We crawled out of bed early, well, at about 7am. Waking up in the woods is exciting, we could hear the birds chirping and the bugs chittering, but we couldn’t sleep in. Tim’s cousin had arranged for us to have a hotel room using her points, so we had a short, 18 mile, day ahead of us. We wanted to take full advantage of the room. We packed up, only a little worried about being discovered because we were camped in not an officially designated area. We grabbed some granola bars and crawled out of the bushes to the trail.
We were told later that Pennsylvania is “famous” for having the worst part of the trail. It’s the rockiest section, but I thought it would be because it was through a lot of farm land, so it was hard to camp on. But the corn around us made it fun to walk out to the road.
We aren’t used to walking on trails, and it takes a different kind of concentration. But we made it to the road again and were greeted by a neighbor. A man walking his dogs out to the trail asked if we were a couple of the rare breed of north-to-south hikers. We told him we’re even rarer west-to-east hikers and traded some small talk about hiking and our card with him. He offered to fill up our water packs, but we were full and ready for the day. Talking to the man made Rebecca’s day. She was wondering how receptive people who live near the trail are to hikers. Tim had found an article about churches slowly closing their doors to hikers because too many people are turning the trail into “a frat party in the woods”. It’s sad to hear that something so great is being destroyed by overuse by disrespectful people. We wondered how much the movie “Wild” and the new movie “A Walk in the Woods” would impact the trail.
We walked away from the trail excited about our progress and our night. As we started to hit towns we were reminded why we prefer roads (though we’ve been debating the whole trip if roads or trails are harder). We had fun joking about town names and having a few people honk and wave as they saw our sign.
Right before crossing the river into Harrisburg, we decided to take our break by the post office so we could run in and but stamps to send our last postcards from the road. While in line, a man struck up conversation with Rebecca about the trip and we explained the story to him. The man behind him in line introduced himself as we were getting ready to leave and invited us over for a glass of wine with his girlfriend. We couldn’t refuse and we’re so happy we didn’t. Bernie and Linda had amazing stories of traveling all over the world and exploring so many things. But, they were in the process of moving to a new home, and we were headed to a nice hotel, so after about an hour of talking, we headed out. We both loved the afternoon and have continued to imagine how exciting their lives must be.
Talking with interesting people always boosts our spirits (the wine may have helped too…). Harrisburg was a pretty town, but we barely saw it as we focused on a comfy room, the spa, and a quiet night indoors. It’s hard to imagine how much we’ve taken the easy things in life (like controlled temperature, a bed, etc) for granted.
After walking through Harrisburg, with no stops, we made it to the outskirts of downtown. The sidewalks disappeared, but we quickly realized that goat paths were plentiful. Sometimes our hardest waking is onto a city, but we’re so distracted by the end we don’t care.
That night we settled into the hotel, ate dinner nearby, traded stories with the desk clerk, sat in the jacuzzi, and enjoyed complete relaxation. Looking forward to the hot breakfast in the morning we settled in to bed.
The next morning we struggled out of Harrisburg. Suburban streets are not designed for pedestrians and we were on a fairly major highway, so it was loud, hot, and hard to walk on. After first break under a tree, we started to pass a donut place. We paused and decided we couldn’t just walk by. Even though we’d eaten fewer donuts than the beginning of the walk lately, we kinda have a thing with donuts. Fred, the owner of Donut Depot, was so friendly. He was all out of fresh donuts but shared the last two pieces of his (amazing) corn bread with us and excitedly talked about our journey. His daughter just moved to Chicago to attend Loyola, so we were able to discuss the city with him. We left with two half pieces of corn bread and two bananas, and of course giant smiles from a great meeting.
When we were finally off the main highway, we were able to wander the small side roads toward Fort Imdiantown Gap (which may be way too long for a town name). We stopped in the gas station for some slushies, it was hot, and met a woman excited about the trip. She hugged us both (only recommended if you can handle sweat) and headed out for the evening. The slushies revived us, and we trudged through the last 6 miles, partially along a running path for the navy base, to the KOA just north of Jonestown. We slept soundly by the creek, and looked forward to another day tomorrow.
The day started quiet with a couple miles along a rails-to-trails route and then even more quiet back roads. We crossed into the state game lands on a road that turned into gravel really quickly.
As we got deeper, we realized the gravel roads weren’t the path Google told us to take, so we stepped off into a small mountain path on the side.
The cobwebs spread between the trees and, after a couple too many gross times, Tim took the lead. We lost signal on our phones and were depending on the preloaded map and GPS. Rebecca got worried thinking of every story she’s ever heard about people lost in the woods for days and Tim tried to keep her calm. Luckily, we could see some clearings ahead, and we could retrace our steps because we crushed lots of plants. We found our way out and started looking for a bugless shady spot to take a lunch break.
As we walked along quiet back roads we were passed by some monster-sized farm equipment and only a couple of cars. As we turned a corner and remarked about the building with doors to nowhere a man came out in his yard to introduce himself. Rodney is an avid cyclist and a friend to all active travelers he sees. Recently he hosted a woman and her boyfriend who was running the Appalachian trail, and he was on the couch surfing website we sometimes use for housing. Rebecca had thought to contact him, but his house was awkwardly located for us. We filled up our water and after walking a bit Rodney drove out to offer us a ride from our end point (only about 8 miles down the road) and a ride back out the next morning.
As we walked, we discussed the offer. We quickly realized we couldn’t refuse an offer of a pickup, maybe dinner, and most importantly, a bed. So we called Rodney when we got to the end and waited for him in the parking lot of the laundromat near the campground we were supposed to stay at. A man came out and offered us cold beers (we didn’t refuse). Rodney picked us up and we enjoyed stuffed bell peppers, chili, and great conversation. The room above his garage where we slept was so dark that we slept completely soundly through the night. Rodney biked across the country last year and was packing to do part of the Continental Divide this year. We loved swapping stories and look forward to reading his journal from his trip across the country. Candice, his wife, had to leave to work a night shift but she was so accommodating and great to talk with while she was there. Part of this trip that we’ve loved the most is meeting all of the people, and Rodney and Candice are exactly the kind of people that make the trip worth it.
Today(s) we walked through:
Fort Indiantown Gap
Tim: 43,121; 51,402; and 54,123 steps
Rebecca: 45,200; 55,482; and 59,093 steps
3,117 miles finished