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Week Fourteen: Pennsylvania, Cumberland Valley Roadwalk ice cream, the Doyle Hotel, and Biscuit Baseball?

Sunday July 10th, 1983
Another beautiful day, and nice trails as well. Met many people hiking from North to South. When I arrived at Caledonia State Park I did my starving hiker act, and netted some fried chicken courtesy of some local picnickers. For the second day now I have seen the results of the gypsy moth infestation as they wreak havoc on the trail corridor. In fact, in some sections it seems like fall after they had eaten all the leaves off of the trees. The trees are bare and the remainder of their leaves that were not eaten are dead on the pathway.

Gail Miller paid me a visit at this Quarry Gap Shelter this evening. What a nice person. Again I had a perfect hiking day weather wise, and so far the water has been no problem - always able to find some even though there have been notices about lack of it in Pennsylvania.

Monday July 11th, 1983
Today has been a fun day. In the course of the day we hiked 24 miles and even took more than two hours off to eat our way into the half gallon club. When I say "we", I mean Bruce "The Yak" Berlin and I. When we were hiking, I called it "The Berlin Express" because Bruce was a fast hiker. Tall and lanky, he was naturally built for long strides. His gait was almost twice mine, so just keeping up with him was an effort in itself. I believe that today he may have been trying to catch up with Eric and Julie which may have added to his speed that day. During the hike I did occasionally hook in with a few strong hikers to boost my overall mileage. My hiking speed was dead common so sometimes I needed a boost.

Bruce and I met Frank (The Merry Slav) about 10 miles before Pine Grove Furnace State Park, and he was sucked up by our momentum and we all flew to the general store located at the Park. I must also say that the terrain seemed easier in this area. We all stopped at the General Store for an ice cream feast! Flavours were limited, so I settled for strawberry. Don't remember what I wrote on the sign indicating that I had become an official member of the "Half Gallon Club", so it must have been something like only my trail name. After eating the ice cream so quickly, my core body temperature plummeted and I began to shiver. I laid in the fetal position in the sun on the lawn aside the store until I warmed up enough to move. Bruce and I continued north from the store. Once I resumed hiking, I could hear the liquid in my stomach sloshing around which made me a bit nauseous. After a few miles the feeling went away and I was back to normal. We finished up our day at Tagg Run Lean-To where we found Eric Olson and Julie "Big Mama" Settle, Bruce's regular hiking partners. We had caught up!

Tuesday July 12th, 1983
Again Bruce and I got into the Berlin express and did twelve miles before 1:00pm. We caught up with Frank and Claudia and "wagon trained" with them to the Cumberland road walk where we caught up with Fuzzy Jim. Just where the road walk begins there is a local swimming hole, and the "Berlin express" chugged right in. Bruce and I continued to enjoy the refreshing waters while Jim went on almost immediately, and not long afterwards Frank and Claudia took off. Bruce and I ate lunch, and waited for Julie and Eric. When they arrived we all began to hike the long fourteen mile roadwalk together, but soon visions of the ice cream lady known to reside along the hot road walk entered my head. Those visions propelled me forward, and the next time I looked back - no one was in sight.

I eventually caught up with Frank, and we both visited Bonnie Shipe together. Bonnie is a fine lady and not at all what I had envisioned. I don't know why, but I had envisioned Bonnie "The Ice Cream Lady" as a kindly old lady with forty-two cats living in an old farm house set back in the woods on an old farm road. The scene when I arrived was anything but that. The middle-aged lady that lived in a modern, raised ranch - smack dab on a two lane road. Everyone knew about the place to stop and swap stories for a bowl of ice cream. Claudia pulled in a short time later and we all talked for a while. Bonnie became focused on Claudia once she arrived, probably because she was one of the few female thru-hikers, and most definitely a rarity in more ways than one.

After leaving Bonnie's, we hiked to a restaurant along the roadwalk directly on the AT. The food there was good and plentiful. We all left at 9:30pm. Completing the road walk at night (probably Claudia's idea) was ideal in that it was considerably cooler at that time. Although I was quite tired, I pushed myself to the end of the road walk and an end to a 27 mile day.

During the road walk I split up from Claudia and Frankat a point where the trail left the road for a distance to cross a creek. They continued on the road while I followed the white blazes through the short section that was wooded and near a stream. It was dark by then and I the path ahead was illuminated by my headlamp when ahead I spotted what appeared to be an open book laying in the middle of the path. This did not seem right. I stopped dead in my tracks and slowly backed tracked a few paces while making as little sound as possible. Alarm bells rang in my head as my senses became razor sharp as I listened intently for any foreign sounds. Only quiet surrounded me... It was too quiet - with no crickets or bullfrogs or anything. The stream was meandering past in hushed tones. The scene felt like a trap that hadn't been sprung yet. Was the open book there to entice my curiosity and entice me to bend over to retreive it only to be struck on the head while I was focused on it? Could there be someone waiting to ambush me and take all that I had? Perhaps maybe my life as well?

As noiselessly as possible I removed the pack from my back and withdrew the knife from its sheath. My heart was racing as I crept forward to where the book was lain. To my right was the water's edge, so if there was an attack it would be from the left. About fifteen feet from the book I lunged into the brush, slashing at every shadow while screaming the most guttural and primal scream that I could utter. I would scare the piss out of whomever laid in wait! As it turned out, I succeeded in scaring the hell out of a toad, and viciously impaling several tree crotches. While my blood pressure returned to normal, I sat by the bank for to calm down, and to read the math problems in the book that undoubtedly some school age kid would be looking for tomorrow in class.

The path I had taken eventually lead back to the road where I caught up with Frank and Claudia again and relayed my scarry encounter story. The road walk went on for a short distance after meeting. Frank, Claudia and I tented where the road walk ended and the trail once again went off the road toward Duncannon.

Today I saw a huge ant hill! I had only seen ones this size one other time in my life. My American Literature teacher in high school had a few students over to his log cabin in the woods to walk his property while reading poetry and excerpts from our favourite American romantic author. It was there that I saw several large ant mounds, and this one reminded me of that time in the cold winter woods.


(Giant ant hill just south of Cumberland Valley Roadwalk)

Wednesday July 13th, 1983
I woke up quite late today because yesterday's hike had drained me. I now have blisters on the bottoms of my feet, plus my feet have swelled. Frank left for town early to pick up his mail drop before the post office closes. Claudia and I adopted a snail's pace for the remaining twelve miles into Duncannon, Pennsylvania.

(View of Sesquhanna River and the town of Duncannon, PA)

We got into town about 4:30pm and checked into the Doyle hotel. I can see why they only charge $7.00 per night, what a dump. The best part of the hotel is the $.25 cent beers in the bar at the hotel. There are many thru-hikers here, so we threw a "half-way" party. Me, Fuzzy Jim, Pete Headden and Jamie got together on the train station lawn, and made tacos for supper. I can't remember who in hell Jamie was, but he was up for a party and therefor was a friend. The train station had a nice thick green lawn so it was pressed into service. We probably toasted the shells on my army surplus fry pan. Oh yeah, I forgot that I had brought my army surplus cook kit on the trip. It was great fun. I felt free as a child.

(army surplus fry pan)

Thursday July 14th, 1983
Today was grocery and laundry day. I picked up my packages at the post office and got some letters. It's nice to hear from home. I will set up my backpack and plan for tomorrow. Sonny sent me a package. He gives, and never expects anything in return. Today I received $10.00 from him, and that made me laugh. The thing is, my cousin Sonny is a prankster. He had been reading my correspondences about the trip along with my family. From reading my letters he knew that there is always a hunger within me that can't easily be satiated while thru-hiking - that we are like wolves, always on the hunt for food. In his package he included many pictures of foods and meals he had cut from magazines with instructions that I could eat this food when things got rough. Bastard! I must call him and say hi.

There are many hikers in town today; some hikers I had never met before, and frankly I didn't know who were thru-hikers and who were section hikers. I didn't pay people much attention until I had met them on the trail and knew that they were thru-hikers. At that point I would strike up conversations. I was/am not a gregarious person by nature.

My feet are still sore as hell, but my spirit is good. It is very hot outside, which makes for a good day off.

Friday July 15th, 1983
Got up at 7:30am and went down to the local grocery where I purchased ice cream for breakfast. I bought Dia a birthday card and sent it off.

My feet have been hurting from the road walk, but are feeling much better today. It is time to move on.

I only hiked 9 miles to the Earl Shaffer Shelter because the next shelter is an additional seventeen miles north, it is hot, and there is little water in this section. On my way to the next shelter I heard what sounded like a shot behind me. I turned around quickly and instinctively ducked down. I looked around cautiously, but saw nothing. I thought that it might have been a shotgun blast in the distance because it was a muffled sound. A little while later, the sound came again. I looked all around and still saw nothing. Soon the shelter came into sight and I found a few thru-hikers there already when all of a sudden for the third time I heard it again! But this time I was not alone. Somebody said that the sound came from me. I knew I had not farted, so I just shrugged it off. I walked into the shelter and shed my pack. When I opened my pack, I found biscuit dough all over inside the main compartment - covering my clothes, my tent, and everything else in there. It was so sticky and had dirt and crud all over it from my less than pristine pack interior. All eyes were upon me as I started pulling out gobs of dough and forming them in to one glob the size of a softball. So there I stood with a look of amazement, and a big ball of dough saying, "What do I do with it now"? Frank began laughing and while picking up a stick said, "Let's play baseball". With that prompting, I lobbed it underhand toward him and he smashed it right in the centre with the stick he had selected. Of course being the pitcher, I was in line to receive the "ejecta" which splattered me from head to toe. I gathered up some of the larger bits, made another ball and hurled it overhand this time, and with much more authority. Frank was right on it, and it disintegrated into the surrounding forest. It took quite a while to clean up the mess from inside my pack, but I eventually got most of it. This time I walked a short distance and tossed the remaining bits into the woods.

At some point earlier in the trip, I began eating Pillsbury Biscuits on the trail from time to time. I would flatten them into a thin crepe and pan fry them in Parkay Margarine Yum, Yum!! I usually bought one tube in town and got about six servings. Of course, earlier in the trip it had also been cooler. In Duncannon I had decided to buy three tubes which would provide me enough 'till I could resupply. The tubes of dough must have heated up enough for the yeast in the dough to rise until the tubes burst - which explained all three muffled shots - which apparently had indeed come from my backpack. Needless to say there would be no more fried dough for the rest of the trip.

(Recipe for disaster in hot weather)

So here I am staying with five other thru-hikers including Frank, Claudia, Eric, Julie and Mark Dimiceli from Irvington, New York.

Saturday July 16th, 1983
Got up at 5:00am and began hiking by 5:45am. Mark had left just a short time before me so it wasn't difficult to catch up. He may have even waited for me to hike with him for the day. (2016 Note: It was either today or the next when we crossed a road where either a building housing either a railroad museum or a hobby shop with large model railroad cars and engines was located. These are not significant, but in the same building, or right next to it there was a confection shop with a sorts of chocolate treats that we could see in the large picture window, but by God it was closed! Damn the luck! I almost got out the pictures Sonny had sent me to help take my mind off of the goodies.

We are staying at the shelter known as the "Halfway Hilton" tonight. The temperature today was very hot so I hiked with my shirt off for the first time. The sweat just dripped off of me. Good thing I hiked for only half a day! We had done 17 miles by 1:00pm.


Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983