Days 127-132 Yuengslyvania: Part 3
Our hitching luck did not hold for the return journey. Sadly, we had to walk the whole 1.9 miles from the hotel back to the trail. Maybe it was for the better, though. Our timing allowed us to cross paths with a chipmunk who was in the midst of a mid-morning mushroom snack!!
Pinky was walking ahead of me, as per usual, and he noticed a chipmunk run away from him, also common, Pinky has a good eye for chipmunks. He noticed that this little guy was holding onto something. We got closer and realized it was a mushroom, about as big as he was! The chipmunk was way more concerned with eating his mushroom than he was with us, so he sat on a rock in full view and chowed down. We watched him eat all of it. I don’t think that little guy swallowed once. His cheeks just kept getting bigger and bigger!!
After at least 5 minutes, just after he got the last bite in, High Kick, Eli, and Wiki came blazing past us and we decided we should probably hike, too. We had a solid climb out of Port Clinton. There were a lot of berries up on the ridge so I was happy. Hardly any views though.
We got to a creek flowing under a gravel road and decided to eat lunch. When we walked up another hiker told us there were a bunch of snakes around and pointed them out to us. There were at least a dozen snakes- most of them were snuggled up amongst rock piles on the edge of the water but there were a few on a log in the water, too.
Later, Deets got up close and personal with the snake pile. He pointed out varieties to us- there were garter snakes, a ring neck, a copperhead or two, milk snakes, and probably another one or two we didn’t know. We even saw one swimming through the water.
It was very cool and very terrifying seeing this many snakes together in one place. I cannot over state how many freaking snakes were in this rock pile, and there were two other piles we didn’t even investigate! The piles all had chain link fencing type stuff over them so we think the snakes must have felt very safe in them.
Eventually, we left snake heaven. The hiking that day was pretty good. There were rocky parts at the top, but we also got a few good views and got to check out the outside of the Amateur Astronomers Club observatory!
The end of the day had us on nice forest road type trail with a lot of wine berries for snacking. We made it to the Eckville Shelter at dusk that evening. Unfortunately, the shelter was already full. A few people in it had taken a short cut and soundly beat us there….
We set up our tent in the woods, possibly next to a grave…. There was a pile of rocks in the center of the clearing and the topmost one said “JOE.” Mildly creepy but it was a good campsite… We knew it was going to rain that night so we put the rain fly on. It was hot and humid still, so we kept the vestibule open for a bit of air.
That night was one of the worst on trail. It started raining around 10 or 11. It was a gentle steady rain for a while and we didn’t stake out the vestibule. The rain petered off for a bit then around 3 or 3:30 all hell broke loose. It rained harder than it’s ever rained with us in the tent.
I realized we were taking on water through the doors so we staked out the vestibule in the dark and pouring rain. Thunder was crashing and there was lots of lightning. We hardly slept through it. This went on until about 5 o’clock. We got maybe an hour of sleep after it calmed down.
When we finally started getting up we realized the floor of the tent was a puddle! We were on a bit of a slope and it was way worse on Pinky’s side. We picked up the tent and dumped probably a pints worth of water out!!! It was miserable. We were miserable.
Luckily, my mom was meeting us that afternoon. We’d originally planned to have her meet us 15 miles away but we were worried about another storm and didn’t want to hike Knifes Edge- an exposed rocky section- in the rain, so we changed our meet up to about 10 miles away.
A good portion of that section was pretty rocky, it took us a while to get to the next shelter. When we got there the sun was poking out. Us and all the other hikers pulled our wet tents out, took our shoes off, and settled in for a good long break.
During our break, we learned Wiki also likes to play chess! He and Pinky played a speed round, 5 mins of play time each. Pinky’s losing streak continued, unfortunately.
When I checked my phone while we were getting water I found messages from my mom. She and Suze had been at our meeting point for over an hour! Woops! We had two miles of nice smooth trail ahead of us. We covered it very quickly as we’d already kept them waiting!
Of course, we found them handing out water, banana bread, pumpkin bread, and chips while they waited for us. It was great to see my mommy and Suze again. We were especially looking forward to a night indoors and the opportunity to fully dry out our gear. While it hadn’t kept raining that day, there was still the possibility of a storm later on.
In true mom fashion, both Suze and my mother absolutely spoiled us for the next 2 days. They made us amazing food, did our resupply shopping, and helped us slack pack 16 miles the next day. While we were hiking they had The Best Trail Magic Ever in a parking lot right before Bake Oven Knob. Everyone loved all the veggies and baked goods. The banana bread was so popular it earned mom her trail name- she is now Banana Bread!
Mom and Suze agreed to hike up to Bake Oven Knob with us. They got a small taste of the rocks of Pennsylvania!
The rest of the way down to Palmerton wasn’t too bad. The worst part about this section actually wasn’t the rocks, it was the lack of water. Palmerton had a zinc factory back in the 70s or something and is now a Superfund site. The mountains and valley surrounding it were just destroyed. A lot of hard work in the area has improved the situation, the old AT route even re-opened this summer since it has reached the desired amount of re—vegetation. There was still a distinct lack of shade in the last few miles and for the first few miles on the next ridge. And there is still no water, if there ever was any to begin with.
The next day, Mommy dropped us off at the bridge across the LeHigh river, our food bags full and our clothes very clean. We knew we had to climb up the big scary mountain on the other side.
The climb down had been so much better than we expected that we were feeling fairly confident. That quickly changed.
We found ourselves on an extremely technical rock scramble in full sun. It was just before 10am and it was hot as hell. I think I started out the day a bit dehydrated, I had to stop for a 10 min water break almost immediately. Once I felt better the rest of the scramble was challenging and a little scary, but ultimately pretty top tier Type 2 Fun.
When we’d gotten through the rocks and back into the woods I immediately collapsed and drank some more water. A few moments later, this tall man with a tiny backpack comes prancing by, hardly sweating and holding a tiny coffee cup, unspilled, from the gas station at the bottom. I have never felt like a more inadequate hiker, goddamn.
The next 5 miles were brutal. It was so hot, there was hardly any shade, and all I wanted to do was chug all my water, but I couldn’t, I had to make the water last.
At one point, Pinky realized he had lost his phone! He back tracked to try to find it. The “techno hikers”- a group hiking to blaring techno music, the same group mom and Suze took on a beer run while waiting for us two days before- had found his phone and it had only overheated a little bit, thank goodness.
Somehow we made it to a road crossing where a very nice man had several cases of water! We chugged a liter or more each and ate lunch in the shade. Such relief.
After that, we were back in the shade and things got way better. There was still no water till the shelter, but at least we weren’t roasting. Mom and Suze had dropped some water at an existing water cache site before they headed home. Sadly, by the time we got there it was empty, but we expected that.
By the time we made it to the shelter we were Done. Unfortunately, we still had to walk a half mile to water. Pinky is a saint and made the trek while I set up the tent. I even had enough time to hang our bear line. He finally made it back and we ate dinner in the dark before crawling into bed, exhausted.
The next day had similarly challenging water prospects. When we woke up we thought we were setting out to hike 20 miles into town. By mid-morning we realized that was not going to happen. It was another pretty hot day and while the elevation was not particularly challenging, it was rocky and slower going.
Late in the afternoon we got some trail magic from Weezie’s sister. We were too late for sandwiches but she had beer, sodas and gatorades. The Gatorade was a life saver.
I was so stinkin tired, it was a relief when we made it to the next shelter about a mile later. We had a difficult time finding our way to the spigot provided by the retreat center up the hill. Wiki was passed out in the shelter when we got there but woke up when we made our second pass and gave us solid directions, thank goodness. When we finally found the spigot, I chugged about a liter of water immediately. Then I had to lie down on a bench and digest (I low key fell asleep, too.)
We planned to camp about half a mile away on a grassy overlook. It was such a good decision! A few other folks camped there too, but we were so tired we didn’t talk to them. We hardly even spoke to each other. Just sat there, enjoying the view and the relief of sitting still.
It was a bit of a sweaty night but the stargazing was so amazing I didn’t mind waking up frequently. In the morning we had a beautiful sunrise. It was a wonderful way to end Pennsylvania.
Delaware Water Gap, the last town in PA, was only about 7 miles away. We got moving early, we wanted to eat brunch in town! The hike down wasn’t too bad. The highlight was a cute little pond with TONS of frogs! We could see a few big tadpoles. They were almost frogs, they had legs and short tails!
Delaware Water Gap is a super cute town. We got in around 11 and bee-lined for the bakery, the main objective of the stop. I had the most amazing egg, cheese and sausage sandwich. Pinky got the hot dog + apple pie special. We split a blueberry tart and a peach muffin.
While we were eating we noticed Bacon walking up!! I was sure she’d be way ahead of us. It was great to see her! She’s been slackpacking with Nightcrawler and Prom Queen. We last saw them in the rollercoaster at the 1,000 mile mark. Prom Queen went home and got her car from Harper’s Ferry and is slackpacking Nightcrawler until she has to show up for grad school in August. Sweet deal, right?
It worked out well for us, too. Prom Queen gave us a ride to the Wal Mart, 2 exits away on the interstate but a very difficult place to get to on foot. She dropped us off by the barber where Nightcrawler was getting his hair cut. Pinky was inspired and went in to see about getting a beard trim. 20 mins later he came out with a visible upper lip again!
Another hiker told us the outfitter was having a major shoe sale.. so Pinky walked over there to check it out. I continued loitering on the grass in the shade across from the ice cream shop. When Pinky came back, without new shoes, he said he’d learned devastating news. The sake brewery next to the bakery makes their own ramen!
We had immediately noticed the sake brewery and been disappointed to learn it didn’t open till 4pm. We felt that was too late for us to stay in town, we wanted to try to hike another 7-10 miles. But once Pinky learned they made ramen too, it was game over. It was 2:30 by the time he got back from the outfitter. We figured, what’s another few hours? Plus, we were probably going to get an afternoon thunderstorm. It would be nice to stay dry AND get sake and ramen.
So, we relocated to the church hostel gazebo so we could charge our phones and waited till 4. The heat, and our cajoling, convinced a handful of other hikers to do the same thing. When we finally rolled over to the brewery there was another big group of hikers already there. Hikers love hanging out inside and drinking.
Not 20 mins after we sat down it started pouring outside. We were happy with our choices. The ramen was somewhat disappointing after so much effort. The sake, however, was amazing. I’m not a sake drinker, I’ve maybe had it 5 times in my life, but this stuff was delicious. They even had a hopped one!
We left around 6. The rain had stopped and it was finally a tolerable temperature. On the way out of the restaurant we ran into Pie. She specifically wanted to tell us how much she had loved mom’s trail magic (she had already left by the time we got there.) She also asked us to look for her friend Hot Sauce on the trail. They had gotten separated when it thunderstormed and she didn’t know where he was! Of course we agreed to keep an eye out and tell him to call her.
We walked out of town and onto a sketchy bridge shared with a big fast interstate. I could feel the bridge shaking from the trucks. I did Not like it. Halfway across we hit the border between PA and NJ!
We loved parts of PA but we were so happy to be done. We were sure our rocks and water problems were over! We congratulated ourselves for surviving the trial.
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