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.