Two hours had past since I had consumed an absurd amount of ice cream, and I was still sitting in front of the Pine Grove store, feeling as if I could vomit at any second. My dad was planning to meet me in Boiling Springs later that night - a good 20 miles further down the trail. I strapped my pack on and hiked out with a war going on in my stomach a little after noon. Luckily, Mt. Holly Springs cut the afternoon hike in half and I was able to get us a room at a Bates motel-esque place, where I did my usual soda drinking, showering, and laying around, waiting for my dads flight to get in. I took the next day off in Harrisburg and hiked out in the afternoon on Sunday. It's always really tough taking time off from the trail. The hardest part has always been walking away from Pauline's car and back in to the woods. It was hard to wave goodbye to my dad, as I hiked off into deep forests in my new shoes. I had just eaten real food for a couple of days, and hung out in a city - just one day and all of my senses were telling me it would be so much better if I just went home. But I press on to Maine, with the necessary mindset that I know I will finish.
It's been way too long since I've updated this thing - my computer luck has been horrible, but everything's been going out here. I've made it through the dreaded Pennsylvania and into New Jersey, and today I even cross the border into New York. Pennsylvania was the state I think I was least looking forward to, but I think I've actually ended up enjoying it the most so far. The first half of the 250 miles or so of PA is a cakewalk - flat countryside, with hints of the rocks to come here and there. I pushed big miles through PA, feeling really strong and motivated. My daily hiking mantra was to just go until I was tired or the sun ran out and often times the sun beat me to setting before I was tired, so I kept going. I was afraid of the heat I would experience in PA - picturing open, rocky terrain, melting with every step. But PA turned out to be more of a green tunnel than VA and the temps were even a bit on the cooler side. The humidity was low everyday and it hardly rained on me at all. The weather felt like the beginning of Fall in GA and it invigorated me, as my mind wandered to life after the trail, and the cruise with Pauline, and football Saturdays. I hiked without pain and was in such a peaceful state of mind - so thankful to have the opportunity to thru-hike and so excited for my future, too. I ordered pizza at the 501 Shelter, a shelter just off Hwy 501 in PA, for lunch and hiked the rest of the day on a food high, feeling the best I have felt this whole hike.
The rocks were pretty much as advertised - huge boulders I could jump from rock to rock and tons of little rocks that worked out my ankles and tested my patience as they stabbed the bottoms of my feet with every step. The rocky stretches would last for a couple miles at a time near the end of PA, but the Trail always seemed to give a break from them with either a walk on a woods road, or just smoother, flatter terrain. I actually ended up enjoying the rocks that I was dreading so much. I felt like a kid playing the pillow game (don't fall into the lava!) or jumping from crack to crack in the sidewalk. New shoes after hiking the first 1100 miles in the first ones definitely helped keep me sane, too. I climbed up the steep rock scramble at Lehigh Gap on July 4th, and I realized I'm not really afraid of heights anymore. Last year I had run across videos people had taken of the hike out of Lehigh Gap, and it looked ridiculously steep. It was every bit that steep, but it was a lot of fun, definitely a top 5 highlight of the trail so far.
I stayed at the seedy Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, where the food was delicious, but the hotel was falling apart - holes in the wall next to my head the size of a fist, sheets with stains that I didn't trust to lay on, and a shower I would never go barefoot in. It was hiker heaven, a place to drink beers and hang out, where I didn't feel too dirty to be there. I caught up to Mtn Dew and have been hiking with him and his two friends, Josh and Stacey, who have joined him for the rest of the way. It's great to see him again, as the last time was when I got sick in the Shenandoahs. Mayo is still over two weeks ahead,but I'm really getting to know everyone hiking around me now, and they're starting to feel like family.
In Delaware Water Gap, at the PA/NJ border, I weighed myself before heading out for pizza and beers and the scale said 158 lbs. I haven't been that light since my cross-country days in high school - I had to do something about it. Mtn Dew, Poppins and I each ordered 16" personal pizzas, throwing in two six-packs of Yuengling, too. Seven slices and three beers later and I felt fine (I wanted to save the last slice for later). Mtn Dew finished his and Poppins had one slice left in front of him, too. Josh and Stacey shared a 16" and they had three slices left between the two of them. I was back up to 166 lbs when I returned to the hostel, and I felt great, my body just seemed to be absorbing all those calories. I definitely have my thru-hiker appetite back.
The more north I get, the more entertaining conversations have become with locals and day hikers. Last Saturday, I was hiking around The Pinnacle and The Pulpit, some of the only good views in PA, and I past a guy wearing an Atlanta Thrashers hat. "Are you a Thrashers fan?" shocked to see the hat, unaware that the now extinct hockey team had any fans at all. "Oh no, I've just been to a few games down there, I'm a Flyers fan," was his response. "Oh cool, I was just asking because I'm from Atlanta," I said. "Oh you've hiked a long way!" he said jokingly. I continued with my typical "yeah, I started in March from Springer." He kind of laughed like I was playing along with the joke, and then realized I wasn't kidding. "Wait! You're serious! Holy crap man, that's amazing!" He continued to ask questions for the next ten minutes.
The other day, hiking out of Delaware Water Gap and up to Sunfish Pond, I ran in to this Hispanic dad and his 5 kids. He stopped me to ask how far the trail went and when I told him Maine, his response was, "Maine! Oh man! My kids wanted to go further and I told them maybe next time we would walk to the end of the trail! Hahahaha!" His reaction was priceless.
I've hiked about 1,350 miles and I'm down under 1,000 to go - at a little over 800 more miles to Katahdin. I keep catching myself envisioning my summit day and I get chills all over - I'm getting close. My mom's planning to summit with me and then I'm coming home to my girls! My future with them is my biggest motivator. I'm getting really antsy to finish this up, I'm still enjoying it but just ready to have this done and accomplished. On to hike out of New Jersey, where the people are orange and the fists pump harder than my trekking poles, and into New York. I'll be through New York and into Connecticut in less than a week, and a couple days after that I'll be in Massachusetts. I'll update as soon as I get a chance, which will hopefully be sooner than two weeks from now.