Prepare yourselves for a better post, everyone. I’m sitting at a computer for the first time since Bennington, VT. This time I mean it. We’ve been moving pretty fast, and every time we come up with a plan to go into some town it seems like we look again and realize, “hey, if we really hauled, we could skip it altogether and get to the next town a day sooner.” So we’re perpetually in a rush; I haven’t gotten to charge my phone in a week and a half, which means pictures this past week are a little scant. Well, that and the 2 days of rain earlier this week.
The result of this, though, is that we’re about three days from the Mason-Dixon line, and only a day and a half from reaching the official halfway point in mileage! Yes, this week has been a big one – it marked 10 weeks on the trail, and we surpassed 1000 miles on Tuesday, stopping here in Boiling Springs at mile 1067 for our first showers and laundry in nearly two weeks. And let me tell you, this place is awesome. It’s called the Allenberry Resort Inn and Playhouse, located on what is supposedly a nationally acclaimed fly fishing creek (Yellow Breeches). They have a special hiker deal: $40 for a two-bed room, and they served both a dinner and breakfast buffet for outrageously reasonable prices, which of course is right up our alley. We were so busy eating last night that we missed curtain call for South Pacific at the resort’s theater, but for all the prime rib and sticky buns we could eat it was worth it. This is a must-stay for any thru-hiker, and definitely my best experience yet as far as hotels/hostels.
Since my last post was scant, I’ll talk a little about some of the stuff we’ve been seeing in the last few states. Massachusetts had a beautiful finale on Mt. Everett and particularly Mt. Race, where we followed a ridge with sweeping panoramas for about a half mile. Connecticut was almost too short to remember, and we climbed the highest point, Bear Mountain, within an hour of being in the state. It was still pretty, if a little too ritzy for our hiker taste. New York was a refreshing new sight, I thought, after southern VT, MA, and CT looked very similar. My favorite places in this state were from Bear Mountain south over West, Black, and Fingerboard Mountains. The tops of these little mountains seemed like nothing but tall oak trees and scrubby blueberry bushes as far as the eye could see. It was so hot in NY too. We also got the treat of hiking through NY with a friend of ours, “Brown,” a retired Gwinnett County firefighter whom I met at REI just a few days before flying up to Maine. He grew up over in Stone Mountain and is an avid cyclist (and runner and swimmer, as a triathlete), so he and Dad passed the miles by reminiscing about old times in the park, old cars, 4-wheeling, cycling, and who knows what else. Unfortunately we had to part ways when we went into NYC, but we’re hoping to find him somewhere down the trail.
Jim and Margie, since I mentioned the city I’ll go ahead and answer your questions. Dad wasn’t much of a fan of the city – too loud and dirty and expensive, and he went to three different outfitters without finding the sleeping pad that he wanted to replace his worn out one. But he rode the subway, visited battery park, and climbed to the top of the Empire State Building, and was satisfied enough to not ever go back again. I think he was eager to get back on the trail by Saturday night. I, on the other hand, can’t wait to go back. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t ever want to live there, but the crowds and noise and everything just reminded me of an amusement park. Plus, NYC is just such a huge part of pop culture that it was a lot of fun for me to see all of these things that I’d seen in movies or heard about in the news. I mean, we walk out of the Port Authority and there’s the NY Times HQ. We walked right through TImes Square on our way to our hotel. Plus, as a civil engineer, it is thrilling to me to see this massive system that man has built and endeavors to keep running smoothly and efficiently (although it doesn’t have the best infrastructure, I know, it’s still a thriving city, and perhaps that makes it even more amazing). I mean just seeing the old architecture side by side with the brand new was exciting to me.
But this is a hiking blog, so I’ll stop talking about the city, although it was hard for me to get back on the trail when we finally did Sunday afternoon. As to your other questions:
The one thing Dad misses is his bed, although he had a hard time deciding between that and a shower, and everything else in his normal life. I really miss having real food. Fresh bread, cheese, fruit are all huge craving for me. I have a hard time controlling myself anytime I see food that isn’t ramen, rice, or trail mix.
We don’t carry bear spray, and we’ve only encountered one other hiker whom we saw carrying it (and if you don’t have it where we can easily see it and you can easily get to it, then you have to ask yourself why you’re carrying it). I have seen a few hikers with bear bells, but I don’t think those even make enough noise to make them necessary. All of the bears we’ve encountered were easily spooked by just us talking to them.
For the mosquitos, we have head nets and DEET. I carry a little orange spray bottle of Ben’s 100 DEET, but I only use it when we get to camp, as the mosquitos are really only a problem in the evening and I sweat the stuff off in the day anyway. It seems to work well, and we’re still alive after smearing it on ourselves for 2 and a half months. More often, if the mosquitos are that bad, we’ll just throw on our head nets and rain jackets, which the can’t bite through, because it’s easier than putting on a thorough coat of DEET.
Usually, when we camp, we just take an established site, which tend to be around 50 feet from the trail. At least, it’s nice to have that distance. If there are no good established sites, we’ll try to get a little further off, but at the end of the day sometimes you just take whats easy to get to instead of trying to bushwhack another half mile off the trail.
I’ve had pretty constant cell service since MA, at least when we’re on the mountains – not as much in the gaps. Dad has Virgin Mobile, so he still has to borrow my phone sometimes.
Thanks so much for all of those questions! they were fun to answer.
As far as the rest of the trail after NY: New Jersey was still easier than anything we’d done before. Though short, it featured some very pretty, non-mountainous spots, like the Wallkill reservoir/wildlife refuge. By the end we had ascended onto a rocky ridge line, a topographical feature we’d continue to follow through northern PA. Sunfish Pond was also particularly pretty; but in three short days, the NJ adventure was no more.
I mentioned that PA gets a lot of complaints from hikers and here’s why. It’s nothing personal, and I try not to hold it against the entire state but these are just the facts.
1. It’s super rocky. Everyone says it, and it’s true. something about the long, flat topped mountains just makes the ground seem like one big pile of rubble. It’s like a war zone up there. And the trail gets kind of brushy, sometimes covering the rocks so you can’t even see where you’re stepping
2. It’s pretty dry. SInce we’re staying on those long flat ridges for miles and miles, there’s no streams to cross, meaning we half to walk half a mile down the mountain just to get water. All of those half miles down and then back start to add up when we’re getting water three times a day.
3. It has the highest number of reported cases of Lyme of any state on the trail. We haven’t personally experienced this, but it’s probably another symptom of the brush and grass that frequently crowds the trail. As is the poison ivy I got on my legs this past week.
Dave – hi, thanks for reading! Our health is pretty good overall. Dad’s feet are the only things that bother him. His heels really hurt, which affects his gait, eventually making other parts of his feet sore. MY feet are pretty sore after all of the rocks in PA too, but I also had each of my ankles swell a little bit in the last couple of weeks. I think they’ve gone down now. We also get pretty sleepy if we don’t get a good night’s sleep on our ThermaRest pads.
The only other new development is that my SteriPen lasted about a week before it went kaput. Luckily Dad still had his Sawyer Mini, but when we got to the next town, which happened to have a Wal-Mart, we picked up the full-size Sawyer Squeeze, which works like a dream. just a little bigger than the Mini, but 10 times faster to get a liter of clean water. At least, we think it’s clean. Clear water goes in, clear water comes out… who really knows.
So anyway, I need to get going so we can pick up some groceries and get back on the trail. I think Dad is going crazy sitting in the lobby over here. I’l upload some pictures and call it a post. We’ll pass through Harper’s Ferry next Wednesday or Thursday, I think, and be in Virginia next weekend! That means Shenandoah in a week and a half, maybe, and Buchanan, VA, by Labor Day. See you all soon, and thanks for reading.