17.9 miles, 1251.8 overall (The Jailhouse, Palmerton, PA)
When I wake up I still feel fine. It sounds as if the rain has stopped and when I check the weather report it looks as if it has all passed. I reluctantly get up and start packing. The worst part is even if I had wanted to sleep longer I don’t think I could have. Apparently my body has adapted to this waking up early routine. By 8 I have packed, eaten breakfast, and am leaving the shelter.
The Myakka Mules and Tipsy and Fetch left ahead of me. The Mules are meeting a Florida ATC member in 4 miles who is going to give them a place to stay for the night. I leapfrog with Tipsy and Fetch for a bit until I pull ahead as we get into the rocks. Although I am not terribly concerned about passing out while hiking it is nice to know they are behind me.
As I’m hiking I am constantly looking at my feet due to the insane amount of rocks. I worry that Pennsylvania will ruin future states for me by making it a habit to look a my feet instead of looking around me. However it is because I’m looking down that I notice my first copperhead. He is laying on the side of the trail next to a rather large black snake. I notice him in plenty of time and keep my distance until he decides to slither under a large rock which I assume is his home. I consider waiting for Tipsy and Fetch to catch up so I can warn them but I don’t want to wait. Instead I pull out a piece of paper and write a warning which I leave on the trail with a rock holding it in place. I hate doing this because I’m sure the note will sit there until a trail maintainer comes and finds it, but I’d feel terrible if anybody got bit by the snake.
The big feature today is the Knife’s Edge and it looks exactly how it sounds. It is a formation of rock that has moved such that the striations are vertical instead of horizontal, creating a sharp ridge that the trail feels the need to route us across. It is like Dragon’s Tooth only the ridges are continuous instead of jagged and the trail goes across them. I am thankful I am not crossing it in the rain. Even in dry conditions I need to get on all fours or slide down on my rear end at several points to get across safely. Despite the difficulty the area does provide a great view of the land below and I stop to eat a snack while on a somewhat less treacherous part of the traverse.
A few miles later I reach another good viewpoint called Bake Oven Knob. This area is obviously a day-hiker favorite with a parking lot at the bottom of the climb and graffiti all over the rocks. At the top I’m treated to a view similar to that of the Knife’s Edge, but there is one view on either side of the ridge. Several day-hikers are there and one asks if I’m thru-hiking. When I answer yes the normal questions begin – when did you start, how long do you have left, do you carry a gun, etc. As I’m talking to him a hiker from another group realizes they are standing extremely close to a snake. They move away but nobody in the group can identify the snake. When I take a look I see a large copperhead sunning himself by a rock. I went 1200 miles without seeing a copperhead and now I see 2 in one day.
I move on to the next shelter where I stop for lunch. Tipsy and Fetch catch up and I find out that the first copperhead did re-emerge before they arrived bit that they saw my note and noticed it in time. I spend longer than I should eating and talking with them but I’m not excited about the hike into town or the hospital visit. Eventually I get moving again and cover the remaining 8 miles to the road crossing.
When I get there I find a parking lot with a car leaving. I hope for a ride into town so I don’t have to take the 1.5 mile side trail. The car rolls down a window and I think it’s my lucky day when they ask if I need anything but when I ask if they’re heading into Palmerton they say no and don’t offer to go out of their way. It appears I’ll be hiking in on the side trail.
A few minutes later I reach the side trail and start in toward town. A half mile in though I find a cement car barrier and then a locked fence with no way around it. I backtrack thinking I must have missed a turn but I’m in the right place. I call Christy but she can’t figure it out either. I am getting extremely irritated and it is already 5:00 meaning I already won’t be able to make the most of the town visit. At this point I’d rather push on and camp, skipping the town and the hospital. Eventually I think to check online for updates to the data book and when I do I find directions around the locked gate that include bush whacking and hiking on the side of a highway for a short period. It works, but now I am already primed to hate this town.
When I arrive things start to look up. The town is quite cute and I quickly find the town hall where the free hostel is located. It is past 4:00 so I know from the data book that I need to check in at the police station, but both the hostel and the police station are locked. Just my luck. Across the street I see Lime Green and catch up with him. He has also found the police station locked but hasn’t tried the town hall yet. I go with him and we start trying all the doors on the building. Eventually we find one that is open and are able to get in. We find the hostel downstairs as the book describes and call a phone number we find on the wall to get a police officer to come check us in. Apparently we both missed the buzzer on the wall outside the police station that we were supposed to push for assistance.
Now that we are checked in we tackle food. Across the street is a promising looking diner so we stop in. The waitress is pleasant and I soon have chicken parmesan and spaghetti in my belly. Now it is 6:30. Time to head to the hospital and get checked out.
At the ER I get out into the triage queue. At first I think it will be quick because there aren’t many in the waiting room. I’m wrong. I wait about 2 hours before I see the doctor and another 2 before the tests are done and I’m dismissed. An EKG and blood work are ordered. When I get the EKG the nurse says it is the best one she has seen all day. I ask and apparently the number today was >10. The final verdict is I need to drink more water. I find this funny because on the way into the hospital I was thirsty but refrained from drinking because I needed to pee and I didn’t pee because I thought I might need to fill a cup. I assume the blood work reflects this choice more than it reflects the amount of water I drank while hiking yesterday. Still, drinking more water while hiking is never bad advice and now I know there’s nothing wrong with the ticker. My hypothesis is that my blood sugar dropped due to too much chocolate during the day, possibly combined with breathing fumes from my stove.
At 11:00 I finally get to bed. It is late but now I know there isn’t anything seriously wrong with me. Tomorrow I plan a short 16 miles to the next shelter so I can take my time in town in the morning. Hopefully things will go better in this town tomorrow before I leave to get back on the Appalachian Trail.