Monday, June 29, 2015

PA route 183 - Northbound mile 1198

This post is from June 29, 2015.  The GPS tracking of this hike can be found at:

Today was a difficult day.  The most difficult 20 miles I have done in some time.

It started off easy enough with a crossing of the Swatara Creek over this lovely now-pedestrian only crossing:

The 20 miles were difficult today because this part of the AT in Pennsylvania was really earning its moniker of 'Rocksylvania' today.  This photo is the trail (see white blaze in distance):

This, and the previous 2 days' hiking has been almost exclusively on top of well-defined ridges that seem to run parallel with each other.  I can spend a whole day moving in a straight line on top of one of these ridges.  There were a lot of ridges in NC/TN but they were sharper - sometimes no more than a meter wide, and did not consist of the rubble that is common in this area.  Being on the ridge did afford occasional dramatic views of the countryside, though:

These mountains served as a kind of 'early warning system' during the French and Indian wars in the middle of the 1700's.  There were a series of forts built at strategic locations (gaps) in the mountains where the English soldiers could detect a major movement of Indians preparing to attach settlements down in the farm country (see previous picture and imagine it 270 years ago).  One was in Swatara Gap (where I started today) and another was about 400 meters from the end of the hike today.  This monument is deep in the woods and few people not hiking the AT would ever see it:

I also have something weird going on with my left lower calf (not the one over the artificial ankle).   Yesterday my right foot kicked up a big branch and threw it against the back of my left calf with considerable force.  The branch broke and I felt pain and there was a small amount of bleeding.  This, in itself, is not that unusual for me on this hike.  I get bruises and scratches all the time.  Today, however, I woke up with a strange skin rash over a big bruised area where this blow occurred.  Tonight, that is extremely sore and strangely the skin irritation is more painful than the bruise.  The skin feels like a second degree burn.  We don't know what to make of it.  Could the branch have been of some kind of poisonous wood?  A simultaneous spider bite coinciding with the blow from the branch?  Hopefully it is better in the morning.

Addendum on 6/30/15:

My sister heard about this from my blog post and told me to be on the lookout for cellulitis (very dangerous, spreading infection that can kill you if not checked.  It is usually from staph or strep).  Anyway, it seemed to be spreading with long thin red lines going up on the back of my calf to my knee.   So, we went to the Good Samaritan Hospital Emergency room in Lebanon, PA.  We spent about 5 hours getting assessed and antibiotic IV and then the prescription of oral antibiotics that I need to take for 10 days.

These are shots of what my leg looked like in the ER last night:

So the good news is that the few days' break from hiking that this will enforce hopefully coincides with the birth of my daughter's baby.  We have now driven to DC and are waiting close by her as her contractions get stronger.   Pray for her, the baby, and us.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Swatara Gap, PA 72 - Northbound mile 1178

This post is from June 28, 2015.   The GPS tracking of this hike can be found at:

Hiked 18 miles today through the mud from yesterday's storms.  The terrain was easy, though, so I made slick time.  I came upon a young lady Thru-Hiker in the late morning who was standing still in the trail looking at me.   Her trail name was "Towanda"  and she is a recent college graduate from NC hiking the trail solo.  Anyway, she was looking back at me to tell me about the huge rattlesnake next to the trail.  I enthusiastically said, 'cool - let me get a photo'.  She eventually thought this was a good idea and let me take a picture of her as close to the snake as she dared which resulted in this shot:

Here is a closer view of the rattler:

I ended up hiking with her for a couple of miles and we separated when she wanted to stop for lunch (I don't stop to eat, I just stuff my pockets with more food and eat as I walk).  This was near the first of two abandoned coal mining towns I passed today.  The second was called Rausch Gap.  Here are some shots of a plaque describing the town, tailings from a nearby mine, and a small cemetery left in the woods there:

Just before I reached the take-out trailhead on Route 72, I had to cross a creek on an interesting bridge:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

PA 325 - Northbound mile 1160

This post is from June 27, 2015.  The GPS tracking of this hike can be found at:

It was raining all day today, and started to rain heavily in the last hour of my 10 mile hike.  Today was composed of walking along an exposed ridge line in a straight line for 3 1/2 hours.  The winds became quite heavy towards the end and at one point I heard a crack and looked behind me and 2 seconds later a 3 inch thick branch crashed down onto the trail where I had just walked.  I don't know if I would have been able to get out of the way in time between the 'crack' and the collision.  It would have been a bad injury.  The strong winds were breaking branches off the trees all over the place.  Helen dropped me off at 9:30am and was waiting when I emerged at the destination trailhead at 12:55.  I had to make it a short day today as the next bail-out point is 16 miles north of here and it was really, really heavy rain when I quit and that continued throughout the afternoon.  I was very glad I was not sleeping in my tent tonight.

Friday, June 26, 2015

PA route 225 - Nobo 1151

This post is from June 26, 2015. Today I hiked from Northbound mile 1125.5 to 1151.2.   The GPS tracking of this hike can be found at:

The first thing we did today was check with my daughter Jenny to make sure that she was not about to go into labor before I set off on this days hike. Things seem stable enough so Helen dropped me off at Route 11 in Carlisle, PA this morning at 10:30 AM at the very spot I ended at last October (see previous post).  This is what it looked like when she dropped me off:

 I then hiked 26 miles through Rolling fields 

over Rocky ridges 

through the town of Duncannon  

and across the Susquehanna River 

and then 6 more miles over a ridge to route 225.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Carlisle, PA - Nobo 1125

This post is from October 29, 2014, when I hiked an easy 8 miles from Boiling Springs, PA to Carlisle, PA.

The GPS tracking of this hike can be found at:

This is what I wrote to my family after finishing hiking that day last October:

"Despite some last minutes snafus with the flight (now flights) home I am now in the air flying from Harrisburg to Philly and from there to Boston. The final 8 miles of hiking this morning were very easy which made the drizzle of rain not so irritating.

This has been a great experience for me and I am excited to plan the next phases of this lifetime goal of mine."

So, with this post I have caught the reader up with my contiguous hike from Springer Mountain, GA to Carlisle, PA, a total of 1125 miles.   In addition to these miles, in the past months (but since 10/20/14 I have been hiking between southern Massachusetts and Franconia notch, NH.  I have covered a lot of that distance now and will have the rest done by the time I reach my Massachusetts starting point in early August.  I will post the blog entries for that part of the hike in geographical order, not chronological. When I do reach that starting point in MA, which is Northbound mile 1512, I will be able to continue at Franconia Notch, NH due to the hiking I have done locally here in New England over the past months.  My current plan has me reaching that point by August 15.  At that point I will proceed in earnest in order, ever northward from Franconia Notch to Mt. Katahdin, with the goal of reaching Mt. Katahdin by the first week in October, completing the Thru-hike in the required period of not more than 12 consecutive months.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Boiling Springs, PA - Nobo 1117

This post is from October 28, 2014.   The GPS tracking of this hike can be found at:

Pulled into Boiling Springs PA around 5 today after a 20 mile day. Am lodged in a threadbare but comfortable hotel just outside town. Note how the AT goes through a couple of miles of farm fields before entering this town. Just like your days on the AT with Mike this summer, right Peter? :-)

Downtown Boiling Springs, PA:

About 7 miles tomorrow morning to Carlisle PA and then a bus to Harrisburg and a flight back to Boston and a longed-for reunion with Helen. And then to strategize how to fit the rest of the remaining 2000 miles of the AT in over the next 355 days....:-)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Ironmaster's Mansion Hostel - Nobo 1097

This post is from October 27, 2014.  The GPS tracking of this hike can be found at:

Made it my planned 17 today to a hostel at Pine Grove State park. It was a shorter day today by plan. Unfortunately when I got to the hostel the caretaker announced that there had been a car accident so the building had no heat no showers and no food until the line was repaired which was not expected until at least 7. At 8:45 the power came on so now I have showered and eaten a pizza and am warm...and have wifi which is good because there is no cell phone coverage here

Still feeling good

I am attaching  photos of me passing the mid.-point of thee AT.  That means I am half way done, right? :-)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Quarry Gap Shelter - Nobo 1081

This post is from October 26, 2014.  The GPS tracking of this hike can be found at:

Did 20.5 today. Am in a shelter in the middle of the woods in nowhere PA. Glad to be tucked in for the night as the temperature is dropping fast. Helen has booked me on a flight home from Harrisburg Wednesday evening. Body holding up well.
Now they are worried about protecting the rattlesnakes from us!!:

 The wild rhododendrons grow so thick here that sometimes you are literally walking through a tunnel:

 Here are some shots of the Quarry Gap shelter that I stayed at.

There was one other occupant of this shelter and he was scary.  He was one of those homeless people that live out on the AT.   He had homeless person caliber camping gear and was mentally ill.  He was screaming out loud to himself during a lot of the night which made sleep difficult for me.  I left in the morning before he got up.  I had the additional pleasure of having some kind of rodent scampering over my sleeping back pulled over my head.  I just pulled it tighter so they could not get in.