Getting Slack-Packed by an AT Alumni
Bama➡️Baxter Day 113&114
Day 113: 24.3 miles
This morning we woke up fairly early and got to walking. I was actually feeling quite rested after our trip last night and was ready for a day of walking. We set out of camp and wound up going about five miles to the Allentown Hiking Club Shelter for our first break. The trail was quite rocky and definitely required some thoughtful maneuvering. It slowed us down a bit but not too much.
After taking a nice break at the shelter we continued along. We were planning to go to the Thunderhead Lodge which didn’t open until 11:00 a.m. Since it was early in the morning still we were in no rush to get there. Once we got back to hiking, we did the last four or so miles to the restaurant, which was just off trail. You could literally see the place from the AT, which was super cool. We got there 15 minutes before they opened and just sat around and waited to go inside.
The Thunderhead Lodge had a great menu and I wound up getting a loaded chicken sandwich with chipotle aioli and jalapeños. I got a delicious fruity cider to drink as well which was lovely. It was so nice to be able to stop off for lunch in the middle of our hiking day. We were at the restaurant for a while before we hiked on from there. The weather was lovely and we pushed out an easy six miles after that. The trail was so unbelievably flat.
Pennsylvania has been such a treat. Everyone complains about the rocks and yet no one talks about how little elevation change there is! You have to choose your battles out here on trail. If the trail has to be super rocky then at least it’s also flat! I haven’t minded Pennsylvania at all personally. Even though that is probably a pretty unpopular opinion.
Some parts of the trail in this next stretch were really rocky and required us to use our hands a bit to climb around. That was really cool and actually a fun time! I enjoyed myself for sure.
Then we arrived at the Bake Oven Knob, which is apparently a popular day hiking destination. We passed a parking lot and loads of day hikers. And as we made our way to the top there were even more people up there. All of us decided to take a quick break up there and wait for Boosted to catch up. The rocks slow him and Roxy down a bit for sure. It began to lightly rain while we were there so we decided to quickly head over to the Bear Oven Knob Shelter just in case it started to pour.
We chilled at the shelter for a bit and all had some snacks. I stretched and laid out for a while. Then we continued on to do the last seven or so miles to the road into Palmerton. We planned to go into Palmerton tonight to do a quick resupply and then hopefully get back to the trail later on.
Just like earlier today the trail was mostly all flat. We had a couple quick climbs but then the trail would level out. And the final couple of miles to the road into Palmerton was a gradual descent, which was nice. When we all got to the road, we walked a bit until we found a decent place to hitch from. But before we could really even start hitching a guy pulled over and offered us all a ride. His car was teeny tiny but somehow he got the four of us and Roxy in, even with our packs!
Forest drove us into Palmerton and on the way he offered to drive us back to the trailhead later on tonight. On top of that he said that we could maybe come to his house and swim in his pool before we got back on trail. And maybe even tent in his yard! That was awesome. We definitely couldn’t resist the idea of going to someone’s home and swimming in their pool.
All of us did a quick resupply in town and got some drinks. Then we walked over to the pub in town to grab dinner. I ordered a cider, the most delicious beer cheese Mac and cheese, plus some tangy Asian seasoned brussels sprouts. Everything was incredible. By god do I love brussels sprouts!
After we ate, we waited around for Forest to come back to pick us up. At first we weren’t exactly sure that he was going to come, but he did. Though once we got in the car, he let us know that we could no longer stay at his house or swim in the pool. He wanted to go over to a party tonight instead. It seemed like it worked out for the best though. While he seemed like a really nice guy, he did give all of us a bit of an “off” vibe, and you should always listen to your gut. Instead, he just wound up giving us some pot and dropping us off at the trailhead.
On our drive back to the trail, I was messaging with Road Soda, who came and visited us in Duncannon last week. He was planning to come back up to the AT and was asking where we would be. In the end we made plans for him to come meet us by the trailhead tomorrow morning. He said that he could slack pack us most of the way to the Delaware water gap so that we could get an easy big mile day in.
Once we got dropped back off at the trailhead, we wound up walking down the AT to the junction for the Winter Trail. Because it was so late at night, we decided to all just cowboy camp right along the Winter trail. It was nice and flat and there was still plenty of room for people to walk around us if need be. All of us got situated there along the trail and then called it a night.
Day 114: 29.5 miles
This morning when we all woke up I called Road Soda to let him know. He got into Palmerton early this morning and told me to give him a call once we all got up. He wound up parking at the trailhead near where we camped and walking down the trail to see us. That was a really cool surprise first thing in the morning. Then we all packed most of our gear into his car and just took our backpacks with food and water for the day. Gotta love a good slack pack.
We got to walking and had a pretty intense climb out PA Route 248. It was goddamn steep and I couldn’t stop thinking how grateful I was that we were slack packing. Even with the super light packs the climb was still tough on your legs. Once we got up to the top we had some wonderful views. We had to do some rock scrambles using our hands, which was cool. And I was so impressed at Roxy’s ability to climb up some super flat rock face. She is one incredible hiking dog.
The trail flattened out once we got up to the top, so those next few miles went by quickly. Then the trail dropped down to Blue Mountain Drive where there was a trailhead parking area. Road Soda was there waiting for us with a cooler of drinks. What an awesome surprise. It’s so nice of him to be slack packing us today in general, but that dude really goes above and beyond.
At the trailhead I drank a white claw, ate some snacks, and did some stretching. We hung out with Road Soda for a while and then continued on to get more miles in. The next road crossing was in seven miles so we planned to push the whole way there. We climbed up from the trailhead and then the next six miles were practically entirely flat. All of us were absolutely flying along the trail without all of our pack weight.
In just about two hours we made it to the next road crossing, Smith Gap Road. Once again Road Soda was there waiting for us! This time he surprised us with fruit, veggies, guacamole, chips, and soda! It was epic. The awesome surprises today just seem to be never ending! We hung out with him there at the trailhead and enjoyed sodas, carrots and ranch, chips and guacamole, and strawberries. I was in Heaven. We were there for a while eating and talking before we kept on going.
The next road after that was eight miles ahead, so once again we planned to push the whole way there before breaking. And once again the terrain was legitimately flat for the whole eight miles, with only maybe 200 feet of elevation gain over the whole stretch. Pennsylvania is such a glorious state. The rocks aren’t great, but they aren’t nearly as bad as I had expected.
I listened to music this whole stretch and tried to zone out and get lost in thought. We passed by some great overlooks and enjoyed lovely views. It was such a leisurely day. About four miles in Sweet Pea, Squirrel, and I stopped off at the Leroy A. Smith Shelter to use the privy. We sat around briefly and ate a snack and then continued along to the road. Four miles after that the AT crossed PA and we walked down the road to the Wind Gap trailhead parking.
Boosted had already arrived before we got there because he didn’t stop off at the shelter. He and Road Soda were hanging out by the road and all of us joined them. I drank another white claw and ate some of my snacks. At this point in the day we were 22 miles in and I was starting to feel pretty lazy. Laying out in the sun sure didn’t help my energy levels either.
After we had been sitting there for maybe 30-45 minutes we decided to get a move on before we lost our motivation entirely. There were still eight miles to go to get to the final road crossing to meet Road Soda. Once again, we had a pretty good-sized climb to get up off the road. But then the trail leveled out and was cruisy the whole rest of the way. I was pleasantly surprised that once I got back to walking I felt incredibly energized. Those last seven or so miles of the day were some of my favorites.
Boosted and Squirrel were so far in front of me that I couldn’t see them, and Sweet Pea was pretty far behind me as well. So I just walked along the flat trail and sang to myself for hours. I was belting it out knowing that I was all alone out there. And as I continued to walk the sun began to slowly set. I got to watch a beautiful sunset along some rocky cliffs. The view aligned just in time to watch the best part of the sunset. I was so goddamn content.
The last couple of miles of the day flew by and I just kept trotting along and singing the whole way. The timing was so perfect and I knew that I would make it to the trailhead before it got too dark. So I had no need to whip out my headlamp. By 8:45 p.m., I arrived at PA Route 191, and Boosted and Squirrel were already there with Road Soda. He brought McDonalds for all of us for dinner! What an absolute legend. He’s unstoppable.
I ate a burger and drank a beer, which was the perfect way to end off the day. Then we waited for Sweet Pea to arrive before we continued on to a campsite. Road Soda is even gonna come out and camp with us tonight! Which is so fun and exciting. We pretty much got to hang out all day today.
Sweet Pea was a ways behind because he was feeling a bit sore. But eventually he caught up and we all got our gear back out of Road Soda’s car. Once our bags were packed up again we got back on the AT and only had to walk a half mile to a camp site. When we arrived at the Kirkridge Shelter we were all shocked to find that it was entirely empty! All of us were hoping that it would be so that we could just cowboy camp and have an easy night.
We all got situated inside the shelter around 10:00 p.m. Then we talked, hung out, and ate some snacks before everybody headed to bed. Even though we slack packed today, we still did a 30-mile day, so I was pretty exhausted and ready to sleep. But now we’re only 6.4 miles out from the Delaware Water Gap, so we get to enjoy a nero day tomorrow!
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