Today was a rough day. Not in miles or heat or bugs or hunger or thirst, but in rain and rocks. The rains came at daybreak as promised and we slept in an extra hour to delay the inevitable… Packing up in the rain again.
It was not a hard rain, but just one of those annoying “need a jacket or umbrella but maybe not” rains.
The first few miles of the hike were on pleasant mining roads with only one sizable climb to get to Swatara Gap. By the time we got to the PA 72 underpass, it was raining pretty hard. We stayed put under the road for nearly two hours to wait it out. The weather map showed the band about to pass us so we ate lunch to kill some time. Five other hikers passed by and two also stopped for lunch. Once we thought the band was past us, we set out again northwards.
When we got to the middle of Swatara State Park just past the iron bridge, there was a park ranger and two gentlemen handing out Gatorade. We took one and drank it down quickly and moved on. We were wet and miserable and could have taken the rail trail into the I-81 exit with restaurants and hotels, but we pushed on. The climb up to the next ridge was a little steep in sections but the steepness made it last shorter at least. We were not sure if we would make it to the next shelter or not for the evening but at least set a goal of an old abandoned power line as the must-reach goal. We did make it and decided to push on and then the rocks hit….
Pennsylvania is known as Rocksylvania to AT hikers. There are some stretches that have massive boulder fields you must scramble over.
It is usually considered that the 501 shelter (two shelters from us) is the beginning of the major rocks, but I think we hit an early patch. Even northern Maryland had some rock scrambles but these today just seemed worse. They were slick with rain still, many had moss or lichen on them and the majority of them moved when you stepped on them. We decided to camp at the next suitable spot we found and we found one about a quarter mile later.
Rain is supposed to hit again tomorrow about 11 or 12 am and we only have 2 miles to the next shelter and then only four more to the famous 501 shelter. The 501 is famous not only for the rock demarcation line, but it is also known for being a fully enclosed shelter with a skylight and pizza delivery service.
Depending on the rain and how we feel tomorrow, we may nearo (nearly zero meaning take the day off after a short hike) at the shelter or may try to hitch or shuttle to Pine Grove to try to get a hotel room. It’s been a trying first two weeks and with the weather it’s probably time for a break. After talking with a lot of the thru hikers from Georgia, they said the first two months of weather were excellent for them but the last two weeks have been miserable for them. Just our luck.