Life is short, but this trail is not
June 27th, 2013
June 25: After Boiling Springs, we decided for pur biggest push yet- 25 miles into Duncannon PA. The terrain LOOKED flat in the guidebook, and we were well rested after two short days.
The day started out with the trail alternating between shady Forrest and fields. Corn fields, spinach, strawberries, more corn.
We stopped for a break at the ATC work center farm and refilled water from the well pumps.
Them we started climbing again. An afternoon thunderstorm started rumbling on the distance, so we stopped to put on the pack covers, but were ultimately spared the worst of it. Just a bit of gentle rain and a cooling drop on humidity.
The descent into Duncannon was rocky and steep, but not as bad as the descent into Harper's Ferry. We walked into Duncannon around 7:15.
Like Boiling Springs, Duncannon has the trail running right down the street. The Doyle Hotel was literally right on the trail so we stayed there for the night.
June 23: yet another day of milestones. We had hit the actual halfway point the day before, and passed the ceremonial point this morning where we stopped for pictures.
Then it was on to Pine Grove Furnace State Park for the half gallon challenge. So, how did I do? Let's look:
After the successful challenge, we were feeling a little too full to hike so we hung around the park for a while. Going to the AT museum, swimming in the lake, and hanging out with The Town, who were having a cookout with family. ( strangely, the stomache felt better after a couple hot dogs)
Then, Road Runner decided to stay at the hostel in the park while Subaru and I pushed on for another 12 miles and camped by a stream in the woods.
June 24: our plan for the day was to push on to Boiling Springs, PA - only 8 miles for me & Sub, but 20 for Road Runner. We passed approximately 12,000 Boy Scouts out hiking that morning , and also had some trail magic of oranges and Gatorade.
The trail goes right into the town of Boiling Springs and actually the street and the trail are the same for a while.
Boiling Springs is a lovely town with many houses from the 1700s. There is an old iron furnace in a park where the iron works used to stand. And the fishing outfitter's used to be part of the Underground Railroad. Pretty cool.
We ate lunch at a cafe and then went over to Allenberry Resort, a place where hikers received more than a 50% discount. Swam in the pool and did laundry then reunited with Road Runner for pizza. Good day!
June 22: today was a landmark day. It was the day we crossed the halfway point! It was also a trail magic times two day! We got up and hiked down into Caledonia State Park where we ran into some guys who werealong pancakes for hikers! Walnut, blueberry, and apple. Yummy! Then we once again climbed up onto the ridge line where we bounced in and out of the woods and crossing gravel roads. One particular gravel road, Woodland Road, marks the midpoint. The actual midpoint changes from year to year, but the signpost stays put. We would not not the signpost until tomorrow. But we did hit:
Trail magic! Another group of hikers who call themselves "The Town" had some relatives who came out and put together a spread of chicken, salad, pasta, veggies, and cookies. We all spent some time relaxing, eating, and socializing.
It was great !
June 19: To leave Harper's Ferry, we walked across a railroad bridge that crossed right where the Shenandoah Rover merges with the Potomac.
And then, we were in Maryland. The trail changes dramatically here, merging with a gravel bike trail and running along the river, level and flat for 3 miles before climbing into the ridge line. We passed through a historic state park (Gathland State Park) with a museum, war memorials, and plaques about civil war battles. In fact, we would continuously pass through battlefields with plaques our entire short time in Maryland.
Plus, there were some nice views:
That night, we stayed at Dahlgren's Campground, which had showers and bathrooms! Nice touch!
June 20: as yesterday, today's hiking provided a not of a history lesson. We saw the original Washington Monument, alongside ( what else) plaques about George Washington's life.
The walking was fairly level, no significant climbs or descents, but very very rocky! Happily, the new shoes provide significantly more cushioning than the older ones. We get to Raven Rock shelter, a new, two story shelter that is very impressive, and are met by Sparky and Rabbit, two hikers on their 60s who were at the campground with us last night. Could it be we are finding another hiker bubble?
June 21: the longest day of the year! And boy, did we need all the daylight we could get. Since our resupply was fond mainly at an outfitter, we decided on 2-3 days of food with a trip to a grocery when we could. That happened today. But first....right outside Pen Mar Couny Park, we left the Apple-latch-Che-un Trail and arrived at the Apple-lay-shun Trail:
Then we hit the road, hitched in to WalMart, did a bigger resupply, hitched back, and still managed to do 20 miles on rocky terrain.
June 21st is also naked hiking day. Yes, I did see some naked hikers. And yes, I hiked naked - under a protective layer of clothing. Because while I embrace the spirit of naked hiking day, there are ticks, bugs, poison ivy, sunburns, and chafing to consider!
Why does it seem like zero days slip away with very little rest and relaxation? Take, for instance July 18, our zero in Harper's Ferry.
The night before, we had gotten in after a tough descent and checked into the Econolodge. After exploding the contents of our packs onto every available square inch of horizontal space in the room and taking showers, it was 7:45 and all the local restaurants were closed. (What is that nonsense?) So Papa John's pizza it was. Then a quick call home to say we made it to town and a long run through all the channels to discover we could NOT watch the Stanley Cup playoffs (what is that nonsense all about?) Plug in the electronics for charging, pay the pizza guy and eat and it's 11:00. Time to sleep.
We slept late on the zero day, until 7:30. Then went down for breakfast and did laundry. Both Subaru and I had packages at the ATC office .6 miles away, so we walked down in the drizzle to claim our boxes (thanks for the gift packages, Adam and Jen!) get our 1/2 way picture taken, and sign the trail register.
Walked back to the hotel room with our packages and then walked .7 miles on the other direction to the outfitter's to get new shoes. We found out that the grocery store had closed, so we did our resupply from the outfitter's and the sundries store at the hostel nearby. Back to the hotel in our new shoes with our food. Ate leftover pizza for late lunch, then .5 miles to the post office to send some stuff home.
Back to the hotel, washed out our cookpots, organized our food, rinsed out the water bottles.
And now it's time to walk .7 miles back to the downtown for dinner before the restaurants close. By the time we get back to the hotel, it's 9:30 pm.
Zero day gone, very little rest.
What's up with that nonsense?
June 14: Up and ate breakfast at the hotel, grabbed some Powerade, and got a shuttle to the trail. Back in the Shenandoah. I took the lead today of our little hiking crew. My feet were feeling a lot better with my Dr. Scholl's Active Inserts in the boots. Thumbs up to that little product! The bottoms of my feet weren't in agony for the first time in about 10 days! Stopped at a wayside for lunch and I finally had the much talked about Blackberry Milkshake. It was delicious! Walked a little slower after lunch, taking time to look at eh views when we crossed road crossings. Very crowded shelter; lots of people who got off the trail in Luray as we did. I actually wanted to tent tonight, but all the tent sites were full and there was room in the shelter. So I sheltered it. Good news is that there were no snorers!
June 15: Up and out early. We had a nice view at the top of the first cllimb with views of farmland and rolling hills. Looking out from that viewpoint, I had one of those moments; one of those "I can't believe it" moments. For so long, hiking the AT had just been a dream. Something I wrote about in my journal in the list of "someday I will do this". For so long it was just a picture taped up on my wall. But now, now I was actually sitting at a viewpoint, looking out on the farmland below from the Shenandoah National Park, almost halfway through my thru-hike. It's a good feeling to have an "I can't believe this is my life" moment. Onward and upward, up another climb. We stopped at the top for a little snack break and SUbaru and I had a talk about this very thing. And then, we were out of the park. In the blink of an eye, Shenandoah had passed us by. We stopped for lunch at the next shelter and I had the unexpected surprise of green head flies. Oh, I thought they were only at the beach! no, they are here too and their bites hurt just as bad. The funny thing is, I was the only one getting bitten!
After lunch, the Virginia Blues hit. Everyone talks about the Virgiania Blues, and I thought I would get out of the state without experiencing them. But no, here they were.
The thing is, we had descended in elevation and now, in addition to being in "the green tunnel", we were in the green tunnel in suburbia. So the next 8 miles were just about the most boring on the trail. It was like hiking through the paths in the woods behind my backyard. Picture it: go to the path in the woods behind your house. And walk this path. For eight to ten hours.That was king of my day. What a letdown after the morning. At least we hit some trail magic in the last 5 miles. Trail magic makes everything better! This night, after a long day (24 miles) Sub and I both decided to shelter it, simply to not have to put up and take down tents. And we saw a copperhead snake today. Maybe a snakebite kit wouldn't be a bad idea!
June 16: After yesterday, I resolved to stop being negative about the trail and instead think of it as hiking through a conservation area near home on a day off from work. Enough with the "i could have hiked THIS at home" and instead think of how much I enjoyed hiking this at home. We got some nice, unexpected, cell phone coverage at a road crossing so we were able to call our Dads and wish them a happy father's day. And then, apparently the trail had heard my cries of "I'm bored with this" and gave me this:
The Roller Coaster! I mean, on the grand scheme of things, it was nothing we hadn't done before. But on the land of backyard trails, it was extreme. Plus, it fell at the end of a 23 mile day ( after a 24 mile day yesterday) so by the time we reached our destination, The Bear's Den hostel, I was beat! Thankfully, the hostel was fantastic- clean, quiet, cozy. We all got "the hiker's special"- bunk, laundry, pizza, soda, and Ice cream. Slept well!
June 17: Now believe it or not, I did not finish my pint of Ben & Jerry's from the hiker's special. So today, I ate it for breakfast before hitting the trail. (And a Cliff Bar) This day was full of highlights. From hitting the 1000 mile mark
To crossing over into state #5
To entering the "psychological halfway point" of the trail, Harper's Ferry
Also, I pretty much reached the end of functionality from my lightweight hiking boots. Gotta get a new pair.
But back to this psychological halfway point. There are actually 3 halfway points on the trail:
1) the psychological halfway point - Harpet's Ferry
2) the actual halfway point - mile 1089.3
3) the halfway challenge point
There are lots of "challenges" along the trail- the 4 state challenge ( walk VA, WV, Maryland, and into Penn in 24 hours) the suitcase challenge (go to Goodwill and buy a suit and a suitcase. Then buy a case of beer. Walk the next 24 miles on the suit, carrying the beer in the suitcase and drink a beer at each mile). For me, just hiking the trail is challenge enough. Except for the halfway challenge. I'm all over that!
It is simply: eat a half gallon of ice cream at the halfway point. I'm pretty confident in my ability to eat a half gallon of ice cream. But let's make it interesting!
If I eat the half gallon, all wagers must donate $5.00 to one of the charities from cool causes.
If I DON'T finish, I have to spend one day hiking listening only to songs suggested by the wagers. (I'll download from iTunes)
It's a win/win situation! Either the charities get some funding or everyone gets a great blog post entitled "the day I listened to nothing but Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Beiber". Probably followed by a post entitled "the night Subaru and Road Runner got up and hiked off without me"
I better eat up!
Leave a comment with the song I should download to play!!
Without question, you can trust a thru-hiker with your camera, your iphone, your wallet, your money, your social security card, your car keys, or your $250 sunglasses. But never with your toilet paper.
Or your Snickers.
June 9: Oh, so hard to get back in the swing of things after 2 days off. We were able to get a ride to the Shenandoah Park Entrance by 8:30 am. We got our permits and hit the trail full throttle. (or sluggishly. Whichever you choose to believe) Seven miles in, we stopped at Calf Mountain Shelter for a snack and saw from the shelter log that Acorn had been there two nights previous with Earth Balance, Hugs, and Sideshow. As we finished and were packing up, who should come down the shelter trail, but Sideshow!
"Wait. Weren't you here two nights ago?"
Turns out he had been there by way of backtracking one mile where he had been dropped off. He was now covering those 7 miles after spending 2 days with relatives. Makes sense.
Shortly after leaving the shelter, it started raining. Then thundering. The pouring. And all the gear we had just spent 2 days drying out was wet once again. Fortunately, the storm was short lived, and we came to a road crossing with a parking lot. The lot quickly filled with hikers drying out their gear. That sun works wonders!
Then, a couple miles later, we hit some trail magic courtesy of "Santa's Helper"
We pushed on , for a total of 20 miles to Blackrock Hut. I had wanted to tent tonight, as I tend to sleep more soundly in the tent, but the tent sites were limited and rocky. I ended up sleeping in the shelter but later on was happy, when the thunder and rain returned.
June 10: Today we played a little game called "outwit the weather." We lost every round.
The day dawned on a steady, heavy rain. I packed up my merely damp stuff from inside the shelter while Subaru and Road Runner came into the shelter for breakfast dragging their sopping tents behind them. The folks at the shelter quickly divided into two groups: those who had NOT hiked the previous Thursday in Andrea (who packed and hit the trail) and those who HAD hiked last Thursday. I was in this group.
We sat inside the shelter for a couple hours, just knowing that the rain would lighten up and stop soon.
We set out on our hike, feeling very proud of ourselves for being so smart.
And then it started raining. Hard. The trail turned into a river. Our boots and socks became saturated. Our mood turned south.
Fortunately, we were in Shenandoah Park, which has a plethora of campstores and restaurants. So we made our way to the Loft Mountain Campground Wayside (restaurant). It stopped raining as soon as we arrived. I removed my boots and socks, my raingear, and my packcover and hung them to dry. Road Runner and Subaru unpacked their tents and hung them over the rail of the deck. Then we went inside.
Our little lunch stop turned into a two hour break to dry everything our completely and to allow our stomachs a chance to digest and make room for the famous blackberry sundae. Finally, dried out, full, happy, and quite smug about how smart we were, we headed back onto the trail.
It started downpouring 10 minutes later.
We arrived at Pinefield Hut just as the rain stopped. And tonight, I did get to tent, since the shelter was full of hikers who didn't stop for a two hour lunch.
June 11: Later than planned start today (8:30) because I just could not get moving this morning. Which is hard, because today was a planned long day. We started hiking, and rather than lunch at the shelter (mile 7), we decided to stop at a road crossing parking lot, since that had proved to be so successful two days ago drying gear. So once, again, we ate and dried out our gear. Then began the climb. We hadn't had any big climbs since entering the park, so this was our first. It ended up at a nice viewpoint which also was coincidentally, the 900 mile mark. Nine hundred miles! No wonder my feet are so sore.
Spent a little time there, basking in the thought of 900 miles as well as the sun. It was rather nice to sit with two good friends and share this accomplishment and this view.
We hit the trail again, with me in the lead, and while climbing a hill, I saw my first bear! He was little, about the size of a Labrador retriever. He was crossing from one side of the trail to the bushes on the other and paid me no mind whatsoever. No picture of him, sadly.
We had dinner in Lewis Mountain Campground with food from their camp store. (Italian sandwiches and ice cream) Ate with Condo and GaMaine, who are from Germany. Then pushed the one last mile to Bearfence Mountain Shelter.
June 12: Another big mile day. Another big food day.
We left early in anticipation of our big miles (7:30) and quickly did the 7 miles to Big Meadows Wayside. But first, we stopped for morning trail magic! Sodas and chips from some folks who thru hiked last year. We got to the wayside hoping for lunch, but they were still serving their breakfast menu. So we had a big second breakfast.
After our flat, fast morning, things turned steeper. And rockier. And slower. I hate it when that happens. We kept pushing through the next 9 miles, actually treated to some pretty nice views and vistas that we didn't have to cross Skyline Drive to see! And had some decent ridge walking, as well. We finally ended up at Skyline Lodge for town food meal #2! Two restaurant meals in one day! How awesome. We considered getting a room and staying at the lodge so we could watch game one of the Stanley Cup (me rooting for the Bruins, Subaru rooting for the Blackhawks, and Road Runner not caring either way. Then we saw the room rates and decided to keep hiking)
Then we set out to cover the last 7 miles and were pleasantly surprised with this view:
Hi, I'm Heather, AKA "Pink Lady". Welcome to my blog. I'm so excited to share my adventures as I embark on a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.