Day 19-20: May 2, 2023 Clark’s Valley Road to Urgent Care Elevation 0 Miles /138.6; 1167.7

Yep, you read that right. After a restless night, with my knee injury, I realized I should probably seek professional help. My friend Couch to Trail suggested that I should get a ride out. “Why don’t you call JZ?” After sitting in my tent for an hour or so, I succumbed and made the call. JZ was more than accommodating, especially due to the fact, he was just waking up. I slowly, ever so slowly packed up my belongings and gimped over to the parking lot. Within a few minutes, my ride was here.

Overlooking Duncannon

JZ is one of the kindest souls I’ve met out here. He suggested that we first go to the Urgent Care. Dang it, that’s number two person that’s thinking the same thing I’m wondering. Ends up there’s one that he’s heard about, on the way. We stop in and I’m the only one in the Lobby. What’s the chances of that? Looks like they will see you right away. Love these small towns and their efficiency.

JZ- Trail Angel of the Year

The Doc is an Ultramarathon Runner. I am starting to think this State of Pennsylvania is the fittest state next to Colorado. He pokes and prods at my knee, irrigates the snot or dirt out of it, and comments on the inflammation. I don’t think you need a stitch, but being you haven’t had a Tetanus for over 10 years, you’re due for that. Also, I want an X-ray to make sure you didn’t crack your kneecap! Say what? That would be the end of this little adventure.

That’s a Good Looking Knee & Patella

The nice lady comes in and she takes some photos. The last one in a doozie as I lay on my belly and bend my knee. That’s not happening. This is when I realize I have really done something wrong. She props my leg up and takes the X-ray. I roll off the table with very little grace, and wait.

The Nurse comes in and gives me my Tetanus Shot. That was painless. She’s really good, or has had a lot of practice. Shortly afterwards, the Doc returns. He has good news. All looks fine with my knee, my knee cap, just the normal arthritis that we get when we do what we do. That’s the best news ever. He does suggest that I take a couple of days off as the Rocks in Pennsylvania are “No Joke!” And he prescribes me Doxycycline as a preventative for Lyme Disease. He states that this is the number one area for Ticks and Lyme. I’ll take the meds! The plan is, if in fact I get a tick embedded in my skin, I remove it immediately, and take two pills. If after 5-10 days I get a low grade fever, rash, headache or anything that suggests it was an infective tick, I take the rest of the pills for 2 weeks. Seems a bit overkill but Lyme Disease is one of the fastest growing illnesses in these parts. Something like Pickleball is to me, Lyme Disease is to Doctors. It’s not anything to mess around with!

Tiny Little Ticks are Big Bad News

Once I’m discharged, my new friend JZ drives me to CVS Pharmacy to get my preventative prescription. I pick up some Vitamin I, also known as Ibuprofen, and we are off again. JZ shows me the finest parts of his county and we arrive at his Homestead near Dauphin.

1985, before the internet, JZ was looking for land. He wanted something that backed up to USFS Property where he had no real neighbors, just the critters and birds. After looking through real estate magazines, he landed on this parcel. He originally bought 25 Acres, but eventually purchased the adjacent 25 Acres. It’s quite the place.

JZ’s Slice of Paradise

He built his home, as his Dad was a Framer and learned much from him. JZ had friends that helped him with the electrical and plumbing. It’s a beautiful log cabin, with wrap around porch and all the wildlife you can handle.

Inside the Cozy Cabin

As I sat outside, I can’t tell you the countless variety and species of birds. They flock to his bird feeders and water bowls, like a sanctuary. He’s the modern day Noah, as they seem to know him by name. His daily purpose is caring for the wildlife, that seems to never cease.

Around 5pm, JZ’s bother Jim and his friend Jim came over for dinner. JZ did all the cooking. BBQ Chicken, Asparagus and Small Potatoes. I found a box of Spiced Pumpkin Cake in the cupboard and made dessert. For all of you who know me, this is not my forte. I’m not by any stretch a baker but I did the best I could. We sat around and shared stories of our travels, talked a bit about Vanguard Money Market Accounts, and when am I going back to the trail. Dinner was great and the men stayed late talking Man-Talk. I retired to the kitchen and do what I do best. Clean-up after a wonderful feast of food!

Dinner with Jim, Jim & JZ

I had some sleep to catch up with so after the guys left, JZ watched some Women’s Basketball. I attempted but decided by 8:30pm, I was ready for bed. The circadian rhythms are very pronounced in the woods. I wake up at the crack of dawn, and when the moon comes up, I am looking for a place to lay my head. It works well for me, and it seems to support my hiking habit too.

Breakfast & Dinner. What a treat! Sure Beats Hiker Food.

Last night, a bear showed up. It attempted to knock down one of the bird feeders. I guess they want to be fed too. It’s a common occurrence around here. JZ wasn’t surprised. There’s a bear that frequents his property but the difference between the Pennsylvania Black Bears and the Tahoe Black Bears, they don’t try to break into your house. This Bear and others are quite content with finding whatever they can outside and going back to their dens, caves or whenever they lay their heads. These are good mannered and well-behaved bears out in these parts of the woods.

Big Black Bear at JZ’s Bird Feeder

Day Two: I’m just sitting around the cabin today, ice pack on my knee and watching the birds and deer hang out. JZ is playing Basketball with his buddy’s. He plays 2-3 times a week. Ends up that basketball has been his game since high school. We all have our sport or two, maybe three, so it’s his thing! Along with backpacking every long-distant trail you can name. He’s definitely beat me at that!

So the game plan is…Come Sunday, JZ will take me back to the trail. I will be overjoyed to get backpacking again and make my way to Port Clinton. From looking at my FarOut App, the trail continues on the Ridgeline for the most part. The next 30-40 miles will be slow going until I can get my knee bending again. Just in time for the Real McCoy Rocks of Pennsylvania. I may be looking at Slackpacking options, for the last 100 miles of this fine state. I’ll let you know 🤔

Day 9: May 25, 2023 Duncannon to Clark’s Valley Road Elevation +2669/-2437 Miles 18.0/138.6; 1167.7

I slept in a bed last night. There is something pretty special about laying on a squeaky bed and appreciating every sound it makes. At 5:30am, the siren went off, like what you would hear if there was an air raid. Only one burst of song and then it stopped. I laid in bed and wondered if I should get up but decided, if it was really important, it would blast again. About five minutes later, a Fire Truck was blaring its horn heading down Main Street. Maybe they have a Volunteer FD and that’s how they notify the crew, that they have a call. Excitement in Duncannon.

My Bed at the Doyle Hotel

I rolled out of bed, I love writing that, and headed across the street to the Cafe. Konza, Bergie and Couch to Trail were there. We all had our gourmet meals and hit the trail. Couch to Trail ended up finding a guy to slackpack her. Dang, I would’ve jumped on that if I knew earlier. Next time. Slackpacking is when you carry bare bones gear, water, food and a jacket. All your other provisions are released to a trustworthy person who, after you’re done hiking, will bring it back to you. She paid $30 to have the pleasure of not carrying 30 pounds on her back. A buck a pound. Once we hit the real deal Pennsylvania Rocks, I’ll be looking at slackpacking!

The Doyle- Founded 1903

I left Duncannon after breakfast, with my pack and all. The trail walks through town, in front of homes and schools. It reminds me of Americana, this town of Duncannon. It’s as close to Mayberry RFD that I’ve ever experienced.

Main Street in Duncannon

I crossed over a couple of bridges and the confluence of rivers , crossed the railroad tracks and made my way back up into the woods. It was a good climb with rocks made into stairs. I passed Six Mile who was going slower than I. She does about Six Miles a day, and stops at pretty much every shelter along the AT. But bless her heart, she’s doing it, with a smile on her face.

Sweet Ladies From Mexico Going For A Walk in the Woods

Around lunch, just after crossing the big highway, Trail Angel Twizzler set up some chairs and was giving hikers magic. He had sodas, peanut butter crackers, oranges and apples, and homemade banana bread his wife made this morning. It would’ve been rude not to partake so I had one of everything. Couch to Trail, Medusa, Slip and I hung out and heard stories from Twizzler. He’s lived here for the past 40 years and knows every inch of the trail we’re walking on today. He does trail maintenance with his wife, hunts in these parts and has a heart for hikers. What a sweet guy.

Twizzler and the Ladies

I stayed way too long as I still had another 9-10 miles to go, but it was hard to leave. Typically lunch is on the trail, maybe sitting on a rock or laying my mat on the ground, but when you can sit in a proper chair, that’s heavenly. Oh the simple pleasures.

Great Views of Pennsylvania

The rest of the day was pretty much a ridge walk until the last downhill. The trail was manageable but there’s always some boulders, or fallen rocks or downed trees that you need to attack. I had one little root that grabbed ahold of me, and I went down like a downed Sequoia! Ouch, my knee found the one pointed rock on the trail and gouged it pretty bad. Now this is ironic, as I went down for the count, I rolled over to access myself and my First Aid kit popped out of my front pouch! I cleaned up my wound, put some Neosporin on it, placed one of my big bandaids over the cut and wrapped my leg with tape. A bit overkill, but I figured it would hold me over till I hobbled to camp.

I made it to camp around 7pm, which is a bit later than usual. I set up my home and…. Blew up my brand new air mattress. Oh my goodness, what a wonderful thing to lay on a cushion of air. I reinspected my wound and cleaned it again, put a new bandaid on it and wrapped it. Now to get all comfy and cozy. All is good except for the fact that some military helicopter keeps buzzing the campground. In between their night maneuvers, there’s a frog who has a lot to sing about. Thankfully I’m lying on a fully inflated pad so all is good in my noisy and wonderful world.

Waterways in Duncannon

Day 8: May 24, 2023 Darlington Shelter to Duncannon Doyle Hotel Elevation +1528/-951 Miles 10.2/120.6; 1149.7

I slept pretty darn good. I’m wondering if maybe I’m getting used to this mat of mine? That’s funny! No, I’m just accepting it. Packed up and hit the trail at 6:30am. I’m getting stuff packed up much faster these mornings and wasn’t too terribly hungry. I’ll eat breakfast on the trail which is a Biscotti, Peanut Butter and a Fruit Roll-Up. Eat-N-Go. Oh, that’s not my typical breakfast but it works in a pinch. And yes, my very important green juice!

Morning Sunrise

Spider-Web Slayer. That’s who I am today. The first hiker on the trail deals with the breaking through the many webs that the countless spiders have spun overnight. It’s a wicked job but someone has to do it. Today, that’s me. Once I broke through the forest, the trail opened up to the Pennsylvania Fields of Grain. As I was recording my morning video, a hiker comes up behind me. “I just love Pennsylvania and all these fields!” That’s the attitude. Most people gripe about the Pennsylvania rocks, but she sings praises over the wide open spaces and the never-ending fields. Her husband is a bit behind. His pace is more like mine, slow and steady. She continues on, he attempts to catch her, and I stop to take photos.

Pennsylvania Fields

Today is a great day for hiking. I really haven’t had any rain besides the one evening. The heat is acceptable however the humidity is coming. Typically by the days end, I am a sweaty mess. I’m thinking it’s a matter of time and I’ll be used to the 100% drench fest, and my skin will be thanking me for the added moisture.

Rocky Overlook

I had a bit of a climb and made it to this beautiful overlook. You could see the Susquehanna River and the upcoming town of Duncannon below. It was one of the best views I’ve seen from the trail this week. I sat for a bit and was able to get a voice mail from Shelly, my friend from the Post Office. She said that my package has left Sacramento and is headed to Carlisle, which is close to Boiling Springs. There may be a possibility that I could be sleeping on air tonight!

Triple Crown 2Weeks & 3 Days

The trail follows the Ridgeline for quite sometime. It’s rocky and not much chance of gaining any speed. I met a Sobo Hiker who has a Triple Crown ball cap on his head. Hmm, is he the real deal? Ends up he sure is. His Trail Name is 2 Weeks & 3 Days. When he left home to hike the AT, his wife said, “I’ll give you two weeks and three days and you’ll be coming home!” Well he kept walking and finished the AT, then continued on to hike the PCT and finally the CDT. Now he section hikes smaller 200-300 miles at a time. He was so much fun to talk with.

Two “Triple Crowners”

Another guy shows up who is a day hiker. He stops to talk with us and ends up he’s a Triple Crowner too and has hiked the PCT four times, starting back in 1977. I am among greatness on the trail. I curtsy and applaud them for their amazing feats! The new guy’s name is JZ which was a name he had in school. His real name is Jeff Zimmerman and seems like it was a good fit for a Trail Name. He lives near Duncannon.

PO Employee of the Year Shelly

This is my opportunity. So JZ, what are you doing today? I’m hoping my package will be delivered in Boiling Springs and could use a ride? JZ is thrilled to help me. Being a fellow thru-hiker many times over, he had many people that helped him along the way, and wants to pay it forward. JZ is a much faster hiker than I, surprise, surprise, and tells me he’ll meet me at his car at the bottom of the trail. Perfect plan. I scoot on after him and manage to arrive 10-15 minutes later.

Air Mattress in Hand- Hallelujah

JZ has mapped out our route, stops at the Convenience Store so we can get some cold drinks, and we are off for our road trip. As we are talking, I realize he is a true legend in the hiking community. JZ started hiking in the 70’s and has backpacked with Stridor and Monty. The three of them are the brains to the ADZPCTKO Annual Day Zero PCT Kick-Off. This was a festival at Moreno Park near the Mexico Border and welcomed hikers of all abilities. They have seminars on hiking in the desert, where to find water, how to prepare for the Sierras, and all things PCT. It was where I went the year before I hiked the PCT to figure out what I was getting myself into.

Monty & JZ The Brains of the ADZPCTKO

JZ and I shared stories all the way to Boiling Springs. Ends up that when I hiked the PCT in 2015, I met Monty. He and another hiker were carrying Strider’s ashes to the northern terminus of the PCT, the day I finished. I was hiking over the final pass, and as I was descending to the monument, I stopped and talked with Monty. I remember him telling me they had just returned from the last request that their friend had asked of them. Take me to the monument one more time. And being best of friends, that was exactly what they did. They carried Strider and spread his ashes where he wanted. The place he loved the most.

Strider, Monty & JZ on Rainer

JZ drove me to Boiling Springs and I retrieved my prize possession, a brand new inflatable mattress. Hallelujah, I will in fact be sleeping on air tonight! We stopped and had lunch at Cafe 101, the same place I had breakfast yesterday. We tried calling Monty but he wasn’t home and left him a message. What a small world we love in. I would’ve never ever dreamed that I would be sitting here with JZ, reminiscing of people we missed, on our many trails. What a day we shared, indeed

JZ got me back to Duncannon. Being it was getting late, I decided to stay at the infamous Doyle Hotel. It was built in 1903 and has had an interesting past. Many famous people have spent the night here with the shared baths and a very loud bar! I ran into a couple of thru-hikers Konza and Bergie. They invited me to sit and have a beer. Hmm, I think I can do that. I ordered the most scrumptious Burger ever and drank a local IPA. They had Karaoke playing and we were entertained by the locals. What an end to the most perfect day!

Doyle Hotel Owner John & His Son
Words to Live By.

Day 7: May 23, 2023 Boiling Springs to Darlington Shelter Elevation +1528/-951 Miles 14.3/110.4; 1148.6

Lisa’s Hostel was nice and cozy. I was the only one there for the night. It’s something special to have a place to lay out all your gear, clothing, food and stuff. Just me, myself and the Holy Spirit. Lisa and her husband Sean live in the house. She’ll come out and check on me, make sure all is well and goes back to her space. It works well. This morning, move out time is 8am. That works fine being the Post Office doesn’t open till 9am. We hit the road and she drops me off at Cafe 101. The only restaurant in town.

Hungry Hikers at Cafe 101

I walk inside and Won’t Get Up-Will and a new hiker that I haven’t met is sitting with her. They invite me for breakfast as they just got there too. Before I know it, the table is full of hikers, six of us in all. It’s great getting to meet new hikers daily. Ends up the three that just sat down started two days before me in Harpers Ferry. I’m sure we will all be hiking around each other as I saw the three of them a couple of days ago at the Half-Gallon Challenge. Everyone orders tons of food, like they are getting ready for battle. In a sense, I guess we are.

Leaving Boiling Springs

The conversation was, are you getting off trail to take a Zero? I’ve decided I’d rather take Nero’s (half days off) as my body seems to prefer that more than an entire day off (Zero). I’ll see. That can always change. My only concern at this point is getting to the Post Office to retrieve my very important and must have, new inflatable mattress. We all devour more food than is humanly possible and I head to the PO. Won’t Get Up-Will is doing the same. She has her resupply box waiting.

Typical Pennsylvania Farmhouse

Will gets her box and I get a blank stare. The guy behind the counter is confused why my Overnight Express Box is still in Sacramento. Well that makes two of us. Shelly, the gal who I talked with the day prior has little hope that I’ll be getting my box today or tomorrow. So, sad faced and all, I call home. George is covering the Cafe at Bayside while I’m gone, and promises to get to the bottom of this. The wrath of George is a fierce reckoning that one doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of. Thanks babe for going to battle for me.

Many Step Ladders in Help Access Private Property

I call one of the local drivers in town Michael. He was recommended by Lisa for a ride or slackpack options. Michael who is well known at the PO, and I come up with a plan. Once my box arrives, he will transport it to me, wherever I happen to be. Now that’s better service than the PO and I betcha he won’t charge me $65. Problem solved. Now I just wait.

Nice Flat Trails along Tall Grasses

Heading back to the trail is the best part of my day. It’s flat, mostly shaded and all my worries disappear. The new lady I met at the restaurant is right behind me. We start talking and her trail name is “Couch to Trail.” No explanation required. She just lost both her Mom and Dad this past year. She felt that she had to do something to process her grief, so both her and her husband started in February at Georgia. After two weeks, her husband lost interest but she continued on. She’s been off and on due to injuries but she has all intentions of getting to Mt Katahdin by mid-August. She’s feisty enough that I’m sure she’ll make it happen,

Couch to Trail on the Boardwalk

Couch to Trail is a Christian. Yeah! I have my people out here. We shared our stories of my losing my Mom and her, both parents. It was such a blessing to meet someone out here that understands the pain and loss that we both are experiencing. It’s interesting how the Lord has placed these powerful women amidst this trail. Won’t Get Up-Will is carrying her fathers ashes with her. She’s retracing the route her and her father did in the early 2000’s. We all have stories if we just take the time and share them.

Graffiti along the Way

Around 2pm, we make a left tun onto the Highway and I see this picnic table and a Milk/Bee Stand. It’s a Shed that has a Refrigerator/Freezer and another Stand-up Cooler for drinks. It’s called Trail View Market and they sell Homemade Ice Cream along with Raw Milk, Farm Eggs, and other items that hikers, and locals desire. Oh my, no one’s tending the place and it’s all on the Honor System. There’s a cash box with a notebook. Write in your purchase and place the money in the box.

Trail View Market

I proceed to have a small container of Cookies and Cream. As soon as I taste it, I realize this is homemade ice cream. It melts in your mouth and you are craving more. I can’t help myself, and go back for another container of Vanilla, Couch to Trail gets Chocolate and two other older guys show up and indulge.

Titus and Joshua – Super Awesome Kids

Then these two young boys show up. They are Mignonettes and are part of the family that own this store. The older boy Titus tells me his older sister makes the ice cream. He apologizes that he doesn’t have any Chocolate Milk because they are out of glass bottles. Oh, I have a plastic bottle. Would you be able to get me some? You know it. He says he just needs about five minutes and he’ll be back with my Chocolate Milk. Titus and his brother Joshua run off barefooted, with my bottle and before you know, they are back with Cold Raw Chocolate Milk. I tell you, it was the best Chocolate Milk I’ve ever had. It wasn’t so sweet. Titus tells me that’s because they want the customers to taste the milk too! These boys are so smart, and going to be great business men. We talked for quite some time, about life on the Dairy Farm with his ten brothers and sisters, five of each. It doesn’t sound like Momma is done anytime soon since Grandma had 19 children! I think they are gonna need to get some glass bottles to support all them kids. What engaging boys indeed. I had such a great time talking with the two of them.

Couch to Trail & Our Homemade Ice Cream

We still had more miles to hike so we took off through the Dairy Fields. it was hot, exposed walking through the grasses. Luckily, within a mile or so, we headed back into our Green Tunnel and the temperature dropped 10-15 degrees. Thank you trees!

I Can See The Light – The Many Tunnels

I had a pretty spectacular day today. Lots of new people I met and I’m thinking I’m in the right bubble for now. I made it to camp around 6pm and erected my tent, I crawled in it, bathed the best I could with wet-wipes and made Cilantro Chicken with Rice. I had some green tea and was snug as a bug in a rug, except for my back. I tell you, when that mattress arrives, I’m gonna to a hip hap happy dance and I just might take a Zero in my tent laying on my mattress for 24 hours! I can’t wait! This Z-Lite pad is for children, but grown adults require more cushion for their mushion. Okay that might not be a word but you get the picture. For now I am ever-so-grateful for what I have. Shelter, Food & Water, and a wonderful place to lay my head for the night.

Day 6: May 22, 2023 Ridge CS to Boiling Springs – Lisa Hostel Elevation +1975/-2134 Miles 10.1/96.1; 1124.3

Lovely night of sleep. Woke up once to an Owl doing its Hooty-Hoot thing. Pretty cool. Evening temps have been perfect. Not too hot and not too cool, just right, as Goldilocks would say. I woke up before the birds. I’m so anxious to get into town. Much awaits for me. Real food, a new air mattress and the most needed, a hot shower!

Morning Sunrise in the Woods

I only have 10 miles to go today, easy peasy. So I thought. The first couple of miles were level, almost able to skip down the trail. But I’m known for getting a few mishaps so I’ll just keep my feet firmly planted. I crossed a couple of roads early this morning. Everyone is headed to work, school or wherever they need to be, in such a hurry. There are two things I don’t like to do while hiking. #1 is crossing the highways. There’s a lot of roadway crossings, railroad crossings and everything in between. These cars zip by at crazy neck speeds, without any caution to me and my hiking sticks! And #2 is hitchhiking. I can usually ask someone for a ride, or call for a shuttle, but every once in awhile, you just have to stick your thumb out and bum a ride. That’s when you need to always have a Plan B, when a sketchy driver stops. I either say, “Oops, I forgot something” or “do you mind if I take a picture of you and your license plate? My husband works for Homeland Security and he wants to know whenever I get into a car with a random stranger.” I’ve only had one person say no and sped away. Guess he wasn’t too keen on George hunting him down! Everyone else thinks it’s a grand idea.

Orange Frog Camouflaged in Leaves This Frog is for You Quin 😊

After crossing my third highway, the trail took an advert left-hand turn and started climbing. The climbing isn’t so bad, but it’s Pennsylvania style. A rock/bouldering exercise. This means put your sticks away, kind of climbing. There’s a location on trail called the “Lemon Squeezer” but I don’t think I’m suppose to be there quite yet. What I figured is, the AT, wants me to start practicing now, so when it comes, I’ll be prepared.

Pre-Curser to Lemon Squeezer

I was huffing and puffing, trying to get my not-so-big butt up and over these boulders. I had to really psych myself out to get my foot up 2-3’, with my backpack on, and somehow someway pull my body up into a slot-like canyon. It’s hard to describe but boy oh boy, I was wishing for some burly guy or even a girl to come by and either pull me up or push me up. No such luck. So I just huffed and puffed and pulled myself up and over! And that was round one.

Bouldering 201

Welcome to the AT. This ain’t no easy task to get from south to north. It takes much more effort than I was expecting. But honestly, after hiking some 700 miles last year, I knew what I signed up for. Where’s Sid when I need him? He would’ve climbed it like a monkey and pulled me along. But then he’d want to take a nap after the first hour or two. That kid can sleep like no one’s business. Teenagers! But I had no Sid and there were no other hikers around, so this Grandma did what she had to do. Honestly, it was, we’ll just maybe, a little bit of fun. And that’s how my morning went.

Sid on the AT 2022

After climbing up and over my fifth rock pile, I finally reached a summit of sorts. There was a plaque on the rock pile called Center Point Knob. What a welcome sight that was as it was the culmination of today’s Rocky Mountains. Okay, they’re not actually mountains as I don’t think a single one of my climbs were over 2,000’ but they felt like mountains to me.

Center Point Knob

The last three miles were downhill. I stopped and talked with an older guy in his mid-70’s or 80’s, who was staring at the top of the trees. He’s either Bird-Watching or there’s another bear in a tree. He convinced me he was just watching birds and cleaning up trash on the trail. He’s a local trailblazer and comes out regularly for his morning walks. All of the locals I have met are fit. It must have something to do with the fresh air, the dairy farms and the wholesome living. These locals are able bodied and willing to hike!

Gal with Dads Old JanSport Backpack

Another gal I talked with had a JanSport backpack on. I had one of those back in the 70’s. She said she plans to hike this summer and the pack belonged to her Dad. She was testing it out to see if it would suffice. So far she’s quite happy with it. It’s an external frame with lots of pockets and fits her quite well. She had to get scooting, as she had kiddos at home and needed to get them off to school.

Me & My JanSport Circa 1970’s

My last mile or so was through farmland. It was laced with tics! That’s #3 scariest thing on the AT! The grasses were being mowed as I was walking through but I still managed to brush up against the un-mowed section of trail. Within a minute, I had my first tic encounter, on my hand. I knocked that bugger off me so fast and high tailed it out of those grasses. The trail takes me right through the town of Boiling Springs.

Tic Infested Field

Boiling Springs is not the thriving metropolis that I was thinking. It’s a small community with a Post Office, Fly Fishing Outpost and a Cafe. I headed to the Outpost as my fuel ran out this morning just as I was making my morning brew. Perfect timing as I was heading to town and could resupply. My second stop was the Post Office but they are closed for lunch between 12-1pm. So I walked to the Cafe. “Sit where you want and I’ll get to you ASAP.” It was nice to sit down on a chair with a proper table. The small things. The gal came out, gave me a menu and I ordered Iced Tea with splash of lemonade-Arnold Palmer style. Then I texted Lisa, the owner of the Hostel I planned to stay at. She called me back immediately and said her husband will be there in five minutes. Okay, I’ll eat my trail food instead, ugh. The waitress said not to worry about the Iced Tea. It was on the house. Thanks, and I donned my backpack and within a couple of minutes, Lisa’s hubby arrived. He whisked me to the Post Office but I guess overnight express doesn’t count in Boiling Springs. No box, no mattress, hopefully tomorrow.

Overlooking Boiling Springs

Lisa’s husband drove me to their home, showed me around quickly, jumped back in his truck and went to work. I’m here alone on their beautifully manicured property with access to a hot shower and a flush toilet. First things first, take a shower. Oh what heaven. They have loaner clothes so you don’t have to put your funky dirty clothes on after showering. Lisa promised to do my laundry when she gets home. What the life of luxury. I could get used to this.

Lisa’s Hostel

I still have a lot more miles, so I’ll enjoy the smell of a freshly bathed body, clean clothes and electricity. No town food but there’s a George Foreman Grill, bread and cheese. Oh boy, it’s gonna be a joyful night!

Day 5: May 21, 2023 Hosack Run CS to Ridge N/of Tag Run CS Elevation +2077/-2947 Miles 19.2/86.0; 1114.2

Waking up to sunshine after a night of rain is splendid. My tent is dry and the ground is spongy. My site selection was superb if I say so myself. It was flat, with some protective qualities from the wind, with massive trees to the north. Coffee is brewing thanks to my sweet little stove and canister, and I am listening to the songs of birds. It’s another beautiful morning in paradise.

There were tons of people at the shelter north of me. When I left, everyone was just getting up. I pranced out of there and nodded farewell. As I walked down the trail, I came upon the real halfway marker. Unlike the PCT, which is set in stone, the AT is still acquiring landholdings that are not privately owned. Each year they do that, the trail gets longer. I know, it’s odd especially being that the claim to fame is that the AT is the original and oldest trail. Well I guess you can never have enough of a good thing. Last year, the trail was 2194.3 but this year it is 2198.4 miles. Somewhere we have gained 4.1 miles and I can guarantee that it is a mountain of rocks! So the picture of the halfway point I posted yesterday, was last years halfway point. This year, it’s a couple of miles further down the trail, and much nicer than the piece of paper in the wooden box.

The Official Halfway Marker for 2023

Darn good thing I have an iPhone because if I had to resort to the old fashion camera with film, I would’ve run out of film by now. I took my glamour shot, which is a joke being I haven’t showered or washed my hair for six days. I know, tomorrow I promise to get cleaned up. Another big difference between the PCT and the AT is you don’t have the bathing opportunities out here. Few streams are deep enough to even soak your feet. It’s a tough life being a hiker on the East Coast. However, what you do have, are lots of town stops.

Appalachian Trail Map

Today is the Half-Gallon Plus Pint Ice Cream Challenge. It’s a tradition to stop at Pine Grove Furnace Store and partake in the festivities. Now being that I just started less than a week ago, I don’t qualify. Thank goodness. This is for hikers who have been on the trail since Georgia, have been training for this moment and are ready to devour their ice cream of choice. For the past couple of days, I have been running into this crew of three and sure enough they are ready. I asked what the strategy is? First, don’t eat anything all morning. Get yourself really hungry. The other big tip is don’t pick an ice cream with chunks in it. You’re better off eating something like Neapolitan or Vanilla, but not Chunky Monkey or Butter Pecan. I’m not really sure why you have to eat the pint on top of the half-gallon but it may have something to do with the fact that a Half Gallon isn’t truly the measured amount. All the hikers have another pint that is a little bit more exotic to help chase the other down. My stomach is churning just writing about this. I actually saw one guy finish it all. He looked like a Sumo Wrestler, so he had a little extra room to pack it away. I ate an egg sandwich instead, which one scoop of Key Lime Pie Ice Cream.

1/2 Gallon Challenge plus One Pint

For being a tiny little town of Pine Grove Furnace, it had a pretty nice lay out. There is the AT Museum which has a big tribute to Heather Anderson, aka Anish, who has hiked all three trails, PCT, CDT and the AT three times each! Yep, she’s a rockstar. She’s written a couple of books which I have read, Thirsty and Mud, Rocks, Blazes. If you are looking for some inspiration, this gal is the real deal.

Great Read by Heather Anderson

After mulling around for a bit too long, I meandered back to the trail. It was an easy day except for the amount of miles. I plan on taking it easy tomorrow as I’m headed into Boiling Springs. A nice new air mattress is waiting for me, along with a hot shower and a soft bed. The terrain was nice, the temperature was mild, and I was powered by Egg Sandwich on Ciabatta Bread. Any chance I can have something besides tuna or beef sticks, I’m a happy camper, and a faster hiker.

Class of 2022 Photo Album I Made the Cut

In the afternoon I found a brook, as they call them around here that was deep enough to soak my feet. No matter that it was 4pm and I still have a few more miles to go, I stopped, took off my shoes and socks and let the water cool down my dawgs. I never see anyone else ever doing this. It’s quite odd. Maybe it’s just a West Coast thing.

Happy Feet

After climbing my last hill, I found a delightful spot all by myself. Most of the nice places to tent are dry camping. So I have to pack my water with me. My food bag is running low so the extra weight for water is not a big deal. Well that’s it for the day. All in all, it was another grand time to be hiking the Appalachian Trail.

AT Museum in Pine Grove Furnace

Day 4: May 20, 2023 Deer Lick Shelter to Hosack Run CS Elevation +2559/-2489 Miles 21.7/66.8

What an amazing husband I have. Kudos to Superman. Laying in my tent last night was dismal. I had no air in my mattress and wondering how this was a lesson in trusting the Lord. Well he already had a perfect plan indeed. See this little hike of mine cannot be accomplished just by me. It takes support from home to make it happen. Somehow someway I had service & wi-fi and was able get online and search for my new mattress. Then George ordered it for me because here on the East Coast, they were sold out. He purchased my new and improved Neo-Air XTherm, received the 75th Anniversary 20% off at REI and overnighted it to me. That is service indeed!

My Superman George

My next thought was what am I to do for the next 2-3 nights without some padding for these tired bones? I went on my handy dandy FarOut App and found a local named Mazhar who provides rides for AT Hikers. Without delay, he answered my text at 10:30pm, told me there was a Dicks Sporting Goods down the road and would pick me up in the morning.

Morning Alarm Clock -Red Cardinal

I couldn’t sleep much so before the birds starting singing, I was up, packed and on my way to my shuttle. Mazher whooshed me away, got a Z-Lite pad, which just for the record, I usually carry as a backup. Lesson learned. Always have a plan B when it comes to sleeping. Without rest, I’m an accident waiting to happen and a hazard to all around me! The people who have hiked with me know exactly what I mean.

Ends up Mazher is from Pakistan. He invites me over for lunch and to meet his family. Seriously, a free homemade meal? That’s a yes! His wife Sadia was so sweet. She introduces me to her three children as Mazher gets another call for a ride. I’m good, I’ll hang out with Sadia and drink Chai Tea, eat Samosa’s with this incredible delectable green yogurt sauce and cumin seeded cookies. Oh my goodness. What a blessing I am receiving today.

Lunch with the Pakistanis

As Mazher was shuttling another hiker, Sadia and I shared our faith. She’s Muslim and has a Christian friend. What an opportunity to speak Gods love and word to her. I opened my Bible and we talked about creation and her beliefs of who God is. I think this is exactly what my Lord had planned all along. Pop your mattress and share my gospel. And that was the start of my day.

Sadia & 6 year old Son

Mazher returned, had a bite to eat and shuttled me back to the trail. But not before his wife made me a care package of food to take with me. That’s hospitality plus. I had a lot of miles to catch up on and luckily the trail was relatively flatter. A storm was brewing and everyone has been talking about it. So I made a dash for my next camp.

Made it to the Unofficial 1/2 Way Marker

I think this must be Boy Scout week because I ran into four separate groups of scouts. Ends up two of the groups are from the same pack and planned to meet from different directions, then camp at a State Park just off the trail. These boys are fit and actually looked like they were having fun. Each year they either hike 50 miles, canoe or bike for a week. What a great opportunity and adventure for these young teens.

Mason/Dixon Line

So this is the second time, I heard what I believe is a bear falling from a tree. On my way from the last water hole, a huge branch and thud came from the forest next to me. I don’t think we have monkeys here, and that wasn’t no chipmunk! I start talking gibberish to the bear that I can’t see. He must think I’m crazier than he knows, and runs off in the opposite direction. My plan seems to have worked and I’m making forward movement down the trail.

The Bigger the Trees. The Bigger the Bears

I finally make it to camp, which is perfectly situated on an off shoot of the main trail. No crowds, no other hikers. Just me and my sweet little tent. Just as I find my perfect spot, I feel the first of the raindrops that has been the talk of the trail. I get my home built licitly-split and I’m inside, free from the impending rain. That’s timing, What an ending to a most perfect day.

After the Rain

Day 3: May 19, 2023 Wolfsville Road CS to Deer Lick Shelter Elevation +2245/-2583 Miles 12.5/45.1 (1072.0)

Slept pretty darn good. I think the fact that I was exhausted played a big role. So here’s me on the trail after two days. My feet ache but not too terrible bad. My legs are a bit fatigued especially when I ask them to climb up and over rock fields in the afternoon. And my shoulders are not excited about carrying a backpack all day. These are the little things, that over time, like a week or two will subside. It’s pretty much like this the first few days. Hence the reason I stay on the trail so long, because it does and will get better.

Fern Grotto Amongst the Trees

I’m up and out of camp before 7am which is par for course. I move passed the shelter and the twins wave good morning. No one talks much in the wee hours. The morning has a bit of up and then down into a decent size river crossing. There’s warnings not to cross during high water. No worries here as it’s flowing pretty slow. I skip across the rocks and have my morning call. Cat hole time. I pull out my handy dandy shovel, scoot across the gravel road, a good distance from the river, squat and take care of business. Now typically I wouldn’t write about this, but usually I can poop without any worries. Today, with my pants down I hear four blasts of a rifle! If that’s not enough, another four blasts which sounds much too close for comfort. I pull up my pants and beat feet up the trail. Within a couple more minutes another four blasts of gunfire. Either this guy is a bad shot or he’s having a really bad morning! The Mom and twins catch up and we decide he’s not hunting for us, and we carryon.

Fields of Wheat & Grass

My first stop is at Ravens Rock Shelter for my green drink. Last year when I hiked with Blue, she always had her greens. It seemed to power her up the hills so I thought I’d give it a try. I add my electrolytes and MSM, good for the joints and whatever else I have in my food bag. It tastes much better than it sounds. The twins remind me so much of the Ravens, a family I hiked with quite a bit on the PCT. They are young, and full of energy and really like hanging with each other. You always see them sitting side by side, playing together and I haven’t seen anything close to an argument. Herding Cats is doing a great job raising these two. It’s a full time job as she’s a single Momma.

Herding Cats with Butterfly & Stink Bug

A new hiker, whom I haven’t met shows up. She’s close to my age and her name is Pacer. She’s a flip-flopper too. So what’s a flip-flopper, you may ask? It’s a hiker who starts somewhere else besides the southern or northern terminus. Most of us start at the halfway point near Harpers Ferry but Pacer started a bit south of me. They call her Pacer because she slow and steady but always seems to be in the middle of the pack. We have a lot in common. She’s retired, loves hiking and feels she wants to backpack as much as possible, before her body says no. We laugh at how our mind says yes, but our body revolts. We hike close to the same pace, have somewhat the same itinerary so I’m thinking I’ll see a lot more of her. After she’s done hiking the AT, she wants to walk the Camino, drink wine and eat cheese. Yep, we are gonna have a future together.

Close to Halfway with Pacer

After we leave the shelter, we hit the rockiest part I have seen on trail to this point. When I look on my FarOut App, it shows a profile but doesn’t mention a thing about a rock pile! It is slow going and I can’t help but think why in the world did the ATC think this was a good idea. When I hiked in the Tetons, they warn you to stay away from rocks, boulders and large stones. They are unstable and they can hurt you. Now granite, there was a section of, kid you not, house-sized boulders that we had to tackle to get to where the glacier was. But this trail could easily find a different route to send timid backpackers around. Never the less, I couldn’t find an alternate route so bouldering 101 commences. On my way down, I saw another one of those big black non-venomous snakes. I think he was just waking up from a long winters nap because he wasn’t moving when I showed up. He lifted his head, then laid back down. I told Pacer and she came over for a closer inspection. We took a couple of pictures and continued slowly down the Boulder field.

Small Section of Super Boulder Field

We arrived at Penn Mar County Park. From all the comments in my App, this is believed to be the best park on the trail. It was pretty darn lush, with pavilions and picnic tables, zip lines and playground equipment. They even mentioned if you call ahead, you can get pizza delivered here. That sounds delicious, after eating tuna and pretzels! The view was pretty darn nice. And the lawn was quite inviting. I haven’t laid on grass yet, just hard dirt and rocks. I took a supine position on the lawn and relaxed for…two hours. Yep, everyone left me as I slumbered and enjoyed a rest. The twins came back and handed me a Coca-Cola. Some trail angel left it on the way north, and Eagle-Eye Butterfly spotted it. Then Stink Bug came back and offered it to me. I just love these kids!

Me & Butterfly Enjoying Trail Magic

As I was resting, I met the Maintenance Worker, Dennis but they call him Junior. He reminded me of a cross between King David and Morgan Freeman. Such a sweet man, who must be in his 80’s. His wife passed away from Alzheimer’s and he needed something to do. After having a couple of children of his own, him and his wife fostered over fifteen children. He told me most of them stayed and he ended up adopting them. He was raised on a dairy farm with his eight siblings and he worked as long as he could remember. He retired from the military, and started working with a Catering Company. Ends up he was the only one who could pass clearance when they needed someone to deliver food to Camp David. I could’ve stayed all day hearing his stories, but as it was, I still needed to hike a few more miles. After my phone and battery pack was charged up, I packed up and left late in the afternoon.

Dennis, aka Junior Morgan Freeman

Hence the reason, I did a shorter day. Sometimes the sweet Lord puts you somewhere to rest your weary bones, and you need to listen. Today was almost, a perfect day. I made it to camp shortly after 6pm, built my home and crawled into my tent. But then something terrible happened. I went to inflate my pad and once I laid down on it, it deflated. Hmm, maybe I didn’t close to valve all the way, so let’s try round two. I blew it up again. No such luck, I somehow someway have burst a seam on my most valuable piece of equipment. Luckily I am on a flat piece of real estate minus any rocks or roots, but it’s gonna be a bit hard getting comfortable tonight. I’ll need to find an exit strategy tomorrow and head to the local REI or Outdoor Store. Hope they have one nearby. Oh the joys of sleeping in the woods, and trusting God with his perfect plan.

Day 2: May 18, 2023 White Rock to Wolfsville Road CS Elevation +2822/-3006 Miles 17.5/32.6 (1057.5)

There’s something super cool about cowboy camping. Especially in a place where the Civil War took place. I could’ve been sleeping where General Lee slept. He fought all over this territory in the 1700’s. Anyhow, I woke up to the song birds promptly at 5:30am. They are relentless and never stop ushering in a new day. I had my coffee, not cowboy coffee but real instant Death by Coffee and MCT Powder that I acquired from my good friends Mark & Meredith. Yummy goodness to start my day out right.

Wild Azaleas in Bloom

I was low on water so I needed to gather some. About 4 miles down the trail was a sweet campground that has flushing toilets, running water and showers! Yep, I could’ve had a shower. I filled up my bottles and a gal with her twins 7 year olds shows up. She’s planning to hike the entire trail with these rumbustious kids. The girl’s trail name is Butterfly and her brother’s name is Stink Bug. Mom took the name Herding Cats, which Stink Bug told me, matter of factly, we never listen to Mom, just like cats. I find that hard believe as there are many times that they need to pay close attention to be able to make it this far. They seem to be having a grand time. Herding Cats and I talked for a bit about life on the trail and raising kids. She feels this is the best education she can give them, and I have to agree.

Twins Thru-Hiker Butterfly & Stink Bug

We all took a side trail to George Washington’s Monument. It is a stone building that looks like a beehive. Inside is a spiral staircase which takes you to the top of an observation deck. The view is one of the best that I’ve seen in Maryland. It’s quite expansive and you can see for miles and miles. Lucky for us, we made it up and out before the bus load of kids showed up. Took some pictures and we were back on the trail.

Washington’s Monument

There’s more hikers on the trail today. I met these three kids who are undertaking the 4 State Challenge. The idea is to cover four states in 24 hours! They started last night at Midnight in Virginia, stepped into W. Virginia for a quick mile or so, crossed over the Potomac River into Maryland and will end in Pennsylvania. It’s about 40 miles and a handful of motivated hikers do it every year. They had someone meet them around mile 25 to resupply with food and water. When I saw them, they had finished a marathon of walking and were well on their way to finishing before midnight. Oh, the joys of youth! I was happy to get in 17.5 miles today and I don’t see any 40 milers in my future!

4 State Challenge Hikers

When I stopped for lunch, I met Cat Woman, as I called her. She was walking down the trail with a backpack condo for a cat. I had to ask her what she was carrying? Evidently her cat Motto wasn’t too keen on being carried around in a Cat Condo and flew the coupe. She stopped to let it out, and imagine this, the cat bolted! Hmm, I could’ve predicted that ending. She looked for Motto for an hour or two and plans to come back later this afternoon to hopefully, retrieve her cat. Good luck with that.

Cat Woman & No Motto

Today was the typical Appalachian Trail that I remember. There were much more ups and downs with tons of rocks. I could even say boulders. I did stop quite a bit to take in the vista. Many rock outcroppings that overlooked the flat valleys and pasturelands of Maryland. I saw tons of day hikers that were enjoying the weather. It really has been nice without the rain and humidity that I remember from last go around. I need not get too excited though, as it will come. But for now, I’m enjoying the mild temperatures.

Black Rock Cliffs

Besides my feet being a bit tired, I’m feeling great. Honestly, Maryland is probably the flattest and most mildest trekking state of the 14 that are part of the AT. I know what’s ahead of me in Pennsylvania, which has the dubious name of Rocksylvania. Hopefully my ankles will be ready and able to tackle the myth and the legend of that state. But for now, I’m gonna soak in the sweet terrain of where I am. So far, so good.

Miniature Daisy’s on the Trail

Day 1: May 17, 2023 Harpers Ferry to White Rock Outlook Elevation Profile +2372’ -985.1 15.1 Miles; Total 15.1

After a wonderful night of sleep, with the train whistling in the background, it is time to get this show on the road. I packed up my worldly possessions and headed up to the ATC to pickup my Permit/Tag. The nice lady working at the Front Desk was having some computer issues, so I patiently waited.

Purple Tag in Hand – AT Class of 2023

Once all the kinks were sorted out, I was given my Purple Tag- Color for the AT Class of 2023. She ushered me outside to take the required mugshot, just in case they have to hunt me down. Then Lois had me read the back of the tag regarding all the Leave No Trace (LNT) protocols. She warned me of the weather that would cause me strife when I get to Vermont, which is more than 500 miles north. I guess she wants me to think about it all the way there. I signed the back of my now, printed mugshot with all my credentials. Who I am, where I live, what are my intentions. Very formal. After that, she offered me a Mandarin, never turn down fresh fruit and I was on my way!

Beautiful Gardens in Harpers Ferry

I talked with Gail from Town’s Inn. She’s a sweet lady who cares for all the hikers that come through this Hostel. She was a fellow hiker herself and she loves spending time catching up and hearing stories of trail talk. She said a little blessing over me and I hit the trail at 11am. A bit late but that was expected as the ATC doesn’t open till late morning.

Me & Gail at Town’s Inn

I found my way to the trail from town, headed across the Potomac River with a bunch of other day-hikers and bicyclists. Once on the dirt pathway, I saw some guys my age walking south towards town. The one gentleman looked me over, and said matter of factly, “Keep it up and you’ll never get old!” Is that the secret to life and longevity? I’m gonna believe him and keep hiking.

Bridge Crossing Potomac River

Noon crept up quickly and the salad I had last night wasn’t carrying me through. Luckily there was a bakery in town and I grabbed a BLT to go. I chowed down right before the climb started. Good plan if I say so myself. I saw all sorts of critters along the way from a baby bunny, 6 box turtles, big black non-venomous snake and tons of woodpeckers, red cardinals and other birds that I didn’t recognize.

Flip-Flop Sista’s

As I climbed my first hill, I was grateful that today was relatively an easy day. The grade was fairly straightforward and nothing too terribly taxing. Well at least not yet. I made it to the Ridgeline and met my first thru-hiker who also was Flip-Flopping. Her trail name is Serotonin because she doesn’t produce normal amounts of it in her real life, but on the trail, she is in her happy place. Perfect name. A few minutes later, another Flip-Flopper showed up that I briefly ran into in town. Her trail name is Won’t Get Up-Will which is a funny story. She never wants to get up in the morning and hiked with her Dad in her youth, and now as an adult, she still doesn’t want to get up. She’s hiked the AT a handful of times, another story for another day, but the first time she made it all the way from Georgia to Mt. Katadrin, they added Will to the end. Being we all started today, we are now sisters of the trail. The first people you meet on Day One are very special indeed.

Tree-lined Appalachian Trail

I didn’t see any other thru-hikers today but lots of day hikers, and locals who walk or run the trail often. The AT is so close to many towns that this is common place. I talked to plenty of people, and shared my blog with them. Each time I tell them I’m blogging and the name of it, it spurs lots of conversation. I think that’s the point!

Lots of Train Crossings

I didn’t quite make it as far as I hoped for today. But starting just a bit before noon, cut my day in half. But I managed to find a cozy spot on a bluff overlooking Maryland. There’s a bunch of farmlands below and wide open spaces without the huge trees that I am encompassed with. Don’t get me wrong, I love the trees. It’s shady and keeps the sun from beating down on me. The forecast is looking good for the upcoming week or two, so I’m Cowboy Camping. Just me and nature. No tent, and no overcrowded shelter for miles. I’m sure I’ll be blessed with a gazillion stars tonight. Nothing but me, the Lord and a big bush of Poison Oak. Well, you can’t have it all.

Me & My Feet All Alone