20.1 miles, 1149.6 overall (Stealth camp just past PA 225)
I get up later than I have been lately. My motivation is a little low because the tent is wet. I pack up first, then get out and “squeegee” it with a credit card, then towel it off with my pack towel. The combined effort does a decent job at removing the water and I’m able to pack it only slightly wet. People are starting to leave as I’m eating my breakfast. For some this is a town day so they are motivated by food, laundry, and showers. I get out of camp just a bit after 7.
The trail is quite rocky all the way into Duncannon, so much so that the data book even calls out the rockiest section of 6 miles. There aren’t many redeeming qualities about this part of the trail. There is a view at a pipeline crossing but it is only slightly interesting and it perturbs me by having a sign indicating the view which directs hikers through high grass and weeds instead of hiking the extra 20 feet to the mown pipeline area. Pennsylvania is the first state to have pipeline crossings on the trail. I assume these are natural gas pipelines moving the byproduct of the Marcellus shale and such. I wonder whether they were installed recently and what role the ATC played in determining their path.
I skip the shelter since I’m only a couple miles from town. I pause briefly at Hawk Rock for another, slightly better view and then scoot into town. My first impression is that Duncannon is a bit of a rundown town. I pass several old buildings that are probably beyond repair as I head for my destination: the Doyle hotel. Others have called the Doyle a Mecca for hikers. I wouldn’t go that far. It is a cheap hotel in town and is very hiker friendly, but I don’t think a pilgrimage is necessary. The building itself appears to be historic but is at least as rundown as several of those I passed already. The brick on the back shows signs of fire damage and the whole thing could use a fresh coat of paint. Although I don’t see them personally I am told the accommodations are perhaps worse than what the outside of the building might suggest. Several of the other hikers do plan to stay here but having just stayed in a hotel I will pass and hike on instead, but not until after I stop in to get some food.
I enter the bar downstairs and find several hikers already here. Most of those who were with me at the shelter last night have made it here and some already have beers in hand. I put my pack down in the pool room and join the others at the bar. The sudden rush of hikers has the owner busy taking orders but not too busy to joke with the hikers. At one point she makes fun of Squidword by calling him a dayhiker and at another point, when Fresh’s age comes up, she pulls a sippy cup out from behind the bar and places it in front of him. Both elicit riotous laughter.
I order a meatball sub, a medium plate of cheese fries, and a Troegg coffee stout. Although I am one of the last hikers to arrive my food is some of the first to come out. I don’t complain. It is typical bar food so it hits the spot perfectly. Even the beer is incredibly tasty. As I finish eating I contemplate buying a couple beers to take with me. When I ask it is suggested that I buy a 6-pack because of the higher price of the beers individually. I like the idea since I can then sell a few of them to Fresh, but when I find out the price of a 6-pack and when the owner won’t let me count the one I’ve already had as part of the 6 I reconsider, deciding that the proposition has become too expensive. I observe that instead of making a bunch of money off of me by selling me 6 beers for the price of the 6-pack she is instead now only making some money off of my 1. Although the margin is better the overall profit is lower. I wonder if this is her desired result.
After lunch we head to the Quik-Mart for coffee. We sit outside the Doyle and drink them, not in a hurry to leave. Squidword will be leaving the trail in a couple days to go to a wedding so he is hiking ahead of Wonder and Fresh who will stay in town. He reminds them to take their vitamins and tells Dora to take good care of them while he’s gone.
Gato is also hiking on with us and when we finally leave he catches up to me quickly. Gato is an interesting character. He is from California and reminds me of one of my cousins. He is incredibly happy all the time and has a gleam in his eye that suggests he is always up to some sort of mischief. He has got to be one of the most consistently positive people I have met on the trail. He also knows his birds. As we cross the Susquehanna River Bridge on the way out of town he identifies a Northern Goshawk that is dive bombing us, obviously not happy that we have come too close to a nest or something.
Gato and I hike together until we reach the first shelter where I consider stopping for the night. I pick up some water from the spring, still undecided about what to do as Gato hikes on the 7 miles to the next shelter. I finally decide to hike on as well, figuring I should be able to find a camping spot if I don’t want to hike the full 7 miles.
The trail at this point is on an incredibly sharp and very rocky ridge, making campsites with flat, non-rocky, not overgrown spaces hard to find. Shortly after I leave the shelter I do find a great spot that even has a view but unfortunately it is already taken. I see several other possibilities but none of them look incredibly appealing, often being somewhat overgrown or lacking a flat space large enough for my tent. I have to hike for over 4 more miles before I finally find a good spot. I set up camp and am done with dinner at a reasonable time. With nobody around to slow me down or distract me I get to bed a little earlier than usual. With good cell signal and no worry about my phone battery since I’ll be getting picked up in 2 days for my own wedding attendance obligation I spend some time poking around on my phone before I turn in for the night. Tomorrow I will try to do another 20+ mile day in order to set myself up for a short day the day after when Christy will come pick me up from the Appalachian Trail.