If you choke a Smurf, what color does its face turn?
Why do they sterilize a hypodermic needle for lethal injections?
I had a bad night's sleep last night and woke feeling really drained. I had originally planned on doing 18 today, but I felt so lethargic and out of sorts that it was soon cut to 14 and then even further down to 11. Upon reaching the Dahlgren Backpacking camping area, I was able to take a shower, and that improved my spirits considerably. The plan for the day went back up to 14 and that's where it stayed.
The heat has been really oppressive lately. For me, the worst part is how badly it makes your feet swell. My feet feel like they've been beaten to a pulp after about 12 miles. The trail's been pretty easy elevation-wise, but there have been lots of rocky sections that really slow you down and wear you out quickly.
I read in one of the registers today that Cheesehead has become a "minimalist" backpacker. I later found out exactly what that meant - he sent home his tent, stove and fuel bottle, pot, and sleeping bag! I think the sleeping bag was a bit much, but I hope it all works out for him. I really think that a light pack is the key to having fun out here. I hope we catch Cheesehead in the next few days. I really enjoy his company and his "modern day/ enlightened-kinda-guy" comments (especially in regards to women) :^)
A final close to the day - I spilled a quart of boiling water on my legs this evening. I was sitting on my pad and spilled it so that it seeped under the back of my left leg. I don't think its any worse than a 1st degree burn, but it sure did smart!
I got a great night's sleep last night. I was in the tent by 6:30 and asleep before 7:30. It's definitely what my body needed and I awoke feeling refreshed.
We were headed for Pen Mar Park today, where I was to be meeting Bubbles. She was going to join me for a few more days of hiking. Unfortunately, there was no sign of her at the park when we arrived at around 4:30.
It had been another hot day and I took advantage of the running water in the restrooms to take a "sink bath." We set up camp in a small field across the street from the park. FireBall and I then walked about 1.5 miles down the road to Rocky's Pizzeria, where we enjoyed fried mozzarella sticks, Sicilian style Pepperoni pizza, and a few beers.
We walked back to camp just in time to catch the sunset. It was really neat to see all the neighbors headed for the park to watch the sun. A half hour prior, the park was empty, but as dusk approached, a steady stream of people headed for the Sunset Pavilion to enjoy this everyday event.
Pancake was the only other thru-hiker camped with us tonight. I had met SuperTramp earlier in the day, but he had headed on. We seem to be in another little gap of thru-hikers. We see lots of section hikers and scouting-type groups, but not very many familiar faces lately. I wonder if this will change soon or if this is the way it will be for the rest of the trip.
We knew it was going to be another hot one today with temps in the 90s again. We decided to try and get our miles over and done with before the hottest part of the day hit. I was hiking by 7 and had completed the day's miles by 2pm. It was nice to get into the shelter so early and catch up on journal entries, do a little reading, and play my flute.
We're camped with a pretty large number of section hikers. One couple, Steve and Jodie, are here from Michigan for a week of hiking on the AT. I've set up the tent just because the bugs are so bad. I guess summer has set in for good.
We were strong though and after an hour of sitting at a picnic table in indecision, we headed on up the trail (and up it was). As we left the park, we ran into Churchmouse, who was taking his leave of his family. He had left the trail with a knee injury after just 4 weeks. He had made it through the Smokie and was now returning to the trail to continue on.
After almost 11 miles we took a 3-1/2 hour break at one of the PATC maintenance cabins. Although these cabins are always locked, they usually have a nice water source, a covered porch, and if you're lucky, a swing. I wanted to sit out the hottest portion of the day for Micah's sake as well as my own. My feet really appreciated a good soak in the nearby creek and I actually took a nap.
We set out at 4 for the last section of the day. The trail has really been a pleasure these last few days. I know the infamous "Pennsylvania rocks" are coming, but so far it's been quite pleasureable. We were planning to spend the night at another maintenance cabin. The last mile of our day was slowed down to a snail's pace by the sudden appearance of ripe huckleberries alongside the trail!
The cabin was deserted and locked. We set up our tent on the porch and started dinner. Five minutes into dinner we had a call to retreat and pull our battle lines back up by the tent due to all the flies. At one ponit during the evening I caught 8 big, fat flies in my cookpot and shook them senseless before lifting the lid and watching them drop and stumble off like drunks.
Now I'm an icecream aficionado level with the best of them and I was confident in my abilities to come through the initiation rites with flying colors, but my 1/2 gallon of black cherry proved just too formidable. I soon found myself staring miserably at roughly 3/8 of a gallon of quickly melting icecream hoping that if I left it long enough, the summer sun would cause it to evaporate before my eyes. After about 20 minutes with no signs of sublimation, my 1/2-gallon was ceremoniously dumped into the nearest trash can and then I went inside to order a cheeseburger. Oh well, I didn't really want their little dixie cup wooden spoon anyway!
While we were agonizing over our icecream torture session, I got to meet a woman by the name of Slim. She was one of the leaders of a large group of highschool girls that were on a church backpacking retreat. After talking for a while, we realized we had both been on the AT-L newsgroup and that she was a good friend of the Fab 4 -- Carni, Herba, Spaz, & Tumbles. I had met them a long time back on my thru-hike. I believe it was at the Muskrat Creek Shelter. Slim told me that Herba is still recovering slowly from a bad fall that injured her knee pretty seriously and forced her to leave the trail. The others continued on and are up in the New York area now.
Our afternoon hike was much improved by some heavy rainshowers that mercifully cooled us off, even if they didn't do much to improve our smell. Nobody else is at the shelter tonight, but I'm still tenting just to get away from the bugs. I decided to let Micah sleep in the shelter rather than in the tent since I was having a hard enough time dealing wit the warm, fetid stench that FireBall and I were emitting without adding the perfume of a wet dog to the tent's atmosphere as well.
We had decided that it was absolutely necessary to hit a town and fumigate ourselves. It had been a full 7 days of 90+ degree weather and no soap--not a pretty situation. We were headed for Boiling Springs to pick up a maildrop and then the plan was to go to the nearby town of Mount Holly Springs to stay at the Holly Inn, one of the only establishments that allowed dogs.
The trail on this section passed through lots of farmlands filled with corn and grain. There were times where we were walking long sections of trail that bisected fields of grain that rose up to our waists. I felt like I was in the midwest rather than on the Appalachian Trail.
Boiling Springs is a pretty little town. It was a tourist town in the 1800's centered around the springs, which are some of the largest in Pennsylvania. We checked in at the AT Regional Office and met Karen, the regional rep. Then it was on to the post office where I picked up letters from Andy, Brent, and Regina as well as a care package from Brent.
The Holly Inn turned out to be a great find. Jim, the cook for the inn's restaurant, came and picked us up. The rooms were large, clean, and cheap and the restaurant was excellent. We actually had some really good seafood: bacon-wrapped scallops, feta-stuffed shrimp, and a seafood and fettucini main course. Not exactly your normal hiker fare :-)
It was a fun first half of the day when we finally did get on the trail. More farm fields to walk through, but this time they were bordered by mulberry trees and raspberry bushes loaded with ripe berries. I wanted to try and make a fruit cobbler in camp, but we needed a more productive way to collect the berries. I finally convinced FireBall that he should stand under the mulberry trees holding my pack raincover in his arms to create the biggest target possible. Then I would reach up with my walking stick and solidly whack the branch above his head, causing all the ripe berries to shower down around him. Not a perfect system since each time I'd hit the branch FireBall was also pelleted with over-ripe berries, but we got a decent haul.
We made the fateful mistake of stopping for a late lunch at a truck stop in Carlisle. I think this was the beginning of the end for me. We spent three hours at that truck stop (we even tried to take a nap in the parking lot) hoping that the heat would break. By 5 o'clock we decided that we needed to head on, heat or no heat.
I was absolutely pathetic. I felt so weak and tired. I wonder if I wasn't suffering from a little heat exhaustion or something. We only made it 2 more miles instead of the planned 6 before I had to call it quits. Luckily, we had just arrived at the Scott Farm AT Work Crew Center and got permission from the caretaker, Big John, to pitch our tent on the lawn. I was collapsed in the tent before 7 pm.