Caboose here. Writing from...a park in Unionville, NY (time to teach you readers a new thru-hiker term--"stealth camp" (v.): to set up one's tent in an area not designated for camping. Ex."Jim, did you pay to stay at the bed and breakfast, or did you just stealth camp in the city park?"). Yes, I know I'm supposed to be at home enjoying the comforts of a civilized life, but I somehow found enough "gravel in my gut" as Upstate put it to come back out for a little while longer. This was a test for myself...to see if I really wanted to finish this adventure. I'll admit, I was a bit discouraged when a mouse chewed through my pack on my first night back out after resting at Susie's. I was also less than thrilled when on our 2nd day I slipped on one of Pennsylvania's nasty rocks and jabbed myself in the eye with my trekking pole (I debated telling authorities that Mike beats me, In an effort to go straight home without passing go or collecting $200.) However, both of these were more than counterbalanced by the number of blueberry bushes and wildlife that we've seen over the past few days. It's amazing how uplifting a handful of wild blueberries can be.
But, let me start by saying these 10 or so days have been different than the rest of the time on the trail. Pennsylvania is known as "the place where boots go to die," but it's also the state of town hopping. After Duncannon we hit Port Clinton. The town itself didn't have much to offer, but when you're hiking, you don't need much! The Port Clinton hotel came on a very high recommendation, so we hoofed it (always) to make it to dinner on time. Mike had a philly cheese steak sub, I had a grilled chicken sandwich with cheese and ham, Brock had Pam's wrap, and we all split the largest order of fries ever. Trust me, these sandwiches were of epic proportions! Mike's was so big that he actually barfed. That night we stayed at the hiker pavilion & thankfully so...there was a horrible storm! When we woke up, a past AT hiker, Kodak was there offering a ride to the local diner, so of course we hopped right into his F250 & rode down to snag breakfast. Two meals in a row- yes, we're getting spoiled. After breakfast, we swung by the post office to scoop up some drop boxes. Thirty minutes of food bag sorting on the sidewalk was plenty of time for breakfast to settle on top of the huge meal from the night before, and....well, we needed a bathroom. The only thing in sight was the town barber, who after seeing the tight spot we were in gladly rendered his facilities at our disposal (Haha, I meant that in a figurative sense, but I suppose they were quite literally at our disposal!) Our bathroom break turned into an hour and a half long hang out with the proprietor and his patrons. After finishing his barber work, Frank picked up his harmonica and joined Tom (who was at this point picking on a guitar with a very fresh and shapely hair cut) for a little jam session. We sat and drank coffee and ate cookies while singing along to Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, America, Jim Croce, Pure Prairie League and many many more. You know, just a usual Saturday morning down at the barber shop, listening to middle-aged men enjoying the simple things of life. We couldn't fight the bittersweet feeling that came from realizing the fact that we had just stumbled upon this good time. That we might have just as easily missed out on it. And that no matter how hard you try, you can't ever synthesize these times--they come and go on their own, and they're rare. So we just sat and enjoyed the company until Tom's wife came in and told him to go home! Haha!
From Port Clinton we made our way to Palmerton, a real little gem! We hitched into town & stayed at the local borough municipal building--they offered bunks & a shower for free! FREE people! Just our game. We got in, started laundry, & yet again hit the local diner (Bert's). This place was delicious! And, we even had friends join us...Greenlite and Blaze. Dinner was fabulous & dessert was to die for! My chocolate cake with peanut butter icing...mmmmm! Need I say more?! We loved Bert's so much that we went back for breakfast and the owner offered us a ride back to the trail. Bless her...we weren't quite sure how we'd get back since it was a weekday morning, but the Lord provided for us again. I'll add pictures as soon as I can of the climb out of Palmerton! It's known as "the hardest / rockiest climb south of New Hampshire." Of course the boys loved it. I'll admit, it was a nice change of scenery, but it was also scary! We survived though, and even made it to Wind Gap for a dinner of a dozen donuts from Dunkin'. Don't judge us! All of this town hopping was nice because the terrain has been rough. Unfortunately, although it's been super flat, the rocks are killer! Foot pain is through the roof, body soreness is out of this world, and general moral...let it suffice to say that we've been down in the dumps! So the towns have been a necessity. Next up: Delaware Water Gap. We stopped here to pick up a package & hit up the local Village Farmer Café (known for their "true love special" - $2.50 for a hot dog & huge slab of pie). Mike & I had the True Love Special...Mike had it twice in one sitting actually & Brock had it for dessert! Towns have a way of sucking you in...and after 2 1/2 hours of drying our stuff & hanging around we wandered up to the local hostel (The Church of the Mountain hostel) and decided to stay on account of rain. We actually got a really good night of sleep, which was much needed & pushed out very early the next morning. Early, as in, we were walking by 6AM. This allowed us to do a 31.6 mile day! By far our biggest yet! We celebrated our biggest day with dinner at another diner (they had meatloaf on the menu which I've been craving, but it didn't even compare to good ole southern meatloaf). This led us to Unionville, NY. We barely made it to the PO for our mail drop!! (Thanks for sending it Dad!) I had to drop my pack at the top of the hill and sprint down before they closed. Our next stop: Bear Mt. NY to stay with Josh & his family. We're really excited about the the time off the trail, seeing friends, and touring the city!
A special thanks to: Mimi, Melissa, Carolyn & Jenna, Will & Julie, and Dad for sending packages and notes! We LOVE the treats! I don't know how folks do this without support from home--words just cannot adequately express our gratitude.
*if you want to send a package, the next drop to do so is Kent, CT. The estimated date that needs to go on the package is June 23. Please go ahead & put anything you wanna send in the mail no later than Saturday, June 18. Thanks everyone (:
PS- stay tuned to see where I am after New York! Haha