Dear Herm’s Hikers,
Another great week for hiking! For the first time in 2 weeks, I did not have a hiking partner. I sure do miss the companionship of my brother Mark and Mrs. T, Rainbow Brite. Yes, it does get lonely out there sometimes. In all honesty, I’m a home-body so I often wonder what in the heck am I doing hiking up and down the mountains when I could be sitting out on my deck with a cold Natty Boh and a dozen of steamed crabs. But when that happens I immediately think of the great people that I’ve met on the trail and the real reason (Herm’s Hike) why I’m out here. At that instant, everything immediately comes back into focus, although my feet still hurt.
The weather for the week was sunny and hot, much preferred to rainy and cold. In all honesty, I am a hot weather person, a hiking camel in many aspects (I always tanned well). Yeah, I know that I’m saying that now and as soon as the temperature top 90’s, I’ll be wishing that I was singing in the rain.
Leaving Maryland at Pen-Mar Park brought back a lot of sweet memories from my childhood. Just down the road from the park is Fort Ritchie, now an industrial park. Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s when the fort was a thriving Army base, I attended summer camp for two summers with the Baltimore Police Boys Club. My father’s brother, My Uncle John, ran the Southeast Police Boys Club on Bank Street near the edge of Fells Point so I had a direct connection to the camp. For two weeks for two summers, I packed up my little suitcase and went to camp. What wonderful memories! Not only did I learn to swim in the mountain lake but I also learned archery, metal and wood crafts, softball, kickball, and boxing or how to get beat up. I retired after 2 years with a boxing record of 1 win and 1 loss. I can still remember those bouts as if they occurred yesterday. My first bout was against a older camper (big mistake) who boxed my ears off. But next year, I came back strong and won a unanimous decision against someone my own age. Sitting here at the keyborad, I can still see Uncle John’s smiling face and here his vocie. A-choo, baby! He was like my father in many ways, always smiling, energetic, upbeat, optimistic. I like to think that it was because he had a great a job in tutoring,mentoring the young men from the Fells Point, Canton, Highlandtown area. He even coached the club’s football team. I can still see those green and gold jerseys and leather helmets.
Okay, back to the trail. Pennsylvania has been a “love it or leave it” hike. There were dried up riverbeds that served as the trail (at least that’s what the mountain trails seemed to me) and flat sections through valleys and farms. Of course, I loved the valleys and hated the peaks. My feet were pretty chewed up after climbing up and downs the rocky mountains. Since surgery on both feet for stiff toe (loss of cartilage in the big toe joint), I find it diffuclt to walk if I cannot place my foot on a flat surface. Stepping over rocks the size of bricks and breadboxes, my toes constantly twisting and turn in my boots, causing at times a very painful burning sensation in my foot that lasts for hours. At the end of each day, my dogs were very tired and sore despite cold-water soaks and handfuls of Alleve.
The first day I hiked through Caledonia State Park where I received some trail magic in the form of a picnic dinner. A family who saw me walking down the trail noticed that I looked rather hungry (a great job of yogi-ing a meal on my part – named after Yogi Bear and his methods of obtaining picnic baskets) and offered me their picnic leftovers. Two hotdogs, 2 hamburgers, 2 sodas, and a bag of chips later, I walked away a very happy hiker. To celebrate my good fortune, I stopped at the pool concession stand for a double-dip cone of chocolate chip cookie dough. Not a wise culinery decision since I had to immediately hike up a mountain side. Needless to say, I did some serious sweating and burping up the mountain.
The next day I passed the offical haflway mark which this year is located just south of Pine Grove Furnace State Park (PGFSP). There was no marker to commemorate the event since the trail changes every year, but it felt good to know that I had officially reached the halfway mark. The unofficial official halfway mark is just north of PGFSP where a large wooden pole marks the spot. Go figure! Arriving at PGFSP marked another milestone, half gallon challenge. To commemorate their accomplishment, thru-hikers must attempt to eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting. After a long hot and sweaty day in the sun, I really didn’t feel like eating a half gallon of ice cream, but when in Rome do as the Romans or in this case do as the thru-hikers. I started steady and slow and finished with a sprint in a time of 26 minutes and 16 seconds. Indeed, one of the great achievements in my life. With arms outstretched, I raced around the picnic table, humming the theme from Rocky. After that I immediately went inside the general store to receive my trophy, a wooden ice cream spoon that said “Member Half gallon Club.” This year’s record to date is held by Fat Kid did it in 10 minutes and some odd seconds. But it was not all good news from PGFSP. I wanted to spend the night at the adjacent hiker’s hostel (Ironmaster’s Mansion) but it seems the workers who were digging up a water pipe as we eat our ice cream broke the main water line to the hostel. The hostel manager came down the hill and gave us the bad news about fifteen minutes after the workers had left fo the day. Now, we knew the reason for all of those work conferences in hushed voices. After eating a half gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, I was daydreaming alll afternoon about sleeping in a real bunk wtih a matress and linens. Dream on, Son-Dance. Instead, I slept at the park’s campground with some fellow hikers. But all was not lost. We camped next to campground hosts Larry and Sharon who made it a delightful evening with good conversation and delicious rice krispy bars. The next morning they prepared eggs and coffee for breakfast. Thank you Larry and Sharon for your trail magic!
Then it was off to village of Boiling Springs, home of the Mid Atlantic Appalachian Trail Conservancy, where not too much is cooking or boiling. What a scenic village, right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The town is centered around a small spring-fed lake (constant temperature of 52 degrees) that is a public park lined with private Victorian homes and shade trees. I unofficially named the shady lane next to the lake The Poets Walk in honor of my nephew Justin Travers. Just visit the llake one day and take a look under any of the trees for the
Since I didn’t have a bed the night before, I treated myself to a bed and breakfast at the Gelinas B&B. If you have it, spend it, right folks. It’s good for the economy. What a magic elixir! My body was aching and my time was at hand (Hey that sounds like a James Taylor song.) and I couldn’t make it any other way. After a good night’s sleep and a breakfat of eggs Florentine, I was fit as a fiddle and ready to hike in the heat and humidity through the farmlands of Pennsylvania to Duncannon.
Duncannon to all hikers means the Doyle Hotel, a turn of the century victorian brick structure built by the Anhauser-Busch company. While the hotel part of the business has seen better days (For a hiker it was all you could ask for, a clean room with a bed and a shared bathroom with a hot shower at $25 a night, even if the place was a setting for a John Steinbeck novel about the great Depression.), the tavern on the first floor was a hiker’s dream. A great bar owned and operated by two great people, Pat and Vicky, with great bartenders, great customers (mostly hikers), great bar food, and, best of all, really cold beer. I spent the evening talking with Bluebird (Thru-hiked in ’06 to Maine where she left the trail with a broken collarbone and 200 miles to go. Talk about a bad break! She did finish the next year) and her friend Diane about hiking and Alzheimer’s. What a delighful evening with two charming ladies. Diane, you and your father are in my thoughts and prayers. Bluebird, let’s get that book out to some publishers. You have a great story to tell and I would love to read about it.
Meet with Rainbow Brite (Mrs. T) at the Doyle and attended the Billville Hiker Feed, a weekend fest of free food an events for hikers. Thank you Trail Angel Mary for a wonderful time. Sorry I didn’t get to see the showing of the movie Deliverance. With a bunch hikers that would have been a lot of fun. Spent most of the weekend “slachpacking” since I had Rainbow Brite with me. It was a chance to pick up some mileage and move downa the trail. This week it’s on to Port Clinton. Hopefully, I can make it to a small town to celebrate the Fourth of July. Who knows, there might even be free food and drink for thru-hikers! Yes, trail magic is a constant wish at this stage of the hike. It doesn’t hurt to wish upon a star.
Did some serious calculating over the weekend about the hike. It’s really time to put some serious miles on the boots. With some luck, I still hope to make Kathdin by the second week in September. I’ll have to average about 15 miles a day with 1.5 zero days per week. Time is fleeting. June is almost over and summer is officially here with still a long way to go. But hikers tell me, the best is yet to come. Before you know it, it will be September. Kids will be back in school and I’ll be looking at Mount Katahdin in the distance with only a few miles to go.
Until next time, hike with your angels and hike in peace!
Keep me in your prayers! And don’t forget to spread the word about Herm’s Hike!