Day mileage: 26.2
AT total mileage: 1,177.8
Time: 8.2 hours
Beds are exceptionally under appreciated. How wonderful it was to not inflate a mattress pad, unroll a sleeping bag, or have to 'zip' in and out while trying to not catch the fabric in the zipper. I finally fell asleep around 2300hrs to the gentle whir of a fan in the corner, and clean sheets under my body. It will be hard to go back to sleeping on the forest floor tomorrow night. I took another hot shower before making my way downstairs where Rich and Ruth greeted me and the smell of French toast was wafting from a griddle on the countertop. We ate breakfast together, and I then begrudgingly packed up my gear, not wanting to head back into the woods. Around 9 AM I hugged Rich goodbye and Ruth and I got into their car to begin the short drive from Halifax up to the Peter's Mountain parking lot where they had picked me up from the day before. I can't thank them enough for their hospitality. We hugged goodbye, and as she drove away I disappeared down the narrow dirt trail that I've followed for over a thousand miles now. Back to my daily life as I've come to know it.
I again felt some stiffness in my knees for the first half mile or so. I'm not sure if this is due to the strain of the rocky descents or what, but they eventually warms up and becomes a non-issue, so I take it easy just to let them do their thing. Three miles from the parking lot I'd come across Peter's Mountain shelter where Pneumo spent the night last night. I arrived there shortly before 10:30, at which point he had been gone for three or so hours. Signing the log book and getting back on the trail, I traversed the ridgeline looking over the valley, relatively easy terrain with small climbs and descents here and there, otherwise level with some rocky areas. It was in this section that I came across the new worst thing on the trail that I can only assume will become more prominent- noseeums, flies, and the worst- cankerworms, small green worms hanging by a silky string from trees. There's no good way of combating this trio of misery. The buzz of flies, the black floating presence of noseeums in front of your eyes, and the disgusting feeling of silky cankerworm string against your skin as you unavoidably walk through it. It got exceptionally frustrating, and I think I'll have to buy a bug net for my head before I get anywhere near the flies of Vermont. The first ridgeline traverse would last me nearly 10 miles before dropping down to PA 325, where I arrived around 1300hrs. Shortly before reaching the road there was a large green case of trail magic nearly 4 feet wide containing anything and everything you could imagine... Q-tips. Pop tarts, cooking fuel, gummy candies, Dr. Pepper sodas, crackers, moist towelettes, and even dog food for the canine-partner hikers. This was supplied by a 2012 thru-hiker named Diesel who lives locally and resupplies it. He wasn't there, but left a log book asking for trail names and blog links for anyone interested in providing it. From shortly past there the trail would cross the road and begin a long climb up the 1,200' or so to the next ridge. Oddly enough this climb had no switchbacks, and was instead a multi-mile moderately sloped climb up the length of the mountain, allowing for a good speed to be maintained throughout.
I stopped halfway up the climb at a stream in order to fill my water bottles, knowing it would be another 12 miles until I had the opportunity to do so again. At this point the humid morning had turned exceptionally overcast, and I had stopped earlier to put my rain cover on my backpack, anticipating some precipitation. Despite the lack of direct heat, I didn't feel like making a 12 mile hike with minimal water, so the filtering began. As I was sitting there by the stream I met a Montreal based hiker named Inflammable who is a year or two younger than me. Having never heard my trail name before he asked when I started and was blown away by the date. He asked if I ran marathons or did any kind of ultra-hike training back home in order to prepare for the Appalachian Trail, and seemed almost disappointed that I hadn't done either. Inflammable said my name should be Marathon Man due to my daily distances and endurance, to which I laughed. He hiked with me for a short while before calling out that he couldn't keep up with my pace. I said goodbye, almost wishing I didn't have 15 more miles to go, else I would have hiked at a slower rate with him. Regardless, I trekked on, still battling with jaggedly protruding rocks and cursing Pennsylvania as I went. One at the peak of the climb, only 1,600' or so, the trail leveled off in a polite manner and maintained a relatively flat hike through for the next 8 miles. Determined to make it to the campsite Pneumo and I had selected earlier before dark and despite a later start than normal, I kept a steady pace at my comfortable 3 mph and hiked on. Around 1600hrs I passed by Yellow Springs, the remains of a coal mining village from the late 1850s that's nestled deep into the woods. Stopping to sign the log book that the local A.T. club keeps there in a mailbox, I saw Pneumo had been by not to long before. I kept on, meandering through the woods trying to keep my ankles in tact over the rocks.
One problem I've been facing (surprise surprise, equipment failure) is that my trekking poles cork handles are falling apart. One side more than the other has a large section that was coming loose, and I was doing my best to keep it held on there until I found superglue or was able to call Black Diamond and ask them for a replacement set. So here I am walking through the woods focusing on keeping the handle together when I step down and realize that I've stepped on the tail of a 5' long black snake. I cannot write the words I spoke. I can however tell you that I jumped 15 feet off the ground and in the freak-out-process ripped the precariously held on chunk of cork off my trekking pole grip. I walked a few feet before turning to apologize to the snake, who at this point had moved a foot or so into the brush but was still very visible and had its head turned towards the trail, and I decided to write off my pole cork as a loss. Snakes, man. They sure catch you off guard. Carrying on I arrived at the side trail of Rausch Gap shelter around 1730hrs, with only 5 miles left to go before my day was out. The side trail to the shelter was 0.3 miles, and despite my desire to go and sit there, perhaps converse with the limited number of thru-hikers remaining, I knew I'd rather have my tent set up and dinner cooked by dark. One foot in front of the other I hiked on, crossing the bridge over Rausch Creek. For readers from JeepForum, North Shore Jeeps, and perhaps even GarageJournal- this is in fact the Rausch Creek that the off road park gets its name from, it's located very closely nearby.
The last 5 miles included a short but steep climb then a descent back into the valley below where farmlands opened up and highways come through. Walking through a field I came across two Box turtles a few hundred feet apart. The iPhone photos don't do their color justice but my dSLR photos are quite good, although don't hold your breath to see those just yet. I was able to call my folks for a while and catch up with them. My next package will be arriving this weekend with new shoes and my next section of maps, along with some other small stuff I've needed. We're also starting to look at their availability for finish dates to meet me at Katahdin. As strange as it is to say, I'm now at the point where shy of death or severe physical disability, I can make an accurate guess as to when I'll be done.
I found our campsite at just after 1930, having stopped again just before crossing I-81 to get the water I'd need for the night. There are no other sources for the next 9 miles. No sooner was my tent put up than the skies turned black and deep rolls of thunder started emitting from the sky. Ironically, despite my having to hike further, I made it here before Pneumo who had stopped at the Rausch shelter. When he arrived he rushed to get his tent up, at which point the skies opened and rained unbelievable amounts of water down on us as lightning illuminated my tent and thunder cracked incessantly. It was loud enough that in order to converse, he and I texted on our phones from between our tents. Falling asleep will be easy with the noise of the rain, and hopefully the storm will have moved on tomorrow.
Nothing really exciting for tomorrow's plans, a simple 27 mile day along a ridgeline with one steep climb. At this point my sights are set on making it to the Delaware Water Gap on Sunday morning. From there the goal will turn to making it to Massachusetts. Tomorrow's hike will include the mile mark that will leave me with less than 1,000 miles to go. We've joked about only referring to miles remaining from now on, instead of miles already walked. The world's biggest and most drawn out countdown.
Now, to sleep off this storm.