Day 79 – Pennsylvania and 1200 miles

So much has happened since I last wrote! I spent two hours writing a big post in boiling springs, about 4 days ago, but my phone lost it before I could send it off, and I was too tired and disheartened to rewrite it.

So here’s how my past week and half has been.

The day after I left Harper’s Ferry I did 31 miles, my biggest day yet and my only 30+ so far. In doing so I hiked most of Maryland in one day. I would’ve done a 35, which would have brought me to the PA border, but I thought the friends I was hiking with we’re staying elsewhere and I didn’t want to night hike into an empty campsite.

By doing that 30 mile day I was able to catch up to Chris (who I hiked with from Springer to Hot Springs, way back when), who was 10 miles ahead of me leaving Harper’s. After meeting up we spent the next week or so hiking together. It was a bit of an adjustment going from spending most of the day alone, to spending most of the day hiking with someone, but after that it was a blast.

While hiking with Chris we made it to, and past, the halfway point of the trail. Harper’s was supposed to be the psychological halfway point, but for me it meant so much more to truly have less to go than I’ve already done.

Upon reaching the halfway point, many people do what’s known as the half gallon challenge (eating a half gallon of icecream). For some reason, Chris was desperately craving cookies and milk that day, so we modified it to the half gallon of milk and box of cookies challenge. It was definitely harder than the ice cream version and we were both sick by the end, even though neither of us had finished.

In other news, my shin has evolved into a semi-serious injury. The day we did the half gallon challenge, it hurt all day long. About 4 miles before the store it got to the point where I couldn’t put pressure on my left leg and couldn’t walk at all without shooting pain. I had to stop for a long break and didn’t think I would make it. Thankfully I was able to keep walking, but it was with a heavy limp and it was slow going. Chris and I usually keep a similar pace, but it took me two hours more to cover those 4 miles than it took him.

Injuries on the trail are a complex thing. In truth, the physical pain is only half of what causes distress. The other half comes from, as Hawk, one of the guys I’ve been hiking with, put it “not knowing if this one is going to be the show stopper.” Even a minor pain could escalate to the point where one has to give up their hike, so each more than momentary pain is a cause for concern.

Chris slipped pretty badly the next day and twisted his ankle. He was walking with a pretty serious limp immediately afterwards. I asked him if he was okay and he replied “I don’t know. I almost wish it were a snake bite. Then it would be black or white. My hike would be done or it wouldn’t.” Thankfully he was able to walk it off and was fine by the end of the day, but I understand the sentiment. Not knowing how bad the injury is, or will be, is the worst part.

Thankfully, with the help of some painkillers, my shin has turned into a chronic, albeit non-hike threatening injury. It hurts every day, particularly on long days by the end, but it’s manageable and I don’t think it will get worse (knock on wood).

With all the has been going on, meeting Chris, hitting the halfway point, and getting injured, the past 150 miles have flown by. It seems like just yesterday I was entering Pennsylvania, and now I’m more than halfway through it.

It’s been great to finally be in PA. Ever since almost day 1, I looked forward to crossing into PA. To me it meant familiar town names (since I went to Hershey to visit my grandmother a lot as a child), being back in my home culture (the north), and being pretty close to my home in NY.

As far as the hiking goes, it’s been pretty good. Just being in PA has been exciting enough to keep me going. PA has the reputation for being incredibly rocky, but the first half wasn’t so bad. There have definitely been long stretches of almost constant, agonizing rock hopping, but there have been some really nice sections too. As a plus, PA is really flat, so besides the rocks, the hiking is fairly easy.

I’m just past 1200 miles tonight, which puts me within what feels like spitting distance of home. I’m about 150 trail miles from New York, so I’ll be back in my home state in 10 days or so. It’s very exciting, although I fear these next 10 days might creepy by, just like the ones before Harper’s did. I’ll have to try not to think about home too much.

Finally, unfortunately Chris and I have had to part ways again. A few days back he got so sick he almost couldn’t make it to camp. The next day, he only was able to make it 6 miles to the next road crossing, and the day after that he had to hitch into town to see a doctor. By the looks of it, it seems like it could be girardia, which may or may not be a hike ender, depending on how it responds to treatment. It’s a truly awful thing to be so seriously struck down so far into the hike, and I hope it clears up soon.

That’s all for now. I got new shoes which feel pretty good so far, though I don’t have insoles for them yet, so my feet are a little sore tonight. More later!

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