Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia

7 Oct

Day 99, Mile 1185

I’m officially over halfway done! I’m here at the Bear Den Hostel, just across the border into Virginia. And what adventures I have had recently! Pennsylvania was bizarre, to say the least. I met so many strange people there–Petunia and Treehugger joke that I am a “yahoo magnet” and just attract them. There was the guy who ditched his food and was carrying quartz rocks instead, believing that they would give him energy. When I met him and asked how long he had been hiking the trail, he gave me a spaced out look and said, “What trail?” Or the very, uhm, immodest grandmother and her husband. I met the couple a few miles from that night’s shelter, and after making some small talk the husband says to me, “Well, we don’t want to keep you long, but my wife here lost a bet.” And next thing I know, her shirt is gone and she’s flashing me. She covers herself up after a few seconds, and her husband growls to her, “It was supposed to be for a minute.” And how could I forget the fella who was in between jobs and decided that an AT shelter was a good place to camp out for the week. He showed up at the shelter around 8:30 PM, carrying a duffle bag and a blanket, using his cell phone for a flashlight. Around ten o’clock that night her starts making very loud phone calls to his multiple lady friends—on speaker phone—in the shelter. After securing a ride from one of the girls, he ended up leaving around eleven. And that’s barely the half of them.

Deleware Water Gap

The trail in PA passes through some very beautiful places, like the Deleware Water Gap, and a few interesting spots as well, including a Superfund toxic waste cleanup site. Even though the polluting smokestacks were shut down decades ago, the devastation still remains and the mountain top looks like a wasteland. Although Pennsylvania is infamous for its rocky terrain—it’s nickname is “the place where boots go to die”—it was also blissfully flat. I was able to make killer miles each day, pushing out 20 to 25 without any problems. And after a 500 mile chase, I finally caught up to Lightweight, G-Fog, Treehugger, and Petunia, a few of the folks I was hiking with back towards the beginning of my hike. After bumping into so many crazies, it’s been really nice to have some companions around.

The Palmerton Superfund Toxic Waste Cleanup Site

Trail in Pennsylvania

The Pinnacle Viewpoint in Pennsylvania

Sand Spring

Sunrise from Rocky Mountain Shelter

As I said above, the halfway mark is in Pennsylvania, and there are a few traditions that go along with completing that first thousand miles. For instance, almost every thru-hiker spends at least one night at The Doyle Hotel in Duncannon. The Doyle is over 100-years old and completely decrepit. The main attraction is that it’s dirt cheap, very hiker-friendly, and has a bar where guests can get “Dun-cannonized.” Although we weren’t too rowdy, we did get to meet a wide collection of Duncannon’s colorful drunks and neer-do-wells, all of whom wanted to buy us beer, talk about hiking, and hit on Petunia, the one lady in our party (coincidently, it was Petunia’s 49th birthday).

The Doyle Hotel

The “Presidential Suite” at the Doyle

Another halfway-mark tradition is the “Half-Gallon Challenge,” where you try to eat an entire half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting. Lightweight, G-Fog, and I tried, but only G-Fog was successful. I did pretty well though and was able to make it about three-quarters the way through mine—and amount equivalent to three pints. It wasn’t that I got full, it was just that I was sick of eating ice cream, and I ended up eating a large Italian sub right after I gave up. Here’s a great video of the Lightweight (left), G-Fog (upper right), and myself attempting the challenge:

The halfway-mark itself was a little bit of a letdown. They used to have a really cool monument, but since the trail changes a little bit every year, the monument was about four miles off of the actual halfway point, so they are in the process of moving it. So, all we got was a dinky little temporary sign printed on a sheet of computer paper. I could barely even muster a “yee-haw.” But we had an awesome fire that night to celebrate anyways.

Me at the Halfway Mark

Maryland and West Virginia went by like a breeze. Those states are so short that some thru-hikers do the “Four-State Challenge,” where you hike from the Pennsylvania-Maryland border to the Virginia-West Virginia border in a 24-hour period, thus hiking in four states in one day. I wasn’t that crazy and took my time, but I still made it through the two states in three nights. West Virginia is home to Harper’s Ferry, the “psychological midpoint” of the AT and home to the official Appalachian Trail Visitor’s Center. It was really cool actually, because it is one of the few places on the trail at which every single thru-hiker stops. They have this really nifty photo album of all this year’s hikers, with their pictures in order of arrival. I am the 68th southbound hiker to pass through this year, out of 214 who started in Maine.

Black Rock Cliffs, Maryland

Crossing the Shenandoah at Harper’s Ferry

Crescent Rocks, Virginia

It feels SO good to be halfway done, into Virginia, and less than 1000 miles to go. Way back in July I could harldy imagine Georgia, it was just an abstract goal that I was blindly heading towards. But now, I feel like I can start to see it, and this whole ‘walking-across-America-thing’ feels tangible and achievable all of a sudden. It’s a neat sensation! Maine seems forever ago, and I can hardly believe that I walked all the way from Maine to here. But I am so excited to continue my journey, to see all the adventures this second half of my hike will bring!


29 Responses to “Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia”

  1. uncle Craig October 27, 2009 at 5:17 pm #

    Didn’t know it was your b’day. So belatedly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! By the way, you’ll have another 2nd cousin tomorrow. Corbin Watson is to arrive sometime after 5:30 AM

  2. uncle Craig October 26, 2009 at 5:58 pm #

    Hope our rain doesn’t get to you. Been raining since b4 noon. Still coming down, harder now that I’m ready to leave work.

  3. uncle Craig October 26, 2009 at 7:21 am #

    much better pic of the 3!

  4. uncle Craig October 24, 2009 at 4:13 pm #

    love the pic. Beautiful background. Looks like good weather despite forecasted rain. Keep on treking.

  5. uncle Craig October 23, 2009 at 6:36 pm #

    glad bro & cuz were able to join up with you. I’ll bet they slow you down some. Probably won’t make 10miles a day with them. Have fun!

  6. uncle Craig October 22, 2009 at 6:20 pm #

    so where are you being joined by bro & cuz? Are they going to hike with you are hole up & party?

  7. uncle Craig October 22, 2009 at 6:11 pm #

    enjoy the extra hour of daylight while you can. What is it, two more weeks and we lose the hour? Of course you do gain the hour first thing in morning. Just got to get up and get going.

  8. Christy October 20, 2009 at 1:23 am #

    I bet someone out there is talking about the ‘yahoos’ he met on the trail–and one of the stories is about you! Miss you!

  9. uncle Craig October 19, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    I’m going to guesstimate that you have about 200miles to Tennessee. If you bow up like a cutworm you can make it in 10 days, 12 tops. Inclement weather might slow you down and it will take you 15days. Hope that you have a weather ap and keep a wary eye open.

  10. Raissa van Uum October 19, 2009 at 1:51 pm #

    Robert! Haven’t seen you since Baylor days… congrats on making the half-way mark. That is so exciting that you’ve gotten to do this and enjoy those beautiful states. Best of luck for the finish – just keep trekkin’! 😀

  11. uncle Craig October 19, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

    Bout time! I didn’t figure you to be a fair weather hiker but then you ducked the snow. Good hiking weather til Friday. You should be well rested now so burn the trail and make some miles while you can.

  12. uncle Craig October 18, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    So what’s happened to you? No tweets since Wednesday when you were going to devour the Hellburg. I hope it didn’t make you sick, or did the threat of cold, rain & snow make you hole up?

  13. Kathy Markward (Red Hat) October 16, 2009 at 5:24 pm #

    Three Stove Tex (if you’re still using that trailname) I was just sent your blog by a friend who is a Baylor alum and knew that I was a hiker too. I’ve done from Springer to Harpers and from Katahdin to Monson. Still have the rest to finish. Sounds like you’re having a great hike. Enjoy! Hike on…

  14. Judy Maggard October 16, 2009 at 2:47 pm #

    Just linked into your blog via the BAA Between the Lines e-communication and so enjoyed reading about your AT adventure. Your pictures are amazing! Congrats on making the half-way point.

  15. Melissa L. October 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm #

    You are awesome! Congratulations on making it half way. Kim D. and I were in an ice cream eating contest once and she smoked me…she said the worst part was that when she threw up afterwards the ice cream was still cold. Love the blog…very entertaining!!!

  16. uncle Craig October 13, 2009 at 5:46 pm #

    by the by, Front Royal, Va to Waynesboro, Va is 99miles by Interstate. Trail mileage probly little over 100. Did you hitch a ride or just had a good stride and easy walking along the ridge.

  17. uncle Craig October 13, 2009 at 12:52 pm #

    got out of Shenandoah sooner than I expected. Good for you. Tell your brother and his pretty bride hi for me. Update your blog for your faithful followers.

  18. uncle Craig October 13, 2009 at 7:23 am #

    Tuesday looks like good hiking weather. Try to make some miles today. Rain in forecast starting tomorrow. Hopefully it will not be on you.

  19. uncle Craig October 12, 2009 at 2:00 pm #

    i’m estimating you’ve got 40miles or so to get out of Shenandoah. That’s 2days plus some. Another half day to get into Jefferson Nat’l Park. Keep us posted on landmarks. Wish I could be with you to set the pace. You’d probably slow me down though. Ha!!

  20. william zimmerman October 11, 2009 at 12:52 am #

    Hey Robert. Congrats on making it halfway. I’ve been following your blog since you’ve started. I’m quite impressed that you’ve made it 1000 miles. I remember when you mentioned that you were going to hike the Appalachian trail when you graduated. I thought you were being sarcastic. I was wrong. Enjoy the next 1000 and keep posting.


  21. uncle Craig October 10, 2009 at 4:08 pm #

    Are you still intending to finish the trail by Thanksgiving. Can you make 20miles a day. Keep on trekking.

  22. uncle Craig October 9, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    By now you have crossed Skyline Dr. Try to make the next hut before stopping. I think that the huts in the Shenandoa’s provide shelter from bears. If using a tent remember to bear proof yourself as much as possible. They do like food.

  23. Rachael October 7, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

    ps– the “where am I now?” is super broken. according to that you are still in new hampshire 😦

  24. Rachael October 7, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    i love the pics!! i just want to frame all of them and put them in my room. stunning.

    and i love the superspeed video of all of you eating ice cream! i literally laughed out loud (including a few snorts)

  25. Eugene October 7, 2009 at 5:00 pm #

    So that reminds me whats your super outdoorsy trail name?

  26. uncle Craig October 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

    If you had been in the parking lot 3 minutes ago and looked up waving at the sky I could have seen you. Satelite imagery is amazing. It’s 1:28 PM cdst

  27. uncle Craig October 7, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    Attaboy Bubba. keep up a good pace to get thru Va by early Nov. Love your blog. Still would like you to twitter landmarks or last shelter passed at days end. AT map I look at has all the shelters.

  28. hatcitynikki October 7, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    I’ve been following your travels on twitter and just want to say congrats! The pics are beautiful and I hope you’re having an excellent time!

  29. Laura October 7, 2009 at 8:42 am #

    Yeehaa! Good job Robert! Halfway!

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