My Walk in the Woods, Ch 11

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Eleven (June 17th-23rd)

Day 71: (PA)  11 miles to Doyle Hotel, Duncannon, PA

It is an easy hike into Duncannon, considered by hikers to be the biggest party town on the trail, hence the nickname — “Drunkcannon”. The reason for this is the rundown dive Doyle Hotel where all the hikers stay and drink in the large saloon. I arrive at 11 am, the staff are friendly but the place is a dump. I leave my gear in the dank room, do laundry and contemplate an icky shower. I have a beer at the bar where I meet more arriving hikers. A short walk to the post office then back to the bar as hikers continue to appear.

At four a van shuttles hikers to the grocery store. Back to the bar for burgers and beers as the place swells with trail folk. Flashback to dormitory parties in college. A late arriving hiker needs a place to sleep so I offer the floor in my room. As I nod off to sleep the party continues downstairs.

Day 72: (PA)  19 miles from Duncannon to Horshoe Trail

I get up early and check out of the nasty Doyle. I am a bit hungover and order a big breakfast at a tiny diner on the edge of town but when the food arrives my stomach is upset and I (shockingly) do not finish the meal.

On the trail I catch up to WRONGWAY and PEANUT whom I met at the Doyle. WRONGWAY has snake tattoos on his arms and I discover why later in the day when I watch him poke his trekking pole under some rocks then reach down and snatch a large timber rattlesnake by the back of the head. He is too eager to let us get a close look at the writhing, rattling reptile and I get a massive adrenaline rush which propels me for miles down the trail.

In the evening there is a brief shower followed by a rosy sunset as I smoke the last of the Waynesboro weed.

Day 73: (PA)  27 miles from Horshoe Trail to 501 Shelter

A long day of walking PA’s rocky ridges. At a road crossing I meet trail angel Stuttering Ron who hands me an apple and a Christian comic book about Adam & Eve. I am confused by the symbolism of him offering me the forbidden fruit but it is tasty.

In the afternoon I arrive at interesting 501 shelter. It is a large circular structure with a huge dome skylight in the center of the ceiling and bunkbeds around the perimeter. It has a solar shower and a phone to make pizza orders. I get here with WRONGWAT and PEANUT then several more hikers show up later. We get a big delivery of Italian food and enjoy a pleasant evening.

Day 74: (PA)  25 miles from 501 Shelter to Port Clinton

I quietly pack up and am the first out of the shelter. It is a nice morning with few bugs and I crank out another big day. I arrive in Port Clinton by 4:30 and shop at the outfitter store. I eat crab cakes and chowder while swilling beers with locals at the Union House.

I walk over to the pavilion at the small city park where hikers are allowed to sleep. I leave my gear and walk to the Port Clinton Hotel bar where I find more hikers I recognize from Duncannon. Everyone ends up at the pavilion and it is difficult to sleep because of the noisy chatter.

Day 75: (PA)  22 miles from Port Clinton to Allentown Shelter

A profane former hiker named DIRTY BAG OF TRICKS stops by early and gives some of us a ride to 3C’s for breakfast. When I return to the pavilion I grab my familiar pack and beeline to the woods while it is still cool.

It is the summer solstice which is traditionally ‘Hike Naked Day’ for the uninhibited hiker. I usually include myself in that category however, it is Saturday and I am on a popular climb to Pulpit Rock. There are big church groups I have to pass as well as ill-prepared city people with poor trail manners. By the time I move beyond the crowd I have lost my mood to walk au naturel.

When I arrive at the shelter it is empty but a troop of boy scouts have taken all of the tent sites so I have the shelter to myself.

Day 76: (PA)  28 miles from Allentown Shelter to camp past [Del?? Springs]

It is a humid morning and a light rain ensures a humid day. At an empty shelter I find the journal of a hiker ahead of me so I carry it to the next shelter but he is not there so I leave it with a note.

It is a rocky, steep hike out of Lehigh Gap but the views are great on the open slopes. Apparently a fire years ago burned all of the trees on the ridge so there is no shade and I get overheated. At Little Gap I get a fast hitch downhill to a little store in Danielsville where I load up on Mtn Dew and chips. I do not have to wait long for a ride back to the trail where I finally find some shade. The rocky trail and high humidity takes a toll but I still put in a monster day trying to get the hell through this keystone state.

Day 77: (PA)  22 miles to Delaware Water Gap church hostel

Another rocky, humid bitch of a day! I get dehydrated early so I take a small detour at Wind Gap to the Gatewood Motel where I find a vending machine. I slam 64 oz of Mtn Dew into my system. This gives me the jolt I need to continue.

Anticipation gives me energy later in the day as I approach my next maildrop/re-supply town of Delaware Water Gap. This means the end of the PA pounding! I find my way to the well known hiker hostel at a church on the hill above town. I meet many new hikers in the basement of the church. One very tall old man is a multiple triple crowner (AT, CDT, PCT) named Silver. We all walk into town and I have a philly cheesesteak sandwich with lots of soda for dinner.

Back at the hostel there are stories to tell, chores to do and chaos to rule.

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