Neither of us woke up until after 8:00 am. That never happens on the trail but I suppose our bodies were telling us that we needed the rest after the long day yesterday. My legs were still not working right (I hoped that situation would correct itself after they warmed up) as Valley Forge and I hobbled to the diner for breakfast. The breakfast was very tasty but it was your standard three egg omelet. After the salad I was served last night, I had been anticipating an omelet made from three ostrich eggs and served in a turkey roaster, but I suppose my expectations were a bit unreasonable.
We finally returned to the trail around 10:00 am, which continued yesterday’s trend of being a flat walk through pastures. At one point, we had to climb over a stile to enter a pasture full of cows. Valley Forge went first with no problem. But when I crossed over the cows decided that I smelled like something they wanted, and the entire herd started walking towards me, and they didn’t stop until they were in my face. It was actually pretty funny but I was happy that there wasn’t a bull in the field.
After crossing the bridge over Conodoguinet Creek, the trail passes the Scott Farm Trail ATC Crew Headquarters where there is a water spigot, then does a u-turn to pass under the bridge and continue along the bank of the creek. There are many wooden bridges and boardwalks through this section and on one of the boardwalks we came upon a hiker named Sunrise. Sunrise had introduced herself to me back at the Pine Grove Furnace S. P. ice cream challenge. She is married, from Denver, and her husband is letting her hike the trail solo, but now her feet were killing her so she was taking a break.
We chatted with Sunrise for a while and then began our first real climb in days. It was an 800 foot rocky battle against gravity and I remember thinking that I hadn’t missed climbing at all. At the summit there was an OK view, but the main attraction was the Darlington Shelter privy. It is pretty sad when a privy becomes an attraction, but it was billed as the Taj Mahal of A.T. privies and we were compelled to take the short side trail to check it out. The shelter itself is pretty darn nice, but the privy was most unusual in that it is a two holer that allows you to do your business with a friend! Valley Forge and I smiled, shook our heads, and moved on.
Descending after our Privy Tour, we walked through some more pasture land and shortly our honeymoon with Pennsylvania ended. During the steep, rocky climb up to the ridge line, I was grooving to the album “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd when I caught a small something with the toe of my shoe and went down hard (for the first time since around mile 350). My shin smashed against a rock with the expected result (Rock 1, Shin 0) and my phone came flying out of my shoulder strap pocket. Thankfully the phone survived (+1 for Otter Box) but my shin hurt like hell. There isn’t a lot you can do under these circumstances other than walk it off, so after a short round of profanity, I picked myself up and hobbled to the top of the ridge.
At the summit, there is a gas pipeline right of way that affords a nice view of Northern Pennsylvania where I caught up with folks I had been hiking with. My shin was throbbing and blood was starting to seep through my pants leg, so I decided that this might be a good time to assess the damage while I had people around that could help. To my delight, nothing seemed broken and the bleeding was coming from a superficial scrape, so I wrapped a bandana around the wound and continued hiking.
I was expecting the worst on the ridge line walk because the A.T. Guide uncharacteristically pointed out that the next five miles were very rocky. It was indeed rocky, but it certainly wasn’t as bad as some of the sections we had experienced in Maryland. After a few hours of rock hopping, we arrived at Hawk Rock which provided excellent views of the town of Duncannon, PA and the Susquehanna River. Valley Forge was planning to hike past Duncannon to make it to a family function that would take him off the trail for three days, so I said goodbye confident that I would run into him again.
One of the most difficult things in photography is to capture the effect of steepness in a two dimensional media, so the following pictures do not do justice to the descent from Hawk Rock. For 700 feet, the trail down to the Susquehanna Valley was literally like falling off a mountain and my shin throbbed with every jolting step.
Finally, I reached the bottom at PA 274 and started the road walk into town. Duncannon is another trail town where the A.T. goes right down Main Street and it looks like a town that time forgot. At the famous (or infamous) Doyle Hotel, I met the owner of the hotel sitting on a bench outside and sat down to chat with him for a while. He told me that the kitchen would be closing soon and that I should take my pack inside, have a beer, and order some food. Who am I to argue with the owner?
The bar was packed with hikers seeking respite from the trail. After I ordered a beer and placed my burger order, a hiker who was decimating a huge plate of hot wings at a nearby table shouted, “Hey, are you OnthegO?” I went over to talk to the young man who introduced himself as Sixes from Pensacola, FL! He knew I was from Pensacola and he had hoped that he would run into me some day. Small world. At the bar, I met The General from Red Bay, AL and a couple that were hiking together named First Aid and Hawaii. First Aid had just left the Army Airborne Infantry after serving ten years and Hawaii, who had lived in Hawaii for several years, had thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail two years ago.
After inhaling my burger and fries, I collected my resupply package and climbed the stairs (ugh) to my third floor room. My body was screaming for some recovery time, so I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep and a “zero” day tomorrow.