Days 20 & 21: Surprise!

Hike Days

As I write this, I’m on an airplane flying back to Kansas. Fear not! It’s a round-trip ticket so I’ll be back on the trail in about a week. 

Good timing made it possible to get off the trail to heal my knee, surprise Spencer, see his band play a couple of music festivals, celebrate my roommate Sophie’s birthday, see my parents, and host a couple friends from Nova Scotia– all in a week!! 

So, now, backing up to the last few days of hiking: 

In the early morning hours of Day 20, I discovered that my tent had flooded. It had rained constantly all night long, but fortunately, it didn’t flood until around 5:30 in the morning so it just gave me a kick in the pants to wake up and walk back into Boiling Springs to get breakfast!

After that, I hiked a little over 8 miles and then decided to walk .4 miles off trail to a highway diner listed in my guidebook for second breakfast. As I was walking into the diner, an older man and his wife were walking out. He asked how far I was going, and I said, “To Maine.” He said, “Well, I was going to guess you weren’t just taking a walk around the block.” We stood and chatted for a while about the trail, and then he opened his wallet, handed me $8 and said lunch was on him. What a trail angel! 

After lunch, I hiked a little more than 6 miles to a shelter. Most of the way, I walked about 50 yards behind a man in his 70s (maybe 80s?) in a bright yellow shirt. He only had a hydration pack on so I knew he couldn’t be a thruhiker. I caught up with him after about 4 miles and said hello. We got to talking, and I found out that he lives in Boiling Springs and walks from Boiling Springs to a parking lot 12 miles north on the AT six times per week. His wife picks him up in the same parking lot at the same time every day. 

I got to the shelter early and was able to dry out my tent, sleeping bag and shoes there. Because the bugs were so bad, I decided to tent again that night.
It rained through the night again, and I woke up every couple hours to make sure my tent was still dry. Made it through the night without flooding again! Hooray! 

On Day 21, I walked the 11.4 miles into Duncannon. As I was walking up the street, I saw Papillon who I hadn’t seen in a couple weeks. We caught up briefly, as he was headed into Harrisburg with Hot Sauce, Jacoby, Billy, Craynip, and Sota Sam to see a movie. There’s a long-time trail angel in Duncannon who gave the guys the keys to her car to take into Harrisburg for a movie. What a trusting lady! 
Soon after, Spencer’s mom, Brenda, picked me up in Duncannon, which is about a 20 minute drive from her house. I spent the afternoon swimming in their pool, eating sushi and pizza, drinking Dr. Pepper, doing laundry and coordinating our stories so Spencer wouldn’t know I was coming home. It felt AMAZING to be in such a nice, clean place and to be force fed all of my favorite things. Best stop on the trip so far!

So, I’m flying home now. Only about an hour until I land! I’ll pick back up on the blog once I return to the forest on June 25th. Until then!
   Part of the trail yesterday. Ughhhh it hurts! 

    Valley view

  Old graveyard in the middle of the AT

 Camping in a cornfield  

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Day 19: Boiling Springs

Hike Days

I hit the trail at 6:40 this morning so I could be in Boiling Springs by noon. Just did 12 miles today, but it felt like a lot more. I had a tough time adjusting to all the climbs after days of fairly flat terrain. However, the last mile and a half was through flat farmland, and while it was really hot, it was nice to get out of the trees and see the horizon. I felt like I was at home as I was literally walking in someone’s cornfield (even though there were mountains in the backdrop). And as if it couldn’t get any better, there was a guy doing trail magic at an intersection, so I got to drink a Dr. Pepper during my last mile into Boiling Springs!

Boiling Springs’ main attraction is a duck pond that sits in the middle of and takes up most of the town. I had actually been to this town before a couple years ago when Spencer and I took a road trip through the northeast. Pretty strange to see the same places in such a different context! I sat at the duck pond for about an hour before garnering the strength to do anything else. 

After the ducks, I walked over to the swimming pool and paid $1 to take a shower. I also took the opportunity to do some laundry in the shower! It felt SO GOOD to get all the grime off of my body and to wash the sweat and mud out of my clothes. I never thought a swimming pool shower would be a luxury, but it provided everything I needed and more!
Finally, I found the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Mid-Atlantic Office and went in to plug in my phone and relax on their couch for a little bit. The volunteer at the office was so kind and even offered me the hiking shoes off of her own feet when I complained that mine were still wet from the rain 2 days ago. They were slightly too small so she still has shoes. 🙂
After my phone charged, I walked over to a pizza place and got pizza, French fries and another Dr. Pepper. It was glorious, obviously. 

Boiling Springs doesn’t have campsites other than a site set up for AT hikers in someone’s cornfield. So I’m here. It’s a nice flat spot. 

It’s supposed to rain tonight. I’m still paranoid about my tent flooding out, but I’ll be in Duncannon in two days where Spencer’s mom will pick me up. She’s letting me stay a few nights at her house, which I’m very excited about! So, if worse comes to worse, I’ll be able to dry stuff out at her place.

I’ll eat breakfast at a cafe in town tomorrow morning and then head out   for 14.3 miles!

Did a lot of rock scrambling and boulder squeezing today

 Appalachian Express, take me to Maine!  

The last part of the hike today took me through this. Awesome!

   Just a tent in a cornfield

Days 17 and 18: Hitting 200 miles

Hike Days

I did 13 miles yesterday and 17.1 miles today. Keeping my mileage lower and stopping for long breaks during the day has helped my knee a lot. I still have aching feet, and my knee still hurts but ibuprofen and lower miles help a ton!! 

It rained yesterday during the last two miles of the hike so everyone got soaked. Walked in wet socks and shoes today, but at least it wasn’t still raining! My shoes are still wet, but I’m really hoping they dry tomorrow. If you ever have the choice of getting waterproof or non-waterproof hiking shoes, do NOT get waterproof. I’m pretty sure they just hold the water in, and they take forever to dry (or at least a few days). The next shoes I get will most definitely not be waterproof.
Since I’ve stopped walking with Darwin, Snuggles and Roub, I’ve been the only girl at the shelter each night. It doesn’t bother me much and hiking alone doesn’t bother me; I just wish there were more women hikers doing the trail by themselves! Most of them are doing it with their partners, but there are a sprinkling of ladies doing it alone. It’s always encouraging when I meet another lady hiker.

Today, I walked most of the day with Billy, Hot Sauce, Craynip, Sota Sam and Jacoby. Good guys. Crazy guys. Sota Sam successfully completed the half gallon challenge today in 42 minutes. Basically, the challenge is for thru hikers to eat a half gallon of ice cream in less than one hour to commemorate being half done with the trail. Sounds miserable. Sota Sam was definitely miserable after he finished.

I stopped at this shelter after 17 miles, and they were going to go at least another 8…and maybe another 4 after that to just get into town. Even Sota Sam with a belly full of ice cream went the extra miles! My legs wouldn’t have carried me that far, that’s for sure. 

The thru-hikers have completed at least 1094.6 miles to get to the halfway point. I have done 206.8 as of today! It’s taken me longer than I expected to get to 200 miles, but that’s okay. I’m definitely learning to listen to my body and go at my own pace. I get the sense that I’ll end up going more miles more quickly in the end if I take it easy now. 

   Weather forecast for the next week. Ha!

  The hills are alive with the sound of electricity

 Beautiful Mountain Laurel in full bloom! I’d kill to have flowers grow this easily in my yard!

 Mountain Laurel again. So pretty!  

Day 16: Crossed into Pennsylvania

Uncategorized

Made it 15 miles today and crossed into Pennsylvania. This is my 4th state! My knee held up until about the last 3 miles, but I made it and took some ibuprofen and am resting now! Feels good. 
I started the day in PenMar Park, which is on the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland. Back in the late 1800s PenMar Park was a huge summer getaway. We’re talking a fancy dining room that seated 5,000 people. We’re talking a church picnic that attracted 15,000 people. Can you imagine how much potato salad was consumed? Huge. They had a dance pavilion, a penny arcade, a train, plenty of overlooks pand tons of hotels. The park lost popularity as the 1900s rolled on, and when I was there today, there were only two other people there. And those two other people gave me cookies! 

I met two women today: Hendo and Hendo’s mom. Hendo, like a lot of hikers out here, is a veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan and to Iraq and is now “walking off the war.” She and her mom have been walking the trail for 15 months– FIFTEEN MONTHS!! They told me that they spent a good portion of the winter snowshoeing Vermont. I wish I would have asked them how much more trail they had. I can’t imagine what “real life” would look like after 15 months of walking. 

There are two other guys at the shelter tonight. Both of them are section hikers, but both of them are planning to hike up to Maine like me. Big sections! 

Doing about 13 tomorrow. I hear there is a snack bar along the trail tomorrow. I WILL be getting myself a Dr. Pepper. 

 Pennsylvania! Bye, Maryland!

 Hendo’s bag patches  

Day 15: Another Zero

Zero Days

I woke up this morning with a still-sore knee so I decided to stay at this B&B another day. It’s really frustrating to not be able to hike, but I know I need to take care of my body.

Roub called me this afternoon and suggested that I yellow blaze to catch up with the group about 35 miles up the trail. Yellow blazing, named after the yellow lines in the middle of the road, means taking a shuttle or hitching a ride. After thinking it over, though, I decided that I would just start walking from where I left off yesterday. And I also decided that I’m going to try to fight the urge to do big miles despite what others are doing. I need time to strengthen my body so it doesn’t break down on me. So I’ll be doing a lot of 12, 13, 14 and 15-mile days for the next few weeks. 

I’ve just been laying in bed most of the day, only getting up to eat weight out of my pack. I’ve also cut about a pound more out of my base weight (not including food and water), so I hope that helps with my knee trouble as well. 

If you’re a prayer-er, keep praying for me. Pray for a healthy body and for mental/emotional stability. It sometimes feels like this is the first AND the last thing I want to be doing. Also pray for fewer rocks because they suck.

That’s it! Goodnight! 

This B&B cat won’t stop trying to snuggle with me. He’s looking really scary and fierce in this picture.

Days 13 & 14: Two weeks and 162 miles later…

Hike Days

We did 18.8 miles on Day 13, and it nearly killed me. The terrain was mostly flat, but it was pretty rocky and had a huge climb at the end of the day. My body isn’t used to having big days back to back yet, so I was really tired at the end of the day. With about a mile left to go in the hike, it started raining so we all threw down our packs and put on our rain covers. Fortunately, it didn’t rain that hard so my shoes didn’t get soaked.

We did get to see the original Washington Monument during the first couple miles of the hike which was super cool!

We got to camp around 5:30 and found out that we would have to walk an additional .6 miles down a steep, rocky hill to get water and then .6 back up. I took off my boots and rested for about 15 minutes before heading down in my flip flops. There was just no way I was putting my boots back on. As I walked down the hill, the sky got darker and darker. The moment I put my bottle in the stream, it started raining. Hard. I hurried and filtered about a liter of water and then ran back up the hill in the rain. I was soaking wet by the time I got back to camp, but at least it was wearing my flip flops and my hiking boots were still dry!

The shelter we stayed in was recently built, so it was still very nice. It had two floors! I slept pretty well and then woke up this morning around 6, put on my wet clothes and DRY boots and headed out.

The terrain today was still pretty rocky, and my body was tired even at the beginning of the day. About four miles in, I twisted my knee that had already been giving me trouble and fell down between some rocks. Fortunately, I was only a mile from a park where I sat down and rested. After about 30 minutes of debating whether I should hike on, stay in a hostel or just come home, I decided to book a room at a B&B in a nearby town and take the rest of the day off. I got a hitch to the B&B by three college students, which was wonderful. And when I got to the B&B, Spencer had ordered a pizza and Mr. Pibb to be delivered to me! That dude knows me.

Now I’m trying to decide whether to hike out tomorrow or take another day of rest. If my body allows, I’d like to hike on, but I realize that this may cut my hike short. Say some prayers that my knee heals up!! I can only imagine what it would feel like to summit Mt. Katahdin in Maine!

  Original Washington Monument before DC had to one-up the Maryland-ers. 

  Rocks and trees, rocks and trees

Day 12: Pizza Party!

Hike Days

We did an easy 17.9 miles today on mostly flat terrain today. The zero day yesterday did wonders for my blisters, and I didn’t have any trouble with my knee today! Yahoo! 

As the trail leaves Harper’s Ferry, it goes by a lot of old Civil War sites. I got to see Jefferson Rock, where Thomas Jefferson sat and was inspired by the view of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers running together. I also got to see the armory that John Brown seized (even if just for three days). Very cool history in Harper’s Ferry! I think my parents would like it there.

When we got to the campground tonight, we found that Two Shoes and Mufasa and his wife were there. The campground is ran by the state, and it’s free! It has flush toilets, sinks and showers, which is pretty much unheard of…especially for free. Darwin had read that a pizza place would deliver to the campsite, so six of us ordered pizza. I needed to eat weight out of my wayyyyy too heavy food bag, so I ate “first dinner” from my food bag and had a second dinner of pizza. There are still a few slices left, which I plan to eat for breakfast.

Tomorrow, we will walk fewer miles, but there’s some cool historical monuments on the way, including the original Washington Monument and museum. 

That’s all for tonight. I’m feeling good, my stomach is full, and I’m dry and warm!

  Jefferson Rock 

 John Brown armory 

 Darwin and Snuggles walking across the old railroad bridge.    Darwin, Snuggles and Roub eating pizza!