Saturday, September 20, 2008

AT: Pennsylvania - dry on the rocks

AT signpost
Well, the title of this post does not refer to a new drink. Everybody who has hiked the AT will know what I mean: The famous Pennsylvania rocks. And it is all true. The trail was extremely rocky. I could still hike 20 miles per day, but it cost me a lot. On top of all that, Pennsylvania was dry. Hiking without much water is not new to me, but the problem was that I did not expect it. When I hiked out of Port Clinton I decided to carry only 2 liters of water as my map indicated 5 springs on the way. Luckily on my climb out of town I met 2 day hikers who told me that all of those springs are dry now - and basically saved my ass by giving me their last water. And indeed - all those springs were dry: I almost felt like back on the CDT in New Mexico. I just barely made it to the next reliable water source with not a spare drop of water left.

Inside Cabela's

Next to Port Clinton I came across another "attraction": A Cabela's superstore! Cabela's is sort of an outdoor store but not exactly aimed towards hikers, but hunters, fishermen and car campers. And it is huge! You won't find any lightweight gear there, but lots of stuffed animals. Therefore I can truthfully say that I have seen a huge polar bear on the AT - in a Cabela's superstore. Another interesting sight there were Amish people in their traditional dresses shopping there. I would have loved to ask them for a ride back to the trail - but Amish are not allowed to own a car and therefore they were waiting for a lift by non-Amish friends just like me.

Organic Steve's brother
And I visited another trail friend: Organic Steve. Steve is an organic farmer (therefore the trail name) and lives close to Boiling Springs. This is the busiest time of the year for him but he still found time to see me. We met for dinner and he brought his brother along who had accompanied him on parts of the CDT. His brother is a biology teacher and so I could ask all sorts of stupid questions about wildlife and plants. I was pretty much disappointed to get to know that all these exotic turtles I have been seeing on the trail are quite normal... I have never seen a turtle outside a zoo and did not know that they existed in the US outside of water. His brother lives in the thriving metropolis of Boiling Springs where I spent my second zero day on the whole trail.

Karl Meltzer's support vehicle
But I liked PA - beside being rocky and crossing about 20 interstates (I am exaggerating here) I came across a lot of farmland, too and that was a nice change after all this green tunnel. In Pine Grove Furnace State Park there is also the official half way point of the AT - and the location of the famous Half Gallon challenge. Thruhikers are supposed to eat half a gallon of ice cream to celebrate this important mile stone of their hike. But in Pine Grove Furnace State Park I did not only meet hikers eating loads of ice cream but also Karl Meltzer. He is a well know long distance runner attempting to break the speed record on the AT by running the whole 2,174 miles in only 47 days. Well, he never made it. Due to foot problems it took him 56 days instead of 47 days - but at least he kept going even when the record was out of reach. And in all honesty: I have not exactly seen Karl but only his posh support vehicle that was waiting for him at every possible road crossing with food, water and massages whereas normal human hikers like me could only dream of such luxuries.

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