March of The Penguins

20/20 coming in from the P of A, the wonderful state of Pennsylvania. I woke up this morning to a spider the size of my palm on the outside of my tent mesh right next to my stomach, that was cool. I’ve decided to take an unplanned nero to give the piggies a break before ‘rocksylvania’ really kicks it into high gear.


Northern Hospitality?

Opposite from what I was expecting, the folks up here are just about as nice and genuine as they come. Being from Georgia I’ve always taken pride in our southern hospitality heritage, but now I see we’ve got some competition in PA. Just about from the time I crossed the Mason Dixon line I’ve been considering just getting off trail and living in any of the town stops I make. Waynesboro, PA was by far the most hiker friendly town I’ve been in on the entire trail. People were asking me in the Walmart self checkout if I needed a ride back to trail, and the servers in the restaurant showed me where the plug-ins were before I had to ask. I got a hitch from the third car that saw me, a far cry from Virginia. Here in Duncannon, I walked into town this morning thinking I was going to do another 20 miles after resupplying, but the place immediately captured my heart. The people, buildings, hospitality, food, and just the overall vibe. It’s like a little Philadelphia (or what Philly is in my imagination). It’d be a crime if I didn’t stop to take it in. 


Pressing the Refresh Button

Since getting out of Harper’s Ferry, everything has felt like a new experience. For one, the trail has been relatively easy. But the shelter styles, weather, people, views, and food have really changed since Virginia. I walked through 14 miles of beautiful, rolling farmland yesterday. Yeah it smelled bad, but seeing the gold and green fields dotted with grain elevators all overlooked by grand ridgelines speckled with every shade of green you can imagine was beautiful. 

I departed Harpers Ferry at the same time as many flip floppers, which has been a welcome addition to the trail life. They bring a new energy that the scant few NOBOs up here may have lost along the way. Being there to cheer them on at the start of their journey has been surreal and nothing short of very special. It feels like being in Georgia again, just without the climbs. 


The Trail Provides

The long stretch of farmland previously mentioned is the Cumberland Valley. I hiked 20 miles into Boiling Springs in the morning, had lunch and packed out a burrito for supper, then went to tackle the 14 miles of no water (all water sources were next to farms) or camping. It was going well, but it was a long day and mentally draining. After one of the road walking sections, the trail veered off the road and into a vibrant soybean field, just below the road. It was beautiful but I was starting to feel the wear and tear on my joints, and the disappointing inner voice telling me to rest. The sun was beginning to descend, signaling the coming evening, and the heat was frying me like a piece of bacon. As the trail climbed back up to the road I saw a truck pull over to the opposite side of the street at an intersection, and the driver get out. 

He slowly walked towards where I was walking to, avoiding eye contact, hands in pockets. As we got closer it became obvious to me that he was trying to meet me. Not sure what kind of encounter this was going to be, I loudly and clearly said “what’s up man” across the busy road to sus out the situation. He looked up and responded “how much you doing?” And we began talking over the traffic flying by between us “whole thing” I said. “that’s great man, when did you start?” I could hear an accent now, I responded “February 24”, he continued “I’m from Canada…” His sentence becomes indiscernable over the sound of a tractor trailer going by. I yell that I can’t hear him from the passing cars, and step across the road as another car comes hurtling towards us. He continues “I’m from Canada so I do stuff like this over there all the time.” “Oh cool, Rockies?” “Yeah.” He looks like he might be in somewhat of a hurry, and pulls something out of his pocket. He says, “yeah I saw you walking in the field over there and thought to myself, there’s only one type of person doing that” and I saw that what he pulled out of his pocket was a wad of cash. He fumbled with it for a second, dropping dimes and pennies. I see this and say, “no man you don’t gotta do this, I promise I saved up enough to do the trail.” He didn’t say anything, then flicked a twenty out and put it in my idle hand without even asking. “Go get yourself a beer and some food in the next town” I reemphasized that I’d be fine, but he just waved and smiled and walked back to his truck. I just yelled “thank you so much” as he was walking away, and he yelled “good luck” and waved. It was only $20, a drop in the bucket compared to what I’ve saved to do this. But that $20 meant more than $1000 that I saved. I walked down the trail, a little misty from the kindness I just received. Call me emotional. Immediately I was struck with a beautiful vista of the Cumberland valley. Gold, fiery green fields with the trail boldly cleaving the meadows in two. Some dairy cows watched me about cry.


Ahead of The Pack

Being ahead of the pack has it’s advantages and disadvantages. I’ve been rolling with the punches like a champ if I do say so myself, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever really recover from a recent event. After a 30 mile day I rolled into Pine Grove Furnace. A small village near Caledonia State Park that is home to a famous gauntlet among Appalachian Trail thru hikers: the half gallon challenge. This is where you eat an entire half gallon of ice cream in one sitting. I’m not sure if you even get anything for it, but this was the only challenge on the whole trail I was going to do, and after 30 miles I was ready. As I approached the famous general store that sells the half gallons, I could tell by the shut windows and lack of people and signs out front that the place was probably closed. I knew it was a seasonal place but by God I was holding onto hope that by some miracle it’d be open that day, that I would be able to prove myself in the ring of dairy-combat. But alas, I got to the door and saw that it really was closed. 

So now, as I’m typing this, I have four pints of ice cream waiting for me in the freezer of this hostel. Fresh Ground prepared me for this day. I will stand victorious, no matter the cost. Wish me luck, readers.


20/20 out 

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Comments 1

  • Gator : Apr 27th

    Hey 20/20, we met a couple of times in Virginia. Glad your knee is holding up. You’re crushing it! Happy trails!


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