Out of Pennsylvania

Day 44

My friend dropped me off around 8:00 at Harpers Ferry. I thought about just doing the Maryland Challenge (get through 40 miles of “flat” Maryland in one day), but ultimately I realized that this would make for a tough day tomorrow. I had done the 4 state challenge before with my backpacking club, so I didn’t feel really any desire to close to that on this trip. Regardless, Maryland is extremely flat and it’s hard to not do big miles in this state. I did get really hungry towards the end of the day, so I did something I had never done before on this trip. I UberEated. Sounds ridiculous, I know. But there are so many gaps and parking lots in the Maryland section that I couldn’t help myself. I got a Popeyes chicken sandwich and a soda. The driver told me this was the first delivery to the trail she had ever done. On top of that, another thru hiker was able to get a hitch from this driver into town to resupply. Everyone won!

I carried the chicken sandwich and soda all the way to the shelter. I arrived around 7:00, and to be honest, if I wanted to, I could have made it all the way through Maryland today. Once again, I knew I was going to be tired the next day. Set up my tent, ate dinner, and passed out.

Miles: 36

Raven Rock Shelter

Day 45

I woke up and started the trail around 6:30. I was gonna reach the Mason Dixon Line in about 4 miles. When I got to Penmar Park (right next to the border crossing) ALDHA (Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association) had trail magic breakfast in the park. They cooked up some eggs and sausage for us hikers, and we were able to eat and drink some lemonade in the morning. I hiked with two other hikers from the breakfast until we departed. They needed to hitch into town for a food resupply. I hiked to another state park called Old Forge Park where there was once again some trail magic. This time from a guy from Gettysburg called Tycoon who section hiked the trail. He was grilling up hotdogs and giving out Gatorades. I had about 4 Gatorades and 4 hotdogs. I also packed out a hotdog for my dinner later on. When I left the park to rejoin the trail, I went the wrong way. I headed southbound, and I didn’t realize my mistake until I reached a shelter that I knew I had passed earlier. I hiked 2.5 miles the wrong way. I turned around and walked another 2.5 miles back in the right direction. Wasted at least a few hours doing this.

The trail was very smooth, and I was able to speed down the trail easily. I ran into a group of hikers that I had passed in North Carolina. They had told me they realized they weren’t gonna make it to Katahdin before it closes, so they skipped the entire state of Virginia in order to give themselves a chance to get to the end of Maine. After the summit they then would complete Virginia. This is called a flip flop and it’s very common on this trail. Many do this to avoid the sweltering heat of Virginia around this time.

I ended at Quarry Gap Shelter, an beautiful shelter maintained by the local trail club. There was a porch swing, flower pots, board games, books, and clean double shelters. It was clear they put a lot of work into this shelter.

Miles: 25 + 5 miles extra

Quarry Gap Shelter

Day 46

I started the trail super early because I wanted to do the Half Gallon Ice Cream challenge at the real halfway point of the trail. I got to the camp store at 12:00 fully ready to eat the ice cream, but a quick check on my weather app changed my plans. There was supposed to be a rain and thunder storm due in three hours. With my previous record on thunderstorms, I wanted to avoid this. So I scrapped my Half Gallon Ice Cream challenge plans and bought a burger. I ate that thing in 2 minutes and started on the trail to the next shelter.

It rained on me for a little bit, and the thunder did start, but I wasn’t in any danger. I got to the shelter as dry as I could and to my surprise I was the only one there. Granted, it was 2:00, but I still thought there would be others. As time passed, people did come. They were soaked as they didn’t read the weather report for the day. There ended up being 7 of us squished into the shelter that night.

Miles : ~24

James Fry Shelter

Day 47

It was still lightly raining when I woke up, but I was planning on getting to a hostel. I left around 7:00, and I was trying to catch up with two other hikers from the shelter that left before me. I met up with Frodo and Lego before we hit Boiling Springs. Frodo wanted to give me the trail name Strider (Lord of the Rings themed one can see), but I kindly turned it down. I’ve only read the hobbit and the Fellowship (I’ve seen all the movies, but they don’t count), so I didn’t feel like it would be authentic to take that name. When I got to Boiling Springs I went to an Italian restaurant called Anile’s and slammed a meatball parm. I then started back on the trail towards the town of Carlisle. PA is very flat during this part. All Amish farmlands.

I got the town and checked into a Quality Inn around 3:00. Seeing I need a good resupply, I took an Uber into the heart of town, and I hit up an REI and splurged on a Wegmans. At REI I bought a runners hip belt so I can store food. I don’t like stopping to take food out of my pack, so storing all my snacks in this and my hip belt allows me to eat on the go.

After a lengthy discussion about soccer with the Uber driver, I returned back to the Quality Inn. Seeing that there was a diner right next to where I was at, I treated myself to a nice dinner at the Middlesex diner. For the first time at a restaurant I ordered fish. Can’t tell if it was good or I was just hungry.

Miles: ~20

Quality Inn Carlisle

Day 48

I had such a great night of sleep that I slept in. I didn’t leave until 8:00. Duncannon was the target today. It was only 16 miles, but I figured I’d eat there for lunch/dinner and then climb out of town in the evening.

After getting to Duncannon and talking to the hostel owner I made the decision that I’d only do 16 miles today. I wanted to make sure that the trail wasn’t going to be too rocky going forward. When she told me it wasn’t going to be too bad, I decided to hostel up and enjoy town. I went out to dinner with some other guys from the hostel. The Pub in Duncannon was the move, and I enjoyed a big old Cajun burger. Finished the day with some gas station ice cream and called it quits.

Miles: 16

Kinda Outdoorsy Hostel

Day 49

Woke up nice and early to start the big climb out of Duncannon. Climb was not easy and a considerable amount of rocks started to realize itself on trail. I was glad to do this in the morning instead of the evening or afternoon. After this however was extremely flat, and I was able to fly through this section. I got some trail magic at a parking lot and spent in an hour talking with the trail angels. Did a gradual climb to the shelter and met a man named R. (pronounced R-dot). He was named R, but on the birth certificate someone put a period, so he is officially named “R.” The name for some strange reason sounded familiar and certain things about him made me think I had heard about him. I then asked the question if he knew the name Michael C. Turned out he did. My friend Michael had told me months before my thru hike that a guy he knew was hiking. He described him as a big Grateful Dead fan; a dead head. I saw this the Grateful Dead tattoo on this man’s calf and after finding out where he was from I put two and two together and realized that this had to be guy. This definitely made both of our days. What a small world.

I was going to sleep in the shelter, but after seeing a mouse scurry across the floor, I decided tenting was going to be move. I tented 50 yards away.

Miles : ~29

Rausch Gap Shelter

Day 50

Another early start, and I had no idea what the plan was today. Got some nice trail magic early in the morning at a parking lot. Some Gatorade and chips made for a nice breakfast. I sped down the trail, enjoyed a nice conversation with a fellow thru hiker but ultimately zoomed by her. Realized it would be cool to do 30 mile day. This would put me closer to the town of Hamburg.

Trail was once again very flat, and I found myself crushing this 30 mile day in no time. I got to the shelter at 6:00. Spending time in the shelters with other hikers is a nice thing, especially when one is hiking alone for most of the day. Met a guy named J-Walking Jesus. Interesting trail name.

Miles: 32

Eagles Nest Shelter

Day 51

It rained over night. No. It poured over night and was now sprinkling. Rain almost wetted out my tent. It basically did though. I woke up to a completely soaked tent with some standing puddles on the inside. Single wall shelters always have this issue. But Hamburg was about 10 miles away. So I packed out my wet gear and put on my rain system and started on the muddy trail.

I got to the town at 11:00. Mud up to my knees of my pants and my feet soaked. I am totally freaked out by the thought of prolonged wet feet. I met some hikers a while back who got trench foot because they continued to hike in wet feet.

I realize that Hamburg was too far and the town of Port Clinton was right on trail. Unfortunately Port Clinton has nothing for food but a candy store. So for lunch I had chocolate, fudge, caramel corn, fruit gummies, Charleston Chew, and a packaged pickle for lunch. Let me reiterate this. This was my lunch.

I wanted to keep hiking, so I started on the trail with the intention of getting to the Eckridge Shelter. There is apparently a caretaker from the ATC that oversees this one, so I thought it would be cool to experience this.

I got to the shelter after a very rocky section and was surprised to see I was the only hiker there. I decided I was gonna pitch a tent because the shelter itself didn’t look that appealing (spiders and lots of mosquitoes). There was a nice grassy field that I was able to set up in and I allowed for my tent to dry out before I slept in it. I was joined by another hiker in which we got to share a conversation before bed.

Miles : ~23

Eckridge Shelter

Day 52

I ate almost all of my food the night before. The plan was to marathon today to the town of Palmerton. I was carrying mostly just snacks, my basic gear, and 3 liters of water. I didn’t plan on stopping at all.

I left camp at 6:00 and got through two big climbs in the early morning. After these climbs it was mostly flat. The rocks became more apparent but they weren’t anything crazy.

After completing 18 miles I got to a parking lot and was surprised with some nice trail magic. Hamburgers, hotdogs, Gatorade, soda, fruit, and much more. Crushed a hamburger, some Gatorade, thanked the trail angels and continued on the trail.

It started to get really hot in the afternoon, but luckily I was already in town. There was supposedly a Brazilian BBQ with an all you can eat special, but they were closed on Mondays and Tuesdays! I forget these small towns always close or close early on Sundays-Tuesdays. But there was a steakhouse in town (that was closed as well) that had a working hostel behind their restaurant— Bert’s Steakhouse. They were closed but the door was unlocked. I called the owner and she told me to make myself at home. She’d come down in an hour to work out the payment, but at the moment I was the only one in the hostel and I was free to use the amenities. They must’ve known I was coming because on DVD they had seasons to three of my favorite TV shows: Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Seinfeld. Did some small resupply, ate a crap ton at a Chinese restaurant, and enjoyed the remaining hours of the day watching some of my TV shows.

Miles: 26

Bert’s Steakhouse

Day 53

There was a 20 mile stretch today that I was told had no water sources. So I had to carry enough water to last 20 miles. Fortunately for me, I usually carry enough water to later 30 miles so this felt like nothing. The trail was very exposed and had a fair amount of rock scrambling. At times I was amused at how creative the trail maintainers were in making certain stretches a part of the trail. It was ridiculous at certain points. If it was wet, I would’ve been terrified.

I only wanted to do 20 miles because my feet were cut up. I stopped at a town called Wind Gap. To my luck, at the trailhead I saw an owner of a local restaurant dropping off hikers heading north. His restaurant, Detzi’s Tavern (a local landmark restaurant), allows hikers to camp for free behind. There’s an open field directly behind the restaurant. On top of that, it was wing night at the tavern! The owner dropped me off at the field, I quickly set up my tent, and I raced inside for some wings. In addition I ordered a cheesesteak. I was so stuffed, I stumbled my way back to my tent and passed out.

Miles: 20

Detzi’s Tavern

Day 54

I slept for a good 10 hours. Owners were early at the restaurant and allowed us to use the restroom and fill up our waters. They were awesome, and I’m missing those wings right now. The owner dropped off myself and two other hikers at the trailhead. Thinking I was only gonna do 16 miles to the Delaware Water Gap, I hiked behind them and enjoyed a nice conversation with them. I then learned they planned on doing a 29 mile day. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to hike a big day with company. So I asked if I could join them and they obliged. Their names were Jaugernaut and Pocket Bagel. It was so nice to hike with company. It had been over 400 miles since I hiked with others for a long stretch. And they hiked fast. I was struggling to keep up. They had to have been going between 3-3.5 miles an hour.

We hiked 16 miles by 11:30 and crossed the border into New Jersey. We stopped and had a quick lunch and continued to push. I was told that the rocks were supposed to get better in New Jersey, BUT THOSE WERE LIES. I thought the rocks were even worse here. I was missing the rocks in PA. Didn’t think I’d ever think that. These rocks seriously sucked and it’s hard to convey the frustration that I felt hiking through this part. Trail got more narrower and more rockier. Oh, and also throw in some elevation gain and some 85 degree temperatures and it became literal hell.

I got off the trail and went to the Mohican camp ground to stay at a bunk there while Jaugernaut and Pocket Bagel opted to hike another 2 miles to a fire tower. I needed a nice bed with some soda and some real food after today. And that’s where I am right now.

Miles: ~26

Mohican Outdoor Center

Got through MD and PA in about 11 days. Tacked on a few extra miles as well today which will make the rest of NJ easier. I heard that in 31 miles the rocks will get better. My goal tomorrow is to get about that. NO MORE ROCKS!


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