There’s No Place Like Home
Dorothy had it right – hiking through your home state is amazing! Not only do you get lots of visits from your family and friends, but you get to see everything in a whole new light! I have been driving through and around the mountains that make up the AT in Pennsylvania for my entire life, and have gone on countless day hikes on a good amount of them. However, waking up and going to sleep in these mountains everyday has let me appreciate them in a whole new way.
I love the ferns that cover seemingly every piece of available real estate, how soft the dirt feels while hiking on it, and I am falling in love with how beautiful the fields of rocks are.
It seems that many hikers, including myself, have a love / hate relationship with these PA rocks though. Sure, they are beautiful, but the pain they cause to hikers just might outweigh their beauty. Instead of taking my word for it, let’s hear what some other thru hikers have to say about the rocks:
“I would rather walk barefoot on hot coals”
“They are like a meat tenderizer for your feet”
“A broken ankle waiting to happen”
“I imagine this is what hell feels like”
It’s true, the literal millions of sharp, jagged rocks makes for some painful hiking and sore feet at the end of the day. According to some southbounders, the rocks are only going to get worse before we leave the state. Who knows, maybe the rocks will kill me before I get to tell you how bad they really get…..
Day 47: James got picked up from Boiling Springs early this morning, and I began a rather flat section of the trail. This would have been awesome news if it wasn’t for the lack of water in this stretch and the endless farms I hiked through (which made for very little shade). It was around the hottest part of the day when I ran into some trail magic just when I needed it most! A former thru hiker by the name of “Oak” had Gatorade and hot dogs right next to the banks of creek that was really pretty, but badly polluted from farming pesticides. After the recharge, I made it to the first shelter of the day. I had about 14 miles under my belt and the day was still young. A hiker named Lighten Up and myself decided to push it and continue to the next shelter. In doing so, I completed my longest day yet! At the end of 21.5 miles, I was definitely exhausted. I was really proud of myself for pressing on and making it that far though!
Day 48: I woke up with some sore feet from both the long day and climbing over so many rocks the day before. I got out of my tent though and hiked the 4.5 miles down to Duncannon. The trail in PA is really cool because you pass directly through a good number of small towns – Duncannon possibly being the most well known among hikers. I resupplied my food, and continued on my way. We crossed the Susquehanna River and then started the pretty steep climb out of Duncannon. I was exhausted from the climb, dripping in sweat from the humidity, and just when I sat down for the break, it started raining. With kind of low spirits, I decided to call it a day and head to the next shelter. Much to my surprise, there were quite a few other hikers there as well who were just exhausted from the rocks. We all sat around playing card games and talking for the rest of the night.
Day 49: I woke up this morning feeling much better than the day before. I skipped down the mountain where my sorority sister, Hayley, picked me up for a brunch date. Getting a good meal and getting out of the humidity was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits all the way up again. Hayley and I sat for a while and chatted, and then she dropped me back off at the trail. Within an hour, the sky turned dark and I heard thunder rolling in the distance. Lucky though, I was saved from the storm by two other hikers who set up their hammock rain fly to wait out the storm. We continued hiking after the storm just to get poured on only an hour later. After a few hours of hiking in the rain, I decided to camp next to this beautiful creek and waterfall for the night. Right before we got to camp though, I saw my first rattlesnake on the trail! He was hiding in some rocks, and I’m not even sure if he saw me. He was a reminder though to keep watching my step around the rocky sections of the trail where snakes live.
Day 50: The humidity is finally gone after the massive storms yesterday. It made for some nice hiking because I wasn’t covered in sweat all day long. The rocks continued to pick up today, but I am hoping that my feet will get used to them soon! I camped at the William Penn Shelter and got the nicest spot on some flat, soft dirt and surrounded by beautiful trees!
Day 51: I hiked about 4.5 miles to the next shelter and got there just in time for lunch… Which was perfect because this shelter is close enough to the road to order pizza! After the best trail lunch I have had yet, I hiked another 5 miles to the most perfect swimming hole I have ever seen. The the water was clear and blue green, and I sat and watched the fish swim around for a while. The water was ice cold so I didn’t go swimming, but it was the perfect spot to take a break. I then hiked another 9.5 miles to the Eagles Nest Shelter which also had beautiful campsites. There were s lot of people there so we all say around talking for the rest of the night!
Day 52: A group of us raced the rain and hiked a quick 9 miles into Port Clinton. The town lets hikers stay at a pavilion in one of the parks for free, so there were a lot of hikers hanging out and setting up camp. My old roommate, Lindsay, picked me up for dinner so that I wouldn’t have to eat Pasta Sides for the 5th time this week so shoutout to her! After dinner I went swimming in a creek and took a “hobo bath” to try to get some of the grime off before my family visits tomorrow. After the refreshing dip, I set up my tent at the pavilion. It was kind of weird because we were surrounded by the main road the goes through Port Clinton on the one side, and a highway on the other. It made for a pretty loud night with not a lot of sleep, but I got to sleep in the next day while waiting for my family to arrive so it all balances out!
Day 53: Hamburg, PA is the closest the trail comes to my hometown, so my family decided to take the day and visit me! We visited the nearby Yuengling Brewery, which is the oldest brewery in the country. We also visited the largest Cabela’s store in the US. After getting dinner, I decided to go home with my family so that I could celebrate the Fourth of July with them (and get a real shower/ do my laundry).
Days 54-57: I spent some time at home kayaking and tubing down the Schuylkill River with my family. During the last few weeks, I have been feeling extremely tired on the trail. In addition, I have been having muscle pains, lightheadedness, and a loss of appetite (which is scary considering I have been burning around 5,000-6,000 calories a day and need all the food I can get). I went to the doctor while I was home, just to make sure everything was alright, and the doctor had a strong feeling that Lyme disease was to blame. They took some blood, prescribed some antibiotics, and said that I was okay to go back in the trail whenever I felt better. I decided to take a few days off to rest up and get my body used to the antibiotics since they were making me feel pretty sick. The doctor said that Lyme Disease is curable if treated early, and thankfully I got everything taken care of not long after symptoms started. Hopefully now I will feel awesome on the trail and be able to crank out some big miles!
Total miles hiked: 486.6
Miles to go: 1702.7
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