Tuesday, July 31, 2001
Eckville Shelter to Bake Oven Knob Shelter
Today’s Miles: 17.4
Trip Miles: 1221.1
The infamous Pennsylvania rocks finally showed some teeth today. Overall they’re not so bad, though.
This is all still home turf to me. I met three guys that just graduated from Parkland High School – near Allentown, naturally.
Some heavy rain fell in the evening, but Skipper and I got to the Blue Mountain B&B on Route 309 just in the nick of time. We sat on their porch and watched the rain come down for at least an hour.
I moved on up the trail when the weather showed some signs of letting up, which took some self-discipline. It’s only about half an hour to get back home in a car from that road crossing…
This was an uneventful, humid day over the Pennsylvania rocks. Up from the Eckville shelter I hiked by Dan’s Pulpit, which never has much of a view, and on by the familiar Allentown Shelter. It was at the Allentown Shelter in the previous year that I met one my first thru-hikers, (Actually a yo-yo hiker, from Springer to Katahdin and back) named Albatross.
I’d driven by the Blue Mountain B&B and parked at the trailhead there on several occasions but never really checked the place out. Today wasn’t much of an exception, as Skipper and I sat and watched the rain.
The rest of the day was a plodding traverse over wet rocks to the Bake Oven Knob Shelter. The hikers that night were groaning about the boulder field that precedes the shelter, but I’d known what to expect and it wasn’t so bad.
Bake Oven Knob is the place where I first set on the Appalachian Trail. It was for a school field trip about bird-watching, when I was 12 years old. On that day I was unaware that I was on the such a place as the Appalachian Trail, and that it went all the way from Georgia to Maine.
Wednesday, August 01, 2001
Bake Oven Knob Shelter to Slatington, Pa.
Today’s Miles: 7.4
Trip Miles: 1228.5
A bit of fitting Bob Seger for you…
“Stood there boldly, sweatin’ in the sun
Felt like a million, felt like number one
It was the height of summer, never felt that strong
Like a rock.
I was eighteen, didn’t have a care
Workin’ for peanuts, not a dime to spare
I was lean and solid everywhere
Like a rock.
And I stood arrow straight
Unencumbered by the weight of all these
Hustlers and their schemes
I stood proud
I stood tall
High above it all
I still believed in my dreams.
Like a rock…”
Not only was the song fitting because of the obvious reasons, but also because of the “Pennsylvania rocks.” Get it? Ha.
Of course there’s all the stuff about being young and strong and all that (Which is how I felt looking back overall on the Appalachian Trail), but I surely didn’t feel strong on this day.
In fact I felt so weak and depressed and miserable that I hiked less than eight miles before calling it a day and diving into town in Slatington, PA. Palmerton is more frequented by hikers and Slatington was off the beaten track, so I just holed up and rested in civilization for the night.
It was also only a short drive from Allentown, but this way I was still “on the trail,” so to speak.
I guess the song lyrics about being strong was a way to hide the fact that I was weak enough to dive into town for the evening.
Thursday, August 02, 2001
Slatington, PA to Wind Gap, PA
Today’s Miles: 20.7
Trip Miles: 1249.2
Today’s hike began by crossing the Lehigh River and gazing up at the sheer pile of rocks in front of me – the EPA Superfund Site. The fumes from a former zinc smelting plant in Palmerton killed all the vegetation on the mountainside, and the dirt subsequently eroded away, leaving a moon-like landscape on the bare mountainside.
I viewed it as the last obstacle of Pennsylvania, barring my way north and trying to keep me in my home state. The bridge is thirty minutes from my bed in Allentown.
That said, I had so much fun climbing it. There were short vertical cliffs at times where I had to grasp for handholds to hoist myself up, calculating each foot placement with caution. The expansive views were inspiring, and a great breeze blew along the open rock, very welcomed on this hot day.
Turkey vultures soared. It was a fulfilling personal accomplishment to hike this section, especially as a thru-hiker, as it had always been an intimidating day-hike for me. Today I enjoyed it thoroughly.
I simply followed the relatively flat ridge for the rest of the afternoon, over much terrain that I had done before.
I saw a porcupine at dusk! It turned defensively toward me and raised its hundreds of sharp quills like the hair of a cat. Needless to say, I gave it a wide berth, thankful to have seen one. It was just about dark when I got here for the night. OLD
“Here for the night” was the Gateway Motel at Wind Gap. The motel was basically right on the trail, and apparently I was ashamed to admit I was staying under a roof again on this night. Pushing for the motel gave me the motivation to put in a 20-mile day, and I arrived after sunset.
The porcupine was so cute – to this day it’s still one of my favorite wildlife sightings.
I heard some rustling in the brush, off the trail to my left. I looked to see an unidentified small mammal trying to get away from me. It scraped with its front feet against the base of a tree trunk, as though it was trying to escape up the tree. It made a couple futile efforts at this before giving up – it rolled itself into a tight ball with sharp quills extending in all directions.
It wasn’t until it rolled up into ball that I realized it was a porcupine. I stared for a few minutes before continuing down the trail and leaving it in peace. To this day I’ve still never seen a another porcupine in the wild (2017).
Friday, August 03, 2001
Wind Gap, PA to Delaware Water Gap, PA
Today’s Miles: 15.6
Trip Miles: 1264.8
For the most part, the trail today was just a narrow green tunnel… a narrow, rocky green tunnel. It seemed to be the grand finale of rocks at the end of the state – big ones, small ones, sharp ones, hamburger shaped ones, steak shaped ones, french fry shaped ones… mmm.
Views of the Delaware River were satisfying to see – it’s such a symbol of eastern Pennsylvania. Near the end of the day I came to the awesome scene and beauty that is the Delaware Water Gap – a steep cliff cut into the mountains by the river and ice-age glaciers.
The town of Delaware Water Gap is kind of charming too. I’m staying in the basement of the Presbyterian Church tonight, where there’s a great hostel. It’s simply wonderful, no doubt because of the people that volunteer for the church. There’s a good diner here in town too – I miss diners. Well, off to take a much needed shower and soak up all the atmosphere around here!
Freebird and Skipper were at the hostel, as well as a number of other hikers – some I’d never met. My memory isn’t clear on the matter, but I think this may be where I first met Yahtzee. I’d see him more often in the future, farther up the trail. Not only was he a fellow native Pennsylvanian, but he was good company with an intelligent, entertaining personality.
My lost hiking stick was here at the hostel! Remember I said I’d carried the stick from Georgia and left it in the vehicle of a trail angel called Nean before stopping at home in Allentown? I thought I’d never see it again, and there it was, leaning up against the wall in the hostel. A note was on it that said something like “This is Duct Tape’s stick.”
Apparently Nean found it later in in his vehicle, after I was long gone. He searched the town of Port Clinton for a hiker that knew me and would be willing to try and get it back to me. Ladyhawk (One of the crew I refer to as the “Walking Wounded”) volunteered to do so. She carried it from Port Clinton to Delaware Water Gap without finding me, or presumably hearing much news of me. Deciding that I must be behind her somewhere, she left it here at the hostel.
I’d go on to carry the stick all the way to the top of Mount Katahdin, in Maine.
Saturday, August 04, 2001
Delaware Water Gap, PA
Today’s Miles: 0
Trip Miles: 1264.8
One night at the hostel – $3.00 donation
Jazz club cover charge – $5.00
Coke – Much $$$
Food – Much more $$$
Phone call home – $0.10 a minute? Probably not.
The best company in the world – Free.
A ZERO day on the Appalachian Trail – Priceless
This entry was a reference to those old MasterCard credit card commercials. The commercials used to list a number of things you could buy with a MasterCard, and together those things created something “priceless.”
Again I began to tally up some zero-mile days that I couldn’t really afford to be taking. There’s a reason that those of us at the “back of the pack” of northbound thru-hikers were, indeed, at the back of the pack, and we were quick to justify each other’s laziness and inspire others to take zero days in town with us.
Besides, an oppressive heat wave had settled in, and the local jazz music was pretty cool.
Sunday, August 05, 2001
Delaware Water Gap, PA
Today’s Miles: 0
Trip Miles: 1264.8
Okay, so I’m taking another zero day here. I just can’t help it. A number of friends that I hadn’t seen since way back in southern Virginia have finally caught me. It’s so good to see them. I was thinking that most of them had left the trail! There’s been a grand reunion.
I mostly just hung around the hostel all day, and Skipper and Freebird and I are having a power writing session tonight to catch up on our journals.
The summer heat is really setting in. I set my black watch outside on a black chair on top of the dark driveway in the middle of the afternoon. The thermometer in it read ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-TWO DEGREES! That’s insane! Granted, the dark colors soak up a lot of heat, but still, that’s hot! The thermometer went down to about a hundred in the shade. Yikes.
Regardless – things just couldn’t be better.
Not only was I behind in the mileage I needed to do, but I was behind on writing my journal entries too. That explains why so many of my entries for Pennsylvania are relatively terse – because they were probably written at Delaware Water Gap in an effort to get it done and over with.
I think this batch of entries I sent home from here was the last my step-dad published on trailjournals.com in 2001. I personally posted the future entries (From New Jersey through Vermont) on the site after the trip. As a result, the following “original entries” will tend show more detail.
Delaware Water Gap was a key place to regroup and rediscover that I was still among like-minded folks who were walking to Maine. When I was having a tough time in Virginia I stepped down to the smaller goal of just making it Pennsylvania, and seeing how thing would go from there.
Prior to stopping in Allentown, every step I took was a step toward home. Now every step was taking me farther from home, but closer to my ultimate goal. Now here I was on the verge of stepping out of Pennsylvania and into New Jersey. I was among thru-hikers again and maybe I could do this after all.