though I’d forgotten hers.
Lucky McShorts, Goldie, and Builder walked in a few minutes later and we all sat there stuffing ourselves, talking, and enjoying the shade while the magicians waited on us. Clearly, I’ve found myself in some kind of weird friendly vortex.
I left the trail magic energized, refreshed, and ready to knock out the last nine miles to PA 183. I rolled up to the PA 183 parking area around 4:00 pm. Northstar had just pulled in, had the AC cranked, and had stocked cold La Croix in the freezer. The trailhead was posted for no parking, but she had found a nice spot just down the road that was flatter, quieter, and safer.
Oh, yeah. I passed the 1,200-mile marker today. Twice. There are two of them, a couple hundred yards apart. Plus, a 1,201-mile marker. I figured someone missed the first two but still wanted a photo opportunity and didn’t want to fake it.
Life is good.
- Start: Green Point School Road (Mile 1182.9)
- End: PA 183 (Mile 1205.5)
- Weather: Puffy clouds, humid, 70s, no wind
- Earworm: Call Me Al (Paul Simon)
- Meditation: Rom 8:30-39
- Plant of the Day: Purple Coneflower
- Best Thing: Trail Magic!
- Worst Thing (besides the humidity): No overnight parking at the trailhead
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