Keep On Rockin’ Me, PA
After completing 149 of Pennsylvania’s 225 miles, it’s time for an update.
First off, Pennsylvania does seem to have cornered the market on rocks. Having lived outside Philadelphia for years and having hiked in PA, I thought it was just an exaggeration. Now I think I just didn’t know any better.
The rocks are all kinds: big, small, loose, in giant piles, in ledges. They are definitely getting better as we move south. Now that we are in Duncannon, I think we are through the worst.
I think the biggest frustration is that except for the rocks, the trail is often easy. It’s just ridge walking. You think you should be able to cover a lot of ground quickly, but the rocks slow you down.
When I was hiking here years ago, it was with Scouts. Ian was 11, and we definitely were not trying to move fast. It was nice revisiting some of the places we had hiked before: the Knife Edge, the Pinnacle, Blue Rocks. Bake Oven.
Hospitality in PA has been unbelievably good. I’ve already written about the Trail Magic. We stopped in Wind Gap, Port Climton/Hamburg, and Duncannon. We also reconnected with Popeye, whom we met when he was section hiking Maine and New Hampshire. Popeye put us up for the night, fed us very well, and shuttled us back. He is still an active volunteer, and is replacing the roof on the 501 Shelter. He and his wife were caretakers at 501 for a couple of years, and they have some great stories about strange things they’ve seen – like the hiker passed out in the middle of the trail holding a machete (he disappeared before the cops got there).
When we got to Duncannon, we decided to stay at the Doyle. We had heard mixed reviews. It was a great place to stay vs. it was a dump. We decided we were staying there because it is one of those historical, iconic places on the AT.
We thought it was fine. The food was good and the proprietors, Vicky and Pat, were wonderful. The room was definitely “no frills” but acceptable. The shower was not anticeptically clean, but the water was hot. Ian’s assessment was “a typical Boston student apartment”. We enjoyed it and would stay here again.
Finally, the other two tough things about PA – the heat and the bugs. It has been warm and humid. Yesterday we hit 98 degrees. This heat just saps your will. It is supposed to rain tomorrow and to cool down. I certainly hope so.
With the heat, the bugs are really active. I don’t have much of a problem with mosquitoes. They seem to leave me alone. But the little “eye gnats” are driving me insane. From about noon until dark it’s like an airplane dogfight swirling around my head, with a gnat making a strafing attack on my eyeballs every thirty seconds. They don’t seem to bother Ian as much. I’ve taken to wearing a head net during the afternoon. I’m hot that way but at least I’m maintaining my sanity and not waving my hands in front of my face like I’m having a seizure.
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