Monday, July 25, 2011

Sometimes the heat just can’t be beat! Unfortunately, we learned that lesson the hard way last week when we both came down with heat exhaustion and ended up in the ER in Newton, NJ. But I’m getting ahead of myself! Rest assured - we are both doing fine now, but allow me to take you back in time, back to Bethel, PA, where we last left you…

Day 93
501 Shelter to Port Clinton, PA (22 miles)

After a great night at the 501 Shelter, where we hung out with many fellow hikers and a humongous watermelon, we headed out early. Having received a restaurant recommendation, we thought we would add a few extra miles to our day and get to Port Clinton for the evening. A long, hot day later, we arrived, but we weren’t able to find the restful evening we’d hoped for. The food was pretty awful, and we were treated in a way that made us feel uncomfortable (a.k.a. "hiker-unfriendly"). Eager to leave that establishment behind, and in order to get fuel for our stove, we had to walk 2+ miles on the highway to an enormous shopping center. This was a major culture shock for us – not to mention, once we got to the shopping center, the parking lots themselves added another half-mile or so of pavement-walking. At the end of a long and hard day, we were not in good spirits. By the time we made it back to the park where we set up camp, it was already time for bed. “Tomorrow is a new day,” we kept telling ourselves.

Day 94
Port Clinton, PA to Eckville Shelter (16 miles)

A new day indeed! A climb out of Port Clinton took us past some incredible views of Pennsylvania farmland from above - The Pinnacle and The Pulpit, to name two. Then onto Eckville Shelter, where we were glad to arrive early in the day to a cold shower and a relaxing afternoon. Like the 501 Shelter, Eckville is just off the trail, with a caretaker and running water – a welcome set-up for hot afternoons.

Day 95
Eckville Shelter to Bake Oven Knob Shelter (17 miles)

Today we hit some of those famous Pennsylvania rocks we had heard so much about. Boulder-hopping and balancing along the rocky "Knife's Edge" ridge-line made our hiking a bit slower, but more rewarding. As long as you watch your step (and if you're fortunate enough not to be on the exposed rock in the heat of the day), this kind of walking can actually be fun. We camped at a quiet campsite, a few yards away from Bake Oven Knob Shelter, where some guys had taken over and were setting off fireworks (less quiet).

Day 96
Bake Oven Knob Shelter to Palmerton, PA (7.7 miles)

A short morning of hiking led us to Palmerton, PA, a wonderful trail town, featuring the so-called "Jailhouse Hostel." It's not actually a jailhouse but the town's old municipal building, where they let hikers sleep in the basement bunk-room, free of charge! It was a hot day in town, but we were able to get some great food and enough ice cream to keep us cool on a 95-degree day (Claude's Creamery - you are well loved).

Day 97
Palmerton, PA to Leroy A. Smith Shelter (16 miles)

If you look at an elevation map of the Appalachian Trail, you might notice that north of Palmerton, PA the incline gets CRAZY for a good 2 miles. Commonly referred to as one of the hardest climbs on the AT, the trail leads you straight up a bald rock-face, where a zinc-smelting operation in the area left heavy metal residues, making it devoid of vegetation. The EPA closed the plant a few decades ago, and declared the mountain a Superfund site. Up we went over the "SuperFUN" site, as Zack likes to call it. And indeed, we actually did find it pretty fun, despite all the negative hype. We got out early, and were at the top of it by 6:15am, well before the heat of the day and in time for the sunrise over Palmerton. The rest of the day was flat and easy, and we made it to camp before 1:00pm, just in time for a nap!

Day 98
Leroy A. Smith Shelter to Delaware Water Gap, PA (21 miles)

Today was our 7-year anniversary! Yay! To celebrate, we decided to get to Delaware Water Gap earlier than expected by tacking a few extra miles onto our hiking day. It was a long, hot day at the end of the 230 miles in Pennsylvania, which we ultimately decided we had thoroughly enjoyed. (Despite the frequent complaints about the state's rocks and heat, we had generally mild weather and we thought the rocks weren't as bad as they were made out to be. I had originally planned to include here a poem about my feelings on Pennsylvania - perhaps entitled "Pennsylvania Rocks!"- but decided against it.) We pulled into DWG by 3:00 where we checked into the Presbyterian Church of the Mountain Hostel for another night of incredible hospitality (the church opens its doors daily to smelly hikers). Yummy treats in a mail drop from our parents and an enormous banana split at the old-fashioned ice cream emporium in town rounded out the day.

Day 99
Delaware Water Gap, PA (0 miles)

The heat was picking up, and we were grateful to be spending most of our day indoors and not on the trial. We had a great lunch at the Apple Bakery and a leisurely afternoon of eating and sitting in air conditioning (when possible). Topped the day off with another enormous sundae at the ice cream emporium.

Day 100
Delaware Water Gap, PA to Mohican Outdoor Center (10.5 miles)

One hundred days on the trail today! hundred days since we started our journey, which includes the days we have taken full "zero" days. We celebrated by crossing the Delaware River and entering New Jersey! In what would begin a series of unfortunate events, I was feeling a bit nauseous, but I chocked it up to all the dairy (see: ice cream emporium) that we'd had in DWG. We took it slow on our 10-mile day, which was increasingly hot, but incredibly beautiful. We walked by the glacially-formed Sunfish Pond and enjoyed the Jersey ridge-walking. We arrived at the Mohican Outdoor Center in time for lunch, where we were able to rest in the shade and wait out the heat of the day before heading back to our campsite. I still felt a bit funny at the end of the day, but was able to eat and drink normally, so I figured with a night of good sleep, I'd be as good as new...little did I know what awaited us on Day 101!

Day 101
Mohican Outdoor Center to Rattlesnake Mountain (10 miles)

Thinking we could outsmart the heat that was expected to reach its peak today, we woke up at 4:00am and left the Outdoor Center by 5:00. We had sweat all through the night, as the heat hadn't let up, and we were sweating within our first few steps on the trail. We caught an amazing sunrise from the top of a fire tower looking over the valleys below, and we pressed on, making good time, and thinking ourselves very wise for getting up early. Around 9:00, Zack asked if we could take a break because he wasn't feeling very well. We ate a small, salty snack, drank water and pushed on. At 10:00 we stopped again. This time, Z was spent. Recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion, we found a shady spot on the trail and tried to rest. I don't want to go into too much ugly detail, but I'll say that once the vomiting started, we knew it was time to call 911. Since we were in the woods, a good six miles from the nearest paved road, it took a few more hours of trying to keep Z cool, resting and hydrating before the first ranger showed up, followed by a very friendly EMT and his helpers. They surrounded Z with ice packs to bring his body temp down, and in time, he was able to gain enough strength to walk out the mile to where the ATV waited, ready to escort him to an ambulance. Once we boarded the ambulance, we were taken to Newton Hospital, where he was hooked up to an IV, and got some color back into his cheeks. It was then that I started to feel funny, and my feelings of nausea from the last 48 hours - which I must have suppressed in the adrenaline rush of making sure Zack was going to be OK - came back with a vengeance. I thought I'd ask the nurse about it, and in the middle of my questions, it was my turn to vomit...not a lovely story, I know, but looking back, the timing could not have been better. I was already in the ER, the safest place I could be, so I signed in, and then it was my turn to get an IV. My first time in an emergency room, and my first time in a hospital bed! What a day.

Since our misadventures on Day 101, we have been hanging out in Branchville, NJ resting and trying to get some food and water back into our systems. I had one more bout with the nausea after leaving the hospital, but Zack has been solid as a rock since. Three full "zero" days here (Days 102-104), where we have been joined by Zack's "Uncle Danny," who drove us around and helped us find unlikely sources of air conditioning (why not spend an afternoon at ShopRite?) and kept us great company. Now that the oppressive heat wave has broken, we are excited about getting back on the trail tomorrow and easing ourselves back into the swing of things.

We are so grateful to the wonderful people who have helped us out (including MaryAnn, who gave us a ride to the library today to keep us from going stir-crazy), and we're glad to have made it 1,300 miles without too many hitches. We were due for one, I guess!

Less drama next time, we promise.

Love and happy trails,
Lara (and Zack)

PS - Check out our new pictures on our Flickr photostream by clicking on the thumbnails above.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pennsylvania! Ahoy there, blogosphere. First, let me apologize for the lack of pictures in this post. You can see all our recent photos by clicking on one of the thumbnails at the top of this page. It should direct you to our flickr stream, which has every photo we've taken. Also, I apologize for not posting this when it was originally written - last week! Yikes! Lara will have a new update written tomorrow to catch you up to where we are now...since this blog post is about the week before last. Oops!

I'm writing from Bethel, PA, which is less than 1000 miles from Mt. Katahdin in Maine. We've just resupplied at a Mennonite discount store thanks to a tip (and a ride) from Bob, the caretaker at the 501 shelter up closer to Pine Grove. The store was packed at 3:00 on a Wednesday! Guess that answers the question of when the entire town of Bethel does their grocery shopping. Since we last blogged from D.C. we've completed two more states: West Virginia (itty-bitty mileage there) and Maryland (not quite as bitty). Friend Colin joined us for most of his home state of MD, and even resupplied us by the side of the road a day after we parted ways. Never thought I'd be able to eat a piece of cheesecake in 90 degree weather and then continue hiking, but, with Colin's help, we made it happen. Still working on his trail name, though Tenderfoot the Tenderfooted and O'Sheanendoah are in the running.

We've probably heard more opinions about Pennsylvania than any other state (save maybe Virginia), most of them negative. Granted, most of the state is flat as a pancake and littered with rocks. A native commented to us, "yes, it's rocky, but at least we're nice!" Nice they are.

It's all about perspective and mental fortitude at this point in the game though, and, with only about 2 months of hiking left, we're doing our best to make the most of it. Our journey has taken us by old mining towns, behind hedgerows, through cornfields and into some brilliant little towns. PA, you're A-Ok!

On a side note, I've started pinning down birdsongs. There's one bird whose song is the first few notes of "On Broadway," and another who sings "I barely learned the tune" from Simon and Garfunkel's "So long, Frank Lloyd Wright"--ornithologists, please chime in.

Here's the lowdown:

Day 83
Town's Inn, Harpers Ferry to Rocky Run Shelter (15.4 miles)

Hiking out of Harpers Ferry on July 4th with Colin in tow. An easy day out of the gate after our relaxing visit to l'otel Boyd in D.C. Meandered along the C&O towpath, spotted nice views of the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers and spent the night at a gorgeous new shelter.

Day 84
Rocky Run Shelter to Raven Rocks Shelter (20.6 miles)

Our first and only full day in Maryland. We climbed to the top of the original Washington Monument (circa 1827), but our view of the surrounding area was obscured by fog. Still, grabbed a great photo of Colin inside this bottle-shaped tower. Due to rocks, heat, and blistered feet, Colin called it a trip late in the day. We miss him!

Day 85
Raven Rocks Shelter to Rocky Mtn. Shelter (19.8 miles)

Craggy descent this morning as we sped toward the Mason-Dixon line and into PA. If you're looking for an introduction to the Appalachian Trail, give yourself 4 nights and take on Maryland: the terrain is gentle, water can be found at numerous state park spigots and history abounds.

Day 86
Rocky Mtn. Shelter to Toms Run Shelters (19.2 miles)

Made the mistake of sleeping in a small shelter at Rocky Mtn. Turns out the structures do a pretty good job of keeping heat in. We waddled sweatily to the next shelter just in time to beat the rain. Met several hikers pushing on to Pine Grove Furnace State Park to attempt the half-gallon challenge (more on this later) but decided to hold off until we were nearer to indoor plumbing.

Day 87
Toms Run Shelters to Allenberry Playhouse, Boiling Springs, PA (23 miles)

Passed the half-way point today! Met a few former thru-hikers--Blue and Evergreen--who made us sandwiches and let us huddle under their tarp while a downpour set in. Really looking forward to repaying all this trail magic someday. Since we were soaking wet and desperately in need of a shower we decided to push big miles into Boiling Springs. A fellow at the ATC regional office there let us in on a secret: the Allenberry Playhouse and Resort offers rooms to hikers for $40, well below their usual rate. We pounced on the deal and, while we had to skip the production of "Hello Dolly" (next time!), had a great time exploring the tiny town.

Day 88
Boiling Springs, PA to Cove Mt. Shelter (21.5)

Began the day with a 12-mile walk through backyards and farmland. I had had some anxiety about this walk for some time because of the level of exposure to sun it carried. Fortunately we were able to get an early start and beat the heat. Met a swell section hiker, Reid, and his scrumptious dog, Goose, at Cove Mtn. He's hiking southbound so we were able to offer him some useful advice. Nice to talk trail with someone who isn't as immersed as we are.

Day 89
Cove Mt. Shelter to Doyle Hotel, Duncannon, PA (4.1 miles)

Strolled down the mountain into Duncannon this morning, caught a ride to the grocery (thanks Timone!) and commenced the half-gallon challenge. An old AT tradition, the challenge--eating a half-gallon of ice cream, unassisted, in one sitting--commemorates the passing of the half-way point. My strategy? Neapolitan ice cream. Completed the challenge in 33 minutes and didn't lose any of it. In fact, I went about eating as usual for the rest of the day. That's a hiker appetite!

In other news: "Billville," a generous group of AT enthusiasts, had thrown a "hiker feed" here two days prior. Lots of folks we hadn't seen in a long while hitched forwards or backwards to attend, so we were overwhelmed by a spontaneous reunion of sorts. The Doyle Hotel, over 100 years old, has become a must for thru-hikers. Not the best accommodations we've ever had, but the food was good and the people were super.

Day 90
Duncannon, PA to Peters Mtn. Shelter (11.2 miles)

Easy day out of town. Started with a huge breakfast in town and then onto our longest highway walk yet, over the Susquehanna, was full of cobwebs. A train came along the tracks just as we were leaving town, and we got a pretty cool video of it. An early day into the shelter, and a hot afternoon.

Day 91
Peters Mtn. Shelter to Rausch Gap Shelter (18 miles)

Walked through an old mining community today, so we hear. Saw a bear, thinner than the ones we saw in SNP. Guess there are fewer pic-a-nic baskets in central PA. Camped in a gorgeous spot by Rausch creek that reminded us why we're out here.

Day 92
Rausch Gap Shelter to 501 Shelter (17.5 miles)

Battled gray skies and unchanging terrain this morning but persevered! Looking forward to our night at the famous 501 Shelter, an old potters studio complete with bunks, a solar shower, and a skylight. Really enjoying the opportunity to stop by so many towns in PA. These are definitely places we never would have made it to otherwise. Shout out to George, Kathy, Chip and Gillian Goodrich--we're right near your old home of Reading!

We're likely going to "zip" through a few states in the next few weeks. Meeting up with Mama and Papa Ezor in NYC in no time!

Zack (and Lara)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

We joined the 1,000-mile club! Whooooot! It's hard to believe, but we've made it to West Virginia, and have now completed almost half ofthe Appalachian Trail. A lot has happened since we left Charlottesville, and we've covered a lot of ground (averaging 20 miles a day for 10 days straight). We've evenupped our "bearcount" from zero to six.
Here's what our adventuring has brought us:

Day 71
Fish Hatchery Road to Harpers Creek Shelter (12.2 miles)

After cousin Lindsay dropped us off in Montebello, VA, we headed back up the steep trail with full hearts and stomachs (lots of good eating and family time in C'ville did us good). All afternoon, a storm seemed to loom over us as we conquered "The Priest" and descended its neverending downhill. The storm never really showed, though, and we made it safely and dryly to Harpers Creek Shelter.

Day 72
Harpers Creek Shelter to Paul C. Wolfe Shelter (22 miles)

A gray day with lots of stops and be honest, I'm not bringing to mind anything exciting from this day, but I'm sure it was great at the time!

Day 73
Paul C. Wolfe Shelter to Blackrock Hut (25 miles)

Our longest day yet! For real this time! We entered Shenandoah National Park around mile five of the day, only to realize that we had passed the station where we were supposed to register
and fill out a permit. Zack dropped his pack and ran back the one mile to the register,filled it out, and ran back. So, not to brag about him or anything, but he did a 27-mile day. Look out!

Day 74
Blackrock Hut to Hightop Hut (21.4 miles)

We resupplied early in the day at a camp store in the park. It's been really nice knowing that there are camp stores scattered around where we can get food, so we don't have to carry too many days-worth at a time. A warm day of hiking was topped off by some roadside trail magic (brownies and bananas). After dinner that night, we both still felt hungry, making us come to the frustrating realization that after multiple 20-mile days in a row, we weren't carrying enough food for our appetites. That all was to change...

Day 75
Hightop Hut to Big Meadows Campsite (20.4 miles)

We had our first bear sighting today! Well, there was a black furry flash across the trail (think: the Smoke Monster on "Lost"), and we're pretty sure it was a bear. We decided to experience the side of the park that most people experience, so we stayed at a paid campsite tonight. It was a bit strange to have a perfectly flat site on which to set up our tent, with an enormous bear-box included, and showers nearby. Most people
were camped next to their cars, but, still, we fit in nicely. A leisurely walk along a nature trail to theBig Meadows Wayside led to an enormous dinner. We ate the following desserts: chocolate sundae, blackberry milkshake (a Shenandoah National Park staple), blackberry cobbler and pecan pie (with ice cream on the side of both). We also ordered dinner.

Day 76
Big Meadows Campsite to Pass Mountain Hut (18.8 miles)

Today was the first day that we felt a little peopled-out in the park. So many friendly faces to talk to, but sometimes on the trail you want things to be quiet and peaceful. We remained in good spirits though, and had a mac and cheese dinner with a jolly

Day 77
Pass Mountain Hut to Front Royal Terrapin Station Hostel (22.7 miles)

We knew we had a long day ahead of us, and it was going wonderfully until...a huge storm moved in when we were only one mile from the hostel where we planned to stay the night. We tried to get there by nearly running, but we couldn't
outrun the weather. We got drenched, and then - in a surprise twist on a 90-degree day - got hailed on as well! Ultimately, the storm passed quickly, and we arrived at Terrapin Station Hostel, the basement of a former thru-hiker converted into a bunk-house, and got dry and clean.A peaceful night under a roof was just what we needed.

Day 78
Front Royal Terrapin Station Hostel to Dick's Dome Shelter (19 miles)

With so many days doing over-20 miles, a 19-miler seems short! We got into camp by 3:00 and had a wonderful afternoon (naps included). Despite the 30+ youngsters camped nearby, we had a restful night. Though, I shall always remember the insane amount of mashed potatoes I had to eat tonight, when Mr. Z was not feeling well enough to eat his fair share. I mean, I like mashed potatoes and all, but nobody needs nine cups in one sitting...

Day 79
Dick's Dome Shelter to Bear's Den Hostel (18.7 miles)

The "roller coaster" is a 13-mile section with 10 significant climbs and descents, feared and revered by hikers past and present. We knew we had Bear's Den Hostel, a literal castle in the woods, to look forward to at the end of it, so we powered through it. (And, not to sound too cool, but we didn't find the "coaster" too taxing.) Pizza, Ben and Jerry's and a hiker room open 24/7 at Bear's Den made for another wonderful night.

Day 80
Bear's Den Hostel to Harpers Ferry, WV (19.7 miles)

Within the first few miles of the morning we crossed out of Virginia! After 500+ miles in that state, we finally made it to a new state. We also crossed the 1,000-mile mark! It was a joyful morning indeed. We made it to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters in Harpers Ferry, WV and had our official picture taken for the records. The real treat was when Colin and Esther braved the DC traffic to come and pick us up. A Thai take-out dinner back in the big city was just what we needed to adjust to city living for a few days.

Day 81
Washington, DC (0 miles)

Food and friends! Food and friends! It was a beautiful day in the capitol. I met up with Becca, Whittie extraordinaire, and had a great afternoon with her. Colin's parents also invited us over to their house for a delicious homemade dinner. Our errands were also successful...we showed up at the camera store with our supposedly broken camera, and - on cue - it started working again. Yay!

Day 82
Washington, DC to Harpers Ferry, WV (0 miles)

More errands to do today before we leave the spoils of the big city. Two zero days after long miles has made us happy hikers.

As we head back onto the trail tomorrow, we've got lots to look forward to. Many more state crossings (Maryland and Pennsylvania, here we come!), and new boots to break in. We're still loving the hiking life, and are grateful for all of the love and support that surrounds us.

Love to all,
Lara (and Zack)