Day 80: Elizabethtown, PA. to Darlington Shelter (11.4 mi)
We had a leisurely morning of getting a few things together and ate avocado toast with pink Himalaya sea salt and truffle olive oil at Cindy’s house. It was so delicious! We also ate leftover portobello mushrooms, sweet corn salad and Kathy’s vegan 7 layer dip. We were pretty full by the time we hit the road.
We drove to Duncannon, PA, a small trail town where we had started our journey 2.5 months ago. Cindy and Jim hiked with us for the first bit, but it was 2:00 in the afternoon and with the heat index it was “feels like 102 degrees.” It was beyond hot and humid and we had a big, steep climb right out of Duncannon.
Fresh Feet and I were pretty sweaty when we got to the top, but also relieved that the climb wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it would be!
We took a break at the cut off trail for the shelter at our 4 mile point and ate a bar.
We then hiked the next 7.2 miles without stopping because the mosquitoes were so bad. We wore our bug nets and cruised. We had some annoying rocky Pennsylvania trail for about 4 miles, but then afterwards the trail mellowed out quite a bit, but was HOT!
I’m wearing new shoes, Salomons, and I can feel every rock under my feet. My feet hurt a lot on the bottom like they did at the beginning. I might order a new pair of Hokas instead. The Salomon fit just doesn’t seem to be right for my foot.
We got to our shelter and met a few SoBos and had dinner. The mosquitoes had been terrible all day, but actually weren’t too bad while we were setting up our tent and making dinner luckily. It was hot today, but I think hiking from 5-7 pm while the sun was getting lower was much better!
There were a lot of gunshot noises (shooting practice?) and the crickets were SO loud!
Jamie offered about 6 times to not hike and take these three days off, but I was glad we got out here and put in some miles. We will be getting off trail in two more days for double funerals. :(
Day 81: Darlington Shelter to Alec Kennedy Shelter (18.2 mi)
We woke up at 4:40 am to get a super early start today. The heat was predicted to be as bad as yesterday (mid 90s with a “feels like” in the 100s) and we had a mandatory 18.2 mile day between shelters with a 10 mile stretch of no water and a lot of exposed field walking. Needless to say, we wanted to beat the heat as much as possible.
We hit the trail at 5:30 am with headlamps for the first hour. We crushed and knocked out 14 miles (including the flat, exposed 10 mi stretch) before 10:30 am. We walked into Boiling Springs, PA which is a small town right on trail with a gushing very cold spring in the center of town. We decided we would hang out there for the day and wait out the heat since we only had 4 more miles until the shelter. The blistering humid heat made it impossible to even exist outside.
The walk this morning was EASY! Omg! It was incredible how the terrain can be so different and feel SO much easier. Wow. It puts the tough north terrain even more in perspective!
We went to a cute cafe just 1 block off trail called Cafe 101 and got vegan wraps and sandwiches and beverages.
I ordered new shoes (Hoka Torrent) to Cindy’s house since the new pair of Salomons were killing my feet.
We then went to the ATC and hung out in A/C and waited out the heat with three other hikers (Colorado, Rocky, and Rebound). We registered as thru hikers and finally got our tags for our packs (the secret code that you are a thru hiker).
We then decided to eat dinner at the tavern together because it was still super hot at 5:00, and we finally hit the trail at about 7:00 pm. Sunset was at 7:35 pm and was gorgeous. The first two miles was field walking with a beautiful sunset with Rebound and then we had two small and gradual climbs with headlamps. I hiked with Rebound in the dark (a 26 yo woman from NYC) and worked up quite a sweat in the crazy humidity. When we got to the shelter, Fresh Feet’s backpack was there but he was nowhere to be found. He had gone to the spring (which was kinda far!) and brought back tons of water for everyone. He had endless energy due to his excess town coffee intake all day and had a hard time settling down for bed.
We set up the tent in the shelter with Rebound as we had the shelter to ourselves (Colorado and Rocky and a few other people rented closer to the AT).
Day 82: Alec Kennedy Shelter to Pine Grove Furnace State Park (15.3 mi)
We woke up before sunrise, but later than I would have liked due to the heat wave. We were on trail by about 6:45 am. Sunrise is now at about 6:30, which is a little bit of an adjustment because it was about 40 minutes earlier in Maine, just a few days ago!
I have noticed the past few days that my internal compass can feel the change from going NoBo to SoBo. In the mornings, the sun is on my left side, which feels odd, feels almost like evening sun or like I’m going the wrong way. I kept wanting to turn my body around and walk the other direction. I had become so accustomed to the sun patterns headed north that my sense of direction felt off now headed south. I didn’t even realize I was in tune with the sun’s position in the sky until we switched directions.
I literally did not stop once today. I just plowed on from 6:45 am to 12:45 pm without stopping at all. My pee breaks were pack on and quick, I ate while walking, I made a skratch drink in my water bottle while walking, and I even took off my shirt (pack on) while walking. It was absolutely scorching hot and the bugs (biting flies and mosquitoes were bad). Stopping meant prolonging the misery, so I tried to maintain forward progress at all times.
The last 6 miles were just so brutal on such easy terrain. The heat was absolutely killer. I felt myself starting to slow down and fade. I dug deep and maintained nutrition even though the heat made me lose my appetite. I ate my cliff chews, that helped, and with 2.7 mi left I drank some skratch, which gave me a tiny boost as well. Fresh Feet was struggling today too. It was just so hard when it is “feels like 100+ degrees” outside with insane humidity. With about 0.5 mi left until the parking lot where we would end our day, I got into the very cold river and splashed off. It was SO refreshing and completely necessary.
We finally got to Pine Grove Furnace State Park where we met Jim and got in the van with A/C! Hallelujah! It felt so good to be done for the day and get off trail in that nasty heat. Ugh.
We will now be off trail for 5 full days for double funerals in PA.
Days 83 - 87: 5 day zero for double funerals in PA.
We took 5 full days off trail for double funerals and a transition day to wait out some rain. We resealed our rainfly with silicone sealer, retreated our gear with permethrin, and washed our gear and packs with special gear wash.
We started to see a lot of news about hurricane Florence gaining strength and upgrading to a category 4 storm and worried some about the creek and river fords ahead. We will likely have to do some road walk arounds, which will add mileage and might even have to get off trail for the hurricane as well. We will play it by ear, day by day. I added an umbrella to my gear for this next portion (thank you Cindy for the pink umbrella!) :)