Archives for category: Appalachian Trail

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.
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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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There is a documentary by the name that I entitled this post.  It stretches a bit to say that beer saved the world but it certainly is nice to have one or two at the end of a tough day.  AND it is safe to drink without being treated or filtered.

Many hikers seem to have a thing for beer; it’s not just me.  One revelation of the trail for me has been how awesome it can be to pack out a beer or two, stick them in a mountain spring to chill and then down said beers in the beauty of a camp high upon a ridge miles from civilization.  Yeungling has been a favored beer of mine for several years.  The company opened a brewery facility in Tampa (they only have two brewery facilities) which gave them a home team advantage with me in the selection process.  My wife and friends seem to put up with my beer without notable objection so I tend to think they must like it as well.  Yeungling is good beer.  Right Shayne?

Our hike has brought us close to Pottsville, PA which is the home of Yeungling.  They are the oldest operating brewery in the US, having been in business since 1829.  They made low-alcohol nearbeer during Prohibition and opened a dairy and ice cream business (now closed) to keep the doors open during those tough times.

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I toured the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, KY a couple of years ago and found it to be fascinating.  (Oldest operating distillery in the US; they distilled “medicinal whisky” during Prohibition and apparently paid a lot under the table for THAT licensing). 

I have a Mr. Beer brewing kit and have made both good and skunky beer with its ingredients and my efforts but have enjoyed the process almost as much as the results.  Touring an industrial brewery is a great way to see how the pros get it done.

When we are done with our hike I have.very nebulous plans to take up beer brewing as a more serious hobby at some point. 

But back to the present and Yeungling in Pottsville PA.  A hiker from Germany (Runner Up) kept talking up the idea of doing the tour and I caught the bug from him.  Must take beer tour.  Must take beer tour.  Must take beer tour…

So when we came to a road crossing near Pine Grove and I found that I was completely tuckered out despite having only hiked 10 miles I knew that some adjustments to our schedule were in order. 

We needed resupply.  And we needed to hike a lot of miles to get to Hamburg (closest trail town to Pottsville) by Sunday and I just didn’t believe that we could get it done.  I was feeling really beat and a trip into town would eat up too much time and it all just felt overwhelming.  I called for a hotel night and declared that we would zero on Sunday then get a rental car and drive to Pottsville for the tour.

We got a ride into town with awesome trail angels who were out dispensing food and encouragement every day at the junction of 645 and the AT.  These folks were bringing sodas, Gatorade, water, fruit, chips, snack cakes and subs every day.  Pretty awesome trail magic.

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The Comfort Inn in Pine Grove was $40/day cheaper than anywhere in Hamburg anyway so that part of the decision felt pretty good. 

Within a mile we found:  beer (distributor),

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resupply (Dollar General), food (Arby’s) and laundry (Pilot truck stop).  At the Comfort Inn we rested for all of Sunday and early Monday I hiked a couple of miles to sit on the doorstep of the local used car dealer.

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They had two rental cars and after a few details were sorted out drove off in a 2006 Altima.  Driving was weird after 3 months of not being behind the wheel.  We  had trouble finding parking and arrived at the brewery just a few minutes late for the 10AM tour.  I put one quarter in the meter while we went up to see what time the next tour would be – and we got added into the 10:00 group even though we were late.  Awesome! 

We got to see the whole operation including many historical tools and items kept in the working brewery just for show.

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While we were tooling around the brewery (read:  drinking post-tour samples) I got a parking ticket.  Apparently one quarter really was good for 30 minutes and not an hour and a half…

The ticket cost $7.  That’s right, $7.

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I couldn’t have been happier with the cost of the ticket.  I wasn’t even annoyed that I got busted since parking costs more than that in most places.

After the ticket was paid we met other hikers  (Handstand, Apollo, Pacemaker, Runner Up) at a place named Westies for a quick meal.  Apollo’s dad was their mode of transportation and he picked up the tab on lunch over general but mild protest.  Sometimes you know the look a dad has about him when he grabs a check…

When we dropped off the car the folks at the lot were cool enough to drive us back to the trailhead.  We were feeling a bit dazed and discombobulated from our travels but ready to hike again.

I have been pretty erratic about posting lately and I feel that I should address that.

There are a number of things that affect how often I post.  First and foremost is that I have to write something to post.  That means that I need time, stimulus and phone charge.  I also need data signal to upload.  If I am putting up a lot of pictures then WiFi is preferred since we don’t want to go over our data plan and pay extra just because.  And I need the energy to post.

I have been dealing with ebbing energy lately.  Most evenings I get through camp setup and dinner and then wind up just passing out within a few minutes of getting in the tent.  Then I wake up a few minutes later than the prior morning each day.  I used to wake at 5:15 without fail and now I find myself getting up at more like 6:00.  There have been times when it has been well after 8:00 before we really get hiking.

I haven’t had to use knee supports for a couple of months now.  However my trekking poles are now out of commission so I am putting more load on my legs so there may be issues looming on the horizon.  Two days of no poles and knees are fine.  They actually feel and work better than pre-trail.

My weight is stable in the 165 lb range.  I have found enough calories to sustain my weight.  Not the worry it was at one time.

I Iook better than most folks I see out on the trail.  I am not just talking about the fact that I am naturally handsome and debonair.  (I am, but that’s not what I am talking about.)  I’m better groomed because I shave and my hair is kept cut.  It is long by my normal standards but still looks good if I run my fingers through it a couple of times.  In fact I look clean and groomed enough that hikers who have not met us before usually mistake me for a day hiker.  My clothes aren’t ripped and stained.  Take away the pack and the hiker stench and you could pass me on a street corner without notice.  On the one hand that means some hikers withhold my thruhiker props and sometimes outright snub us until they get a clue.  On the other hand when they do get a clue they then realize that I am doing the same thing they are and that I look good doing it. Extra points for style, bitches.

We still have a lot of miles to hike and that sometimes weighs on me mentally and emotionally, usually when we have had a bad day or few days.  It can seem insurmountable and nothing can get you down like not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

My feet have issues.  They get sore.  Walking long distances makes the tissue sore.  Doing so with a pack on just magnifies the impact as does the fact that we just keep repeating the abuse every day.  More concerning to me is that I have nerve issues.  For about a month I have shown significant symptoms of Tarsal Tunnel syndrome.  It is self diagnosed so take the statement for what you want but I am fairly sure.  Both feet have large areas of numbness in the front pads.  The middle three toes are numb as well.  Most days about ten miles in the numbness changes to pain which is oddly reassuring since it means the nerves still work.    So my feet hurt all over all the time except for when I can’t feel parts of them.  But everything still works and if the condition is worsening then it’s doing so slowly enough that I am not noticing.  This will not stop me.

The bugs are getting worse almost daily.  Despite liberal doses of repellant I always have a dozen or two itchy bites.  I have removed a half dozen ticks while on the trail with no ill effects thus far (I watch for signs of Lyme/RMSF). There are worse bugs coming I hear.

I have permanent bruises on my hips where I cinch my my hip belt on my pack.  I like my belt as tight as I can get it and the bruises aren’t such a big price to pay for that.

My skin is breaking out a lot in places.  Mostly my ass, legs and back.  It is due to accumulated sweat and happens despite showering and cleaning as much as I conveniently can.  I may have to find ways to do more if things do not improve soon. 

I sweat as much as I have ever in my life and it leaves me sticky all over.  I can pick up items with sheer skin adhesion.  It is sort of like a super power except that it’s weak and gross.  Sometimes I hook my thumbs on my pack’s shoulder straps to keep my hands elevated because I am tired of sweat running down my arms onto my hands and fingers.

My neck has been getting sore.  The rocks have been so bad that I have to literally look down at my feet for almost every step I take or risk serious ankle or foot injury if I don’t place each step perfectly.  Bending my neck like that all day long has a price in stiffness and pain.

I am mostly whole despite the litany of woes I have enumerated.  I am having fun.  This is one hell of an adventure and I know how lucky I am to be here doing this.

And I will try to get some of that backlog of posts caught up.

When we started our hike we had different ideas about how often we would stay in hotels and hostels.  The reality has been not what either of us visualized and continues to evolve as the needs change with the conditions we experience.

Some hikers take every possible chance to go into town.  Others seem to adhere to the opposite end of the spectrum and slip in for resupply then fade back out to the trail without delay.  I have seen people take food from hiker boxes just to avoid going to town.  We have done it as well – a hiker got a huge maildrop from his aunt at Ironmaster’s and couldn’t hold onto it since A) It was too much for him for 2 weeks and B) He had just resupplied.  We pulled oatmeal, candy, toilet paper and other items out right after he put them in.  I found a new candy: Hi-chew.  Haven’t seen it in stores but will buy some if I do.  Sort of like taffy but easier to chew and tastier.  Also packaged in the right size to eat while hiking.

Our historical trend towards towns has been for two of Maslow’s necessities: food and shelter.  We have to eat (lots) and when we are sodden from rain we want to get indoors and get dried out.  Otherwise we have not wasted good hiking time lollygagging around in town.

Lately a new opportunity has arisen though.  Hiking the right amount of miles means that we spend the night in a bed, of sorts, and then get up and make good miles and wind up at another bed.  Where there are beds there are also places that serve food that is not what we carry in our packs.  Sometimes beer is available too.  (We only drink it for the calories – no light beer for us.  Right.)

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When we left Shenandoah it was on a slackpack through Terrapin hostel.  After only being out a night that put us into Bear’s Den.  After only a couple of nights out we hit Ironmaster’s.  After a night out from there we stayed in a Hampton in Carlisle.  The next night we made it to the Doyle.  After two nights out we are in a Comfort Inn where we are staying again for our first zero day in a long while.

The Doyle:

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Hiking from one source of hospitality to the next is very convenient.  We’ve had lunches that we carried out on the trail as well as lighter packs and of course ample opportunity to shower.  With the uptick in the temperature lately this is all in all very convenient.  Especially when you hike all day and can then get a beer.   Mmmm, beer.  Did I mention beer?

We are taking in the brewery tour at Yeungling in Pottsville tomorrow morning.  In order to do this we are renting a car and then we will get a late start on the trail afterwards.  (Oh no! We will be LATE for hiking!  It really is a big change from our previous lifestyles to be able to rewrite the schedule however we want whenever we want.  There’s some lingering feeling of Taboo but it’s fading.)