We Found More PA Trail Angels

Day 122: 2,600 ft ascent, 15.6 miles

The kind airbnb hosts in Hamburg offered us a ride back to the trail the next morning. As we left, she offered us a warning to stay safe as it was forecast to be the hottest day of the summer. Yay. (Please read dripping in sarcasm.)

The zero the day before was great for our morale and our legs. Even though we were heavy with our food resupply and hot from the temperature, we quickly climbed up out of the valley and hit the ridge line back to the rocks. The day would’ve been completely miserable between the rocks and the heat if we hadn’t have had the break the day before.

The heat wore us down, so we stopped around 6pm by a water source before a bigger climb. Less mileage than we had aimed for at the beginning of the day, but between the weight of the heavy packs, the heat, and the never-ending rocky trail, we called it a day well hiked.

Day 123: 2,030 ft ascent, 13.1 miles

This was forecast to be the last day of the current heat wave, which couldn’t be over soon enough. The day was much like the day before: hot and rocky.

Near 4pm a rainstorm was rolling in. We decided to set up the tent early and stay dry out of the rain. We wanted to make more miles, but walking on wet rocks with tired legs seemed like a bad idea.

My favorite water source marker on the trail!

For a moment I questioned if my excuses to keep avoiding the rain were interfering with my desire to get to Maine. These kind of thoughts always lead to me re-evaluating if I still wanted to be hiking north on the trail. After some thoughtful discussion with Erik, I re-affirmed I wasn’t ready to give up on finishing the trail yet. I was determined to show that to him (and myself) over the next few days of hiking.

Day 124: 2,330 ft ascent, 17.3 miles

Guess what!? More rocks! They don’t end. About halfway through the day we were going to have a fun decent and then ascent out of Lehigh Gap, which promised hand-over-hand climbing in places. I was excited.

About mid-morning we passed some other hikers on the trail. I stopped to talk to them because they had a beagle with them. Within 20 seconds of starting the conversation, Mery Poppins (a local trail angel) was inviting us to stay at her home that evening! I took her phone number unsure if we would take her up on her offer.

Erik had been up ahead of me talking to his mom on the phone when I got this offer, so I brought him up to speed and he was in! Mery Poppins offered to pick us up from a few different trailheads, and we quickly decided to aim for the one that would give us a tough 16-mile day by the end.

We were tentatively looking forward to our upcoming stay that evening. We didn’t know what kind of situation we were going to be getting ourselves into, but whatever it would be would be worth the story.

The mountain up ahead? That’s where we’re headed.

We made it to the pick up point a little after 6pm. There ended up being three other hikers there who were also staying at Mery Poppins’ house. All five of us piled into her car when she got there and we were whisked away.

Mery Poppins had hiked the trail in 1996 and still hikes sections today with her kids. She knows the area does not have a lot of resources (hostels, shuttles, etc.) compared to other segments of the trail, so she offers free stays at her home when she’s available.  In her words: “I don’t charge anything so I can say no when I just want my house to myself.” I can’t blame her for that, although I got the feeling that doesn’t happen often.

We got to her home and divided up our sleeping arrangements. Erik and I had cots in the basement while the other three took the beds and a cot upstairs. We all took turns taking showers while dinner was cooking. When it was ready, boy did we have a feast! As Mery Poppins put it: “If you leave the table hungry that’s on you.” We did not go hungry!

We could not have asked for a better experience! Both Erik and I struggle to accept so much kindness from total strangers. It’s easy to understand why so many former hikers give back to the trail community after their hikes. I know I feel a strong desire to pay forward all of the kindness that we’ve received on trail.

Day 125: 1,570 ft ascent, 15.4 miles

Bright and early the next morning we got dropped off and were back on the trail. We were planning to go 15 miles into Wind Gap to get our next resupply. I had read online about a local restaurant, Detzi’s Tavern, that allowed hikers to sleep in the yard behind the restaurant. We decided to aim for that in hopes we could make the restaurant a home base so we wouldn’t have to carry our full packs all the way 2 miles off trail to the grocery store.

We felt really good walking on the rocks that day, which was a first. They still weren’t easy, but we were getting quicker at navigating them. It was a little before 4pm when we made it to Detzi’s Tavern ready to eat.

From the moment we walked in the door we felt welcomed. The wait staff were quick to tell us the details about camping out back, which to our surprise would also include fresh coffee and a ride back to the trail in the morning!

We ate lunch/dinner and put our hiker hunger at bay again. The waitress asked us what we needed, and we told her we were going to set up our tent and then go get groceries. Before we could take another breath, she was running away from our table. Within a minute she was back telling us to leave everything where it was because the owner of the bar, Joe, was going to give us a ride to the grocery store!

Joe whisked us down the road to the grocery store in his truck. He parked and told us to take our time. Thirty minutes later we were back in the truck and back to the restaurant. Incredible.

We asked for our check when we got back. Our waitress comes over and lets us know that our meals have been covered by locals who donate their rewards program points to hikers! This place just keeps on giving. Thirty dollars saved just like that.

Our tent site for the evening.

We set up our tent in the back with a few other hikers that night. In the morning, Joe had told us to come in the kitchen and he would have hot coffee ready before taking us back the mile to the trail. Pennsylvania may have had very hard and annoying trail tread, but the people we were meeting were by far the kindest and most giving we had met on trail yet!

Day 126: 1,610 ft ascent, 15.5 miles

Joe had coffee for us in the morning as promised. I can function with my normal instant coffee, but fresh brewed coffee on the trail is a real treat. We got dropped off at the trailhead and Joe handed each of us a Hershey’s chocolate bar as a parting gift. This guy looked and talked like a rough biker but he had the biggest heart for hikers. It’s interactions with people like Joe that really make the trail so special.

We were headed from one town to another, a rare thing on the trail up to this point. Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap would be our last stretch in Pennsylvania before crossing into New Jersey. Of course the rocks had to have their last laugh. We alternated between boulder fields and rocky terrain all day.

By this point we were almost used to the rocks though, so even though we had full packs from our resupply we made it the 15 miles into town by about 3:30pm. We considered moving on for a minute since it was so early in the day, but quickly decided against that plan. In New Jersey you are only allowed to camp in designated campsites, and the first one would be up a climb five miles away.

We opted to camp at the Church of the Mountain, which was the first hostel opened on the AT! Although they had bunks and a shower inside, we tented in their backyard. There was a large crowd of maybe 15 hikers that stayed that night.

I was excited to cross off another state the next morning. The state line would make seven states down and seven to go. The milestones help keep me motivated and I was looking forward to see what New Jersey trails had to offer.

The special at the local restaurant: a hot dog and a slice of apple pie!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 1

  • Ann : Jan 2nd

    I am getting caught up on your miles. The people sound great.


What Do You Think?