I woke right at 6:00am, eager to get an early start. I exited my room and trotted down the hall to use the bathroom – the Doyle has only three bathrooms to service the 30-plus rooms spread out on the third and fourth floors. I was lucky – no one else was up yet. I took a long shower and used the bathroom, returning to my room to start packing at 6:30.
Black Santa knocked on my door at 7:30 – he was finished packing and watched as I finished as well. We headed downstairs and sat on the patio, waiting for Savage, McDoubles and Champa to return from their hotel room across town.
Get Weird came downstairs, pack in tow, and said farewell before hitting the trail – she had already resupplied and was ready to hike. Savage and the guys arrived right at 8:00 and the five of us walked over to the post office to pick up our mail drops.
It took a few minutes, but I soon exited the post office with four boxes of food – two of those boxes were a total surprise to me. I’ve got some pretty generous friends and family. I walked outside and began opening my packages – I couldn’t believe all the food folks sent. I had homemade chocolate/almond energy bars, fancy trail mix, lamb jerky, protein bars, candy, Dot’s Pretzels – there was so much food! I took what I needed to see me through four days of hiking and mailed the rest Port Clinton, PA – there’s very little I’ll need to purchase when I get there.
Savage, McDoubles and Champa decided to get a jump on the day and hiked out ahead of Black Santa and I – we had our hearts set on breakfast. We wandered back into town, stopping at Goodie’s (closed on Mondays) and a BBQ restaurant (also closed on Mondays) before settling on a gas station breakfast near the town park.
As we ate, I uploaded last night’s post and sent a few emails. It was a beautiful day – Black Santa stretched out on the picnic table while I chatted with family back home. It was just after 11:00 before we finally suited up to leave Duncannon.
The AT goes right through the heart of downtown Duncannon – it was very cool to realize I was passing homes that sat right on the AT.
We crossed the Juniata River, hoping to catch Savage, McDoubles and Champa at a gas station just off trail. Black Santa and I turned to meet them, but stopped short at the Riviera – I couldn’t resist going in. I was told by a local, who was saddened by our gas station breakfast, that the Riviera had the best chicken wings in town.
Black Santa and I walked in – it was dark and smoky. Only one other patron was seated at the bar. We sat and ordered lunch, playing a game of pool as we waited.
The local’s advice paid off – I ate some of the best wings I’ve had in a long time. We left at 1:00, completely stuffed and ready to start hiking north.
We crossed the beautiful Susquehanna River and immediately entered the woods.
After a powerful little ascent, I found myself on small ridge and hiked north. I caught up to Black Santa fairly quickly – we set off for Clark’s Ferry Shelter just a few miles up trail. I was warned about stretches of trail with little or no water – this was one of them. I found everyone snacking at the shelter – I collected four liters of water and joined them.
I had a few camping options ahead and all but one required me to carry the maximum amount of water I could in order to be feasible. The next reliable water source was 14 miles ahead – there was a shelter eight miles up trail, but I didn’t want to make the .3 mile off-trail trek to collect water from there.
At 3:30, I suited up (man, my pack was heavy – I was now carrying an extra nine pounds) and started hiking north. I was at the end of the line. I put on my headphones and tried to start cranking out miles. I got lucky – while the trail was rocky, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I experienced heading in to Duncannon. I found my hiking rhythm and started making decent time.
About an hour later, I found Savage, McDoubles and Champa setting up camp on a small vista that faces due east. They found an excellent spot and should have a great sunrise view tomorrow morning. I decided to press on – I was feeling good and wanted to put a few more miles in before stopping for the night. I cruised along the ridge, thankful I still hadn’t run into rocky terrain.
At 6:00, I received a message from Black Santa – he had stopped at Table Rock and suggested we camp there for the night. It was only a mile away from the next shelter meaning I could safely use most of my water without worrying about being dry tomorrow morning. I cruised in 15 minutes later and started making camp.
The view from Table Rock was great – I ate dinner on the precipice and considered sleeping under the stars. The sun was starting to set and Black Santa checked his phone. Bad news – it looked like rain might be moving in overnight. Being cautious, I instantly set up my tent and moved everything inside before finally laying down to write.
It’s 9:30 and a first little wave of showers just moved through – I sure hope Savage, McDoubles and Champa decided to set up their tents as well.
I feel refreshed – taking that zero at the Doyle was exactly what I needed. My feet are doing fine – still a little sore from last week’s hiking, but doing better than I expected.
I haven’t mentioned Blue Wolf in a while. He’s almost done healing and the poison ivy that pockmarked his face is starting to clear up.
I need to take some pics of my new gear – specifically my pack and tent. It’s been nearly three weeks since I got the new Osprey and it fits great – I really like my pack. I set up my tent quickly (and kind of in the bushes) tonight and will include a picture of this beast as soon as I pitch it in an open space.
The weather is supposed to chilly at night the next few days – highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s. I’m glad I had my Patagonia base layer sent back to me – I never, ever should have sent it home.
Tomorrow looks easy enough – I got a text from Get Weird. She’s seven miles ahead and said the terrain is a breeze. Hopefully it will stay that way moving forward – I’d like to put up some big miles tomorrow.
And to all my family and friends that sent me food – you’re the best and I love you all. I’ve been receiving a bunch of encouragement lately and appreciate it all – you have no idea. This thing is both physically and mentally tougher than I expected. I’m not sure I could do it without the support I’ve received from folks back home in Seattle and Atlanta (and Minot, ND and Vero Beach, FL).
Breakfast: sausage biscuit, Starbucks iced coffee
Lunch: Riviera – dozen lemon-pepper wings with small order of chicken fingers
Snack: Dot’s Pretzels, lamb jerky
Dinner: Buffalo Chicken Rice Side with can of chicken, beef jerky