Wednesday Sept 15th, 2021, 0620-1400
Sturgis porcupine tentsite to Duncannon PA, SOBO AT mm 1043.5
3547 gain, 4826 loss
I was so excited to get my new shoes in town, but I still had a nearly full day of walking to get there. The morning was foggy, so much so that I had to wait 20 minutes after packing to start walking. The fog deflects a headlamp beam to the point that it’s useless. It’s also very disorienting…I had a hard time finding my campsite after walking up trail to dig a cathole in the dark. There was a woman who died on the AT from getting turned around while doing her business off to the side. I think there’s even a book about it. I sure didn’t want there to be such a book about me.
Today was a good wildlife spotting day, starting with the porcupine I saw the night before. I found 2 spotted salamanders while waiting in the dark. Later I had a very close encounter with a sweet little deer. She and I had a moment checking each other out from 10 feet. I even sat down to talk to her for about 5 minutes. She must have been pretty young, as she was very curious and undisturbed by my presence, which is probably not a good thing for the deer. I’ve seen heaps of them in PA, none very skittish. Hunting season should be starting pretty soon but most areas along the trail have ‘no hunting’ signs posted. That still doesn’t make them safe.
I also saw a black rat snake slithering off to the side of the trail. I looked for rattlesnakes and copperheads at several rock outcrops. If not sunning in the open, they like to hide in the crevasses. Unfortunately all I found was some plastic trash wedged in a nook, which I removed. I heard a ton of bird calls and songs all morning, spotting a pileated woodpecker, a vulture, and and osprey. I found a dead warbler on the trail, unsure as to what kind.
The trail went down into a gap early in the morning, followed of course by a pretty big climb. There were actual switchbacks, which made it easy. Mosquitoes attacked me in the valley, reminding me that they are far from over. It’s been so hot and humid, there’s nothing to knock them down. It was forecasted to rain again this afternoon.
The rest of the day was on top a ridge with a few views. As such, there were plenty more rocks and the trail was pretty rugged. It weaved around a lot too, back and forth from one side of the ridge to the other. It felt a bit spastic but I suppose there’s a reason for it. It was also very quiet. I didn’t see anyone until the last few miles.
I found a cooler of trail magic at a roadside crossing. It was from Heartstrings, the woman I met just south of Great Barrington, MA. It was specifically addressed to SOBOs, which made me feel so special. It was also perfect timing, as I was running low on water and there weren’t any sources on top the ridge. An ice-cold pepsi and water bottle filling really hit the spot. It seems that I had just missed her dropping it off that morning. I really hoped the presence of the cooler didn’t mean she’d gotten off trail for good. She was from PA, so maybe she was just taking a break to visit her family. Thanks so much Heartstrings!
The downhill into town was tedious, going over multiple rock outcrops involving some scrambling. It had gotten so hot, I just wanted to be done for the day. Rocks rocks rocks. They certainly are a mental game. It always seems just when I’m hoping for some easy trail, they get even harder. At last I was at the bottom, walking along another huge highway to cross the very broad Susquehanna river.
This brought me to Duncannon, a very down-on-its-luck kind of town. I’m guessing it used to be supported by mining or some other by-gone industry. It seemed to not be supported by much these days, not even hikers. The AT runs straight through the center. There’s one outdoor gear store and hostel, plus a church basement. The Doyle Hotel is also legendary in trail lore. It’s an old Victorian building with $25 rooms that are reportedly haunted. I opted to stay in the church basement, as there was a ton of room to spread out my stuff for sorting. After picking up my box at the PO, I needed to organize what was getting sent back, sent forward, and thrown away.
I’d come into town with so much leftover food. Plus I’d had food sent from home with my box of shoes. It was so much that I’d decided to ship half of it down the trail a few hundred miles. I also switched out my broken trekking pole and my wind jacket for a real rain jacket, in anticipation of cooler weather. The latter seemed like a longshot, since it was 86 degrees with a heat index in the 90s when I walked into town. I got an ice cream cone which almost melted before I could wolf it down. So hot.
Only 2 other hikers were in the basement, a SOBO couple by the names Wonder Rat and Mystical Spiral…very unique trail names. They were very fun to talk to. The basement also had a nice bathroom, where I enjoyed some shower time. Later I went out for a pizza and beer. The thunderstorms came through all evening but barely registered since I was inside. I didn’t get a whole lot done this day, besides walking, but I had high hopes for a nero out of town the next day.