3: Allentown to George W Outerbridge Shelter
I woke up in my tent with a migraine still. The good news is that, though it had rained last night, the wind had completely dried my tent off. No one likes packing up a wet tent.
As I packed, Disco ran off with my bagel. He didn’t drool on it, and dropped it 20 feet away, so I ate it anyways.
The first 7 or so miles were beautiful. Wide service roads, few rocks, pretty flat.
I started along Knife’s Edge. I mean, I’m afraid of heights on a good day. This section was terrifying to me.
But as usual, I survived. There was more butt-scooting than I’d care to admit.
A rock scramble under transmission line
And then on to one of the most beautiful sections of PA yet. There were several great campsites that I would have stayed at if not for the lack of water.
MVP: getting over Knifes Edge!
LVP: blisters 😦
Day 4: Allentown to Leroy A Smith Shelter
Pennsylvania is a lot of rocks, that’s true; but it continues to come up with new and novel ways to make you walk on those rocks. Big rocks, small rocks, pointy rocks, rounded rocks; rocks in full sun, rocks in puddles, rocks in the shade. Today, I think I walked over all of them.
I was a little slow getting around this morning. I sat around chatting with Zach and generally being a mess until we both left out at the same time.
A quick mile put us at the road to Palmerton. I got out my ground cloth and held it out; I’d written “ride to town” and “ride to trail” on different parts. A car pulled over in one minute.
I ordered an omelette with bacon, cheese, onions, peppers, and spinach. It came with home fries and toast.
It was delicious.
And then I ordered a piece of blueberry-peach crumble pie. Even better!
We took care of some errands and loaded up on water. We wouldn’t have any chance to de until we got to the shelter tonight. That’s a big water haul for the AT, where I can usually get by with one liter all day. I carried 3 liters of water and bought 2 24-oz Gatorades. My pack was so heavy.
We hitched back to trail
There are a few sections famous in PA. Knifes Edge is one, but when you ask someone about the rocks in PA, they always say “Lehigh Gap is the worst.”
Well they were right. An entire mile of scrambling, crawling, climbing, and scootching along huge boulders all stacked into a mountain. Knifes Edge was more terrifying, but this was more challenging. While you climbed, you gained 1000 ft of elevation, too.
And of course, you’re doing this with hiking poles and packs…in full sun. Not a bit of shade to be found.
The real insult is that even after you finish the big pile of rocks, you go through another pile of rocks. And then walk in grass (no shade) for a while…and then climb rock stairs and then another pile of rocks and the another pile of rocks. It doesn’t end.
But it did end eventually, and soon we only had 13 miles to go. PA was only done with the big rocks, though. We still had constant small and toddler-sized rocks to walk over. All day.
It was a rough day. Meanwhile I’m chugging water and Gatorade and massaging my feet.
Luckily Zach was great company, and we spent the entire day in conversation.
And soon? Well soon we made it to the shelter. Moss and the Wiz and Grateful Dad were all set up in the tent site, so we joined them.
A quick ramen and hot sauce dinner, 4 Advil, and a Benadryl later and I’m ready for bed. The weather is perfect for sleeping and I’m ready for a peaceful, headache-free sleep.
Tomorrow is a 14, then just 9 on Thursday I to Delaware Water Gap.
And then I’m done with Pennsylvania!!!
LVP: blisters 😦
Day 5: Leroy A Smith to A Field
It’s not often that I’m well and truly done with hiking. I usually love it. But something about Pennsylvania just really gets me down.
I woke up several times during the night, hearing loud shouts somewhere in the woods. I finally managed to get a good sleep, but I was tired when I finally got out of my tent.
A descent and then a steep climb up was our only major climb of the day…but it was hard. We were both sweating bullets when we got to the top, so we stopped again. The rocks had our feet throbbing. I finished my water and sat with my socks and shoes off, trying to cool down.
The walk was brutally hot. The trees hadn’t leafed out yet, so the entire day was full sun with barely any place to stop in the shade. Zach finished his water quickly into that stretch. The rocks were relentless. We got lightheaded, and focused only on getting to the spring.
Seeing the sign for the spring gave me chills. We laughed giddily and nearly ran down. We dropped packs and poles and headed straight for the water, gulping down a full liter each without stopping.
As we cooled off, Zach read that this water specifically was supposed to be treated. Whoops. We treated the next liter.
We stayed there for an hour almost. I ate some more, trying to replace the salt that now caked my shirt.
I soaked my bandana and tied it around my neck, going for a French look.
When we got up to walk again, we took the bypass instead of hiking Wolf Rocks. No regrets.
We came across Moss, Dad, and Disco shortly after we rejoined the AT. The Wiz had told them there was no water, so they hadn’t gone to the spring. They were desperate, so of course we gave them water. They had a warm coke they shared with us. The trail provides.
The last 1.8 to the shelter felt quick. The shelter was full, but the water source was a pump up a hill. We hopped up there, Dad behind us, and drank our fill. I even stuck my head under the pump and washed salt and dirt out of my hair.
Moss and Disco came next, and the. The five (six) of us went another .3 to a big open field to tent.
Friends, it was a hard day. For the second day in a row, I wondered what I was doing on the AT. Pennsylvania just takes it out of me. I wondered if I even wanted to hike in June. It’s so miserable being hot and sweaty constantly, that lightheaded feeling when you’re going uphill.
Tomorrow is Delaware Water Gap. There’s a free church hostel, and I’m going to take a day or so to get my head straight for New Jersey. I need to let some blisters heal up too. Sometimes we need to reevaluate life, and that’s ok.
But don’t worry, I’m not quitting the section. I just need to take some time so I can enjoy it again 🙂
MVP: tramily (trail family)
Trip total: 69.9