Remember how I had been taking things slowly? Giving myself time to get stronger? It was a good plan, but there’s only so much to be done when some clown decides that stopping points need to be a full eighteen miles apart for some reason. One such day, shortly after my last post, involved crossing the Cumberland Valley. The AT ran out of mountains, so I was obliged to descend to the valley, cross ten or so miles of farmland, and climb the ridge on the other side.
The ground was flat, if a bit muddy, but the biggest problem was that there was exactly one place to water and poop, and nowhere to sleep between the mountains. (There were a few rivers and streams, but they ran by farms. Pooping rights had been taken. Yuck.)
It wasn’t a difficult day, but it was a long one, and the troubles with my feet hadn’t gone away.
I did get to Duncannon the next day, and was told by other hikers that I absolutely had to vist / should never enter the Doyle Hotel. It’s a landmark of the trail, a right of passage for thru-hikers, and is either a charming dive or a run-down wreck, depending on who you ask. I got a room because it was cheap and I hurt.
It turned out to be a pretty typical 1-star hotel/hostel run by a couple with knowledge of the AT. The building was “showing it’s age,” complete with chipped paint, water damage and warped creaky everything. Basically like every building in Baltimore. I felt right at home.
Speaking of Baltimore, Duncannon isn’t so far away if you’re smart enough to travel by car. Dan showed up, and I traded my boots for my older, lighter hiking shoes. I had noticed that none of the other hikers I met were wearing boots, and since mine were hurting my ankles, rather than protecting them, switching to something lighter was an easy choice. Instantly, my foot problems vanished. The blisters healed, the ankles stopped hurting, and my steps were (literally) lighter. Of course, nothing is free, and with the changes in my gait, my knees promptly started hurting instead. Great.
The AT in Pennsylvania is known for being rocky and dry. The former is absolutely true.
The trail is broken enough to intimidate a millipede, and while it looks even on the topo map, actually walking it feels more like a circus trick than a hike.
I’m kidding. About that last picture anyway, that one was about a hundred feet from the trail.
But at least those sections were dry. Whoever said PA was dry was a liar and a scoundrel.
When the trail isn’t rocky, it’s underwater. At one point, an entire ridge had decided to spite anyone who lacked the good sense to be born amphibious, and was flowing like a creek. Side trails had been worn along the sides of the trail/creek, which was fine until one of those decided moonlighting as a swamp sounded like fun and joined the party. Then I got to look for a side-side trail, or just go forward and will my feet to dryness later. The icing on the cake was the fact that the blazes, when there were any, were faded almost out of existence.
It might sound like I’m not having fun. This is not the case. Ever since the storm blew through, the days have been beautiful.
Aside from the pain in my knees, I feel great, and every time I look around there’s something cool to see.
It would just be nice if I could look around freely without the risk of maiming myself. It seems like I haven’t seen much of where I’ve been.
At the moment I’m posted up in a park in Port Clinton, resting my legs. Once I start moving again, I’ll have about another week before I can start complaining about New Jersey.
Total mile count: 227.6 (~10%)