I got a very late start this morning. When I first woke up, it was raining. I didn’t want to get out of my tent. More and more, recently, I avoid hiking in the rain. It is just such a miserable experience that I will take zeros to avoid the rain. Many hikers not hiking to a deadline won’t leave the shelter in the rain. I’m one of them. My urge to pee finally forced me out of the tent at 9:45am.
I found Guns of Jesus still at the shelter. His bag was packed, and he was wearing his white hat that had on the front a pink cross made of two M-16 machine guns. He doesn’t leave shelters if it’s raining either. We ate a leisurely breakfast and talked about the trail. He and I have similar views about those people with the slightest, tiniest inkling of a notion to thru-hike, and that is that they should to it. Like me, anyone that expresses to him an interest in thru-hiking, he encourages to take the next step. More than every other person I meet on the trail plan to one day thru-hike the AT. Of course, no all people muster the courage or find the time to take the trip. Despite the hundreds of mountains, the swamps, the bugs, and all the other combination of obstacles, the most difficult part of hiking the Appalachian Trail is finally deciding to actually take the trip. Countless sacrifices must be made, and the sacrifices are different for each person, whether they pertain to family, money, age, or career. Finding the courage to take the ultimate first step has remained for me the most difficult part of the AT experience. And while the experience is different for each person, it is life changing for everyone. I haven’t even completed half of mine yet, but the experience has been amazingly educational and rewarding.
I said goodbye to Guns of Jesus and thanked him again for the four Snickers bars. I set out on the trail late in the gray morning. The walk was rather uneventful, but I moved quickly, excited about seeing Katie in two days. I completed ten miles by about 2:00pm, which put me at the road crossing in the bottom of Wind Gap. The wind blew through the gap just right and I could smell the sweet scent of fried foods and charcoal grills. I followed my nose into Wind Gap and completed many chores badly needed while I was there. After eating McDonald’s and making several phone calls, I picked up my pictures from CVS. I’d been carrying two disposable cameras from as far back as the White Mountains. I finally washed my sleeping bag. It had not been washed since I began my trip two months ago. Its sourness offended everyone that got close to the bag and I knew that it would offend Katie. The bag took nearly 80 minutes to dry to my satisfaction, and it still wasn’t that dry. The seams and folds were damp. Still, I had to leave the crumby town. The sun set in a matter of hours and it looked as though it might rain.
When I returned to the trailhead, I spotted a familiar 16-passenger van in the parking lot. I recognized the group crawling out of the van: Not Bad, Druid, Cold Feet, Plays with Bears and Fool had missed the 7:00am ride back to the trailhead where they started their slack-pack and had to wait until 6:00pm for a ride. I met up with them and we all hiked to the first shelter in the woods. The hike took a couple of hours and we had to use our headlamps for the last hour. When we got the shelter, I decided that I would tent instead of sleep in the shelter. There were few tent sites to be found on the rocky terrain typical of Pennsylvania, but I managed to set up my tent on a small patch of dirt. I plan to wake up early tomorrow to hike a long mile day. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make Port Clinton by Friday night, but I’ll try.