Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pennsylvania: Duncannon to Port Clinton, A.T. Thruhike 2012

     I followed Dundee out of Duncannon. It started off with a couple miles of road walking. We walked on a long bridge over the Suquehanna River, where we were attacked by a falcon! Yes, a falcon was attacking us, swooping in and diving toward us, then pulling away at the last second. It was making a lot of noise as well! I can only assume it had chosen to nest on the bridge, and we were seen as a threat. I would learn later that this bird of prey had attacked other hikers as well.
     We crossed train tracks, and took to the woods as the path went steeply up and over rocks.
     I slipped on some rocks, and took a spill. It was a clumsy fall, where I couldn't catch myself, and the weight of my backpack threw me off balance.
     I was now bleeding, filthy and sore, but I wanted to try to keep up with Dundee, so I pressed on.
     I slipped again. This time, my foot became caught, and my fall resulted in a lot of damage to my mesh trail runner shoes. I sat down, looking at my shoes. I was very glad I had a new pair waiting for me in a post office not far ahead. I got back up, and continued on.
     The trail crossed a busy road via a pedestrian bridge, and emptied into a parking lot. In the parking lot was a sign, that read "MEMORIAL DAY TRAIL MAGIC! THRUHIKERS WELCOME", so I followed the arrow.
     There were many, many people. It was a very large family, and it was very overwhelming at first. People ushered me along, showing me to the countless tables of food. I saw Dundee in the corner, and felt a little less overwhelmed. I was also joined by Spider, another hiker. I grabbed some food and took a seat, and began talking to this family that has so kindly taken me in to their holiday celebration. I immediately felt at ease, as I learned several members of the family are past thruhikers.
     Looking around the room, I began noticing ATC socks, hats, and shirts. I saw pictures of hikers on the wall. I began to realize this was a family that cared very much about the A.T. and those of us on it, and I was able to loosen up and enjoy good food, good company and a nice rest. Who knew I would get to celebrate Memorial Day after all?
     I made my way to Clark's Valley Creek that night, with intentions to enjoy a nice swim. As I was setting up camp, I was approached by a man from a group camping nearby.
     It turns out he is a teacher, and was with a group of high schoolers and other teachers out on a senior trip. He said they had never met a thruhiker before, and was wondering if I could do a q&a by the campfire. I didn't mind.
"How long have you been out?"
"A little over two months so far." I replied.
"Don't you get lonely?"
"Certainly, pretty often." Said I.
"What do you eat?"
"Everything I can," I responded jokingly.
     The questions went on for some time, and it was getting late. I said I needed to get some sleep, and as I walked away, the students gave me a round of applause. It caught me off guard, but made me feel good.
     A late start the next morning had me scrambling to make it to a decent destination that day. The trail took me up a mountainside, following an old mining road. Taking side trails a short distance brought me to the entrances of old abandoned coal mines. The history of this mining community was made even more apparent as the trail passed through several former mining towns, complete with old foundations, walls, and even family burial grounds.
     I ran into a woman doing maintenance on the trail, and we ended up conversing for a while. It turns out she is the president of a local hiking club. I was fascinated in her dedication to hiking.
     Storm clouds rolled in and the thunder began booming. She told me she felt bad that she kept me, and that I may not make it to the shelter before night. She said there wouldn't be a place for my tent before the shelter. I insisted that it was fine, I can hike really fast now. I continued north.
     The rain came hard and fast. I threw on my rain gear, and faced the storm.
     A few miles later, the trail came to a road. There she was, in her van, calling me over. I hopped in. She insisted she bring me to town and give me a place to stay. I looked at my book... In this rain, it wasn't going to be an easy eve. I finally accepted her invite, and she put me up for the night, and returned me to the trail the next morning. People who associate with the trail have this special personality, a connection with all who have love for it.
     As I walked Pennsylvania, the ridge full of rock and boulder, I admired just how unique and different this part of the trail was from the rest. It was rough on the feet, but the diversity captures my interests without fail.
     When I arrived in the town of Port Clinton, I intended on just passing through. Stopping in at the post office, I learned that the Cabelas in Hamburg will shuttle hikers to and from the store. I figured it would be a nice break from hiking.
     I took the free ride, and walked around the giant outfitters for a bit. I admired the huge animal display, and stood in awe at the size of the bears.
     Cabelas is geared more towards hunting and fishing, and does not supply much of the items that would interest a long distance hiker. Most of their things are bulky and heavy. I want light and fast.
     It was a nice break though, and I did grab some jerky and some maple candy.
     I took the ride back to Port Clinton, and decided to check out the town some more.
     They provide a really nice hiker pavilion in town. It was impressive, with comfortable chairs, and they even left some snacks. I decided to spend my night here.
     A good nights rest in a friendly town, and many more incredible miles to look forward to. That night, I dreamed of tall, bare New Hampshire mountains...

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