Continuing through Pennsylvania

After taking a much needed zero in Carlisle Pennsylvania we continued our trek northward.

Unfortunately, during the first day out of Carlisle Rob’s little toe on his left foot was covered in blisters and had a beefy red look just under the nail. The toe had been aching at a five out of 10 pain with each step for the past few days of hiking. He decided to remove all dressings/mole foam from the affected toe and took the first set of laces out of the toe area to widen the toebox in his boot in hopes of reducing his pain.

Fortunately this worked and the toe continued to heal over the next few days. We did a quick re-supply in the 2 1/2 mile walk through Duncannon and had lunch at a pizza joint prior to crossing the Susquehanna River

and climbing the ridge to the north. The area north of Duncannon has a scarcity of water and we had approximately 19 miles between water sources. We decided to carry 4 L of water each up the 1100 foot climb out of Duncannon. That’s a weight of 8.8 pounds each added to our already heavy packs. On the ridge overlooking the Susquehanna River from the north we had our best campsite. It was feet away from a rocky ledge with a great viewpoint of the Susquehanna valley.

While it didn’t present stunning sunrises or sunsets, it was still a beautiful view. One of the interesting things about Pennsylvania is that once you climb a ridge you frequently have several miles of ridge walking instead of the constant climbing and descending of mountains that you find on the southern half of the trail. However, all ridge walking is not created equal. There are times when it is soft soil and really easy walking. There are times when it is small jagged rocks that tend to turn your ankle in every direction possible and bruise your feet. And, there are times when it is a half mile of boulder hopping that tends to wear out the legs and make your knees ache.

On one of the ridges that we nicknamed Snake Mountain , We encountered three 5 foot long black snakes in about 1 mile.

At one point I thought I heard a wounded animal nearby and turned to see Teresa running backwards from the last snake. I’m surprised her cries didn’t alert all major predators in the area. Interestingly we walked through one area that had historically been a coal mining area. Apparently one of the results of this is that some of the streams are completely orange with high iron content. I’m not sure how the iron and coal are related but from the picture below you can see the orange of the springs.

Not far past this area was a 1.6 mile detour around flooded beaver area. It was widely held opinion that you should avoid trying to wade across this flooded area at all cost. One hiker who did not use the detour said it was a decision he would regret for the rest of his life LOL. We continue to see infrequent Sobo’s, one of which had flip-flopped out of Duncannon and would be finishing his hike within the next two days. He looked nearly as old as Rob but was looking in great shape after 2100+ miles. Kudos to anybody that can finish this trail in one hiking season. A thru hike is a tough journey and not one that we will be undertaking again. We found that the shorter section hiking is much more enjoyable for us. Because the nights had been relatively cool, once dipping down within a few degrees of freezing, we decided that we would probably finish our hike at the Pennsylvania New Jersey border. That plan was progressing well until a cold rain and thick fog settled in south of Pine Grove Pennsylvania. Not only did this make the hiking less comfortable, it also made it more dangerous. We did suffer one significant fall while boulder hopping on wet rocks. The pack which comes up behind our heads provided protection from hitting our head on the hard rock. However, it did result in a fairly significant thigh muscle strain. This injury alone would not have taken us off the trail, but the last 75 miles of Pennsylvania are rumored to be nothing but rocks—literally. With the slippery conditions and the looming increase in rocks we decided it was just more risk than we were willing to take on. It’s just not worth suffering a significant injury. We were rather surprised that on this rather wet and cold day there were lots of backpackers doing overnight trips. Just like in our early part of the journey, the trail is heavily used by the day hikers and section hikers. That’s both good and bad. It’s good to see the trail getting use, but it can sometimes make camping space scarce at the end of a long day. The night before we got off there were three or four sets of backpackers that came in after dark and camped nearby. Each of them was headed for our choice campsite. So, following the fall it was with a clear conscience that we decided to get off trail after completing a 13 1/2 mile hike that rainy cold day. Unfortunately we came out on a road that was high in the mountains, had no Uber service available , and the one regional shuttle driver was already engaged. Fortunately a couple of day hikers got to the road right after we did and graciously agreed to go 30 minutes out of their way to take us to a motel in Hamburg Pennsylvania. Had they not come along and been so nice we would’ve had to hike another 15 miles to get out in Hamburg the next day. Trail Angels do indeed walk amongst us. Unfortunately, once we got to the only motel in town we found out that they had no rooms. The desk clerk was very nice and started calling any motels in the region only to find that they also had no rooms. We also started making calls while sitting around in cold wet clothing in the lobby. After nearly an hour the desk clerk informed us that they would be cleaning an “out of order room” that we could stay in. We never did find out what exactly was out of order about it but it was a perfectly good room and we were very grateful to be in it. The third miracle of the day occurred when Rob’s brother Randy agreed to make the 8 1/2 hour drive from Cincinnati to pick us up.

We were a bit surprised when he got there at 9:30 the next morning. After being unable to sleep he got up and was on the road by 1:30 AM driving through the foggy mountains. In the end, we were both very happy with the hike we did and had no regrets . It seems to both of us that a section hike takes a lot of the pressure off that you experience when you’re trying to do a thru hike. The camping was enjoyable, the hiking was enjoyable, and the weather was outstanding except for the one rainy day. All in all it was an incredibly good experience and we hope to go out again next year and do another section. We appreciate the support we’ve received along the way. A big thanks to Randy, who shuttled us to West Virginia and back from Pennsylvania and made this hike possible for us. Until next time.

Trail Angel, Ailments and nature in Southern Pennsylvania

It’s September 19th and we’ve been on the trail for nine days. As of today we’ve traveled 107 miles north from Harpers Ferry West Virginia. We are currently in Carlisle Pennsylvania and are holed up in a Hampton Inn preparing for a zero day(no hiking) tomorrow. We’ve covered 29 miles in the past two days to get here and are a bit trail weary—ie, aching backs and feet. The terrain has varied from flat to 1000 foot climbs going up to high rocky points. We visited a particularly interesting area called the Rock Maze yesterday.

It was quite beautiful but ultimately very hard on the knees. Speaking of knees, we now have a full complement of three knee braces that are functioning well. Rob has one knee that remains very tender and very swollen. However, we continue to trudge on. We also have our fair share of sore hips, blisters, and blackened toenails that will be coming off soon. All of these aches and pains sometimes make it difficult to sleep.

Rob’s toe blister…ouch

Last night in the tent, the temperature dropped to 38° with a brisk wind blowing across the mountaintop we were camped on. We’ve also had two or three nights down to 44°, so the temps have definitely dropped. The weather forecast is calling for another three days of sub 40 degree temperatures during the night. So today, we are happy to be in a hotel. After that the temps are supposed to go up to the low 50s overnight . We do have our 15° and 20° sleeping bags, so we are prepared for cooler temps. We are concerned that several days of subfreezing temperatures might lead us to exit the trail sooner than our projected six weeks.
Trail Angel-Todd McCall!!!We had our first resupply two days ago at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania. We were met at the park campground by a trail angel who is a childhood friend of Teresa‘s. He brought a package of food that we had mailed to him as well as items ordered off the internet like knee braces and pillows to replace the ones that broke our first night out. As an extra bonus, He also brought us a large pizza and IPA from a local brewery. It was delicious. We feel so blessed by his generosity, and we so enjoyed a few hours talking to him about our high school years, the trail and life in general.

Critters and interesting plant life along the trail have been scarce this time of year. Not a lot of flowers in the woodlands, but we have seen several brightly colored mushrooms.

We’ve seen a couple garter snakes, a fox, a couple of deer, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and a groundhog. We’ve heard owls most nights out, and have been serenaded by crickets and tree frogs during the warmer nights. One night we were even serenaded by coyotes. We have fortunately not seen bears nor rattlesnakes. Apparently Pennsylvania has a large population of timber rattlers and one of the shelters had a sign posted that said “rattlesnake seen near shelter and tent sites”. We did not camp there. However, one night as Teresa was getting out of the tent her headlamp Illuminated something and she loudly exclaimed “there’s a rattlesnake on the other side of that log”. I looked and there was some thing that was somewhat snake like and luminescent. I was pretty sure that snakes don’t glow in the dark when you put a light on them, but was not 100% sure. The next morning we found the “rattlesnake”, which turned out to be a piece of string that a previous camper had left. The relatively few hikers we have seen in Pennsylvania ( except on the weekend) have been predominately Sobo’s (south bound through hikers going from Maine to Georgia). The majority of them have been in their 20s, and they’re all essentially halfway along the trail. We met four hikers that were doing the four state challenge. This is 44 miles from the Pennsylvania border through Maryland and West Virginia to the Virginia border and is approximately 44 miles long and must be completed in one day. That’s insane. All in all, the people you meet on the trail are very nice whether they are day hikers or through hikers. We continue to enjoy the challenges of the hike and hope to spend another four and a half weeks on the trail.

Maryland

We left from Harper’s Ferry West Virginia at2 pm on 9/11 after Rob’s brother Randy graciously drove us there to begin our journey. On the first day we crossed the Potomac into Maryland and six miles in to the first shelter. We re-learned the daily routine of camp life. Once we get to camp, we set up our tent, cook dinner, hang food items (to discourage bears), blow up air mattress, unroll sleeping bag, hang clothes to dry, get headlamps ready and try to get some sleep. On our first night in the tent, both of our inflatable pillows busted, so we are now using our extra clothes as pillows. When we wake up in the morning, we have our breakfast, pack up the tent and re-pack our backpacks. On our second day out, one of the straps on Teresa’s backpack broke, and after duct tape didn’t work, Rob pulled a McGuyver and made a makeshift sternum strap with some Paraccord. On Day 2, we made 14 miles, but night comes soon and we barely made it in time to have dinner and set up camp. Day 3 was a bit rough as we both developed some pretty intense knee pain. Between the two of us, we have 3 sore knees and only 1 1/2 knee braces. (Meaning one good one and one really bad one). We share the good knee brace and whoever is hurting the most gets it for the time being. Day 4 was a pretty good day as we made it through Maryland and into Pennsylvania. Shortly before the PA border, we discovered a park where a local pizza joint delivered pizza. We were so hungry and enjoyed every bite. While at the park, the host was delightful and gave us some snacks for the road. We also talked to two AT trail stewards and both were super helpful about sharing information for the upcoming sections.

Since we started our hike on Friday afternoon, the Weeknd saw us passing hundreds of day hikers along Marilyn’s 40 miles. On our last day in Maryland we also passed nearly a dozen section hikers who were hiking all of Maryland. We try to maintain 6 feet of distance but if we are unable to in a narrow portion of trail then we don our masks. We figure being out in the woods is not the best place to be dealing with Covid, so why not be better safe than sorry. overall, we probably hiked more flat terrain in Maryland than we did in the previous 1140 miles that we did in 2017 combined. However, we had hoped to cover close to 15 miles a day but we do not have our trail legs. We are covering more like 10 to 14 miles per day. We realized early on that resupplying every five days has us carrying a lot of weight in food. That coupled with relative water shortages that have us carrying 3 Liters of water each, which weighs 6.6 pounds, has led to incredibly heavy packs. We will likely change our strategy and re-supply every 2 to 3 days. In the end, we are very happy to be back on the trail despite the aches pains and other discomfort. We’ll blog again when we get somewhere more convenient.

Back on the AT 2020

Rob (Old School) and Teresa (Snickers) hiked about 1150 miles in 2017. We hiked from Springer Mountain Georgia to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Then from Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Monson, Maine (thru the 100 mile wilderness). Unfortunately, due to a pretty bad foot injury, we made the hard decision to get off the trail. Ever since that time, we both have been trying to get back on the trail and finish what we started. In fact, for Teresa, it’s become an obsession, 😀. Our original plan was to get back on in April 2020, but due to Covid, we had to put off our plans. That being said, we have decided that we are going to leave on September 11 to try and get some more AT miles under our belt. We only plan on spending about six weeks on the trail this time. On our first leg before resupply we plan to cover 75 miles. We’re starting off carrying 5 days worth of food so we’ll be starting off with pack weights between 37 and 40 pounds, which includes 3L of water each. We will do our best to blog along the way!!!!

End of the White Blazes


After 1,138 miles (plus a combined 14 at the south and north termini) we have decided to call it a day. I think a thru hiker we met a day or so south of Katahdin put it best–“the ability to hike the whole trail is proportional to your willingness to endure pain”. In the end, we’re not willing to endure the foot, ankle, knee, back, and shoulder pain for another 3-4 months. 

This has been the trip of a lifetime and we feel blessed to have taken it together. We’ve seen amazing wilderness, met incredible people, faced fears, and pushed our bodies beyond what we thought possible. We appreciate all of you that have given support and offered encouragement since we left on April 9.
Now to get out of the woods, get some lobster and see the coast of Maine. 

The 100 Mile Wilderness

On Wednesday, 16 August we hiked 10 miles from the base of Mount Katahdin across Baxter State Park to the beginning of the hundred mile wilderness in Maine. It took us 8 days and change to complete this 100 mile stretch. Had we not had 1000 miles under our belts I’m not sure we’d have made it. 
This was the most rugged and beautiful part of the trail we’ve done.

Along the way, we hit our 1100 mile marker!  

The trail was full of giant roots and rocks, mixed in with bogs and mud everywhere. 



This was the first time we were required to ford  streams and rivers, which was a little unnerving as they was very slippery.  Fortunately Maine is in a relative drought season, so it wasn’t as deep and scary as it could have been. 


But overall, the toughest part of the 100 mile wilderness was the mountains and the rock scrambles required to summit them. 

The reason it is called the 100 mile wilderness is because you hike 100 miles without running into a town, or any services. For many, the most challenging part of this is that you have to carry supplies and provisions to cover this whole trip. Fortunately for us, a fellow hiker told us about a company that you can pay to drop off food and supplies at the half way point. They put it in a five gallon bucket and hide it in deep in the woods, trying to find it is like looking for Easter eggs on Easter. This was awesome!!!!! We are glad that we found out about this as many we hiked with didn’t know and were carrying 10 days food… wow, that’s heavy! 


One Nobo thru hiker described  the hundred mile wilderness as her favorite part of the trail. We would have to agree as there were more views in this hundred miles than in the thousand miles we did down south. This area is blessed with an abundance of boulder strewn streams, lakes, and treeless granite mountain tops with views that extend for many miles.



Camping along this section was some of our favorite spots, next to streams and lakes, with gorgeous views and nature sounds a plenty. One of our favorite spots was a lake with some resident loons that serenaded us to sleep. The view was worthy of a magazine cover! 


On the morning of our exit from the 100 miles, we caught a ride into Monson, Maine where we stayed in a hostel where we took the most the needed shower of our lives, and did some much needed laundry. Below is a picture of what hikers wear (borrowed clothes) while they are waiting on laundry. 

 Needless to say, food was a priority and we are a little embarrassed to report that we went to a grocery store, bought a half gallon of ice cream, asked for two spoons from the deli and ate the whole container outside the store. We ain’t gonna lie, it was totally worth it!!!!


In short, the hundred mile wilderness was amazing, but we are glad it’s done!

Mount Katahdin

On Sunday, August 13, We flew to Bangor Maine, caught a bus to Medway Maine, then a shuttle into Millinocket Maine, where we stayed for two days at the AT Lodge. On Tuesday the 15th, after hiking over 1000 miles, we did the craziest thing we’ve ever done. We summitted Mount Katahdin. While we expected a strenuous 5 mile hike gaining over 4000 feet of elevation we were surprised that it really was more rock climbing than hiking. 


The advice given to us by the lodge owner was to turn around if the clouds got black and looked like a storm was looming as things could get dangerous. As Rob is scared of heights he was constantly hoping for black clouds to appear so we could descend and keep his dignity. However it was a beautiful day and we both continued to climb, although it was the scariest thing we’ve ever done. 


We summited via the Hunt trail, and it took us about 5 hours to get to the top, where we were blessed to have beautiful views. 


We went down the Abol Trail, which took us about 4 1/2 hours. Both trails were extremely steep and rocky and required climbing and lots of Boulder scrambling. It was a scary, crazy, wild day. But both of us are glad that we were successful and hope you enjoy our pictures.