Having slept in my new Big Agnes Copperspur 2 without the rainfly, the first thing I saw when I woke at 8:00am was Black Santa’s face staring down at me. He was packed and ready to hike, but wanted to wait for me to get ready. I was tired, but my feet felt better. When I went to sleep last night, they were pretty destroyed. Moisture from hiking in mud all night had soaked through my boots and socks, making my toes look like shriveled, red raisins. I taped an open blister on one of my toes before packing up.
We only had ten miles to go before reaching Duncannon. I looked at the AT Guide before leaving and became concerned. For the first time, the guide actually told me that six of the next ten miles would be “very rocky” – I figured if the AT Guide was telling me to watch out for rocks, it was gonna be bad.
Black Santa’s feet were faring slightly better and he took the lead. I crossed PA 850 and entered a nice field before making a steep, rocky ascent that would put me on a ridge for the rest of the morning.
The ascent, maybe 500 feet in total, was brutal. Again, every step shot pain through my feet – I don’t do rocks well. I slowly hiked along the ridge, hopping between rocks, trying to land on level surfaces.
I kept checking my GPS app to see my progress – I was hiking at just under two miles and hour. Pretty slow indeed. I passed only two other hikers, both were sitting down with boots off, rubbing their feet.
I passed Cove Mountain Shelter without stopping and soon found myself at Hawk Rock, a popular destination for day hikers. Black Santa was snacking on the precipice having arrived only ten minutes ahead of me. The view was nice – I paused to eat some snacks as well. It was almost noon and I’d only covered eight miles on the day.
We chatted with an ATC volunteer who had lots of questions for us. I politely cut the conversation short. We still had a rocky descent to navigate and it looked like rain was moving in. As we were making our slow descent, we ran into two young day hikers who had found a dog on the trail. No one had cell service so we couldn’t call the phone number on the ID tag. I offered to take the dog into town and (hopefully) find the owner.
We descended and made a huge error – we missed a white blaze and ended up following an approach trail down to a parking lot. Realizing our mistake, we backtracked (straight uphill) and found the AT. It wasn’t our fault – the AT was poorly marked. Before we pressed on, I hauled some large branches out of the woods and built a makeshift blockade so other hikers wouldn’t make the same mistake we did.
At 1:30, we arrived in Duncannon. Black Santa called the dog’s owner who thanked us profusely, promising to meet us in town at the Doyle. I enjoyed walking the dog – she was a loveable coonhound.
After saying goodbye to the coonhound, I checked in to the Doyle Hotel. The property itself is amazing – a four-story hotel built at the turn of the century. Sure, it’s seen better days, but I’ve wanted to stay here for years.
After checking in, we gathered our laundry and made our way to the laundromat. After throwing our clothes in the wash, we crossed the street and ordered two pizzas to go. Black Santa stayed at the pizza parlor and I walked back to the laundromat, falling asleep in a chair after I threw our laundry in the dryer. Black Santa woke me up and we took our clean clothes and pizza back to the Doyle.
It was 4:00pm and Get Weird arrived, also grabbing a room. I went upstairs and promptly fell asleep again – I was completely exhausted. I woke again at 8:00pm and checked my phone. Savage, McDoubles and Champa had just checked in to a (real) hotel the next town over and were making their way to the Doyle to hang out.
I walked downstairs and shot a game of pool as I waited for them to arrive. By this time, the restaurant was full of hikers. It was really cool getting to meet new people and hang out – I didn’t go back upstairs until 11:00pm.
I turned the fan on and sat down to start writing.
* * *
I’m still very tired – I can’t wait to zero here tomorrow. My body needs it.
My plan is head out on Monday morning after stopping at the post office – I’ve got a few packages waiting on me.
I met a southbound section hiker in Boiling Springs. She warned me about the rocky terrain leaving Duncannon – I should probably count on slower, low-mileage days until I leave Pennsylvania.
Because I have so many opportunities to hitch into town moving forward, I’m going to set up a “bounce box” on Monday. Instead of carrying all the food folks have sent me, I’ll ship what I don’t immediately need to a post office a few days up trail – I want my pack to be as light as possible as I navigate the rocky terrain ahead.
I’m really happy to be here – I’ve read about the Doyle for years and it’s lived up to its reputation. This place is the perfect kind of dive – I love it.
Port Clinton, PA is four days ahead – I should arrive there Thursday afternoon.
And I just found out there’s supposed to be bad weather moving in tomorrow – I hope it doesn’t stick around when I leave Monday morning.
Breakfast: nothing – too exhausted to eat
Snack: 20 gram protein bar, two granola bars, the last of my beef jerky
Lunch: four slices of sausage and banana pepper pizza
Dinner: the other half of the pizza