Not my most optimistic title for an entry, but it’s the damn truth. I’ve now walked 215 miles through Pennsylvania, home of the slogan “where boots go to die.” The reason for said phraseology, is the hellish number of rocks. Let’s say I’ve taken roughly 500 thousand steps in 215 miles…I’ve probably stepped on at least 400,000 rocks…each one exacting the relative pain of a young teenager hitting the soul of your foot with a hammer. Another fun anecdote, it’s rained nearly every day. I’ve thrown a lot of math at you, so let me break it down…
(Wet rocks + rubber outsoles)*3 mph = fuck this.
Our first day across the Mason Dixon Line, we happened upon a former hiker doing trail magic at a road crossing. This Marine had actually attempted a thru-hike this year, but had to get off trail due to some serious trouble with PTSD and depression.
On this journey, I’ve met many former military men and women who’ve served overseas, and who’ve been in active combat. Each one coming to the trail to find solace and renewed hope in mankind, and themselves. It’s tough to see someone in pain, and know that there’s nothing I can do to help…but hopefully I was able to cheer up this particular one, on that particular day. It seems we, as a country, need to do more to help the soldiers who bring home the wounds of our governments mistakes. Before I build my soap box and climb atop, I’d like to move on.
A momentous occasion happened the next day. I crossed the official halfway point…and also consumed a half gallon of ice cream in 40 minutes a. I’m not a glutton, it’s a challenge steeped in legacy and tradition…and I’ve become a glutton. Food is [mostly] all that I think about now. Anyway, it was awesome to be in a new state, and closer to my destination than I was to my starting point.
The next day was a scorcher. We’d end up walking 23 miles, but not without losing pounds of sweat and wishing for some kind of magic. Just before the end of the day, the magic happened. The trail crossed a residential road and followed it for a ways. Upon seeing a house, my first thought was “If I knock and ask politely, will they let me take a shit in their toilet?” No knocking necessary as the owner, Robert, was outside and quick to invite us to fill up with water and come inside. We did, I shit, then we drank a few beers. Magic.
We headed on to Duncannon, PA the next day. The Doyle Hotel is a 100 year old building that may fall at any minute. The bar downstairs is home to a very well made hamburger, and the rooms upstairs are home to crackheads and more bugs than I’ve seen on the trail. Seriously though…bed bugs. Staying there was ill advised, but it’s an iconic piece of the AT community, and was worth every dollar and bite.
A few days later, I posted my second 30+ mile day. Which was then followed by a few mid-teen mile days. One of those days was ended with an unexpected and fucking radical event.
We planned to stealth camp (aka camp illegally) at a privately owned Astronomical Park. Upon arrival, the care taker Ron was mowing the grass. Bilbo, being the giant space nerd he is, quickly engaged Ron about different space stuffs. Turns out that Ron and five of his club friends were going to be planet gazing and taking photos that night. Ron asked us if we’d like to camp with them and “see some cool shit.”
We, of course, happily agreed. The night was actually perfectly timed. Bilbo had been talking of using his binoculars to star gaze, whilst I had also been yammering about getting star photos. Ron then proceeded to show us said “cool shit.” He took us in to a couple different observatory rooms and lined up Venus, Saturn and Jupiter with the giant telescopes. He then showed us globular clusters and a few other star formations I cannot recall. It was indeed cool shit.
When I first started writing this entry, all I could remember about PA was the stabbing pain of slippery rocks (see paragraph 1). Then I went back and read my notes. I found that nearly each of the past 11 days had some sort of awesomeness to it. Hiking this trail is a whirlwind of amazing things and fucked up things…and I’m excited to be able to spend more days in the storm.