Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Day 84: The agony! The pain! The horror!

May 30: The day started warm and humid. For breakfast, I headed across the street to Goodies where I ordered a meal of French toast, regular toast, bacon, scrambled eggs and apple juice. It was good, but I was very annoyed at my waitress who I saw standing in a corner playing with her smartphone instead of filling up my glass of water and brining out my bill when I wanted it. She was also probably very disappointed with the tip I left her too. =)




I walked over to the post office where I mailed my laptop ahead. In less than two weeks, I planned to meet up with Amanda again so rather than ship it to a post office without being entirely sure which post office I’d be near in two weeks, I shipped it directly to Amanda who could just bring it to me when she visited.


Then I sat down on the second-floor patio of the Doyle and waited. I was waiting for Pink Panther and Madcap, a couple of letterboxers who had tried to thru-hike the AT last year. They, unfortunately, didn’t make it and had to get off the trail after Madcap got hit to Lyme disease. I’d kept in contact with them and they were planning to go out to the trail today to do some trail magic already, and since they were in the area, I emailed them late last night asking if they could pick me up from Duncannon. No reason for me to hike the 1.9 miles to the edge of town when I already did it yesterday with Chuckles and Little Red if I didn’t have to!


They arrived and picked me up, saving those couple of miles of walking I’d otherwise have to repeat, and dropped me off again near the railroad tracks at the edge of town. They would also meet up further up the trail as well, so I dropped off some of my gear in order to slackpack the next several miles. Life was good!


At the junction to the Clarks Ferry Shelter, along a perfectly easy grade with few rocks and while slackpacking, I did something very bad because the next thing I knew, I had stumbled and a searing pain shot through my left ankle. I took a few steps on it, and it hurt. Bad. Little sprains seem to happen all of the time and I’d walk it off after a few minutes, but this one I knew would be with me for awhile. I hobbled along, leaning heavily on my trekking pole, the short ways to the shelter where I planned to sit down a rest.


View looking back towards the Susquehanna River and Duncannon.


I sat down, nursing my poor ankle and complaining bitterly about the trail practically ignoring the three people already at the shelter. I was in my selfish mode right now! Poor ankle… Eventually I got my head off my ankle and started talking with the folks at the shelter who I was surprised to learn already knew who I was. They knew me because Heavyweight and Superman had just left the shelter minutes earlier and they had told these hikers about me. I came up in the conversation when Switchback said he had attempted a thru-hike in 2003 but had to get off the trail in Pearisburg after learning he had accidentally gotten his girlfriend pregnant. Oops! That was an excuse I’d never heard before! =)


But that was the same year I had hiked the trail, and Heavyweight and Superman knew this so they asked if he knew me. He didn’t, and I didn’t know him either, but we knew several people in common and we swapped our war stories from the trail.


They suggested I soak my foot in the cold spring at the shelter, but I didn’t do that for two reasons. First, I remembered the spring as being pretty small and relatively stagnant and didn’t want my foot polluting the water source, and second, I sprained it pretty badly. It was going to hurt to get my shoe off and it was going to hurt even more to put it back on again later—assuming, that is, it didn’t swell up so much that I couldn’t get it back on at all. For the time being, I wasn’t going to do anything with my ankle except complain bitterly about how much it hurt.


Switchback started a thru-hike in 2003, but had to get off the trail before he could finish.


I continued onwards, hobbling along slowly. Somehow I caught up with some day hikers and they allowed me to pass, but I declined saying that I really couldn’t hike very fast because of my ankle. And I was almost at the Highway 225 road crossing anyhow, where I’d be stopping again when I picked up the rest of my pack. I wasn’t looking forward to that, but nothing seemed broken so I wasn’t going to get off the trail!


The road crossing was much different than I remembered from my 2003 thru-hike—the bridge spanning the road didn’t exist back then. It was a nice bridge, high above the traffic on the busy road where the road make a sharp hairpin turn that made crossing the road so sketchy back then. The bridge was a nice improvement!


When I arrived and Pink Panther and Madcap saw my hobbling, they jumped into action telling me to sit down and rest. The day hiker I met asked if I’d like an ankle brace that he had in his car. I wasn’t sure if it would help or not, but I figured it didn’t hurt to give it a try. “Do you always keep these in your car?” I asked, a little surprised that anyone would have one readily available.


I worked my shoe off, and Madcap filled a plastic bag with ice from their cooler so I could put it on my ankle, and I raised my ankle on a rock. They wouldn’t let me get up for anything! Did I want something to drink? They ran over to get a cold Pepsi for me. Did I need my pack? They ran over to the car and retrieved my pack for me. I wasn’t to do anything for the time being, except rest my ankle. I felt a little spoiled—I usually don’t have people doting on me like this! =)


I couldn’t sit there the whole day, however. Eventually, I needed to keep going. My ankle had swollen dramatically despite the ice, but I strapped on the ankle brace and painfully worked my foot back into its shoe. I thanked Pink Panther and Madcap for their support, and they told me to be sure to call them if I needed to be picked up to rest. We parted ways, though, and I continued onwards.




I arrived at the Peters Mountain Shelter late in the day where I ran into Hawkeye. I had seen him once before, drunk off his ass while hiking the trail near Gathland in Maryland. He didn’t appear to be drunk this time, but he was extraordinarily loud when he talked and he always had an opinion about everything. That, I thought, is a man who likes to hear himself talk. Very, very loudly.


I wasn’t really inclined to stay at the shelter to begin with—my goal for the day had been quite a bit further, but with the sprained ankle, I knew I wouldn’t reach my goal. Even then, however, I figured I could still make it a bit further. Running into Hawkeye already at the shelter, I definitely didn’t want to stay there for the night and I left five minutes after I arrived.


I hadn’t been out of the shelter for a half hour when thunder crashed nearby and the first rain started to fall. The constant pain from my ankle started taking its toll as well, and I sat down on a log with my umbrella above me just feeling absolutely miserable. I hate the rain, I hate the pain in my ankle, and I just wanted to stop. Right there and then. I couldn’t, though. I didn’t have enough water for dinner or breakfast the next morning. I had to, at the very least, reach the next water source a couple of miles further down the trail.


It was among the most difficult couple of miles of the entire hike for me. Without the sprained ankle, it would have been easy, but every step was agony at this point and it wore me down faster than I imagined. A ridgerunner walking in the opposite direction seemed concerned about my well-being, but I assured him that I’d be okay. He was hiking to the Peters Mountain Shelter. I felt a little sorry for him knowing that he’d be sharing it with Hawkeye, but I didn’t tell him that. He’d figure that out on his own.


I pushed onwards, finally reaching a small creek just before Highway 325. The rain had mostly stopped by this point, but I set up my tarp anyhow knowing it could start again at any minute and even if it didn’t, there were still drops falling from the trees. It never felt so good to stop for the day. I filled up my water bottles, then dived under the tarp impatient to remove my shoes. My ankle had continued swelling during my hike and looked uglier than ever, but at least I didn’t have to hike on it anymore. Not today, at least. I was done. I decided to keep the ankle brace on it during the night. I’m not sure if it helped or not, but it wasn’t hurting either. However, even twisting my foot slightly left or right hurt a lot and the ankle brace helped prevent that. I was afraid my ankle would wake me up all night long every time I shifted position in my sleep so I hoped the brace would help prevent the movements that would cause the extraordinary pain that would wake me up during the night. Damn ankle!




This bridge over Highway 225 was new since my 2003 thru-hike.


Putting ice on my foot.


Madcap and Pink Panther babied me at the trailhead. =)


But I couldn’t sit around all day whining about my ankle. Nope, I still had more miles I needed to hike!










My home for the night! Thank goodness the day was over!


Yeah, that ankle doesn’t look good. It’s not normally that huge! Is that an apple embedded under my skin?!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Day 83: The Duncannon “Zero”

May 29: I spent the morning doing work on my laptop. Today, I decided, would be a zero day! Because I really did have a lot of work to catch up on. I did, however, get an email from Chuckles and Little Red saying that they expected to roll into town by around 10:30 or 11:00, so I figured I’d go out and meet them. It had been awhile since I saw them last!


A small memorial along the trail near where I waited for Chuckles and Little Red.


By around 10:00, I headed out and south on the trail. I didn’t go into the woods, though—just the streets of Duncannon closer to where the trail entered the town. I stopped at a gas station convenience store where I bought some snacks and waited for them to stroll into town at a picnic table in the shade on the opposite side of the street.


They strolled into town, right when they said they expected to, and I walked with them to the BBQ joint where I caught up with Heavyweight and Superman the day before. I hadn’t eaten there yet myself and was more than happy to give it a try now. =)


We caught up on each of our adventures along the trail. They told me that Blueberry was behind them on the trail—somehow I had passed Blueberry without knowing it, but he expected to get into town later that evening. Blueberry! It’s been so long since I last saw Blueberry!


Chuckles and Little Red didn’t intend to stop for the night in town, though. They wanted to resupply then hit the trail again. Although I didn’t plan to leave town today, I did still need to resupply so joined them walking up the road to the supermarket—a terrifying road to walk on with no shoulders or sidewalks. I spent much of the time walking on the opposite side of the crash barriers trying not to slide down the slope. Fortunately, it was a short walk and we all made it to the supermarket without being struck by any vehicles.


A mural in the parking lot of the BBQ restaurant where we stopped for lunch.


When we entered the store, an employee asked if if we were thru-hiking. We answered affirmatively, and he asked if we had walked up the road. Well, yes, we did. Then he told us that they’d give us a ride back into town when we were done shopping—just go to the customer service window and ask for it. Sweet! Now that is some pretty awesome customer service! The road here really wasn’t very long, but it’s a dangerous one to walk on. They didn’t want hikers walking on the road!


We did our shopping. I finished before Chuckles and Little Red and waited outside for them, then we waited a few extra minutes for the shuttle driver to pull up and we loaded our new-found merchandise into the minivan.


The driver dropped us off back at the BBQ place where we had left the trail.


Then we walked to the Doyle where they stopped briefly to drink some sodas and recharge their smartphones. They didn’t really have to stop at the Doyle, but they’d heard so much about it that they wanted to stop and check out the legendary place.


The BBQ joint where we stopped for lunch.


And I had such a great time chatting with them, I decided to walk them out to the edge of town as well. I needed more steps in any case. I still hadn’t reached my 10K quota for the day!


The trail continued through town. The trail itself technically went one block over and followed a street parallel to the one the Doyle was on, but a local man said that that was stupid and all of the businesses and bars were on this street. So we “blue-blazed” the trail, following the main street through town rather than the residential street one block off.


I walked with them for another two miles over utterly flat terrain through to the edge of town, eventually crossing the Susquehanna River over a long bridge before crossing a railroad track and diving into the woods. At this point, I finally said farewell and turned back towards town. I didn’t mind walking with them over the flat, easy ground, but as soon as the trail dived into the trees and started heading uphill, that was far enough! =)


On the way back, I stayed on the official AT rather than the parallel road I had followed out and took photos along the way. I still planned to walk it the next day, but just in case the light was better now, I wanted to take photos today for Walking 4 Fun. I might not use them, but I’d rather have the photos and not use them than want the photos and not half them!


Mulzabaugh’s is a wonderful supermarket that even shuttled us back to the trail!


Back at the Doyle, later in the evening, I sat out on the second-floor porch and waited for some letterboxers to arrive. I had announced that I’d be there that evening if anyone wanted to come out for exchanges, and Red Crusader and Ralph Spoilsport took me up on it.


And near dusk, who did I see but Blueberry walking down the trail towards the Doyle. Blueberry came up and joined us for a bit and I asked about the ‘trap’ he had laid for me (two states ago!) and he admitted that he didn’t really have anything up his sleeve—he just wanted to make me ‘worry.’ =) He left his pack next to us then headed out to look for some dinner.


After Red Crusader and Ralph Spoilsport left, I was left by myself with Blueberry’s pack. I didn’t want to leave it unattended, so I took it up to my room where I locked the door, then headed back into town to look for Blueberry. It’s not a big town and there aren’t that many places to get dinner. I soon found him and told him that I put his pack in my room for safe keeping. That done, I went back to my room and got out my laundry to do. I did intend to get back on the trail the next day and I wanted some clean clothes when I did it!


And that was my day. In the end, I got very little actual work done but had a wonderful day just relaxing and catching up with others. It seemed like my first zero day where I actually didn’t do much work of any type—not hiking or online. I called it a zero day, but technically, by walking Chuckles and Little Red out of town, I had completed about two more miles of the trail so even then it wasn’t a “true” zero day. A zero day in spirit, perhaps!


Blueberry got a bed at the Doyle, sharing a room with two other hikers. I returned his pack before we headed off for sleep, but I had a hunch I’d be seeing a lot more of Blueberry in the near future… =)


A mural further into town.


This has to be the creepiest trash can I’ve ever seen!


Plane crash!!!!


Chuckles is hiking across the Susquehanna River.


View overlooking the Susquehanna River.


Little Red is about to head back into the woods and up a steep hill just behind those railroad tracks in the background. This would be as far as I’d walk with them! I didn’t know it at the time, but it would also be the last time I ever saw them on the trail. Now I’m really glad I spent the afternoon hanging out with them! =)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Day 82: The Gypsy Moth Problem

May 28: Heavyweight and Superman both beat me out of the shelter—a first for them! They seemed particularly motivated to get going early because both of them had family coming out to visit them in Duncannon. Superman’s parents from Maine, and Heavyweight’s mom from Virginia. Despite their extra motivation, though, they still only beat me out of the shelter by about 5 or 10 minutes.




Despite their head start, however, the cobwebs on the trail were horrendous! How could they have gotten through all of them so recently without disturbing them? Later, when I caught up with them again, they told me that the webs were spectacularly bad and they had no escaped unscathed. In fact, Superman drew a cartoon in the next shelter register of himself covered with cobwebs and the flies on the trail laughing at him. =)


The cobwebs seemed to be a growing problem the deeper we pushed into Pennsylvania and eventually we realized that they weren’t even spider webs. No, these were caterpillar webs, hanging vertically in lines from the trees overhead and there was a serious caterpillar infestation going on. A hiker could walk through the webs and five minutes later, a dozen new ones would be set across the trail.


They were created by gypsy moths, an invasive species and not at all native to North America. Apparently, they have few natural predators and have exploded into a big problem. I didn’t remember this being an issue during my 2003 hike, but it certainly was now! Later, I would learn that this year was a particularly bad year for them and even made the news… all over the area. During the next couple of weeks, we’d pass trees completely defoliated due to this destructive bug. It was a sad sight to see, trees stripped completely clean of their leaves looking like winter was in full swing.




I might be getting a little ahead of myself, but when you’d stop and listen to the sounds of nature, it would often sound like it was sprinkling. At first the sound puzzled me. What was it? It didn’t take long to figure it out, though: Gypsy moth poop. They were so many of them, so thick in the trees, their pooping sounded like the sound of the rain in the forest! I’d sometimes camp between shelters on the trail and normally I prefer to cowboy camp under the stars, but I couldn’t do that on this section of the trail. Even with no rain predicted, I would set up my tarp to protect me from gypsy moth poop that would fall during the night. In the morning, if there was a ripple in the tarp, the gypsy moth poop would collect into long lines of… well, gypsy moth poop!


Today, those webs were the first major indication we’d get of the massive gypsy moth problem we were walking right into. The defoliation and pooping issues we’d discover later. For now, we were being driven slowly insane by the webs they dropped down from the trees.


As for the trail itself, it wasn’t too bad. A few rocks on the trail, but they barely slowed me down at all. Pennsylvania, however, has a reputation for being very rocky and the rocks being very miserable, so much so that the state is often called Rocksylvania. So I wasn’t surprised to read in the next shelter register about people complaining about the rocks on the trail. I had a laugh out of that. These rocks weren’t really any worse than a lot of other places on the trail, but I knew people were complaining about them in the registers because they were the first rocks we’d seen in Pennsylvania and they probably thought they were supposed to complain about the rocks—everyone else did, after all.




Except I knew better. I’d hiked the trail before and knew that the infamous rocks of Pennsylvania were still ahead. If they thought these rocks were bad, they were going to be brought to their knees and crying in a few more days. It was kind of a strange dynamic on the trail—watching people complain about the rocks and knowing that in a few days, they’d likely be wishing they were back on these very rocks. They didn’t know they had started their complaints too early!


In the early afternoon, the trail headed down steeply and eventually dumped me out on the streets of Duncannon. Almost immediately, I passed several hikers heading south out of town. One of them stopped to talk with me warning that I should not stay at the Doyle hotel because the owner was a jerk. (He didn’t actually use the term ‘jerk’ but I wanted to keep this post family-friendly!) He railed on about the place for five minutes, complaining that the rooms were awful (and really, what did you expect for a room for yourself for a mere $25/night—the Taj Mahal?) and that Pat, one of the owners, didn’t know how to make a pot of coffee—because it’s a bar downstairs, his wife usually does it and nobody ever orders coffee at a bar.


He also told me that his first experience with Pat was walking in with a bag of dirty clothes, and Pat asked him if he was a hiker. “No, I like walking through town with a bag of dirty laundry!” I don’t know if he actually said this to Pat or was the thought that crossed his mind, but he seemed to suggest he actually said that, out loud. Which seemed like it was a rather rude thing to say to someone asking if you were a hiker. If that’s the attitude he took, I can’t say I blamed Pat for treating him so poorly. I didn’t like the guy either! (The hiker, that is. Pat I hadn’t met as of yet.)




After about 5 minutes of his ranting, I told him thanks for the information and pushed on deeper into town. The next guy I ran into wasn’t a hiker at all, but someone coming out of his car and heading into a business. I’m not sure if he worked there or was just a customer, but he saw me walking into town and asked me if I’d like a bottle of ice cold water. Water isn’t very exciting to me—I had a bottle of it myself I picked up off the trail just that morning!—but given the hot temperatures, ice cold water sounded great and I took him up on the offer. He gave me a bottle out of a small ice chest in his car and wished me luck on the rest of my journey. What a nice guy! =) It felt like me it evened out the bad feelings the hiker I saw minutes earlier had generated.


I caught up with Heavyweight and Superman at a BBQ joint in town. They had already eaten lunch and I walked with them the rest of the way into town to the Doyle motel.


The Doyle is a beautiful, old structure but badly rundown (like most of Duncannon, for that matter). The town had probably seen its peak a hundred years earlier and now everything in town looked rundown, neglected and forgotten. It hadn’t changed much since my 2003 thru-hike!


I checked into the Doyle despite Jerk Hiker’s suggestion that I avoid the place. In fact, it kind of made me feel good to do it because I knew it would have pissed off the Jerk Hiker. =) He wasted five minutes of his life bitching and whining to me about how horrible the place was which just made me want to stay there even more! Pat, the owner, was working the bar on the first floor and he was nothing but polite and friendly when I talked with him.




A lot of hikers, I’d later hear, complained about how awful the rooms were. And I’ll admit, the rooms seem like they’re on the verge of being condemned. Tiny rooms, with a saggy mattress and nothing more than a simple fan to keep you cool on these insufferably warm days. The floor hadn’t looked swept and the sheets permanently stained with stuff I’m probably better off not knowing what it was. Restrooms were shared with a single restroom for the entire floor.


But here’s the thing: The rooms were $25/night! For a private room! When a room is that cheap, you know you aren’t paying for a quality stay! Show me anywhere else in town that you can get a private room for $25/night that’s a classier establishment. I dare you! It doesn’t exist! You get what you pay for and when it’s $25/night, you won’t get much!


So I was okay with it. Not that I love living in squalor, but I felt like I was getting exactly what I paid for: an experience. =) If the walls of that hotel could talk, they’d probably have some pretty wild stories to tell!


Once I was checked in, I walked over to the post office to pick up the bounce box with my laptop that I mailed to myself, then headed into Sorrento where Heavyweight and Superman waited for their families to arrive with a cold drink. I hadn’t eaten lunch yet and ordered food.


Eventually Superman’s parents arrived who I chatted with for a couple of minutes before they whisked Superman and Heavyweight away. I was on my own again!


I don’t have any good photos of the gypsy moths today, but I did get a nice photo of these millipedes hanging out with a spider! There were a heck of a lot of millipedes on the trail as well.


I went back to my room at the Doyle and caught up with emails and messages until later that evening when Loser arrived. Loser is a character I met during my 2003 thru-hike who I really enjoyed hiking with and when he learned I’d be hiking the trail a second time, told me to keep him informed of my progress through Pennsylvania (where he lives) so he could come out and visit me. He wanted his wife to hear me recite The Cremation of Sam McGee, and I wanted him to bring out the guitar he’d carry on the trail and entertain us with around the campfire at shelters.


The wife and his child were new to me—he didn’t have either of them when I met him in 2003 and I hadn’t seen him face-to-face since then. So they all came out to see me on the trail! We carried an ice chest of cold drinks to the second-floor patio of the Doyle and swapped war stories from our 2003 hike and I shared stories from my current hike while drinking Pepsi. (Alcoholic beverages weren’t allowed on the patio, which disappointed Loser.)


Don’t let the name Loser throw you off, either. He told me he got that name after losing his spork and his hiking partner his first day on the trail, so he was called Loser because he kept losing stuff—not because he’s an actual loser! After he picked up a fake sheriff badge in the Shenandoahs, I even started calling him Sheriff Loser as a sign of respect. =)


Anyhow, I had a good time catching up with Loser and meeting his family. I recited The Cremation of Sam McGee as I promised I would, and he played his guitar a bit with his wife singing along. We had a good time!


Then they left and I went back to working on my laptop. I might not be hiking, but I still had work to do!


The view looking down towards Duncannon from Hawks Rock.






The iconic Doyle motel. The building is now about a hundred years old! Although it’s showing its age, it’s still a magnificent structure! In its heyday, it might have been a grand place to stay.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Day 81: Boiling Springs

May 27: The highlight of today was hiking through the small town of Boiling Springs, where every building seemed to sparkle with a fresh coat of paint and graffiti was non-existent. The trail passed along the edge of a scenic lake on the way into town which was filled with water from springs that the the town was named after.




Heavyweight and Superman beat me into town and I saw them on the back patio of Café 101 eating lunch. I joined them and ordered a sandwich (on a blueberry bagel in honor of the still-missing Blueberry somewhere ahead of us on the trail) and a Coke with Amanda’s name on it because I knew she’d like to know I was thinking about her. =)


After lunch, we headed up the road not even a block away to The Spring that Boiling Springs was named after. It wasn’t listed in any of our guidebooks, but I somehow had found it during my first thru-hike in 2003 and told them it was well worth a quick side visit given its extremely close proximity to the trail. It’s among one of the largest springs I’ve ever seen and so much water gushes out, it ripples across the surface of the water as if the water was actually boiling. It’s not boiling, of course. In fact, it’s quite cold and keeps a steady temperature all year long. Heavyweight and Superman asked if I’d drink the water untreated—they seemed fascinated by the fact that I didn’t treat my water and would sometimes ask if I’d drink from various sources. In this case, I gave them a yes—I’d drink from it without treatment. At least I would by its source where it bubbles out of the ground. Further down in the lake I’d avoid.


They decided to stick their heads in the water just because… why not? Maybe we could start a new thru-hiker tradition! I followed suit as well, working my way out onto a rock then dunking my entire head into the water. It was a hot day and a head of cold water seemed like a refreshing idea. I kept it under for a couple of seconds—at least long enough so Heavyweight and Superman could get photos of my head-dunking antics. With three of us dunking our heads, that officially makes a trend and a NEW thru-hiker tradition! Of course, we’ll have to make sure every other thru-hiker behind us hears about the tradition so it doesn’t stop.


The hiking in this area contained a lot of extremely flat farmlands! Woo-who! =)


A woman passing by told us that people have even scuba-dived into the spring, a feat that we all found amazing. The spring was huge, but it still would have been a tight squeeze for a person working against the current! They knew the spring went hundreds of feet down under the ground, but even scuba divers reached their limits and it’s not exactly clear how far it goes—or so I gathered.


I resupplied my snack supply at a nearby convenience store. There’s not a good grocery near on the trail, but knowing about the convenience stores, I had carried enough supplies to get me all of the way to Duncannon except for snacks which I knew would be easy to resupply here.


Then we hit the trail again. Heavyweight and Superman pulled ahead as they usually do.


The terrain was incredibly flat and easy. Spooky flat and easy. It took us through farmland, navigating a wide gap between mountains that make up the Appalachian Trail. The miles passed by quickly, and then the thunderstorm hit.


BOOM! BOOM! It was loud and wonderful! =) The rain, however, was wet and miserable. It was a pretty warm rain, however, which is a step up from cold and wet. Hot and wet is always better than cold and wet. =)


Boiling Springs was also once home to a cold-blast furnace back in the day.


Later in the afternoon, near where trail crossed over Interstate 76, I came out to a farm. Trees lined the edge and I saw Superman behind them through the thin layer of trees, looking like he was about to sit down to take a rest. I figured I’d wander over and join him when suddenly I saw his pants come down. Oh, no! NO! NO! I don’t want to see that!!!


“Hello, SEXY!” I said loudly to let him know I was there. The pants immediately came right back up. I hiked on, leaving him to do his thing. I caught up with Heavyweight further up the trail and told him that he made a terrible lookout since I had just walked up on Superman just about to do a dump.


It would become an ongoing joke for the rest of the hike. =)


The three of us set up camp in the Darlington Shelter for the night, joined by a single flip-flopper named Old School who had started his hike a couple of days earlier at Pine Grove Furnace. We were all curious about the privy since our guidebook called it the “Taj Mahal.” Sounded like a pretty impressive privy! But it was something of a letdown. It was a big privy—the size of a small room—with counterweights that would automatically close the door for you, but it wasn’t particularly fancy or interesting.


As Stoat observed in the shelter register: “I’ve never been so excited to poop and been so disappointed!” Yep, that summed it up nicely. If you call a privy the Taj Mahal, it better be awesome!


As dusk settled, I pulled out the temporary tattoos I’d been carrying since Marion and we used them up on a new gang initiation. Even Old School got into the spirit by applying one to his knee! =)


The trail followed the edge of this scenic lake on its way into Boiling Springs.


Downtown Boiling Springs!


I found a Coke with Amanda’s name on it at the Café 101.


Don’t panic! I’m not drowning! Just dunking my head into one of the biggest springs you ever did see. You can see some of the ripples on the surface water near where my head is—those are the springs that Boiling Springs is named after.  There’s also a dark patch in the water to the right of my head which is the crack that the spring is shooting out of. (The ripples away from my head are smaller and just the regular ripples you usually see on the surface of a small lake.)


Fun and games in Boiling Springs is over. We still have more trail to hike! Flat, easy trail… =) Parts of the trail had these very narrow forested areas between farms on both sides of the trail.




See, that forested area is a very narrow strip! There’s farmland probably 40 feet to the left of the trees as well.




The sky actually looks pretty nice in this photo, but you can tell it’s raining because I’m using my umbrella and I wouldn’t have been doing that unless it was actively raining. (The storm clouds were mostly above and behind me when I took this photo, not directly ahead.)


The odd thing about rain photos—most of them you can’t really see any rain or even evidence of it. Where the trail crossed this road, however, you can clearly see how wet the road is even if everything else doesn’t show obvious signs of being wet. Clue the lightning and thunder and you’ll have a good sense of what was going on when I took this photo. =)


The rain would start and stop throughout the afternoon, and the sun would come out and hide throughout the afternoon, and not always in conjunction with the rain! Here the clouds are so thick ahead and you can’t see any blue sky, but the ground is still in the sunlight!


Passed this small cemetery along the trail.


[Insert photo of Superman doing a dump here]


(That’s a joke—I didn’t actually get a photo of Superman doing a dump, but if I had, it would have been after the cemetery photo and before the dog warning sign photo.)


Well, that doesn’t seem like a very neighborly sign!












This bridge crosses over Interstate 81. (The trail crossed over two different Interstates today!) The two figures in the distance on the bridge are Heavyweight and Superman who generally hiked faster than me. Unless one of them stops to take a dump—then I might catch up with them. =)


Superman is on the trail! (I’m not really sure how I got ahead of him to get this photo of him actually hiking towards me. Actually, as I recall, Heavyweight and Superman stopped for a snack break and I did not.)




The trail crosses over the bridge spanning Conodoguinet Creek, then around and under the bridge along the creek.




The trail passes under PA 944 through this tunnel.


If you’ve lost your car… I found it! =)


At the end of the day, the trail started climbing a real mountain to the Darlington Shelter. This was a view during the climb, looking back at the flat terrain we had been traveling through all day.


Showing off our new trail gang tats! Superman put it on the back of his hand. Old School put it on his knee. Heavyweight and myself put it on our forearms. Mine is wearing the blue shirt. Heavyweight’s arm is the one with the real tattoo on his upper arm without the shirt.