Rocky, Buggy, Hot, and a Whole Hell Of a Lot: Pennsylvania

In recent events we have reached the end of Pennsylvania. It has been one hell of a ride, from rocks to Sake bars. From July Fourth at Gettysburg to ordering Pizza from a road gap. Rocky, buggy, and and a whole hell of a lot. It has been incredibly beautiful and painful, my feet are still screaming about the rocks. So many people complain about how tough the trail here is on your feet and body. I wonder if they stop to appreciate the other little things. Like berries on the roadside, walking through multiple historic monuments, the quality swimming holes, or the porcupines. But this place is great and beautiful despite its rough and tough exterior.

On the Conditions

It feels like a huge mental achievement getting through the halfway point and on to 1,200 miles. Moving past the halfway is almost surreal, up until now I have had more trail ahead of me than behind me. It feels real, like walking this trail is more achievable by getting into the first Northern State. I thoroughly enjoyed our time at Pine Grove Furnace state park and taking a zero with friends, but unfortunately, we are here to walk and we have to keep moving forward.

We have encountered so much on this section of trail. Beaver flooded trails, porcupines, and bears. It is insane the amount of wildlife present near and around the trail. Despite the animal and nature made obstacles, it has been a blast hiking this section of state. It has really challenged my problem solving and quick-thinking skills trying to navigate a beaver flooded pond or a particularly tricky rock scramble.

I don’t know what happened, but it has gotten really hot. Like extremely hot and buggy. Having to hike outside of the green tunnel is like walking in a steam oven with black flies that just want to fly in your ears, mouth, eyes, and nose (honestly any orifice if given the chance). It is miserable and annoying. We have spent most of our time trying to avoid the heat by waking up earlier in the day and hiking at night. Even so, it is still a sweaty miserable exhausting time. You feel tired from waking up early, drained from the high heat and sun, and exhausted by the time you crawl into camp. Only to repeat the whole ordeal again. Dreamsicle and I struggle getting up early in the mornings and we have learned the lesson about not pressing the snooze option on the alarm. You are going to pay for those precious moments of extra sleep by hiking in the soul melting heat.

On the State

Despite the conditions due to the season, I like Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is a gorgeous state, despite the rocky tough trail. People complain about how rocky and soul crushing the rock scrambles are. But honestly, the trail has become easier in terms of elevation and I prefer scrambles over super insane steep climbs. Though this state has shown me it is an overachiever and it can do both, just not all the time.

My only beef with Pennsylvania is that the towns don’t feel as hiker friendly as the south. Boiling Springs was historic and neat and Duncannon had a cool free church hostel, but the towns feel like they are lacking in small businesses and character. The towns we have walked through feel like they are lacking character like many of the southern towns and they seem a bit full of themselves. Some haven’t been particularly hiker friendly or act like they are better than the hikers who walk through, this was particularly noted when a bartender tried not to serve hikers until we had all showered. The towns and businesses haven’t been as friendly and the services/infrastructure that hikers had access to in the southern states are lacking up here. In the south, the small towns felt alive and full of character with well supported small businesses. Perhaps we have just gone through at bad times or missed the “good spots,” but it feels like Pennsylvania begrudgingly tolerates us and wants to cater to a ” better crowd.”

On the Trail

In better news, Dreamsicle and I have been impressed with the quality of swim sites. On trail we have been able to find swimming holes, lakes, and large bodies of water in which to swim… Or skinny dip. No matter the dress code, IT IS THE BEST. Despite most of the pools are frigid from recent rainstorms, it is a blessing and a relief to take a break from walking and sweating to clean up and play.

Something that I have noticed on trail when interacting with other thru-hikers is that we play. Like children, we unabashedly throw our whole beings into playing and feeling unrestricted by our own demands or agenda. It has been freeing to jump into a frigid body of water or play a random game of frisbee, just let go to play with fellow hikers. Seeing them as friends and peers rather than competition.

On the mind

I finished my last night in Pennsylvania while writing this. I have had an amazing last few days. Nero and zero with Dreamsicle’s kind and thoughtful family (I know, we are spoiled). We have caught up to a bunch of friends in Delaware Water Gap at a Sake Brewery and it has been a fun and silly night. One might call it a “Sake Silly” night.

Maybe it’s the sake talking, but this is the type of night that makes the trail feel surreal. A bunch of stinky sweaty people hanging out in a bar, not giving a damn in the world as we all laugh and commiserate about our experiences since our last reunion. It felt so genuine and light, not one concern about the situation, everyone was just so glad to be there sharing this experience with one another.

Not one of us caring about who got to town first or how quickly they were returning to trail. Not a single person rushing to get to Katahdin. We were only concerned about the present moment and the time we were sharing together. These are the moments so many of us looks forward to on trail, not just being out in nature, but meeting and making new friends and sharing those moments with wonderful people. The trail always provides.



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Comments 3

  • John : Jul 22nd

    Being a Pennsylvania native I can 100% agree with you about the dismal state of Pennsylvania. Yes the small towns are about As Dead As it gets the people are very rude to ignorant and yes it sucks here. But not all of us are like that too bad you weren’t passing through my area. Hopefully you have a more enjoyable trip as you get out of the Northeast death valley known as Pennsylvania

  • thetentman : Jul 22nd

    Get the Deet ready. NJ beckons.

    Nice post.


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