I woke up before my wrist watch alarm went off (I actually had just accidentally turned it on a few days ago and didn’t know how to switch it off). I was nearly packed and ready to go at 6:00am. I exited my tent and waved at Champa – he was in a similar state of ready. I called out to Black Santa and Savage – they groggily started packing up as well.
Shaggy was awake but not moving – he purchased new shoes from the Cabela’s in Hamburg (outside of Port Clinton) and was having a tough time breaking them in. Tortilla also was packing up as well – he was heading for the shelter just shy of Palmerton.
Black Santa and I took the lead – it was a beautiful morning.
We made it up a short, but rocky, ascent – eventually spilling out on a boulder crossing. We made the shaky, and increasing painful, hop from rock to rock to a view at Dan’s Pulpit. We were only two and a half miles from camp when we were treated to an early morning sunrise.
Champa, then Savage and Get Weird, made their way to the outlook. Black Santa and I filled up our side pockets with snacks and hit the trail. I was very aware I needed to hike another 20-plus miles before day’s end.
We continued hiking north through the wooded boulder field. We were hiking slowly – it quickly became a “choose your own AT day” as the trail was difficult to follow amongst all the boulders.
I was in the lead, rock-hopping with only one earbud in (I usually only listen to music with one earbud in so I can still hear what’s going on around me). I had just landed on a wide boulder when I heard that unmistakeable rattle off to my left. I screamed and turned – on the next boulder over a huge rattlesnake was coiled and looking right at us.
Champa came running up (without his pack on) to investigate – he said he knew I had run across a snake after hearing me scream. Savage and Get Weird hiked up and the five of us stood, observing this monster snake.
Champa walked back for his pack, leaving a note near Dan’s Pulpit warning northbound hikers of the upcoming rattlesnakes. Black Santa and I hiked north. The boulder field ended and Black Santa and I started making good time on the easy terrain.
It was nearly 11:00am – I had hiked nearly nine miles on the day. Black Santa was in the lead. I had been hiking alone for only a few minutes when I caught up to him – he was staring at a tree. He pointed up as I approached. A huge rat snake was climbing the tree – it was nearly eight feet up the trunk of an oak.
We quickly hiked on – eager to get to the PA 309 road crossing. Champa discovered a hidden gem in the AT Guide while snacking at Dan’s Pulpit – just a few miles ahead and a hundred yards off trail lay the Blue Mountain Resort and Restaurant. We hiked in at 11:45 eager for them to open at noon.
We sat and ate a nice lunch. Tortilla, after originally saying he’d pass, decided to join us for lunch (how can you not stop when it’s so close, he said). After paying our tabs, we exited the restaurant. McDoubles was hiking in to eat – his feet were killing him. He said he’d order to go and catch us further up trail.
Note: This is the second time I’ve failed to pick up Tortilla’s tab – I still owe him a meal.
I’m thankful I had a filling hot lunch – it was 1:00 and I had covered 12 miles on the day. I still had 13 to go and decided to pick up the pace. The AT, however, had other plans. I hit a few extended boulder scrambles before being treated to a view at the Knife’s Edge.
I passed the Bake Oven Knob Shelter at 3:30 and continued hobbling across a series of boulder scrambles. My feet were really starting to hurt. I felt like I was getting the same type of impact blisters I got entering Virginia before buying trail runners. Thankfully, a group of Boy Scouts provided some much needed trail magic.
I got a call from Champa – Savage and himself had just arrived in Palmerton. It was 6:00pm – Bert’s Steakhouse closed at 8:00. They had already grabbed a spot in the tool shed and were taking showers. I had four rocky miles ahead and really started booking it. I caught up with Get Weird and the two of us hiked down to the Palmerton trail head. Black Santa was waiting and the three of us quickly hitched onto town.
Bert’s was closed – the manager let us in to pay for our spaces in the bunk. I grabbed a towel and headed around back. The tool shed was hot – a instantly resolved to sleep on the pavement outside.
I was surprised to find Tortilla there – he pushed the extra few miles into town to take advantage of the showers as well. And I got a text from McDoubles – he had decided to camp a few miles shy of town. I told him about our plans to head to the cabin tomorrow – he said he’d be there. I have no doubts.
I took a quick shower (it was surprisingly nice) and settled down to write.
* * *
My feet are killing me – the calluses under my toes and front pads are swollen and painful to the touch. I still don’t have any blisters.
Thankfully, I’ve got a short day tomorrow. The plan is to hike 12 miles up trail and get picked up by Get Weird’s parents – we’re going to a cabin just off trail for the night. Even if I weren’t going to the cabin with the rest of the gang, I’d be hiking a short day tomorrow to give my feet a rest.
I suppose I should tell a little more about Champa and Get Weird seeing as how they’ve been hiking with us for a while now. They’ve been hiking together for months. Champa’s from Florida and Get Weird from Ohio. I’ve been crossing paths with them since North Carolina – it’s been a pleasure getting to know them better.
Breakfast: two 20 gram protein bars, dried cranberries
Snack: Emerald tropical mix trail mix, dried apricots
Lunch: Small salad, 8 chicken wings
Trail Magic: orange
Dinner: Chicken Rice Side with can of chicken spiked with instant mashed potatoes.