Day 95 – Sunday, June 12: Bert’s Steakhouse (Palmerton, PA) to Smith Gap Road to the Hemlock Campgrounds and Cottages, 12.1 miles, 1,269.4 total AT miles.

I woke from the parking lot of Bert’s earlier than expected. I was full-on cowboy camping, sleeping soundly from my sleeping bag (and sleeping pad and inflatable). At 4:30am, employees starting arriving for work. I didn’t budge – it was nice outside. And I was thankful I wasn’t sweating in the tool shed.

I woke for good at 6:30 and started packing up. Savage and Champa also decided to camp outside – they were stiring as well. I walked inside – Get Weird was up and Black Santa was gone. How had I missed him?

I continued packing outside, going to the laundromat next door to use the bathroom. When I returned, Black Santa was eating breakfast – he woke up early and hiked to the DQ. The five of us, plus Tortilla, caught hitches at 7:30 and started hiking north.

We had been warned about today from locals – the rocks were pretty extreme and the climb was going to be tough. I texted McDoubles – he was already ahead and called the terrain “very technical”. I was excited.

The trail leaves Palmerton and heads straight up – we were boulder scrambling from the start.

At times, I had to climb straight up the rock face, grabbing at natural fingerholds to reach the top. And the wind! A cold front had moved in overnight bringing strong, sustained winds all day.

The view of the valley below was stunning.

We were hiking near land that was part of a huge Superfund site – up until the early 90’s, there was a large zinc smelting operation here and the land was still polluted. We continued hiking slowly on the rocky terrain, stopping for a quick break at 8:45.

After a few quick snacks, we started hiking north again. I joked about having a “snake-free” day before taking the lead. Not five minutes later, I ran into this:

I hiked on cautiously, never finding the snake. I would later find out that McDoubles left the note – excellent use of a time stamp, sir! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across warning notes that lack a time stamp – it really helps to know how recently the scary/dangerous event originally occurred.

Then it happened – at 8:58am (I know because I checked) I nearly stepped on a rattlesnake as it slithered across the trail. I screamed (again) before rushing past it. I then decided to give up the lead – I just don’t like running across snakes.

The trail was tough – Tortilla, Savage and Champa quickly took off and disappeared ahead. I decided to take my time – the morning’s rock scramble had already done a number on my feet. Black Santa and I hiked at the end, both of us in pain.

At 10:07, I ran into Champa and Savage – a large rattlesnake was completely blocking the trail. This guy was big! I snapped a few shots and patiently waited as it finally slithered into the tall grass alongside the trail.

And then at 10:09, not two minutes later, I crossed paths with another large rat snake. It was nearly off trail by the time I saw it. Three snakes before lunch is more than I can take.

At 11:30, Black Santa and I caught up with Get Weird. Her parents were arriving at Smith Gap at 2:00 – we really needed to get moving. But, again, the AT did not cooperate – Black Santa and I moved slower than ever.

For the most part, we were done with the larger boulders – we now hiked on smaller stones, basketball to baseball in size. I can’t think of anything more uncomfortable – even with the aid of trekking poles, repeatedly walking on stones this size kills.

We eventually caught up with Champa – Get Weird’s parents weren’t arriving until 3:00. Oh man! I was so happy to hear that – I didn’t want to push any harder than I already had been.

I slowly hiked on – it was 1:00 and I was four miles away from Smith Gap. I really took my time – it as nice to slow down and spend some time with myself. The painful rocks eventually gave way to smooth trail and I arrived at Smith Gap with five minutes to spare. McDoubles was there, snacking with the rest of the group – Tortilla had pressed on.

Get Weird’s mom arrived a few minutes later – all six of us piled into her Honda and we made the half hour trip to Hemlock Cottages. What a treat! Her stepdad was already grilling when we arrived. I jumped in the shower, washing my clothes as I bathed – I quickly hung them on a clothesline to dry shortly after.

We all started eating by 5:00 – the food was amazing! I ate more than I’d eaten in a long time. After we all stuffed ourselves, we watched movies before heading off to bed.

* * *

I can’t believe Get Weird’s parents did this for us – we’ve got our own cabin and a stocked fridge. And with the promise of breakfast tomorrow, I’m more than pleased.

They actually have the cabin for two days – so far, Black Santa and I are the only ones heading out tomorrow. He needs to pick up packages and I’d like to take it easy before hitting New Jersey on Tuesday – everyone else is zeroing here tomorrow.

I’m probably going to get a room next week – I just feel it coming.

I scrubbed my feet today, trimmed my toenails, and shaved the calluses off my heels. They still hurt – I’m just gonna have to hike at the pace they dictate. The good news is that my trek in PA will end at Delaware Water Gap on Tuesday. And supposedly, as I cross into New Jersey, the trail gets a lot easier.

I’m starting to get nervous about this trip ending – it’s been on my mind for a few days now. After we crush New England, we get to tackle the Greens and the Whites before hitting Maine. I know summiting Katahin is many weeks away, but I found myself worrying about it.

I guess I’m worried about missing out on days like today. The wind, the climbing, the snakes – I had a blast today. Even with my sore feet, I hiked with a smile all day long.

I don’t say this enough, but I’m still having the time of my life.

Breakfast: one 20 gram protein bar, 16 oz Mountain Dew

Snack: bag of beef jerky, dried cranberries, six PB crackers

Dinner: three grilled chicken thighs, one bratwurst, pasta salad, chips and spinach artichoke dip, peanut M&Ms, Coca-cola

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

2 thoughts on “Day 95 – Sunday, June 12: Bert’s Steakhouse (Palmerton, PA) to Smith Gap Road to the Hemlock Campgrounds and Cottages, 12.1 miles, 1,269.4 total AT miles.”

  1. Great blog – I have been following you since your postings in TN.
    I would love to see an update on your gear page. What have you continued with? Ditched? Liked, disliked? Ditched even though you liked it? Kept even though you don’t love it? That kind of thing. I have caught some of that through reading your blog, but it would be cool to see all in one place.
    I am seeing that your feet are in pain a lot. Have you considered a shoe/boot with a heavier/tougher sole? I know that would mean a heavier boot, but it sounds like your feet need a break!

    Edwin in Nashville


  2. Palmerton is my hometown, though I have lived in South Bend, IN for much of my life. I go back to Palmerton every so often and make sure to hike part of the trail. It is nice to see this from a different perspective. Sometimes, I take for granted how beautiful it is!


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