Here it is – my last blog post of my AT2015 thru hike. Thank you to everyone for your patience, support and guidance. Without you, I never could have made it this far. Without further ado, here it is!
Day 188 – DWG
I slept in until 7 this morning. The boys were loud last night so I didn’t sleep great. I packed up and checked the weather – bad storms are due here in the afternoon. I went to the post office but my resupply box still wasn’t there. I texting my parents, and decided to zero today, to let my legs rest, the weather pass, and my box to arrive. I walked to the Village Farmer for breakfast, texting some friends. Afterwards, I walked back to the church and chatted with one of the young SOBOs, then settled into the couch to read my kindle… a lot. I walked to the gas station later and got some drinks and a new cell phone charger cord, since mine has been going on the fritz. Then back to the church for more reading. The four boys rented a car and went to Stroudsburg for the day, so I had peace and quiet, which was wonderful. I like having people around to chat, but sometimes, the noise is a little overwhelming. I checked the post office again before they closed and the box still wasn’t there. I probably have enough to get to Hamburg, but I’d like the resupply, just to make sure. What a pain our mail service can be sometimes. I called home and then turned in.
Day 189 – Delaware Water Gap to Leroy Smith Shelter
I did not get great sleep last night. The hostel was loud and crowded, with a few other hikers coming in later in the evening. I got up and packed as much as I could while I waited for post office to open. My package was there, and was way more than I needed, but I rushed to repack and get on trail, leaving the hostel at 9. It was a cool day, with a slight breeze, but the sky was a beautiful deep blue with barely any clouds in it. The trail was decent leaving DWG, although the hill was a little long. But soon enough, the “rocks of Pennsylvania” showed up and were an ankle-twisting nightmare. There were lots of little ups and downs and side to sides, too. Looking at the rocks, they weren’t that bad, there were just so many of them it was hard to walk. You can’t find a rhythm, a pace, or a cadence. Some are flat, others pointed, some move, some are solid. It’s just mentally exhausting because you have to scan constantly, watching for each step. Somewhere in the morning, I saw a gorgeous blue and gold biplane fly overhead. I heard the big radial engine long before I saw it. It was great. When the trail crossed Wind Gap, the trail clubs must have switched, because the trail became very overgrown and unmaintained, which sucked because the rocks became loose, almost like shale, and with the weeds overgrown, it was hard to see anything. I caught my toe once and the shoe ripped, so my right shoe is a flip flop already. Lovely. But I still got to the shelter by 4:45. I contemplated moving on further, but decided to stay. There was a father, Jeff, and his son, Dan, there, just out for the weekend, but it was good to chat with them. There was a lot of people around, too, because of the three-day weekend. I am not looking forward to tomorrow’s planned 23 miles, though, at all.
Day 190 – Leroy Smith Shelter to PA-873/Lehigh Gap
I was up early, to pack and prepare for the long day. I was slowed a little by talking with Dan and Jeff, but that’s ok. The trail started decent enough, following a fire road for a while. But then the rocks came. And did they ever. Big rocks. Small rocks. They all sucked. But I found my groove for getting through them and charged on. Going through the Superfund was an odd experience. It was not what I expected, but was still beautiful in its own right. While walking along the ridge, I stopped to watch a tow plane taking a glider to altitude, then watched the glider for a few minutes. I would love to get my pilot license, and learning to fly a glider would be amazing, too. I stopped to eat lunch at Little Gap, sitting on a big rock in the parking lot. While eating, Dan came rushing up, trying to catch me. He invited me to his family’s BBQ (free food!) so we hiked to the bottom of Lehigh Gap and waited for his dad to catch up. We chatted a lot about thru hiking and gear, as Dan would like to hike when he graduates college. Jeff came to the parking lot about 5, and we drove to their house. I got introductions to the family, a shower, and then enjoyed an amazing BBQ. Their family and friends were really supportive and curious about my hike, talking for a long time. Dan’s girlfriend came over and they disappeared about 8. Jeff opened his humidor to me and we had a drink while watching football and talking some more. A late night, but quite enjoyable.
Day 191 – PA-873/Lehigh Gap to Eckville Shelter
It was a short night. We all woke at 6:45 for breakfast. Jeff dropped Dan and I off at the road at 7:30, and we slack packed into the woods. Dan keeps a pretty good pace for someone who doesn’t get out hiking much. We chatted about life, college and hiking a lot. The trail was more of the same. Some good, lots of rocks. I only tripped once and didn’t fall, which was pretty good considering I was distracted by the conversation. The day was beautiful, warmer and clear skies, but the breeze was a bit cool. Jeff picked Dan up at PA-309, and I got my full pack back. We said goodbyes and I continued on. I got to the shelter about 6 and was all alone tonight. I filtered water and cooked dinner, lot in thought. It gets cold quick once the sun starts going down, so I climbed into bed to warm up. Through some odd text messages, my mood has turned a little down, wondering if anyone in the outside world is even interested in this hike anymore. It just seems that life has moved on without me, and I’m not sure where I fit in anymore, if at all.
Day 192 – Eckville Shelter to PA-61/Hamburg
I slept ok, considering the mood I was in. I woke at 6:15 to cloudy skies, and was on trail by 7:30. The trail was once again same ol’ same ol’. I am so sore and sick of rocks. It started raining lightly about 9:30, more of a misty/sprinkling rain, and lasted until noon or so. I got to town around 2, walked to Walmart for my resupply and then stopped at Cigars International to enjoy a nice cigar, a beer and to order a Red Robin burger. Felt good to be “home”, the most comfortable I had felt in a long time. I was supposed to meet some of the club members here, but they had to cancel. I understand, especially given the two-hour drive for them to get here, but it would’ve been a nice afternoon for us to all catch up. I checked in at the hotel and got a long, hot shower. And my new shoes were waiting for me! I relaxed in the room all afternoon, taking care of some maintenance tasks like back flushing my filter and repairing a rip in my pack. I called home, did a load of laundry, and relaxed as much as I could. I am feeling very defensive about my trip and how it’s gone, but am also feeling under attack for the same, like I let people down by taking so long. And the mood sours more, keeping me up late.
Day 193 – PA-61/Hamburg to Hertline Campsite
I did not sleep well at all, but that was expected. I was up before the sun, repacked my bag, got my free hotel breakfast and checked out, leaving the hotel before 8. It was a long uphill road walk back to the trail, with traffic whizzing past, but I got to the trail by 8:10. I stopped at the Port Clinton Barber Shop to deliver message for McGyver, then walked on. The trail climbed very steeply out of Port Clinton and made my legs burn. And from there, the trail seemed especially rocky and tough today, particularly with all the leaves that fell in the rain yesterday and now cover up the smaller rocks. My knees and ankles were throbbing by 10, and my feet felt like they were on fire. My hips are starting to hurt, too, due to my weight loss. My pack just doesn’t fit me anymore. More than once, I felt like I was on the edge of tears because of the pain I was feeling. And my head hurt from concentrating so hard on the trail. The woods were dead today, too, with no birds or squirrels or anything making noise, just the cool air and the wind. Remarkably, though, I got to the campsite about 4:15. I wasn’t sure it was the official campsite, with no signs or anything, but I dropped my pack and walked a little further to confirm a trail crossing. While it was still early, I decided to stay. There was good water running nearby, tent pads, and a decent fire ring to sit at. I set up my tent and filtered water, and was reading my kindle before dinner when a section hiker from Massachusetts walked up. He was very talkative, but didn’t listen very well. He eventually gathered some water and then walked back up trail to a smaller campsite in the woods. I ate dinner alone and then gathered everything into my tent, climbing into bed at 7:15. I journaled a little, sent a few texts, and listened to the acorns falling all around me. It started sprinkling at 9, but thankfully didn’t last long.
Day 194 – Hertline Campsite to Rausch Gap Shelter
Today hurt, plain and simple. I woke at 6:30 with the normal stiff and sore muscles, but when I stood up, my ankles hurt. In fact, my right ankle gave me shooting pain with almost every step all day. And Advil and Tylenol didn’t touch it. I got on trail by 7:30 and about 9:30, I heard the bear bell. Star came running up to me, yipping and jumping. It was so cute. Bookie (who now goes by Gator Tater) was right behind her. We dropped packs and chatted, and I was surprised by how happy I was to see them. Before hand, I was nervous that the hostility would still be there, but it didn’t seem to be. We talked for over an hour, and then I realized I still had 18 miles to go, so we said goodbyes and hiked away in opposite directions. That part was a little weird. For a while, the trail was nice, running along a carriage road. There were some rocks but they were manageable. Then there were some big rocks. Then there were tons of smaller, twist-your-ankle rocks. My feet started to scream and my knees started to lock up, refusing to give to the uneven terrain. It was also borderline cold today. I would sweat a little on the uphills, but my arms and hands were almost always cold. Speaking of hills… PUDs. Except for one or two road crossings, all PUDs. I took lunch just short of William Penn Shelter in a patch of sunlight, the warmest I was all day. As I was going under the I-81 overpass, there was a couple of log benches and… A cooler! I nearly skipped over to it. Inside was joyous junk food and water! I haven’t had on-trail trail magic in a long time and it really hit the spot. Somewhere in the afternoon, I tripped on a rock and fell, landing hard on my hands. I’m not sure, but I think I may have rebroken my wrist. I can use the hand and grab things, but I can’t lean on that pole or push off when standing up with that hand, same as the last time I broke it. Joy of joys. I walked into the shelter at 6, as the light was starting to fade. It’s a pretty neat shelter, sunken into the ground on one side. And the spring is right in front of the shelter, so no need to stockpile water. I filtered water and cooked dinner, then tried to relax some. Unfortunately, as soon as the sun went behind the mountain, it started getting cold fast. By 7:30, I was changed into dry clothes and huddled in my sleeping bag.
Day 195 – Rausch Gap Shelter to Clark’s Ferry Shelter
I slept ok last night, considering the pain I was in all night. It was a cold night though, but thankfully I was warm enough in my long underwear and zipped-tight sleeping bag. I woke at 6 and started packing in the dark, being ready by 7. It was still pretty dark, and I didn’t feel like hiking by headlamp this morning, so I waited until 7:15 for a little more light to be cast. The trail was decent, and I was able to let my mind wander, so the miles ticked off pretty fast. But most of the day was very cold. It was semi-warm from 11-1, but only if you were in the sun. My right ankle still gave me issues, especially on the downhills. The trail has been fairly empty lately, too, adding to the solitary feelings I have been fighting. I had lunch about 12 miles in and then kept hiking. The trail got bad after crossing PA-225, about the last 4 miles of the day, with lots of rocks and PUDs. It figures the last 4 miles would be that tough. I got to the shelter about 5, and found a few people there so I set up my tent. Later, even more weekenders showed up – noisily – so I was glad I had my tent set up. I filtered water, cooked dinner while socializing at the shelter, then retired to my tent. I texted home a little before falling asleep, glad I had my tent as the shelter crowd was very noisy until almost 10.
Day 196 – Clark’s Ferry Shelter to Darlington Shelter
I slept in until 6:30 after a restless sleep, due to my sore legs, and the hill I was on. I was packed and on trail by 7:30, glad to warm up by hiking. The trail seemed rough to start, or maybe the cold had my muscles not wanting to work properly. I wore my long pants and rain jacket while hiking for the first time in a long time. My right ankle is still super painful, feeling like a nail is being driven into it with each step, but I still made good time, getting into Duncannon at 9:30. I stopped at Goodies for breakfast and to charge my cell. I sent some texts while there, too. After breakfast, I walked out of town and up a monster hill. The guidebook said there was a real rocky section but I didn’t think it was too bad, certainly no worse than the past three days. Just shows it’s a guidebook and not the gospel. It stayed cold all day, although I did take the jacket off as the day went on. I arrived at the shelter at 3, and immediately checked for water, as there were reports it was dry. Thankfully, it had a small trickle and I was able to get what I needed for the night. There’s another SOBO here, named Whitsel. He just started at Lehigh Gap and is going to get as far south as he can. I gave him some menu planning tips and some extra food I had. He seems like a nice kid but doesn’t have a ton of experience. We made a campfire and each smoked our own cigars and talked all afternoon and evening. He’s a real talker, though, doing most of it since I was contemplating my hike. It got super cold as soon as the sun set, so as quickly as I could, I got settled into my sleeping bag. Not really the way I wanted my last night on trail to go, but it was too cold to argue!
Day 197 – Darlington Shelter to Boiling Springs
It was a very very cold night. I slept in until 7:15. Whitsel was ready long before I was, but waited for me for some reason, getting on trail by 8:15. It was still a cold day, so I wore my long sleeve shirt for the first time while hiking. We hiked together all the way to Boiling Springs. We talked some, but my head was lost in thought. I wasn’t sure how to feel about today being my last day. The trail started rocky but once we were off the mountain it was mostly decent and flat. We made good time, although it was a somewhat boring hike. It also sprinkled a few times but only briefly. I walked into the parking lot of the ATC Regional Office at 1:10, tossing my trekking poles to the ground and raising my arms in triumph! Just like that, my hike was complete. My mom, my dad, my sister, my niece, my girlfriend, and nearly all of my chapter from the motorcycle club were there, waiting, smiling and risking a broken camera by taking my pic. My mom had “Paula cake”, aptly named after the very talented baker-friend who makes it, which I eagerly cut into, and not so eagerly passed around. I got AT Passport stamped (again) inside, and talked with an ATC worker named Autumn. We took a bunch of pics, nobody really thrilled about being so close to a smelly hiker. After a while, the club headed home and we were using the bathrooms before heading to my parent’s campsite, when Older Dog walked up! He was visiting his sister nearby and stopped to say hi. We chatted with him for a bit, then headed to the campground. We had lunch when we got there and then I went for my shower, which was less than hot. We all sat around campfire being entertained by my niece until it started to rain, then sleet, and we had to duck into the camper. Dad cooked burgers and dogs on the campfire and we all ate inside. After dinner, we sat around talking more, and then I headed to my apartment to officially end my hike.
And with that, my thru hike has come to an end. I am filled with mixed feelings, both happy and sad, content and yet yearning for more. My next post will be up sometime (hopefully) soon, bringing you all up to date on where I am, what I am doing, and how I am feeling about things once it all settles in. Thank you, again, for all of your support. Each and every one of you are amazing!