Saturday, June 27, 2015

Halfway thru and Lovin' Pennsylvania!!!!

While Mother Nature has been a little rough on us as far as weather goes (lots of rain and thunderstorms) the terrain in Pennsylvania has been much more forgiving and enjoyable.  Our trail legs and feet are in good form and we have been able to make more miles for more days in a row without need for rest days.  It was rather obvious when we finally exited Potomac AT Club's trail maintenance area, as we have experienced several overgrown areas of trail and are regularly getting slapped in the face by low hanging limbs and climbing over blowdowns.  So far the trail surface has been pretty nice in Pennsylvania as we have not yet made it to the dreaded "Rocksylvania" portion of Pennsylvania.  Yes, the trail has been rocky in places, but no more so than the rest of the AT south of here.

Friday 19 June 2015
Just south of Alec Kennedy Shelter to Boiling Springs, PA, 1418.7 miles
Today we made it into Boiling Springs and called it a day.  Mom's heel was bothering her so we just did 4 miles and waited for our fellow hiker friend Drag n' Fly to pick us up for a couple of nights at her house. Drag n' Fly was even nice enough to take in our trail sister Fly Away who we have enjoyed hiking with over the last several days.

While walking back from lunch at a local diner I passed a military memorial, part of which is a plaque in honor of SFC Shugart, who was killed in Somalia.  I was positively surprised to see that the time was taken to honor a "Silent Professional" as so many have gone without the public honorifics they most certainly deserve.  

We were most thankful to Drag n' Fly, a fellow hiker and currently oldest AT female thru-hiker, who took in we hiker trash for a few nights respite from life on the trail.  In true hiker trash form we improvised to clothe ourselves while our laundry washed.  Here is Hendo in a tshirt 3 sizes too big and a bed sheet toga!!

Wild Garlic


Common Daylily

Saturday 20 June 2015
Boiling Springs, PA to Sherwood Dr parking area, 1430. miles
Drag 'n Fly slack-packed us today, dropping us off and picking us up at the end of our day of hiking so we only had to carry light daypacks instead of our heavy full-packs.  We enjoyed a nice flat 11.4 miles of hiking.
Hendo and Hendo's Mom enjoying a hike through flat and fast Pennsylvania

Hendo's Mom crossing over a very well built and easy to climb fence stile.

Some fellow thru-hikers decided to take a day and provide some trail magic along the trail today.  We enjoyed cold sodas and hamburgers at mile 4. 
Hendo enjoying a "Share a Coke with an Adventurer" fitting.

A cool picture of white blazes marking the way through the meandering trail in PA.

Near the end of the day we crossed over I-81, a little road walking is always a pleasant break from the rigors of the trail.
Hendo's Mom and Hendo hiking over I-81

You don't get much more picturesque America than was nice hiking through the farm fields of America. 
Hendo's Mom hiking amongst the corn and soybean fields of PA.

The farmer was out tending to his soybeans.

Hendo enjoying a nicely built fence stile.

Bristle Thistle

Common Milkweed

Deptford Pink

Sunday 21 June 2015
Sherwood Dr to PA 850, 1435.2 miles
Mom and I slack-packed 5.1 miles today, as mom's heel is still a little tender so we wanted to make miles, but take it easy as well.  Fly Away decided to continue on north, so we bid her Happy Trails and hope to see her on up the trail again.
Fly Away, Hendo and Hendo's Mom

Hendo enjoying the open fields of Pennsylvania

Another picture of the rolling fields of PA.

Monday 22 June 2015
PA 850 to Riverfront Campground Duncannon, PA, 1445.7 miles
Drag 'n Fly dropped us off today and bid us a final farewell.  We are so appreciative of her hospitality and support!!  As usual, hiking down into town is followed by a hiking up out of town, and today was no different.  We enjoyed our time in the valley, but today took us back up onto the ridgeline.  The hike up was moderate with a rather rocky section  greeting us once we made it up onto the ridge.  The guidebook listed a warning that the trail was very rocky, but we really didn't find it any worse than many sections of Virginia.  We took an afternoon nap break at Cove Mountain shelter, before continuing on across the ridge and then down into Duncannon, PA. 

We came across these amusing porcupine warnings posted at the Cove Mountain Shelter.  Most people might not realize it, and we didn't either until we hiked through Maine, but porcupines love to chew/eat wood.  Therefore the wooden shelters and privys along the AT are porcupine "trail magic" in some ways.  Up in Maine the sign posts, privys and shelters in porcupine country are wrapped in metal harware cloth to disuade the porcupines from chowing down.  Here in Pennsylvania they seem to have similar problems of hungry porcupines.  These are two signs posted at Cove Mountain Shelter.  Since porcupines are primarily nocturnal we have not crossed paths with any in person yet.

Hawk Rock overlook looking down on Duncannon, PA

A funny side story...  As mom and I were hiking up to Cove Mountain Shelter today we passed a group of Boy Scouts who were out for a week long Philmont train-up backpacking trip.  They said they were heading to Cove Mtn shelter for the night.  We chatted for a few and then headed on leap frogging with them along the way as they would stop and rest and we slowly trudged on up to the ridge.  Mom and I made it to Cove Mtn shelter and relaxed for a bit, taking an afternoon power nap.  As we were waking up a second group of Boy Scouts, 2 fathers and 2 boys, hiked into the shelter area, they were part of the Boy Scout group we had passed early and asked if we had seen the first group.  We explained we had seen the first group approximately 3 miles south of the shelter, but they had not shown up at the shelter yet.  The second group explained that the first group should have been there already as they were faster than the second group.  I went down and refilled our water in preparation to head on into town while mom stayed and talked to the second group.  Turns out the men did not have each others cell phone numbers, so the men at the shelter were calling back to their wives in Maryland to get the phone number of the man in the first group.  In addtion to not having exchanged phone numbers, the men failed to properly distribute water filters throughout the two groups and the first group had the water filters.  We offered to filter some water for the second group at the shelter, but they said they were good to go.  The scouts at the shelter asked us to keep an eye out for the first group and to let the first group know the second group was at the shelter if we happened upon them.  Mom and I headed on to town.  Upon arriving in town we came upon the first group, they had missed the side trail for the shelter and ended up in town.  Talking to the leader of the first group you could tell the whole group was one soup sandwich, with poor planning and execution all around.  The men finally got each others phone numbers by calling their wives back in Maryland and arranged to meet up in Duncannon on Tuesday.  A perfect example of how not conduct a backpacking expedition:  always have a communications plan with a back-up plan; always ensure vital equipment, like water filters, are equally distributed; know how to read a map and have key features identified to help you find your destination or to know if your have gone too far and need to turn around and go back.

We heard about Montana, a Marine combat veteran who hiked/hitched from Montana to the AT in order to hike some of the AT and find some healing, from some fellow hikers along the trail and were pleasantly surprised to get to meet him at the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, PA.
Hendo's Mom, Montana and Hendo

Tuesday 23 June 2015
Zero in Duncannon, PA
Mom and I were feeling pretty bedraggled so we decided to take a zero day in Duncannon and spent a night at the Doyle Hotel.  Yes, the Doyle leaves a lot to be desired, but we had a good nights sleep and were ready to set back out on trail on Wednesday.

Wednesday 24 June 2015
Duncannon, PA to Rockville Overlook, 1449.7 miles
We enjoyed our time and zero in Duncannon and were ready to get back to flat and fast Pennsylvania.  But leaving town always seems to mean climbing UP out of town, and leaving Duncannon didn't was quite the rocky hike up.  But once we got up on the ridge we were back to nice relaxing hiking.
Hendo's Mom crossing the Susquehanna River north of Duncannon

Because the trail in Pennsylvania runs up on the ridge, getting water usually entails some hiking dowhill.  The hikes down to water have been harder than the trail itself.  With getting water being more of a challenge Hendo has often turned into a camel or water mule, filling up any and all water containers mom and I are carrying in one trip...and hauling them all back up.  Here is Hendo on one such water refill mission at Clarks Ferry shelter, hauling up 8 litres or 16 lbs of water.

After watering up at Clarks Ferry shelter we hiked north a little further to Rockville Overlook and set up camp for the night.  Within minutes of setting up our tent we were rewarded with a Bald Eagle fly-by.  It was absolutely amazing, but we weren't fast enough with the camera.

Thursday 25 June 2015
Rockville Overlook to Peters Mountain Shelter, 1455.3 miles
Today was another easy day of hiking, we slept in and took it easy to let mom's heel continue to heal.  We enjoyed some trail magic at the PA 225 road crossing, provided by Flat, an AT Ridgerunner and 2014 thru-hiker.  We made our way to Peters Mountain Shelter for an afternoon snack.  While at Peters we read through the shelter log and noticed that Scott Jurek aka. El Venado, had taken the time to stop in and sign the log during his attempt to break the AT supported thru-hike record.

We stopped and set up camp just north of the shelter.  We wanted to make more miles, but rain was moving in and we wanted to be in our tent before it started.  Our timing was perfect, we made it in our tent just minutes before it opened up and started raining.  As we were setting up camp we were surprised by some fans, Sheila Seitz and her husband who are thru-hiking the trail and previously from Fayetteville, NC as well.  Sheila's husband had planned to thru-hike this year and then Sheila decided she wanted to join him.  During her research of hiking the AT Sheila came across our blog, twitter and TV segment.  She and her husband have been following us during our entire extravaganza and were thrilled to finally catch us on the trail.  We are thrilled that we have been an inpiration to at least two people out there...Mission Complete!!  We settled in for the night and got a great nights rest.

Friday 26 June2015
Peters Mountain Shelter to Yellow Springs campsite, 1468.7 miles
We got up bright and early and got on trail early and ended up doing our longest day since Buena Vista, VA, 13.4 miles!!!  We continue to get stronger and improve every day. 
Black Cohosh

Close-up of Black Cohosh


Spotted Wintergreen in Bloomm

Saturday 27 June 2015
Yellow Springs campsite to PA 72 Lickdale,1477.4 miles
Today was insane and another benchmark for us reached.  It rained throughout the night with the last stint starting around 0530 hours and trickling off long enough for us to pack up at 0930 hours.  We got on trail at 1000 hrs and the rain began slowly and increased in intensity as the day went on.  By 1200 hrs we were swimming and decided when we reached PA 72 we would hitch a ride into Lickdale/Jonestown, PA and get a hotel room and pizza for the night.  In the midst of our "swimming" down the trail we crossed the 1/2 through Pennsylvania mark.  We also raised our bar by hiking 8.7 miles straight without a break.  We had gear hung up all over the hotel room drying out, but we were certain not to ruin any of the room's ammenities and cleaned up after ourselves, not leaving a mess for house keeping.  Yes, we are hiker trash, but we are respectable and tidy.  We will probably take a zero tomorrow, Sunday and go get Mom's car in Virginia and park it at a friend's house in PA, so it is closer when we get up to Vermont.

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