Most years some re-routes of the Appalachian Trail occur, which usually means a slight variation in distance. This year’s trail measures 2185.9 miles, a 1.9 increase over the trail of 2012. The half way marker, however, dates back a few years, indicating that the half way mark is 1090 miles. Nevertheless, as of today I have hiked 1095.6 miles by last year’s standards. I have now officially completed over half of the AT. So from now until completion, I will have fewer miles to walk than I have already walked. To be quite honest, that makes me feel pretty good. As a matter of fact, it makes me feel real good.
When Molar Man and I hit the trail this morning at 6:10, there was rain in the forecast. Within about an hour it started. Throughout the day we hiked in a steady rain although it never rained very hard. It was late morning before my clothes and shoes were thoroughly soaked. Then I just slogged along, not worried about stepping in numerous puddles on the trail. There were also several water crossings, but for the most part, footbridges were provided. At one place I was trying to select the best rock skipping strategy when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Molar Man was traversing the stream via footbridge. I hadn’t even seen it.
Aside from the rain, today’s trail offered very little to get excited about. We passed through Caledonia State Park early in the day and then by another “double shelter” at the Quarry Gap Shelters. Like all the shelters I’ve passed so far in Pennsylvania, the amenities looked inviting. Hanging baskets even adorned an arbor of sorts. I suppose I should eventually take advantage of one of these impressive structures. Perhaps there is a Pennsylvania shelter in my future. A few hikers were still in their sleeping bags as Molar Man and I passed by Quarry Gap.
If I were rating today’s hike on the 1-10 scale for difficulty, with 10 being extremely difficult, I would call today’s trail a 1 or 2 all day. With the easier terrain, we hiked the 19.5 miles in less than seven hours, despite the rain and mud. One noteworthy aspect was the numerous road crossings. We crossed 12 to be exact. In two cases, five gravel roads intersected where the AT moved from one side of the woods to the other. Most of the roads were hard packed dirt or gravel, but a few were paved.
When we reached mile 1090, a sign indicated that the half way point had been reached. Molar Man and I took a brief break here for pictures. Then we passed the Toms Run Shelter before finally arriving at the road leading into Pine Grove Furnace State Park. We walked by a hostel before reaching our final destination, the General Store. Sitting out front were several thru hikers including Finder, Calamity Jane, Sundance, Hooker, and Triple 6. The last time I had seen Finder was at Woods Hole.
Triple Six, another of the Germans on the trail, was trying to finish off his half gallon (it’s now really a quart and a pint) of chocolate mint ice cream for the half gallon challenge. It is an AT tradition for thru hikers to attempt to eat a half gallon of ice cream at the half way point of the trail. I opted for the half pint challenge instead. I’m not sure I could have consumed the larger portion, but the chocolate marshmallow smaller size sure tasted good after my hike in the rain. Molar Man selected a drumstick for his challenge.
After leaving the park, we headed to Boiling Springs and a stop at the ATC Mid-Atlantic Regional Office. Just as we arrived Ambassador and Sugar Bomb also walked up. It had also been some time since I had seen the affable Sugar Bomb. We chatted on the porch, and then I went inside to purchase AT maps for the next five days when Linda will be shuttling me. From there Molar Man and Sweet Tooth were very thoughtful to drive me to Carlisle, about five miles away, where I could pick up a rental car that I had reserved.
After saying our goodbyes until somewhere up the trail, we parted. Inside the Enterprise office I was helped by Courtney. I must say that I received excellent customer service. From there I checked into a motel, showered, and went for a late lunch. It felt luxurious to be able to drive to a meal. Tomorrow I’ll take another day off. Then the landscape will change as my wife becomes my helper for a few days. Stay tuned for Linda’s indoctrination to the life of the thru hiker on the Appalachian Trail.