Day #18-Peace out Pennsylvania; Miles hiked: 20.2

Today was Pennsylvania’s grand finale and she held nothing back. I honestly wonder if there are forest elves paid to put rocks on the trail overnight.

As the heat wave wears on, we started walking at 6:22 am to beat the heat, but it was already pushing 80. Hikers pass power lines quite a bit…here are some with a good view. Also, for anyone interested, I have a little over 900 miles to go until the end of the flip and the beginning of the flop. Today was another day with dry springs and no water for over 13 miles, but the trail angels had our back with roadside refills.Final attractions of the day included a beautiful rhododendron tunnel in full bloom (reminded me of my summer at my beloved UMC camp, Camp Wesley Woods) and reaching Delaware Water Gap and the PA/NJ border.That’s a wrap, PA!

Day #17-Who turned up the heat?; Miles hiked: 15.6

Today it was back to the trail for the final push through Pennsylvania. Thank you to the Shaykevich family for the shuttles and especially to Rachel for the backseat entertainment. First up this morning was a rock scramble up to the Superfund ridge, a deforested zone due to some pretty reckless metal manufacturing.A big issue in today’s heat wave (heat index was over 100) was not having any water sources for over 15 miles. However, the trail (really the Lord) provided and there were two trail magic setups at mile 5 where we could get critical water.

The day was otherwise uneventful save trying to hang a bear bag that just wouldn’t come down. Just found yet another use for trekking poles!The campsite we found tonight is pretty buggy but my amazing trail boss, Trigger, has a bug net on its way for my tarp-my own little bug-free zone! Gearing up for the last day of Rocksylvania-only 20 more miles to go.

Day #16-Nothing to report; Miles hiked: 0.0

Today was another zero day to let my legs/feet recover from Rocksylvania. Tripod and I were lucky enough to get picked up by his parents and spent a very relaxing day inside. Back to the trail for the last and the worst of the rocks. Stay tuned!

Day#15-Wow, two weeks in!; Miles hiked: 17.8

Today marks my two week trailversary and I can safely say I feel so much better than this time last week. My trail legs aren’t fully formed yet but they’re definitely on the way and this way of life is actually starting to feel normal (I couldn’t remember what day it was today and woke up naturally at 5 if that’s a sign). My feet still hurt and I am still humbled by how far I have to go, but I think I’ve gotten past the “what the heck have I gotten myself into” shock wave. I’m sure it will resurface eventually…

Anyhow, I guess I owe everyone some more pictures of rocks:This part of the trail is called the knife’s edge and that’s exactly what it was like to walk across (or rather scramble across). The early start this morning also meant being the first to arrive at not one, but two trail magic setups. Thank you trail angels! Also thanks to my Vietnamese friend Half Slow for the strawberry milk and taste of Da Nang this morning-never would have thought I’d be eating durian on the AT.

This afternoon I also ran into my first wild blueberry bush and just had to indulge. The final excitement of the day came when Mama Shaykevich rescued us and took us to visit the Lady in Green…Frappuccino never tasted so good!

Day #14-Rocks rock; Miles hiked: 16.5

There was more rain predicted today, but somehow we escaped with only a few showers that really just cooled us off. Amazing how fast hiking gear can dry in the sunlight!

Past Port Clinton is where the rocks really kick in and we felt every step, but rocks do lead to rocky outcrops and views–below is the Pulpit and the Pinnacle.This afternoon I was able to spend some more quality time with the hikers I’ve met in the past few days at Eckeville Shelter. People are generally much more apt to chat when it’s not pouring rain, myself included. We’ve settled in for the night at Allentown shelter with the most adventurous dude I’ve ever met-he both teaches high school math and does high-altitude mountaineering…you can choose which you think is more brave, but I’d say it’s a tie.

Day #13-No rain, no pain, no Maine (probably not the last post with this title); Miles hiked: 14.7

Today was my Appalachian Trail baptism–the first day I was so soaked from head to toe that my skin felt like it was starting to peel off. Hey, the AT is in a temperate rainforest climate after all!

I’ve found over my years of backpacking that making light of the rain goes a long ways towards making miles pass less painfully. Exhibit 1: pretending to be a T-Rex in Jurassic Park fog all morning.I eventually arrived in the small town of Port Clinton and was desperate for a place to get out of the rain while I waited for the Cabela’s van to get me. I figured that as a tax-paying US citizen I couldn’t technically get kicked off of the US Post Office steps during business hours. After several hours of drying out/charging/washing socks in the sink (this is what we call being hiker trash) in the world’s largest outfitter (7 acres under roof!), it was back to the trail with an amazing trail angel named Eddie. Check out his 9 year old daughter’s website as she prepares to thru hike next season!I bid thee a very soggy goodnight…

Day #12-Walking the rocky road; Miles hiked: 19.2

If I had a dollar for every rock that I stepped on today, I would no longer need to take out loans for medical school next year.

Pennsylvania is legendary for being “Rocksylvania,” and until today I thought everyone was just whining about a few pebbles. My battered feet and legs tell me otherwise.

Nevertheless there are upsides to every day on the AT. Check out this shelter! It’s close enough to the road that you can even get pizza delivered!Today I also passed mile 1200 for my NOBO friends. The lingo for flip floppers like me is now BOBO, or “both bound.”Paul teaches in Philippians 2 not to complain about anything, but here’s what hikers look like at mile 17 on rocks. Thankfully, we did arrive at our shelter for the night where I’ve met a really interesting guy named Gnome. He is finishing a hike he started in 2015 that was cut short because of norovirus-a personal fear of mine as well.

Day #11-A day full of shenanigans for lack of a better title; Miles hiked: 21.3

Despite the storms of last night, today has been a very pleasant day weather-wise. Instead of via liquid, the misadventure began with a not only bear proof, but also Minta proof bear hang I did last night. I wish I had a picture, but getting my food down this morning took 4 people (thank goodness I’ve made friends-thanks J Beebs, Tripod, and Highlander!), some sitting on shoulders and eventually propping a branch against the tree to shimmy up. Nonetheless, my honey buns were rescued eventually!

The next shenanigan of the day involved a beaver dam that broke and flooded the whole trail for about 1/4 a mile with bog water-yuck! thankfully brought some sunshine and the chance to dry out my gear-hikers frequently lay out all their earthly possessions on sunny days for this purpose.Altogether the walking wasn’t too bad today, but I should remind you that we are in Rocksylvania, rattlesnake USA. I haven’t seen one yet but have passed several southbound hikers warning of rattlers they’ve seen up the trail. Please pray for careful steps and early warning should I disrupt one. Oh, we crossed I-81 yet again today! Halfway through PA!

Day #10-Chocolate milk and rainy summits; Miles hiked: 21.5

Today our zero day came to an end and it was time to get back on the trail. The first several miles of the day were a road walk…seems that I’m going well under the Appalachian Trail speed limit.We met Tripod’s dad at Clark’s Ferry and he joined us for a climb back up into the mountains.The end of our day was full of excitement between meeting Half Slow, a Vietnamese gentleman thru hiking the trail (he even gave us chocolate milk from his camper van!) and getting absolutely poured on by a thunderstorm that hit just 15 minutes before we got to camp.

Check out this view from Table Rock before the storm. The following picture is actually from the morning after day #10, but Dale Berry if you’re reading this you’ll be pleased to know that I was able to efficiently switch from A-frame tarp setup to a very roomy but secure cave at 2:12 am as the storms rolled in. Thanks for the lesson a few weeks ago! Friends it takes a village to make a thru hike.

Day #9-Zero hiking, much rest; Miles hiked: 0.0

Today was a well-deserved day off after pushing some pretty big miles for my first week on the trail.

I slept in, ate Pringles for breakfast, did some more laundry, made friends with Nancy (the local pretzel maker) across the street and took about 3 naps.The afternoon was spent wandering around the small town of Duncannon and hitting not one but both of the town pizza places. We’re packing out cold pizza for the trail!The rest has been great but it’s back to the trail early tomorrow morning.