Goodbye Pennsylvania

Date: June 5th, 2015
Day: 86
Miles from Springer: 1293.4
Miles to Katahdin: 895.8
Morale: 5/5

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Back in the north at last! (Though I won’t feel like I’m in the north until Vermont)

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The official halfway point. It moves every year because of changes to the trail, so I am glad the ATC takes the time to move the marker.

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Upon reaching the actual halfway point of the Appalachian Trail, it is thru-hiker tradition to eat a half gallon of ice cream. There is no better example of the famed “hiker hunger” than a bunch of skinny dudes sitting around eating a half gallon of ice cream just because someone told them it was tradition.

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Everyone who I was with successfully completed the challenge, and felt pretty awful after. It was a strange combination of wanting to hike ten more miles because of the sugar high, and wanting to take a nap because of the sheer volume of food consumed. After eating a few fresh cut fries from the general store everyone felt fine, however I wouldn’t recommend anyone eat a half gallon of ice cream, it isn’t worth it.

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From the Pine Grove Furnace General store where the ice cream challenge took place to Boiling springs Pennsylvania was an easy twenty mile jaunt, and I arrived midafternoon on memorial day weekend to see a wonderful scene of people fishing, swimming and boating in the river. Boiling springs was such a beautiful town that I decided to take a zero day there. (I hadn’t taken one in four hundred miles and also wasn’t feeling so hot, at the time I thought because of the ice cream.) I stayed at the Allenberry Resort, an active senior community with sleeping quarters for hikers. It was an incredible place with a breakfast and dinner buffet, live theater (I did take the time to see a musical, it was fantastic), and a swimming pool with loaner bathing suits. I didn’t take advantage of the pool, however did get my fill at the buffets.

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The shelters in southern Pennsylvania were extravagant and well maintained. This shelter in particular had lawn ortaments, potted plants, board games, a covered picnic table, and a composting privy. I always stay in my tent, but this shelter was so nice I elected to stay inside. I had the shelter on the left all to myself and two other guys had the other one.

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Southern Pennsylvania was a welcome change. There were lots of walks through fields and farmland like the one pictured above. It was nice to get out of the woods for a bit. Unfortunately, once I got past Duncannon Pennsylvania, the famous rocks began. Pennsylvania is known on the trail for being very rocky, sometimes even being called “rocksylvania.” The southern half of the state was such a joy, that I couldn’t imagine what people were talking about.

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The trail often looked like a rubble field, and planning each and every step slowed me down to a crawl. Lately I have had a cramp in my neck from looking at my feet all of the time. Unfortunately there are no real views in this section of trail, and so it is not even worth the struggle of walking over the treacherous boulders.

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To make matters worse, it rained hard for two days in a row, making the rocks wet and slick. I had my first fall of the entire trial a few days ago, slipped on a rock and went right in a puddle. I was rolling around like a turtle on its back with my pack on, I had to unbuckle to get up. Everyone I was hiking with, including myself, only hiked seven and a half miles that day. Everyone had fallen at least once, and some had fallen three or more times. Pennsylvania was beating the crap out of us. The other thing about Pennsylvania is that the water sources are further apart, and further off trail. Sometimes I had to walk half a mile to get to a reliable spring. Some water sources were tainted as well, because the trail went through an area where there had been zinc smelting in the early 1900’s. The ridge was largely deforested and there were no water sources close to the trail for almost twenty miles. There were a few springs but they were a minimum of a half mile away.

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The bare ridge did give me one of the few good views of Pennsylvania, and it was pretty fun climbing up the steep boulder field out of Lehigh Gap. I also saw an interesting bird in the Superfund site.

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I’m not sure what kind of bird it was, but that white stripe on its neck swelled up like a ballon and it made the weirdest noise I’ve ever heard a bird make.

Tonight I am camped out behind a free church hostel in the town of Delaware Water Gap Pennsylvania. Tommorow morning I will walk into New Jersey, leaving Pennsylvania at last. PA was a good test, it was definitely the least fun state so far, however it was still pretty fun. I have been hiking with some good people and going slower to enjoy the ride. I can’t wait until I get to New England, but I have to be patient. One of my favorite quotes ever is: “Time and pressure makes diamonds” I know that if I just take it one day at a time I will eventually be in the gorgeous White Mountains of New Hampshire and then back in my home state of Maine.