Since the jump up to PA things have been going very well. Gonzo and I hiked out of Port Clinton and it didn't take long to realize that be was a large part of what I had been missing. I just don't see how someone can happily hike the AT without an outrageous goofball for a hiking companion.
The weather has been a bit wetter than preferable recently and I have found that those who warned me about the rocky terrain were correct. The rain and rocks just so happens to make it even worse. One day in particular we only hiked just over seven miles before we stopped at a shelter that we knew we would have a spot in. If we hiked on we knew we would be pitching tents in the pouring rain. The next day when we covered the terrain we had opted not to finish the day before, we realize how lucky our decision had been. There were so many technical and extremely difficult rock scrambles that we would have had to cross in the rain. One, called the Knifes Edge, was perfectly described by its name the conjures up images of a serrated blade.
We went into Palmerton, which had a free hostel in the basement of their town hall. We did a 20 mile day into town and then walked a 1.5 miles trail into town. The trail walked high up alongside the sort of cliffs that run beside the interstate where you always see crappy spray painted graffiti. Then it dead ended at a huge locked gate over a bridge. At this point we had to work our way through some woods to the interstate by following a fence down to a point where it opened up, then crawl up to the interstate, jump the rail, cross the river along the interstate and work our way back to the trail, just on the other side of the locked gate. But even after all of this, Palmerton was worth it. It was a compact little town with everything you needed within easy walking distance. We went to the police station to get checked into the hostel and then got pizza. In the morning we did laundry, ate breakfast and were back on the trail by about 10am.
The climb out of Palmerton is a rocky and steep one. It was more like a bouldering with a huge pack on, a true cross between the sports of rock climbing and backpacking. Though it was pretty difficult, very hard to keep track of the actual trail, and down right scary at times, it was a pretty fun part and made for cool pictures.
Coming out of Palmerton, Gonzo and I did another 20 mile day into the town of Wind Hap, PA. We had heard there was a tavern there that allowed you to camp behind their building. We got there just as the dark set in only to find that it was a fairly shady biker bar. Not a single hiker was to be found so we started to look for accommodations elsewhere. One hiker had a room at a motel that he offered to share but then an even greater prospect arose.
I don't know if I mentioned in my blog about meeting Javaman while staying at Woods Hole Hostel, but we sat across from one another at dinner one night and found out that we were both from Atlanta, had both worked in the custom framing business, had both gone to school for photography and had both even been taught photo by the same professor. It was a true small world experience. A while after Javaman hiked out, I heard from Gonzo that he was traveling with Javaman and that they had become very good friends. Fast forward to Gonzo and I sitting in front of a hostile seeming biker bar, knowing a heavy rain is about to set in and he gives Javaman a call, who is staying in town with his fathers cousin, Goerge and his wife Karen. This was family he hasn't seen since he was two. Java had been experiencing a short of sickness similar to the Nora Virus that many people had early on and had been recuperating for a few days. The family graciously extended the invitation to us and came to pick us up. They let us sleep on couches and made an extravagant breakfast in the morning. Then they insisted that we stay another night while most of PA got hit with majorly severe thunderstorms.
Having accepted their hospitality, George gave us a family tour of town. Even though it was Javaman's family that we were learning about, I think both Gonzo and I really enjoyed it! When we got back Karen started cooking a huge southern dinner for us and Javaman made an apple pie for dessert. Then something happened that I had been waiting for since North Carolina but didnt think would happen until I finished the trail... We watched the movie Oh, Bother Where Art Thou? I have been listening to the soundtrack since we went into the Smoky mountains months ago and has never seen the movie. George and Karen had just happened to buy the movie not long ago and had yet to open it, so we broke it out after dinner. I was so excited to finally be able to see it.
Right now we are about to head back out to the trail and will be in Delaware Water Gap by tonight. We are hoping to get a spot at a hostel in town and then tomorrow morning my brother and sister in law will be meeting me. I am really excited to hang out with them and hope to make the best of being pretty close to them.