Duncannon (June 21)
Grey Eagle and I start our hike to Duncannon. It is only a four mile jaunt down there, and we’re both looking forward to breakfast in town. Or really, for us, second breakfast. It’s a good life, the hiker
Duncannon is more of a small river town than a trail town. The only place to resupply is an overpriced Quickmart. Hikers coming from the infamous Doyle Hotel don’t have much good to say about their stay, citing dirty rooms and beds. In spite of these complaints, I like what I see- the familiar Susquehanna River and a breakfast diner nearby. Grey Eagle and I enjoy a big second breakfast. The waitress is a good audience- she asks us questions about thru hiking and seems impressed that I’m out there. Grey Eagle says, “I tell you, the women out there are amazon women”, which I think is hilarious. I say, “And he’s hiking it at 75!” She’s even more impressed. We make a good team.
After breakfast I’m ready for a shower. I’ve heard there are free showers at the local church, so I try all the doors there. I did this before breakfast with no luck. Nothing has changed since , they’re all still locked. All the sudden I hear, “What do you need?” from the neighboring house. I walk over to the voice. An elderly man sits on the porch, tinkering with an old tricycle. I tell him I was hoping for a shower at the church. He shakes his head. “They don’t have showers there”. He says, “You can shower here if you want. We’ve helped hikers before.” At first I think this might be kind of strange, but I really want to shower. He shows me the tricycle. He saved it from the neighbor’s garbage and will fix it to give away. That about wins me over.
We walk inside and Henry introduces me to Linda, his wife. I say, “I hear you’ve helped other hikers already”. She looks puzzled and says, “No, I don’t think so”. I laugh uncertainly and look at Henry, who says, “Yes we have honey! Don’t you remember…” and then tells of various hikers who have been in this house and were treated well.
I end up showering and spending a few hours visiting on the shaded porch. It is the perfect place to be on a hot afternoon. It is easy to feel at ease here, and time slips by quickly. They tell me about how they got married at the church, and it was so hot that day the candles melted away. Over 100 degrees, they say. Henry makes us both lunch- grilled cheese, Hawaiian punch and homemade ice cream. Linda tells me stories of days gone by, stories that seem familiar and cherished, like a well worn book. They tell of a time when they knew everyone in town, but now, they say, people move so fast all the time that it’s different. They don’t know everyone in town anymore. We sit on the porch and Henry says, “We have a lot of junk around. You must think it’s a mess”. He gestures and names “fishing poles, bird house, those signs over there…” Linda cuts in and says “Don’t point everything out to her!” I think that’s pretty funny. They’ve lived here their entire married lives, and the house is full of a lifetime of things. It’s comfortably messy.
Henry sits beside me on a couch and we page through the family album the grandkids made. He brings out some poetry he wrote years ago, one a valentine for Linda. I’m charmed by what they share with me. I think they’re just as happy for the company as I am to be the company. When I get ready to leave, Linda tells Henry to “get the book for her to sign”. After some puzzlement, he gets out the address book for me to sign.
So I have a different experience in Duncannon than most I’ve heard. Even as I’m leaving town, I’m greeted with smiles and questions about my trip. At the end of the road is a house with a giant bear statue. The man who lives there chats with me and says, “Yeah, me and the bear…we keep an eye on things around here”. Whatever the reason (probably because people don’t feel threatened by a clean female thru hiker) I have only good memories of my day in Duncannon, PA.
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