We Found a Dog (5/21, 5/22, 5/23)
Day 85, 5/21: Cove Mountain shelter -> Peters Mountain shelter (15.0 miles)
I woke up to dad at the picnic table making breakfast. I slept really well in my hammock last night, and didn’t wake up in the middle of the night like I usually do. Rash, Piñata, and I were on our phones in bed until we had to get up. We were doing a leisurely 15 miles today and we were enjoying the luxury of sleeping in. Mom and dad were up, eating breakfast, and packed up before us. They left for the trail followed by Rash and Piñata. I lingered behind, snacking for breakfast instead of making my usual oatmeal.
I talked with OD, a girl who thru hiked 1,300 miles last year and was finishing out her thru hike in sections. When I went to put my shoes on, I was missing one of my blue smartwool socks. I was confused how I managed to lose a sock since I put them in my shoes at night, but it wasn’t anywhere to be found. OD was confident I would find it packed up in my stuff. I hoped she was right.
I put on my spare pair instead. As I was packing up, a man and woman dressed like Amish in a long dress, bonnet, and straw hat came to the shelter. She had a day pack on and was using trekking poles which clashed with the rest of her Amish outfit. They were both very friendly and we talked about the weather and the trail.
After packing up, I did my usual glance around camp to make sure I didn’t leave anything (thanks to leaving my sleeping bag early on), and I realized my parents had left a bag of their food behind with bread, cheese, and sugar snap peas. My pack was already filled to the brim with my huge food bag, so I strapped this bag to the top of my pack. I hurried up the trail to try and catch them so I wouldn’t have to lug around extra food for the entire day.
I met a Hispanic man with his son and dog at a pretty overlook. When the man found out I was a thru hiker that started in Georgia 3 months ago, he told his preteen son to stop complaining about his hour long hike to the overlook. Not far down the mountain I found my parents taking a break on a rock bench. I gave their food back and we continued slowly down the mountain at my mom’s pace. She mentioned her knee was hurting yesterday so we took it extra slow.
We met a day hiking family from Russia that hiked with us for a bit and then turned around for the overlook. We passed through Duncannon and stopped for pizza. We ate and charged our phones (mom’s idea), but didn’t linger so we could get to the shelter before dark.
We walked through the rest of Duncannon and across the Susquehanna bridge. We crossed the railroad tracks and found Hats sitting at the base of the mountain where the trail goes into the woods. We climbed the mountain and stopped for an Advil break for mom. Her knee was getting worse and I was afraid we wouldn’t make it to the far away shelter we planned today. There was a shelter 6 miles before, and we decided to get there and then decide if they wanted to push on.
The trail was very rocky and we had to slide down parts of it sitting down. Dad came to a cave and said he thought he heard bats inside. Later down the trail, a day hiker passed us and said a vulture came out of the cave with a little fledgling behind it, which must have been the noise dad thought was bats. We finally made it to the first shelter, and mom and dad decided to stay there for the night instead of trying to push on. I was glad they were stopping before mom’s knee got worse, but sad to say goodbye. We talked for an hour and then I headed down the trail to Peters shelter.
The rest of the hike was uneventful. There were some pretty views of the town, and the weather was perfect. It was overcast and a tiny bit chilly which made for perfect hiking conditions. There were still lots of rocks, and I tripped and fell forward, which is becoming an every day occurrence. Falling on sore knees hurts. Instead of getting up immediately, which takes a huge amount of energy with a pack on and knees that don’t quite work 100%, I took the opportunity to take a quick break sitting in the middle of the trail.
I got to the shelter and found it was packed with hikers. It was a big double decker and there were only a few spots left. I took my spot next to Piñata, and talked with Rash and Piñata for a while, catching up about our day. Rash and Piñata visited with their aunt and uncle today at a parking area along the trail, and packed out Subway sandwiches. Piñata graciously gave her sandwich to me which was a double win, because I didn’t have to use water to cook. The water is a steep 0.2 miles away and I was trying to avoid getting water here if possible.
There is a hiker here with a dog named Forest. He’s a lab/German shepard mix and super cute. He intently watched me eat the Subway sandwich, with long lines of drool hanging out of his mouth. Luckily this shelter has a bear box so all my overflow food fits without problem.
Day 86, 5/22: Peters Mountain shelter -> Rausch Gap shelter (18.0 miles)
I woke up sore with my back hurting after sleeping on the shelter floor. We slept in the shelter because it was supposed to rain overnight, which it didn’t do. Rash was sore too, and we decided to hammock tonight regardless of the forecast. Rash and Piñata packed up and left, and I ate breakfast and talked with Hilton (Forest’s owner) and Northern Lights (Hilton’s German girlfriend).
Not long after I started, I ran into Rookie taking a break to switch out clothes. It was supposed to rain so lots of people were wearing their rain gear. Rookie is still in high school, and she’s hiking a section of the trail instead of an internship for school. We hiked together and talked for a while, and it was nice to have someone to motivate me to hike faster and have a good conversation. We caught up to British Chris and he kept up with us. Our trio stopped for water and continued on, crossing a road and a parking area.
Not far after crossing the road, we came across an alarming sight. A man with a pack on was lying face down in the middle of the trail. Rookie and I were up front and saw him, so we threw our poles down and ran over to him, shouting if he was ok or could hear us. We get to him and I grab his pack to roll him, half expecting a dead body, when he turns his head up and grins at us. His name is 44, and he was hanging out with Rookie yesterday. When he heard us coming, he wanted to play a prank on Rookie. He got up and apologized to me and British Chris for us being collateral damage of his prank.
Once we recovered from almost finding a dead body on the trail, we told 44 the prank war was on and he should watch his back. We continued on, and stopped for lunch at a rusty orange colored stream. It rained briefly during our lunch and we donned our rain gear for a few minutes, but it was only a sprinkle. We hiked on and passed a few other hikers taking a lunch break. We took another break when we were 5-6 miles from the shelter. The terrain was beautifully flat and didn’t take much effort to walk over.
We get to the shelter and I found Rash and Piñata along with 2 section hikers. Rash and I set up our hammocks along with our rain tarps, even though the chance of rain was slim. He hadn’t set up his in a while and it smelled musty. This was the first time I was setting mine up and I was nervous I didn’t make the guy lines the right length, but I made it work. I was also excited to find my other blue sock I was missing stuffed inside my hammock, making OD right about lost things usually being stuffed away somewhere in the pack.
We cooked dinner in the shelter and I ate way too much mac and cheese. We turned in at 8:00 while it was still light outside.
Day 87, 5/23: Rausch Gap shelter -> Hertline campsite (23.1 miles)
It took a while to take down my tarp and hammock set up this morning, but I was glad for the tarp. It didn’t rain, but there were a couple places where birds pooped on my tarp overnight, and I was glad it was on my tarp and not me. Rash, Piñata, and I made breakfast and headed out together.
It was overcast and slightly cool, so perfect hiking weather. We crossed a beautiful bridge and took a break. Hiking was going slow this morning as it does every morning, and the miles were only trickling by. We found a trash can and happily dumped our several days worth of trash. I realized I only had a couple gummy packs left, and tried, unsuccessfully, to ration them. They were becoming my favorite thing to eat in my food bag.
We crossed under I-80, and started up the gradual climb. A southbound hiker we met asked if we lost a dog. Apparently a dog was running loose up ahead. We came to a gallon zip bag of dog food on a rock, and later down the trail we came across 2 thru hikers I’d met before who do southbound sections with their dog Scout. They had another dog with them, the lost dog, who decided to tag along with them. They weren’t interested in keeping the lost dog, and since we were going into town soon, we figured we could at least try and find out if he’s microchipped then.
The dog looked clean and well fed, and was super friendly. We gave him the temporary name of Benny after Benton MacKaye who came up with the idea for the Appalachian trail. Piñata gave him some water, and we hiked on, our new friend in tow.
Watering our new friend
We stopped for water at William Pen shelter, and Benny’s paws got covered in mud. We gave him some pepperoni, beef jerky, and some peanut butter. Butterfeet joined us and we all gave Benny lots of attention. Our trio + Benny hiked on. We were approaching a road crossing, so Piñata used her hammock tree strap and carabiner as a make shift leash so Benny wouldn’t run into traffic. We met a man and a woman in the parking area and asked if they were missing a dog. They weren’t, but the woman, named Jessica, was wearing a Petsmart t-shirt. She offered to bring the dog to an animal shelter where her friend works to get him scanned for a microchip.
It was bittersweet saying goodbye to our 4 legged hiking friend who we’d known for half a day, but hopefully he could be reunited with his owners. We thanked Jessica and headed on our way. We had another 6 or so miles to do and it was getting dark fast. Those 6 miles were covered in rocks and were slow going, but we had good group discussions which made time go by faster. All our feet hurt and we stopped to rest when we had 3 miles to go. I felt like my feet knew when they had walked 20 miles, and they decide to hurt extra hard after that point.
We got into camp as it was getting dark and hung out hammocks and tarps since there’s a 30% chance of rain early in the morning. We made dinner which tasted extra good since I was so tired, and I went to get water down the steep bank in the pitch dark. I have service in my hammock, and tomorrow is town day, so I don’t have to worry about draining my phone battery. I went to sleep listening to owls talking back and forth across the forest.
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