Hi! I’m writing this post from Morgan Stewart shelter on the A.T. in New York, mile 1,437. I apologize for the lack of posts lately! Since I last wrote, I’ve finished the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Tomorrow morning I will finish New York and cross the border into Connecticut. The last few weeks have really flown by, and it’s finally starting to feel like I’ve made some progress on the trail.
Pennsylvania really took a toll on me, and I was more than ready to get out of there by the time I reached New Jersey. PA has the reputation of being the rockiest state on the trail, and it’s a reputation that is very well deserved. I entered the state feeling strong and consistently walking 20-24 miles a day, but as soon as I got to Duncannan, my pace slowed to about half of that. I found it impossible to get into my normal rhythm while hiking atop the sharp rocks. My feet took a serious beating, and I would often kick rocks on accident up to ten times a day. I choose my steps pretty carefully, but the rocks are nearly impossible to avoid. The worst are the small, sharp rocks which protrude from the ground at such an angle to perfectly trap your toes as you’re making a stride forward. I was honestly pretty sure that I had broken a toe or two at one point, but they seemed to have healed up alright. The balls of my feet and a few of my toes are still rather numb from walking on the pointy rocks all day, but I’m thinking it’s just temporary. As if the rocks in Pennsylvania weren’t enough, there were a handful of other things frustrating me as well.
Looking at the elevation profile for Pennsylvania, you might think the hiking would be pretty easy since it’s relatively flat. There are shorts ups and downs, but they’re all less than about 300 feet or so of elevation gain. Compared to the states further south or north on the trail, this is pretty petty. Unfortunately, the lack of elevation gain also means a lack of views. Most days in PA are spent following a flat-ish trail, which winds endlessly through the woods, following sharp jagged rocks from shelter to shelter. Even when there was a “view” indicated in my guidebook, it usually ended up being just a small opening in some trees where you could see down to a farm or two. Meh. To be fair, there were a couple of impressive vistas towards the end of the state. Most of my days in PA were also painfully humid and buggy, which made things even more enjoyable. Still, while I didn’t always look forward to the hiking in PA, I had some fun times and always found a way to enjoyed myself.
In all fairness, the first 40 miles or so were really enjoyable. Nice, easily trail through farm land in the Cumberland Valley. This stretch was also packed full of blackberries, and I feasted daily. I came across trail magic several times in the first few days as well, which is always a treat.
One of my favorite stops in PA was The Doyle Hotel in Duncannon. The place is a legendary old trail hotel. When I say old I mean OLD. I believe it was established in 1908. It’s catered almost exclusively to AT hikers for as long as anyone can remember though, and it hasn’t seen any repairs or remodeling since then either. The place is more or less falling apart, but it reeks of character. I opted not to rent a room for the night, but I did stop in for a few pints.
Another highlight of the trip was taking a nearo day at a brand new hostel near Port Clinton. The place was called Rock N’ Sole, and it was run out of the home of a friendly couple named Craig and Jodie. Craig is a recently retired state police officer, and he told me he only recently had the idea to start the hostel. He has converted his tool shed into a bunk room, and it’s actually a really nice space. The term “shed and breakfast” has never made so much sense. The real kicker with this place though were the home cooked meals from Craig’s wife Jodie. She made me a huge dinner plus dessert, and a delicious breakfast as well. She’s real easy on the eyes too. Sorry, Craig.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I couldn’t be more excited about getting into New England. It’s going to feel great to be back in some real mountains. I’ll do my best to start posting a little more regularly! More soon on New Jersey and New York…