Friday, May 31, 2013

I found the rocks...and the heat

Headed into Duncannon and stayed at the Doyle Hotel, which is pretty much famous for being the crappiest place on the trail. It did not disappoint! It's all good though, my standards for clean living have plummeted. Cheap shower and bed? Sign me up. Though the food was awesome.

Had breakfast at Trail Angel Mary's house in the AM. Awesome lady, super awesome food. Mmm, chocolate chip pancakes.

Next thing I knew I was walking into a family reunion/memorial day celebration/trail magic. Absolutely incredible. Hail to the Fogarty family and their kindness! Ate till I was stuffed, and then ate some more. Ended up letting us drink there all day and crash on their front porch.

A few days of big miles over BIG rocks and Georgia style heat, and I find myself in Palmerton, PA. Staying at a hostel run out of the old jail...shower, laundry, the whole bit.

Headed out tomorrow am. Less than 50 miles left in this state. Crazy! 

(Also, credit to Rash for the 2 pics I was in that I stole)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pennsylvania, land of milestones

I've hit some huge milestones lately, definitely time for an update.

Woke up at midnight for the 4 state challenge and hit the state line and started around 1am. Deer for the most part usually just stand right off trail and stare at you. Fine during the day. But at night, their eyes glow a creepy bright yellow when your headlamp hits them. Very unnerving. Coming into Harper's Ferry, I almost walked into a sleeping homeless guy under the bridge. Then, I ran into some super creepy people hanging out at Jefferson Rock in the dark at 2am. Scared the hell out of me. Passed through the town and then almost got attacked by a german shepherd at a campsite by the river. After all that, I was way too tense to have fun, just counting down the hours till daylight. Once that hit though, I hit my stride and cruised through Maryland. Other than the 90 degree heat and the 2 mile downhill rock scramble at the very end, the hike went well. Kinda delirious at the end, mindlessly putting one foot in front of the other. Sign to sign, 4 total states traveled through, it took me 17 hours and 30 minutes. 46 total miles. Tired but extremely proud. Only know one other hiker who did it as well.

A couple days later I hit the exact 1/2 way point. There's a big sign there. Awesome feeling stepping just to other side and knowing I have less miles ahead of me then behind me!

AT tradition includes the ice cream 1/2 gallon challenge just past that point. You get a little wooden spoon if you do it. One problem. We are all hiking too fast and the store doesn't open until Memorial Day. We got word a store on the trail 8 miles further up sold 1/2 gallons and that other hikers had done the challenge there. Rooster and I decided to follow suit. When we got there we realized that the "1/2 gallons" everyone had been eating weren't actually 1/2 of a gallon and that we needed to add another pint. My mom taught me that If you're gonna do something stupid, you might as well do it right. I went with cappuccino crunch for the big one and black raspberry for the pint. We even got chocolate syrup as well. I started very enthusiastically. A few minutes in, the size of the task I was undertaking suddenly seemed very big. But then I remembered, while I don't do a whole lot of things well, eating ice cream is most certainly one of them. 30 minutes later I was tipping back the cartons and drinking the last melted stuff at the bottom. Then we hiked 7 more miles. 15 total miles for the day plus the challenge. That's how thru hiker winners roll.

On to more Pennsylvania! ...which has put up a pretty poor fight so far for being nicknamed the rockiest state on the AT.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Technical Difficulties

Just wanted to make a quick post to say I haven't intentionally been ignoring anyone who comments on the blog. I literally cannot figure out how to respond. I type the response and hit publish and it disappears. I even tried following my own blog as a user. Deanna didn't have any luck either. If anyone has a bright idea, I'm all ears. 

Love you guys and love the comments. Sorry I'm obviously the worst blogger ever.

Big Things Poppin

Killed some time watching Remember the Titans (most re-watchable movie ever) on the couch at the hostel, and then headed down to Snickers Gap to meet up with Deanna! Awesome to see her again and with a pack! 

Minutes into the hike, I passed a huge milestone, the 1,000 mile mark! Another hiker had spelled 1,000 with rocks at the exact point on the trail. Very strange staring down at this huge number knowing what it took to achieve. Awesome feeling though. 

We hiked the last 3 miles of "The Roller Coaster" which is a 13 mile section of 10 ascents and descents, a couple of hundred feet in elevation change with each. 
And camped that night down by a spring. 

Had a camp site planned for the next day near the Va/WV state line. We stopped at a shelter for water and made friends with a group of guys who were taking all their young sons camping. Had a ton of questions for me and even gave me one of their beers, a tall boy Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA. Instant friends.

Someone had already taken the campsite by the time we got there, which was apparently the only one before West Virginia. We ended up hiking a lot further than planned and pretty much invented a campsite. No worries, Deanna rolled with it nicely. Easy walk into Harpers Ferry the next morning for alcohol and showers. Deanna handled the 20+ miles like a champ. Maybe I made a hiker this weekend...

Took the side trail to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to get my picture taken on the front porch as tradition dictates. I've seen a lot of thru hiker's pictures from there before and it was very awesome, though surreal, to be standing there myself...over 1,000 miles down.

Harpers Ferry was a nice little old historic town overall. Though very lacking as far as "hiker services" go. No laundry, CVS, etc. We stayed at great little B&B in town called The Ledge. Great, friendly place overlooking the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

Sad to see Deanna go but excited to hit the trail for what looks like more smooth sailing. 

Headed out of town tomorrow, but this time it'll be south for a few miles, back to the West Virginia/Virginia line to try and complete the 4 state challenge. The goal is to cross 3 state lines within 24 hours. You start in Virginia, go through West Virginia, Maryland, and then into Pennsylvania. 42 miles total. Should be a rather long, tiring day of hiking, but I'm excited about the challenge. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bears Den Hostel

Stayed a night at this hostel which is basically trail side from Bears Den Rocks. Looks like an old castle. It has a 24hr hiker room with bunks, a shower, a TV, and a heap of movies. Very friendly and accommodating staff for the big crowd of hikers we had there. 

They do a hiker special which is a bunk, a shower, laundry, a large pizza, a soda, and a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream for $30. YES PLEASE. I went with a supreme and then coffee caramel buzz. Kind of sickening how easy it was to put away both. 

They also have large poster boards for all the thru hikers to sign each year. I put up a pic of an old year (2nd to last) as well so you can see just how many potential hikers could be behind me....if the Smokies didn't get them anyways...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Shenandoah National Park

Met dad to hike again in Waynesboro, VA and started the Shenandoahs on a rainy day. Felt bad for dad, every time he joins me it seems to rain. Walked for most of the day in the rain, but cleared up by the time we got to camp. The next 2 days turned out pretty nice. Warm sunny days with lots of views. Parted ways with dad and continued on north.

Overall, I had pretty mixed feelings about the park, which is regarded as one of the prettiest sections on the trail. It didn't disappoint in that area though.  It follows Skyline Drive for more than 100 miles, and you can either see, hear, or you actually cross the road at least 20 times a day. So as far as a wilderness factor goes, I give it about a 2. Pretty easy hiking, very scenic views, and cafes and camp stores basically trail side.  But it's also very popular, so you share the trail with people with coolers and potato chip bags, baby bjornes, and entire buses of Japanese tourists. It's a mixed bag. And I didn't see a single bear, extra bummer.

Hit a whole new level of hiker hunger and tore through my food with ease. So I went into Front Royal to resupply and wandered into the Visitors Center, where I struck up conversation with the woman who worked there. She offered me a ride back to the trail head which was awesome by itself, but after she went to drive me, she went a step further and offered me a shower at her house. A smart trail bum never turns down a hot shower. I gladly accepted. She and her husband fed me pasta, a huge bowl of ice cream, and dropped me back at the trail. Awesome awesome people. I've heard stories like this happening along the trail, but truly amazing to experience it first hand! Great people. (pictured below)

On to Bears Den Hostel tomorrow (which actually looks like an old castle) then meeting Deanna and rolling into Harpers Ferry! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Daleville, VA to Waynesboro, VA

Highlights from the last 130 miles: 

Came across a swimming hole and jumped in, was actually warm enough that day to do so, even took along the waterproof digital camera. 

Me and two other thru hikers, Dozer and Funyuns hitched into the nearby campground for milkshakes and hotdogs to cook that night, even played basketball..probably the only time on the trail that'll happen. Saw 2 bears that night that came down to the stream in front of the shelter. Someone yelled 'bear' and I jumped out of my hammock and took off running straight towards the person shouting. They kind of just chilled on the other side of the stream looking at us and then wandered back up the hill. Awesome. Took 800 miles but glad it happened.

Last minute decision to go into Buena Vista for a cheap hostel and shower. Ate 2 ice cream blizzards and an entire 3 topping extra large pizza by myself.

Hit up Fresh Ground for the last time, he had decided that his time on the trail is done for now. He happened to have stuff to make tacos and got real excited when I ate a bunch.

Walked through the pouring rain for what seemed like days, but hit a big milestone and had my longest mileage day yet. 30 miles! Through mostly rain, but I was determined to sleep in a shelter that night, so 30 was the only option. 

Also, me and Jelly, another thru hiker, came across two AT volunteer trail maintainers painting white blazes on the trees. Let us help paint a blaze. It was awesome. I must be a true nerd now.

Into Waynesboro this morning to see dad again and get out of the rain. Stopped at a diner for all you can eat pancakes and knocked back 11. Followed that night by an all you can Chinese buffet. Put down 3 full plates and then 4 ice creams. Good stuff.

Annnd finally, said goodbye to my shoes. Thanks for nearly 1,000 miles of memories!