15.6 miles, 1267.4 overall (Leroy A Smith shelter)
Despite getting to bed late I still wake up at 6:30. Lime Green is up and packing. As he heads out to get breakfast at the diner he asks if I want to come along. I don’t. I stay and sleep for another hour before I finally get moving. By then he has already left, attempting to do 21 miles to Wind Gap today. I have no such aspirations.
Since I didn’t get to take a shower last night I take one this morning in the gym upstairs. I pack most of my stuff and then take my laundry with me across the street. I figure I’ll run my laundry while I get breakfast at the diner, then head to the store for a couple items before leaving town, but the lack of laundry detergent in the dispenser at the laundromat foils my plan. Instead I head to the grocery store first where I’m forced to buy enough detergent for 15 loads. I also pick up some pepperoni, cheese, and a fruit drink.
I return to the laundromat and start my laundry, leaving the detergent out for any lucky patrons who arrive after me. Then I head next door for a breakfast of French toast, bacon, a western omelet, toast, and coffee. When I’m done I could still eat but I figure I’ve had enough. Back to the laundromat for 20 minutes of clothes drying and I’m ready to head out of town.
I don’t like to ask for rides so I don’t bother. Instead I just head for the side trail. On the way I stop at a gas station for a couple extra snacks and a soda. When I leave I don’t get far before a truck pulls over and offers a ride back to the trail. It must be my lucky day! I throw my stuff in the back and hop in next to the driver and his rifles. Apparently he grows soybeans and he has a groundhog problem. He says one groundhog can destroy an acre of soybeans, so he’d rather shoot the little buggers. Works for me. As far as I can tell they aren’t even good at weather prognostications.
I know the first part of the trail today is going to be tough. Tipsy had said she read it was the worst climb until New Hampshire. What I didn’t know was what that meant. It meant an actual CLIMB. Coming out of Palmerton the trail essentially goes straight up over a rock slide of everything from small pebbles to large boulders, but mostly large boulders which I am forced to climb hand over foot. There are 2 nice things about this though. First, it is something different. I appreciate the change of pace and the break from the normal Pennsylvanian ankle-twisting rocks (I now call these Pennsylvanian hiker torture devices). Second, there is hardly any vegetation on this rock slide so the views are magnificent. Looking back I can see the Lehigh River with an airport landing strip nearby that, from the ridge, it looks like we are directly on the approach to. I can also see Palmerton in the distance. Above me vultures circle, both black and turkey vultures. One flies straight at me and comes within about 15 feet of me before turning away. With the climb being so difficult I wonder if they know something I don’t about my prospects for completing it alive. Have other hikers not fared well here?
As I’m taking a break watching the vultures circle I hear “Hey Nitrous!” and when I turn around I see Squidword. He had left the trail last weekend to attend his own wedding obligation but I thought he would get back on ahead of me. Turns out I was wrong. My trip into Palmerton gave him the chance to catch up. He has already done 7 miles today and is heading for the same shelter as I am. We hike together for a while talking about weddings, music, the trail, etc. At the top of the climb we turn and hike along the Superfund detour set up to route the trail around a Superfund site created by a zinc smelter. The detour is actually quite scenic, taking us right along the edge of the ridge with views down to Palmerton, and the best part is it has very few rocks!
Eventually Squidword slows down and I pull ahead, leaving him behind me for the rest of the day. The rest of the trail is uneventful and incredibly boring with lots of rocks, just what I’ve come to expect out of Pennsylvania. The highlight is when I come upon a cooler of bottled water left by Knitting Bull for hikers. Although I have enough to get me to the shelter I take advantage of the situation and do as the doctor ordered by taking a break and drinking a full bottle before moving on.
The shelter is a bit of a dump. When I arrive there is a large group already occupying the tenting area and there are 2 section hikers – a father and daughter – in the shelter. However I find a nice spot to set up my tent near the shelter and the water is an easy get from a spring just a minute’s walk down the trail. As I’m working on dinner Squidword and Billy Jack arrive. I’ve been seeing Billy Jack for a while now but didn’t know his name until I ask Squidword.
The plan for tomorrow had been to get to Delaware Water Gap. However one of Christy’s cousins lives nearby and kindly offered me a night at their place. She can’t pick me up tomorrow so instead of doing the 20 miles to DWG I’ll do a very short 13 tomorrow, leaving me only 7 or so to do the next day before she picks me up at 11. I don’t like the idea of staying in my least favorite state so far for another day, but this plan does have its advantages. Obviously staying in a house, getting clean, and eating good food is one. It also forces me to slow down a bit from the 20+ mile days I had been doing. I want to take my time a little bit in New England so this will be great practice at putting a stop to the miles impetus. Finally it allows me to immediately eat more food. I hadn’t planned on stopping into Palmerton so I wound up with an extra dinner and breakfast. By taking an extra day I get to eat them, allowing me to comfortably walk into town with an empty food bag – every hiker’s objective. So tomorrow I will camp short of DWG and the next day I’ll cross one more state line on my trip north on the Appalachian Trail.