Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pennsylvania: The Beginning, A.T. Thruhike 2012

     The hike took me into the state of Pennsylvania, and will bring me along its rocks and ridges for over 200 miles. The beginning stretch was an easy, fairly flat stretch. It brought me over an overwhelming amount of road crossings for the first few miles, taking me out of my element.
     I arrived at route 16, and walked east into Blue Ridge Summit for a mail drop. The walk was only a little over a mile, but the road was fast and became narrow for a stretch... It was a bit dangerous!
     I stopped by the Post Office, and got my package. The local scouts had put together a little box of things for hikers there, and I helped myself to some bug spray and hand sanitizer. Signing their little book and saying thank you, I thought about how special this trail is made by all the people who live along it. It's simply amazing.
     With a storm starting, I ducked into a little diner across the street. I had a sandwich and a piece of pie. Packing to leave, the waitresses insisted I stay and wait until the worst of the storm passes. They gave me a little more food on the house, which I enjoyed graciously.
     After a little time passed, I decided I needed to get back on the trail, regardless of rain. I wasn't going to walk that road again though! I stuck my thumb out and in minutes a kind woman gave me a lift.
     I enjoyed the light rain and easy terrain as I made my way north, and I came to a nice little shelter called Tumbling Run. It was actually two small shelters, jokingly labeled "snoring" and "not snoring". I pitched my tent on a tent pad, and conversed with fellow thruhiker "Buzzkill", and a friendly old section-hiking man. That night I listened to the rain as I drifted in and out of sleep.
     The following morning began with a walk up Chimney Rocks, but I had no view due to rainclouds... You can't win them all. 
     20 miles later, I came to a nice shelter, Birch Run. I met "Birchy", the caretaker and trail maintainer for the area, and enjoyed hearing his stories of the trail while sipping a cold soda he had given me. He offered to make breakfast the next morning, so I chose to stop here rather than continuing. I met a fellow thruhiker, a great guy named "Dundee", hailing from Australia.
     I stayed up listening to Birchy talk of his experiences, then retired to the shelter. It was a nice shelter with wooden bunks.
     The next day, rising early, I followed Birchy to his place and enjoyed a nice breakfast and coffee. I caught a ride with him back to the trail, and met up with Dundee.
     Dundee and I walked together for the remainder of the day. After taking a little break, we came to the midway marker. A sign signified that we were halfway to Maine... I let out a wail of joy! I have made it so far, and for the first time, I felt genuinely confident I would succeed in hiking this entire trail in one go.
     We took our pictures by the sign, and, both of us in good spirits, we proceeded into Pine Grove Forest State Park.
     After passing a mansion used to house slaves as part of the underground railroad, we came to a store, which was our first chance to complete the "Halfway Halfgallon Challenge". This challenge is a tradition amongst thruhikers. We had to eat a halfgallon of ice cream in under 30 minutes... I did mine in 24.
     We walked through the ATC Museum, and we were some of the first thruhikers to have our pictures taken for the log.
     Having dreamed of thruhiking the trail for many years, I was in awe of the museum. There was much trail history here, including information on its beginnings, and famous belongings of some of the first and most famous thruhikers. I absolutely love this trail.
     I continued to walk with Dundee the rest of the day. We had shared some great moments, and I enjoyed talking to him while walking. It was a nice change of pace from my usual lone walk.
     We took to a road to have some subs for dinner at a deli. They were inexpensive, huge, and delicious. Perfect.
     That night we stayed in the Alec Kennedy Shelter, and experienced the most insanely loud snoring I have ever experienced. I didn't get much sleep.
     The following day we continued to walk together, and arrived early in Boiling Springs, where we had breakfast. There was the ATC office there, but it was closed. A few miles later, we learned why. There was a new trailhead being opened, and people from ATC were gathered there in celebration. We received bottled water and temporary ATC tattoos, which I sported proudly.
     The trail through Cumberland Valley was a unique section, as it passed right through the middle of farm fields. It was a hot, humid day, and it was made exceptionally hot hiking in the wide open fields all day.
     It grew cloudy, and we knew we would be walking through rain soon. We decided we would do 30 miles into Duncannon, and split a room at the Doyle hotel. I called ahead to reserve a spot, and soon after we were back on the wooded ridgeline, and in the rain.
     Just as the rain began to subside, I spotted something in the trail ahead. A bobcat! As soon as I realized, it had darted into the woods. Much to my surprise, it hadn't gone too far; I could still see it off in the forest. I had enough time to snap a few pictures before it bolted.
     After having our picture taken on the steep and impressive Hawk Rock, we began the steep descent into Duncannon.
     The Doyle Hotel greeted us with a large banner stating that it welcomed hikers. It looked ancient from the outside, and we learned that it was supposedly haunted on the inside.
     The folks there were friendly, and the room, when split, was cheap. It wasn't anything particularly nice, as the place was old and historic, and it was just a minimalist room and a shared bathroom/shower. Still, it felt amazing to wash up and relax.
     That night, I dragged Dundee and a German section hiker named Axel to a local pub. We were the center of attention, as the people there were amazed and impressed by our adventures. We enjoyed a few drinks bought by the locals, including rounds of shots. When we had our bills handed to us, a man sitting next to us paid them for us. It was amazing... People can be so amazing.
     We had a really, really good time. We were all laughing, talking, and overjoyed. With a good, warm and jolly feeling inside, I found my way back to the Doyle, and slept a good, long, well-deserved sleep.

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