Week 12-The Halfway Point and southern Pennsylvania

Day 78

I had a nice zero in Harpers Ferry with my mom and grandma. The first time I’d hiked through town I only stayed for a couple hours, so it was really nice to be able to explore the history and take in more of the area.

The tree of us at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers

Mom has demanded that I tell you all that my dirty clothes were so gross that they made the entire hotel room smell. Which is true, they were gross. Trying to clean your clothes in the shower is definitely not as good as the washing machine, and my clothes hadn’t gotten a real wash in a couple weeks at that point. It was stinky in that hotel room for a bit before we took my clothes to get clean.

Day 79

After packing up the hotel room and driving back into Pennsylvania I made it back on trail a little before noon. The trail went over a handful of small ups and downs before climbing a ways up to Chimney Rock. The day was fairly sunny and warm, but within the span of an hour the fluffy white clouds on the edges of the sky turned into gray clouds that quickly covered the sun. I checked my phone and saw that a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for the area, and as rumbles of thunder and light rain started I picked up my pace as much as I could to try to get to the next shelter four miles away before the storm hit. Every time the rain would pick up I thought a big deluge was coming, but after a little while I noticed some patches of blue sky showing through the clouds, and when I checked the weather again it looked like the storm had passed over me without breaking, and all my rushing was for nothing. A few minutes later I passed the shelter I had been trying to get to, but decided to keep going since it was barely sprinkling anymore. Toward the end of the day the trail led through Caledonia State Park and then up and over a hill to an area with a small stream and thick rhododendron tunnels that reminded me of the trail back in North Carolina and Tennessee. I paused next to a part of the stream that widened and deepened to a little pool and was fascinated to see a little natural whirl pool where the pool drained into the ground below.

The cool little whirlpool. I’m easily entertained out here

I messed around with the whirl pool for a bit by sticking my fingers into it, but it always reformed quickly. I finished my day by making it to the Quarry Gap shelter which was nice because it had a swing, sun dial, and flowers, but also one of the two mini shelters was cordoned off due to a tree falling onto it, and there were only two tent pads next to the shelter and no dry and flat areas to set up a tent other than the pads, not my favorite. I had to walk another little while to get to the large group camping area which had a couple more tent pads, and I set up my tent and made dinner for the night.

Day 80

I slept in a bit and didn’t get started hiking until almost 9 am. After a little climb the trail flattened out and I started cruising along. The morning was pretty warm and humid but more thunderstorms were predicted for around noon, and a couple different people I passed during the morning mentioned the bad weather that was approaching. Luckily, there was a shelter in just a few miles, and I pulled into Birch Run shelter around 11:45 glad to have cover from the impending storm. And then I waited… the weather app said noon to one was when it was going to hit, and the county was under a severe storm warning until 2 pm, but as I sat there it was just overcast and breezy and I felt silly missing out on hiking for a storm that seemingly didn’t exist. At around one I decided to head out after spotting some blue sky in the distance, definitely feeling lame for having sat around for so long without reason. Early in the afternoon I passed the official halfway point for the trail this year: 1097.15 miles done!

Wooooo halfway!

This was pretty exciting as was the 1100 mile marker I walked by a few miles later. I only have to walk everything I already have again and I’ll be at Katahdin, that’s nothing right? Ever since I learned about hiking the AT I’d been excited by the idea of the half gallon challenge, where hikers eat a half gallon of ice cream in Pine Grove Furnace State Park to celebrate getting to the halfway point. I was pretty disappointed to see that with my hour long (non-existent) storm delay I wasn’t going to make it to the park by the 4 pm closing time of their general store to be able to get the ice cream. This honestly bummed me out pretty badly since it was the only trail challenge that I’d wanted to try, and I spent most of the rest of the afternoon feeling kind of mopey. Around 3:30 (an hour and a half after the thunder storm warning had ended) darker clouds rolled in and I heard some thunder rumbling, but the clouds only released light rain that helped cool me off, and after half an hour I could see that the storm clouds had passed over me. Around 4:50 I made it into Pine Grove Furnace State Park, and looked at the old iron master’s mansion before passing by the store, thinking that I’d pause there to sit at the picnic tables for a bit. A couple section hikers I’d seen at the last shelter were also sitting there, and to my surprise they said that the store was closing in ten minutes! I raced into the store and grabbed my tubs of ice cream while asking the cashier why they were still open. Apparently that very day was the first day of their hours changing to their extended summer hours. The trail always provides and boy was I feeling lucky and thrilled to be able to take part in the challenge. I sat down at a picnic table and got enthusiastically started on the pint sized container of vanilla ice cream.

Half a gallon of icecream

While I was eating two thru hikers walked over from the nearby hostel and they sat down with me to chat while I worked my way through the ice cream. I started slowing down once I got a little ways into the large tub of chocolate ice cream, and I realized that a full half gallon may have been a little ambitious. I shared some ice cream with the hikers, but even so I was left with about a pint or so that I couldn’t finish. Even though I didn’t succeed in this challenge I had SO much fun hanging out and eating ice cream on a beautiful day. I said bye to the two hikers and then continued down the trail which was flat and stayed next to a pretty creek through the rest of the park. The last few miles were slightly uphill and I had to pause to make a couple of ice cream burps as I climbed up. Eventually I came across a nice stealth site next to the trail and set up my damp tent and gear to dry out a bit before crawling into bed for the night.

Day 81

I slept in a little bit but didn’t feel too bad about it since I only had about 15 miles before I’d get to the town of Boiling Springs for the night. The morning started off fairly easy with a slight downhill to a slightly more urban area, where the trail then crossed a few roads and was in sight of some stores before going through a well maintained preserve with some nice streams and swamp areas. I had a pretty easy time of it until the last seven or so miles when the trail went up and down a handful of pointless ups and downs that were pretty rocky, especially at the tops of the hills where the blazes had to include arrows that directed me into narrow rock corridors and scrambles that were especially tricky. After the final descent I came out into farmland, and walked next to fields of wheat and other crops as the trail wound its way toward Boiling Springs. The town was small but charming, with a central pond full of ducks and geese, and tons of outdoor benches to hang out on.

Watching some cute ducklings was just another plus to being in Boiling Springs

I grabbed a meatball sub for dinner and sat around the pond while eating it. My day had been relatively short, only fifteen miles, but there was a no camping section starting right after town that stretched another fifteen miles, and I knew I wasn’t able to push 30 miles,  I was fine with staying at the town’s camping area for the night after my short day.

Day 82

Boiling Spring’s camping area was less than 100 ft away from the train tracks, and I could feel the ground rumble as a couple trains screeched by overnight. Luckily I fell back asleep quickly after the trains passed, and I woke up early feeling pretty good. I grabbed breakfast at a cafe before hitting the trail, excited for the fifteen mile flat stretch. These fifteen miles have to be the longest amount of flat on the whole trail, and I enjoyed walking through the farmlands and wooded copses in the cool morning air.

A nice section of trail through farmlands

Eventually the trail started angling up again, and even though the climb had looked pretty steep I powered through it pretty quickly before pausing at Darlington Shelter. The shelter privy was huge and clean, and was aptly named the Taj Mahal. It was definitely one of the top privies I’ve visited so far on trail. I continued on, not having too much trouble until I climbed onto a ridge after which the trail became very rocky and stayed that way the rest of the day. Super rocky trail slows me down a lot in addition to making my feet and ankles sore, and I felt myself losing steam until I got to the final descent. The last downhill into Duncannon was steep and rocky, and my knees and feet weren’t happy as I slowly made my way down, with lots of winces and grumbling. At last the trail spit me out onto a road and I made my way into Duncannon and to the Doyle hotel for the night. There were plenty of other hikers staying at the hotel, and I grabbed dinner with a few of them after my shower, but I quickly headed to bed once I was done eating since I was feeling pretty tired after my 25 mile day.

Day 83

I woke up after a good night of sleep in the hotel but after getting breakfast and resupplying I found myself feeling tired and lazing around in my hotel room for a little while before I made myself unenthusiastically pack up and head out. The trail stayed on the sidewalks of Duncannon for a bit before crossing a bridge and then turning onto a busy highway. Fortunately there was a barrier separating the walking section from the speeding cars, but it still wasn’t the most pleasant section of trail to walk on. After navigating the highway the trail started climbing up the side of a ridge, and in my slightly tired state I felt like the climb was difficult and I made my way up it fairly slowly. Once on the ridge top the trail swayed back and forth across both sides of the ridge and maintained a pretty level grade but was pretty rocky in areas. I paused at a couple nice views of farmland below or parallel ridges across a valley as I passed them during the day. When I paused to take a quick break, I noticed a garter snake peeking out from a under a log at me, and it let me take some really close up pictures before it scooted away.

Little snek

Eventually the trail led down and I grabbed more water at a shallow water trickle, which was nice because there hadn’t been any water for a long time up on the ridge. For some reason I got a second wind around this time as I finished descending, and despite it being towards the end of the day I powered my way uphill for about two miles until I came across a nice stealth camp site next to a creek for the night. I set up quickly and dove into my tent to avoid some annoying biting flies, and then enjoyed the rest of the evening at my nice site.

Day 84

The morning started off overcast as I packed up and got going for the day. It drizzled briefly early in the morning, but it quickly stopped and I didn’t bother to put on my rain jacket. Most of the morning the trail sloped lightly downhill and was fairly easy. This long slope culminated at the pretty Rausch creek where I stopped to have lunch and read a sign about the constructions in the river filled with limestone that are used to reduce the acidity of the water to improve the river for fish, pretty interesting. Immediately after this the trail led to a swampy area with a slightly elevation path through the middle, which I could only tell was an old beaver dam due to the path underneath my feet being made of sticks and twigs. I didn’t bother trying to keep my feet dry while crossing the dam, and sloshed right through. In the afternoon some dark clouds rolled in and it rained heavily for a little while. Due to all the rain in the last couple days I had been seeing tons of red efts throughout the day, and I also spotted a larger salamander species during this time while it was raining.

Look at this big chunker!

Toward the end of the day I started feeling pretty tired, and the last four miles were pretty tough and rocky, which made me go pretty slowly.

So. Many. Rocks.

Just two miles before my stopping point for the night I saw some slight movement behind a tree next to the trail, and I spotted a porcupine sitting there and puffing it’s quills at me. I paused for a bit to take some pictures and watch it.

A cute porcupine!

 

It never tried to run away from me, just bristled it’s quills and turned its spiky tail toward me and made some cute Guinea pig like sounds. What a cool animal to see out here! I finally limped through the last couple miles to the William Penn shelter, where I settled in for the night after chatting with the other hikers also staying there.

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Comments 2

  • thetentman : May 23rd

    Nice rocks in Jersey coming up. Good luck and thanks for the update. Good luck.

    Reply
  • Mom : May 24th

    The room smelled like there was a rotting corpse under one of the beds.
    No joke! Crazy stench.
    Loved our time in WV.
    💛

    Reply

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