At the time of writing this 7/17 we are right outside Salisbury, CT. Will resupply there tomorrow morning and then enter MA in the afternoon!
But first some past sections....
We were dropped off in Harper's Ferry by Pushup's mom at noon and spend the afternoon making our way through the town. We visited the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters, the non-profit organization responsible for trail wide care. Here we got our pictures taken and added to the book for hikers for the year. We were the 390th and 391st thru hikers to come through that year. We spent a few hours looking through the books and seeing who had been through so far. They had books going back several decades... pretty cool.
We left Harper's Ferry after eating a large Falafel dinner in the historical district and walked a few miles into Maryland. Maryland is arguably the flattest and easiest state on the trail. It is about 40 miles long. Many people do it in two days. Some do it in one day for a challenge. We did it in three and a half :)
I didn't feel very motivated here. The trail was kind of boring and we had been out here for a long time already. We slept in late most days here and dragged our feet down wide, rock free, flat tunnels through the woods. Occasionally we would see an okay view through the trees, but nothing that really "wowed" me. Nonetheless, Maryland had fantastic shelters, access to water, decent privies, and was very well maintained. It was quite pleasant really, and would make a fine long-weekend hiking trip or a good place for a distance challenge.
Once we crossed into Pennsylvania, I felt like we were starting to get to the North and closer to home. I was reminded of the 1240k cycling brevet I did here last year and looked forward to crossing the roads we passed the AT on back then. I enjoyed early PA. We crossed the halfway point of the trail here on June 8th. It was nice to be reminded we are on schedule and the second half will go a lot quicker. Early Pennsylvania continued Maryland's trend of being extremely flat and tunnel like. Not many views but it was okay.
We arrived at Boiling Springs, our first resupply town in PA in the evening after crossing our first corn field of the trail. The smell of a large indoor chicken farm made me want to die when the wind blew it towards us. I felt sorry for the chickens, workers, and people who will eat that stuff. Boiling Springs had a campsite on the south side of town. It was right next to a very busy freight rail line. We were warned to stay away if we wanted any sleep, but the only other option was a hotel and we were planning on staying in a hotel 26 miles up the trail the next night. After getting a delicious and huge sicilian pizza, we walked back in the dark to the campsite and set up. Despite the trains every 30 mins, I slept okay.
Boiling Springs to Hamburg
We planned to do the next section, 26 super flat miles through farmland to Duncannon in one day, but we slept in and did it in two. It was raining in the morning and hot and we didn't feel like killing it that day. On our way out of town we admired the nice pond in the center of town filled with ducks, geese, and swallows. Seemed like a quaint little town.
Duncannon was crappy and run down. Not really what I was expecting. But the people were nice and the services were okay. We stayed at the Doyle Hotel. The Doyle Hotel is a super old hotel that doesn't appear to have been maintained ever. They actually don't appear to be a hotel for normal people, just for hikers who have little money and low standards. The first floor had a very nice bar and restaurant that I thoroughly enjoyed. The hotel on the other hand was a falling apart dump. Surprised it wasn't condemned. It was cheap and inside from the rain, but most trail shelters were cleaner. The rest of the town was equally shabby. It was one of those wacky "trail experiences", but I wish we stayed at the hotel in Boiling Springs instead!
Leaving Duncannon, we crossed over the Susquehanna River, where there was one pissed of Peregrine Falcon. We think it had a nest on one of the bridge supports. It was screaming out its alarm call non stop and started dive bombing at us! This was the first time in my life I had been attacked by a bird... and it was a new bird for my life list! As we crossed the bridge, I had my trekking poles up ready to whack it if it got too close while Greta tried to take pictures. After a few swoops down at us, we decided we should hustle out of there before it got even more pissed.
As we headed to Hamburg from Duncannon, we got a lot of rain. Actually we got almost daily rain in PA for two weeks. Thankfully it was warm, but it seemed like just when we dried out, it'd rain again. Oh well. PA continued to be not-too-rocky here even though people kept warning us about how rocky PA was. We would soon find out what they meant, but still had a long, flat unrocky while to go.
Anyways, we eventually got to Port Clinton, the tiny town a two mile hitch away from Hamburg, which is a "real town" / "shopping mega center". After a billion cars passed us, we caught a ride into town thanks to Greta's 80's hair blowout. In reality it only took like 15 minutes, but in the south we would get rides in like 2 minutes after 5 cars. In Hamburg, we entered our overpriced hotel for a zero for my birthday. Welcome to the North! Here we bought Magic cards to play on the trail and TV dinners to ring in my 26th birthday!
Hamburg to Delaware Water Gap
When people mention PA on the AT, they always say it is "ROCKY". North of Hamburg is roughly where PA gets rocky. The majority of PA is not noteworthy for its rocks, IMO. But this section has most people cursing the state by the time it is over. While there are a few sections where large rocks/boulders present a fun challenge, they are mostly small baseball to basketball sized rocks which cover the entire trail that present an annoyance.
We came really slowly out of Hamburg... didn't have much motivation at all. I was getting really sick of hiking and didn't want to get up in the morning. Once we got to Palmerton, I was reminded of what I find fun about this. Palmerton has an old superfund site. A mountain that was completely ruined by over a century of zinc mining. Apparently it is safe now to hike through, as the trail does. Here we had an entirely unexpected rock climb up a deforested, boulder coverd mountain. There was one spot that was basically a seven foot vertical wall, falling back off that would have sucked! Nothing quite like this on the AT yet. This was probably my favorite part on the trail yet. Funny that the most scenic, fun, and challenging section of the AT in PA is a superfund site.... although I think Greta had a different opinion of this section :)
After Palmerton, we had a few more days to Delaware Water Gap, the PA border to NJ. This was basically nonstop annoying rocks. It was a big relief to get to NJ.
PA was a low point on the trail for us. Mentally, we were pretty down. The towns weren't that great. The trail was rather boring and annoying at times. It rained a lot and was hot. On the plus side, the water sources which are frequently dry here all were flowing, and we had nonstop shade!
Delaware Water Gap to Greenwood Lake
This was without a doubt one of our favorite sections on the trail. I never expected NJ to be as gorgeous as it was, but boy was I wrong! As soon as we crossed out of PA, we entered a fantastically maintained trail with beautiful rivers, scenic vistas, open ridge walks, blueberry bushes, black bears, prairie warblers, and windy campspots (sweet sweet wind... how I missed yee). I highly recommend the NJ AT to anyone wanting to do a short section of the AT. It was very diverse. We passed through several fantastic wetland wildlife sanctuaries which was a first on the trail. There are frequent resupply opportunities. The trail seemed further from civilization that PA... even though it was probably quite close regularly. We saw our first blackbear up close outside of the SNP. S/he was eating blueberries! While NJ is rocky too, it alternates between rocky and non. And the rocks came with nice views and general fun-ness. Downsides of NJ were gross water sources and crummy shelters... but the trail itself was well maintained and very pretty.
Coming into Greenwood Lake, NY on June 27, we had one of the most diverse 17 miles on the trail. It started with a few up and down woodsy miles, followed by a mile long boardwalk through a wetland at dawn, then through a field with cows, up a rocky mountain, back down into the woods, and then after crossing into NY for NJ we had a few miles of a jungle gym of giant boulders climbing up and down... one even had a ladder! I have heard bad things about NY, but this first few miles was a lot of fun... and pretty!
The past 60 miles or so really rejuvenated me on the trail... and we are getting close to New England!
-Chris aka Junco
Ps having issues updating pics to this post. Will post all our photos later.