Mile 1142.5 – Duncannon, PA

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DSC01230I don’t have many pictures from the last stretch as it seems I almost always had my camera safely tucked away in multiple layers of dry bags in the frequent rains. It has rained almost every day since I left Harper’s Ferry WV. I’ve still managed to make miles as I hike between rainstorms or through them if need be.

I’m currently at my friend Mark and Annie’s place in King of Prussia, PA. Mark is a good friend of mine and fraternity brother from UofMichigan. Annie I knew when I lived in Austin TX. Well, I introduced them one day and it wasn’t long before they got married. They are really awesome together and now have a son, Jack, who I met for the first time today.

I probably could have hiked through Maryland in one day but it was raining a lot and took me 3 days to complete. One day I sat in a shelter and read Jack Kerouac’s “The Dharma Bums” which my friend Lydia had sent in the mail. I managed to complete the book a few days later at the city pool in Caledonia park where I went swimming for a day to rest my feet. Maryland was generally a flat state but a very well-maintained trail. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club seems to be quite active and takes pride in their section of the trail.

After swimming for a day at Caledonia I stayed at the shelter just 2.2 miles up the trail. I walked there in my camp sandals because my heels were fully blistered from my new Oboz shoes. I met Stripe on the way and stayed up much of the night having a great conversation with him. We opted to tent near the shelter because of the troublesome people at the shelter. It’s actually a double shelter; each side able to hold 4 people. One of the shelters however had a couple claiming to be hikers but were really just bums staying there for multiple days and reeking of mildew in their wet cotton clothes. For a hiker to notice a smell it must be a serious one. The other shelter was occupied by a section-hiking grandmother and her 16-year old hyper-active grandson. The kid was seriously the most intensely overactive I’ve ever seen. He was off his meds as grandma considered them unnecessary while they were hiking. It rained through the night so in the morning I left my tent and went to the shelter to dry. I was planning on taking a day off in the rain and reading in the shelter. The stinky couple said they were staying. (Note: about 1/5 shelters on the AT seem to have some kind of semi-permanent bums living in them. Usually they are shelters close to roads or towns.) I tried to read at the picnic table under the roof between the two shelters but was unable to focus as the hyperactive kid paced back and forth in front of me while talking loudly for hours. His grandmother was perturbed and hoped to get hiking despite the rain; yet she had a lot of gear packing to do. I finally struck an idea – I asked the kid if there were vending machine back 2.2 miles at the pool. He said yes so I gave him a dollar to get me a Mt. Dew. His grandmother immediately and enthusiastically agreed to the plan and gave him money to get her a drink as well. We thus had 2 hours of peace in the morning at the shelter. However, because of how long it took for the kid to return, the grandmother decided they’d stay at the shelter and not hike in the rain. So I was stuck in the rain. I decided to hike away from the situation to the next shelter.

I had to hike 7.5 miles to make it to the next shelter. It was raining pretty solid and had been for hours so the trail was flooded. My feet were blisters from my next shoes so I decided to do the hike in my camp sandals. Not knowing if there would be a spot at the next shelter I hiked at a jog and got there in less than 2 hours. Yep, jogging in sandals…in the rain. Awesome.

This shelter seemed to be in competition with the previous one for oddity. There were all guys there; 3 of whom were conspiracy theorists who had but just met on the trail. Stripe also made it to the shelter and tried to bring some sanity to the conversation, but to little avail. One of the theorists, named Pack-man for his ridiculous 90 lbs of gear, told me that a scientific experiment showed that humans burn 7000 calories a day despite eating only 2000. He asked me “do you know where the other calories come from”? Having yet to realize his insanity I suggested perhaps from the air we breathe, despite knowing this surely to be false. No, the correct answer, according to Pack-Man, is that we get 5000 calories of energy per day from our spiritual side. I asked him if this also applied to animals; to which he did not know the answer. I should have asked about gingers.

Another of the theorists named Sherlock for the large English pipe he carried told us in similar measure that he only eats 800 calories a day despite having a physical job. So, he concluded, he will only eat 800 calories a day on the Appalachian Trail. His food bag, he proceeded to tell us, had 46 days worth of food in it.

I think it was the next day I hiked 30 miles. This got me away from the crazy people. I hiked 10 in the morning back in my shoes but developed worse blisters. I then made it to the half-way point of the trail (Mile 1097) and competed in the Half-Gallon Challenge to eat a half gallon of Ice Cream. I attempted but failed. The girl attempting the challenge beside me, ironically named “Fatty”, almost completed her Ice Cream. With my blisters in full force I hiked on in my camp sandals. Town was 20 miles away and it sounded like a nice challenge in sandals. It was.

The ground was mostly flat and I made good time. I hiked remarkable fast for being in WalMart sandals. It really is completely ridiculous. Because my heels were blistered I only wore the sandals on the front of my feet. By the end of the day the rubbing of the sandals had produced massive blisters on the bottom of my feet but I had made it to town – Boiling Springs. I hike the last 4 miles (through the Rock Maze and over the farmer’s fields) with Steady who I had not seen in a few hundred miles. We met up with his wife Spirit in town and they gave me a ride to my hotel, the Allenberry.

The Allenberry Inn and Playhouse in Boiling Springs is my favorite stay on the trail. The hiker rate of 40$ is considerably generous given a standard rate of 120$. It’s really confusing why they’d want smelly hiker’s near their upscale clientele. I ate a massive dinner there and had a great night’s stay. If I would have had more time I could have even gone to see a play.

The next few days I walked a short distance and rested my feet while arranging for a meetup with my friend Mark. I had just 30 miles to do to get to Duncannon where Mark picked me up. This was the flattest section of entire trail; mostly going through farmer’s fields.

In Duncannon I met some well-known former thru-hikers at the Doyle Hotel and bar – Bag of Tricks, Jester, and Matthiewski. I’ve read Whiteblaze.net for years and somehow Matthiewski was always a running gag. I still don’t know why. But now I’ve met the man. I also saw Lucky Strike for the first time – a hiker who changed his trailname a couple weeks ago after surviving being struck by lightning. (Note: I don’t think the trail is as dangerous as this seems but rather I speculate he is a fast hiker who was hiking in a storm when he shouldn’t be just to make good time)

With all my downtime in the rain I’ve now finished reading through the 4 gospels and am on to the book of Acts. It looks like I’m on pace to finish the New Testament at the same time as the thru hike.

This post seems quite scatter-brained to me and likely is. But that’s the nature of the trail lately. I probably need a long break from this all to recover for a while, but I’m only staying at Mark’s for one day as he and his wife have other previously made plans for the weekend. However we’re planning on hitting up REI in the morning as well as a grocery store so I should be ready to hit the trail soon.

I really need some new songs to sing. I’ve got Big Rock Candy Mountain memorized. Maybe I’ll just work my way through the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack.

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About douglasdouma

I am a graduate of the University of Michigan (BSME), Wake Forest University (MBA), and Sangre de Cristo Seminary (Mdiv). I've learned far more from books than in school. I'm particularly in debt to Martin Luther, Ludwig von Mises, and Gordon H. Clark for any thoughts I have.
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