Rumor had it before I started hiking that the Pennsylvania section was one of the harder sections to hike. It also came in third, behind New Hampshire and Maine on a poll of 2016 thru-hikers conducted by The Trek. Unlike the two hardest sections (1. NH and 2. ME), which were also noted as some of the hikers favorite sections, Northern PA was among the most disliked, due to the extremely rocky and rooty sections of trail. I don’t recall PA being that bad now 6 years after I completed the hike. I found an old Facebook post of mine stating, “snakes and rocks, that about sums up PA.” I do recall the tough sections in NH and ME however, Mahoosuc Notch in ME being the hardest in my opinon. Reflecting back, PA probably gets a tough rap because the hard sections are also mostly in tree cover so you are not rewarded with the same breathtaking views as hiking above the treeline in NH and ME.
In between Harpers Ferry, WV and the actual midpoint in PA, AT hikers cross a small section of MD. Which according to this not very official looking sign, prohibits alcohol on the trail.
Maryland is such a picky state, when I was young I first noticed this phenomenon. Living near the WV and MD border, I frequently went into MD. I recall having to put my seatbelt on and the gun being removed from the gun rack on the back window when we would cross into MD. Then the freedom of leaving the picky state, flinging the seat belt aside and putting the gun back on the rack as the speed limit magically increased. Goodbye Maryland!
The Cumberland Valley is the actual midpoint of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Pine Grove Furnace State Park is home of the half gallon challenge. For some reason AT hikers stop at Pine Grove Furnace General Store located within the park and devour a half gallon of Hershey’s ice cream. I passed on this tradition and got a greasy hamburger instead.
At this point in my hike around 1090.5 miles in, I have had plenty of time for reflection. One topic that has been occupying my mind is adulthood. Frequently, people tell me to grow up and be an adult. I actually think it depends on how you define adulthood: chronological age, procreation, number of digits on your pay check, how miserable you are, making your own decisions or achieving a right of passage.
I feel I fit two of those qualifiers. I might be considered an adult by age and most importantly making my own decisions even if they are against the norm. I have trouble fitting my life into the check boxes. College (debt), graduate school (more debt), job (slave to pay debt), house (mortgage), etcetera. As a matter of fact, I put grad school on hold to do this hike and I believe I was told I couldn’t do that. Well it all worked out. I graduated and had this amazing experience and continue to have amazing experiences because I am making decisions that fit my belief’s and personal philosophy’s. As an adult I make the hard decisions that go against the norm and have found my own normal!