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.
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.
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.
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