Monday September 13th, 2021, 0640-1920
Pocahontas Spring to 501 Shelter, SOBO AT mm 997
4140 gain, 3848 loss
Today was another in the chapter on how to cram a bunch of events into one day and still walk crazy miles. My recipe for doing this begins with an early start, but that was not the case here. I was slow to pack and even slower walking the 2.5 miles into town. The rocky trail was jarring so early in the morning and I had to take my time on the descent. My intent was for a quick in and out to get food that I was in desperate need of, so I walked 1 mile to a Walmart. The highway was 4 lanes and very busy, with cars going 70 mph, but at least there was a decent shoulder. Semis blasted past me, pushing wind gusts that would rattle my body. I stuck out my thumb as I walked, just for fun since I knew it was too dangerous for anyone to pull over on the shoulder.
Walmart is a terrible place to go for a 3 day resupply. The prices are great but everything comes in large quantities. I also hate shopping in such huge stores… Walmart in particular. At least they all have the same layout and good isle signs, so I was able to find what I needed pretty efficiently. Naturally I bought too much and ended up with a ridiculously overstuffed and heavy food bag. I also got some treats for breakfast, including a tiny pecan pie that was only 50 cents. I figured it would be crap but it tasted pretty good…cheap calories.
The employees were tolerant of my repackaging and packing just outside the bathrooms and next to a trash can. This way I was able to charge my phone in the women’s bathroom… actually the mother’s room which had multiple outlets and a nice chair. Chalk one advantage up to being a female hiker. On the way out, I got a Subway special to devour while I tried to hitch. An employee had loaned me her sharpie, so I made a cardboard sign for a ride needed to Port Clinton. Outside I met 2 SOBOs, Long Walkabout and Juggernaut. They were a brother and sister duo that started at Katahdin June 1st. I actually camped near them the night before but mistook them for weekend backpackers when I passed them.
I walked back to the highway and found a spot with a pull-off. I could have easily walked the mile back but was too fearful of braving the traffic. Luckily I got a ride within 5 minutes, a nice lady, Summer, driving a Subaru of course. She dropped me off in the small town and I immediately started down the trail. A huge climb of about 800′ in a mile greeted me, reminding me of my heavy pack and the heat and humidity that had seeped back in. Ouch. It was the most strenuous climb yet in PA but still reasonable.
The rest of the day’s hiking was rather dull. There were more rocks and the trail corridor was kind of closed in by vegetation. It felt very claustrophobic. The trail crossed a nice gravel logging road several times over a couple miles, so I opted for a road walk. I promptly found some apples growing on wild trees and enjoyed a fresh breeze and open views of the road ahead. I have to admit, this deviation from the trail was some of the most enjoyable walking all day.
Back on trail, I took a break at a stream to collect water and have lunch. There I met a section hiker, Wombat, who had a bandaid covering half his forehead. He’d fallen, going headfirst into a rock. The wound needed stitches but he was unable or unwilling to also do the myriad of tests that the ER wanted to see if he had a scull fracture. His legs were even more cut up…one from a dog bite, even. He told me that he fell multiple times a day and was carrying enough food to get all the way to Harper’s ferry, some 150 miles away. This poor man made my toe bruise seem like I was very lucky to escape so unscathed…and I was! But I couldn’t help note that some of his bad luck might been avoided. He was an older man with glasses, a very big pack and no trekking poles…a tough combination of factors. All other things aside, my poles save my butt multiple times a day.
Later I saw that Stellar had texting me about ordering pizza from the 501 shelter. This is another fully-enclosed bunkhouse with a caretaker, cold shower, and other nice amenities. It sits just off Rt 501 road, hence the name and also proximity to a pizza joint that’s famous for its deliveries to hikers. I had high hopes of making it to this shelter at the beginning of the day but my late start and long town stop defeated these notions. Hearing from Stellar rebooted my interests. With him taking care of the pizza logistics, all I had to do was show up. And walk 15 miles even though it was already 2 pm. No problem.
I put my head down to focus on the rocks and marched. There wasn’t much to say or see about the trail through here anyway. The miles came pretty well and on schedule right up until the last 5. It just seemed to get even rockier and there was a climb from Hertline creek that sucked away all the energy I had left. Why do I keep doing these big efforts? Oh yeah, pizza. Except that I had a ridiculously full food bag and didn’t need pizza. I guess there’s not a whole lot that’s rational about long-distance hiking in general.
I stumbled in to the shelter at dark, just as I was needing a headlamp to see. A blazing campfire guided me. I was surprised to find 6 other hikers there: 4 SOBOs including Stellar and myself, 1 section hiker, and incredibly 2 NOBOs. They were named Easy Does It and Maybe…fitting for their style and plans for Katahdin. Both knew they probably wouldn’t finish the trail but were enjoying themselves and seeing how far they could get. With so few on the trail now, it’s nice to find other hikers at the shelters. Although it’s funny how 1 hiker seen on trail over 27 miles equates to 6 at a shelter. The same ratios hold true for towns…it makes me wonder if some of these people are actually hiking or just hanging out.
I had just enough time to take a cold shower before the pizza arrived. In the heat, a cold shower never felt better. I was still hot even after. For dinner, I had 2 slices of pizza, 4 garlic knots, a donut, a cookie, a coke, a Gatorade and other junk food that had been left by a trail angel. Stellar had kindly saved the goodies for me. So this here is the dinner of a top performing marathon hiker… pathetic isn’t it? Worse yet, I didn’t touch a thing in my food bag. At least I was able to give away 2 ramen to the section hiker, who was low on food. The trail provides, yet it’s often either feast or famine.