Week 12: Pennsylvania rocks
Our feet took us 97.3 miles this week
Video of the Week
In case you haven't heard, Pennsylvania is ridiculously rocky. Like dangerously rocky. If you look up, even for a second to take in your surroundings, you are sure to trip, twist an ankle and fall on your face (depending on how quick you are to save yourself with trekking poles). I am the least nimble person, so taking videos was out of the question. I was forced to safety-veto myself from using my camera. I did, however, capture a two minute video of Danielle and I, halfway up a steep, rocky ascent, having full-on meltdowns. Due to the extreme amount of profanity and because I hope to get a job someday, I am not posting it here. But email me if you'd like to see one of our darkest moments. It's hilarious.
Don't be fooled by the title of this blog post. Pennsylvania does not rock. But the Appalachian Trail through Pennsylvania is absurdly rocky. It's like playing hopscotch for 12 hours a day. You can't zone out and crush miles because you need to constantly focus on not tripping and dying on rocks. I'm not even being dramatic. I would post a picture of what this state did to my feet, but I'll spare you the horror.
Even though PA is relatively flat, the rocks make hiking trecherous. Which is why Danielle and I took another three zero days this week. Excessive, we know, but one of those days was an unitentional zero. Buckle up for a ridicious story:
After a wonderful night at the Comfort Inn in Pine Grove, PA, Danielle and I stationed ourselves on the highway to hitch five miles back to the trail. After countless frustrating rejections, a guy in a BMW pull over and we jump in his car. Middle-aged man: "Wanna grab a beer before you go back to the trail?" Us: "10am beers? For sure." Well, one beer turned into five and we were in no conidition to hike. Instead, our hitch took it upon himself to give us a grand tour of Pennsylvania. We first went back to his house so he could prove that he did indeed own a 240 pound dog. Then, we went to his childhood home where his mother seemed completely unsurprised that her son brought two 23 year olds over. We went four wheeling around his property and enjoyed a bottle of his mom's homemade black raspberry wine. Next, we went to the local VFW where we quickly became celebrities for hiking the AT for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Finally, we were treated to an incredible steak dinner accompanied by fancy cocktails. Dinner was over $250 and our hitch-turned-PA-host covered everything. They say all good things must come to an end, so around midnight when it became clear he didn't have a chance with either of us, we went back to the trail. It was an epic hitch-turned-adventure. Definitely one for the books.
When someone shows you kindness on the trail
Pennsylvania was so kind to us this week! One day, we saw a sign saying "trail magic" pointing off the trail. We obviously followed the secret path to a fresh cooler of beer and two lawn chairs. It was incredibly refreshing for a hot day! The next day, we came across trail magic beers under a bush (see picture below). You might think this is gross, and I might have thought so too at one time, but it was perfect. You bet I drank that luke-warm beer! And the next day, we came across a parking lot BBQ. It was hosted by thru-hikers from last year who came out to pay it forward after having received so much love on their journeys. One guy was just wearing his underwear. After a while he said "God, I miss being in the woods. None of you think it's weird I'm sitting here in my underwear." I've seen weirder things out here.
We were treated to free sticky buns at The Gathering Place in Bethel, PA. This cafe is run by volunteers from a local church. They completely succeed in providing a comfortable environment where the community can come together. This is my favorite place I've stopped on the trail yet!
A kind soul who helps a hiker in need
We recieved the most amazing re-supply package from Mrs. Buckler, a teacher at my mom's preschool and mother to one of Danielle and my classmates. She went above and beyond for all our requests and even sent us a batch of her famous cookies! I ate all the cookies in 24 hours. I shared like four with Danielle. We are so grateful for her support! Thank you so so much, Mrs. Buckler!
The inevitable, devatating, yet retrospectively, hilarious moments on the trail
Aside from the rocky conditions, there were several other bummers this week. First of all, a fricken porcupine ate my fricken trekking pole. I'm not even kidding. There was a porcupine warning at the shelter we stayed at (#wildernessprobs), but porcupines had never been an issue and like how much damage could one even do? In the morning, Danielle asked why I aggressively hold my trekking poles. Confused, I looked at my pole to find the cork handle had been aggressively knawed. Recognizing it was the work of a porcupine, Danielle was in hysterics. I was SO grumpy and needed to be absurdly dramatic. I frantically poured my entire supply of hand sanitizer on my trekking pole handle whining, "is it even safe to use my trekking poles now?!" It took me like 15 minutes to get over it, but then I thought it was hilarious, too.
I remember my next bummer as "Hell Bridge". The AT passes through many boony towns of PA- one being Duncanon. The trail leads out of Duncanon, over a bridge, back to the mountains. I'm not sure how long this bridge was, but it felt at least a mile long. On my left was a cement wall separating me from the road. On my right was a metal fence with vertical bars separating me from the river we were walking over. In the fence lived more spiders than I had ever seen in my life. I'm not sure what breed of spider it was, but the bodies were as big as nickles. You could barely see through the railing because it was so dense with spider webs. I'm talking hundreds- probably thousands- of huge, hairy spiders. The bridge shook with every passing car and I imagined spiders coming loose and falling on me. I was trapped and it was my hell. I'm getting the chills just writing this.