Wrapping up Pennsylvania with Caving, Fires, Trail Angels and Magic: Days 15-20
I’ve been joking since I got on the trail that California stole all the snow from the East Coast… (hence why I switched trails). However, I must have said it one too many times because now, not only has the West Coast taken the East Coast’s snow, but in return, it has given the East Coast: Fires. As I sit here writing this blog post, I have taken a day off trail because the smoke coming down from Canada has made the air quality unhealthy for outdoor physical activity. I just want to say… I am thinking of all those affected by these fires… and… I thought I left this behind?! Why did it follow me!!!
Anyway… focusing on my adventures from the last few days:
- I took my first “zero” (meaning a day I hike no miles) in Port Clinton in order to rest and recoup after pushing my body too hard too quickly
- There, family friend and Trail Angel Popsicle really gave me a full experience of Trail Magic, making sure I was fed and clean
- Since Popsicle, I have experienced Trail Magic almost every day! Trail Angel Icarus slackpacked me (not once, but twice), and Aunty Squeaks adopted myself and friends for the night for a backyard cookout with hamburgers, beers, and s’mores!
- I got to play the Bagpipes!!!
- Lots of rock exploration! I’ve done everything from pulling myself through caves to clambering on top of rock stacks (where I, of course, did a handstand)
- Pennsylvania is in a bit of a drought but us hikers continue to feel the love from locals. I have found multiple water cashes left out for us on the trail
- I hiked into Delaware Water Gap on my 20th day on the trail, marking the end of Pennsylvania, the largest state I have walked through thus far
The One Where I experience Trail Angels + Magic
Trail Angels are people who take care of hikers. This can come in many forms, but in the past few days, I was lucky enough to experience them in a range of ways:
Trail Angel Popsicle picked me up in Hamburg, PA, took me out to dinner, and after learning that I washed my clothes in a river that, at once point, was a site of a Superfund, took me to a laundromat to make sure my clothes were clean.
The following day, I woke up later than the rest of the hikers (still exhausted and in pain), knowing I had a BIG climb out of Port Clinton to do that day, with a heavy backpack and lots of… rocks…
However, to my surprise, a Subaru pulled up only moments later, a man with long hair driving the car and in the passenger seat was a small black dog. It turned out to be Icarus, a previous thru-hiker from Philly who now enjoys giving back to those on trail. He initially planned to count up how many hikers were there, and go get them all Dunkin’ Donuts; however, seeing as I was the only one left, he offered not only to take me to Dunkin’, but to slackpack me as well.
Slackpacking is when you backpack, but without your full backpack. In this situation, I put all my necessities in a day pack, and Icarus drove my pack up to where I planned to stay the night that night: Eckville Shelter. Slackpacking meant I was ~30lbs lighter, making the hike our of Port Clinton muuuchhhh easier.
The One With the Caves, Licking Leaves, and Handstands
For any who know me, you know I love adventure. So I was stoked when Icarus told me about some caves at The Pinnacle that I could explore. As I hiked towards the caves, I ran into Milkman and White Lightning and encouraged them to join me. We scrambled around a bit at Pinnacles until we found the entrance.
We pulled ourselves in as deep as the cave would allow (and saw lots of scary spiders… have any of you seen an Orb Spider?! Yeah, they are about as you would imagine, their bodies are giant bulbs and I find them terrifying!!!)
Then, after we felt we could go no further, instead of exiting the way we came in, we decided to scramble up an opening in the roof of the cave for an extra adrenaline rush (sadly it was a pretty easy climb, so no huge adrenaline rush).
This day was also the day I was extra nervous about Poison Ivy.
(I am far from an expert at identifying it), and so basically any green leaf I would avoid. Milkman found this ridiculous and at one point, in order to prove a leaf was not Poison Ivy, he LICKED IT… yes… this was one of the humans I was choosing to surround myself with on my hike…
Two days later, I was still hiking with Milkman and we were called over by a group of hikers sitting at the base of a giant rock pile, Bear Rocks. They told us if we climbed to the top of these rocks, we could get a 360-degree view of the area.
Naturally, I could not only climb the rocks, I had to get a handstand in to commemorate the location:
The One With the Party at Aunty Squeaks
Aunty Squeaks is a hiker who lives in Palmerton, PA who opens up her home to thru-hikers. She lets thru-hikers set up tents in her backyard and offers them the use of her bathroom, laundry, and grill. Staying at hers has been one of my favorite nights thus far. Squeaks picked Milkman and I up from the trailhead after a long, 18-mile day, and brought us back to hers. Along the way, we bonded because she had just returned from Scotland and she played the bagpipes and loved Magners!!! (If you are someone who I may be traveling to Scotland within the near future… message me so I know you read my posts)
It was one of those beautiful nights where a group of strangers comes together and it’s the right time and the right place. Not only were Milkman and I there, but White Lightning (who has since been renamed Paddington), Trail Angel Icarus, and a Trail Angel named Road Soda stopped by. Milkman, Paddington and I went to the store where we bought the ingredients for a Hamburger cookout with all the sides and desserts!
Squeaks pulled out her bagpipes and let me try them out (much harder than anticipated), Icarus and Road Soda provided drinks (I mean.. if Road Soda had not provided drinks, then why would he have that name…), and we used a garden spoke to roast our marshmallows.
Wrapping up the Rocks in PA
As expected… the rocks were brutal in PA. But every once and a while (especially if Slackpacking was involved), I may have even enjoyed them.
What I enjoyed the most though, was the kindness of the locals as we walked through this rough part of the trail. PA is in a bit of a drought (cough cough, back to what I wrote at the beginning about CA and PA switching!!!) and some locals have left out caches of water (and sometimes even soda) for us along the trail!
On top of that, it has been fun staying in places other than shelters. For example, in Wind Gap, PA, the local Tavern Detzi’s allows hikers to camp out back.
The following morning, Joey Detzi, one of the brothers that owns the Tavern even let us in early to get water, charge our devices, and then he drove us out to the trail head in his truck (saving us ~1 mile of walking back to the trail).
Here, in Delaware Water Gap, I am staying in the basement of the Mountain Hiker Hostel Church, which is a free (Donation Based) place where I can shower and sleep indoors. I continue to feel blessed by the kindness of the trail towns I hike through.
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