Pennsylvania: The Land of Rocks, Rain and Radical Decisions
As I walked across the Delaware River Bridge with the rain coming down and the wind blowing my umbrella around, I thought, “This is it, Pennsylvania. I’m sure the rocks won’t be as bad as everyone’s been saying, right?” Not exactly.
Not only did the rocks make my feet hurt, they were the last straw for my shoes. Granted, my shoes were far past their suggested mileage use, but I’m a thru hiker! So I pushed them a little further.
Besides Pennsylvania chewing up my shoes, for the first time I realized how alone I was. I wasn’t walking with anyone. When I did see people it was only in passing on the trail or for a short evening at the shelters. For a while, I was happy to be pushing myself, but the solitude got old.
About halfway through the state, one of the worst storms hit that I’ve seen all trail. I was sleeping in Eagles Nest Shelter with another SOBO named Cauldron, when I swear that the shelter moved from how loud the thunder was. Cauldron and I leapt awake and looked at each other in shock. By the time we woke up in the morning the rain had stopped, but I knew the aftermath of that storm would affect the day. Nearly the entire day, I walked through 6 inch streams and ponds. They flooded the trail and the water from the wet growth dripped into my socks.
I was miserable.
At day’s end I was sitting in my tent, rubbing my feet after the 24 miles of walking, thinking about the day, which I have since deemed the worst day on the trail. I was sad and not having any fun, and the question entered my mind,
Why am I doing this?
“I’m lonely and slogging through every day by myself, what is the point?”
Around this time, I thought of my friend Treebeard, about 130 miles ahead of me. I texted him asking how he was liking being alone, how he’d been handling similar problems. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun we would have together. Then I made the bold decision. I asked Treebeard what he thought about me jumping up and hiking with him until Springer. He was stoked about the idea.
Although its untraditional, and I won’t technically be going from Maine to Georgia, I’ll be happy. I’ll get to go through milestones with a friend, and that will make this adventure more meaningful than getting to write ME–>GA on everything.
Now, I only talked about the bad things that happened in Pennsylvania, but there was a lot of good that came out of this state too! I started hiking much bigger miles, averaging more than 20 a day, which I’ve been wanting to do for some time. The 1000 mile marker passed, which really made me feel like I was doing something. Then I crossed the halfway point, and every step I took, I knew I had walked farther than I had left on the trail.
Of course, I will still hike the whole trail. After I get to Springer, I’ll make my way back up to the middle of Shenandoah and hike north to Harpers Ferry. My adventure will end at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters, which will be cool in its own way. This makes it my own journey, my own path, which is really what it’s all about.
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