Pennsylvania is TOUGH!

The rumors are true…Pennsylvania is rocky, buggy, rocky, lacking views, rocky, and an overall grind. We’ve traded out challenging elevation changes for constant small, pointy rocks that hurt your feet. The northern section of the state is apparently constant boulder walking, so I hope I don’t kick myself later when I say I’m actually looking forward to that over the small ankle breaker rocks. That said, I continue to make progress and just passed 1,200 miles yesterday! I have been very conscious of listening to my body and hiking at my own pace the past couple of weeks, which means I have been floating between different groups of hikers and meeting lots of new people! Here are a few updates from the past couple of days:

I reunited with my tramily in Duncannon and hiked with them a bit for the start of Pennsylvania!

I’ve trudged through the constant rocks PA is known for.

I sent home three pounds of weight in clothes, so bought an actual book! I’ve been enjoying slower mornings reading rather than packing up right away and leaving.

I passed a trail runner who stopped and gave me this rock he painted! He said it was for good luck as I continue my journey toward Katahdin 🙂

I passed 1,200 miles!

I’ve enjoyed hiking with a few new people: Spoons, Airbud, Gummy Bear, Peanut, and Chickadee.

I’ve savored the PA views that feel few and far between.

Now I’m at mile 1220 and never thought I would say this, but I’m excited to get to New Jersey!

If my trail name wasn’t already “Rocket” I think it would be “Fruit Salad” or something like that because what I crave most on trail is FRUIT FRUIT FRUIT! I’ve started packing out at least 2 pounds of apples, bananas, mangos, oranges, etc. and it’s always worth it!

My favorite lunch recipe thus far is a wrap with: Hickory smoked tuna, sharp cheddar cheese, parmesan garlic Snyders pretzel pieces and avocado 🙂 Avocados keep surprisingly well in the heat!

I appreciate all of the continued support and words of encouragement! Though PA has been my least favorite state so far, I anticipated the challenge and am still as determined as ever as I continue toward Katahdin!

– Rocket

Officially past halfway!

Two days ago I passed the 1096 mile marker! I have officially hiked half of the Appalachian Trail! It feels like I was just deciding what pack I wanted…time has completely flown by!

Yesterday morning a bunch of my friends attempted the half gallon ice cream challenge (you eat the container in the picture below plus another pint of ice cream). I enjoyed the free early morning entertainment, but was too much of a baby to give it a try.

Today I did a short day into Boiling Springs, PA. This was my first Nero (nearly zero mile) day in a while, so it feels nice to relax. I got some good food in the tiny town and then headed to Lisa’s hostel – the only hostel in town, situated in a renovated shed behind Lisa’s house. It’s simple, cozy, has a warm shower and shelter from the rainy day. There are loaner clothes here to wear while we do our laundry and I had no clue putting on a cotton hoodie for the first time in almost 3 months would feel SO GOOD! Before heading to bed, we are sitting here watching the movie Gettysburg. I’ve never seen it, so it’s crazy to be seeing this movie for the first time, having just hiked through some of the places where battles took place. In just a few miles I go through Carlisle, PA.

Lately I have been very conscious of SLOWING DOWN and letting the day unfold naturally. I take my time in the morning, hike only the miles that I feel like hiking, and stop if I feel like stopping. I recently sent home almost 3 pounds worth of weight, so I bought a book at Walmart to help me relax at night. I was finding myself less inclined to read books that were downloaded on my phone, so I’m happy to have this luxury item.

I’m so grateful for this experience so far and appreciate every day out here more and more, taking nothing for granted.

– Rocket

Virginia Blues who?

And just like that, I’m out of Virginia! The state of VA was more than 500 miles itself, which is more miles than the prior 3 states combined. This makes it notorious for giving hikers the Virginia Blues, but I honestly did not feel this at all. Like the rest of the trail, this state flew by and it’s really hard to process that it’s already over. Despite its reputation of being a “flat” state, VA was deceptively challenging with tough climbs, rocky terrain, and the notorious 14 mile rollercoaster of steep climbs and descents. I am writing this from Harpers Ferry, WV. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy HQ is located here and this is the final major dropping out point for hikers. From here I hike on to Maryland then Pennsylvania! I have a feeling this second half of the trail will go by much quicker, so I am making a conscious effort to slow down. I would love to be hiking in Maine during Fall color, so I am trying my best to summit Katahdin in mid-September (I’m currently on track for early to mid August). Here are some highlights from the northern part of VA:

Got my picture taken at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Hikers who arrive here, whether thru or section hiking, get their picture put in the archives that go back many and many of years. I started on March 17th as hiker #1047 and I am #489 to make it to this “spiritual halfway point” (the real halfway point is in about 70 more miles.

After finishing the Shenandoahs we backtracked 40 miles and aquablazed (canoed) the 40 miles we had already hiked. This was a wonderful 3 day trip with my tramily and a great chance to rest our legs. The most memorable part was the second day when we got stuck in a torrential downpour and had to pull over to scoop water out of our boats. Empty beer cans, boots, ziplock bags were scoopers of choice.

We passed the 1,000 mile mark! Crazy! I purchased new boots the day prior and was having issues with my left boot, so needed to hike about 5 miles with a croc on my left foot.

We saw lots and lots of bears in the Shenandoahs!

VA was a super hiker friendly state! I think I hitch hiked no less than 7 times.

That’s all for now…I have the whippoorwills to thank for my new habit of waking up and blogging at 5am 🙂

– Rocket