The day started like any other for our band of intrepid adventurers as they packed up their gear and headed onward towards the NY/Conn border this overcast and breezy day. The scenery was amazing with yellow and white flowers on the Lilly Pads. Dad, aka Moses, asked “How big is this lake?” The conversation went on about the lake and how we’ve been walking past it for quite a while when Charlene exclaimed “I am so tired of these rocks… This Is Bull Sh&T!!!” We all say “TIBS” and laugh since TIBS is Char’s well earned trail name. As the walk continues Don, aka Captain Obvious, calls out “Hold up!!! Why is the sun coming up on the left?” We all break out our compasses, Moses gets out his AWOL Guide and it is discovered all the clues point to the “Obvious”. The rocks aren’t ending, the lake just keeps going, and the sun is on the wrong side because they are walking in the wrong direction; in fact over a mile in the wrong direction. With saddened spirits and lowered heads they turn around, condemned by their own mistake, to walk over the same rocks for the third time in the past 24 hours. From somewhere up ahead “This Is Bull Sh&T” is heard and with a laugh our band of hikers heads north once again.
My mind says I can do so much mileage in a certain amount of time. My body says to me, “kiss my ass”. Honestly, my mind made me try, but the body is not going along with that idea. The reality of the trail is something different than I ever imagined.
We have done over 300 miles so far and there are days I want to get off the trail. My body hates me, my feet really hate me and my mind feels like I am losing it. They say the trail gives you what you need and I believe that to be true. I have not quit. I am stronger than I thought. I have only had one itty bitty blister and I made it through Rockslyvania, where most quit or skip. I am doing this hike with my dad and my husband. Can it get any better or possibly any worse?! I will leave that one up to God as I like to keep him laughing by telling him what I want lol.
We all started this hike with different ideas, but we are slowly coming together to make a totally different idea that we never expected. My dad (who is almost 80) is still hiking. Don and I are still married. We all see each other in a different view. We are hiking for the journey……….no matter how long it takes to finish. Happy Father’s Day!!
We took a 10 mile hike from Eagles Nest Shelter to Port Clinton, PA after discovering Cabela’s Will shuttle you in to Hamburg, Pa from the US Post Office (among other places) in Port Clinton. The trail was heavily mined with rocks and mud almost the entire way, until the last downslope, more on that in a moment. The trail was strewn with Fern, Blackberry, some low Blueberry bushes and Red Efts (the juvenile stage of the Eastern Newt, sometimes called the Red Spotted Newt) however every time you wanted to look around you either stopped or risked tripping over a rock, as we have all done numerous times. I mentioned the last down slope… down slope would be a poor name for it. One-Thousand foot descent in about a mile with no switch-backs where the large rocks suddenly became scree and dirt. Moving down the slope was maybe the most challenging hill so far and I am soooooo glad it wasn’t raining at the time.
Crossing four railroad tracks and the Schuylkill River you enter Port Clinton, a sleepy little town with a pavilion hikers stay in, and find the Post Office. Cabela’s in in the next town over, Hamburg, and they will pick you up for FREE and give you a ride into the store for resupply and since we were staying at the Microtel less than a mile away they dropped us off there first. A semi-quick shower and change of clothing later Cabela’s picked us back up and in we went. No resupply to start with just a need to get our grub on. Charlene and I had Elk Burgers w/ fries and Dad had the Angus. Talk about service, just ask and they gave us a ride back to the hotel. And…. 15% off our meal as hikers. Way Cool.
Back to Cabela’s today for lunch, resupply and to get Moses a new synthetic jacket (somehow his came up missing… oh well) then a quick call in the morning and the will take us back to the trail. Cabela’s made some money on us and our endorsement with a giant helping of THANKS. Tomorrow holds a hike back up the mountain but this time we get TWO miles to climb the 1100 feet and 75-80 miles left in PA. New Jersey here we come.
What started off as a quick exit for a pack repair turned into a two week hiatus as I got sick with some unknown 72 hour bug combined with a holiday weekend. The extra time allowed me to order in a Craighopper shirt imbedded with Insect Shield that I have been jones’n for (I’ll write more about the shirt another time). Things finally came together and a good family friend tools us back to Pine Grove, PA for an overnight at the Hampton Inn before heading out. We hopped a ride to the PA501 parking lot, threw on our packs and hit the trail… or rather the trail hit us. The views were awesome even with the fog looming in the hills and valleys but the trail, oh yes the trail was so not awesome. Rocks were everywhere and I found myself singing (song to the tune of Armour Hotdogs) “fat rocks, skinny rocks, lots of big ‘ok rocks. Tough rocks, sissy rocks, even rocks with lots of moss….”. Okay maybe the rocks were not that bad or maybe my dogs (get the connection?) were barking after just a few miles because i was stepping on so damn many ROCKS. Okay Don, calm down…. ohmmmmm…. ohmmmmm. After six miles of those $&@ D&@$ rocks we took a break by the convergence of 3 streams and enjoyed the sounds of the babbling brooks and were joined by other hikers for great conversation, confidence building, and a quick nosh. Feeling refreshed we headed back on the velvety (pronounced rock·y/ˈräkē/) oh so easy to hike trail with the goal of getting to the soon to be iconic Rock and Sole Hostel. I’ll write up a review of the hostel for my next blog but for now let me say that great hosts, great facilities, great food, for a great price has made the rocks start to fade away in to pillows. Or will shortly since I’m sure I will sleep soundly. I just hope my feet will talk to me in the morning and I’ll get that frigg’n song outta my head. Have a great one everyone and good luck forgetting that “even kids with chicken pocks love hotdogs” song out of your head too.
The hike to Carlisle was pretty straight forward with farmers fields, lowlands, and one small hill that just popped up outta nowhere. We passed a few highways, streets, and the PA Turnpike later we arrived at Hwy 11. Turn left, walk a short distance and there was Bobbie waiting for us at the John Deer dealer. There are “Trail Angels” and there are real Angels. Bobbie is one of these and so is her husband Bob aka Buckle Bob. Bob and Bobbie have a pre-war farm and by that I mean it was built in 1743. These wonderful people have been friends of Ray and Charlene since Ray had brown hair (Bob and Bobbie used to own Bob’s Saddle Shop on Rte 206). We settled in had a great dinner and a fabulous nights sleep. The next day both Charlene and Ray were taken by Bobbie an hour into Urgent Care, seems my hiking partners had developed respiratory infections. Our Angels Bob and Bobbie feed us, put a roof over our heads, gave us tours and lessons on the Amish and Mennonites, and were just plain old good friends for 5 days before everyone was well and they took us back to the trail. The good Lord puts Angels in places you least expect. This time they moved from Springfield to Blain, PA and I am glad I had the opportunity to get to know them.
Charlene is the queen of FB pages and over our travels has learned to hook up with the “spouses” pages on the various bases we have stayed at or near us. Knowing we were headed into Carlisle, PA she reached out to the spouses at Carlisle Barracks and found a “Trail Angel”… Sue aka Momma Q. Since we decided to take a Nero Charlene reached out and Sue was available to take us almost anywhere locally but would be a little while since she was at work. No Problem for us, time to eat, find a hotel (since the local places are no longer hiker friendly-Hampton In here we come) and hit the outfitters. First … FOOD!!!! Headed over to Cafe 101 to get on our grub. On the way we passed TCO Outfitters and decided drop in sine Charlene needed to get her trekking pole fixed. Did I tell you she lost her footing, slipped down the hill a little and got her leg caught under a log? Thankfully the log caught her, but she bent her tracking pole. Don to the rescue… yep my knight in shining armor moment… to lift the log off her leg. Back to TCO, Charlene found out they are a Leki dealer and they would try and fix it. Leaving the pole we parked our packs on their bench and continued to the cafe. Reviewing the restaurant:
Free drink refills
Cons: No Waitress Service
No electric plugs for hikers
Eating to much and a full tummy it was time to head back to the outfitters. The pole was fixed. Cost? ZERO, NADA, NOTHING, FREE!!! They replaced a part calling it warranty and we purchased a few more items. Done at TCO we headed over to the ATC office to sit and wait for sue, she gets off at 4p. We grabbed a seat, opened our sodas, and relaxed. Just then Sue called and was on her way. Color me surprised when we found out she locked the doors to come get us. Sue gave us a quick history lesson and got us to the Hampton. Dropping us off we arranged with her for the return ride and offered to pay her. She not only refused any payment but told us she was here for us any time. We got checked in, free water, hot cookies and Italian delivery to close out the day. I think we were all asleep by 7pm. 6am breakfast, pack the bags, grab a couple bananas for the day and Sue arrived. Time to hike to Carlisle and head to Bob and Bobbie’s. Write more soon….
The past couple weeks have been a mix of highs and lows, and I don’t just mean hills and valleys. One day we were walking near Antietam Shelter needing a break and Dad “Moses” gets waived over to a tarped lean-to by a couple guys. We follow him over and to our surprise it was pure “Trail Magic”. We had wondered across what is known as the “Leap Frog Cafe” run by “Fresh Ground”. He has preparing all hikers that came by a meal. We had omelets, banana pancakes, juice, and grabbed Little Debbie’s to go. What a great treat!!!
As we came into Fayetteville, PA we stayed at the Hope Hostel. Junker, a previous through-hiker and ridge-runner and his wife are great people who will do anything for you; including a ride into town to resupply at Walmart. Now I have never stayed in a hostel before and if i have a choice will never again. The place was clean, beds were okay if you are comfortable in a high bunk (I’m not… kept waiting to go ahhhhhhhhh all the way to the floor… lol) and the bathroom was clean. Maybe I’m a prude in my old age but sharing a bathroom and shower with 10-12 other people felt too much like basic training, but with a door.
Dinner and breakfast were at the Timbers diner and Wanda served good food and is your instant friend. But then a step climb awaits. It’s a tough couple miles mixed with a tunnel of rhododendrons that just took our breath away and a shelter on a stream that is so nice it feels like a Caribbean resort.
The next few days saw 90 degree days with the sun beating down on us the whole time since the leaves are late this year, so much for the “green tunnel”. We pulled into Boiling Springs and called a “Nero” day…. to be continued