Things Get Rocky

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Day 95: Duncannon to Peters Mountain Shelter (11.4 miles, marker 1160.9)

Very easy walk out of town today. Got some laundry done while I enjoyed breakfast and then hung out at the Kind Of Outdoorsy Hostel for a little while. Headed out around 11:00 a.m. to get some delicious ice cream at 3Bs and then continued along the trail.

It began with a long walk through town and over a couple bridges followed by a very difficult rock walk to the shelter. I’ve started to feel very down. I’m beginning to get a very despondent feeling about this hike. I’m pretty sure I’ve been pushing too hard which is burning me out and drawing the joy out of the journey. I was reassured when I reached out to Sabrina to talk about how I was feeling and she pointed out that it was actually kinda amazing this was my first serious emotional breakdown in over 1100 miles. While I do appreciate that perspective, and it helps remind me that I’m really enjoying this journey, some moments gonna suck. But that’s just life. Got to camp, set up for the night, had a social dinner at the shelter which was nice, and then climbed into my tent for some quiet solitude.

Day 96: Peters Mountain Shelter to Rausch Gap Shelter (17.8 miles, marker 1178.7)

Rain all day today. This did not help to brighten my mood. I did take the opportunity to talk to Sabrina for about an hour on my walk today which helped greatly. It is supposed to rain for the next four days straight. I’m trying to adjust my hiking plan to get out of the rain a little bit, but still make it to the New Jersey border by the end of the month. Additionally, my right shoulder blade has begun to ache, and after an entire day of wearing a pack has become very stiff. At least the rocks have become much gentler for this portion of the walk. Got to camp by 6:00, made dinner, and went right to bed. I was not much in the mood social attraction, so I set up my tent at the end of a raised path off the shelter.

Day 97: Rausch Gap Shelter to 501 Shelter, Pine Grove, PA (17.7 miles, marker 1196.4)

I’m beginning to feel the effects of going too long without taking a day off.

I’m not enjoying the trail as much in the individual moments, and have also begun to feel a constant ache in my right shoulder. That’s not the critical part though. I’m not making as good decisions as I usually do and I’m pretty sure it’s due to burnout. I’ve realized I’m critically low on food and am going to have to get a shuttle for a resupply sometime tonight. I also made a bad water carry choice and didn’t carry quite enough today between Swatara Gap and the next shelter. The weather turned very hot and humid, and the sweat was just pouring off me. As I walked, I slowly became more and more tired and then began to feel nauseous and overheated. I found a shady spot near a tree and took a long break, nursing my last half liter of water. I dug through my food bag and ate the four jelly packets intended for PB&J wraps just to get some sugar into me quickly. After resting for about thirty minutes and eating my last Cliff bar, I walked more slowly, to not sweat so much or overheat more. I finally made it to the next water, where I drank a liter and a half and carried plenty on. I also spoke to some other hikers who were sucking down water as well, and discovered that if I pushed two miles beyond my original plan, I could order out from a pizzeria. This meant I could resupply the next morning, which would be a much better plan. Once at the shelter, I got myself a large pie for dinner and breakfast, and a chicken parmesan sandwich that I could eat for lunch the next day. The shelter was enclosed barn style and smelled like a dozen wet hikers, but the bunks were individual and I was not impressed with the surrounding campsites, so I slept in a bunk. There was also a caretaker who lived next door and allowed hikers to use the spigot on the side of his house for potable water and to plug in to charge devices. This was a very social scene, and after good food and good social time my spirits were lifted and I was able to sleep with a lighter heart and a belly full.

Day 98: 501 Shelter, Pine Grove, PA to Eagles Nest Shelter (14.9 miles, marker 1211.3)

Woke up today with a new plan. Trying to make it to NJ without a break and just planning breaks there was clearly foolish. It’s caused me mental difficulty and possibly a shoulder injury. I took some ibuprofen and did some stretching to start the day, and then looked over my plan and decided to take a day off in Hamburg, PA. This would involve two reasonable days, a fifteen and a nine to get there. I would not make it to NJ by June 30th as my original plan, so instead I’ve resigned myself to either make it to Palmerton or Wind Gap and get picked up there for the weekend off, and then get dropped off in NJ with the friends I’ve been trying to catch in order to enjoy hiking with them again. I’m close enough to home now that I can easily complete 15 – 40 miles of trail in one or two day hikes. I found an AirBNB in Hamburg to rest a day. It was a reasonably priced one bedroom apartment with two beds. Along my hike I ran into Grey and Buzzsaw, and they mentioned that Navigator (the third of three whom I had recently met) was just ahead and would likely want to join me. He did, and we all camped at the same site that evening discussing the plan for the next day. The hiking was rocky today but the elevation changes were pretty mellow and there were not too many great views, though there were a few.

We hiked through a historical area which was a part of the French and Indian War with some interesting markers set up explaining the area which was pretty neat.

My back and shoulder continue to hurt and are only getting worse. I will be happy to lie on my cork ball this evening and wiggle around for a while.

Day 99: Eagles Nest Shelter to Port Clinton, PA (8.8 miles, marker 1220.1)

Today was a very difficult hike. My shoulder has really begun to hurt over the past couple days, and even with my self massage and ibuprofen, I found myself stopping every mile or so to wedge my cork ball between my back and a tree to release some of the pain. The final descent into Port Clinton was very steep and rocky, followed by crossing over some train tracks and into town.

The church in town had set up a shelter where folks were allowed to stay, and I made my way there to wait with Navigator, Buzzsaw, Grey, Bumblebee and Podcast for the shuttle that Cabela’s sends three times a day during thru-hiker season. We got a ride in, and as soon as we entered the store the skies opened up into a torrential downpour. After wandering through the strange store with hundreds of taxidermied animals, I bought a new fuel canister and a Mountain House meal and since the rain stopped, we all walked over to the Red Robin for a meal. Again the skies opened up while we were inside, the best timed day yet. Eventually, Navigation and I got a Lyft to the AirBNB, and after spreading out our stuff to air/dry, we walked down to the Brewery for dinner.

Day 100: Zero in Hamburg, PA

This was a very nice and needed day off. My back and shoulder still hurt, but it’s good to give them a rest. I had a conversation with Brainstorm a couple weeks back about the pack I have, and how she had to switch packs because of a similar injury. I’m currently hiking with the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60, which I’ve loved until now, but it does not have great load lifters to get weight off the shoulders and onto the hips. I’m wondering if this might be some of the source of my issue. I decided to arrange as many slackpack days as I could between here and NJ to get the weight off my shoulder, and made some phone calls to arrange a transport of most of my gear from here to The Lookout Hostel 26 miles up the trail tomorrow.

We got a phenomenal and incredibly inexpensive breakfast at the 3rd St. Cafe and then did a little resupply shopping and most of the rest of the day was just relaxation and journaling. Dinner was Texas BBQ, right next door to our apartment. We we also about a block from a fascinating house surrounded by welded artwork which was beautiful.

Day 101: Port Clinton, PA to PA Rt. 309, The Lookout Hostel (26.5 miles, marker 1246.6)

Slackpacking today was a great idea. My shoulder still hurts, but with a day’s rest and a very light pack I was able to deal with the pain and also make some serious miles. Mentally, I was able to handle a long hike better than usual. The rocks were tough, and still a little wet, so hiking with a lighter load definitely made things a little easier. There were a few nice views along the way, including The Pinnacle, a beautiful spot with great views. I enjoyed my lunch there, vigilant of my surroundings as I saw multiple copperheads hiding amongst the rocks. I had packed plenty of water and a large Italian sub sandwich, which I shared with the inhabitants of the last shelter where I stopped for a second lunch. I rolled into The Lookout Hostel around 6:30 pm, making the entire journey in just ten hours. After showering and getting some clothes in the laundry, I wandered outside by the firepit and met a hiker/shuttle driver named Icarus, and his awesome dog dagger. We went over to the Thunderhead Lodge just down the street for a burger and some beers. He shared with me some interesting options for tomorrow’s hike, and arranged to bring me my gear at the Blue Mountain Lodge, which was 21 miles up trail, so I could slackpack again.

Day 102: PA Rt. 309 To Tentsite after Blue Mountain Road (20.9 miles, marker 1267.5)

Nice hike today. The first fourteen miles were relatively easy as far as terrain goes except for the rockyness of the trail. The views have continued to be very hazy from the Canadian wildfires. Some of today’s hike was familiar territory since I did a multiday hike with Sabrina a little over a year ago. The flora of the area is very interesting because the entire area around Palmerton, PA was wrecked by zinc mining over the years, and there is a huge restoration effort in place to revegetate the area. After crossing the Lehigh River, I climbed a steep rock scramble which was likely the most difficult climb of the journey so far.

After the climb, the trail loops into the woods for a while, where the trail was re-routed in 2008 so the restoration could use the road along the ridgeline for trucks to come through. I did this hike two years ago so instead I decided to retroblaze the original trail by bushwhacking a little through the woods and onto the road. The fenced restoration areas were fascinating and I enjoyed this part of the hike immensely.

Eventually, I came out to Blue Mountain Road, crossed onto the AT for about another mile until I found a small path that led about 50 feet through the woods and came out at the top of one of the ski slopes for Blue Mountain Resort and Lodge. I hiked down and met Icarus for dinner and to collect my equipment before hiking back up to the trail and finding a site to camp.

Day 103: Tentsite after Blue Mountain Road to Wind Gap (13.9 miles, marker 1281.4)

This is my first day hiking for a little while with my full pack weight and it was a challenge. I desperately need a few days off, as my shoulder is not in good shape. The hike today is mostly a very rocky walk in the woods, which I’m just intent on getting through and getting a few days at home to rest, get a massage, and try to heal and come back on trail on Monday. I will see about getting a new pack that has greater load lifters to take the weight off my shoulders and distributes it more on my hips and the front of my pectoral area. I took a long lunch to massage myself for an extra twenty minutes with my cork ball, and then finished up the day’s hike with the steep descent into Wind Gap and waited for Angela to pick me up. A beautiful sight and beautiful reprieve when she arrived.

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Comments 1

  • Sabrina Chase : Jul 3rd

    Love, I’m just glad you used all your resources to get through this rough patch! You did well and met the challenge head on! I’m really happy that you got a new pack. See you soon, dear!


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