Last Sunday I was joined on the trail by friends and former housemates Bernie and Nick. They picked a great day to hike with me both for the weather and the scenery. Together we hiked the last few miles of Maryland and crossed the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania. We took in views from High Rock, the highest point in Maryland, and clamored our way through some treacherous boulder fields – a preview of what I expect to see in northern PA. By far the highlight of our day together was Penn-Mar park. We were walking together in the woods when all of sudden we hear big/band swing music. As we made our way through the forest opening, we stumbled into a park fillled with senior citizens dancing the afternoon away to a 12-piece band. It was quite a sight, one I certainly was not expecting.
We were tempted to break out our superior dance skills and try to pick up a few new lady friends under the dance pavilion, but I think we were more concerned with our lunch and the ice cream stand. Besides, we had plenty of fun conversing with all the folks at the picnic tables about the A.T. and hearing unique send-off’s like “tally-ho young man!”
After the senior citizen mecca at Penn-Mar park, we made our way into Pennslyvania and eventually Bernie’s car. We wrapped up the afternoon with a trip to the local pub in Waynesboro, PA where Nascar and the local Pool tournemant were the talk of the day. Thanks for coming out Nick and Bernie!
The next highlight of my week was arriving at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in PA, which marks the official halfway point of the A.T. To celebrate this milestone, the tradition is for hikers to take the ‘half-gallon challenge.’ The goal is to finish a half-gallon of PA’s own Hersery ice cream in one sitting. Stuff-Sack (another thru-hiker) and I arrived around 3 P.M. and decided to undertake this challenge together. After carefully reviewing the multiple flavors available, I decided on plain chocolate as it had the least amount of calories and sugar compared to flavors like ‘cherry swirl’ and ‘moose tracks’.
I was slightly dreading this challenge so I had to make it as easy as possible on my stomach. As you can see from the pictures, I completed the challenge. It took me 45 minutes. Much like the morning after a night of heavy drinking, I’ve temporarly sworn off any and all ice cream.
Also in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, I stayed at the Iron Mansion hostel, a building that used to house runaway slaves during the underground railroad. A stay at the hostel comes complete with a tour of how the runaway slaves were hidden in the house and we all got to climb into the ‘secret basement’ room where the slaves stayed. According to the caretaker of the hostel, slaves would stay for only one or two days and travel by night. Their ultimate goal was not just the northern U.S., but actually Canada, where they were protected from bounty hunters who were trying to extradite them back to their owners in the South.
All-in-all it’s been a great week. I’ve met a lot of new hikers since my D.C. break and there are currently eight of us holding up at the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, PA. This place is a legend among thru-hikers because of it’s small-town pub charm and cheap beer. We also have live music to look forward to tonight!