In the beginning, Pennsylvania was nice. We were blessed by excellent trail magic, the trail had flattened out quite a bit and the rumored "rocks" were a myth. Pennsylvania is a long state, and they saved the longest for last. Here's a look at the end of PA, Climbing out of Palmerton
We camped about .2 of a mile away from James Fry shelter around 1104.9. The night was an uninterrupted deluge and everything was wet. The rain cleared out with the morning sun but we were in such dense tree cover that there were only thin yellow shards to dry out in. However, it was warm.
Earlier in the downpour Rickshaw and Mr. Dallas were busy building sleeping mat canoes inside their tent. The runoff from the rainstorm had turned their piece of real estate into a swamp. Under the corners of his tarp sleeping mat Rickshaw stuffed his trekking poles, and along the edges he placed a long branch. Mr. Dallas did the same. The water flowed under the tent, and then around each mat, but not over the elevated edges. As long as the sides tilted up, they had a nice canoe to sleep in. This is how you sleep in monsoon season in a tarp tent.
Much of our clothes were hung out to dry when the rain started. When clothes get wet they get heavy, bonus pounds! It was only 11 miles to Boiling Springs, PA. There was a lot on our agenda for the day as well. Rickshaw was going to get to see his wee baby daughter and celebrate his first Father's day. Still Don't had to make some phone calls for resupply. Mr. Dallas had to wrangle some gear. Muffins had to find libations and the most expensive trout sandwich available.
Still Don't was down the trail first. Rickshaw made a good call in saving our water pump from the stirred up sediment in the creek from the rain. There was a country store about 1.5 miles away after crossing two railroad tracks and a road. The store was only .2 off of the trail and had free clean water to spare the filter. We were going to get water there and then press on.
Still Don't got water and moved out. Rickshaw didn't like the water because of its heavy metallic taste. Yum, extra iron for the blood. Rickshaw was too excited to hike and yellow blazed to Boiling Springs to see his baby girl. On his third car a member of PATC picked him up and he was there 20 minutes later. (Yellow blazing is hitchhiking)
Muffins and Mr. Dallas were lured by the cheese steak sandwiches sold from the deli and turned the quick water stop into a quick brunch. With all their wet clothes spread out over the lawn, they sat and ate watching Dumpstermouth hop into a van and speed off to Boiling Springs. It made them both laugh. That was the last time they would hike with Rickshaw aka Dumpstermouth aka Cheetah Butt aka Spigot A$$.
Meanwhile, Still Don't was several miles ahead and making his way through the rock maze near mile 1108.8. It was a gigantic boulder field at the pinnacle of the mountain. Car sized rocks had to be climbed over, and there were multiple paths, and many worn out blazes that were difficult to spot. You could go up and over one rock with a clear blaze on it only to look 20 feet down and see that you weren't quite hiking the right direction. It took some time, and a good bit of hand over fist climbing to make it through the maze.
Shortly after the maze, and a quick climb Still Don't came across Cody and Epic at the old plaque halfway point which may have had knob in the title. Cody is an outdoor enthusiast local to PA and Epic is his young sun. They were out for a quick section hike. Still Don't and Cody hit it off and pretty soon some serious trail magic was arranged on our behalf.
Muffins and Mr. Dallas made it through the rock maze and down the mountain into Cumberland Valley. And the cake walk began. The trail tamed down from a gnarly rock scramble to flat cornfields with less than a mile of transition. They walked through the cornfields in clear hot sun about a mile and a half apart into Boiling Springs.
Everyone met up under some large willows on the side of the crystal clear "Children's Pond" near the ATC's central southern bureau office. Mr. Dallas arrived last. He had to stop and attend to a tree bite on his shin and it delayed him a few minutes. When he walked up Hot Dog, Apple Butter, Still Don't, Muffins, Cody, Epic, and Rickshaw were all chilling in the shade eating cookies. It was a party.
Hot Dog and Apple Butter were in our same boat. They had met a kind local who was putting them up in her house for the night and feeding them proper. They were just waiting for their ride. Cody offered us the grass in his backyard and his spigot. We accepted enthusiastically. He had some errands to run, but he told us he would be back around 6:30 to pick us up. And he was.
In the blink of an eye we were transported to suburbia. Cold micro brews were cracked and the grill fired up for burgers. We were stuffed on burgers with patties stacked 3 deep, chips, beans, slaw, and hearty American backyard cuisine. We were right at home around a fire pit in Cody's back yard.
Rickshaws baby arrived and he left with her in his arms to go be with family. Mr. Dallas and Muffins both predicted Rickshaw would not return after holding his infant daughter Sage. There's something magical about babies. As a precaution Mr. Dallas made sure to retrieve all shared essential items from Dumpstermouth before he left. We stayed up late talking about the trail with Cody and entertaining young Epic who had more energy than a powder keg.
First thing in the morning Mr. Dallas was greeted with a cup of coffee and a smile from Cody. Here was a California kid who grew up in Pennsylvania giving Southern Hospitality a serious run for its money. We were out of Dixie, the world was different now, but Cody gave us all hope that the North had good people in it. Cody gave us fantastic encouragement.
He drove us to the store, and hiked along with us for a solid 10 miles across the Cumberland Valley in the green tunnels of overgrowth between crops, literal amber waves of grain. We thanked him profusely, and parted ways just before a large white barn and picnic area. We still had 15 miles to go that day for a long haul to Duncannon, PA (1142.5).
Still Don't, Mr. Dallas, and Muffins lunched large and napped it off for an hour or two during the hottest part of the day. It was a long 15 miles that ended up stretching to 16 because the campsite was on the other side of town. We arrived in Duncannon down a savage loose rock pile cliff side descent in the dark. It takes a lot of daylight to hike 26 miles, and we had run out miles ago. Ankles were tweaked, feet were bruised, shins were burning, but we made it.
We were all huddled under a lit up BBQ joints sign trying to read the map and figure out where the camping was. Two locals walked by on the way to a "drowning pool" concert and yelled at us, "good luck its all the way on the other side of town." Mr. Dallas mumbled in reply, "good luck your tiny expletive town is only a mile long," and they neither heard it, nor cared to trifle with that mustache. The camping was in fact a mile and change away and the town was in fact as twice as long as a mile.
Jokingly, Mr. Dallas stuck out his thumb at a passing car headed in the right direction. It slowed down and ogled him. Ladies! And in a nice VW jetta. They slowed, but then drove on by. He turned around, "Almost had that one boys!" "Too bad hitching is impossible in PA on account of the strict criminal codes." He knew nothing of the sort but was spouting nonsense out of exhaustion. Mirages.
The VW came back around and pulled into the parking lot. In it were two guys, not ladies. They gave us a ride to the other side of town and the three of us camped in free comfortable dirt that night. We demolished a family size mac n cheese with a special dinner pack mix provided by Paramount Fit Foods. Our Mac in cheese was seriously augmented by marcona almonds, macadamia, sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, and rehydrated jerky. Delicious, Nutritious, Sleep.
Written by Mr. Dallas