Archives for the month of: July, 2013

I drove from MI down to GA without event.  After sleeping off the long drive I helped Jess out minimally as she prepped the car for the drive to Tampa.  We planned to drive down on Thursday and then back up to WI starting Sunday.  The intervening days would give us time to get the cats and their stuff prepped for the trip and provide opportunities to see friends.

The drive down was uneventful.  We were staying with friends:  Matt and Jen have a mother in law suite and were generous enough to offer it to us for our stay.  Good friends like this are rare.  They are animal people like us so it’s nice for us to be there.  We get to hang out with their cats and dogs as well as seeing them.

Friday we went over to the condo to see our kitties (and awesome cat sitter). Then we went out to meet friends.

Saturday we went back to the condo and gave the cats a “test dosage” of xanax.  Drunk cats. Drunk cats with an insane case of the munchies, even. Then we went out to meet friends. Drunk us.

Sunday we drove up to Cobb.  Celeste meowed the whole trip and right on into  Sunday night she kept it going.  Pixie also contributed, feeding off Celeste’s misery and echoing her yowls in an unpleasant chorus.

When we arrived we unloaded the cats and allowed them out in our bedroom. “Not enough!” they declared and continued to vocalize their displeasure. I felt almost as if I were at a union rally. Around midnight I packed Celeste up and moved her to my dad’s shop. Not that it did any good – Spike immediately stepped up his complaining to fill in any deficiency created by her absence. Around 3AM I couldn’t take any more and moved to the couch where I was trying to sleep when I was summarily awakened, tried, and convicted of being a traitor by my wife for abandoning her with the two remaining hellcats. I was too groggy to ask why SHE didn’t also leave the bedroom and instead wearily dragged myself back to the dungeon for some more torture.

If the cats were aiming for some down time with all of their antics then it worked. We did not continue travel on Monday; we were simply too beat and it would not have been a good idea.

I traveled by train to NYC from the trail.  Not exactly the direction I needed to go but by going to Grand Central station I would be ideally situated to use any number of modes of transportation for the next leg of my trip.

As I rode I did my research to help make the decision. I really didn’t want to take a plane due to the numerous restrictions on baggage and the fact that I had no way to repack my gear to better survive the baggage handling. I would have to dump a few things like fuel and then they’d probably break my trekking poles and rip my backpack. I’ve flown too often to have any different expectations.

In my mind the trip needed to be made by bus or train. I could take my backpack as carry on and I wouldn’t have to lose anything. After discussion the destination had been determined to be my mother in law’s farm in Galien, MI. I would pick up our Corolla there. It was parked and waiting. It did need a battery though. The factory installed original had been close to done when InProgress had dropped the car back in February so our plan was to replace it after the hike with a battery capable of handling a Wisconsin winter.

So after reviewing ticket prices and schedules I made to decision to book myself onto an Amtrak train from Penn station to South Bend IN which is about half an hour from Galien. After a couple of short subway hops and some walking I made it to Penn, got my ticket and grabbed a burger and beer then settled in to wait an hour for my train.

Delayed. One train had to be delayed all day and guess which one it would be? Yep, mine. But I didn’t mind too much. I took the extra time to grab a deli sandwich for the trip and to charge my Newtrent battery. After an hour and a half delay the train boarded – quickly. Less than 15 minutes to get everyone on board and to start moving.

I took the Lakeshore Limited route and the scenery was good. Early on we ran along the Hudson and there were often ponds in sight as well. Several times I saw swans cruising along in ponds among the lily pads and duckweed.

The air in the train was cold and I wound up pulling out some comfort items from my pack: pillow and bag liner. After that I got quite comfy. There was a pair of 110v outlets for every set of seats and I read on my phone until dark and I could doze. The comfort level of the seat beat airplanes by a good amount; I had a footrest and legprop. Still not a bed though. When the train finally pulled into my station 18 hours later I was stiff and ready to dismount.

My mother in law met me at the station; I had texted her updated arrival times regularly so she didn’t wait hours unnecessarily. We stopped at an Autozone where I purchased the new battery for the car and at a grocery store to get some grub to last me a bit then headed out to her farm.

The farm has land that gets rented out to a local farmer for traditional rowcrops and flower beds and gardens. My mother in law grows and dries flowers and herbs in her beds and gardens – a great variety of them. It’s not food farming but it is most definitely farming and each plant has its own specific requirements so an attentive mind and attention to detail are necessities if one wishes to actually have products at the end of the work.

I really enjoy visiting the farm. The farmhouse is new construction and the flower growing is different enough from my previous agricultural and horticultural experience to remain novel to me.

I pitched in for a couple of minor things that she needed taken care of while I was there. There was a fence that needed some repair and more importantly Words With Friends wasn’t working properly on her IPad. There was also a browser issue on her computer. All things that are right up my alley. If someone were given the task of writing a short to-do list designed to let me feel useful without taxing my limits then they couldn’t do much better than this. It wasn’t busywork and it was nice to have a little something to do between resting.

I spent a bit of time with our dog, too. It was underwhelming. She’s been living at the farm while we hiked and was only mildly interested in me. Allegiance has clearly shifted; I get the impression that she enjoys her current arrangement far better than her tenure of our Florida household. We may be out of a dog. If so I will not mourn. I can’t argue what I saw; she does have it pretty damned good. Witness the carpet wallow!
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After a day of getting my feet back under me it was time to go. My wife was down in GA, our cats in FL and the cabin awaits us in WI.

When I went to sleep at Shenandoah campsite I was sure that I was done with this hike.  After spending 4 months day in and day out sharing the experience with InProgress I just do not enjoy the hike without her.  I can do the miles but what’s the point?  It’s like watching TV on a 13″ black and white set after having had a 60″ HD flatscreen. I’d rather not. 

I was lazy leaving camp – it was nearly 6AM when I finally started hiking.  Occupy was sprawled asleep on top of the picnic table and when Helga ran out barking at me he didn’t even stir.

The first road I crossed was a small local road right after the RPH shelter.  There was a footbridge over a stream near the road with a note pinned to the handrail:  “Free breakfast today.  Go .2 east on road to #300.  All AT hikers welcome.”  Who passes up second breakfast?  Not me, that’s who.   I turned around and headed back up to the indicated address.

After a delicious waffle and some nice conversation provided by trail angels Rob and Elaine I felt even more solid in my conviction to leave the trail.  I have had good times the past couple of days – met new people and reconnected with some not seen in a long time. I am making better miles than most people around me despite my slow pace. I have seen good views and the trail terrain is pleasant.  I am not stopping because I am in a slump. I am stopping because I want to do this with my wife, not without her.

I hiked on to the next road crossing, Hwy 52, much busier than anything else I would be likely to cross today.  I texted and spoke to my wife and then my mother in law, made some fast and loose plans to catch a bus or train to Michigan where I can pick up the car my wife left there before the hike.  I have too much stuff on me that can’t fly and I don’t want an airline handling my backpack anyway.

Hitchhiking is illegal in NY.  The guide books make this clear.  I stuck out my thumb and smiled at cars while making sure that my pack was clearly displayed.  See? I am just a backpacker, not a homicidal homeless guy.  Nothing at all scary about me.

After 63 motorists have declined the invitation to share my company and give me a ride Rusty and Toast arrive and cross the road. They stop to chat and I explain that I am done and why. We offer each other encouraging words and I get their picture.
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I catch a ride with the 97th car that passes.  She is an older lady; a professor’s wife and she has helped out hikers before.  When he retired from teaching his replacement lived with them for 5 weeks while she got her feet under her because she knew no one in the area.  She was Susan, of the Barefoot Sisters.  Go figure.
The Barefoot Sisters

Jan was her name and she made an important stop at the post office and then took me all the way to the train station.  I am headed to Grand Central where the next leg of my trip will be either Grayhound or Amtrak, yet to be determined. The kindness one encounters on the trail can be very uplifting.
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InProgress has left the trail due to a health issue.  I have mixed feelings about continuing on the trail without her.  I really enjoy hiking with my wife and I am not so sure how it’s going to be for me hiking solo.

I guess I’m going to find out soon. As I write this we are twenty minutes away from starting our drive to the airport. I have a nervous stomach this morning; it’s uncomfortable but I am able to endure without much disruption.

I’m sick of TV and air conditioning and elevators and the food on the breakfast bar. I need to be released back into my natural environment.

After a stressful morning driving to and back from LaGuardia I am back on the trail. The rental car agent dropped me right back by the trailside zoo so I didn’t have to hike any extra miles in the heat to get back going.

I crossed the Hudson bridge on a well protected pedestrian walk equipped with call boxes. Several times as I was walking along I heard one of the suspension cables twang and I wanted to just curl up against the concrete. My fear of heights is in rare form today.

After a short roadwalk I followed the trail as it began an ascent of a bit over 550 feet. Then a couple of hundred feet up I stopped following the trail and sat down on rock for a good long while to rest. I was close to collapsing after only that short period. The heat, humidity and heavy pack really have my number. My pack is a bit heavier than before InProgress left the trail due to taking on some things she was carrying but it’s mostly groceries that are the burden. I can eat for a week probably with these supplies.

After recuperating I strike out again and shortly after reach a rough service road with a broken trail kiosk nearby. It contains a ledger that was full a month ago and several empty water bottles. Trail magic from long ago or lazy hikers? I cannot find the trail. I cast about left and right but there are no blazes. I follow the road uphill to the right; it is blue-blazed. This must be Camp Smith trail. I go back and try a faint trail behind the kiosk. It falters after a bit and fades to nothing. I look around in the woods but no, the trail is not just right over there. I go back to the road. I spot a Southbounder blaze. This is a useful trick – if you can’t find the blazes going your way, look for the ones going in the opposite direction. Only problem is that this one seems to be saying that I should go in the direction I tried first, to the right. OK, whatever. I follow that direction for ten minutes and don’t find a single white blaze. Grrr. I consider screaming at the sky and dismiss it as wasteful. I go back to the intersection and try the only way I have not thoroughly explored – left turn. After the first curve I am rewarded with a series of white blazes. Thus the adventure continues.

I make my way to the Graymoor Spiritual Center, a friary that allows hikers to spend the night at the pavilion on their ball field. I am the only hiker when I arrive. While I am in the shower (cold) Candypants and another hiker arrive. By the time I am in bed there are a dozen hikers present including Rusty and Toast who I have not seen since Grayson Highlands.
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All of my gear fits in the tent with room to spare. I sleep poorly and wake several times through the night. I leave at 5:30 in the morning without having breakfast and eat jerky while hiking. There is a heat wave. The temp is expected to hit 100.

The bugs are out worse than I have seen since Jersey. First mosquitoes then gnats and finally a joint task force assaults me. I miss more than one blaze because of the obscuring wall of flying insect bodies in front of my face. I give up waving them away and only take swings at the actual biters. My left shoulder is composed of insect ambrosia and has a bullseye on it apparently. I have killed a dozen flies, gnats and mosquitoes in two square inches on my left shoulder and zero anywhere else.

I’m hiking between Sunken Mine Rd and Hwy 301 when I realize that if I don’t stop and take a break immediately I’m going to collapse. It’s only been an hour since I started back after lunch and that was an extended break of 45 minutes. A breeze has been ruffling the treetops and this has helped me fool myself into overdoing things. I sit on a shady boulder and rest.

I pass a faded hand painted 911 memorial and lounge on a rock enjoying the breeze and longing for my hiking partner. This moment should be shared.

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I end my day at the Shenandoah campsite. It is abandoned when I arrive except for a groundhog who is eating crabapples. He scurries away and I set up my tent. I am alone until nearly dark. I am in my liner bag dozing when Occupy arrives with his dog, a lively shepherd named Helga. I sleepily explain the water pump operation to him without getting up then roll over. I hear the pump squeak and water splash before sleep takes me.
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That’s what I feel like right now – a shut in.  You know what I mean.  One of those people who stay in their house all the time and never ever come out for any reason.

It’s not true.  For starters we aren’t at home.  We’re in a nice hotel.
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And I do go out.  Every morning I go down the elevator to the ground floor and have breakfast after which I make one or two runs fetching breakfast foods up to our room so InProgress can eat without needing to make that trek.  In her current condition most movement is painful.  I have also been making expeditions to the drug store and buying out their stock of epsom salts.  (That’s about 4.5 miles round trip.)  And nobody is twisting my arm making me stay in the room the rest of the time.

But it’s getting close to a week since we have hiked. And there’s very little close to the hotel: a very small convenience store and a BBQ restaurant is the whole list. So the hotel is sort of a mecca of comfort in the middle of a desert of nothingness created by the lack of a pedestrian friendly environment. I can walk to seven places to get a car fixed easier than I can reach the drug store. And thus I sit at the hotel. In the room, mostly in the bed.

It’s not all bad. My feet are still resting and healing. Propping them up on pillows (we have four apiece) is a help. Both feet are much improved and my right foot is even showing signs of being almost recovered from the tarsal tunnel syndrome. The left has a lot of numbness still but I have hope for it as well. While we have been hors de combat I have ordered and received some more insoles in the hope that they will provide an extension to the relief.

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The only down side to the foot rest is that it reinforces the tendency to stay in the room.

The sum of the situation is that I am feeling a bit caged in. I am sick of clean sheets, air conditioning, daily showers, AYCE continental breakfast and cable TV. I want to get back on the trail.

If I do go hike again I will be doing it solo. Hiking solo is a whole new can of worms that I don’t really want to open right now.

We are now sure that InProgress is done. She isn’t getting worse but her improvement is so slow that a surgical procedure is expected when we go to her followup appointment. Afterwards she will have to go somewhere to recover and start to live a nonhiking lifestyle again.

Blazing is a lost art in the Empire State. That was the first impression I got when we took the 4th of July off and drove up from NJ to hike into the West Mountain shelter in NY. This shelter is .6 miles off the trail and has no water source. There is no sign to indicate the turnoff the trail, just a scrawled note by a hiker on a blaze. The shelter itself is old and ramshackle. In other words it’s a place we’d never want to visit while hiking. BUT… it has a view all the way to NYC and we were able to watch over a dozen different fireworks displays put on by various communities including NYC.

After the 4th we got dropped back off in NJ and started making our way Northward by foot. A few days layer we crossed the state line into NY “officially”.
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We hiked several slow days with low miles to time our arrival into Warwick, NY to meet our new shoes and bounce box at the B&B there. With the summer heat we get completely soaked in sweat after just a short period of exertion so the low miles were welcome. We got a ride into town after only 5 minutes of thumbing and started on chores. We wanted to get groceries and laundry handled before calling the B&B because when we finally mapped the address we found that this place was really out in the boonies. We got really lucky again at the grocery store; as we were checking out I spotted a bus outside despite the fact that Google didn’t list any transit services. The driver accepted our fares and dropped us off in the laundromat parking lot.

We had a nice stay at the B&B and hit the road the next morning wearing new footwear.

Old shoes vs. new. Old = purchased at end of May. Sides busted out, heel cushioning busted out, insoles replaced and replacements worn out, but still comfy and no blisters. Go Salewa.
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As you hike the trail in NY the blazing is definitely different from other states that we have traveled through. Turns are not marked the same, when there is even a blaze at the turn at all. Often the trail seems to be more of a suggestion rather than a clearly marked footpath and this results in a more dispersed traffic pattern. In rockier areas this may mean that you wander twenty feet east or west between blazes because it’s just plain hard to see what is supposed to be trail and what isn’t. Despite all of this I have had surprisingly few issues keeping us on trail. All that I have to do is look, really look for blazes. And they’re really not that hard to follow.

The terrain is often rough here, with long rocky expanses, sudden and tough ascents and descents and stony obstacles. There also seem to have been undocumented reroutes; the profile mismatched the terrain so badly one day that we walked right up to a shelter when we were still looking for one more steep ascent and one more steep descent that should have existed.

One interesting terrain feature we passed through earlier that day was the “Lemon Squeezer”. I’m happy to report that we both made it through without great difficulty though InProgress was less than pleased to find that I recorded much of her trip up the narrow passage.

InProgress Lemon Squeezer

Shortly after there was a climb so tough that we couldn’t figure out how to ascend safely and had to take the easy way around. All in all we have both found the terrain to be more enjoyable than either PA or NJ, more because of the regular changes than anything else. It certainly hasn’t become easier, just easier to like.

On a less enjoyable note we are now stopped and have been for a couple of days. A serious but non life threatening medical issue has interfered with our ability to continue and we are shacked up in the Holiday Inn while seeking resolution. We are unsure if this will end one or both of our hikes and are just focusing on recovery at the moment. I believe InProgress is posting on the topic soon if not already so I am done with it for now.

There’s still a lot of NY and around 800 miles of AT left calling our names and we will answer. I’m just not sure when.

Leaving PA we crossed slightly gentler trail for the last couple of miles, almost as if the state were apologizing for the troubles it had put us through. The trail passes across the edge of Delaware Water Gap as the last town in PA before one enters New Jersey.

DWG is a nice little town with a couple of outfitters that focus mainly on the local watersport opportunities. There is a church hostel which seemed to be overloaded when we walked up the steps. I made a decision and declared that I wanted to stay in the Pocono Inn instead and received no resistance. We showered and went out to eat at what appeared to be the fanciest of the three close by restaurants but turned out to be cheaper than the pizza joint we were to later visit.

When we made it back to the hotel our decision to stay in town was reinforced by heavy rain. The hotel is a sprawling affair and seems to have several permanent residents. There is a single washer and dryer in a laundry room tucked away under some stairs. I had to go downstairs, cross a hotel wing, go upstairs, cross another wing and then go downstairs again to reach it. The first two times that I made this trip someone beat me to the machines by mere seconds. I felt as if I were being watched. I finished washing our single load of laundry shortly after midnight.

We decided to zero due to sore feet, weather and general fatigue. The morning dawned with more showers and a gloomy forecast and we felt immediately vindicated.

The profile of NJ is not one of major elevation change but the state does have notable differences from PA. There are numerous locations where you hike through rocky swamp terrain, sometimes aided by boardwalk. As mentioned in Awol’s book the trail passes through the Wakill Preserve. He relates pinwheeling his arms madly to slap mosquitoes and killing six at once in many strokes. Well, maybe it’s because this has been such a wet year or maybe it’s due to other causes but the majority of our time since we left PA has involved clouds of biting insects swarming around us and we dreaded entering the preserve.

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The day prior to ‘preserve day’ we ended at the Secret Shelter. The secret shelter isn’t an official shelter any more than it is a secret. Jim Murray has offered a free place for hikers to stay for well over a decade. The shelter is an enclosed building with a picture window facing the sunrise across a gorgeous pasture. It sports a working electrical outlet for device charging and to run the box fan Jim has provided.

There is a covered porch upon which we sat in a couple of chairs while we drank a couple of beers that I had been carrying in my pack for 2 days while we watched the wildlife feast on mulberries falling from a nearby tree. We noted groundhogs, chipmunks, squirrels, turkeys, and many other birds among the beneficiaries of the mulberry bounty.
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A faucet is located 10 yards in front of the building and provides cold clean well water. It is the only advertised feature of the secret shelter. A sign on the trail indicates that well water is available 100 yards off the trail.

Uphill from the faucet is another building that is locked but has an outdoor (warm) shower that was especially welcome after two sweaty days on the trail.

Before we left NJ we also had another bear encounter. Blueberries have been in full fruit lately and the best we’ve tasted have been on ridges where the trees don’t block any of the sunshine. While traversing one of these ridges we saw the bear. This guy was in full pig-out mode, face down in the bushes and using paws to just cram whole branches into his jaws. When I made enough racket to make his head pop up we could see tags in both ears; this guy has met people a time or two. I got some video before we got serious about making him move so we could get past him.
NJ bear

Overall I enjoyed our time in NJ and not just because it meant we were out of PA.

Back in Daleville, VA I was very frustrated with my shoes.  I started the trail with a pair of lightweight trail runners made by Brooks.  They were good shoes, pretty damn nice.  In fact they were the first pair of shoes I hiked over 10 miles in a day without getting blisters.  They were made with a lot of mesh paneling on the sides which reduced weight, allowed my feet to stay cooler and let in water any time a puddle was more than 1/2 inch deep.  Nobody is perfect, eh?

I started trying to get replacement shoes when we hit 500 miles on the trail.  Due to various circumstances I still had my old shoes when we arrived in Daleville, which meant they had over 700 miles on them.  Amazingly they didn’t look too bad.  Nothing was blown out or trashed except the support functionality.  I had replaced the insoles at 500 miles and the replacements were trashed after just 200 miles because they were catching the full brunt of every step.  So I had shoes that looked pretty OK but I felt like I was walking on the rocks barefoot.  Every step was agony because my feet were so bruised. 

So I went to Outdoor Trails in Daleville and got them to fit me for a shoe.  I sort of wanted a boot just to have more material between my feet and the hard hard earth.  But none of the boots exactly fit and I am blister gun-shy and vocal about not wanting blisters. 

I wound up with a pair of shoes made by a company I had never heard of: Salewa.  Low top but they fit my foot better than anything else in the shop.  And they have a blister free guarantee.  That’s right, a guarantee.  Wear the right size and good socks and they promise no blisters. 

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The company might be pretty new to the US but they sure sold me with their promise.

Initially the shoe was so different from my previous footwear that I was worried it wouldn’t work.  After a couple of days out on the trail I knew that this shoe choice was a home run. 

The model I was wearing ( Wildfire) is a
Goretex model and keeps out any water that doesn’t get in where my foot enters the shoe.  Blisters were not a worry despite walking miles in wet socks after being caught out in heavy rain.  And the shoes protected my feet from the ground like a shoe should.

I got 650 miles out of that pair of shoes and 250 of those miles were in PA.  Nuff said?  Salewa makes a damn fine product.  At the end of those rough miles the shoes looked pretty rough.  New vs. old:

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They also warranty against defects of material or manufacture for 2 years.

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I have found a shoe to brag on.  If you hike or rock climb I suggest checking them out.

Salewa website

The elevation profile of Pennsylvania is unimposing.  However the state has a reputation for being tough on AT hikers and I believe that reputation to be accurately endowed.

There are increasing numbers of rocks to deal with the further North that one hikes in the state.  Hiking on rocks always kind of sucks.  What makes Pennsylvanian rocks suck so much is the particular ways that hikers encounter them.

First, there is the rock strewn path.  This is very common.  There’s soil up under the rocks but it is hard to step on because there are loose rocks just all over the damn place.  They range in size from just larger than gravel to head-sized.  They are loose and will roll if you step on them wrong.  Nobody can ve bothered to move them apparently.  I did kick some of the anklebreakers out of the trail to see if maybe they would scurry back after a minute.  They did not – maybe they only move at night?

Second is the rock pile.  It is less common and ranges in scope from a few steps to a half mile long.  It is just a bigass pile of rocks and one is expected to navigate it.  Rock piles are commonly so deep that any small item dropped is just plain GONE.  Where the “trail” is the rocks seem to be more generally flipped to present steppable surfaces but only marginally so.  It is common for hikers to wander several yards left or right between blazes as it’s hard to tell exactly where to go on rock piles.  Could injure anything from feet to noggin depending on how you fall.  I suspect that these piles are rocks mating.  It’s the best explanation.    

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Third is the rock path.  There’s no soil really to speak of.  Just rock with some decaying leaves and loose rock on top.  Plants and trees grow in  occasional cracks.  The rock is generally not smooth but uneven which reduces chances of slipping but hurts your feet at every step.  Mostly just hurts feet and ankles.

Fourth are the boulder fields.  Rock piles but bigger individual pieces.  Generally easier to navigate than rock piles but obstacles when encountered are much tougher.  Could shift a boulder and be doneski.

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Fifth are the shark infested trail areas.  There’s soil to walk on and it is mostly soft and loamy.  Poking up through it are triangular knife edge rocks that look a lot like shark fins sticking up out of the ground.  They really hurt when you step on them.  I am sure that these are punishment for my sins, real and imagined.

I could name more as could anyone who has walked this godforsaken stretch of trail but that’s enough to give you an idea.  Pennsylvania hurts the feet due to rocks. 

In truth it’s mostly the Northern portion of the state that sucks.   We have really suffered on miles since we zeroed in Pine Grove but everyone else seems to be suffering as well.  We have passed (and been passed by) other hikers about the same as when hiking other states.

Our biggest single challenge was the climb leaving Palmerton.  It’s a Superfund restoration site dealing with contamination from a century of zinc mining activities and the trail is a rock climb that goes around restoration work areas.  Neither of us enjoys heights or anything particularly associated with heights.  About 1/2 mile into the ascent you reach a point where trees come to an end and it’s just rock for about a mile.  At that point InProgress had to put away her trekking poles.  A tip broke off one of mine so I had to put mine away regardless.

It seems that the folks who maintain the trails in the state really aren’t interested in making it any better than it is.  We got a ride out of Palmerton with a trail maintainer who made jokes about sharpening the rocks being one of his trail jobs.  Nice guy and we really appreciated the ride but someone should really beat these guys about the head and shoulders until they get a friggin clue – the rocks in the trail are a bad thing.

Climbing up the rock ascent out of Palmerton we (I) made a wrong turn off the trail and wound up scaling about thirty vertical feet that just plain got scary before we found out where the trail was and got back to it.  The blaze where we should have turned was on top of a rock and plainly visible only after we passed it.  We were so grateful to get back on the trail that we didn’t even get indignant about that poorly located blaze.

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The rest of the Superfund detour was easier going and we made 16 miles that day.  Funny that – the detour was easier walking than the trail.   Hmmm.

Speaking of funny things, you can’t buy beer in a convenience store in Pennsylvania.  Makes those stores a lot less convenient.  And there are consequentially a lot fewer of them. 

All in all I will not miss that state and its weird ways.  I write this from the safety of New Jersey, the garden state. 

We are moving slow.

Part of the pace is deliberate.  We have a knack for getting items shipped around holidays.  Despite receiving regular reminders about holiday shipping it’s just worked out that we have had items shipped when post offices are shut down for an extra day.  This time it’s shoes we are having sent to us.  This will be my 3rd pair and InProgress’s 4th.  The footwear we are currently using is capital D done.  We had a hard time getting the B&B on the phone to confirm that they would accept the package and by the time we did the shipping was delayed by Independence Day.  End result is that we have 4 days to hike 40 miles.  Getting there any sooner will be useless.

So we did the trip to see the fireworks and this afternoon when we got back on the trail we hiked 9 miles out of Culver Gap.  Tomorrow we will end our day at the secret shelter which is just 10 miles up the trail.  The next two days will be similar and at the end of it we will have new shoes.

The other reason we are moving slow is that we’re still beat to shit from the rocks.  The trail is thus far generally  easier in NJ but there are plenty of rocky patches that would fit right in with PA.  The heat is ticking upwards, the bugs are out in force, and the water sources are mostly full of tannins which turns the color an unappealing brown.  All of these contribute as well.

Addendum:  The secret shelter was pretty damn nice.  The only sign on the trail indicates that well water is available off in that direction.  When we arrived Pepa and Powderpuff were getting ready to leave after breaking and refilling water.  What’s actually available is well water, warm shower (outdoors but secluded enough), outhouse, shelter with porch, chairs, table and a working electric outlet.  All there out of the goodness of the owner’s heart.  We sat on the porch and watched the local wildlife devour mulberries.  We saw turkeys, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, groundhogs and a number of unnamed birds eating berries for a couple of hours before it started getting dark and the fireflies came out.  I had 3 beers and InProgress had some Jack Daniels left over from town and we shared those out with some German hikers who joined us.  To put icing on the cake,  Handstand and Apollo rolled in as I was about to hit the hay and they stayed the night as well.

Groundhog eating mulberries:

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