Snapshot of our time in NH and WMNF!
I know I’ve been very behind on blog updates (and I hope to catch up once our trip is complete). I wanted to let all my readers know that Bottle Cap and I have arrived in Maine! Below are some photos (out of order b/c for some reason i cant figure out how to put them in the right order on wordpress)!
Hello everyone, sorry for the delay in blog updates. We’ve been severally limited by the lack of computers/libraries and time. Many public libraries only allow 1/2 hr to 1 hr on the computer and I like to include lots of details in my blog post. But I’ve decided in an effort to get as up to date as possible, I will be doing summaries/highlights of sections.
New Jersey was a fairly short state (only 72.2 miles) but we hit it during a big heat wave. The terrain was fairly easy with some rocks of Pennsylvania spilling over into the beginning of New Jersey. This is the ATC description of NJ: “Elevation changes are generally moderate and vary from relatively flat and gentle to short, steep, rocky pitches. Other sections cross bogs and wetlands, including a wildlife sanctuary that features a wide spectrum of bird species.” Unlike PA, where we did not enjoy 75% or more of the state, I would say NJ was about 50/50. Had we hit the state in a less buggy and hot time of the year, I think I would’ve enjoyed the hiking more.
I never thought mosquitos would be something that would drive me so totally and completely insane but they did. No matter how much Deet you sprayed and no matter what percentage the Deet was, you got big somewhere. I had many mosquito bites around my ankles just above my socks, my shoulders around my clothes, and my hair-line on my neck and forehead. I can see now how hikers get West Nile Virus or other mosquito-borne illnesses. There’s just no way to stop the biting. There were days that I could see swarms of mosquitos around Bottle Cap’s and Waffles’ heads and I’m sure they were around mine as well. A mosquito head net was the only thing that kept me sane and there were many times I contemplated buying a ridiculous full body bug net. The heat and humity were also very miserable and kept the bug numbers high. We walked through many swampy pond areas and rocky areas and PUD-dy areas.
As I stated before, NJ was not all bad. We were greeted into the state with Trail Magic from a group called Hike For Mental Health. They are trying to raise awareness and fundraise for mental health research. They had a large barbecue and cake and cookies and beer and all sorts of goodies that hikers love. We got to stay in an awesome hiker hostel in Vernon, NJ. It was a church basement and we slept on the floor, but they had a great Disney movie selection. We also got to stop in and eat at several delis along the way. There were also lots of picnic benches and fire towers. One of my favorite areas was High Point State Park. It’s located at the high point in NJ and they have a lake and concession stand. They also let thru-hikers camp in the park for free. The people of New Jersey were very nice also. They have a more abrasive way of speaking than in the South but once you can get passed that they are very nice. Natural water sources were hard to come by but that was never an issue. Many trail angles in New Jersey allowed hikers to use water at their house or set up water caches are road crossings. So it lightened our load when it came to carrying water. On our last day we got to see another bear.
The peak of the heat wave occurred while we were in New York. We hit several 90 and 100 degree days with 90% humidity. It was another relatively short state with only 88.4 miles According to the ATC: “Elevation changes are generally moderate and vary from relatively flat and gentle to short, steep rocky pitches. Natural water sources are scarce and sometimes polluted.” Looking back to New York, it was very similar to New Jersey. I enjoyed the trail about 50/50 but might’ve enjoyed it more if it were the peak of summer heat. The state also started out very bouldery. We were hiking up and over boulders 20 feet high (sometimes with the use of ladders) and then down 20 feet and then up 20 feet for about 10 miles. It was very exhausting. But after that exhausting day, Bottle Cap, Waffles and I got picked up by my parents to go into NYC. It was cool to walk around the city and we got a chance to visit the 9/11 memorial. I wish we could’ve had more time but hiking must continue. After NYC the heat exploded to an all time high. We tried waking up early and hiking only until noon and after 4 or 5 but even at those times it was hot. We were drenched in sweat by 9am. Our hiker stink also reached an all time at around that time. Fortunately New York had lots of lakes and lots of road crossing with food. One day was so hot we didn’t want to move after our first 7 miles. We called a friend and former thru-hiker, G-Hippie, and he picked us up on the side of the road and took us to a lake. At the lake, we also got some trail magic (dinner and breakfast) from a man named Joe. He cooked us eggs and made us sandwiches. Going over the Hudson River and Bear Mountain Bridge, we passed the lowest elevation on the AT (124 feet). We also went through a trail side zoo.
Our favorite part of New York was Pawling. It is one of the most hiker friendly towns we’ve beent through on the trail (only beaten up to this point by Hot Springs and maybe Glasgow). We decided to go into town when we realized Waffles and Bottle Cap were suffering from heat exhaustion. We decided to cut the day short and seek some air conditioning. We got a ride into town from Lynne who showed us around and dropped us off at the Laundromat. She gave us her phone number just in case we needed anything else. All the people of the town were extremely friendly to thru-hikers. They asked us about our trip and we even got free cookies from a local bakery. We did laundry and ate and by the time we finished it was after dark. We gave Lynne a call and instead of dropping us back off at the trail, she offered to take us back to her house. Her and her husband welcomed us into their home and let us shower and do the rest of our laundry. The next morning Lynne made us breakfast and dropped us back off on the trail. It was a great last day in New York.
When we reached the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia a couple of former thru hikers welcomed us to the suck. And despite a few low points in Virginia we had many more good timessince then. However I would say the complete suck started after Pine Grove Furnace in PA. So due to an absence of computer/library in awhile and the miserable times in this section I decided to do a summary blog post of the rest of Pennsylvania.
The beginning of this section started with some hot and humid days. The section up to Port Clinton was filled with PUDs and scattered rocks. The farther we got from Southern PA the more the rocks popped up and the Lea time the wad between rocks. The first town we came to was Boiling Springs. It was a huge disappointment. It is a designated AT community but we felt like hikers weren’t really welcome and they were trying to hide us. We encountered rudeness grin residents and weren’t welcome in a local restaurant. There was a free campsite but it was located next to railroad tracks with frequent trains coming through at all hours of the night.
After Boiling Springs the heat continued into our hike to Duncannon. We stayed at the Doyle Hotel which was very hiker friendly but a bit rundown. There was not much to do in town besides hang out at the hotel. After Duncannon the heat, rocks, and cicadas continued. In addition to the heat we faced isolated rain and thunder storms. The wet shoes resulted in blisters which lead to me falling and hurting my Achilles. On an afternoon after getting trail magic (one of the best so far) I realized I was not going to make it to the shelter before dark. We ended up taking a short vacation from the trail. We got a ride to Lickdale to stay in a hotel one night and free camping in Port Clinton for 2 days.
Port Clinton was a cute little town and close to the largest Cabella’s in the US. While there we got a fun visit from my college friends, Sarah and Elizabeth. Elizabeth took us to the Yuengling factory and we spent the night with her and Sarah in Readding.
From Port Clinton to Palmerton we were plagued with rain and mosquitos. The rain made rocks slippery and our feet were hurting. We went through some poorly maintained and poorly marked trail. By the time we reached Palmerton our feet were very sore with the worst yet to come. Palmerton was the first town we fully enjoyed though. From there we did 20 miles to Wind Gap. We camped behind a bar and they let us cook whatever we wanted from the kitchen for breakfast in the morning. Then it was 15 agonizingly painful miles to Delaware Water Gap (DWG). It included 5 straight miles of rock pointed straight up like daggers to our feet. We were so exhausted we took 2 days off. Those days allowed our friend Erik (aka Waffles) to finally catch up. And so ended our time in Pennsylvania. I apologized for typos but I typed this from my phone.
Day 78: Harpers Ferry Hostel to Dahlgren Campground (15.8 miles)
For breakfast, we ate all-you-can-eat make your own pancake breakfast. Pancakes are much easier to make with a stove and a grittle. We had the usual up and out of town but it wasn’t nearly as steep. At the top (Weverton Cliffs) we had a nice view of Harpers Ferry and the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers joining. The trail was mostly flat and a little rocky. We had lunch at a large park and civil war memorial. We got to take advantage of running water and the parks bathrooms. Anytime we can use a toilet with running water, Bottle Cap and I feel very spoiled. We raced to the campground, hoping to set up our tent before it started to rain. Fortunately, a heavy rain never came and it only sprinkled. At the campground, we ran into Jet Lag, Tags, Peaches, and Mother Teresa, who we have passed several times along the trail. Right before the campsite, we saw a fawn calling for its mom. It was very cute but ran away before I could get a picture. At the campground we also met a section hiker with an adorable puppy. I got to watch and play with the puppy while his owner went to the restaurant up the road. The campground was close enough to the road we ordered pizza and soda for dinner. Bottle Cap and I try to never miss an opportunity for town food.
Day 79: Dahlgren Campground to Raven Rock Shelter (18.8 miles)
It was a long mileage day, but the trail was flat enough that we made very good time. In the morning we passed another historic park with the first Washington Monument. Again, we got to take advantage of bathrooms and running water. The day was growing increasingly hotter and more humid. It started to feel like summer because of all the vactioners. There was only one tough climb right before the shelter. It was a beautiful, relatively new shelter (maintained and built by the PATC). The only downside was the far location of the water. Luckily a southbounder had given us a heads up and we filled up at the creek before hand. So far MD had made me feel like a hiking machine.
Day 80: Raven Rock Shelter to Antietam Shelter (12.0 miles)
Sadly, this was our last day in MD. We did a short hike to High Rocks which had a view of the upcoming PA valley. A gentleman with boyscouts told us that if we took the road down we would have a much easier hike to the Pen Mar State Park. So we did a short walk down the road to a nice park with bathrooms and soda machines. Jet Lag, Peaches, Mother Teresa, and Tags were all there and they had already called a shuttle into town. We resupplied at Walmart and had lunch at a Chinese buffet. While filling my prescriptions at Walmart, the lady behind the counter offered to give us a ride back to the trail head in her truck. She even took us by the post office. Just passed Pen Mar Park, we passed another state line and left Maryland for Pennsylvannia (aka Rocks-sylvannia). We went up and over a mountain and took at short break at Deer Lick Shelter. We had planned to move 2 shelters past to Tumbling Run but we heard many hikers were going there. We stopped early at a less crowded shelter with a nice water source with Jet Lag, Tags, Mother, and Peaches.
Day 81: Antietam Shelter to Quarry Gap Shelter (13.4 miles)
It poured rain on and off all night leaving us to pack up a wet tent in the morning. We had a nice little view at Chimney Rocks where the elevation change in PA to all the other states was very visible. All the mountains seemed so much smaller. We had a nice lunch at Rocky Mountain Shelter and then second lunch at Calcedonia State Park. It was a nice state park with a concession stand, bathrooms, and a pool. While eating we got to dry out our tent on the grass. We ended up stopping early at Quarry Gap Shelter because we ate way too much and it was so nice. It was like a home away from home complete with a sun dial and welcome gate. All of the nicest shelters and section of trail have been maintained by the PATC. Turtle and Snail were also at the shelter along with some friends who were hiking with them for a couple weeks.
Day 82: Quarry Gap Shelter to Ironmasters Mansion Hostel, Pine Grove Furnace State Park (16.9 miles)
Since we stopped early the previous day, we woke up early to try and catch hiker bubble. Pine Grove Furnace State Park is the other unoffical half-way point and home to the half gallon challenge (hikers eat a half-gallon of ice cream). Though we were not partaking in the challenge we had hoped to see other hikers try. We hiked the first 12 miles to the official half-way point very quickly for us. At the half-way point, we stopped to eat lunch and take pictures of our accomplishment. After moving so quickly my feet were sore so we completed the last 4 miles at our usual slow pace. We arrived at the park as hikers were recovering from the challenge. Tags, Jetlag, Mother, and Peaches were all there. We also ran into Blimey and Pipin the Elf again (no going by 2 Ducks and 2 Beers/Abe). While we waited for the hostel to open, we ate a pint of ice cream and some fried food. The hostel is also run by the PATC and caretaker, Roger. It is a converted mansion that used to be owned by the Iron Master of Pine Grove Furnace, an iron furnace. It was a very neat historic building. We spent the evening relaxing there.
Find pictures of this section here!
Day 74: Jim and Molly Denton Shelter to Rod Hollow Shelter (18.4 miles)
The beginning of the day we were plagued with cicadas. They were extremely loud in the valley around Front Royal, VA. In the field climbing out of the valley they were flying all around and into us. The morning was a tough climb out of the valley and we took a long lunch at Dick’s Dome (aka George’s Geodesic) Shelter. Our feet were definitely sore from our long previous day. Once we got out of the valley, the cicadas went away and soon the forest only had the sounds of birds. After the shelter, it was a very hot 8.4 miles to the next shelter. All the previous rain had made the trail very muddy and flooded. Once we reached the ridgeline, we were at Sky Meadows State Park, which was a large meadow. It was a very nice change in scenery. We hung out at the shelter with Goatman, Beetle Juice, 2 Pac, Obie and Shaman. Another big storm is expected to roll in so we planned to get up early to get to the hostel before it started.
Day 75: Rod Hollow Shelter to Bear’s Den Hostel (9.9 miles)
We woke up early to beat the expected thunderstorm with strong winds. We began our hike with humidity but no rain. Right as we started a difficult section known as the roller coast, the rain started. Right before it started, the sky got very dark and it felt like night had come. It poured rain for about an hour and then 30 minutes before reaching the hostel the sun came out. The farther we got along the roller coaster, the rockier the terrain got. Knowing more storm was coming, we didn’t take any break to get to the hostel. Bear’s Den was an amazing hostel, top 3 in the hostel’s we’ve stayed at so far. It was originally a summer home that was converted by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) into a hostel and you don’t just have to be a hiker to stay there. They offer a special for hikers of a bunk, soda, pizza, and pint of Ben and Jerry’s for $30. We spent the rest of the afternoon napping and watching Pirates of the Carribbean. And though the sun was out briefly in the afternoon, around 3pm the storm arrived with a huge downpour and crazy winds. Bottle Cap and I were very glad to be inside. We spent the evening hanging out with Shaman and Goatman. We got free dinner from Queen Deva of the Hot Springs Hiker Ministry of meatball subs. We ended up taking 2 more with us to pack out for lunch the next day.
Day 76: Bear’s Den Hostel to David Lesser Shelter (11.1 miles)
The day started out great. We had breakfast pizza and the weather was nice and cool. We finished the rest of the roller coaster feeling accomplished and we passed mile marker 1000! However, all the rocks and “ankle-breakers” of the roller coaster had my feet feeling sore. We took a long lunch at the Blackburn AT Center, another hostel hosted by the PATC. It was run by Caro, a thru-hiker from 2011. She gave us a soda and cookies before we got back on the trail. We had originally planned to go to a campsite closer to Harper’s Ferry but ended up stopping early at David Lesser Shelter. The shelter was huge! It had a porch and separate covered picnic area with a porch swing. Bottle Cap got a nice little fire going and it was a nice relaxing evening.
Day 77: David Lesser Shelter to Harpers Ferry, WV/Harpers Ferry Hostel, Knoxville, MD (10.7 miles)
We woke up early to do a quick 8 miles to Harpers Ferry to meet up with some friends from college. We officially left VA and entered WV (even though there was no sign to mark the occasion). We arrived at the ATC headquarters to meet friends, Laura and Sarah and a surprise visit from Elizabeth. We signed in at the headquarters and got our pictures taken out front. We are thru-hikers 510 and 511 to pass through. We ate lunch with Laura, Sarah, and Elizabeth before Laura had to return home to norther Virginia. Sarah and Elizabeth then shuttled us to Walmart before taking us back to Harpers Ferry to look around. We walked across the Potomac River Bridge to cross the WV-MD stateline (sadly no sign) before Sarah dropped us off at the Harpers Ferry Hostel. Sarah was awesome and paid for one of our night stays so we could afford to spend the night in a bed. The hostel was a very nice place with a very large kitchen. We helped the caretakers make a dinner of chilli and dessert of cupcakes and brownies.