New York State of Mind

CR 517 to Wildcat Shelter
19.6 miles
Total miles: 1370

Exhausted!!! That is the word that comes to mind today.

Yesterday I zeroed at the hotel to try to get these blisters healed. I think it did the trick. They are dried out, so today instead of putting blister pads and moleskin, I just used my smart wool socks. The pads and moleskin were holding in the sweat, and I think they were contributing to the problem.

I got a ride to the trail head from a cab driver named John. He was knowledgeable about the area and pointed out many things. Driving the back roads is a whole other world from the trail. We went through what he called “black dirt farms.” He said this is where the soil was the richest, and there were laborers in the fields actually harvesting by hand. Such incredibly hard work, but the men stopped and waved as we drove by.

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I climbed into New York today. Literally! The topo map looks so easy but was it ever deceiving. There were abrupt ups and downs, very steep and difficult.

One section I was literally scaling a rock wall wondering what in the world they could be thinking. I was pulling myself up by my fingertips with my full pack on. Once I reached the top, there was literally no where to go…I had missed a blaze and was on the edge of a boulder looking straight down!

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I had to climb back down and start again. This time there was literally a ladder secured to the rock face to help hikers up. It was a difficult day to say the least. Days like today make me wonder what am I doing!

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With only two miles left to the shelter, I caught up with “the gang.” They were surprised that I caught them, but they had only walked six miles today. I visited with them for a while, and then we left together. They were going to hike another four. I was stopping at two. They quickly pulled ahead of me and disappeared. When I got to the blue blaze to the shelter, they were taking another break. You gotta love them. They told me to wake them up tomorrow if I passed their tents down the trail.

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The water situation is not good. Many streams are dry or barely a trickle. The spring at the shelter was one of the mere trickles. It took a long time to collect enough to fill a water bottle. Hopefully tomorrow’s hike will have more water.

I pitched my tent but left off the rain fly because it is so very hot. Jukebox and Blaze were here when I arrived. J-Rex arrived later…I have not seen her since the 501 shelter. She told me that it is supposed to rain, so I guess I will put the rain fly on. Ugh!

It feels good to be in New York. I will visit Stosh in the Big Apple soon !

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Pay it Forward

High Point Shelter to CR 517
16 miles
Total miles: 1350.6

The last thing I heard before drifting off to sleep was the counselor speaking to all the young campers. They were all beneath the tarps, three and four campers per tarp… not really fitting completely. He was apologizing for the tight quarters and told them they were all fine. He told them it was OK if they were not completely under the tarp. They were in their sleeping bags, and it was not going to rain.

That’s the last sound I heard, “it is not going to rain.” I awoke to rain drops on my tent at 2 a.m. They grew harder and harder! The kids slept through it, but I heard the counselors scurrying around and saw head lights darting back and forth. They were frantically trying to tuck all the boys beneath the tarps. It rained all night. When I awoke, some of the boys were beginning to stir. Most had stayed dry, but a few were wet with wet sleeping bags. I took a picture of their tarp setup. Justin called it a shanty town.

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I was packed and ready to head out about the same time as Ireland. After checking in with the others, I started hiking. The skies were clear after last night’s rain, and the temperature was cool. It was a beautiful walk today.

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I went from woods to open pastures, past small ponds and through a swamp. Ireland and I leapfrogged back and forth. IMG_2851

I stopped frequently to remove my shoes to inspect my heel. Yes, I continue to battle with blisters. I made the decision that I would get off the trail early today to try to rest my feet.

Ireland managed to get us a ride to Horler’s General Store. From there I met a lovely lady who agreed to drive me to the hotel. It always amazes the kindness of strangers. She refused payment and just told me to pay it forward. I definitely will.

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Hiking with the Gang

Green Anderson Shelter to Highpoint Shelter
13 miles
Total miles: 1334.0

It’s been a long time since I’ve hiked with this gang. Our hiking styles are very, very different. They hike for an hour and then take a lengthy break. Any excuse is a good one for them to stop. After a few hours, I realized why I was able to catch them: they spend over half of the day relaxing.

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While I certainly had a good time doing this, I am afraid I will never get to Maine. At 6:00 they were ready for another “quick” break, and then they wanted to investigate a “beach” a half mile off the trail. I decided to hike on to the shelter another few miles ahead. I wanted to make camp before dark.

I arrived at the shelter and “Ireland” was here. A NOBO that I have been crossing paths with frequently the last few days. He is from Northern Ireland and is here on a six month visa to walk the AT. I pitched my tent near Ireland’s hammock. We are sharing the area with about 20 kids from a summer camp, who are out on an overnight camping expedition. They were all excited and boisterous, running and screaming through the woods while two adults tried to pitch tarps for them all. It should be an interesting night. I will be surprised if the boys, Pretty Bird and Big Gulp will make it to the shelter tonight. I think they will stealth camp near the “beach”.

The New Jersey woods are teeming with wildlife. Bears have been spotted frequently, and today, I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake that darted across the path.

Just as darkness set in, I heard the gang arrive. I was wrong—they hiked in and are pitching their tents near me. Feels like home.

Old and New Friends

Gren Anderson Shelter
Total 1321.0

GPS left yesterday, and as always, it was so hard to say good-bye. I was really down and decided to take a zero day. I just could not stand the thought of him dropping me of at the trail and waving good-bye.

This morning, I was still having a hard time snapping back but knew I needed to get back out on the trail. I had trouble finding a shuttle to the trail head. I ended up getting a cab. Vinnie was the cab driver’s name, and by the time he found where to drop me off in the woods, we were old friends. He hugged me good-bye.

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Now New Jersey does have its share of rocks, but I actually think they are not as bad as Pennsylvania. I was surprised by the beautiful views and the amount of wild life I have seen. Today alone I saw deer, chipmunks and a bear. In fact, every person I have met on the trail today has seen at least one bear. After walking for a few hours, I met a hiker named Saybak, a woman about my age who is hiking alone. We had a delightful afternoon walking together. Her name is an acronym for See All You B@#**es At Katahdin. Her girlfriends had a going away party for her, and she told them if she made it she expected them all to be there to meet her.

Saybak planned on getting off the trail today for the night, so when we reached the road, we walked 200 yards to a local pub and enjoyed a dinner and a drink together before I got back on the trail.

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And now for my big news! I hiked three miles to the next shelter and found my old friends, Adam, Justin, Pretty Bird and Big Gulp. I have not seen them since the Smokies, and I cannot believe I have caught up with them.

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It was a wonderful reunion and tonight I am camping along side of them. So today I started out a little sad but am going to sleep tonight having met both new and old friends. Life is good!

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So Long Rocksylvania!!

Smith Shelter to PA/NJ Border
20.5 miles
Total miles: 1289.9

It rained softly all night long .We could hear distant thunder and see the sky light up, but we missed the brunt of the storm. Gus brought me my new sleeping pad, so I did not have to reinflate the pad during the night, it was wonderful! We awoke to cooler temperatures. It felt like a fall day in Pensacola. The skies were blue, and there was a nice breeze.

The first order of business was to hike down to the stream to supply with water. The next water source was twenty miles away. So we put in a mile down to the stream and back before we ever actually started hiking.

Gus does now have a trail name—it is GPS. The perfect trail moniker for him, he has always had a good sense of direction, and it is his initials.

So GPS and I set off for what we hoped was the trek into New Jersey. We had heard the trail ahead was nothing but rocks and Pennsylvania did not disappoint in that regard. It is impossible to adequately describe the trail. GPS perhaps said it best when he said the rocks cause you to have a drunken-like stumble. It is true, you are constantly teetering and swaying. It takes vigilance to stay upright!

The morning walk was quite beautiful with the sun rays peeking through the trees. Even the spider webs that constantly swipe you in the face were at their best; translucent in the sunshine. We made good progress initially but slowed with the passing miles.

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Gus’s heels had started to blister the day before when we had hiked in the rain. Today, they worsened and despite our attempts to doctor them, they ripped and became increasingly painful. The constant rocks soon began to do a number on my feet also, so by the time we made it into Delaware Water Gap, we were both hobbling. But we made it; we officially hiked out of Pennsylvania.

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We ate at a local diner and then got a shuttle back to the car because GPS must return home tomorrow. We had plans to resupply me, but we were both so exhausted, it was all we could do to shower and fall into bed.

Both of our feet are in awful shape, mine throbbed thru the night, and Gus at one point said,“I feel like I am still walking on rocks.” So I know his were throbbing also.

I found out that Torta-leani and Just Paul have taken a break for a few days and are off the trail. She blamed it on the rocks (of course!). So I may catch them soon. But for now, I can not think of walking another step. I can only think of sleep.

Wet and Wild

Palmerton to Leroy Smith Shelter
15.5 miles
Total miles: 1269.4

Another crazy day! We hiked out of Palmerton, or I should say we “climbed” out of Palmerton. It really was more like rock climbing. We had to pull ourselves up over many sections, trying always to keep three points of contact.

The climb took us along side the superfund site. The mountain was deforested and barren. We managed to make it to the top before the rain started and we then walked for miles in light rain.palmerton view

We eventually made our way over the summit and back into a wooded area. We enjoyed a pine needle covered path and were able to pick up the pace. The rain stopped and we actually saw a few beams of sunshine between the clouds.

Gus and I made it to the shelter just after six. It was filled to capacity, so we tented up the trail. I, of course, prepared dinner for us. It was a first for my husband the chef: dehydrated lasagna. I just boiled water and zipped up the bag until it re-hydrated. I am not sure Gus was overly impressed with my camp cooking skills, but he did eat every bite.

We managed to climb into our tent for the night just as the rain started. It is supposed to rain through the night, and we drifted off to the sound of thunder.

Walking in the Rain with the One I Love

PA309 to Palmerton
13.9 miles
Total miles: 1253.9

First, I must apologize for missing a day blogging. I had a big day. My hubby has joined me for a few days, and time just slipped away. It is great hiking with him. We are not slack packing. He is getting the whole AT experience.

What a day!! Gus and I started out the day with grey skies above us so we knew we were in for rain. We hiked to the Knife’s Edge, a rocky summit with incredible views. Forward progress was slow because any misstep could send us plummeting down the rocky ledge. We were more than careful!

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The vista was worth the slow pace.

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Just after we passed the Knife’s Edge, the skies opened. We hiked in the pouring rain for hours and hours. Our fingers pruned, our socks and shoes became saturated and squished with every step. The rocks became more and more slippery, and the puddles became deeper and deeper…but oh, what fun it was.

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I loved each moment of this day. We continued to pick our way over rock ledges, and the rain never let up. We finally met our first hikers of the day just after passing a gravel mountain road. They were trying to make camp in the rain. Just as Gus and I decided that we too had had enough, a souped up truck came roaring down the gravel road. I could not resist flagging them down.

The young guys in the truck agreed to drive us to where Gus had parked our car. We hopped into the bed of the truck, and I experienced my first ride in a super revved up truck. Did I mention Gus is getting to experience real life on the trail? Hitching a ride is not something either of us would do in “real life”.

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It was a great day, and it was even better because we were able to get out of the rain, dry our clothes, eat diner and sleep in a bed!! Tomorrow, we will head back to the trail. If we are lucky, we may see the sun, but rain or shine, we will get another day walking together!

New Shoes and Nero

Hamburg, PA to Reservoir Road
5.1 miles
Total miles: 1219.1

I was at the outfitters when they opened this morning. It was a huge outfitter called Cabela’s. Just getting across the parking lot was a hike. It was more of a destination than a store. There were RVs parked in the parking lot and a kennel for dogs on site.

Unfortunately, they were not really set up to professionally fit hiking boots. They were helpful, but it was basically just find the right pair for yourself. I did end up with a pair that I think are perfect in the toe box. The heel is perhaps not quite as perfect, but I am experimenting with Smart Feet and a heel liner. I replaced a few other items, and Cabela’s shuttled me back toward the trail. I stopped for lunch at the Port Clinton Hotel, which was recommended by the shuttle driver, and then headed back to the trail.

On the way, I passed J-Rex, Toots and Navigator. They had stayed at the 501 shelter with me but stopped at 15 miles yesterday. They were just coming off the trail and were planning on spending the night in town tonight. With them was VooDoo, who Paul and I had met our last night in the Smokies. She had been hiking so fast that I was shocked to see her. She told me that she has taken 40 zero days! I am beginning to feel better about my five weeks of down time because of injuries.

I hiked out of Port Clinton and headed up the mountain. On the way, I passed beneath the highway bridge which was painted with AT graffiti.

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It didn’t take long before I realized I needed a day off. My body is tired from yesterday’s trek. So after a very short day (NERO for near zero), I got off the trail and found a shuttle. I have found a hotel room where I plan to order room service, elevate my feet and relax.

The Agony of De “feet”

501 Shelter to PA 61
24.4 miles
Total miles: 1214.0

We were almost all in our bunks when the rain started. It was pleasant listening to the sound of the rain hitting the roof and listening to the thunder from inside the shelter. As I drifted off to sleep, more hikers arrived and quietly laid their sleeping pads and bags out on the floor.

I was up with the sun, packed up and headed out for a big day hiking. I needed to rethink the shoes, as I keep getting more and more blisters. So I wanted to make it into town where there is an outfitter.

What a day it was. There are no words to describe how brutal it is to walk on the rocks. The path is filled with pointed, sharp rocks, and it is nearly impossible to find a place to step that is not on a rock. Therefore, with each step, a rock jabs a different spot. One must be vigilant to keep from turning an ankle, as larger rocks are frequently unsteady and can easily throw one of balance. At one point, I wondered the number of hikers that have left the trail due to broken ankles or stress fractures from these Pennsylvania rocks.

Just when it seems it is impossible to make progress, there will be a stretch of path that is rock free. But it never lasts long; the rocks are always around the next bend.

I stopped for lunch at Eagles Nest Shelter. I did not want to walk the extra half mile it would add to my day, but I needed to rest and doctor my feet. I took my shoes off and have multiple new hot spots, blisters and even bolsters forming under callouses. I treated and protected them the best I could, and after a brief rest, I pushed on. I met Yetti-Legs, Tumbles and one other hiker on the way back to the trail. They stayed at the same shelter as me last night. (Turns out all three of them had been attacked by the rabid bat and all three of them were getting rabies shots). Anyway, they had had enough for the day and said they were stopping. Their feet were done and could take no more rocks.

The last nine miles were worse than the first fourteen. I thought I would never make it. Finally, I began the descent off the mountain and was passed by Daddy Long Legs, a NOBO that was slack packing for the day. He told me his wife was meeting him at the road and that they would give me a ride into town.

The last three tenths of a mile was practically a down hill plunge! The slope could be compared to the “tall” slide at city parks. It was dangerous and nearly impossible. I side stepped and dug my poles in the entire way. Just as I was near the bottom I heard a commotion above It was Yetti-Legs, Tumbles and the third hiker whose name escapes me. They were coming down the hill so fast. Practically running but with tiny steps to try to keep control and yelling the whole way. They said they had rested an hour and decided to go for it. They gave me a high five and said the last hill was worth every bit of pain! Oh, youth!! I hobbled to the road; they bounced. I did get a ride into Hamburg and have found a place to stay near the outfitters. Here’s hoping the SIXTH pair of shoes is a charm!

Palace of a Shelter

PA 72 to PA 501
11.4 miles
Total miles: 1189.6

After a good night’s sleep, Kathy took me back to the trail. As I crossed the bridge, I met a hiker who was on his way into town for his third series of rabies shots. He was bitten by a rabid bat! Yikes!

The first two miles was killer! It was steep and rocky and I felt like I was barely moving. I teetered, tottered and tip-toed over rock after rock. I stopped for lunch and met Reboot. He had just gotten back on the trail three days ago after a bout with Lyme’s disease.

We enjoyed lunch and soon Survivor and James joined us. I felt a little bit better about my slow progress this morning when I heard them complaining about how difficult the morning hike was.

I stopped for water at the spring at the William Penn Shelter. There I met Skippy!! He had the perfect name – he was tall and lanky, had braces and carried an umbrella. He was an incredibly fast hiker, but when he told me his name was Skippy, I had to smile.

My goal when I started out today was to go 16 miles. After the slow start and the rocks, my goal changed. The 501 shelter was my new goal. I arrived early and was pleasantly surprised. The shelter was actually a building with windows and doors.

There were bunks, no mattresses, but we each had a bunk. It was close enough to the highway that we were able to order pizza delivery, and to top it all off, there was a “shower”!

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Well, sort of a small drizzle from a hose but I was glad to take advantage of it. The shelter was full of hikers and laughter. I was glad that I had decided to hike only twelve miles today.

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