Rocksylvania: Towns, Views, but Most of all, Rocks
Hello again and thanks for coming back for another mediocre serving of my blog! I know it’s been a while since my last post and for that I apologize, but there hasn’t been all that much to write about. But anyway, on with the content.
One thing I really came to like about Pennsylvania was the availability of town stops. In the last few weeks we’ve stopped into towns, got lunch, dinner, and breakfast, and so I haven’t needed to carry that much food for me or Bella. The streak of restaurants is really helping me maintain my weight (not necessarily a goal, but cool) and experience the smaller trail towns and get to know fellow hikers a bit more by sharing a beer or two.
Another thing I liked when we weren’t stepping on jagged rocks was the flatter stretches. It was the first time the trail really started to ease up a bit and I could stride out, easily averaging 3.5 mph or more. I even liked some of the more aggressive terrain; while it had me swimming in my own sweat, the challenge was welcomed and sometimes appreciated. It’s the first time in trail where we were rock scrambling, and I find that pretty fun. Plus, the views that came with some of the climbs were incredible. Whoever said Pennsylvania has no views was on something because there were some spectacular views. Just look!
Lastly in the good section was everyone I encountered. There were so many day hikers, fellow thru-hikers, and even just random people that were so friendly and welcoming. Not to mention going to visit my fellow thru-hiker and friend’s family, who were such wonderful people and incredibly accommodating. Plus my dad came to pick me up at the historic AT landmark, The Doyle (a 100-year-old, rundown hotel/hostel/holeinthewall) and took me back to Villanova to visit my godfather and great aunt. Even though in trying to get back to the trail we got a flat tire and I ended up having to take a nonintentional zero day, it was most definitely worth it to spend some time with the fam.
First and foremost, Pennsylvania is hell. The sheer amount of rocks angled at positions that almost seem intentionally positioned to damage your feet is perilous and should be illegal. I bought a new pair of shoes right before this damn state and already I need new shoes because of the damage these rocks caused. My own feet, as well as everyone’s I’ve encountered, have felt a real strain. I can confidently say that I will no longer be able to be a foot model after this. On the other hand, Bella’s paw pads seemed to have held up incredibly well for what I thought was going to be the biggest test for her on trail. That may be due partly to my becoming obsessive with putting paw wax on her two or even three times a day, but I also attribute it to how athletic a dog she was prior to the trail. Her small cut in the webbing of her paw has completely healed after a few weeks of vigilant care with antibacterial ointment and a baby sock (so she doesn’t lick it off).
Oh, my dear lord, the heat. Almost every day was over 85, with a few days reaching above 95, all with 100 percent humidity, or close to it. The blistering heat was only made worse by the amount of exposed rocky ridges, and lack of potable water. There were occasions where you wouldn’t get to another water stop for 16-plus miles. All those factors put together combine to make some terribly grumpy hikers, and smelly ones too. My friend who I met on trail named Stark actually came down with heat stroke toward the end of the state because of all this; that’s the extent to which the heat stressed people. But to prepare for this concerning Bella, I carried an extra liter of water at all times and would take breaks for shade whenever I could find it. The rocks were enough on their own to break a grown man’s spirit, but combined with everything you have a concoction that sends many home every year.
Lastly, and partly related to the last section, my group split up. I had been hiking with several other hikers, including Mittens, Stark, Baloo, Spoons, Spock, and Sam (trail name TwoD). Honestly, I think it needed to happen because there was a lot of needless hostility and condescension, and I don’t have time for people who will take away anything from this experience. As much as I loved having people to hike with, bitterness started to set in and some choices and actions others made really became too much to look past. Don’t take this the wrong way and think I’m shitting on any of these people. I understand the stress because I too am going through it and I too can be just as cranky, and I get that. The takeaway here is that I’m happy to be on my own again, and occasionally see others in passing.
So that’s all I have for this little snippet. Sorry it isn’t much but I didn’t write a lot down, and I promise to try harder. I walked out of Pennsylvania today, so into the “flatlands,” aka New Jersey, then New York, where I get to visit my brother in Brooklyn. How bewildering do you think that will be? Stay tuned to find out.
-Batman & Robin
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