Day 25: cracked edition 

I stayed up too late last night writing notes for the day (late as in hiker 3am, which translates to about 1145), but I woke up before my alarm. Again. Why. I felt happy about my choice to tent in the yard. It cut down on the camaraderie a bit, but I liked the privacy and the millipede barrier. To my surprise, people were already up and milling about in the garage when I went down to grab my food bag. I considered secluding myself longer and eating at the picnic table out back where I boiled water for my breakfast, but I decided to walk down to the driveway. FOMO wins again. I stood around eating my breakfast (with a banana!) while accidentally crunching on various millipedes underfoot. 
We were packed and ready to go by 8 in an attempt to get a jump on the heat of the day. It’s forecasted to be almost 90 today. John drove us back to the trail, while I turned green in the back seat because his tendency to accelerate through the windy curves in the road. down the twisty road back. We were on our way into the rock garden by 815. Ran into lost & found and an another older gentleman named tai chi. He had a kind, soft energy, which was quite the contrast to lost & found’s bumpy, brash energy. 
Sweat dripped down my face wIthin minutes of leaving the trailhead. The rocks were incessant spines digging into my feet with every other step. About a mile into the morning, I ran into halfway sitting on a log wincing because his shinsplints flared up. He could barely lift his leg without cringing. He told me to keep walking, so I left him to his misery, but worried about him not having a way to call anyone if he needed to stop early for the day. 
I know there were trees around me and birds somewhere out there, but I felt like I was in a brown and gray tunnel for over half the day because the rocks made it. nearly impossible to look up. They also make it hard to get any momentum because my steps end up erratically short or long to try to avoid the pointiest options. I thought music would lighten my mood, but today it didn’t help. I turned it off after only about an hour. Tai chi and I walked near each other for a few minutes. He asked me where home is, which I like so much more than “where are you from?” I replied “that’s a good question. I don’t know, but I live in Brooklyn.” This whole idea of home is hard for me because we moved around when I was growing up and my parents are divorced and they’ve also moved around a bit. There’s no childhood home and not even really a childhood place to consider home. As cheesy and obvious as it sounds, the woods might be home. And for now they actually are. 
Anyway, I sweated and cursed my way through the morning. I actually love hot weather; it’s the rocks that made me curse. For about 12 minutes, I felt really strong and like my feet are starting to adjust to all the pounding and my body didn’t really lag in the heat while everyone around me seemed to be wilting. Then I tripped. I wanted to punch something because it hurt, and I went back to feeling slow and vulnerable to the elements. 
Around 1030, I caught up to halfway sitting on a rock. My feet were throbbing and it was a big rock, so I joined him for his break. The rock was surprisingly cool against my skin. I forget how cool they are when they’re not in the sun. A few minutes later, chrissy came walking down the path. I scooted over and shared the rock with her. It was hard to get started after such a long break. 

A similar congregating happened around 1145 when I came upon halfway sitting on a smaller rock. I perched on a nearby rock and rested my feet. About 3 minutes later, chrissy pulled up and took a different spot. Then lost & found arrived and sat in the brush. Mind you, this happened at a spot when the trail was rather narrow so we probably looked ridiculous. Halfway took a lot of breaks today because of his shin, which was enjoyable for me because it meant a bit of company until he pulled ahead because he’s faster than me even with a bum knee. As we all resumed our slog, we came across this little guy: 

I couldn’t find much to appreciate about the trail itself today. About 5 miles in, there was a blue cooler sitting off the trail about 30 yards. I found out later from hippo that the cooler had yeungling beer in it. That fool drank one even though it was like 85 degrees outside. I don’t know that I’ve described hippo. He’s an ambiguously 70 German man who is a stroke survivor. He’s walking the trail for as long as he can until he has to go home in mid august. He has a good sense of humor and smiles a lot, although I think some of the smiling is a cover up for not knowing what people are saying. I asked him last night at dinner if he caught what I said (when I saw the vacant smile) and he said no not at all. He doesn’t appear to be moving quickly and he stumbles a lot (his shins are covered in cuts), but he makes it happen. 
When the trail dropped us down into wind gap, pa, I saw hippo standing at the roadside trying to hitch a ride. I hope it worked out better than his last ride with the drunk guys and he got what he needed. We half heartedly attempted to hitch into wind gap, but it didn’t work so we walked the whole .8 miles. That might not sound far, but as I’ve said before, road walking is so much harder on your body than trail walking. I fell really far behind the group, but could have cared less because I just couldn’t go any faster without bruising my feet. I stopped with halfway at the post office. There happened to be a working spigot out front, which I noted as a backup plan for filling our water since the campsite tonight doesn’t have a water source. Major hassle because it involves carrying so much water weight. 

Halfway and I hobbled over to cafe on broadway, which is a small hiker friendly cafe with a diner-ish lunch counter feeling and really good food. I ordered a beautiful spinach salad, French fries and a berry smoothie for a fruit fix. My brain wanted a cheeseburger, but that seemed unwise given the major climb out of wind gap. The fries were so good. The owner and whom I assume is her daughter were talkative and so accommodating. I asked if we could fill our water vessels in the bathroom and they offered to fill it in the kitchen. Then the owner said one of them could drive us to the trail when we were ready. It really does feel like magic when people offer to do things like that. After lunch, Chrissy had to take care of post office things (pickup and mailing stuff home). Halfway and I worked on our respective blogs. I would share his, but he prefers to keep it on the private side. I reached my maximum sitting time and got antsy to leave. It’s not that exciting to relax in town when you can’t sit comfortably and your feet feel like mincemeat so standing isn’t much of an option. I also knew we had 4 miles to walk, and I didn’t want to get to camp really late. I finally went outside and laid down on the pavement of the accessible ramp on the side of cafe. Desperate times. Chrissy was finally done around 4. We piled into the owners very clean car and she ran us up the road. 

Who did we find in the parking lot?? Trail angel don, dropping off a fellow named plant who also happened to stay at millipede manor last night. How do these things happen? Sadly we were all too full to humor don very much. I took a peach because apparently I just want fruit. The sun was also blazing in the parking lot, so we bid don a pretty quick farewell. But before we left he told us a story about finding shoes in one of the shelters and wearing those shoes today for the first time. Then along comes plant (a hiker), whose shoes are falling apart because of the gnarly rocks. Turns out don’s new shoes fit plant perfectly so they swapped. Don was very happy with his “customized”‘duct taped solomons trail runners, which he dubbed his driving shoes. 
And then we walked up a very large hill. I think Wind Gap should be renamed Winded Gap. Good thing I washed my face at the restaurant. I was drenched by the time I got to the top. Then came rocks with very few resting zones. I felt exhausted and cranky about the time. With about two miles to go a stick caught on my right shoe and the other end of it dug into my leg. I lost my balance and nearly went tumbling face first into a pile of sharp rocks. I somehow caught myself, but my phone went flying out of my shoulder pocket. I wrenched my torso in such a way that now my chest is sore. My body feels a bit like the hunger games arena. One malady stops and another one starts (or, if I’m extra lucky, two things happen at once!). I’m being hyperbolic, but I did say to myself out loud “great, another thing to get over.” As for my phone, the screen has a single crack in it now. No clue how to get that fixed under the insurance without being phone less so it will have to wait until it gets worse. 
The last 2 miles were dreadful. I had zero energy and my nerves were shot between the near fall and the relentless digging of rocks into my soles. I got to camp around 630, just behind chrissy. The site is a little short on decent tent spots, but we made it work. I think everyone was pretty torched. 

Jimmy was the only one who cooked dinner. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, partially because I had no appetite and the idea of heating water seemed preposterous. Instead, I ate a bobo bar topped with peanut butter and a jelly packet. Highly recommend the combo. I forced down some other snacks because I doubted that the bobo “sandwich” was enough. It’s so hard to tell when to stop eating when you don’t feel like starting in the first place. Now I’m laying in my tent listening to the occasional air craft fly over, the wind picking up in the trees (making it a decent sleeping temperature), and the squeak of halfway’s sleeping pad. Tomorrow: the end of Pennsylvania! as we walk into Delaware water gap. And mail day! 
Mile 1270.0 to mile 1281.9 (11.9) 
Total miles: 278.7 
Creature feature: the only thing that stood out today was that little toad hanging onto a rock. 

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