So after a quick breeze through Maryland, I had finally caught up with Daystar, Be-Bop, Gribley and Pants. We had a late night at Quarry Gap Shelter, and the entire next day was consumed with thoughts of the half gallon challenge. Daystar, Be-Bop and I got a decently early start, cruised to Birch Run Shelter for lunch with the Ape Team, took the obligatory photo at the official AT midpoint (ya!), and practically sprinted the remainder of our 18 mile day to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. It is there thru-hikers are expected to stop, purchase a half gallon of ice cream and consume it in one sitting to celebrate the AT halfway point. We waited for Pants and Gribley, and once we had all chosen our flavors (chocolate for me:), we put "Eye of the Tiger" on repeat and dove in. We all finished, but I can confidently say we were all a bit miserable during the last few quadrants of our tubs, not to mention really sick of "Eye of the Tiger." We laid around the front of the store until about 9pm trying to digest the obscene amount of dairy and waited for immediate onset diabetes to kick in. We finally pulled ourselves together to wander a mile around Fuller Lake and set up camp for Be-Bop's last night on the trail. Her month with us was over and she was off to NYC to work at a summer camp for kids, then heading to Peru in the fall for a semester abroad. I am bummed I didn't get to spend more time with her, she's such an awesome person with a good head on her shoulders and a really bright future ahead of her.
The next morning Daystar and Be-Bop took off early to hike the 6 miles to the road where Be-Bop was to be picked up. I spent my morning watching Gribley and Pants completely explode their packs, as they had decided to switch packs for the day. I finally left them to their mess and started my hike to Tagg Run where I had lunch and called my dad to leave a message for Dads Day. It was nice not having to send a card since he also lives in the woods and I had no idea where he was. After a long lunch, I took off to catch up with everyone and ran into Gribley and Pants propped up in the trees. Peach and Overdrive showed up a bit later and after another long break we decided to tackle the rock maze. Now I hate it when the trail simply becomes a pile of rocks, but maneuvering up over and around large boulders is kinda fun and a nice change of pace. I only got lost once (at the same spot where everyone else seemed to get lost as well). We all gathered at Whisky Spring Rd. after and collectively decided to go to Alec Kennedy Shelter, then hit the town of Boiling Springs in the morning. Pants, Gribley, Daystar and I all camped at Little Dogwood Run with White Wolf right before the shelter as there was a good water source there. The next morning we woke to a cloudy rain. I managed to get my stuff packed up before the rain really hit and took off before everyone else.
The 4 miles into Boiling Springs was easy, and I immediately fell in love with this little town right when I entered it. The trail ran right next to Children's Lake, and even though it was raining, I took time to watch the swans and ducks splash around. The lake was lined with charming brownstones and green grassy parks and an excessive amount of benches. The trail brings you right up to the ATC mid-Atlantic regional office. I dropped my pack and ran across the street to retrieve my new boots at the PO. Merrell replaces their boots for free for AT thru-hikers (most gear companies are extremely accommodating to AT hikers and will send us new gear on the trail to keep us happy. I have also been sent new poles and a new pack). We all wandered over to Cafe 101 to grab breakfast and 2nd breakfast as we sat there for 3 hours and each ordered multiple meals. It was one of the best meals I've had on the trail and by far the best coffee. Peach and Overdrive walked in and informed us that they were staying at the Allenberry resort up the hill which had a hiker rate of $40 for a double. The 5 of us (Gribley, Daystar, Pants, White Wolf and I) decided we must also stay despite our plan to hike another 15 miles to Darlington Shelter.......The resort wouldn't let us check in until 3pm, so we all went back to the ATC office (ATC offices are popular places for hikers to hang out in towns as they don't mind a bunch of smelly homeless people sitting around). I found a game of Mind Trap in the office and we wasted away the afternoon stumping each other with really stupid riddles. These are the moments that I love that I have nothing else to do:)
As 2:30 rolled around we decided to make our way up the hill. We passed Oak, Kneif, Blue Skies and Johnny Rocket who had just checked in and were headed to the grocery store. As we weren't even planning on staying in this town we were good on food. The Allenberry would be a much more fun place to stay if it hadn't been a Monday. They have a dinner theater there, and feeling I haven't done nearly enough dinner theater on this trip, I was excited to purchase tickets to "Nunsense" (sorta hoping it would star Whoopie). They don't do dinner theater on Monday:( A bit bummed, Daystar and I spent the evening trying to relax, leaving the boys to their own devices (which apparently involved an altercation with a boy scout leader over a ping pong table...?)
The next morning after our excellent breakfast buffet we all headed out for our 25 mile hike to Duncannon. Duncannon was a town we had been looking forward to for awhile, as it was the home to the legendary Doyle Hotel. The Doyle used to be a fancy schmancy hotel that apparently presidents stayed at (hmmm). Unfortunately the town and with it, the Doyle, have hit hard times and never quite recovered, and the now once glamorous hotel is nothing short of a shithole populated with hikers who can acquire rooms for $25. The trail runs straight through Duncannon and it has become tradition for hikers to stay there, despite the horrifying rumors. My dad told me to avoid room 22, as it had a horror movie amount of spiders living in it. I had also been advised not to open any closets or drawers. With these two tidbits of advice in mind, we were anxious to see what surprises our rooms would hold.
But first we had to walk through the Cumberland Valley - 18 miles of flat cow fields. It went by pretty fast, but got a bit boring after awhile. Daystar and I stopped to have lunch at a barn that had a picnic table next to it to wait for the boys, when a trail angel arrived and offered to slackpack us to the Doyle (slackpacking is when someone drops your pack for you at your location, so all you need to carry is water and food for the day). Everyone else had slackpacked at some point expect for me, and I didn't yet feel comfortable parting with my things...some people consider slackpacking cheating, and while I wouldn't go that far, I definitely didn't think it was necessary for the flat 15 miles we had ahead of us. I also simply like having everything I need with me at all times. These are my things, and they are so conveniently attached to my back...this point was proven when I reached Cove Mountain Shelter just four miles short of Duncannon. It felt like my toes were broken and it dawned on me that I just hiked 21 miles in brand spankin' new boots. My feet were killing me, and being that I hadn't just given all my belongings to a stranger, I decided to go to the shelter for the night to rest my feet and hike into Duncannon in the morning. I waited for the slackpackers to catch up (not gonna lie, somewhat satisfied that I had stayed ahead of them despite their weightlessness). When Pants, DS and Gribley arrived, I informed them I would be going no further. They all looked a bit exhausted, but determined to go on, as they had no gear. Pants actually contemplated sleeping on the ground without a tent or sleeping bag, but we convinced him he had to go and pick up his shit from the lady.
I started hiking around 5:30am the next morning after a horrible nights sleep. I decided to sleep in the shelter, which I never do, but thought I could save time in the morning not having to take down a tent. Some section hiker came in late with his dog, Doug, and all night long he was telling Doug to "stop it Doug" "come here Doug" "no Doug" - who the hell names their dog Dough anyway. I got into Duncannon after a rocky descent around 7am. I was surprised at how run down the town was. I spotted a building that could only be the Doyle and headed towards it. Daystar had texted me their room number and instructions on how to enter the building through the back, as the front door to the bar/registration didn't open until 11am. My first thought upon entering room 31 was "Well, if I wanted to die of a crack overdoes, this is where I would come." The window treatments were two stained sheets tacked to the windows. The two full beds had no bedding but only some more questionable sheets. If you were lonely, no need to worry as there were any number of roach species you could spoon with. We didn't go in the closet. The whole thing was a shitty sort of wonderful. It was really too bad as the building truly had a lot of charm, it just needed some love, and an exterminator. I rallied the troops out of bed and across the street for breakfast at Goodies. The inside of Goodies was painted in all camouflage and had pictures of deer hanging everywhere, interesting decor for a pancake joint.
The 4 of us decided that we should boost the towns economy by staying here and drinking all day, as this town had AT LEAST THREE different bars to choose from (which is a lot for most of the towns we hike through). At this point Pants correctly pointed out that our camping trip has turned into a homeless crawl across the country as we hop from one town to the next. In the south the towns were much fewer and far between, but up north they are everywhere. This is something we have accepted and embraced, but we are getting pretty excited for New England, the Whites and the wilderness farther north. As soon as the bar at the Doyle opened at 11am we planted our butts in barstools. It ended up being a great day shootin the shit with Vicky and Pat - the crazy owners, and all the hikers wandering in and out all day. White Wolf made it in later in the day and decided to stay, as did Peach and Overdrive, Bucket and Basil, and many more. We did manage to squeeze in a few errands like resupply, before the night hit and we were too intoxicated to do anything. The last hiker to roll into town that night was Onespeed, who received a standing ovation upon walking into the bar for no real reason other than 'hey! another hiker!' I managed to pull myself away from the bar at a reasonable time, as the desire to not wake up hungover in our room, which could be from the set of the Hangover, trumped my desire to have one more drink. The next day was also suppose to be one of the hottest days of the year, and I had no interest in hiking it hungover. I crawled on top of my sheets in the non-air conditioned roach room, assumed the fetal position and waited for it to be over.
My trailmates were not as smart as I. I was up and out of the room and across the street at breakfast with Onespeed, Peach and Overdrive before they even emerged from their comas (I do believe the 'occasional' all day drinking events that occurred in my previous life better prepared me for my Duncannon bar crawl - missing my Chino peeps and Sunday Fundays like woah!). I ordered two blueberry pancakes the size of small children, brought one back to the room for the zombies and decided to get this miserably hot day going before it got hotter. Taking off at around 9:45am, I started my long walk through the rest of Duncannon. I mean the ENTIRE rest of Duncannon. I cursed this stupid town as I walked past abandoned house after abandoned house, four strip clubs and a freeway until I was finally led back into the woods. Just as the temp was reaching 342 degrees I was presented with what could only have been Mount Everest (even though my elevation profile indicated it was a small hill). I was completely soaked with sweat by the time I reached Clarks Ferry Shelter at noon, only five miles out of Duncannon. Insert sad face.
Onespeed was already there setting up his bug net for his four hour nap. Peach and Overdrive arrived shortly after and we all agreed it was too hot to hike and that a four hour siesta was next on our to-do list. We would hike in the evening when it was cooler and we were less hungover (in theory). While casually glancing at my book I noted that this was the last place to get water for 13 miles. This day was awful (little did I know at this point that mother nature had no intention of turning the heat down for weeks and this was only the beginning of my death by dehydration. Too hot=dried up springs=sad and thirsty hiker). I decided to close my eyes and deal with it when I woke up. Recovering from Doyle-itis was going to take some time.