Hating and Loving Pennsylvania
It’s been a few weeks since I left the state of Pennsylvania behind me. At the time, I hated hiking through the state and was very vocal about how I did not enjoy that section. But now reflecting back on my time in PA, I’m seeing my experience in a new light. To get a feel for what I was dealing with here’s a video from my hike through PA:
Why I Hated Pennsylvania
First and foremost, I hated PA for the rocks. Previous thru-hikers did not lie when they told me how bad the rocks in PA are. There were parts without rocks, don’t get me wrong, but the parts with rocks were so tedious they stand out most in my mind. I am shocked I didn’t twist an ankle or fall badly, though I did fall many times.
Second, it rained a lot. And it always seemed to rain on the rocky portions. I had to hike across the Knife’s Edge, a particularly sharp and precarious rock section, in the rain. Rocks plus water equals slippery accident waiting to happen. It rained so much that every viewpoint was ruined with misty haze or drizzling rain. My tent would be soaked in the morning as I packed up. It felt like it rained a week straight. And when it wasn’t raining, the trail was still covered in puddles, some as large as small ponds. There was no escaping Mother Nature.
Third, tornados hit PA when I was hiking. There was one storm in particular where I was nearly struck by falling tree branches as I ran down the mountainside into Port Clinton as fast as I could. My knees hated me for this but I was not about to be on top of a mountain during a tornado or severe thunderstorm.
Lastly, all of the wet and rocky conditions of PA spurred a reunion tour of my blisters. I had not had problems with my feet for some time but the constant water in my shoes and socks earned me some new blisters. I lost a toenail as well from all the moisture.
When I look back on PA, my mind remembers the rocks and the rain most vividly. It was cold, wet, and rainy most days. These obstacles tested my resolve and it became a mental game trying to push myself through the tedium of it all. There were small annoyances, too, like the shelter I stopped at to use the privy only to find it being reconstructed or the restaurant that was closed the day I passed by. I just couldn’t win.
Why I Loved Pennsylvania
The most excited part of Pennsylvania was crossing the halfway point. The feeling of joy knowing that 1,100 miles were behind me was like nothing else. And then there was the incredible fullness of eating half a gallon of ice cream to reward myself for making it halfway!
One reason I loved Pennsylvania was because it had the best trail town so far. Boiling Springs was beautiful and had great restaurants.
I mentioned the horrible amount of rain, and yet I seemed to have the best of luck. Once when my tent was soaked from the night before, the sun came out at lunch just long enough for me to lay out my tent to dry. Of course it rained that night but I had a dry tent to sleep in. On another occasion I was dreading sleeping in my sopping wet tent when I stopped at the Blue Mountain Ski Resort for dinner. Just my luck it was $5 burger day which lifted my mood. And then a nice couple chatted me up, bought me some beers, and invited me back to their home to sleep on their porch. I set my tent up on their covered porch to dry out, and they let me use their laundry and shower. It was amazing and I am truly grateful for their generosity and hospitality.
Lastly, I loved PA for the food. Timbers Restaurant just before the halfway point had an amazing breakfast and was super hiker friendly. The fresh-cut fries at the half-gallon challenge were amazing. The $5 burger night at the ski resort was delicious. And Delaware Water Gap had some great offerings at the Sycamore Grill and the bakery with the $3 hot dog and apple pie combo.
Despite all my trials with the terrain and the weather, I have to remember all the great parts of my time in PA. It really wasn’t bad at all.
I couldn’t talk about PA without mentioning The Doyle. Though I didn’t stay there, I saw enough of the rooms and facility to know I would have hated staying there. But I did have some amazingly good food and cheap beer at the bar and I loved talking to Vicky with her quick wit and smart mouth.
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