Notes from the Appalachian Trail….Pennsylvania is all rocks!

No but really…Pennsylvania is all rocks. From boulder jumping to rock hopping, the rocky road that is the Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail is challenging to say the least.

I could imagine gladly traversing formations like Knife’s Edge and Bake Oven Knob…if I wasn’t wearing a 35 pound pack that seems to enjoy throwing off my center of gravity! At one point yesterday, while attempting to make it down a 300 foot pile of unstable boulders, I unclipped my pack and let it fall down while shouting “IT’S EITHER YOU OR ME, PACK!!!” (thank you, Osprey, for making packs that can withstand bouts of wind, rain, and temporary insanity.)

When not scrambling up and down boulders, the trail is literally embedded with rocks…to me, it looked like a river of rocks! I wonder if it is still considered thru-hiking if you complete a section of the trail wearing hover boots…I plan on looking into it…

But Pennsylvania has had a lot of highlights as well, most notably the halfway point of the trail. It is thrilling to know that from that point on, you have a shorter distance to walk then you have already completed. They say that the second half of the trail goes faster than the first half, and considering I am a day away from the New Jersey border, I can understand that sentiment!

Pennsylvania is also home to the Half Gallon Challenge, where thru-hikers are dared to eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting to commemorate reaching the halfway point. Though I am an enthusiastic and avid ice cream eater, I struggled through the challenge, ultimately completing it in around 30 minutes…Aaron completed it and then ate a cheeseburger.

One of the real gems in Pennsylvania is the town of Palmerton! Although Palmerton is not one of the more famous “trail towns,” it has probably been my favorite thus far. Hikers can stay for free in the basement of the town hall, which used to be the county jailhouse! I really enjoyed calling my mom and sheepishly telling her I was spending the night in the slammer!  The library gives hikers free books and the grocer hands out apples to congratulate us on making it this far! What a wonderful place to rest your feet before attacking the last 40 miles of PA.

Unfortunately, Palmerton is also home of the Palmerton Zinc Piles  Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site, a result of heavy zinc mining on Blue Mountain, which the AT runs across. Environmental issues, especially those associated with mining, are prevalent in Pennsylvania and are evident in many areas along the trail, but having the opportunity to hike near a Superfund site and the town that is directly affected by it really makes you think about the balance of human activity and nature.

Back to the trail now, as New Jersey is calling my name! Onward to Maine!

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