Week 11: Days 72-74; Rocksylvania to Bear Country

Day 72

I slept well for it being a night in the bunkhouse. Craig & Jody served breakfast on the front porch at 7 a.m. It was a spread of French toast casserole, fruit, and sausage and egg bagel sandwiches. Shortly following breakfast, we packed up and got our ride back to the trail. I found my spork sitting on a rock right where I’d left it! I’m thankful to have it back.

I took my time on the walk today in fear my shin issues would return. The rocks in Pennsylvania again take a massive toll on my knees and feet. They are constantly jarred off kilter, slowly grinding what’s left of my joints into powder. There is a sad lack of views in Pennsylvania. Climbing up these rock scrambles to higher points only to have them covered in trees is demoralizing and a bit maddening.

We made a steep descent into the small town of Port Clinton where the trail runs passed a small section of shops on their Main Street. On the corner were a few coolers and a large box of chips left by the firehouse as trail magic. Our whole group took a seat and enjoyed a cold soda. Shortly after, a news crew from the local channel 69 WFMZ came over to interview a few of us for a story they are releasing in a few weeks or so about the Appalachian Trail.

This link is of the story of my group of Tortoise and Tiger Lilly who interviewed. They got a few shots of me walking away, but I’m in there!

We had planned to do 26 today, but nobody was feeling up to it at this point, so we decided to cut 6 miles off. They again talked of doing 26 tomorrow, but I’ll purposely hold back a few miles so save my legs to be safe. I’m not willing to push myself to crazy miles only to get hurt and have to go home.

As I arrived at Windsor Furnace Shelter, a maintainer drove up in his truck and handed out some bottles of iced tea. I may not be a fan of the drink, but a free cold drink is never passed up on trail.

Today we walked 20.5 miles, for my new total of 1,016.4/2199.7.

Day 73

There are many days I wish I could sleep in. I don’t think I really have since prior to starting my hike. The birds again insist on a near 5 a.m. wake up. I drug through my morning routine leaving late and walking slowly, putting myself in the back of my group. I was please to hit my first real view of Pennsylvania at Pulpit Rock–a beautiful overlook of the valley below. As Prophet, I took a moment to preach to my people.

Tiger Lilly was kind enough to take my picture. Right behind The Pulpit was the local astronomical society and their massive telescopes. I wish I could be up here at night to look through them. I’m sure they get to see some amazing things.

I followed behind Captain Ahab for awhile on the way to the Pinnacle. He realized we’d passed it about a half-mile after the fact. I should have known better following someone named Ahab on a journey. Determined to get the most out of Pennsylvania’s handful of views, I backtracked to take a look. The view wasn’t disappointing!

Pennsylvania certainly is beautiful; it’s just a shame it’s constantly hidden on these mountains.

Tiger Lilly, Captain Ahab, and I stopped at Eckville shelter for lunch. It’s a retrofitted garage in someone’s yard, but it offers a nice privy, water, and charging stations. Minisaurous texted me saying there were a ton of venomous snakes on the climb ahead, but I never saw one until I reached Dan’s Pulpit 3 miles later. I’d gone over to sign the log, only to look down to meet the gaze of this rattlesnake.

Everyone else seemed to see about a dozen snakes and a mix of copperheads and rattle snakes to boot. I either stepped right over them, or they left the rocks and came back after I’d passed. I’m assuming the former.

I passed the group as they took a break at the Allentown shelter. I climbed up the next stretch and could smell fried food. As soon as I hit the road, I could see the Blue Mountain Summit restaurant. I waited for the rest of the group to finish the climb and asked if they’d like to get supper there. It wasn’t a hard argument to win. While eating, the server said hikers were able to camp in the backyard and get water from the spigot. We took them up on the offer and joined other hikers in creating a tent village near the woods. The hiker-friendly owner even had a porta-potty and charging station setup for us. Very minor things like this are incredibly helpful to the hiker community and are easy enough for anyone to do. A toilet, outlet, water spigot, and a small piece of flat ground are all it takes to make us incredibly happy.

Today we hiked 20.6 miles, for my new total of 1037/2199.7.

Day 74

The traffic on the highway kept me awake, and the rain started around midnight without stopping. The rain would continue the rest of the day. We walked in a close group as we tackled the “Knife’s Edge.” In the rain this section is pure insanity and incredibly dangerous. We sadly have no other options but to go straight through.

The section goes on for a few hundred yards, is incredibly slippery (especially in rain), and has steep descents on either side–making a fall possibly your last. We scoffed and swore about it to each other, but it’s nothing some seasoned hikers and some crab-walking can’t tackle.

This type of hiking would continue the rest of the day, as the rocks of Pennsylvania continued to cause us anguish. I came to Bake Oven Knob, which had a great view even in the rain.

We came to the shelter around 1:15 p.m. and decided we’d had enough and planned to “Nero” here instead. We settled in and ate lunch. Other hikers contemplated the same idea, but our group had completely filled the small structure. Nobody took us up on our offer to snuggle closer to squeeze in, and about a dozen hikers came and went over the rest of the day.

We gathered close and watched the movie Idiocracy, a film about the degradation of human intelligence in the future. We ate a quick supper and then watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (one of my favorite movies). Mind you this is eight people gathered around a tiny iPhone 5 screen.

We were supposed to get another 1-2″ of rain overnight, so we were thankful to be high and dry in the shelter. It should clear up tomorrow morning as we climb up the next ridge. We have a short 10-mile day to meet Boo for lunch, and then we plan to slack pack the afternoon.

Today we trudged 12.7 miles, now totaling 1049.7/2199.7.


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