Pen Mar to Duncannon: Miles 43-125

I got back on trail into a cold, drizzly rain at the Pennsylvania border after taking a nero to rest (where we last left off on my previous post). It took a bit of mental fortitude to get out of the warm car, but as soon as I got back on trail, I fell back into the groove. A heavy fog lay on the trees, making the trail spooky and beautiful.

As I approached the shelter where I would be spending the night, I saw three sleeping bags taking up one of two small shelter structures-I heard a call of “Spicy!” It was my new flip flop friends, Bones, Scratch, and Echo! They had taken a nero to get out of the rain, and had been resting in the shelter for most of the day.  They shifted their sleeping pads to make room for me to set up, and we spent the evening chatting and enjoying the comfort of the shelter. I’d read on FarOut (the all inclusive AT info app) that a rogue raccoon had been robbing hikers at the shelter, stealing food from the bear pole. We shrugged it off and decided to take our chances hanging our food.

No rain, no Maine!

 The next morning when we woke up, Bones went to check the food bags that were hung from a bear pole. Mine had been hit! The raccoon had torn a small hole in my food bag, and eaten my tortillas! I had just resupplied, so I counted myself lucky and accepted my tortilla sacrifice to the shelter raccoon. I have since been informed that the banded bandit has been captured and relocated- although I’m sure he found other targets for his thievery. 

Bones and Scratch planned on staying at a hostel that night and taking zeros the following day with another hiker Choochoo. Echo was parting ways to stay at a different hostel. I hadn’t planned on taking a zero so early, especially right on the back of a nero but I wanted to hang out with my friends. I was able to get a bunk at Sunshine Cottage. After we finished hiking for the day, we shuttled to the hostel. There were fun, funky paintings all over the walls and ducks and chickens in the kitchen- obviously a cool place! I slept out in the ‘hiker hut’ (shed) on a bunk. It was thunderstorming and wickedly windy overnight, listening to the storm from the comfort of the bunk made for a great sleep.

Kitchen ducks!

The next day we were back on trail, hiking from Caledonia State Park to Birch Run shelter. We hiked through mountain laurel, along iron brown creeks, and through tunnels of rhododendrons. We tented near the shelter. It was cold and drizzly, so we all quickly retired to early bedtimes.

The beautiful green tunnel.

I woke up to a misty 35 degrees, eager to get on trail and warm up. The rain from the weekend had turned the trail into a flowing creek. We hopped rock to rock or log to log in attempts to keep our feet dry. It made for a strenuous but fun day, almost like an obstacle course! We made it to Pine Grove Furance by early afternoon, and feasted on hot food from the general store to warm up. Choochoo, Scratch and Bones decided to stay at Ironmaster’s mansion Hostel, right in Pine Grove Furnace. Ironmaster’s is a big, old mansion with an industrial kitchen, bunk rooms, and a pay box. I came to the hostel for a few hours to warm up before parting ways with the gang and putting in a few extra miles to a tent site. 

Hot food on a cold day!

The following day, I hiked to Alex Kennedy shelter, a few miles short of Boiling Springs. The terrain starting getting rockier, with a few short boulder scrambles. The last mile of the day was tough- I was tired and moving slow. I was one deep creek crossing and a quarter mile to the shelter when the skies darkened and it started to hail! I threw my poncho over my pack, and jumped out of my trail runners into my crocs to make the creek crossing, as the hail pelted me. Cursing and laughing, I stumbled to the shelter just as the skies cleared up. 


I have family in the Harrisburg area who were kind enough to slack pack me for a day and allow me to spend the night. The area I was slack packing was 18 miles of flat farm land through Boiling Springs followed by one big climb. I alternated between a quick walk and a slow jog through the flat area, feeling lighter than air without a pack on. Throughout the day, I passed many of the flip floppers I hadn’t seen since Maryland! The views of wide open pastures provided some nice variety after days in the green tunnel, surrounded by trees. I ended the day at 21 miles, with sore feet. 

Out of the woods (if only for a few miles)

After a lovely indoor sleep, shower, laundry, and resupply I started back where I’d left off. First thing in the morning, I ran back into Echo and another flip flopper, Blackbird. Staying consistent with the Pennsylvania terrain, we had one big climb in the morning, then followed a rocky ridgeline before climbing back down. We caught up with a bunch of other flip floppers, and all hiked down into Duncannon together.

The climb down to Duncannon is steep and rocky- luckily we had news that their was trail magic waiting for us at the bottom in the form of free tacos. That was enough to push us all into town! After wolfing down the tacos, we all headed to the Duncannon Assembly of God, a church right along the trail that allows hikers to sleep in the basement. The church set up was amazing- a shower, stocked kitchen, epsom salt foot soaks, and clean ground space to set up. The night was full of laughter, chatting, and hiker shenanigans until we all turned in for early bedtimes.

The set up at Duncannon.

Aches, pains, and challenging days aside it feels like hiker summer camp out here, meeting new people and reconnecting with others each day. I’m feeling good so far as I head into the rocky part of PA!

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