#10 Thru-Hiking the AT: Boiling Springs, PA, to Delaware Water Gap, PA

Pictured above: View of beautiful farmland from Knife’s Edge. We ate lunch and dried some wet gear–socks, boots, tents. See white blaze on rock?

Originally posted on July 8, 2015

Posted by Great Miami Outfitters.
This is the 10th blog entry of his trip. The adventure continues. Chris has less than half of his thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail to complete. Chris “Pacer” began his 2015 Appalachian Thru-Hike on April 7, 2015. You can read previous entries from the links at the bottom of this page.

Pacer covered 172 miles in 10 days on this stretch

#10. Boiling Springs, PA, to Delaware Water Gap, PA

896 miles left…41% to go.

I have less than a thousand miles left and am now in the hundreds so I’m starting to count down…triple digits!!!  It seems like a long time has passed since my last update; I covered 172 miles in the past 10 days.

60s to low 80s–temperatures remain lower than normal due to continued rain and clouds. At least the springs are full!

Some trail names that are in my bubble: Durp-E-Durp, Sergeant Mothballs, Airlock, Wilderness, Stormchaser, Flame Thrower, Artichoke Boots, Needmor, Simple Man, Chocolate, Five, Nine, Walking Home, Doc, Wanna Be, Boots, Pony Puncher, Jester, Harry Potter, Prefontain, Beer Man, Icarus, Hulk, Juice, Down Bear, Freebird…and many more I just can’t think of at the moment. Of course there’s BigSky, Pom Pom, Corky and Pacer.

Pom Pom and I left the Allenberry the morning of 28 Jun and we were headed to Duncannon to meet BigSky–we hiked 22 miles that day. The big thunderstorm passed overnight and the Trail was very muddy…long stretches of the Trail were deep water. As I said in the last update, the Mid-Atlantic Section is very flat and low…only a handful of spots go above 2,000 feet. We were hiking through farm land; hiking next to corn and soy bean crops, passing through dozens of farms. In between these farms deep in the woods, we passed by a notable graveyard with rock walls and wrought iron fencing. The tombstones dated from the early 1800s to just after the civil war. A couple of tombstones had new American Flags displayed–they looked like Civil War veterans.

The next morning, we hiked into Duncannon and ate breakfast with BigSky and his wife, Loraine. She flew in from Montana for a couple zero days. We had boxes at the Doyle Hotel but it didn’t open until 11:00. The Doyle is a famous AT spot, but everyone knows you shouldn’t stay there…very rundown. Generally, the young hikers stay there…the older hikers don’t. It has been serving hikers since the beginning of the Trail. We got our boxes just after 11:00 and headed back out of town…it was a sunny day.

We were now out of farm land and hiking in the forest. After a couple days of hiking, we set up camp at Rausch Gap and did our best to dry out after afternoon showers. The next morning we hiked out and noticed what seemed to be old road beds. A sign explained that there was a village here from 1828 to 1910–population was over 1,000…a huge population for a mountain village and very little evidence of it still exists. Their main industries were coal and railroad repair. Coal wasn’t producing, so the village dissolved…the rail bed is now a great walking path. That night we stopped at the 501 Shelter (close to PA Hwy 501). It’s one of those few shelters that you’re close enough to a town to order pizza for delivery–that’s exactly what we did. The three of us ate jalapeño poppers, cheese sticks and a couple large pizzas. We saved a couple pieces of pizza for lunch the next day…great Trail treat.

We knew this was going to be a long leg, so we planned a Nero day in Hamburg/Port Clinton. We arrived there on 3 Jul around noon. The world’s largest Cabelas is in Hamburg, and on our way there, we stopped by Red Robin “fresh” off the Trail–it hit the spot! Cabelas has 250,000 sq ft of retail space–ginormous. We left Cabelas and went to Walmart for resupply. I had to be the smelliest person in Walmart…that’s right, you know the smelliest guy at a Walmart…me! I sat out front and ate a big bag of cherries while I waited for Pom Pom and BigSky. I definitely looked like a hiker because several people stopped by to talk about the Trail. Town days are always fun and something to look forward to–zeros are even better!

Next was lodging and we had been calling hotels, B&Bs, Inns, etc for a few days–nothing was lining up. We had to settle for plan C or D (I can’t remember; but, it’s never good when you go that far down the list of options). When one is carrying a backpack, one has very few options to begin with and that’s where we found ourselves–see trail tale below–what an experience!
After the most bizarre night I’ve had on the Trail, we hiked out of Port Clinton, of course in the rain, (I’m not making the rain up–it’s raining all the time) and actually had some climbing. This is where I started to really notice the rocks. Hiking up to this point through Pennsylvania was fairly easy, but we all knew that wouldn’t last. The second half of PA is widely known for being VERY rocky. Hiking day after day after day on rocks of all shapes and sizes takes a slow, tough toll on your feet and mind. They are tough! You have to really bear down and focus on foot placement…it wears you out. Feet ache at night while you try to sleep and get a little worse each day that rocks continue.

Text book example of AT in PA. If you look closely, you can see 3 white blazes on the Trail. These blazes are 2×6 inches and are a hikers bread crumbs for the AT. There are over 80,000 blazes on the Trail.

The rocks were really bad the last 4 days…rock Trail led through large bolder fields that lasted 1-2 miles. These rocks are huge…ranging from small to car sized; they choke the trees keeping their size small. The canopy looks like spring time with all the light coming through. The leaves are even smaller. The Trail cuts a path over and through the rock…it’s slow going especially when it’s wet. A fall or slip could easily end your hike.

Then there was Palmerton. The mountain above Palmerton is now a superfund site–they smelted zinc from 1898-1980. The AT goes over it. Getting to the top, we had to bolder climb about 500 of the 1,000 ft climb at the top. This massive rock talus slope was a result of deforesting for the smelting operation–it goes straight up. The rock was dry and we had a great time with the climb, but it was dangerous. Again, a slip and you risked serious injury. Once at the top, you wouldn’t believe how many raspberries we saw as we passed through the clean-up site. We didn’t dare eat any and neither did the other hikers or they’d all be gone. We cleared through the site and found a huge area of blueberries on the other side. We dropped our packs and ate handfuls for 30 minutes…delicious real fruit–we couldn’t pass it up.


Wild blueberries–gobs of them!

The AT in Pennsylvania had many changes…farmland, about 120 miles of rock, then something completely different at the end. As we descended Mt Minsi into Delaware Water Gap, it looked just like the southern mountains…thick Rhododendron (even tunnels), large trees, rushing full streams. The only difference I could see was the Rhododendron blooms…they were almost all white but tipped in pink–further south they are full bright pink. The descent was beautiful!
We’re taking a zero at DWG which is only 0.3 miles from New Jersey. The rock continues into NJ, but we should be clear of the worst in a couple more days. Corky is on our heels and might catch us before we leave DWG.

Trail Tale: 
What do you get when you cross the house from The Munsters, the Bates Hotel from Psycho, and the basement from Silence of the Lambs? You get Union House…WOW!  An 1850 house that has been converted into a B&B that doesn’t serve breakfast, but does have a restaurant & bar, and a very present creepy feel–you can really feel it. They are only open 3 days a week, and they open at 5:00. We arrived at about 4:30 and started to get nervous about what we were in for just based on the outside. It still wasn’t open at 5:15 so we walked all over the small town of Port Clinton–no other options, ugh. We walked back to the Union House and someone arrived shortly after, ugh again. This would certainly be a Trail experience! We jumped in with both feet–wash clothes, shower, eat there…full experience.

It was already late for a hiker…rush for shower, then go eat. Pom Pom was first up to take a shower. It was in the basement. She had what I can only describe as a bewildered look on her face when she returned quickly and she didn’t say a word. BigSky was next–same weird look and those two watched me descend the stairs. Every horror flick that has a basement scene, has a narrow dark staircase. I felt like I was in one of those movies. I got downstairs and was standing on a dirt floor with some gravel and turned the corner. The “bathroom” was in the corner lit by a raw bulb. I could see the walls were rock and mortar.  How can walls look creepy? They just did. The whole basement was clutter with a couple aisles to cut through. Once I got to the bathroom, the floor was rock and mortar too–felt and smelled like a dungeon. I clasped the door and saw big bold writing below the mirror–“STATE POLICE: 570-593-2000.” What in the world would someone need a state police number while locked in the basement of a B&B? Just what I needed to see before getting in the shower. As with horror flicks, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do, so I did it–I jumped in the shower–and out QUICKLY!!!

Next was dinner. We got downstairs and you had to walk through the kitchen to get to the bar/restaurant. Tried to not look around too much while I passed through…just didn’t want to see it.  We were the only 3 there. The lady that showed us around was eating a pasta dish that looked very good…not joking. Pom Pom and BigSky order the pasta, and I ordered a steak. Our food was very, very good–what a huge relief…and shocking. We had salads, hot wings, breaded mushrooms, and eggplant too…all real good. Dinner was over and we went to our rooms that were furnished like the Munsters…just wild. My bed even had a rope suspension that the mattress rested on. No one else arrived while we were there. It looked like they were shutting down when we went up to our rooms. We were finally in bed…about 9:30. Shortly after, we all heard singing downstairs. I think one of them came back and let their friends in. They drank and sang until about 2:00 AM. They really liked one song that I kept hearing; one of the lyrics was, “I like things that try to kill me: smoking, Jack Daniels, and weed.” I actually had a blast laying there listening to this crazy bar scene downstairs and thinking about this stay! The next morning we all compared notes from the night before while we sat on the front porch–priceless experience–actually not priceless…$98 for room and food, ouch!

I’m 3 months into this adventure and a couple more to go. With my world in a backpack, I find myself on a different path altogether from what I normally take…far different than anything I’ve ever done. With a car, I’d never consider any of the options I have in front of me–I’d drive on…so would you. When you’re walking, daily choices are completely different. I’m just going with it and enjoying this sometimes crazy life and the people along the way.  Pretty neat…!
If you’re looking for any of my previous updates, you can find them at Great Miami Outfitters’ website: http://www.greatmiamioutfitters.com/info/category/all-posts/news-and-info

Until next time…

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