This morning I got an early start and hit the trail at 6:30. The weather forecast calls for 90 degree temperatures for the next several days so starting early will help beat the heat. By 9;45 I had crossed the Mason-Dixon Line and entered Pennsylvania, also known as ‘Rocksylvania’ to AT hikers.
Today the rocks were not so bad but I’m trying to get mentally prepared for them, so I have invented a game that I call ‘The Most Elegant Line’. In the game I imagine that I am a piece on a board game and the trail is the board. The objective is to move across the board smoothly by choosing the most elegant line of travel, which is the line that allows you to move quickly without a lot of stumbling and tripping. If you’ve ever downhill skied in moguls (big bumps of snow) you’ll know what I mean. It may sound silly but it really helps my focus and concentration and hopefully it will help me get through the more difficult trail to come without becoming frustrated. From what I hear there are some boulder fields that go on for miles!
I did not see another thru-hiker today, just some people out for short backpacking trips and some day hikers. I did meet a nice Amish family with eight young children who stopped me to ask a lot of questions about hiking the AT. I had to resist the urge to say “You can Google it” several times. Just before we parted the father said, “I have to ask you something I wouldn’t have asked twenty years ago – do you carry a cell phone?” I told him that almost every thru-hiker has a cell phone and that we use them to make phone calls, send text messages, do e-mail, check the weather forecast, and that some of us use them to write blogs. I assumed they knew what all that meant and they didn’t ask for any more explanation.
I also met Junker, a ridge runner who gave me some good information about the trail in the area. He had thru-hiked the trail when he was my age (55) and had reached the end of the trail at Mount Katahdin in Maine on his 56th birthday, September 17th. Now he works as a ridge runner and gets paid to hike the trail and help other hikers by providing information, directions and any other assistance they may need.
Late in the day I decided to put in a few more miles than planned so that I could stay at a cheap hiker motel in Fayetteville, PA called The Rite Spot. The motel is located 3.5 miles west of where the trail crosses Hwy. 30, so I had to hitchhike, which is legal in Pennsylvania. I had asked Junker and he said lots of hikers hitchhike into town from that location. Anyway, it took a while but eventually a van pulled over and a guy hopped out of the back to let me in. I thought I had entered a time warp! It was a van full of four hippies, a dog and a bunch of junk scattered everywhere. There were no seats in back and there was graffiti all over the inside walls and roof. They introduced themselves and the only name I can remember is one of the girls said that she was ‘Morning’. They were extremely friendly, asked a lot of good questions about my hike and were happy to take me right to the hotel. The hotel looked like another Bates Motel so I felt compelled to explain that all hiker motels look pretty bad. We said goodbye and they took off saying they were headed to Danville, Virginia.
Note to Mom: Don’t worry, I felt safe. In fact, I felt safer than on some of the Third World cab rides I’ve taken.
The Rite Spot was very clean and there was a family restaurant, The Flamingo, located right across the street.
It was another great day full of interesting experiences! Here are some photos of Junker, The Rite Spot, my supper, and a nice stretch of smooth trail.