Growing up in York, PA, most people assumed that I had hiked at least some of the AT in PA. However, I wasn’t much of a hiker in my early days and it wasn’t until I moved to Ohio that I became an avid hiker. So, entering PA, I cringed with the rest of the hikers with what was to come. Most hikers refer to PA as “Rocksylvania” due to all the rocks there and others commented that it was the state where shoes go to die. Nobody seemed to have an encouragement for what was ahead.
Either way, we entered PA with high spirits. The trail went from being a wilderness journey into the woods into this joy rollercoaster of highlights on and off the trail. We hit the “emotional” halfway point in Harper’s Ferry, WV. We whizzed through WV and MD within two days, whereas it took us over a month to go through Virginia. Every day brought some new milestone to look forward to, whether it was a new state or new achievement.
Halfway point on the trail
Within two days upon entering PA, we reached the “official” halfway point and was then challenged to eat a half gallon of ice cream at the local grocery store. (Many hikers successfully complete the challenge- our metabolism is pretty incredible at this point. However, Diatom and I didn’t want to go into sugar overload and split a gallon between us.) Along with the ice cream challenge, Pine Grove Furnace also had the AT museum which highlighted some of the pioneers that brought the AT to life and some of the living artifacts from the trail over the years. It was a pretty incredible day.
Splitting a half gallon of ice cream
Old AT signs in museum
Since then, PA has been nothing but rocks and town hopping. It seems like the wilderness intention of the trail has been slightly sacrificed in this section of the trail, but we can’t complain. After stumbling on rocks for a path, my feet are numb. Sometimes the promise of town food and a pint of ice cream for dinner is the sole motivation getting me through the miles. We have come to accept that the AT is not just about the trail, but the communities and towns along the way as well. Some towns, like Boiling Springs and Duncannon, I never visited before (despite growing up less than an hour away), but on the trail have been interesting places to tour. We eat good and find cool places to stay, like old hotels turned into hostels with interesting characters running them (ex/The Doyle). Churches have also provided amazing hospitality to us. We are staying in a church basement tonight- complete with a hot shower, washer/dryer, and full kitchen at our disposal with a small donation request in return.
Porcupine who decided to visit our camp for the morning
On trail, there have been some highlights. I saw my first porcupine in the wild and awed as he climbed up and down trees. We passed through beautiful farmland and saw amazing sights for miles from the Pinnacle viewpoint. I have been blessed to be joined by my friends Archie and Patrick on the trail. I even enjoyed the part of PA called the “rock maze” since it challenged me to climb up and down big boulders. It was “rock climbing” at its finest and helped me to exercise my upper body as well as my legs. Every once in awhile, we are even blessed with sections of trail without rocks, but that has been few and far between.
View from Pinnacle
Changes on the trail
Besides the terrain, I have noticed other changes on the trail. The first month or two it seems like everyone was focused on weight and how to reduce weight in their packs. Now, weight seems to play less importance. We are starting to try to make trail life much more enjoyable by including hobbies or other luxury items in our packs. Myles picked up a guitar in DC, I pick up random books and a sun hat to match my town dress, and Diatom seems to be hoarding food. I still feel a little bogged down by a 5-6 day resupply on food, but it seems much less of a burden than it has before. I seem to be able to maintain a 3+mph pace despite the weight difference.
Trail Family updates
Since my last post, our trail family was reunited briefly. We met New Hampshire Bob in Duncannon, PA and spent the night with him in the Doyle. We were all set to leave the next day, but Diatom was sick, so we decided to take a zero there. So, NHB took off alone. Thankfully, Myles (Helter Skelter) was able to catch up the next night and stay with us our second night in the Doyle. The next week passed by in bliss having us all together. We hiked together, ate meals together, slept close by each other, and took breaks together. We laughed continuously and had Helter Skelter play the guitar when we broke camp for the night. However, Helter Skelter had previous plans to meet some friends in NYC and has left us once again for a few days. Our hiking team is down to a duo once more, but we have been trudging along slowly, waiting for Helter Skelter to catch up once more. When you find the right chemistry in a group, it is worth slowing down to enjoy the trail life together.
Trail fam and childhood friend Archie, near Duncannon, PA
Current milemarker: 1356.3 (Vernon, NJ)
Current weight: 125 lbs (I seem to be maintaining pretty well <Yay for all the town food!> The boys are losing weight.)
Most treasured item in pack: Town dress- I almost pass for a townie
Food cravings in town: soy ice cream, salad, and fruit
Calories eaten in a day: 3500-4000
Biggest concern on trail: Lack of water- heat has many sources dried up and we have been going 15-20 miles without a water supply
View of Delaware Water Gap- last trail town in PA
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