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Weminuch Wilderness Area

Hike Reports: Appalachian Trail 2017

Hike with Gravity

I successfully completed a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on October 8, 2017. I am currently posting a daily journal here. You can also start reading from the beginning here.

Day 104, Vernon to Campsite at Mile 1369.1
Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own

As I described Melissa’s trail magic generosity yesterday, I tried to express how special it was. I have not had an experience like that before, and it was a little difficult for me to know how to accept it. I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening to others, where a stranger offers a clean bed, a hot meal and a chance to clean up and relax without expecting anything in return, but I didn’t anticipate it would happen to me. Why should it happen to me, I’ve wondered? I don’t need help. Besides. all I'm doing is walking. True, I’m walking a long distance, which is sometimes difficult, but it’s just walking. And I'm doing this by choice.

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Day 103, Unionville to New Jersey Route 94
And sometimes we visit your country and live in your home

Trail magic is usually just a simple gesture of kindness to help a hiker. It might be an unexpected granola bar handed to you by a passing day hiker, or a nice spread of food and a place to sit, relax and laugh. The farther I’ve walked, the more I’ve come to realize these are more than just small acts of generosity. The people who offer trail magic truly want you to be successful. They hope their simple gesture will lift your spirits and make your hike a bit more enjoyable.

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Day 102, Rutherford Shelter to Unionville
Ooooh, that smell!

It’s been four days since I last took a shower. Most of the hikers I’m with are equally dirty and smelly. Lately, though, we’ve become more smelly than usual. The weather has been continuously hot and humid. Then it rained yesterday afternoon. But wait, walking in rain is almost like taking a shower, right? Not even close. Think of what a dog smells like when it comes in after being outside in the rain.

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Day 101, Brink Road Shelter to Rutherford Shelter
These are days you'll remember

I didn’t take many photos today. That shouldn’t be thought of as a reflection of a boring, uneventful day. It was, in fact, memorable, but in ways that could not be captured with a camera.

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Day 100, Mohican Outdoor Center to Brink Road Shelter
Helter skelter in a summer swelter

Thru-hikers today have it easier than hikers did in previous decades. The trail is mostly the same as it was then. We still have to walk and climb, just as hikers have always done. The two main differences for us are cell phones and the lighter materials used in our gear. As cell phones began to be commonplace, there was some pushback by some hikers. They tried to shame those who brought their phones with them on the trail, complaining that the phones brought in too much of the technological world into the natural world. I haven’t noticed anyone making a pretense of that now. Everyone has a phone and they use it when they please. Generally, though, cell phone use is now more discrete because hikers tend to use texting more than calling, and that helps to limit the intrusion.

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Day 99, Delaware Water Gap to Mohican Outdoor Center
They call it that Jersey Bounce

This morning was our last morning in Pennsylvania. Thankfully, it was without any rocks. The same could not be said about the afternoon in New Jersey. Nevertheless, the morning and afternoon were made pleasant by sunny weather and good times with friends.

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Day 98, Campsite at Mile 1276.9 to Delaware Water Gap
Could be worse

Yesterday was a rough day, but I expected today would be better. This was the last day of Rocksylvania, so it couldn’t get any worse, right?

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Day 97, Campsite at Mile 1262.2 to Campsite at Mile 1276.9
Who was dragged down by the stone

There have been many days like yesterday. I hope there will be many more. These are days when difficult climbs are rewarded with magnificent vistas. Long hiking miles are rewarded with opportunities to meet interesting people. These are the days I enjoy the most. Today was not one of those days.

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Day 96, New Tripoli Campsite to Campsite at Mile 1262.2
Standing on the moon

Long before I started this hike I had known about the rocks of Pennsylvania. What I didn’t know until I reached Rocksylvania was the trail isn’t a continuous jumble of rocks. Only about half of the trail through this part of the state is covered in rocks. I’ve begun to think of the AT in Pennsylvania as the Jekyll and Hyde Trail. It’s half good and half evil. As of today there are just under 50 miles to go to finish Rocksylvania. Thanks to yesterday’s zero day, I feel much better about making it to the Delaware River in one piece.

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Day 95, Zero Day at New Tripoli Campsite
What you see revealed within the anger is worth the pain

An expression you sometimes hear on the trail, and one I’ve even said myself, is “Embrace the suck”. It’s borrowed from the military. There will be challenges, so the thought goes, but you just have to roll with them. Accept them. Let them motivate and give you strength. And then came Rocksylvania. I’ve fallen down and twisted my ankle too many times to embrace that suck. The rocks and the monotony of a trail without many views have been dispiriting. The rain is no fun either, but it’s the wear and tear on my body lately that has made me feeling down. I was beat up. I was frustrated and angry.

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Day 94, Eckville Shelter to New Tripoli Campsite
You've been judged in the balance and found wanting

What do you get when you add one heavy backpack, hot and humid weather, heavy rain, and poor trail conditions? Mix them all together and you get one unhappy hiker.

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Day 93, Port Clinton to Eckville Shelter
We're gonna romp and stomp till midnight

It seemed like the right thing to do. As we set off out of Port Clinton, we only had enough food to get us through today. We decided last night to not go to Hamburg to resupply, perhaps mostly because we didn’t want to deal with hiring a shuttle to take us. Hey, the trail provides, right?

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Day 92, Campsite at Mile 1206.3 to Port Clinton
The sight of you leaves me weak

This part of Pennsylvania makes me think of the movie The Deer Hunter. It shouldn’t, because the movie is set in western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, I’m reminded of it as I walk through these woods. Much of the land the trail traverses here is through state game lands. I realize that the trail needs to go though public lands whenever possible, so it’s not surprising that game lands are used. Still, we have walked through so much land set aside for hunting I can’t help think the citizens of this state are hunting-obsessed. I don’t really know if they are. I just can’t help think that way. At any rate, if Pennsylvanians are hunting-obsessed, I’m fine with that. The land they’ve preserved keeps the trail from being encroached by civilization. Or at least, that’s the intent.

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Day 91, William Penn Shelter to Campsite at Mile 1206.3
I would be running but my feet's too slow

The word on the street — or trail, if you will — was Pennsylvania rocks didn’t get bad until after Duncannon. While that has proven to be true, I have a couple of observations. For one, the rocks have not been continuously bad. There have been several stretches of smooth trail or stretches where the rocks didn’t pose much of a hazard. When I come upon a section of trail that is not littered in rocks, I’ve learned to throw my transmission in high gear and speed onward. These sections are where I can make up a little of the time lost navigating the rocky sections. The other observation is, when the rocks are bad, they are really bad. They are so bad it’s hard to understand how anyone thinks this is a proper trail. Each step taken on one of these rocky sections is a joint-twisting, bone-jarring, trekking-pole-grabbing, mind-numbing slow walk of constant peril.

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Day 90, Yellow Springs Campsite to William Penn Shelter
And so I contentedly live upon eels

The creepy deer that wandered about Yellow Springs Campsite yesterday evening hung around through most of the night. Every now and then I woke up and heard it walking around. Fortunately, though, it didn’t try to eat anything belonging to me or another camper. To the relief of everyone, it was gone by the time we woke up this morning.

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