The trail through Pennsylvania is known to be rocky. So rocky, in fact, that the state is often referred to as Rocksylvania. This is not a place hikers look forward to.
But after 100 miles in this state, I’m here to share: Southern Pennsylvania is wonderful. There’s gentle terrain, cool towns, and a plethora of trailside attractions. I give it 5 stars.
Pen Mar Park 28.8 km away
After traveling nearly 18 miles, I arrived at Pen Mar Park. In its heyday, in the late 1800s, the area was a premier amusement park and resort destination. With a direct train service, thousands of visitors visited the park, which then included a roller coaster, a carousel, hotels, etc.
It has since been turned into a county park and now includes a playground (with a fun zipline) and plenty of picnic tables and benches.
Walking along the path through the park, I spotted Pirate and Baked Potato sitting on one of the benches. Pirate is a hiker I had met a few days earlier. Baked Potato hiked the trail last year and now hangs around, shuttling hikers and doing trail magic.
After some chatting and swinging on the playground, we decided to take a trip to the local McDonalds, via Baked Potato’s car.
I ordered a deluxe chicken sandwich, fries, and iced coffee, and we had a long time relaxing in the AC.
Back at the park, my plan was to hike a few more miles to the next shelter. But then I ran into my friend Jack! Jack and I met in Glasgow, Virginia, and had hiked together.
One thing that makes Jack and I compatible hiking partners is that we both enjoy “top notch” campsites, as we like to call them. These are campsites located close to amenities, such as running water and flush toilets. It was around 7pm and neither of us felt like hiking anymore. The picnic shelter we were hanging out in seemed like a preferable option for the night.
We checked out a sign for the park rules. It was a long list with fine print. Just above “no play” it said “no camping”. We conferred and decided that since we wouldn’t be setting up tents, we weren’t really camping – just sleeping.
So we laid out our sleeping pads next to the picnic tables and called it a night.
In the morning, as we woke up, the gardener came by. He smiled, said hello and let us know that the toilet was now unlocked.
Convenient to Quarry Gap Shelter
The next day, we officially cross the Maryland/Pennsylvania border.
It was an easy day hike with smooth terrain. The highlight of the day was arriving for the night at Quarry Gap Shelter. While most shelters are little more than a three-sided cabin in the woods, this place is straight out of a fairy tale.
There were potted flowers, benches and pretty decorations.
28.7 km to Fuller Lake
As I mentioned in my last post, Harper’s Ferry is considered the spiritual halfway point of the trail. Today we passed the official halfway mile point. As the trail is often diverted, this kilometer point varies from year to year. We passed a few different signs/markers. The last photo is the official sign of this year (lol):
We also passed the 1100 mile mark.
The next stop was Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The camp store here is home to the trail’s “half-gallon challenge,” where, to celebrate the completion of half the trail, hikers traditionally attempt to eat a half-gallon of ice cream.
Jack, Pirate and I were all hungry, but the thought of eating so much ice cream was a little sickening, so we opted for burgers and sandwiches instead. Not a decision I regret.
About half a mile from the camp store is the park’s sandy beach lake, where we had planned to swim (an activity that doubles as a shower and laundry). We picked up a few $3 floaties at the store, along with a half gallon of lemonade, and headed there.
After a long day (weeks/months) of hiking in the heat, the cool water was amazing. We kept all of our hiking gear on, happy to be soaked in the lake water rather than sweating it out, and floated on our (what turned out to be) everything-sized inner tubes. -little.
After the swim, Pirate decided to continue hiking, while Jack and I explored the park in search of a prime stealth campsite. With no good picnic pavilions in sight, we opted for a patch of grass. Other than the slug that apparently crawled all over Jack’s pillow and the ants that invaded my bag, it was another successful night of camping.
Convenient to Alec Kennedy Shelter
The original plan for today was to drive about 20 miles to a campsite just outside Boiling Springs, PA. But with the storms looming around us, we decided to shorten the day, stay in a shelter and catch some miles the next day.
I did a little superglue/duct tape shoe repair at the shelter, and other than that, not much to say about today.
26 miles to Cove Mountain Shelter
Now about 5 miles from Boiling Springs, we started early, excited to get into town and have breakfast. He did not disappoint. We both ordered glazed maple spice lattes and the food (eggs, potatoes, etc.) was very good. Plus, this town is adorable.
The hike from there was fairly easy as we traversed the flat farmland of the Cumberland Valley.
At some point in the afternoon, we arrived at a roadside family farm shop which offered fresh milk, eggs, produce etc. The children of the family ran the store. They unicycled up and down the hill from their house to the store, carrying boxes and supplies with them. It was very cool.
Jack and I each received peach ice cream, sold in polystyrene containers and freshly made by the women in the family. It was easily the best ice cream I’ve had on the trail…possibly the best ice cream I’ve had in my life.
25 miles is a long day, and with those stops, I arrived at the shelter a little after dark, around 9 p.m. At that point, the idea of boiling water to cook dinner seemed difficult, so I grabbed a pb&j tortilla and went to bed.
I am currently in Duncannon, PA. We arrived in town this morning and did the normal town things – shower, laundry, coffee and food. I also picked up my resupply box sent from home. It’s part box, part art ❤️
We plan to hike a few miles out of town today and keep riding. Thanks for reading 😀