Hiking: Updates from Storm's Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike (7/5/16 thru 7/9/16)

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Storm (Moe) is making his way north through Pennsylvannia on the Appalachian Trail. He's over 1100 miles into his Appalachian Trail thru-hike and passed both the official and psychological (Harpers Ferry) halfway marks. He started hiking the Appalachian Trail on April 6, 2016 and is now over three months into his thru hike. Here's a look back at his last several days of hiking in his own words:

July 5, 2016 - Into Pennsylvannia
Hiker Trash Parking!
I woke up today at around 8am. Slept in a bit as we had asked the hotel for a late check out. I got up showered and went down to the free breakfast letting Jeff sleep. Got back to the room bringing Jeff a coffee and began to pack up all of my stuff.

We loaded up the car and headed for more coffee. Iced coffee this time as it looked like it was going to be a hot day. We stopped at a restaurant for breakfast and then we're on our way to mile 1055.5 where Jeff picked me up. I swapped out stoves at this point going with the jet boil vs my wood burning stove. At this point I'm so exhausted at the end of the day I don't want to be trying to lite a fire.

Jeff and I said our tearful goodbyes (video) and I was back into the woods. It was muggy which so far this has been the muggiest it has been on the trip. The uphills were slow going. When I reached the high rock trail and was on top of the ridge the trail became very rocky and horribly marked. It was like they gave up on this section of the trail. It was the first time the whole trip I lost the trail and within a half mile I would lose the trail 3 times. Where there was so much lose rock it was easy to lose the trail, however with a poorly marked path it made it that much harder to follow.

We had not quite gotten into Pennsylvania yet. I entered a state park and was able to fill up on water. I saw chef resting at picnic table and it was the first time I had seen him since Fontana Dam. I pushed on and came to the Mason Dixon line and the Pennsylvania/Maryland bored. Hurray!! The Yankee is home. I descended for a bit and then had an abrupt steep uphill for about 700 feet in elevation gain. With the humidity the climb was brutal and I had to make several stops. I finally crested and came down the other side crossing several streets on the decent. The trail leveled off a bit and went into the deep woods again with no road crossings. After one small climb the trail slowly descended with three shelters within a 6 mile stretch.

I choose the middle shelter Antietam which I arrived at 8 pm. Waterfall was there and we chatted while I set up in the shelter as no one was in it. This shelter is near a road and a state park so several people tenting nearby. They are kind of loud but I'm too tired to care. I made dinner ate and am about to pass out. Tomorrow I should reach the 2016 half way point of the AT.

July 6, 2016 - The Pool
Slept awful last night in the shelter. When I arrived at 7:30 no one was in the shelter and I didn't have the energy to set up my tent. So I crashed in the shelter. Bad choice as it was so hot and muggy I couldn't just sleep on top of my bag like I would do in the tent. I tossed and turned and didn't sleep much. It was the muggiest night on the trail thus far. When I got up around 6 am I noticed the shelter was infested with barn spiders. I'm glad I didn't know that last night while trying to sleep.

I got on trail at around 6:45. A 1/2 mile up the trail was a state park where I was able to fill up on water. I realized today is exactly 3 months on the trail. I pushed on and knew this was going to be a super hot day. By 7:30 when I arrived at the next shelter I was already soaked with sweat. I rested for a bit at the shelter and saw cake. I pushed on with a steep climb in front of me up chimney rocks. It was slow going up the hill with the humidity. I stopped at the blue blaze to load up with water when sleeping bear came up behind me. We decided to drop our packs and go the 100 yards to the view point. The view at chimney rocks was nice but showed how humid it really was.

After chimney rocks we had a steady ridge with a few ups and downs until we started descending to route 30 by Fayetsville. On the ridge Cake and Haiku came up behind me while I was taking a water break. I had met Haiku before but never knew his trail name, cake I've seen a bunch of times since Unicoi Gap in Georgia. I actually met her the first time with Trooper while getting trail magic. Speaking of Trooper she is coming down to see me on July 22 wherever I am at that point.

Cake, Haiku and myself hiked together to route 30 and then they needed to go into town to resupply. I told them I was gonna take a siesta at Caledonia State Park. The guidebook said pool area. I crossed route 30 and walked the .50 to the park. Talk about nice. The park was beautiful and the pool was fenced in with a snack bar and changing rooms, bathrooms and showers. It only cost 5 bucks. I met up with sleeping bear at the gate who had gotten ahead of me. We paid the 5 dollars and easily found the hiker area where all the packs were lined up against the fence. We laughed and took a picture as it was funny to see. I noticed I had developed a heat rash/welts around my waist where my pack strap sat and my lower back met my pack. The humidity was so thick anything that couldn't breath developed a rash.

We spent the next 3 hours there swimming, eating, drinking fluids during the hottest part of the day. Cake, Haiku, hiker John and Waterfall all showed up as well as gentle giant, bear wall and Alice were all there. It was about 11 of us. I packed up at around 3 to continue on my walk. Most everyone else was packing up as I was leaving. The trail wanders through the state park past many picnic areas. There was a family reunion at one of the picnic areas and they offered me drink and food as I was hiking by. I took them up on drinks and watermelon but with the heat I just wasn't hungry for a burger and hot dogs. In about 15 minutes the whole crew was there eating. I left first as I wanted to take my time and not get to camp in the dark. I thanked the family and pushed off. Waterfall had also left right before me at the pool and I caught up to her about 3 miles up the hill. She had watermelon like me at the reunion but was too hot to eat food. We hiked leap frogging over one another. Her ankle is giving her trouble so she takes it slow and steady. She usually caught up and passed me when I stopped for a break and then I passed her after starting up again. This 8.9 miles from the pool to the shelter seemed to take for ever. With the heat it made the climbing tough. There was one step portion at the beginning and then a gradual up for 5 miles. 1 mile was a flat ridge walk. Then we had a steep decent to a cabin then back to a steep ascent. There have been several of these cabins in the last 200 miles since Shanendoah. The guidebook lists them as a named cabin and it says locked. Not sure if they are ranger cabins or what The one today looked like you could of rented it. The needless down and up was annoying especially when it was hot. Another NUNDS. Needless up, needles downs. The last 2.68 miles seemed to take 6 hours. I arrived first and the rest of the gang rolled in. The only two I didn't see were Cake and Haiku. They probably stealth camped before it got dark. Tomorrow/Today is the 1/2 gallon challenge. I'll talk more about it in the next post.

July 7, 2016 - Half Gallon Challenge
Woke up today at Birch run at around 7. I packed up and ate a cold breakfast. Waterfall and Hiker John were getting up when I was leaving. It was only 9.8 miles to the general store where the half gallon challenge was. The terrain this morning wasn't too bad. A gradual up led to a ridge and then a slow decline. Once I got to Dead Woman Hollow Road the trail flattened out to the official 2016 halfway point of the AT. I stopped and took pictures as well as filled out the log book. It was a fantastic feeling to be at that point on my hike.

I continued on from the half way point (video) and stopped at Toms Run Shelter for a snack. At this point I only had 3.6 miles to go. The trail had one climb before I reached the state park. Overall Pennsylvania as had some rocks but it really hasn't fazed me. I'm not sure if it's because I'm used to hiking on rocks in the Catskills and New England.

I arrived at the general store at about 11:30. I went in to select my flavor of ice cream. They did not have coffee as that was going to be my first choice. Moose tracks was out, too heavy. Banana Cream Pie was out as the flavor would get old quick and become sickening. I settled on peanut butter pretzel. Heck if I'm gonna do this challenge why not go with a fun flavor. It took me about 35 minutes but I finished it and collected my wooden spoon. Needless to say I did not eat lunch.

When I arrived at the general store sleeping bear had finished his half gallon. Feather was there eating a burger and I hadn't seen him in awhile. As I was eating my ice cream cake, haiku, gentle giant, hiker John and waterfall rolled on. Whitecap was also at the general store. Some attempted the half gallon and some did not. Hiker John, Waterfall, Whitecap and Haiku successfully did the challenge. The rest did not attempt. I figured it out that I had eaten 3044 calories. I sat for awhile letting the pile of ice cream digest.

After about an hour I packed up and continued on the trail walking to the AT museum which was only a bit aways. The museum was neat as it had some itens of some of the first people to Thru hike. Such as it had done items grandma Gatewood took on her hike. I spent about a half hour at the museum and continued on to the lake for a swim. It was super crowed so I did a quick in and out. I dried off by the snack bar before continuing on. The rest of the crew were just getting to the lake as I was leaving.

The plan for most were to go to the next shelter which was only 7.6 miles away. The trail followed s creek for a mile and then began the ascent. The climb was steady but not steep so no resting was needed even with the heat. It was about a 4 mile climb and then a descent with some small ups and downs after that. About 3 miles from the shelter a hiker with a black lab going south passed me. I reached out to pet the dog and the hiker said that's olive. I was like hi olive and said wait did you start April 6th. Sure enough this was the olive from the night Trooper and I were at Stover Creek night one. If you go back to my journal entry from night one I think I talk about Olive. I was so excited to see them. Her owner had taken two weeks off and was doing section hikes using his car waking south and then hitching back to where he started.

I made it to the side trail of the shelter at 6pm and walked the .20 miles to the shelter. Well first off it wasn't .20 it was more like .50 up a hill and second the spring was dry so I had to walk all the way back to the trail for water. I was going to continue walking north but the rest of the crew were going to do the same thing of walk to shelter to discover no water. I set up camp west of the trail by the creek. As each of the crew made it to the side trail to the shelter I told them no water and they decided to set up there. Haiku was first, then cake, Alice, gentle giant, bear wall, sleeping bear, chef, mayfly. We had a crowd. Haiku started a fire and we all relaxed chatting. It was a great night.

July 8, 2016 - Boiling Springs PA
Cake gave me my wake up call at 5:30. Her and Haiku were going to get an early start and I asked her to wake me up so I could get one too. I wanted to get some miles in today before the blazing sun hit. I got up packed and on trail at 6:20. Cake and Haiku had already left when I got on trail.

I got to the first road crossing and decided to walk the .20 miles to the deli up the street. It opened at 7 and it was 6:50. I couldn't pass it up. I was able to get a breakfast sandwich and coffee. After leaving the deli there was what I am calling the Pennsylvania mini roller coaster. 4 steep ups and downs in a short amount of time. The middle of this had a rock maze where you had to go over, under and around a bunch of boulders. With the extreme humidity it made for a tough go of it. Finally reaching the fourth summit I came to center point knob which was the original half way point many years ago. I sat and took a break and ate my bag of chips and can of Coke I had packed out from the deli. At this point there was a gradual decent down into Cumberland Valley and I was only 3.6 miles to Boiling Springs.

The trail comes out of the woods and into a corn field. The trail snakes around the corn field snd begins to cross the valley. It was hot with no shade and having the sun blazing overhead. However given the 100% flat terrain I would take it. I arrived in Boiling Springs at 11:30 and stopped at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy northeast division which is right on the trail. Cake had texted me and asked where I was. I said I was in town and was going to get lunch next. I had planned on going to cafe 101 for lunch and that is where she was. She sat and chatted with me while I ate and sleeping bear was also in town and came into the cafe. I forgot how nice air conditioning is after not having it for several days.

While in the restaurant a man came over and asked if we were thru hiking. We said yes and he told us he Thru hiked in 1983 and told a story about a man who they had met in Boiling Springs back in 1983 that used to put up hikers in his home and make them dinner. He explained he was too old to do that anymore but gave them 20 dollars for the three of them to have a nice meal. Well the guy saw three hikers sitting together and came over to "pay it forward" and gave us 20 bucks.

We were very appreciative and after he left we learned the town pool was 5 dollar Friday's. We were gonna take the money and use it to get into the pool. On the way there we had a thunder shower and the pool was temporarily shut down due to thunder. The guy let us in for free as we were hikers and he felt bad that it was so hot and we were walking. We had to wait only 15 minutes and they reopened the pool. Most of the people left when it rained so we had the whole place to ourselves almost. The pool had three water slides as well.

After we swam for an hour we walked back to the cafe and used the 20 from the man who's trail name was Mr. Incorrigible to buy us some snacks. I got an iced coffee and a cannoli. Sleeping bear was getting picked up by family for a night off. Cake and I talked about what might be a good plan. There is no camping in Cumberland Valley so the options were stay in Boiling Springs either at the free campground or hike another 16 miles to the next shelter. Another option was in 8 miles there was the town of Carlisle and they had several motels there. We decided with the heat lets hike 8 miles and find a motel to split.

We pushed off from Boiling Springs at 4 and had a road walk down Main Street. The trail then darted into the woods and crossed many corn fields along the edges. We had several road crossings as we went over PA 74, 4 side streets, PA 641, the I-76 the PA Turnpike before arriving to US 11 which takes you into Carlisle. We walked the .40 to the super 8 and were able to do laundry and eat dinner at a 24 hour diner across the street. Cake and I called it a night at 9:30.

July 9, 2016 - The beginning of the Pennsylvania rocks
We slept in a little at the Super 8 and didn't want to get out of bed. Finally we moved and got our stuff packed and went down to free continental breakfast.

We got back on the trail at around 8:30 after a brief road walk back to the trail. This morning the trail weaved in and out of corn fields and the forest. After 4 miles we began our first climb up to Darlington Shelter which has the Taj Mahal privy at it. This thing was huge and could of fit 6 people maybe more in it.

We descended down off of the hill and the trail went trough more fields this time not corn just fields. It climb again up to a plateau that the guidebook called extremely rocky. Cake and I said ok let's give ourselves the expectation that it's going to be the worst rockiest section we've ever hiked. We made it up to the plateau and walked 1/2 way through it when we thought to ourselves this is not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. I guess putting that expectation out there made it not as bad.

We stopped at a shelter to rest our feet as they were a little bit sore from all the rocks. Cove Mt shelter was .10 off of trail but in reality it was much further and down a steep hill. If we didn't need water I would have bailed. Cake and I continued on reaching a view point that overlooked the Susquehanna River and the town of Duncannon. We started a steep descent down with a set of about 50 stone steps to walk down. About 1/2 way down the trail climbed back up the side of the hill steeply which was very odd. Must of had to do with private land that the trail needed to go around. We finally descended to a side road and made it to town. We walked another 1/2 mile and came to a Sunoco gas station and ran in for Food. We had a few snacks and ate them while sitting on the sidewalk.

Cake had gotten a text from Haiku that he was still in town and his parents had gotten them a hotel room at the Clarion. He was waiting for them at the Doyle. We only had another 1/2 mile to Doyle. Cake and Haiku went off with his parents to the hotel and I checked into the Doyle. It was one of those old hotels built in the 1920's with a shared bathroom. Very old building that showed its age but with very nice owners and only 25 bucks I couldn't go wrong. Now I need to debate do I stay here on Sunday to get my package or move ahead and have it forwarded to me. Decisions, decisions.


Storm is posting regular updates from the AT on his Trail Journal

You can also follow him on his Facebook Page, Moe Hikes the Appalachian Trail

Storm is also working to raise money for charity as he hikes the Appalachian Trail. He currently has a GoFundMe campaign that is supporting the work of the Catskill Center to protect and preserve the Catskills and the Catskill Park, where Storm lives, enjoys the outdoors and volunteers!

Read all of Storm's posts on Adventures in the Outdoors.

For more information about the Appalachian Trail

You can visit the National Park Service's Appalachian Trail Park Page, which features a link to the AT brochure and map.  Guides and maps are produced and sold for the AT as it passes through each State between Georgia and Maine.  There are several books including the Thru-Hike Planner, the AT Guidebook, the AT Thru Hiker Companion and the Data Book to name just a few that can help hikers who are planning on hiking the entire AT or sections of it. We also maintain a section for Appalachian Trail Guides, Maps and Books at on Adventures in the Outdoors Online Shop.