Scavenger checking in again! This time I’m at Delaware Water Gap, the town that marks Pennsylvania’s border with New Jersey along the AT. I’ve zoomed through Pennsylvania over a dozen long days with a merry band by my side.
My pals are the aforementioned “Forrest” and “Slim Rims”. Through grit, cooperation, and serendipity, we pushed through PA at a turbo pace and had a lot of fun along the way. I feel that both of them benefited from my insistence on moving quickly through the State, gaining confidence in their ability to do the big miles that will take us to Katahdin.
Having companions to hike with has been a welcome departure from my lone wolf phase. I’ve had a lot more humor in my evenings, the miles go by quicker in tandem and having someone who’s got your back is a big advantage. Our group isn’t tightly bound, and we’re always joking about its demise, so who knows how long we’ll keep at a pace. Regardless, I am certain I’ve made two good friends.
Speeding through Pennsylvania worked due to its flat terrain and abundant amenities. The AT through PA is peppered with towns and restaurants, rarely delving deep into the mountains. A proper diner breakfast (a.k.a. bottomless coffee + mega carbs) gets me going with high morale. Going fast, whilst buttressed by abundant trail magickers, meant a near daily opportunity to feast.
The unfortunate aspect of hitting restaurants so frequently is budgetary, and with my metabolism floating over 4000 calories a day, means I’m always hungry or blowing big bucks. Restaurants now require double entrees and binging is the new norm for me. Highlights (or nadirs, depending on perspective) include: victory in the Half Gallon Challenge in Pine Grove, where I devoured that much ice cream in 24 minutes, 27 seconds, whole pizza pies being consumed by default and getting cut off from bottomless pasta in Palmerton. The monster that is my stomach must be fed, the more gluttonous its quandary the better.
The beast that really scares me out here though is near microscopic. I am referring to deerticks, infectious pests that transmit Lyme Disease to their human hosts when they feed. I’ve now plucked five of them from my legs when I neglected repellent, each filling me with disgust. They blend in with the dirt on my body and require a thorough search to uncover. They are abundant here in the North and diligence with bug spray and body scanning will be imperative if I am to avoid debilitating illness.
An essay on hiking Pennsylvania would be loathe to omit the rocks. The trail here has a terrible reputation for jagged, uncomfortable and strenuous terrain, and by all means does it deliver. I did sometimes find the trail mentally stimulating though, such as when it paralleled with bouldering, requiring precision and dexterity to navigate the biggest rocks. Overall, the rocks were a wear and tear, but for me somewhat of a hyperbole.
Well, I’m almost home! Tomorrow, I begin New Jersey and then skirt NYC’s orbit. How will seeing all my friends affect my hike? Will I depart for the final third to the North with my motivation renewed or will I battle homesickness? These are the questions on my mind.