Days 118 + 119
Day 118: Mile 1172.5 | Campsite Near Yellow Springs
I got up at 6am and woke Miles up. We slowly got ready for the day and walked fast once we got going. We climbed up to some power lines first thing in the morning and saw a great view:
There we met a woman who was out running for the day. She told us she really wanted to do the trail someday but that she had kids and she didn't think it would happen. We talked to her for a while about the possibilities. We were always trying to encourage people we meet that express interest to get out. It's important to get out and do the things you always wished you could do. Especially an experience as life changing and strengthening as the trail.
We continued on down the trail. Up and over hills we cruised for a few hours. We ran into Crazy Brit and D-Squared later in the day! I hadn't seen them in a good while. I think not since early Virginia maybe! It was good to see them. They were always hilarious to run into. Conversations with them were like a little circus of crisscrossed excitement. Shortly after we ran into them we all walked up on some trail magic. Someone who had thru-hiked previously and his dad brought their grill out to feed us. They gave us hot dogs and Little Debbie snacks. We didn't stay for long, though, because we were one such a roll.
I turned my mood around. I was determined to stay out here and to find joys and things in the experience to love. I realized I wanted needed to make this experience more positive. I wanted to be a more positive person on trail and when I got home. I wanted to find the joys in camping and transience. I knew I could get used to it. I wanted to see all of the amazing things I could gain from being out here and experiencing all of this. I wanted to absorb all of the happiness and goodness I could from Miles. Walking together was what kept me going at this time and I'm glad it did. But I also knew I couldn't rely on that. I needed to be out here for me. But it was a start.
I spent the whole day working on being more positive very consciously. It ended up being a good day!
When 16 miles rolled around we were tired. We did a longer, steady climb up out of a gap at the end of the day. I used all of the last of my energy on the climb but for once it felt good rather than exasperating. The steady climb felt good and it gave me this rush of endorphins. We stopped and got water on our way up the climb at a stream. The water was yellow, as was most water in Pennsylvania. After a bit of walking we came across a campsite that was a good ways off trail in a pine grove. The spots were relatively flat and the ground was covered in soft pine needles.
We set up and I made dinner in my skillet:
Shortly before dusk, a deer approached our camp from behind Miles' tent. She sniffed around and stared us down. She got very close to camp. We yelled and made noise and she eventually moved out. From the other side of camp, near my tent, about ten minutes later, another doe approached camp. She got very close to my tent. We couldn't figure out why they were so close to us. They circled camp for a while. After some circling, it seemed like they were going to leave us alone. We went to sleep.
Late in the evening, sometime after midnight, they came back. They circled us and got very close. One was so close she could have licked my tent if she wanted. My headlamp and yelling didn't scare them but clanking our cook pots together did. In the distance I heard a high pitched winny/squeal type sound. It sounded just like the baby we had heard in Shenandoah. When the does heard the sound in the distance they left. I didn't get much sleep that night.
Day 119: Mile 1190.0 | William Penn Shelter Tent Sites
I woke up late and I didn't sleep well the night before because of the deer. I got up, grumpy and overtired. We immediately packed and walked at a good clip. I physically didn't feel like I had much energy but Miles did. I just hung on to his pace as hard as I could. The rocks weren't so bad this day and the trail kind of reminded me of parts of Virginia. It was relatively flat with gradual climbs and descents.
In the morning sometime, I fell back from Miles a little bit but I still tried to keep his pace. I got deep into my thoughts and I was wearing my pink, brimmed running hat to keep the sun out of my eyes. Out of no where I felt a hard crack on my head. It hurt and I instantly closed my eyes and felt myself fall backwards. Something had hit me in the head. I looked up, already bawling my eyes out, realizing that I had walked into a tree than had fallen across the trail. If I had just side stepped, like Miles had, I would have completely been able to walk under it. I just hadn't seen it because the brim of my hat was in my way and I was so lost in my thoughts.
I was stewing in this overtired negativity because I was kind of angry about the deer and not getting enough sleep even though the campsite seemed so perfect. I was thinking about how much time we had left and all of the miles ahead of us. I was a bit homesick, too. I just wanted to go back to bed and start over; but that wasn't really an option.
I cried harder than I probably needed to. It hurt but it really wasn't that bad. Miles sat with me and made sure I was okay. He couldn't help from chuckling a little bit at how ridiculous it was. And it really was kind of ridiculous. I mean who, besides someone named Life Alert, walks into a tree not once, but twice in one thru-hike?
We got up and got going again after that. Later, we crossed a huge flood on trail through a beaver dam:
The ATC, we had heard, couldn't decide how to fix the flood and the problem had only existed for about a week when we passed through (the flood is still there an a solution hasn't been reached, though, two months later...). Some said they should get horses in there and pull the dam down. Some said it was nature and they should let it be, reroute the trail around it if need be. Others suggested we build up rock or plank trails over it.
Either way, us thru-hikers all had to wade through the nasty water for now. We took off our sneakers and put on our camp shoes: Miles his thrift store flip flops and me my Crocs. I crossed first and made it, almost losing a shoe to the mud. Miles crossed second and his flip flops kept getting stuck in the mud under the water. You could hear the mud suctioning them off of his feet. We made it across into the most mosquito infested territory on the other side.
In the cloud of bugs we sprayed ourselves down with Picardin bug spray. The bugs still landed on us but didn't bite. On my sunburned skin the spray burned a little bit, though. I didn't like using chemical bug sprays like DEET and Picardin but it seemed like nothing else worked. Honestly, it seemed like those toxic chemicals didn't even work. Regardless, the spray gave us enough of a reprieve to dig out a small PakTowl and dry off our feet. We both put our shoes on while standing up because there was so much mud we couldn't sit down. I somehow came out of it with at least a dozen bug bites... We got out of there as quickly as we could and headed up the trail.
In the heat of the afternoon we watched a few runners fly by with their dogs. Their wet, muddy sneakers seemed like no bother to them. I thought about the dry homes and showers and warm beds they got to go home to and I was kind of jealous. I suffered in the heat and salt chafe reared its ugly head on my back in the form of pin-prick-like itchy stings.
At some point we came to these very cool diversion wells (a sort of large scale water filter if you will) near the trail. These huge metal vats with metal grates on top were filled with limestone gravel to filter water that was poisoned by coal mine drainage that used to flood these hills back in the day. We filled our dirty water bags (we checked the guide and the local info board to ensure drinkability) and sat down by the wells. I leaned against my pack in the heat of the day and put my cool water bottle against my face. The water was the best I'd tasted in at least a week. It was the first water we had gotten in the state that wasn't yellow. It was amazing. We stayed there and drank multiple liters of water each. By the time we left we were both bloated and had water sloshing around in our bellies.
I laid under the shade of the yellow birch trees and looked at the way the sun shone down through the leaves of tree. The bright green light it created washed over us. It felt so good. I was trying to stop more and notice the beauty around me. The serenity and the security of being around good water was so nice. We basked in the light and drank in the water for a good hour.
We climbed a hill and descended after that. When we reached a small river at the bottom of the climb. The runners we had seen earlier flew past us again on their way down and immediately jumped into the shallow river. They looked so cool. I wanted to lay in that river of yellowish Pennsylvania water but I also didn't want to wait for my clothes to dry or deal with the chafe of wet clothes. I took a sip of my warm water, bit into a bar, and we kept walking. We went through a strange state park, crossed two highways, went over an interesting bridge, over a pipeline construction zone, and back into the woods.
After being around all of the noise of highways for a good portion of our day it felt amazing to get back into the quiet woods. The trees filtered out a good portion of the noise. We climbed up one last climb to a ridgeline. At the top we ate Goober (peanut butter and jelly in one jar) by the spoonful to fuel us to camp. I lead us to camp at a fast pace after that. The gnats started getting bad as the sun started getting low and I couldn't seem to get them to stop flying at my eyes. I couldn't reach my bug net and we only had a few miles left anyway. I booked it across the ridge to camp and we made it over 3 miles in just over an hour. When we arrived, D-Squared and Crazy Brit were the first hikers we saw. They told us there was a spring here for the water source and that it was really good. I was so happy to hear it after such a hot day. Good water can be the difference between feeling on top of your game and being dehydrated and sluggish.
We set up our tents and noticed a familiar face nearby: Hippie King! We hadn't seen him since Virginia!! He had been going southbound and we never thought we'd see him again. Turns out he decided he really like thru-hiking more than he thought and he had decided to spend more time out on trail so he took a bus up to New York to get more trail! We talked to him briefly and then got water. I boiled my water and started dinner while I set up my tent next to Miles'. I realized I was low on dinner food. I hadn't resupplied enough, I guess. I had planned wrong. Thankfully, Miles shared some of his extra dinner food with me and I traded him some snacks. We just needed to make it to Port Clinton for resupply the day after next. I ate dinner alone in my tent and fell asleep early. It was so hot I didn't even bother getting in my sleeping bag or even taking it out of my pack. Just the feeling of the nylon fabric against my legs was gross. I slept hard that night.