Thoughts on the Trail, Duncannon, PA

I would have liked to go to Easter Mass, but I thought my appearance and clothing would be a distraction. I did think of family and friends and said prayers for all. Unfortunately,  I will miss several important events while on the Trail.

Now some information about my daily routine. Most of my planning for each day begins the night before, at the campsite or shelter. These are usually located near water sources such as a stream or spring (we all prefer springs). I like to get the next day’s water supply ready, so as not to be bothered with it in the morning. Then I plan the day’s hike, which takes into account the distance between water sources, available shelters and campsites, weather and terrain.

Although I have been on the Trail a short time, I have figured out the six most demanding aspects of thru-hiking the Trail. They are, in no particular order: ascents, descents, rocks, roots, inclement weather and surprises. Conquer all six and you’ve got it made. So far, the one that has caused me the most problem is rocks. I seem to be constantly stubbing my toes on rocks. Parts of the Trail, especially in PA, are all rocks. No discernible trail, and nothing but rocks the size of watermelons, footlockers and automobiles, in all shapes, sizes and angles. Numerous times I have to stop and figure out the puzzle of how to maneuver myself forward. When these rocks are combined with ascents and descents, it is a killer for my feet and challenging to keep my balance with the Beast on my back. Right now I hate rocks and I get a bit discouraged when I know they are coming. PA is notorious for the most difficult rock terrain on the Trail. What is most discouraging is that I have not yet reached the most demanding rock portion of the PA Trail, all 75 miles of it! At times, when on the rocks, I am hiking much less than 1 mile per hour. Physically I seem to be doing fine with the exception of sore feet from the rocks and sore shoulders from the Beast.

Some of the views are breathtaking. I hope I never tire of, or get used to seeing them.

Confluence of the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers, Duncannon, PA

While hiking I am amazed at how quiet the forest can be, and how little wildlife I have seen: a couple of squirrels, a few birds, a turkey, a small snake. Not even one deer! I am sure that will change, but I would have lost money on that bet. At night I have heard coyotes howling, but could tell they were miles away.

Weather has ranged from the mid 30s to the mid 80s. Of course the lows were at night, and except for my feet which always seemed to be cold, I was comfy. Sleeping has not been easy; I toss and turn and seem to wake up 6 or 7 times a night. Hopefully that will improve.

I’ve met several thru-hikers, all of them NOBO. This makes sense, since Baxter State Park, where Mt. Katahdin is located, does not open until the summer. The thru-hikers’ names were Sharma, Trail Spawn (her parents met on the Trail), Even So, Bumpy, Fish, and Stamps.

Bumpy is 68 (one year older than me) and he thinks he should be “The Old Guy.” He can be “The Older Guy!” Fish is a tall German who lived in a town quite close to Heidelberg when we lived there. His long stride and sure-footedness is poetry in motion. His hiking shoes are magnets for consistent stable landings. He and people like him are machines who can churn out 25-30 miles per day quite frequently. Right now I envy people like Fish. Having said that, even Fish told me he was tired of the rocks.

Although there is a lot of time to think on the Trail, I spend most of my time paying attention to what I am doing, as it is so easy to get hurt. My thoughts turn often to family and friends. I spend quite a lot of time thinking of Diane. Without her, I don’t think I would be on this adventure. She is a rock — the only rock I love right now!

Surprisingly, I have thought a lot of my childhood and my life in general. For example, “because I did X, Y happened; suppose I never did X, how different would my life be?” Just as surprisingly, I have paid little attention to sports. I did not even know who won the Masters until Tuesday.  My friend in CO texted me to tell me about Sunday on the back nine, but I was occupied on the Trail. I didn’t think of the Masters until two days later.  This hasn’t happened since I was in Vietnam.

While in Boiling Springs, I accidentally left my trekking poles where my friends picked me up. They are gone, but there was a swap-box there with one functioning pole so I took it and have been using it since. I prefer four legs over three, but three is better than two. Diane will bring me a new pair when we meet next week. 

8 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Trail, Duncannon, PA”

  1. Wait until you hit NH. You’ll probably run into deer, moose fox and bear, and possibly a fisher cat or bobcat. They’re all beautiful except for the fisher cat. Love reading your updates. Where does Diane plan to meet you? Next Wednesday, I leave for the Azores and am not sure of internet there, so it might take me a week or so to catch up. Until next time, much love and Happy Trails!


  2. I always love your updates, Hank. I’ll kick a rock in your honor today and hate those things on your behalf. I’m excited that you get to see Diane soon but I’m almost just as excited about the trekking poles. I might have shed a tear had that happened to mine.


  3. Can’t lie, I’m envious. Glad you’re living your dream. Once again,you can make more money but you can’t buy time. Be careful.


  4. You are an inspiration to “Old Guys” everywhere! As I read the details of your travels I’m thinking of adding this trek to my bucket list. Keep your spirits up and enjoy this adventure as I’m sure it will become one of your fondest memories.


  5. You are an inspiration, Hank. I love reading your updates, as does my brother, Nathan, who spent much time on the AT while at Va Tech and was in awe of the through hikers like you. The rocks cannot beat your determination and strength. You can do this!!


    1. Keep doing what you are doing, Hank. Losing track of time and reflecting. I think that’s the point. Enjoying your journal…


  6. Hank, Love the updates on your adventure…and so nice that you recognize your “rock” — really a gem — your sweet Diane.
    Love, Hugs and Prayers still coming your way!! 🙂


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