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June 30th: Productive Day Cut Short by Thunderstorm

Miles Today: 18.2

Mile Marker: 1,440.7

I woke up early this morning to try to put in a big mile day. Around 5:30 thunderstorms started and ruined that plan.  I hike with big metal sticks, so I try to avoid being out in the lightning.

Right now everything is soaked including the inside of my tent. My hands are also damp and pruney, making it hard to type. That's it for today.

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June 29th: No More Night Hiking Without Bug Spray

Miles Today: 19.3

Mile Marker: 1,422.6

I took my time leaving town this morning.  The trail runs through a zoo before crossing the Hudson, but the zoo doesn't open until 10:00 A.M. I could have taken a bypass around the zoo and started earlier, but it was neat to be able to walk through.  It is designed as a trailside zoo and is populated with local flora and fauna.  Most all of it I have already seen hiking the trail.  Thankfully I haven't seen any coyotes, but I have heard them.

The rest of the day was about grinding out as many miles as I could before dark.  I knew I was going to have to night hike a bit to meet my goal, but I wanted to minimize the time I had to do it.  Around 1:00 the trail walks right in front of a gas station with a deli.  No way I'm passing that up.  I got a hero, an Arizona iced tea, and a Monster.  I also filled up on water from their spigot because the water in NY has been terrible. 

Around 7:00 I heard someone yelling at me as I crossed a field.  It was Pumba who was camped with First Aid and Hawaii.  I walked over and hung out for a bit.  Hawaii pointed out there was a spigot on a nearby building, so I filled up again.  Thankfully I did because all of the other natural water sources were stagnant and gross.

The last hour of the day I was hiking with my headlamp.  Absolutely terrible idea this time of year without bug spray.  Everything with wings was flocking to the light, and the mosquitoes were destroying me.  Finally around 9:30 I found a spot to settle in.  I wanted to go further, but I couldn't take the bugs anymore.

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June 28th: Zero in Fort Montgomery

I snuck out of my camp site early this morning and walked a mile to the store to resupply.  Then I sat outside the post office waiting for them to open to get my shoes.  While I waited, I checked the tracking to discover UPS returned them as undeliverable.  Apparently this driver didn't understand the concept of handing the shoes off to USPS, since it was a General Delivery order.  Big bummer.

I headed down to the motel and worked on my blog and made some phone calls outside while I waited for everyone to wake up.  The owners came out and said good morning.  She apologized for being so rude last night and said they were just old and set in their ways.  She had been nothing but incredibly sweet to me, so I assured here that was not at all my impression.  They were both very kind and welcoming this morning.

Around 8:00 DaVinci and Hop Along came out and chatted while they waited for their bus to the city.  It was good to see them off before they left.  She cleaned their room for me very quickly, and let me check in just after 9:00.

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June 27th: Long Days Should Start Before 8:30

 Trail Angels have been leaving bottled water at the road crossings.  The streams in NY are a bit dodgy, so it is much appreciated.  

Trail Angels have been leaving bottled water at the road crossings.  The streams in NY are a bit dodgy, so it is much appreciated.  

 I had to take my backpack off and throw it up on the ledge to the left to squeeze through here. Immediately after I had to do the same thing to do a vertical rock climb.  There was a route labeled "Easy Way", but I'm not out here for that.  

I had to take my backpack off and throw it up on the ledge to the left to squeeze through here. Immediately after I had to do the same thing to do a vertical rock climb.  There was a route labeled "Easy Way", but I'm not out here for that.  

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 My sneaky camp spot.  

My sneaky camp spot.  

Miles Today: 22.3

Mile Marker: 1,403.3

I didn't do the miles I should have yesterday, and I needed to make up for it today.  However my lazy kicked in and I didn't get started until 8:30.  By 11:00 DaVinci and Hop Along had closed the two mile gap between us.  I hiked with them a while and discovered they were going into town today from an earlier point. My plan was to camp near town and go in tomorrow to save money, but splitting a room with them would make it feasible to go in tonight. They confirmed that wasn't a problem, and I refocused on adding another two miles to an already long day.

Around 6:00 we caught back up and DaVinci and Hop Along were both aggravated due to a major miscommunication.  The owner of the motel said he could pick them up at the earlier road crossing if they called by 5:00.  They did call by 5:00, but he said he didn't realize where they wanted to be picked up and wouldn't come get them.  Now their choices were to hike another 5.5 miles making for a 25+ mile day for them or try to hitch into town. Hitchhiking is illegal in New York, and apparently they enforce it.  Hitchhiking didn't seem to be working, so we started to hike in.  Shortly after we were debating quitting, camping, and going in in the morning. We called and moved the reservation to tomorrow.  About ten minutes later we all realized we budgeted water to go into town.  The next water stop was at the town road crossing 4.5 miles away.  We had no choice. 

None of us were having a good hike the rest of the way up the mountain, but then a beacon of hope appeared.  Vending machines!  We had reached the top of the mountain, and it had a parking lot with vending machines.  We all downed a drink and had the energy to make it the last 2.2 miles down off the mountain.  We literally jogged a half mile of it.  We called the motel, asked if we could have the room we canceled, and if they would come pick us up.  She (husband and wife own the place) said she would come pick us up.  I thanked her and let her know there would be three of us.  She said in that case we would have to wait fifteen minutes for her husband to come get us instead. Five minutes later he calls and says there is no way three of us are staying in one room, even if we pay more.  I told the guys not to worry, I would find a camp spot and get my own room tomorrow.  They headed off, and I tried to figure out where to camp in the middle of civilization.  There was no way I was going back up that mountain to get to a back country camping spot.  I found myself a nice little spot behind the hill of the closed pool.  Hudson River and train adjacent.  Nice little piece of real estate.

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June 26th: Rough Welcome to New York

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 First rebar ladder climb.  

First rebar ladder climb.  

Miles Today: 18.2

Mile Marker: 1,381.0

Last night I didn't sleep very well.  The ground wasn't as even as I thought, and the temperature dropped more than expected.  I sent my down quilt home and have been using a fleece blanket instead.  I woke up in the middle of the night and had to clip my rain fly on to trap more heat.  Then I woke up again to put on my jacket and pants.  Needless to say I wasn't very motivated this morning.  I started looking at my guide to see what the day was going to be like.  I saw a creamery just off trail 9.5 miles in.  I decided that was a perfect place for lunch.

Early in the morning I crossed the border into New York.  I quickly realized I would be facing a late lunch.  Immediately the quality of trail maintenance dropped.  The blazes were hidden by overgrown trees and they were in terrible locations.  Right out of the gate I moved into rock climbing and got disoriented several times due to a lack of blazes.  Everyone else I talked to had the same problem.  The trail clubs up here must still be Union, because nothing is getting done around here.  I finally gave up on looking for blazes and started tracking human activity.  By following the torn up moss, stepped on branches, and disturbed rocks, I was able to make my way through.  The last two miles to the creamery were on an old forest service road and was much easier to follow.

When I got to the road crossing I ran into Cheese and Einstein who had camped South of me, but were more industrious this morning.  They were stopped by Tentman who was providing Trail Magic.  He gave me a Coke, some cliff bars, some candy, and a pair of Darn Tough socks.  The socks normally retail for $20 a pair because they have a lifetime warranty.  Incredible gift.  Apparently he has some sort of sponsorship.  He guarded our packs so we could walk the short distance to the creamery without them.

Otto and I headed down to find the rest of the hiker trash sitting outside eating their ice cream.  Every single one of them was sitting on the ground because it was in the shade, and all the normal people were sitting at picnic tables in the sun. I got a milkshake and Cheese got a QUART of ice cream.  He's been destroying ice cream ever since the half gallon challenge.  Scoop and Goose showed up just as I was finishing up.  I didn't realize until later, but Goose had to stop hiking due to an ankle injury.  Their friend Andes also had to stop and find a job due to a restriction with her student work visa. It is really surprising and sad how many people have quit or had to stop this late in the game.

Around 2:00 I got going again; and Cheese, Einstein, and I leap frogged each other the rest of the day.  I hiked ahead because I want to close the distance on the next town tomorrow.  It turns out they are going to nearo the day I zero, so we'll see each other again.

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June 25th: The Band is Breaking Up

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 This drink is delicious.  

This drink is delicious.  

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Miles Today: 17.7

Mile Marker: 1,362.8

This morning I hit the General Store for a breakfast sandwich and an energy drink to start my morning.  I spotted some fresh baked donuts and added two to the order.  The North knows how to bread.  Those were the best, heartiest donuts I've ever had, and the sandwich bagel was perfect.  I was the last one to leave, but I caught up to the guys at the first watering hole.  Cheese mentioned a hot dog stand, and I couldn't help myself.  I booked it the next four miles to get there for a late lunch.  When I reached the road crossing a lady asked me if I was a thru hiker and if I would like a cold drink.  She gave me a Coors Light and oddly enough a jello shot.  Her name was Melissa, and she was super kind.  She offered a ride into town, laundry, lunch, and a shower.  I told her Cheese and Einstein needed a ride to town and waited for them to get there to flag them down.

On the way to dropping them off she dropped me at Mitch’s hot dog stand.  I wasn't sure what to get from the menu, so I asked Mitch.  He asked where I was from and if I'd ever had a hot dog before.  I said Texas and yes, but something tells me you're about to lay something new on me.  He said he'd make me a roadside dog and I wouldn't regret it.  The man was not wrong.  It may have been that it was 2:30 or that I had done 12 miles without lunch, but that was the best hotdog I've ever had.  The dog itself was incredibly good; but it also had garlic, sauerkraut, sautéed onions, and mustard.  The combination was incredible.  I immediately ordered another.  With a full stomach I got back on the trial and was met with the “Stairway to Heaven”.  A 900 foot climb straight up rock “steps”. 

The rest of the day cruised by, and I got to the rendezvous shelter at 5:00.  I was ready to keep hiking, but Hop Along texted he decided he's going to wait for DaVinci to catch up tomorrow and then go to NYC.  I decided to wait until he caught up and hike with him for a bit.  Tomorrow I'll lose him, Cheese, and Einstein.  I'll likely catch up with Cheese and Einstein after my zero in a few days, but I'll lose them again when they get off trail for a few days to go to a wedding.  It will be a bummer to go back to hiking by myself, but that's the nature of the trail.  We've all ultimately got our own priorities out here.  Right now mine is to get to Fort Montgomery and get my new shoes.  The ones I have now will have 680 miles on them by the time I replace them.  The tread is gone, the foam is dead, and the toe box on both of them is ripped to shreds.  400-500 miles is about all you should expect from trail runners.  Especially when you're backpacking with them.  So I've got to say I've been incredibly happy with these.  Well done Brooks Cascadia 12s.

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June 24th: The North is Spoiling Me

 Highest point in NJ.  

Highest point in NJ.  

 These rock walls are everywhere along the trail.  These are all the rocks early settlers pulled up to try to cultivate this land.  This wall is three feet thick.  Poor souls. 

These rock walls are everywhere along the trail.  These are all the rocks early settlers pulled up to try to cultivate this land.  This wall is three feet thick.  Poor souls. 

Miles Today: 14.3

Mile Marker: 1,345.1 Unionville, NY

It rained buckets last night.  It was still sprinkling when I got up, so I took my time.  I was the last to leave at 9:00.  Last night Cheese pointed out we would be passing a “beach” with a concession stand.  I intended to pass by, but I caught up to the gang just before noon. They were all hanging out at the High Point State Park Headquarters because they give out free sodas.  Turns out the sodas are Pepsi, and even though I'm homeless I can still be a snob.  I loath Pepsi, but I got my free one and gave it to Einstein.  The promise of a cheeseburger and a Coke or Dr. Pepper were too strong.  I went with them off trail to the concession stand.  I got a cheeseburger, a beef empanada (surprisingly), a Coke, and a Poweraid. That was $20.00.  I've got to stop making these pitstops.  I blame Cheese. There were free showers, so it was worth the visit I guess.

This evening we stopped in Unionville because there is free camping in the park across from the pizza place.  I blame Hop Along for that one.

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June 23rd: Here Comes the Rain Again

 This deer was totally unfazed by my presence.  

This deer was totally unfazed by my presence.  

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Miles Today: 16.3

Mile Marker: 1,330.8 Mashipacong Shelter

Zero motivation this morning.  I didn't get started until 8:30.  Hop Along camped two miles south of us last night and had already caught up by the time I started hiking.  We caught up with Cheese and Einstein mid day at a tavern for lunch.  We ran into Tin Cup (the original) while we were there.  I haven't seen him since North Carolina.  Hop Along hadn't seen him in even longer.  We caught up for a while and then got going.

The rest of the day was a bit of a grind.  The trail is still rocky, but not Northern PA rocky.  However the rain is back and everything is slick.  I almost ate it three times today.  We got to this shelter and all decided there was no point in going another 2.6 miles to the next shelter.  It is located near a marsh and the mosquitoes are already unbearable.  No reason to camp near stagnant water.

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June 22nd: Seven States Down, Seven More To Go

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 Giving the ol' ankle an "ice bath".  

Giving the ol' ankle an "ice bath".  

 Hard to see, but I promise you there is a momma turkey and her babies in this photo.  

Hard to see, but I promise you there is a momma turkey and her babies in this photo.  

 Our amazing, fun Trail Angels!    Ken, Evelyn, Pat, Doreen, Dave, and Kelly. 

Our amazing, fun Trail Angels!  

Ken, Evelyn, Pat, Doreen, Dave, and Kelly. 

 I promise that grainy black mass in the trail is a porcupine.  

I promise that grainy black mass in the trail is a porcupine.  

Miles Today: 20.9

Mile Marker: 1,314.5

This morning we crossed over the Delaware River, marking the official end of Pennsylvania.  The start of New Jersey was still really rocky, but it was definitely and improvement.  Around mid-day I saw a wild turkey with three baby chicks as I walked up to an overlook.  I knew then it was going to be a good day.

Shortly after I ran into a group of hikers who were talking to Just Paul.  They offered me some cheese and strawberries.  We started chatting, and then Ken offered me a beer.  At that point I put my pack down and took a seat.  We had a great conversation about the trail and laughed for a while before getting back to it.  Thank you again!

Paul and I hiked on to the Mohican outdoor center for a soda.  Cheese and Einstein were already there.  I saw their sandwiches, couldn't resist, and ordered one.  As we were wrapping up Hop Along made it in and grabbed some snacks.

Toward the end of the day Cheese and I saw a porcupine waddling down the trail.  I wanted to get a picture, but was afraid of getting to close incase I got hit with a quill.  Cheese was really confused and asked if I thought they could shoot quills?  I said can't they?  He laughed and told me how hilariously misinformed I was.  Unfortunately due to it being on the move, I didn't get a very good picture.

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June 21st: Farewell (Good Riddance) PA

 Victory cocktail  

Victory cocktail  

Miles Today: 16.7

Mile Marker: 1,293.6

We all woke up ready to be done with the state and to make it to the church hostel in town for the night.  About 9:30 I lost that motivation and laid out under a shade tree while quietly muttering malevolent thoughts for the PA trail.  As I was steadying my resolve and thinking about getting ready to begin starting to pack up, I heard a rustling in the trees behind me.  I assumed it was a deer and waited for it to pop out of the woods.  However it kept moving so slowly.  Finally I leaned up and listened more carefully as something clumsily thrashed through the underbrush.  Then I realized it was a bear and not a deer.  It must have realized I was there, because it arced around me and sauntered across the trail 30 yards away from me without a care in the world.  Plus one for the power of hiker stench.

The rest of the day was the usual rocky, lack of water PA fare.  We got to town at 4:00 and were glad to be finished. Technically we have 0.30 miles left till NJ, but it still felt like a victory.  The first 15 miles of NJ are likely the same, but a moral victory nonetheless.

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June 20th: Rock Climbing and Rock Hiking

 More of the same. 

More of the same. 

Miles Today: 19.2

Mile Marker: 1,276.9

Grabbed breakfast from the restaurant this morning, and then caught a ride from the guy running the hostel back to the trail.  He told us to leave our trekking poles stored because we wouldn't need them to start.  He was mostly right. A quarter mile in we had to rock climb up the side of Blue Mountain.  The majority of the assent was just rock scrambling, but there were a few sections we had to climb with our hands to get over.

The rest of the day was usual Rocksylvania fare of rocky trail and Boulder hopping.  The first water source didn't pop up until 16 miles into the day and the water was a half mile off trail.  We still managed to get a decent day of miles in though. The four of us will head into Delaware water gap tomorrow and finally be finished with PA.

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June 19th: Weather Nearo

  

Miles Today: 6.3

Mile Marker: 1,257.7

The forecast was calling for severe thunderstorms and hail this morning when we woke up.  The original plan was to go into Palmerton and resupply, but with the weather we decided to stay.  There is a local restaurant with a hostel in the back that let us stay for $20 a night.  Cheese and Einstein got in last night.  Hop Along and I got in around noon.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing and moving as little as possible.  We all have the “hiker shuffle” where we look broken and brittle when we first get up.  This has been a good excuse to get some needed rest.

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June 18th: Rough Day

 Yup, this is the trail. Hop Along at the end there.  

Yup, this is the trail. Hop Along at the end there.  

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 My jacked up hand.  

My jacked up hand.  

 Rattlesnakes for added danger!  

Rattlesnakes for added danger!  

Miles Today: 14.6

Mile Marker: 1,251.4

Today was a challenge. It rained heavily last night.  We had to pack up wet tents and deal with slippery rocks.  Most of the day was boulder climbing.  Thankfully Knife's Edge (jagged rock ridge line) mostly dried out before we got there.  Shortly after I fell and gashed open my hand.  Thankfully Hop Along had just caught up to me and helped me clean and wrap it.  Then later in the day the first spring was dry and I had to bushwhack another half mile to the next spring.  Rough day.  Unfortunately Hot Tea had the roughest day of all.  She is a few days behind us, and I found out from Hop Along she fell and broke her femur.  Really put into perspective my fall.  She is going into surgery tomorrow.  Devastating loss for her and everyone on the trail.  Hopefully she can make it back next year to finish, or heals in enough time to do a flip flop this year.

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June 17th: Productive Day out of Town

Miles Today: 19.3

Mile Marker: 1,236.8

The next few days are threatening rain and thunderstorms.  With as rocky as the terrain is right now, the rain makes things much more dangerous.  Apparently two thru hikers have already gotten concussions from slipping and falling in Rocksylvania. 

Today the rain held off, so we decided to put in as many miles as we could.  Hop Along and I stopped at a camp site, and Cheese and Einstein hiked another 3.2 miles to the shelter. 

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June 15th: Exhausted

 Dr. Stretch high fiving Santa. 

Dr. Stretch high fiving Santa. 

Miles Today: 14.0

Mile Marker: 1,217.5

I've been beat down by the terrain, the heat, and the lack of rest.  Im finally getting to take a much needed zero tomorrow.

It's been great hiking with old friends though. Today we all synced back up and hung out at the hotel.  Dr. Stretch, MacGyver, and Trinity are heading back out.  Hop Along, Cheese, Einstein, and I are a staying in town to zero.  I'll take the three heading out to the trail in their van in the morning and pick them up in the evening.  They are letting us use it the rest of the day for our errands.  It is going to make this town stop so much easier.

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June 14th: Less than 1,000 miles to go!

 This is field of rocks is literally the "trail".  

This is field of rocks is literally the "trail".  

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 Trinity, MacGyver, and the Slack Wagon

Trinity, MacGyver, and the Slack Wagon

Miles Today: 22.6

Mile Marker: 1,203.5

This morning Dr. Stretch took Trinity and MacGyver up the trail and dropped them off to head southbound.  He came back and got me and we headed to the Dollar General for some things before we started.  We didn't get on the trail until 10:15.

Today was rough, the trail is already morphing into rocks.  My shoes are on the tail end of their life, and I am feeling every single rock down the trail.  Later in the afternoon Trailer Steve had more trail magic set up for his wife Maggie Simpson.  Everyone was there. Dr. Stretch beat me there; and Cheese, Einstein, Hop Along, Credence, and Clearwater were all there.  I quickly drank a beer, refilled on water, and relaxed for about 20 minutes.  At that point it was close to 4:00 and I still had 9.3 miles to go.  Even though I was slack packing, it was still incredibly difficult.  I didn't meet up with MacGyver and Trinity until nearly 8:00.  Today kicked all of our asses.  Thankfully we only have about 15 into Port Clinton tomorrow.  I think on Friday I'll take a very, very much needed zero.  Nearly 200 miles is too long without a zero.

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June 13th: Unexpected Town Stop

 Finally got a picture of a chipmunk.  Little buggers are fast! 

Finally got a picture of a chipmunk.  Little buggers are fast! 

Miles Today: 19.0

Mile Marker: 1,180.9

Last night was so unbearably hot and sticky.  I'm missing the dry heat of Fort Worth.  This 80% humidity is killing me.  We woke up to more heat and mosquitoes first thing this morning.  Finally got going at 8:30.

Early in the day I ran into Dr. Stretch and Trinity.  I haven't seen Trinity and MacGyver in 900 miles either.  They had to get off trail for awhile. When they returned they came back with their van.  Right now they are slack packing themselves by dropping him off north and her starting south.  They pass each other in the middle of the day and MacGyver drives back north to pick her up.

I hiked on until I stopped for lunch.  Trinity and Dr. Stretch took a break with me, and then MacGyver caught up coming southbound.  He informed Trinity he booked their hotel room for another night because of the heat and the concern of where he had to park his van overnight.  They invited Dr. Stretch and me to stay with them and split the room.  The hotter the day got the better the idea sounded.  I was going to camp with Hop Along, Cheese, and Einstein, but Cheese and Hop Along were still a few miles behind when we got to the road crossing.  I decided to split up to get access to all the comforts of the indoors.

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June 12th: Brutal Heat and Terrain

Miles Today: 14.5

Mile Marker: 1,161.9

No one wanted to leave the comfort of the AC this morning.  We all slept in and took our time getting ready.  Hop Along and I finally headed out around 10:30.  Einstein was waiting for the Doyle to open so he could get his package.  They didn't get going until noon.

 

Halfway through the day I stopped at a shelter to get water and heard a familiar voice.  I rounded the corner and said “Dr. Stretch”?  He turned around and said “Slumberland, I thought I'd never see you again.”  Apparently he got off the trail for a while to visit his girlfriend and his family.  We haven't seen each other in about 900 miles.  We caught up for a while and then headed down the trail.  He hung out awhile longer waiting for the permethrin treatment of his cloths to dry. (Helps prevent ticks and thus Lyme Disease).


The heat is unbearable right now and the terrain is challenging.  It's nothing but rock fields and boulder climbing.  Around 6:30 we all met up at a shelter.  It was the only place with water for miles.  The spring was 0.30 miles down the hill and had 300 stone steps to get there.  Worst water source yet.  Cheese and Einstein stayed there and Hop Along and I hiked on until about 8:00.  We found a decent camp site and called it a day exhausted from the heat and the challenging trail.

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June 11th: Duncannon, PA

 Cows blocking the trail.  

Cows blocking the trail.  

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Miles Today: 17.9

Mile Marker: 1,147.4

We grabbed our continental carbo-load and hit the trail just before 9:00.  Another fast paced day with the intent of getting to town early enough to resupply, grab dinner, and check into a motel.  About ten minutes into the day I could tell I wasn't feeling it.  Much of the morning was spent walking through open fields in 80 degree weather.  Around 1:00 I stopped for water and ran into Bill T.  He did a 44 mile day yesterday.  My brain can't even process that much hiking.  It was his biggest day, but he has still been posting 30 mile days.  I tagged along with him and rode his momentum all the way into town.  He set a pace faster than I would have done alone, and he said talking with me was keeping his motivation going.  After his massive day he said he was moving slowly.  It worked out well for both of us.

Around 5:00 we got into town and hit up the Doyle Hotel for a drink.  Shortly afterwards Cheese showed up and we started to coordinate our town stop.  The Doyle is a historic building with a reputation or being a bit run down.  It caters specifically to hikers and is more like a hostel. We were planning on staying at a motel outside of town, but Bob the owner told us one of the churches was taking hikers in for free.  He said their rooms are too hot in the summer anyway because they don't have air conditioning.  Next we hit up our resupply and then checked into the church.

With all of the chores out of the way, we headed to Sorrentos for some incredible pizza. Way better than yesterday.  Hop Along had caught up, and we all hung out until heading back to the church.

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