Homer's Travels: Appalachian Trail: Harper's Ferry, WV To Duncannon, PA

Friday, July 19, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Harper's Ferry, WV To Duncannon, PA

🐻 x 6
UPDATED 11-14-2020

This felt like a long time between zero days.  The heat and humidity has become my kryptonite.  They make each day seem that much longer.  I eat less even though I should be eating more.  My discipline is slipping and I am bending, if not breaking, rules I have set for myself.  That is where I am as I push my way through Pennsylvania.

This stage got me half way to Maine, past the 1,100 mile mark, and through another state.  I skipped an ice cream challenge but for once skipping ice cream was the smart thing to do.

The War Correspondents memorial.
Day 100 - I gave the Wife an anniversary kiss and left Harper's Ferry.  You cross the Potomac river on a footbridge that also marks the West Virginia - Maryland border.  I didn't see a sign and a Canadian thru-hiker named Fastball actually back tracked a few miles to find the non-existent sign.  After the bridge the trail follows the Potomac before heading into the mountains.

I stopped for water at Gathland State Park with its empty grave and a large War Correspondents memorial.

I did a 15.4 mile (24.8 km) to a shelter where I met new people like High Pockets, Scribbles, and Lone Bear.

It was starting to heat up and the humidity was high making the day tough.

Day 101 - This was a day full of history or at least it felt like it.  It started with the early morning encounter with a memorial for two dead generals - one Union and one Confederate.  The Union memorial was bigger and fancier than the Confederate one.

I passed a nice campsite where I topped off my water before flinging my glasses into the weeds.  I'd walked into a spider's web, had a spider hanging from my hat, and I whipped off the hat to throw off the spider.  My hat strap must have caught my glasses and flung them off my face.  It took me a few minutes to guess the trajectory of the glasses and find them in the weeds along the trail.

By the way, that is one of the jobs of the early riser.  Spiders weave webs across the trail during the night and early risers clear them as they hike.  It was a sucky job that didn't end until you met someone going the other way.  At these meetings you always thanked the southbounder for clearing out the rest of the trail for you.

Past the campsite was a nice restaurant that, sadly, was not open for breakfast.  Across from that was a nice chapel and historical plaques describing local civil war battles.

The Washington Monument.
Not far past there was the first monument to George Washington completed.  The trail passes right by it.  I climbed the squat tower and took in the view and cooling breeze.

The breeze didn't last long and the humidity and heat were back.  I did about the same distance as the day before but it felt harder.

Day 102 - This was going to be one of several long days ahead for me.  The terrain wasn't terrible and the humidity had dropped so it wasn't going to be too hard.

Entering the North and Pennsylvania - the Mason - Dixon line.
One minor highlight was High Rock with its view and high school graffiti.  Another bigger highlight was the Pen-Mar park and the crossing of the Mason - Dixon line.  I crossed into the North and left another state behind.  I was now in Pennsylvania or, as hikers like to call it, Rocksylvania.  The rocks on the trail would be getting worse as I headed North.

At the end of the 18.1 mile (29.1 km) day I ended in Tumbling Run Shelters which have a snoring and non-snoring shelters.  The one thing that made this place special was the privy which actually had toilet paper.  The lower humidity made this day easier than the prior fifteen mile days.

Day 103 - Another long day with lower humidity.

The first target of the day was the concession stand at the Caledonia State Park pool.  Unfortunately it was not open because they couldn't find a company to run it.  A nearby restaurant was also closed permanently.  A few hikers were depending on those places for food.  Fortunately I wasn't but they would have been a nice treat.

I made a brief rest stop at the Quarry Gap Shelter.  It was a great place.  A couple guys were doing maintenance.  There were flowers and benches. The porch swing would have been nice to rest in but I had more miles to do.

I reached the Birch Run Shelter at 19.6 miles (31.5 km) and was a bit tired.  I met Executioner here (Someone had seen her with her bug net on and told her she was either Executioner or Lunch Lady … She chose wisely).  She discovered a Timber Rattler on the way to the privy.  We all started to take alternate routes to the privy.

Day 104 - Finally a short day.  I hiked a quick 9.8 miles (15.8 km) to Pine Grove Furnace State Park.   On the way I passed several markers for the Appalachian Trail (AT) mid point.  The AT varies in length due to detours and additions so the mid point changes every now and then.  If I were them I would make a portable marker and just move it when necessary.

Half Way Baby!!!
At the park general store they hold an ice cream eating challenge called the half gallon challenge.  It's kind of hokey since you have to pay for the ice cream and all you get if you complete it is a wooden ice cream spoon.  I'd planned to do it for many years but over the past few days I convinced myself that getting sick eating ice cream wasn't worth it.  Instead I watched Baby, Storm Chaser, Fish, Salamander, and Little Debbie compete instead.  Baby threw up but the others completed the challenge.  I ate a pint of cookie dough ice cream and was quite satisfied.  Storm Chaser completed his and then continued hiking - not sure how that turned out.

Hey!  A view!
Red Bush and Choo Choo showed up.  They'd gotten here the day before and spent the night.  I spent some time with them before they hiked on.

I stayed at the Ironmasters Mansion Hostel and visited the nearby AT Museum.  The hostel was part of the underground railroad.  There was a lot of history here.

I actually saw some stars here before I went to bed.  This had been a relaxing day with trail friends and it felt … nice.

Day 105 - The humidity returned as I left the state park.  In the guide book the terrain looks easy but I always struggle on the ascents.  I stop so many times while climbing hills.  It doesn't matter how little the hills are.

The small highlight of the day was a couple of rock mazes the trail has you crawl through - a sign of things to come in Rocksylvania.

Climbing through the rock mazes.
I reached Alec Kennedy Shelter which was my target for the day.  That is it was until I started thinking about the next town only four miles ahead.  I took a short nap at the shelter and woke up determined to go to Boiling Springs, PA.  I was hoping to catch up to Red Bush and Choo Choo.  This was a violation of one of my rules: never push to catch up with someone.  Pushing hard always leads to injury.

I left the shelter and started over the last small hill.  No more than fifteen minutes had passed and I heard thunder.  I reached the top of Center Point knob the original mid point of the AT.  As I started down the knob the skies opened up and it poured rain.

The trail comes out by a corn field and follows fence lines until you arrive at the backpacker's campsite just outside of town.  I called a few B&Bs but they were either full or no longer open and there wasn't a hotel or hostel in this nice little town.

While I was in Boiling Springs there was always fog on the lake.
I put up my tent and walked into town for dinner.  I ran into Little Debbie and The Goat at the bar.  They were in the one town B&B.  I ate a very slowly delivered pasta carbonara before I headed back to my tent.  Oh, did I mention that the train tracks pass twenty feet from the campsite?  Trains are very loud when they are that close.  Fortunately the last one I remember was at 10:40pm.  Apparently I slept through one around 3:30am.  I guess I was tired.

Oh yeah,  Red Bush and Choo Choo had taken an Uber to a hotel in a nearby town so my push just got me wet.  Live and learn.

Day 106 - The 5:00am train woke me up.  I must of been tired since I got a pretty good night's sleep.  I got up, packed up my tent, and headed back into town.  I bought some minor resupply at a convenience store before hiking on.

Am I hiking Pennsylvania or Iowa?
This was by far the flattest part of the AT I've been on.  It was also the most exposed with walks along roads, fence lines, and across pastures.  This was a relatively short day on easy terrain and my butt was kicked.

Our first Appalachian Trail tunnel.
I ended the 14.7 mile (23.7 km) day at the Darlington Shelter with its Taj Mahal privy.  It was nice but not that nice.

Days 107, 108 & 109 - It had rained overnight and it was drizzling when I left the shelter.  It started to pour shortly after.  I met Mojo and her dog Stella Grace.

I arrived in Duncannon, PA soaking wet.  This was becoming a bad habit.  I'd entered the last three towns soaking wet.  I checked into the Doyle hotel.  This place is very interesting.  Opened in 1909 it has hardly been upgraded.  The food in the restaurant is excellent.  It costs $25 a night.  It has no air conditioning.

I was already planning a zero day in Duncannon.  The forecast pushed me to take another day.  They had heat indexes over 100℉ (38℃) forecasted.  I hate weather delays.  I always wonder if I'm being too cautious.  I do know that once again I caught up with people I like and once again I am going to be behind with a new group of strangers.

Speaking of which, turns out Red Bush and Choo Choo were in Duncannon while I was there.  They were staying an a church basement hostel.  Unfortunately we never crossed paths.  Also Red Bush ended up quitting here due to stress fractures in his foot.  I wish I could have said goodbye.

I did meet a new hiker here named Ruckus.  He was a crazy guy.  He "brought the ruckus to the Appalachian trail."  When I met him he had just arrived from the trail in a linen sun dress and a flowered floppy gardening hat.  He'd picked up the dress in a hostel from the hiker box and he loved how it kept him cool in the summer heat.  (Sadly the dress would not survive, tearing when he took it off after a particularly sweaty day.)

When I restart on Sunday it will be hot, humid, water will be scarce, and they say the rocks make an appearance in earnest.  And still I will hike on.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,149.0 Miles (1,849.1 km)
Section Distance: 128.4 Miles (206.6 km)
Section Elevation Up: 18,433 ft (5,618 m)
Section Elevation Down: 19,049 ft (5,806 m)

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