AT Thru-Hike, Pennsylvania [2]1997

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(121) Sunday, July 20, 8:00PM

Today was another wonderful day. Beautiful weather and reasonable trails made it a truly nice day. I made it into Port Clinton for a hearty restaurant lunch and midday break. I only have four days of hiking left in PA; the hardest/rockiest of which is still facing me.

I actually got cold last night. I couldn't believe it; and my fleece blanket wasn't enough. I had no extra clothes to wear since I didn't count on the temperature getting down to fifty. I was wearing my T-shirt, shorts and socks when I awoke around 3:00 AM from the cold. The only other thing I could put on was my raincoat, so I did. This was not enough, and I was straining my half-asleep brain to be resourceful. Finally I remembered that I have been carrying one of these pocket-sized emergency blankets. It is a super thin light-weight metallic sheet from the space age technologies that is very reflective. It does very well at reflecting back the body’s heat. I pulled it out of my pack and laboriously unfolded it from its very compact packaging and draped it over me. It crackled like crazy whenever I moved, but it worked. I slept on through until morning. Once unfolded, it never returns to its original compact state. Usually these are intended to be disposed of after a single use, but I rolled it up inside my fleece blanket thinking ahead that it may again get chilly tonight. If so, I'll be ready.

I learned this morning that a hiker that I've seen occasionally for the past week is from Cincinnati, actually Evendale. His name is Lone Wolf, and he too is a bit of a loner out here.

Tomorrow may be a hotter more challenging day, so I'm turning in early to properly rest the body. I'm alone at my campsite tonight. It's been a while since I've had a solitary campsite. The register from the shelter that I'm tenting near had several warnings regarding a large bear being sighted here two days ago, so I've taken all the requisite precautions to sleep with peace of mind as "all the things go bump through the night."

15.1 Miles Today, 1196.4 MTD


(122) Monday, July 21, 7:30PM

Today was a long day, but it went quite well. There were nearly ten miles of nice trail today, the rest was extremely rocky. My feet are screaming for mercy. Right now I'm in my tent, pitched in the yard behind a B&B/restaurant at Blue Mtn. Summit. I mistakenly pushed a long day in order to enjoy a fine meal in the restaurant, but they are closed in the early part of the week. Somehow I overlooked that small detail in my planning. The overly kind proprietor fixed me two hot dogs and a couple Cokes from her personal kitchen. I was very grateful.

I'm just three days from DWG (Delaware Water Gap) and my exit from PA. I can't wait to have these rocks behind me. Supposedly the next three days are the worst . . . yippee !

I awoke this morning to very heavy air. It seemed that rain was surely imminent today, but nothing so far. While today was more humid than the past two days, it never got too hot. The forecast calls for rain beginning tonight and continuing through Thursday. I won't mind it too much if it doesn't make the rocks too slippery.

22.1 Miles Today, 1218.5 MTD

Click on thumbprint photos to see them enlarged.

Blue Mtn.--The trail in Pennsylvania was notoriously rocky as several of the following pictures will show.
Pulpit Rock--I weighed somewhere in the mid 230's when I started the AT. I may have gotten as low as the 180's at one point in New England. I figure that I weigh about 200 pounds in this picture.


(123) Tuesday, July 22

Zero-mile day.


(124) Wednesday, July 23

Zero-mile day.


(125) Thursday, July 24 9:00PM

So much to tell regarding these past few days. Shortly after closing my last entry on Monday night, I began to feel ill. I got out of the tent and vomited violently around 9:00PM. It really took a lot out of me, so I hoped I would be able to sleep following the purge. I climbed back into my tent, but continued to feel very sick. The sky soon let loose with rain, so when I had to vomit again around 11:00 I used a garbage bag I had, leaning out into my vestibule for the act. The force of heaving burst a blood vessel in my deaf ear leaving a mess of blood on my face. My body ached so thoroughly that I couldn't get any kind of sleep in my tent. There was just no comfort to be had in my usually comfortable tent. I twisted and turned all night in total misery.

At 5:30 AM, first light, I finally gave in and went to bang on the door of the B&B caretaker. She awoke to the pitiful sight of this sick hiker pleading for a bed. She immediately let me in and gave me a room, delaying registration until later. I took some Alka Seltzer, then immediately went to sleep in a very comfortable bed. After several hours of sleep I awoke with the initial misery behind me. The rest of the day I was plagued with the worst diarrhea I've ever encountered. I finally ate some soup that the caretaker (Jean Wilson) prepared for me. It wasn't substantial, but it was a start. I had thoughts of leaving the next day, but had absolutely no energy. I spent the day resting and built up an appetite for pizza last night.

I credit the whole illness to a flu-like bug, though it could have been some bad water our bad food. The experience was very distressing to me emotionally. Just before getting sick I was experiencing being the fittest I've ever felt in my life. To go from that extreme high to having no control over bodily functions was overwhelming. I broke down into tears on several occasions from how upset it made me. I just couldn't handle the turn around.

In hind sight I probably couldn't have picked two better days off of the trail. The rain was steady through this morning until the moment of my departure at 9:00AM. I kindly thanked the B&B people for their incredible hospitality and support through my illness and then returned to the trail for a perfect day of hiking. The high today was 69 degrees with grey skies and a steady breeze. It actually felt cold if I wasn't hiking. The rain held off all day today and just recently started up again this evening.

I made the hike today into Lehigh Gap and am staying at the "Jail" Hostel. It is so called because it is located in the basement of the police station here in Palmerton. It's not actually a hostel; they just let hikers sleep on the floor for free as a courtesy.

I carefully made it over the slippery rocks today and have a long day planned for tomorrow. I ate pretty well tonight hoping that this meal sits with me better than last night's pizza. My stomach was still dishing out bad vibes to me today under the strain of my hip belt, but I'm confident that I'll be ready for more tomorrow.

14.6 Miles Today, 1233.1 MTD

Click on thumbprint photos to see them enlarged.

Blue Mtn. Summit--The trail often became a stream as the rainwater followed the path of least resistance. These two dayhikers were enjoying their outing in spite of the rain.
I love this photo of the trail with the white blaze clearly visible.
Bear Rocks--Look closely and you can see a white blaze painted on the rocks. YES, that is the trail!
Lehigh Gap--The next 10 miles of devastation resulted from years of smelting zinc in the nearby town of Palmerton. The dry and exposed rocky trail could get very hot in the afternoon sun. I wisely covered this section in the coolness of the morning.


(126) Friday, July 25, 9:00PM

Today's hike went very well. I had a cool breezy morning for the five mile stretch known as "Dante's inferno;" so called because that rocky stretch of mountain is barren as a result of the toxic fallout from the zinc smelting that occurred in the area for many years. The zinc processing ceased ten years ago, but vegetation is very slow to return to the now hostile environment. When the original vegetation died, nothing remained to hold the thin layer of soil in place. It all eroded away with the wind and rain leaving only a rocky mountain in its place. The initial climb up this mountain can be hell in the afternoon on a hot day since there is no relief from the baking sun. I was very fortunate to put it behind me first thing in the morning.

It was a very rocky trail section today (surprise), but I didn't labor too much with it. I guess I've actually gotten used to the rocks by now. I saw another rattlesnake today when I stepped off the trail to get around a blown down tree blocking my path. As I struggled through the bushes a large brown rattlesnake slithered right by me shaking his rattle to alert me of his presence. I honored his warning and yielded to his domain. The snake never coiled into an aggressive position, but I took the sighting as a warning of how common snakes are in rocky areas. Walking with a keener sense of awareness, I came upon another snake not ten minutes later. This one was small and non-poisonous, but I was none the less spooked. From there on it took very little to rattle my nerves as noises caused by my own feet were mistaken for the presence of a snake. I eventually calmed down.

I finished the long day feeling very hungry as I set up for my last day of hiking in PA. I'm staying in a nasty motel right on the trail at Wind Gap. You never know what you'll get along the Trail.

20.4 Miles Today, 1253.5 MTD

Click on thumbprint photos to see them enlarged.

The trail goes right up and over these barren areas of rocks. Footing could be very tenuous.
I have no more photos of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York or Connecticut due to me camera being stolen in Salisbury,CT. I was devastated by this setback and nearly quit my hike. My camera had exposed pictures from hundreds of miles of trail when it was stolen. I bought a new camera in Pittsfield, Mass and vowed to take more pictures of the remainder of my hike.


(127) Saturday, July 26, 9:00PM

Finally. Tomorrow I walk across the Delaware River into NJ. PA has been a pretty state, but it took me forever to get through it. I really had trouble with my hike today. Maybe the long day yesterday was a little more than I should have done after just being sick. I walked with very little energy today, and a nagging headache through most of the day.

I was able to get my mail picked up by the local outfitter so that I didn't have to wait here until Monday to resupply. If all goes well, I'll be out of here tomorrow.

15.1 Miles Today, 1268.6 MTD


(128) Sunday, July 27, 9:30PM

I'm sitting in my tent which is currently being plummeted by the rain, hooray ! I sure hope this rain brings some cooler temperatures tomorrow. Today's hike was very draining on this very hot day.

I took care of all my business and got out of DWG by 1:00 this afternoon. It left me hiking in the hottest part of the day, but at least I got to hike. I was very productive with my time in town, getting caught up on almost all of my correspondence.

It feels good to be back in my tent. The last night I spent in my tent was the night I got sick last week. My tent protects me so well. I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes as I fixed and ate my dinner; and all I could keep thinking about was how I could be in my tent as soon as I finished dinner. I quickly showered to clean all the DEET off of me, then hopped into my tent just as the first raindrops began to fall. I keep dry in here and out of reach from the insects; my own little palace.

My first day in NJ has been just fine. The trail in this state spends most of its time along the ridge line of the Kittatinny Mountains. On my current schedule I'll be out of NJ and into NY sometime on Thursday. Just one day at a time.

I met a large group of hikers in town that are almost all new to me. One guy knew me right off. We started on the same day in Georgia and haven't seen each other since day four. I'm pretty much at the tail end of the thru-hiker pack, but it still seems to be a fairly substantial pack.

13.2 Miles Today, 1281.8 MTD

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