AT Thru-Hike, Pennsylvania [1] 1997

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(108) Monday, July 7, 8:30PM

I'm back on the trail after a long two week "intermission." The break was great, but I'm really quite glad to be back. Today was Christine's first day on the Trail, and we couldn't have asked for a better one. The trail was lovely with dry conditions and moderate temps in the low 80's.

We're camped in my cozy little Walrus tent on a bed of pine needles along a lovely babbling brook. The tent is a little crowded, but we don't mind too much on this our first night out . . . just wait until we smell a little worse though. We did a good job of packing. I left town with 50 lbs., and Christine is carrying 30. We don't even have sleeping bags; we're just sharing a light-weight sheet and fleece blanket. I hope it'll be enough.

I noticed the names of Capetown Jenny and Trail Mouse & Technicolor just one and two days ahead of me. It'll be great to finally see them again; it's been since the first week in Georgia. I'm sure there'll be others.

Today was an easy return back to the trail with light miles, which suited both of us just fine. I'm looking forward to the second half now.

8.3 Miles Today, 1045 MTD

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Christine, my future wife, though I didn't know it at the time. We married on February 28,1999


(109) Tuesday, July 8, 9:15PM

Christine and I are tenting again after a beautiful day of hiking. I don't think it got as warm as they predicted and the humidity was low. It was a pretty trail, though a bit rocky. Ten miles into the day this afternoon the trail passed through Caledonia State Park where we spent two hours enjoying their swimming pool and snack bar. It was a very refreshing stop.

Christine's heels are blistering, and none of my treatment seems to be able to stick to them. Everything just peels right off. I just don't get it. We're going to try two more Compeed tomorrow with lots of tape to hold them in place. I sure hope that does the job.

My body is performing pretty well after the long break, but my hips are sore from the pack. I also didn't sleep very well last night. I had already gotten spoiled by two weeks in a bed. I'm sure all that will change soon enough.

I ran into Stargazer this morning. I hadn't seen her since Damascus. She confessed that she had nearly quit recently, but was hanging in there.

12.2 Miles Today, 1057.2 MTD


(110) Wednesday, July 9, 8:30PM

Another night in the tent with Christine. We had another lovely hiking day today. The sky was a bit overcast with a fairly steady breeze, though the humidity had increased. We made it to camp just before the rain started. The rain didn't last long, but the distant rumbling of thunder leads me to believe that we may not have seen the last of it.

Christine's heels continue to get worse. For some reason I can't get any of my blister remedies to adhere to her feet. I have no idea what we're going to do about it tomorrow. Maybe I'll get an idea in my sleep tonight.

Some time tomorrow we will pass the actual half-way point of the AT. Christine and I may get off shortly after that point instead of going all the way to Boiling Springs. We'll know better tomorrow.

13.7 Miles Today, 1070.9 MTD

(111) Thursday, July 10, 10:00 PM

The rain come through last night really cooling things off. It made for an absolutely perfect day today. Christine and I had fresh huckleberries (wild mountain blueberries) on our cereal this morning. We had several opportunities yesterday to pick them and smartly thought ahead inspiring us to save some for breakfast. They were a very tasty addition to our breakfast this morning.

In the cool weather we quickly breezed right into Pine Grove Furnace State Park before 11:00. We visited the hostel there, waiting for the store to open. The general store here has a tradition known as the "half-gallon club." Thru-hikers are supposed to celebrate reaching the half-way point by quickly consuming a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting. Those successfully completing the event are given a commemorative wooden spoon. I read several graphic register entries there of others who had attempted the feat. It seemed that only half succeeded, but nearly all rued the choice. Exercising rare wisdom, I elected to forgo this primitive ritual . . . and I have no regrets.

Christine and I looked closely at the maps in the Park Office and decided that this was the best spot for us to exit the trail, so we began our long hitch back to Waynesboro after 38 miles together on the Trail. Christine was willing to continue, but I selfishly wanted to spend an extra day with her off of the Trail before her vacation ended. And I had no effective remedy for her blistering feet and sore knee. She had a good experience to this point, so it seemed like a good stopping point. We made the trip back to Waynesboro in four hitches.

3.7 Miles Today, 1074.8 MTD


(112) Friday, July 11

Zero-mile day.


(113) Saturday, July 12

Zero-mile day.


(114) Sunday, July 13, 6:30PM

Well I finally did it for real today. I officially passed the half-way point on the Trail. I've been creeping up to it for what seems like a month now. 1080.1 miles is the exact mid-point this year, and I reached it at about 3:30 this afternoon. My thoughts today were consume with how much progress I gave up while taking all this recent time off. My overall average has actually fallen below ten miles a day. I did a lot of mental calculating on the trail today to reassure myself that I'm still on pace to finish. It all looks good, but I really can't afford to blow off many more days. I really have to make them count now. This doesn't mean that I need to pull long days, it just means I have to consistently keep moving.

I said goodbye to Christine today, her birthday. I may not see her again until I finish, and that fact weighed heavily on each of us this morning. We spent a great nine days together, and it seems somewhat odd to be back on my own for the first time in a month. I've just been focusing my thoughts back to the business of hiking the Trail. It's all in my hands now as I look ahead one day at a time to the attractions and challenges before me.

My body feels pretty good and my pack weighed 53 lbs. fully-laden this morning. I just need to get back to the walk.

7.3 Miles Today, 1082.1 MTD

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Midpoint Marker--This marked the halfway point. Only another 1080 miles or so to go.


(115) Monday, July 14, 8:30PM

Today is a significant day. My continental motorcycle tour from 1993 ended on the 116th day, and now this trip is barely half-way through. This fact really illustrates the magnitude of this journey for me.

I pulled a long day today for the first time in a month. It felt pretty good. The morning began with the final miles along the Blue Ridge which we have been following since Georgia. This meant I spent the rest of the day hiking across the open farmland of Cumberland Valley. I really baked walking in the hot sun. I got some respite eating lunch in the quaint town of Boiling Springs. The private farms didn't allow for much camping flexibility so I'm staying in a motel along with two other hikers (Bones and Kadiddle). I had never met either of them before even though they only started one and two days after me. I had heard of Kadiddle. She was involved in an accident in Georgia when a limb fell off a tree on the tent in which she was sleeping. She spent a week recovering, but returned to the Trail.

I was pleased with my mileage today. I hope I still feel well tomorrow. I really feel the need to hunker down to the task of walking more now.

20.1 Miles Today, 1102.2 MTD


(116) Tuesday, July 15, 8:30PM

Wow is this heat incredible. This is the second day with a heat index of 110. I'm staying in an air conditioned motel again, now in Duncannon. It's the only way to recover from a long day in this sapping heat. It's been so dry around here this year that people are talking about drought. The town firehouse has a sign reading "Pray for Rain." So far there is no indication that the heat will subside. Not exactly ideal hiking weather, but then it rarely ever is.

The dry and hot weather poses another concern for us hikers. The Trail through PA is notorious for the unreliability of its water sources. This is a problem in wet years, making it much more of a concern this year. This heat requires the consumption of incredible quantities of fluids, and reaching a dry spring can be down right dangerous. Even some of the shelters have dried up water sources. The best defense is awareness, so the hiking community is really spreading the word along the trail about the conditions of the water sources. If I know where there isn't water, then I can better plan my water load.

The convenience of having two motel nights in a row has been great, but there aren't any more for a while. After doing nearly forty miles these past two days, I'm lined up for a short day tomorrow of just eleven miles. I'd really rather do a few more than that, but the next camp site with reliable water is sixteen miles further . . . out of the question. This will allow me to sleep in tomorrow and rest my body from two long days.

The PA honeymoon is over. After a pleasant morning, I finally hit the dreaded rocks that PA is known for. All afternoon I had to plan every step through the brutal rock sections. The rest of the state is supposed to be more of the same. Woe, my poor feet!

I still can't get over how much I am sweating. It's apparent to me as I work on my third gallon of fluids for the day with no urge to use the toilet. I have to admit that I'm a bit concerned about the danger of hiking under these conditions. It would sure help matters if the heat wave broke for a little while, reducing the need for so much water. Hell, I'd even tolerate a few days of rainy hiking to improve the situation.

My body is tired, and I look forward to the quiet restful night ahead, but otherwise all is well.

18.9 Miles Today, 1121.1 MTD


(117) Wednesday, July 16, 10:00PM

Another very hot day today, but not quite as stifling as the past two. I enjoyed an occasional breeze and slightly less humidity. The stay in an air-conditioned motel room last night was a life saver. I'm sitting in my tent next to the beautiful Peter's Mountain Shelter, dripping in sweat. It is just still so hot! I wish I could have some more of the breezes that were around earlier today. My only consolation is knowing that I just finished washing myself. After hiking on a day like this, it makes all the difference to strip down and wash the body. At least I'm not all sticky.

I slept in until 8:30 this morning and then enjoyed a restaurant breakfast before being driven back to the trail by the kind motel proprietor. I really felt rested before beginning my hike today. I made today a shorter day which was probably very important to me. Besides giving the body a little break, it gave me a chance to take the time to try to rehydrate myself. I consumed another three gallons of fluids today without any trouble. I can't stress enough how easy it is to dehydrate under these conditions; and the rehydration process can take several days. So continued hiking just aggravates the situation unless I stay properly hydrated. My urine still doesn't have "The Two C's" which are "copious and clear," but I'm drinking enough that I'm not in danger.

There are several hikers here at the shelter tonight, but we're all out in our tents. This is one of the nicest shelters on the trail, but the no-see-ums, flies, and mosquitoes have been so bad today that no one wants to subject themselves to the torture. Most of us were present to enjoy some trail magic from a guy named Dan that briskly hiked in the three miles from the nearest road. He had a cooler in his backpack with two half gallons of Breyers ice cream; chocolate and vanilla. He even brought bowls, along with bananas, cherries, and chocolate topping. It took us no time at all to devour the gift, and several of us hadn't even eaten dinner yet. As soon as we finished, Dan cleaned up the remains and headed back to his car . . . a true trail angel.

I went ahead and fixed my dinner which didn't compare to the two helpings of desert that preceded it, but I ate it all any way. I think the ice cream actually stimulated my appetite for dinner. The heat can really do a number on your appetite. Drinking the necessary quantity of liquids sort of suppresses any feelings of hunger. I really have to cool down from the day's hiking before my hunger returns.

So far so good. Tomorrow may be a twenty miler, so I'm turning in with plans of an early start in the morning.

10.4 Miles Today, 1131.5 MTD

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Susquehanna River--A very hot and hazy stretch of summer.


(118) Thursday, July 17, 9:00PM

Boy am I beat! The heat really got to me today. There was rarely a breeze, and the limited number of water sources made it worse. I made it to the Bleu Blaze Hostel where I have my tent pitched out on the lawn. For some reason I slept very poorly last night, and I hope to make up for that with a good night's sleep tonight. The insect bites and heat rash I received today are bound to interfere with my pursuit of sleep tonight, but I hope my overall tiredness will prevail.

Tomorrow I should be in Pine Grove to pick up a mail drop. I have lots to do then and I don't want to take a full day off yet. Hopefully I'll be up for all the tasks facing me tomorrow after my fifteen mile hike.

I'm so beat that my thoughts are all fragmented, making for an incoherent log entry, so I'll end it now.

20.2 Miles Today, 1151.7 MTD


(119) Friday, July 18, 10:00PM

Today I passed the point denoting less than 1000 miles remaining. No Problem!

Today was another very hot day with rocky terrain most of the morning, but the day turned around late morning. A frequent breeze blew along the ridge line and a less rocky trail section invited me to enjoy the day. It was very encouraging to recover so quickly, body and mind, from yesterday's drain. I slept soundly last night and moved very well today reaching my destination by a little after 2:00.

I'm in a motel in the Pine Grove area to resupply and then back out tomorrow. So far so good.

15.4 Miles Today, 1167.1 MTD


(120) Saturday, July 19, 9:00PM

I spent an okay night in the motel last night and got back on the trail at 11:00 this morning. Today was absolutely beautiful. A violent front moved through in the late afternoon yesterday dragging a cold front behind it. The dry breezy day never rose out of the 70's today. It doesn't get much better than this. Tomorrow is supposed to be more of the same. I can't believe that I'm sitting in my tent right now worried about getting cold tonight. The weatherperson this morning said that it cold drop to 50 degrees tonight. What a switch!

It would have been a much nicer day today if it weren't for an unexpected trail relocation that added 2-3 miles to the day, not officially recognized in my Data Book. It's just frustrating when you walk for hours only to finally reach a landmark that tells you that you haven't really gone very far by the book. It wasn't a big deal, but just a nuisance.

The trail seems to be getting rockier in a steady manner as I make my way toward Delaware Water Gap. My understanding is that the trend continues until the last fifteen miles in PA, where the trail is nothing but rocks. I guess I'll be through with it soon enough . . . one day at a time.

Today was my wildlife day with two firsts for me on the Trail. This afternoon I saw my first rattlesnake and my first bear. The rattlesnake was large, but coiled on the trail so I can't estimate its length. I nearly stepped on it before backing off quickly. The snake seemed content to just sit there, so I made a wide detour around it after stealing a quick photograph. The patterns on the snake were very dark, so it blended in well with the dark earth. I never heard it rattle or saw its rattle, but it had very swollen venom pits on its triangular head, and it didn't appear much like a copperhead so I concluded that it must be some kind of rattler. Perhaps it was a timber rattler which are known for not using their rattles.

The bear I saw today was a big beautiful black bear. It appeared so healthy as it walked toward me on the trail. We noticed each other at nearly the same time. Neither of us seemed particularly startled as we momentarily stared each other down from about 30-40 feet. Then the wise bear promptly yielded to me and turned away as he quickly disappeared into the woods. It all happened so quickly that my fumbling effort to have camera in hand failed. In retrospect it all seemed quite surreal. I mean, all this time that I've spent on the trail and now my first bear sighting. It's as if the bear seemed out place to me, even though we're the ones that are visitors in his domain. I thoroughly enjoyed the brief encounter, and only spent about the next quarter mile looking over my shoulder to be sure I wasn't being stalked.

The last wildlife encounter I had today was the sight of a large buck loping through the woods. It was just an all around good day. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Tomorrow I pass through the town of Port Clinton on the Schuylkill River. I should just hit it right around lunch time for a nice break in the day.

14.2 Miles Today, 1181.3 MTD

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Shuberts Gap--This timbler rattler was one of only two close encounters with rattlesnakes on the entire trip. This napping snake showed no response to my presence.

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