Category Archives: November ’09

Alec Kennedy Shelter 1070.6, 11/25

Today I passed through a cute town, Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania.

An older man walked up to me, exchanging my maps for new ones at the post office. He said to me “I envy you. I respect what you are doing. And I wish I could be out there too.” He has passed the point in his life where he is free to safely roam and explore. Its a strange thought imagining that at some point in my life, I will find that some things that seemed normal will no longer be possible. I can’t imagine; I’m still on the uphill.

My two friends Cheesemeyer and Twisted Hair left the trail for Thanksgiving and my plan of double ramen noodles seems to be a respectable meal for tomorrow night.

I met a lady named Mossy who finished her thru-hike on October 15, this year. She has only been home for little over a month so it was great to talk to someone who has experienced everything I have been through. She lives just outside of Boiling Springs. We knew many of the same people, some of which I had to break the news to her had gone home.

When we were heading our separate ways, she turned around and said “Oh yeah and Happy Thanksgiving.”

I am in the shelter with a man far from as sweet as Mossy. He is also a thru hiker finishing his trip two days from now. A veteran just released, he served a few years in Iraq.

“Were you in the action?”

“Yeah, it was awesome,” he responded confidently.

That is enough to make any stranger wonder.

Darlington Shelter 1052.4, 11/24

I met up with Cheesemayer and Twisted Hair again today. Last time I saw them was in New Jersey. We hiked out from Duncannon in the rain.

I went to the diner late this morning and saw packs sitting outside. I walked in to see my friends making progress on plates of pancakes and french toast.

I ordered some french toast and we all patiently ate, waiting for the rain to dissipate as the afternoon came. Before we knew it, the afternoon came.

“You guys want to get lunch?”

“Hey, how convenient!”

We ended up walking back to the Doyle’s restaurant instead of eating at the diner. I admitted to Vicky, the owner of the Doyle, that I had not made it very far from when I left earlier that day. After lunch though, we did muster the inspiration to walk the twelve miles to the shelter, now in the rain and the dark.

Duncannon, Pennsylvania 1041.0, 11/23

I am staying at an old Budweiser hotel, The Doyle Hotel.

I was washing my clothes upstairs in the fourth floor bathroom. I walked up only in my long underwear (everything else needed washing). A very large, long haired man was filling a pot with hot water. A hiker? Definitely not.

“Can I just grab my laundry?”

“Ehh, yaeh ugh mine jus fil ma pot. Yuuggghhhh. Yuggghh. Yeugghhh. Jus fil’n ma pot.”

I took that as a yes.

The owners Pat and Vicky bought the restaurant, bar, and hotel from hiker hating previous owners. Pat and Vicky are just about the exact opposite, suiting their hotel to primarily hiker needs. They maintain an online register of hikers coming through-

Peter’s Mountain Shelter 1029.7, 11/22

Never, ever underestimate 270 rock steps. I felt like I was climbing one of those mystical Buddhist palaces up on top of a rocky mountain in the middle of nowhere. Two-hundred and seventy steps. Mind you they are not regulation step height. No, you would not have any confusion about whether to take double steps or single- no matter how tall you are.

I’ve got water now and that’s a good feeling. But my half mile detour down into the valley definitely was not the ideal way to acquire this necessity.

I took a nap today. I walked six miles from the shelter, felt overwhelmed with exhaustion as if doped, laid out my sleeping pad, jumped into my sleeping bag, and slept for four hours.

Coyotes are flipping out there. I have no idea how many but it sounds like enough to rip me up. I hope they cannot climb ladders and thankfully this shelter has a loft.

Rausch Gap Shelter 11/21, 1012.2

I walked up to the shelter dragging enough wood for a small cook fire. It seems the two guys already at the shelter had a different idea. They had already begun burning entire trees.

The two guys were brothers from an hour away.

“You’ll like my daughter,” Allen says to me. Well, well, well. I only met him thirty minutes ago.

His daughter and son came in a few minutes later. His son unpacks his stuff looks to me and says, “Hiker, you want a carrot?”

Before I could respond an entire carrot fresh picked from his garden this morning, still caked in dirt, was in the air coming at me. This night is going to be good.

Allen had brought entirely too much food, cooking spaghetti, preparing a fresh salad, boiling carrots, toasting a baguette.

Great food, blazing fire, cute girl, family with a sense of humor. And you thought I was going to be roughing it.

501 Shelter 11/20, 994.8

I woke up from a horrible nightmare of insane small town locals kidnapping me. It was like being in the middle of a Children of the Corn movie.

At least with the children of the corn nightmare I could wake. These footsteps and whispers all around me at five in the morning, I cannot wake from this. There are people out there. I wish it were I bear. I wish it were coyotes.

I lay in my sleeping bag, sweating buckets despite the near freezing temperature around me. What are these whispers? Who are these people? How many are there? Too many to count. Did I sleep to close to the road? Do they know I am in here? Do I get my knife out? Maybe they don’t even know I am here. Maybe there is nothing to be scared of. Do I get my knife out? Do I hide?

I want to fall back asleep! Bring me children of the corn!

Do I call my mom? Should I call out “Who’s there?” Should I pack my stuff up and leave quickly? Should I leave my stuff and run? I don’t want to be here! Try to fall asleep. I can’t sleep! It may not be safe to sleep!

I finally muster the courage to check outside. I peek around a corner of the shelter. A man is walking in the fog. There are other behind me. I quickly turn around and see other shadows near silently lurking in the winter fog. The first man sees me.

“Bill?” he whispers.

Do I respond? Is he safe? Do I run back in the shelter and grab my knife before he realizes his target is awake. “No,” my trembling voice responds.

He walks up to me abruptly with no words exchanged, then looks at me firmly and says “Where are you headed?”

“Georgia,” I say as I stumble back. “Um. What are you doing? I mean, when did you get here?”

“We got here last night around ten. We’re headed north and we’ll be out of here about nine.”

“How many of you are there?” Hearing that they were hikers made me feel safe. The nightmare was over.

“About twenty. We’re a boy scout troop from Pine Grove.”

Today marks the first time in my life I was happy to see boy scouts.

Eagle’s Nest Shelter 11/19, 979.7

They may make the local news. They’ll give the trail some publicity: their frozen bodies found just off the trail, mangled from crawling through the thorn covered vines, their pillow cases full of crap abandoned nearly a mile away.

I came up to them laying on the trail, arms as pillows beneath their heads. They are free and that is all that matters.

“Where you headed?”

“Virginia,” they say enthusiastically.

The big one looks at my pack. “You have enough food to get to Virginia?”

“Oh, god no,” I respond. “It’s going to rain you know.”

“Oh I guess we better get moving again.” They hop up and grab their pillows of what they call ‘gear’.

I can see the headlines. In a couple weeks: Two Pennsylvania Boys run from home have not been seen in three weeks.

In three weeks: Boys found on Appalachian trail, bodies mangled.

Their wet jeans and hoodies won’t do too much to insulate them from the cold. Their excitement won’t save them from the harm their naivety causes them. But we’ll see. I hope they leave the trail before it reaches that point.

Port Clinton Pavillion 11/18, 971.1

I walked to Burger King on a busy highway, constantly pushed by the wind of passing semi’s, constantly smacked by the debris thrown by the massive tires.

An older couple offered to buy me a burger. They were amazed at the trip I am enduring.

I walked into the nation’s largest outfitter, Cabela’s, to buy an article of orange to avoid being mistaken for a deer. An electronic buck call advertisement made the noise, much similar to flatulance, as I walked by. A man looked over at me when the noise went off. I smiled, nodded, and kept walking.

I then proceeded to Cracker Barrel where I rested my pack in the opposing seat, my date for the evening. A couple next to me, ignorant of the existence of a 2000 mile footpath in the woods, asked me about my trip. When they stood up to leave, the lady asked me what my name was. Typically I’ll say thirst because that is my name out here. But instead I told her my given name, Grayson.

“No way!” She looks over at her husband. I look at him. He looks at me. I look back at her and she looks back at me. “That’s our daughter’s name!”

When they left, the hostess came by and told me they had paid for my meal and the tip.

A family at the table had waited patiently (I am a very slow eater) for me to finish.

“Can we drive you anywhere? Get you anything?”

“Actually, do you know if there is a grocery store nearby?”

“Definitely. There’s one in Hamburg. We can give you a lift.”

When leaving the supermarket, I fashioned a sign out of a Little Debbie’s oatmeal cream pie box saying “PORT CLINTON”.

On my way to the street, walking in the parking lot, a car was heading out. I figured try my luck and put my thumb out.

“What’s your sign say? Oh, Port Clinton. Hop in!”

Southern hospitality really should be expanded to “human hospitality.”

George W. Outerbridge Shelter 11/16

I passed my friends today. I really enjoyed having companionship for a few days but I cannot afford to hike their pace.

So I am at the shelter alone again, nice fire rolling.

Today I hiked up on a lifeless ridgeline which was contaminated by a heavy metal processing plant just down the mountain. Now declared and EPA Superfund site, zinc and cadmium and other metals I guess made it nearly impossible for life to grow up here. Since the plant ran for nearly a century, the damage is pretty significant. The ridgeline is just a grassy plain with a few evergreen trees growing. Lifeless stumps scatter the plain, evidence that a forest did grow here some 100 years ago.

I dropped down into Lehigh gap to cross the Lehigh river. This descent is said to be one of the hardest sections south of New Hampshire but I don’t think I recall anything quite that insane anywhere. If I ever meet the guy who decided it would be a good idea to put a trail going down that 60 degree boulder field with crumbling scree, first I would shake his hand. I would say “Sir, that was so much fun. I really enjoyed myself, you gave me quite a challenge, mix things up a bit.” Then seconds later I would slap him across the face as hard as I could. ” Are you insane?! I could have died up there! One misstep and my leg is lodged in two boulders, me dangling, sheer cliff beneath me, my spot satellite messenger with its 911 button a mere foot away from the furthest reach of my hand. Seriously man! Get real. The Appalachian trail conservancy gives you 10 miles of trail to establish and maintain and look where you put it!”

Leroy A. Smith Shelter 11/15

Today I

Carried a conversation with a bird. I have no idea what I said in his language but I hope it was not offensive.

Today I

Saw a bear. My first wild bear ever. He sprinted his massive weight away quickly and despite the realization that he is afraid of me, it was frightening to see how quickly he could move his bulk.

Today I

Stepped in poop

Got really tired

Got un-tired. considered doing a thirty mile day

Then got really tired again and thought I might take a nap

Karate chopped a wasp

Yelled at a bird to shut up

Reminisced about the butane canister we threw in the fire at Brink Road Shelter

Twisted my ankle on a rock, cursed the rock

Cursed Pennsylvania for its rocks

Considered going home for thanksgiving

Considered skipping Pennsylvania because it sucks

Considered going home for good

Decided to continue hiking

Thinking about Georgia too much. Singing Ray Charles “Georgia always on my mind” too much.

Discovered a hole in my down booties

Discovered a hole in my shorts

Discovered a hole in my sock

Discovered a hole in the logic of a thru-hike.

Received a text message from a friend saying “I MISS YOU!” And felt everything seemed to be in its place.

Fell asleep to a crackling fire underneath the lights of a pitiful meteor shower.