June 11, 2013
Today’s mileage: 24.2
Total mileage: 1252.4
I’m trying really hard not to complain about the rocks here in Pennsylvania, but there are just SO MANY of them! They slow you down, they kill your feet, and they move on you when you least expect it. In retrospect, we probably shouldn’t have planned on hiking 24 miles today, but we had no idea where and when the rock fields would be.
We took a longer time to get ready this morning as we aired some of our things out near the shelter. Our clothes didn’t dry much, so the only option was to throw them on right before we left and hope it didn’t rain again. Whether it rains or not, putting on your wet hiking clothes is really the only option. They will either dry out or remain wet depending on the weather. Thankfully for us, the clothes dried out despite a couple of passing showers. Most of the hiking today was relativity flat, but the rocks slowed us down. You really have to take the time to know where to place your feet and be on the lookout for unstable rocks. We also had to contend with some slippery boulders because of the rain yesterday. Miles fell twice today and I almost fell forward onto a rock, but caught myself at the last second. We had a few nice views of the valley below, especially near the end of the day. The coolest part of the day was hiking along Knife Edge, not to be confused with Knife’s Edge on Katahdin. It was the same idea though: a narrow trail on the ridge of a boulder field.
We took two breaks today at the shelters along the way. We got to the second shelter, Bake Oven Knob, at 5:30. Chaser, Prometheus (also from Maine), and Blue Eyes were there setting up camp. We ate and talked with them for awhile, discussing films, bundling bags, and Kate Bush. We like to keep things interesting out here. We could have camped there for the night. We had already hiked 16.8 miles, formed new blisters from wearing wet socks, and our feet hurt of course. However, we decided to stick with our game plan and move on, despite the time. We knew we may have to hike in the dark since we had 6.8 miles left. I taped up my feet, put on my dry socks, and drank half of a 5 Hour Energy. This was the first time that I had drank any type of energy drink in my life, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I very rarely drink caffeine either, maybe once a year, if that. I really don’t like to rely on caffeine to get me through anything, but it gave me that little extra energy boost that I needed. Thanks to my sister, Jessica, and best friend, Sarah, for sending me that in Damascus! I was saving it until it was necessary, and the time had come.
There was only one rock field to contend with after our second break, so the rest of the hike wasn’t too bad. We only had to use our headlamps for the last half mile or so. We had an amazing sunset view of the Lehigh Valley, the mountain laurels in the foreground. It’s times like those that make the long days of hiking worth it. One positive about hiking late is that you can witness some beautiful sunsets. The shelter was full when we arrived, so we are tenting tonight. We have hiked a lot of miles recently, so we’re looking forward to a shorter day tomorrow.
Wildlife sightings today included three deer, twenty newts, two rabbits, four snakes, three salamanders, and three frogs. Miles keeps track of the numbers for us. I don’t even see half of the wildlife unless he points it out to me. He sees tiny snakes that look like twigs, deer far off in the woods, and newts behind rocks. I think he should become a bird watcher.
We have done several long days of hiking since entering Pennsylvania and it certainly wears you down. We don’t regret our decision to hike these big mileage days, often several 20+ mile days, but it’s not something that we can continue doing for the rest of the hike. While the terrain may be flatter here in PA, a 24 mile day is still a 24 mile day, no matter what type of trail you’re hiking on. It takes a toll on your body and the last thing we want to do is injure ourselves form over-working our bodies. We are pushing through to New Jersey in the next couple days, but we will be rewarded for our big days with a restful birthday weekend coming up!