So last we spoke I was trying to recover from the heat and hangover that is the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, PA. After our siesta, it really didn't feel any cooler. Peach and Overdrive took off for the next shelter at around 3pm. I chugged two liters of water to prepare for the dry stretch, filled up 4 liters and started hiking around 3:30. I still hadn't heard from Daystar, Pants and Gribley.....at this point it seemed I had lost them to the Doyle. I left Onespeed and pushed on to Table Rock, which had an ok view, and stayed to make dinner, trying to ignore the gnats swarming everywhere. I officially no longer felt interested in hiking, and even though I was sitting on a giant rock cliff, I started to ponder how I might defy the laws of physics and pound my aluminum stakes into the rock and set up my tent. As I was about to give in and just cowboy camp (cowboy camping is when you sleep on the ground with no shelter, it's nice to do on clear nights to watch the stars, or when you are too lazy to set up your tent), Onespeed appeared and convinced me to go with him to the next shelter, which was only a mile away.
Just when we arrived at Peters Mountain Shelter, Peach and Overdrive were leaving, hoping to get a few more miles in. Onespeed and I were home even though we only made it 12 miles that day:( Daystar had texted me that they made it five miles to the first shelter finally and were not moving. Lighthouse also texted me that he had gone one mile and was turning back because it was too hot, making his total millage for the day -1. Seemed no one was getting very far today.... Onespeed and I had the really nice double decker shelter to ourselves, and while I normally tent, we decided to sleep in the shelter since no one else was there. A couple of southbound section hikers arrived later that night but that was it.
The next morning Onespeed took off before me as he wanted to try and do a 30 that day - I had my heart set on a spring only 18 miles away so I took my time. My hike was really quiet, as there were not a lot of people on the trail. After the Shennies and Civil War land, it was so nice to finally be back to a peaceful, tourist free woods. I spent most of the day alone - had lunch at a spring where I met and chatted up the ridge runner for that section (ridge runners are assigned sections of trail that they hike back and forth) and had another small break at Rattling Run with Peach, Overdrive and Moonwalker before pushing past them to Rausch Gap. The gnats and flies were so unbearable. I lost all dignity and sported my bug headnet twice. It's a black mesh netting that makes me look like I'm an old lady mourning the loss of her husband, but it was worth it. You either look like a weirdo with a bug helmet on, or spend your entire hike flailing your arms around trying to get bugs out of your orifices.
I made it to my destination at 4:30 and contemplated pushing on. But the spring was so pretty and I figured I could have a relaxing night reading and wait for everyone to catch up. Out here we have to force ourselves sometimes to stop and enjoy the woods. We have a long way to hike so we often feel like we should always be hiking. Peach, Overdrive and Moonwalker arrived shortly after and decided the same thing. We all retired to our tents early to escape the bugs, and the next morning I woke up to the sound of Daystar chatting with Overdrive. Apparently everyone was all over the place - Pants succumbed to the bugs last night and set up his tent about six miles back. Daystar plopped down at Yellow Spring and Gribley decided to push on to Cold Spring just a few miles behind me. Daystar had gotten up early and hiked past a sleeping Gribley this morning to catch up. We were just finishing our breakfast when Gribley showed up. We all set our sights on the 501 shelter, an enclosed bunkroom with a solar shower (translation: hose with cold water). It was also near a road, which is usually unfortunate, but there was a pizza place nearby that would deliver:) Gribley took off before us and Daystar and I spent the 18 mile day hiking together.
It was a nice hike except for a five mile section that was rocky, ugly and overgrown with stinging nettle. We emerged from this stretch a bit crabby, and took refuge at William Penn shelter, which unfortunately was in the process of being overtaken by a family with a whiny baby. I chatted for a bit and answered the usual 'yes I walked here from Georgia' questions, but not being in the mood to hang out with a baby in the woods, quickly started making moves towards the trail. The guy tried telling me I probably had another 7-8 miles to 501. I politely informed him it was actually only 4, but he seemed not to want to believe me. NEVER trust a day hiker/weekend warrior when it comes to distance estimates. They think everything is so much farther than it is because it takes them forever to get there - "I must have gone at least five miles" but in reality you just walk slow and you only went two. Thru-hikers know how fast they walk and can always tell how many miles they've gone by simply looking at their watch.
Daystar and I did the 4 miles in a quick hour and a half and arrived to a pizza party at 501. Peach, Overdrive, Squatch, Basil and Bucket had already ordered their pizza while Float, Gribley and I contemplated the menu. Daystar went outside to cook her own less awesome food in an effort to save money. I had a really fun night hanging out with Squatch, he is a documentary film maker doing a movie on the AT. He does the trail in chunks, going wherever the action is and is currently hiking south. He spent a lot of time filming everyones conversations, and he unfortunately overheard me explaining to Peach the 'lefty throw stress reliever.' I was immediately forced into a demonstration for the film. Lefty throw: whenever you are frustrated it always feels good to throw something violently downward left handed, be sure to make some sort of noise as well. If you are left handed I suppose it would be a righty throw. If you're ambidextrous you don't get to play because you can function properly with both hands you bastard. I give credit to Cheesewater and Towlie for first introducing me to lefty throw, it always makes me feel better and I will be sure to thank them in my Oscar acceptance speech.
After a night of swapping hiker stories and several rounds of lefty throw, everyone finally picked a bunk and went to bed. Gribley was getting up at the crack of dawn to do 25 miles to Hamburg by 4pm to meet his dad, who would be hiking with him for a few days. Daystar and I had less ambitious plans to do only 15 to the next shelter. Osprey sent me a brand new pack to the P.O. in Hamburg, my zipper broke on my hipbelt so they just offered to replace the whole thing:) Since the next day was Sunday I was in no hurry to get to Hamburg as the P.O. wouldn't be open. Plus we had heard rumors in the trail registers of a hiker feed taking place at a road crossing in 10 miles.........
Daystar and I were the last to leave 501, we hiked slow and took lots of breaks, deciding to casually enjoy the day. At the second overlook we were starting to wonder where Pants was, as he would have normally caught up to us by now. We turned on our phones to find that Daystar had received a text that he had been bitten by a rattlesnake and was off the trail. Only after we freak out and leave him (and Gribley) a frantic message, do I get a text from him saying he was kidding. Seconds later he appeared with a shit-eating grin on his face. Not amused, we decided as his punishment he would have to be our slave for the day. The two of us, plus our new slave, made our way down to PA 183 where the trail magic was suppose to take place. And take place it was. We stumbled into a parking lot complete with a giant tent and grill set up. Two former thru-hikers were grilling B/L/D all day for passing hikers. Peach, Overdrive, Bucket, Basil, Headin' Out and Taggin' Along were all there and didn't look like they were leaving anytime soon. We slid off our shoes and cracked open a beer and commenced our four hour break The three of us plus Float finally peeled ourselves away from the roadside grill to hike another six miles to a random campsite just before the shelter.
The next morning we awoke to thunder, but managed to pack up our tents before the rain hit and cruised the nine miles to Hamburg in the storm. With Pants and Float behind us, Daystar and I blew through Port Clinton hoping to hitch a ride to Hamburg from PA 61 - not realizing it was a major highway. Highways are hard to hitch from since cars are typically moving to fast to stop. That coupled with the fact that we had to stand on the wrong side of the road since there was no where else to stand on the other side, was going to make this a hard hitch. We stood there for about 10 min. before a nice guy who worked for the railroad stopped. Another truck pulled over just as we were getting in the car - it was Pants who had hitched a ride from Port Clinton. We all got dropped off at the Microtel though I was the only one getting a room. Pants and Daystar just wanted to resupply and do laundry and hike out. I hadn't had a room to myself once yet on this trip and took this opportunity to get my own space. It was pricey but worth the quiet night and amazing sleep, plus I got to watch Transformers. Hiking would be so much easier if I were a robot.