I’m writing from Bethel, PA. We’ve just resupplied at a Mennonite discount store thanks to a tip (and a ride) from Bob, the caretaker at the 501 shelter up closer to Pine Grove. The store was packed at 3:00 on a Wednesday! Guess that answers the question of when the entire town of Bethel does their grocery shopping. Since we last blogged from D.C. we’ve completed two more states: West Virginia (itty-bitty mileage there) and Maryland (not quite as bitty). Friend Colin joined us for most of his home state of MD, and even resupplied us by the side of the road a day after we parted ways. Never thought I’d be able to eat a piece of cheesecake in 90 degree weather and then continue hiking, but, with Colin’s help, we made it happen. Still working on his trail name, though Tenderfoot the Tenderfooted and O’Sheanendoah are in the running.
We’ve probably heard more opinions about Pennsylvania than any other state (save maybe Virginia), most of them negative. Granted, most of the state is flat as a pancake and littered with rocks. A native commented to us, “yes, it’s rocky, but at least we’re nice!” Nice they are.
It’s all about perspective and mental fortitude at this point in the game though, and, with only about 2 months of hiking left, we’re doing our best to make the most of it. Our journey has taken us by old mining towns, behind hedgerows, through cornfields and into some brilliant little towns. PA, you’re A-Ok!
On a side note, I’ve started pinning down birdsongs. There’s one bird whose song is the first few notes of “On Broadway,” and another who sings “I barely learned the tune” from Simon and Garfunkel’s “So long, Frank Lloyd Wright”–ornithologists, please chime in.
Here’s the lowdown:
Day 83 Town’s Inn, Harpers Ferry to Rocky Run Shelter (15.4 miles)
Hiking out of Harpers Ferry on July 4th with Colin in tow. An easy day out of the gate after our relaxing visit to l’otel Boyd in D.C. Meandered along the C&O towpath, spotted nice views of the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers and spent the night at a gorgeous new shelter.
Day 84 Rocky Run Shelter to Raven Rocks Shelter (20.6 miles)
Our first and only full day in Maryland. We climbed to the top of the original Washington Monument (circa 1827), but our view of the surrounding area was obscured by fog. Still, grabbed a great photo of Colin inside this bottle-shaped tower. Due to rocks, heat, and blistered feet, Colin called it a trip late in the day. We miss him!
Day 85 Raven Rocks Shelter to Rocky Mtn. Shelter (19.8 miles)
Craggy descent this morning as we sped toward the Mason-Dixon line and into PA. If you’re looking for an introduction to the Appalachian Trail, give yourself 4 nights and take on Maryland: the terrain is gentle, water can be found at numerous state park spigots and history abounds.
Day 86 Rocky Mtn. Shelter to Toms Run Shelters (19.2 miles)
Made the mistake of sleeping in a small shelter at Rocky Mtn. Turns out the structures do a pretty good job of keeping heat in. We waddled sweatily to the next shelter just in time to beat the rain. Met several hikers pushing on to Pine Grove Furnace State Park to attempt the half-gallon challenge (more on this later) but decided to hold off until we were nearer to indoor plumbing.
Day 87 Toms Run Shelters to Allenberry Playhouse, Boiling Springs, PA (23 miles)
Passed the half-way point today! Met a few former thru-hikers–Blue and Evergreen–who made us sandwiches and let us huddle under their tarp while a downpour set in. Really looking forward to repaying all this trail magic someday. Since we were soaking wet and desperately in need of a shower we decided to push big miles into Boiling Springs. A fellow at the ATC regional office there let us in on a secret: the Allenberry Playhouse and Resort offers rooms to hikers for $40, well below their usual rate. We pounced on the deal, and while we had to skip the production of “Hello Dolly” (next time!), we had a great time exploring the tiny town.
Day 88 Boiling Springs, PA to Cove Mt. Shelter (21.5)
Began the day with a 12-mile walk through backyards and farmland. I had had some anxiety about this walk for some time because of the level of exposure to sun it carried. Fortunately we were able to get an early start and beat the heat. Met a swell section hiker, Reid, and his scrumptious dog, Goose, at Cove Mtn. He’s hiking southbound so we were able to offer him some useful advice. Nice to talk trail with someone who isn’t as immersed as we are.
Day 89 Cove Mt. Shelter to Doyle Hotel, Duncannon, PA (4.1 miles)
Strolled down the mountain into Duncannon this morning, caught a ride to the grocery (thanks Timone!) and commenced the half-gallon challenge. An old AT tradition, the challenge–eating a half-gallon of ice cream, unassisted, in one sitting–commemorates the passing of the half-way point. My strategy? Neapolitan ice cream. Completed the challenge in 33 minutes and didn’t lose any of it. In fact, I went about eating as usual for the rest of the day. That’s a hiker appetite!
In other news: “Billville,” a generous group of AT enthusiasts, had thrown a “hiker feed” here two days prior. Lots of folks we hadn’t seen in a long while hitched forwards or backwards to attend, so we were overwhelmed by a spontaneous reunion of sorts. The Doyle Hotel, over 100 years old, has become a must for thru-hikers. Not the best accommodations we’ve ever had, but the food was good and the people were super.
Day 90 Duncannon, PA to Peters Mtn. Shelter (11.2 miles)
Easy day out of town. Started with a huge breakfast in town and then onto our longest highway walk yet, over the Susquehanna, which was full of cobwebs. A train came along the tracks just as we were leaving town, and we got a pretty cool video of it. An early day into the shelter, and a hot afternoon.
Day 91 Peters Mtn. Shelter to Rausch Gap Shelter (18 miles)
Walked through an old mining community today, so we hear. Saw a bear, thinner than the ones we saw in SNP. Guess there are fewer pic-a-nic baskets in central PA. Camped in a gorgeous spot by Rausch creek that reminded us why we’re out here.
Day 92 Rausch Gap Shelter to 501 Shelter (17.5 miles)
Battled gray skies and unchanging terrain this morning but persevered! Looking forward to our night at the famous 501 Shelter, an old potters studio complete with bunks, a solar shower, and a skylight. Really enjoying the opportunity to stop by so many towns in PA. These are definitely places we never would have made it to otherwise. Shout out to George, Kathy, Chip and Gillian–we’re right near your old home of Reading!
We’re likely going to “zip” through a few states in the next few weeks. Meeting up with Mama and Papa E. in NYC in no time!
Zack (and Lara)