Day 36, 276 miles: Worthington State Forest, NJ

Pennsylvania really didn’t want me to leave, it wanted me dead. But here I am, in New Jersey, mostly alive and practically in one piece. I’ve traded dry springs for waterfalls, rattlesnakes for cuddly bears, and relentless rocks for manageable minerals. NJ will be great and nothing bad will happen!

Picture of me at the Delaware River sign.
Bye PA
Picture taken crossing the Delaware River.
Hello NJ

So the last week of PA I got hit with a cold. I’m just starting to get over it now, but it’s been pretty detrimental to hiking and, you know, breathing. Thankfully now I have medicine to help get over it faster and easier. I probably gave the cold to GQ, so it might not be over so soon. Coincidentally, I got the cold from another Hiker, Shaggy. If you’re reading this bud, I’m not mad at you. Hey, at least it’s definitely not Lyme Disease after all.

With my illness, backpack, and a whole gallon of water in tow, we tackled the Lehigh Gap, one of the most difficult sections of the entire trail, on one of the hottest days of the entire year. We had to literally rock climb up a cliff as part of the trail. Technically it’s “bouldering” because it was never climbing for more than 10 feet at a time and we didn’t need special equipment, but we did that with packs on in 90 degree heat with no tree cover. What a day that was. One of our new companions, Bearfoot and I were showing signs of heat exhaustion a few hours after that climb, the whole day was exposed when the trail is usually shaded with trees. That being the case, we cut the day short and actually went into town to stay in AC for the night. But we still did the whole climb, Ridge walk, and descent and that felt good having accomplished that for the day.

Just after the last climb, I was almost hyperventilating and needed to sit for a few minutes.
After the Lehigh Gap, we were very close to being out of Pennsylvania, and we wanted to get out as soon as possible. In the final push to the Delaware Water Gap, PA threw everything it had at me. Rocks, snakes, bees, lack of water. I got stung by a bee on the leg, about 3 miles into a 16 mile day. I startled a few rattlesnakes. And if I remember correctly I was walking on nothing but rocks for maybe a 7 mile stretch of that day. Against all odds, we made it, and I am so glad to wrap up all the negative experiences and put them behind me, and to keep telling myself that evil can’t cross rivers.

Now for a big source of positive experiences, GQ and I made a new friend on the trail, he goes by Bearfoot and he’s from Massachusetts. I first met him at the Eckville Shelter, and I started hiking with him soon after. I think he’s going to stick with us for a while, possibly to Maine. He’s a NoBo so he’ll be done after that. I always wanted a trail fam.

Bearfoot on the Knife’s Edge

The night time cold medicine is starting to kick in, so that’s my cue, good night everyone.

Day 29, 210 Miles: Eckville, PA

It’s been a while since my last post, in a way the time flew by, but also there were plenty of days I wanted to make a post but had no cell reception.

I want to put down in writing what we’ve done so far, it’ll be a morale boost for myself and a good update for those reading.

  • We hiked 210 miles in 29 days, including 6 zero days and a few nearo days. That puts us about 10% of the way through the whole hike.
  • I’ve lost 10 pounds and a couple inches from my waist.
  • We each got trail names. I’m Magneto, and Christian is known as GQ.

I wish I had more to list, but it was still an eventful first month on the trail.

Last week we made a good friend on the trail. We met Sunshine, another Flip Flopper, at Clark’s Ferry. We were all excited to meet more Flip Floppers, we can all relate a bit more than the other thru-hikers. We stuck together all the way to Port Clinton, and the Flip Flop Crew had some adventures in those few days. Like when we hitched 2 miles from a trail head just to get Wendy’s. Or cowboy camped at an overlook, right into a 19 mile day. We went our separate ways for now, but the Flip Flop Crew will only grow. #FFC #YOHYOHO

Over the weekend we had the pleasure of staying in Lititz, PA with my girlfriend Alexis’s parents. Alexis was able to fly up to visit too. It was great seeing all of them, and having a weekend off the trail is just what we needed. I felt like I was able to recover physically, and the mental break was welcome. I had the chance to download Pokémon Go as well, and now I am finally on my way to becoming the Pokémon master I always wanted to be.

Thank you again Mark and Toni! 

I also enjoyed day hiking Windsor Furnace with Alexis and her dad. Alexis has mixed emotions about how much fun hiking the AT is, so I’ll let this picture sum it up.

Of course it is always worth the heat and the rocks for the nice view at the top.

Shout out to Alexis to having never set foot on the trail to doing an 8 mile hike on one of the biggest climbs in PA. She did it!

Since the weekend, GQ and I went back through Windsor Furnace with packs on and saw The Pinnacle again on a clear day, and had a really nice day on the trail as well.

The remaining 60 miles of Pennsylvania is supposed to be the hardest part of PA and one of the most difficult sections of the whole trail. Oh boy.

Day 15, 113 miles, PA

Quick update this morning before hitting the trail into Duncannon, PA.

Pine Grove Furnace

Day 10 we hiked into Pine Grove Furnace State Park, home of the half gallon challenge. At the general store you can attempt to eat half a gallon of ice cream for $10. If you succeed you get bragging rights, to sign a log book, and a wooden spoon. I did it for the ice cream, I’m happy to say I succeeded. My poison of choice was cookie dough ice cream for the first 1.5 quarts, and chocolate for the last half quart. It was pretty easy, but then again your body does weird stuff when you burn 5,000 calories a day.

Day 11 was pretty tough. We felt like we were doing way more miles than the guide was telling us we were doing, which was just disheartening all day. Another hiker told us that we’re doing Mountain Miles now, it feels like a lot more than we’re actually going. We also had to go through “Rock mazes” pretty late in the day, which were kind of cool. We enjoyed them, but also we were already pooped from a long day of walking.

Christian Rock [Maze]

The next day we had a short hike into the beautiful town Boiling Springs, where we took a zero the next day. The break was nice, even though we just had one a few days before, but we were actually ahead of schedule for meeting some friends near Lancaster, PA. I still say it was well earned and needed.

Boiling Springs, PA

Yesterday’s hike was through the Cumberland Valley. There is a no camping ordinance for hikers in the Cumberland Valley, which means it’s a mandatory 14 mile day to the nearest shelter, unless we want to pay for lodging. We knew 14 miles was doable, but would be tough, our highest mileage day so far. Luckily the weather was beautiful, hot and humid but nothing we weren’t used to. And the hike itself was beautiful and flat, through fields and farms. It turned into a very exhausting day but we enjoyed it.

Cumberland Valley

The day ended with quite a bit of climbing to the shelter in a mountain, we were back in the familiar AT terrain of dirt, rocks, and tree roots covering the trail. The view just before the shelter was worth the climb.

Just before Darlington Shelter

We have some more big mile days ahead, but they are at the pace we need to be at to stay on our grand schedule, so hopefully they kick us into shape. It seems to be working so far, I already feel a lot more capable of hiking than I did only a week ago.

Be sure to keep up with the Photo Map tab on the blog, which links to my Flickr account. I try to upload pictures every day. And we’ll keep posting to instagram, it’s a good way to get a few real time updates and pictures.

Day 8, 60 miles: Caledonia State Park, PA. Week 1 Recap.

Sunset over Pen Mar County Park
Pen Mar County Park

Hello everyone, Christian and I are more than a week in now, and of course a lot has happened.

The miles are getting easy in many ways. Our first two days we were both sore and stiff from hiking, but I haven’t experienced that in a while now. Our packs get easier to carry each day, and our big shake down only 3 days in helped a lot. The blisters and bruises are still a bit of a problem, but soon once those spots become callused we shouldn’t have too much grief from our feet.

The first day on the trail we hiked out to the nearest hiker shelter out of Harpers Ferry. Only 7 miles with a nice view on the way, we thought it would be easy. Apparently it was for everyone with their trail legs, but it was brutal for us. Climbing up switchbacks was a rude awakening that doing C2AT (Couch-to-AT) was going to be tougher than we thought.

Ed Garvey Shelter – Morning Day 2

Day 2 was easier already. We went to bed sore the night before but woke up refreshed. We tackled an 11 mile day, pushing on 2 more miles than we planned just because the next campsite had showers and toilets. We also made great time getting there and had all day to relax with Uke and Joe at camp. Joe also just started at Harpers Ferry so we had a lot to talk about. He and Uke were also kind enough to share some of their mayo packets and candy with us. I hope we cross paths again sometime.

Laying down after an exhausting Day 2, this was my view for a while

After a resupply, shake down, and lunch stop in Frederick, MD the next day, we hiked a short day out to another shelter. At this point my blisters were at their worst, but everything else was going much better with our newly purchased trekking poles and lighter packs.

Washington Monument in our Day 3 hike (and my new trekking pole photobombing)

Day 4 was pretty crappy actually. It was nice when we got to see Annapolis Rocks, but the rest of the day was tough. My feet were covered in band aids and tape and they were so swollen I had to hike in my sandals, there was a lot of climbing and Florida levels of humidity with high 80s temperatures. And the campsite at the end of the day was our least favorite so far. At least we got some cools pics.

Annapolis Rocks, Day 4

Day 5 made both of us consider quitting. It rained for hours, humidity was Eight Hundred percent, and the trail was SO ROCKY I WANTED TO THROW STUFF. We had a long way down to go that day, and the trail at its worst was maybe a mile-long stretch of literally only slippery rocks without any trail blazes to help keep us on track. We can only assume that section is so absurdly rocky, dangerous, and annoying that they can’t find anyone to go out there and paint trail blazes.

THIS IS THE TRAIL! WAT?! WHERE DO YOU STEP?

I took the above picture while saying to Christian “I need to get a picture of this bull**** or else no one will believe me.” In an act of self-fulfilling prophecy, as I walked into this area just after the picture, my feet completely slipped out from under my and I fell onto my side. I took a fairly deep cut on my leg just under my knee, it will definitely leave a scar, and took some scrapes on my wrist and arm too. I was able to clean up my boo boos and get myself patched up right there, thanks to my first aid kit. Here’s the after picture:

Screw you too, Maryland

After I barely gathered enough courage to get back on the trail rocks, we were finally able to progress further into our long day. Before sunset we made it into Pen Mar County Park, flushable toilets and a wonderful view greeted us. Those two things helped make our day a little bit better, but there was also a parking lot and a road… We were given the option of getting far from the trail for a night (or two, or three) and had to mull that one over for a few minutes. It was a tough call, but we decided to hike another mile to out destination campsite. But not before watching the sunset a little longer. Our campsite was a mile north of the Mason-Dixon line, which was a somewhat poetic ending to our worst day on the trail so far, we were in a new state with a clean slate.

I was smiling because I got to leave Maryland

The next day was a lot better from the start. We camped with some awesome people, Pancake, Heisenburg, Rooster Talon, Fat Hen, and King of the Freaks; we had a fun chat over breakfast. We avoided the rain that day by hiding in a shelter just in time. Paul With Bunyons was also in the shelter and we had a fun time sharing stories with him, this guy is trying to hike over 10k miles on the AT, and he was at 8600. And he had plenty of stories to share. We made it to our destination knowing we were only a day away from real meals and beds and showers (we already decided on staying in a motel).

Day 7 was the best day on the trail so far. The weather was perfect and the trail toward Fayetteville was pretty easy. Way to go Pennsylvania. We were hiking about on pace with Ninja Roll and Roby-Doby and got to chat with them on our breaks. We ran into Pondy on one break also, he’s from Winter Springs! Small world. Once we hit Route 30, we hiked an extra half mile along the road to get to a diner that caters to hikers. We feasted there on burgers, fries, and shakes and it was amazing. Our motel was 2 miles further down the road, and Christian gained a level to his Charisma trait by getting us there: we were loitering in the parking lot, and a couple leaving the diner asked if we were thru-hikers. We got to talking to them about the trail for a few minutes, and Christian slipped in “We’re looking to stay at the Scottish Inns and Suites, do you know how far it is?” to which the awesome gentleman immediately offered us a free ride. Showers and clean beds were exactly what we needed, especially for our cuts and blisters.

We spent Day 8 resupplying and then hanging out in Caledonia State Park as a zero day. They have a swimming pool! It felt so nice. And we may have snuck into the pool instead of paying $4 each (don’t tell William Penn). We are quite refreshed and ready to get back on the trail!

The Song of the Week goes to:

(The “her” in the song can refer to the trail.)

Day 4, 32 Miles: Maryland

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Just a quick update, I know I haven’t posted since we actually started, but I have just been so wiped out each evening. After we’re done walking we still have to set up camp, cook, clean, hang bags. It’s not much, but after walking all day and then chores I’ve been quick to fall asleep.

So today we’re finished with 4 days in, we haven’t covered too many miles, compared to other hikers, but we’re still warming up and making an effort not to push ourselves too far and into injuries. Tomorrow we should be crossing the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania, I’m excited to have one entire state crossed off already.

Today we hiked by the Annapolis Rocks, a beautiful and open view, with many hikers doing different treks stopping by to take pictures. I managed to make a quick 3D photosphere, you should be able to look at it through this link.

Hello, from Harpers Ferry

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Today was a long day of travel, it feels almost lame complaining that I’m tired when staying in a hostel with a handful of thru-hikers that woke up at the same time and hiked 20 miles today. But, I’ll admit I’m exhausted.

Saying goodbye to my home and Alexis was tough this morning, and the bumpy flight into DC didn’t help at all. Walking through DC was cool, and a neat warm up walk with our full packs on. It was a little bit “been there, done that” for both me and Christian, but we only had time to hang around the National Mall on our way to Union Station. From there we caught the afternoon commuter train that runs through Harpers Ferry. My favorite part was when the poor guy sitting next to us moved rows as soon as a seat opened up. I felt a bit bad for him, we only hiked maybe 2.5 miles in the cloudy DC summer heat and we already smelled like hikers.

Harpers Ferry is beautiful. We were dropped right into the middle of a town that is the most opposite thing from Florida I’ve ever seen. Small town, hills, a mountain overlooking everything. It’s a very cool feel here.

Christian and I enjoyed getting some pizza with the other hikers staying here for the night, for many of them this marks the halfway point of their adventure. We’ve been soaking up all the advice we could get all night, and also listening to their awesome/hilarious/scary stories they had to tell. It’s getting me excited to get going.

Tomorrow we will start on the trail, after picking up some food and checking out the ATC headquarters. We’ll take an easy 8 mile day to keep warming up, heading to a shelter on the trail. I think it’ll be an uphill day, literally.

I have 99% of my gear!

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I’m excited to be leaving in just 4 days! With only 3 days left to prepare… I can’t think of that right now, I still have a lot to do.

Most of my gear is ready to go, I’m waiting on a couple more things from Amazon that I should have tomorrow. Then I’ll just take it from there.

Maybe I should have exercised more, did a shakedown hike, and at least open my Thru-Hikers companion book. But I have 5 months to get in shape and figure out what I’m doing.

Ready or not, here I come.