I didn’t have an early start the next morning because I was distracted by waffles and figuring out how to pack Cheerios. I stopped by the post office and ATC then walked the small section of the trail into downtown Harper’s Ferry. It was around lunch time so I went to eat some fresh food while I was still in town. I sat with another hiker at a small hole in the wall restaurant and ordered a gyro. The people across from us had hiked the trail last year and without us noticing they bought our lunch and then left. That was a nice surprise! Then I hit the trail which crosses the river on a footbridge and continues on a bike trail next to the river for a few miles. It was flat easy walking. I just struggled because I had eaten a tad too much (this seems to happen a lot). It was all digested by the time I had to go up to the cliffs that overlook the Potomac. The trail was wide and with the exception of a few rocks it was pretty nice. I stopped at the first shelter to take a break but did not stay due to a large boy scout group. It was late in the day when I got to the picnic area only half a mile away from my destination. There wasn’t going to be a water source and rather than cook in the dark I made my dinner there and met some dudes doing the entire part of Maryland that day (about 40 miles). Then I began my walk in the dark up to the shelter (every noise sounded like a bear to me so I’ve decided I don’t like night hiking). I found the campsite and was able to set up relatively easy and then crashed because it was way after hiker midnight.
The next day sounded promising. There was a restaurant on the trail coming up and I would be there around lunch time. The trail was relatively flat compared to what I’m used to and there were many people out for the day or jogging on it. I also saw many black raspberries through out the day that I enjoyed complementary of the trail. I got to a campground before the restaurant to read about it and listen to a dude playing guitar. He told me it wasn’t hiker friendly and usually made people come back to the campsite to shower. The book said dress code was no tanks on guys (most of the dudes are wearing tanks at this point so that sucks). I decided to try my luck and they let me in no problem (they said I looked clean for a hiker). It was a Sunday brunch buffet and it was delicious (again I consumed a bunch) but I got a negative impression of the owners. They said they were fine with hikers but then seemed like they’d rather none came at all (I gave them suggestions such as a corner, picnic table, etc. and they just complained about their customers having to see the backpackers and how muddy and informal we were). I’m sorry but if your restaurant is in view from the trail your going to have hikers and you better learn how to deal with it. Get some non material seats and if we gross out your guests so much throw a curtain around us. We don’t mind. We just want the food and AC (rant over). Afterwards, I headed towards the Washington monument and on the way stopped to lie on a picnic table before hearing there was trail magic just a bit ahead. I went to that and drank a Gatorade and listened to the guy talk for awhile and realized it was 5. If I were to make my goal that day i would have to walk in the dark and I wasn’t about that anymore so I decided to cut the day short. I was feeling pretty depressed that afternoon about my speed and ability to keep focus. I like to stop a lot and I only move at around 2 miles per hour with people flying by me constantly. I was thinking after 4 months of hiking i would be one of those hiking buffs and not still huffing and puffing up hills. Thinking about this made me stop a lot to sit. I went over I-70 (a cool foot traffic tunnel bridge) and there were some more black raspberries to consume and then I was finally at the shelter I ran into Bees knees and Wild Fire whom I hadn’t seen since Erwin, TN. My mom sent me an encouraging text message which helped a little bit but after dinner my mood worsened as I struggled with the bear pole and I needed someone to help me. I went to bed in one of the worst moods I’ve been on since I’ve been on the trail. I just would discover that a good nights sleep was all I needed the next day.
Last day in Maryland
The next morning I felt 100% better. I walked with a new sense of energy. I got a view of Maryland from some cliffs and also found some more black raspberries in the area. There was poison ivy touching my hand that was picking and eating the berries and I was momentarily freaked out. I stopped by a creek to wash my hands and then it started to drizzle which always slows me down. There were also some crazy rocks on the trail that I had to navigate through. I got to a shelter to dry off a bit and wait out the humidity which was 90%. I saw a large group of kids backpack past and that put me back on my game; I wanted to beat them to the next shelter before all the spots were taken. I caught up with one of the adults and was told it was a Quaker camp and they were indeed heading to the same place I was. I hurried on and grabbed enough water for the night and booked it up the steep hill to the shelter. It was new and really clean. We all took off our shoes to enter and to save time I decided to sleep inside (which I hadn’t done for awhile). The youth group got in late but set up tarps away from the shelter so it ended up only being 3 of us that night inside the two level shelter.
Mason Dixon Line
It was a little under 5 miles to Pennsylvania border and with that in mind I walked fast. Other than a tricky rocky section I did pretty good and was at Pen Mar Park pretty early (.3 from the border). There was a view from the park and someone offered me lemonade mix so I stayed for awhile. I then shortly crossed over into my birth state Pennsylvania. It was hot out so when I saw a picnic table near a steam I decided to have a lunch break. I was distracted until I looked above and saw huge thunderheads heading my way. I packed up quickly but it didn’t matter, within minutes it was thundering and pouring down rain. My cloths and boots were drenched soon and I developed one of the first blisters I have had since the first month and some painful chafing in an uncomfortable location. The rain stopped just as I got to the first shelter and I stripped down and tried to squeeze out the excess liquids from my cloths. I then walked another two miles and still felt miserable. There was another shelter in a mile that I had been planning to go to but with a pump house nearby and the call of clean cloths as soon as humanly possible I decided to camp there for the night. I saw a few other tents but no one other than an older dude actually stayed at the shelter. He has walked the trail 2.5 times and was just chilling on the trail this year. He offered me lots of stories and advice. After I was done with dinner I crashed before the sun even went down.
A Visit in Gettysburg
I was going to see some relatives the next day in Gettysburg so after I had pretty strong motivation to get to my destination fast. There was a 1000 foot climb but I felt like a beast climbing it. I got to chat with a girl from Austria and I managed to keep my pack on for more than 5 miles (which is a new record for me). I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but after about an hour I just want to throw it off me and I usually succumb. I ate a leisurely lunch because I was on schedule and then fended through the last half of the trail making good time. There was even a crazy rock section where I lost the trail for a bit but I didn’t feel upset about it at all. I reached Calidonia State Park at around 3 and hung out at a picnic table chatting with other Thru’s and eating some ice cream. Mike Kolumban’s wife Evelyn came to pick me up and bring me to Barbara’s house where I’d stay in my grandfathers old room. It was nice to chat with her on the car ride over. We got to Barbara’s and it was good seeing her. I took a quick shower and we started the laundry before going out to Ruby Tuesdays to catch up and eat some good food. She brought me to the grocery store so I could grab some resupply too. We got back a little late and after a bit of organizing and a lot of yawning I went to bed.
“Woah We’re Half Way There”
I had to wake up early the next day to get a ride back to the trail. Mike came to pick me up with Steven and I said goodbye to Barbara. It was nice seeing them both and hanging out in the car ride over. It was cool out in the morning and I was on the trail at 730 (which was nice and early). I hiked up feeling energized from my family visit and enthusiastic about getting a long day in. However I was distracted within 2 miles by a super fancy shelter. There were flower pots hanging, a covered eating area between two recently painted shelters. Oh, there was a swing there too. I decided it would be a nice break so I sat on the swing and a hiker, King of Freaks, talked to me for sometime. It got warmer and the swing made me lazy so even though the walking was the easiest I’d seen so far I was traveling at a slow pace, my attention distracted over the thought of whether I would do the half gallon challenge or not. I got to a cute little locked cabin and ate lunch with a few hikers. My energy dropped significantly afterwards and I called my father telling him I wanted to end at Pine Grove Furnace the next day. However after an hour my mind changed again because I became motivated to pass the halfway mark. The trail scenery had changed a lot since I’d stepped into PA. It followed through pretty pine trees and bristly blueberry bushes. I finally got to the small sign on the side of the trail that told me I’d walked half of the Appalachain trail. Luckily someone walked by and got a shot of me with it. Then I continued on towards the shelter. My feet hurt per usual but I made it there by 8 pm. It had been a 16 mile day and I was feeling accomplished so I ate one of my favorites, 2 ramen mixed with powdered peanut butter. There was no one at the shelter and with 20 tent pads and a stream close by it felt empty and eerie. I hung my food and went and snuggled up in my tent excited for the next day and part two of the trail. Side note: almost everyone had that Bon Jovi song stuck in their head this week.
Pine Grove Furnace Part One
The next morning it was mostly downhill to Pine Grove Furnace where people usually celebrate hiking half of the Appalachain Trail by eating a half gallon of ice cream. There’s a store there that sells snacks, hot food, and 1.5 quarts of Hersey’s ice cream. I wanted to hike further that day and had made a plan to stop there the next day after I had hiked to Boiling Springs. I ordered some lunch and watched as more hikers showed up and a few started digging into their tubs of ice cream. Since the containers are only 1.5 quarts these days you have to follow with a pint of ice cream to complete the challenge. King of Freaks thought he was almost done but they had only given him a cup and when he got the news that he had another whole cup to finish he looked pained. I had been there for a bit at this point so I wished him good luck and went over to check out the Appalachain Trail Museum. The museum had information on the founders of the trail and some of the first thru hikers like Grandma Gatewood. They had some old signs, a shelter, and some old school trail tools. It was pretty neat and I wish I had more time to read everything in the building. Then I hiked out into the now hot day. I passed a lake swimming area and then walked through a beautiful pine forest. I got to the end of the park and suddenly in was rocky and uphill. I hadn’t eaten ice cream but I had rewarded my halfway point with a heavy lunch and I was feeling it. My feet don’t like rocks either so I was soon a little miserable and knew I would have to cut my day short by a few miles. It was my last night camping out while hiking north and I was a little sad. I was excited that I was heading up to Maine with my parents but I would be leaving behind all my trail friends that I’ve been seeing on and off for nearly four months. That last night heading north only illustrated the fact that you never know who you’ll see again when your hiking north. Two girls who I’d been in a shelter with just before Franklin North Carolina showed up at the campsite next to the river I’d chosen to set up at (I wanted to avoid the boy scouts who were at the shelter). It was so cool to see they were still having a great time on the trail and that I had actually caught up to them. I told them I was heading up to Maine but if I’m lucky I’ll get to see them and all my other friends one last time walking the opposite direction (and maybe make some friends heading south). I went to sleep hearing a distance concert play into the night.
I woke up early and packed fast. I had 12 miles to hike, an ice cream challenge to complete, and a three hour drive up to my summer cabin. I was hiking before 730 and with some really easy walking on super flat trail and some slow stretches of navigating through rock mazes (which were something different and kind of fun) I made it to Boiling Springs by 2:30. The last bit I was walking through corn and wheat fields. A couple I ran into hiking south wanted a ride to Pine Grove Furnace so after taking a few pictures at the pretty spring fed pond we got in my car and drove back to Pine Grove which had been 20 miles on the trail and only 20 minutes via car. Once there I got to see All Star and Frosty one last time who’d just finished the ice cream challenge. I went into the store and grabbed a tub of chocolate (I wish I had gone with something else but I was told chunks were hard and Sherbet would make my tongue tingle). A few spoons in and I was sick of the flavor, around half way in I started talking very slowly and stirring the ice cream with reluctance, towards the end of of the tub I was groaning a little and felt completely stuffed. Then I went in to show my container and grab another pint. I mixed it up with cookies and cream, raspberry, and crazy vanilla. The vanilla and raspberry were doable and the change of flavor helped me gulp it down but when I got to the cookies and cream I hit a wall and couldn’t take another bite until someone said you have 3 bites left you can do it. When I finished I was relieved and happy and never wanted to eat ice cream again (it took me an hour and a half). I went in to get my momento of a stupid looking wooden spoon and then after sitting at the picnic table digesting for awhile I was finally able to leave. I said goodbye and wished good luck to a crowd of 6 people doing the challenge. Then I hopped in my car and began my drive to my cabin in the woods where real food, family, and some rest days (I hadn’t zeroed for a month!) awaited me. I’ll pick up my story in Maine. For now, I’ll enjoy my days of rest and the Fourth of July!
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