This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
It pours in Duncannon. I’m happy to be inside, warm and dry in the Doyle hotel. The Doyle is a historic building, a little on the run down side. I’m the only guest. It kind of feels like I’m squatting in an abandoned mansion.
It stops enough after lunch for me to head out. I’m feeling slow and sleepy and my appetite is dead. The trail is a river, so I stop at the first shelter, happy to get out of the weather. Someone has left a book there and I devour it. The weather continues to be bad. It spits snow as I’m leaving in the morning. I step on two rocks funny, with each foot in quick succession. Pain shoots through my feet. It’s a dull, pain filled day as I hike to the shelter. I make it just before it starts to snow in earnest. I fall asleep easily, but wake an hour later to waves of nausea. I lie still, trying not to puke. Uh oh. In the morning, I can’t eat breakfast, but I head out anyway. I pass under an interstate and climb a ridge. At the top, I lose what little I’ve eaten into a pile of leaves. Ugh. By the time I make the shelter, I’ve managed to keep down some water and a candy bar. The shelter is right by a road and has a caretaker. He comes to check on me and says I don’t look great. He gives me a few oranges, then leaves me to sleep it off. It’s 15 to the next shelter and it’s a struggle. It snows and hails on and off. I’m so tired and I can’t eat. I sit down and take breaks every mile, only hiking when I start to shiver. I’m pretty miserable. I actually even think briefly about quitting, before realizing that’s crazy talk after everything I went through last summer. I make it to the shelter, where Broken Arrow is already starting to set up. At 71, she’s the oldest woman I’ve met on trail. She started last year and hiked as far north as she could and now she’s back to finish the job. I immediately stop feeling sorry for myself. It’s amazing the difference attitude can make on the trail, and the difficulty with solo hiking is that there is no one to blame but yourself if you are in a funk. In the morning, I resolve to be more cheerful. The sun is peeking out between the clouds. It’s going to be a great day! My resolve is almost instantly tested when I realize a mile down the trail that I’ve left my umbrella behind and have to back track to get it. No matter though. I drop down to Port Clinton, stop for a coke, and then climb back up to the ridge above. The trail winds along the ridge top and I rockhop my way along. I’m dropping down towards my shelter for the night when I turn my phone off of airplane mode. Thatch had texted me a few days ago asking where I’d be, but I hadn’t heard anything back. Now a flurry of texts comes through, obviously backed up from several days ago. Thatch is 12 miles north when I get a hold of him, planning on hiking south and trying to find me, despite the fact he hadn’t heard from me. I’d been ready to stop, but now I’m ready to run and find my friend. I do mile math in my head as I walk. Rather than normal addition and subtraction, this is college level stuff. If Fun Size is 12 miles south of Thatch and walks north at 2.5 miles an hour, while Thatch walks south at 2.8 miles an hour, but Fun Size is pushing 30 miles today and Thatch has drunk two beers, who will give up and stop for the night first? In the end, I bump into Thatch as I’m trying to negotiate my way down a pile of boulders the size of fridges. He looks exactly the same as he did on the CDT, right down to the green fleece. I finally get down from the boulders and give him a huge hug. We find a little campspot clear of rocks and he gives me the banana and taco bell he packed in. Trail magic! Of course, the best magic is seeing my friend. We’re not in a rush in the morning- we can’t hike too far from Thatch’s van anyway. Thatch makes me coffee, then we meander to the shelter where I sign the register. It’s only a few miles from there to the van, where Thatch has sandwich fixings! I make myself a bagel sandwich and reminisce about our sandwich van adventure after the CDT, where we drove the ice fields parkway. Thatch drives us to town for second lunch, and then back to the trail. We only do a few more miles: up along a ridge called the knife edge, where stacked boulders give us a fun scramble. We find a nice campsite overlooking the valley and sit and chat while we drink the beer we packed out. We part ways in the morning. Thatch needs to drive home and Katahdin is calling to me again, now Thatch has restored my motivation. It’s hot today and there’s not a lot of water. I fill up at a shelter, where three older men compete to give me the best food out of their packs after learning what I’m doing. A man, the clear winner, gives me home cured ham. The loser gives me a slim jim that expired two years ago. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. After lunch, I climb up exposed Lehigh gap. There’s no trees and my pack is heavy with water. I chug, and at the top, a man gives me half a litre, still cold from his fridge. The trail is nice, then worse and worse, rocks and boulders making me step strangely, which in turn causes all sorts of aches and pains. Early this section, my feet hurt like I’d been pounding them with a hammer. Then my inner thigh muscles burned and ached. Now I’ve strained a muscle in my right calf. These aches are like the rocks themselves: nothing big, nothing serious, but a major annoyance. I have another day of rocks, but the beautiful weather keeps my mood balanced. I make it to Delaware Water Gap and the end of Pennsylvania just before the rain is predicted to start.