2021 Appalachian Trail – Epilogue – Port Clinton to Palmerton

Destination: Palmerton (PA 873)
Start Location: Port Clinton 40.1

I’ve been thinking about this summary of the trip a little bit and think that it will consist of somewhat random ramblings.

It is interesting that my first experience on the Appalachian Trail included a small piece of this section. Somewhere around 50 years ago I remember hiking on the AT over the Knife’s Edge with the Boy Scouts. As we hiked that section and Bake Oven Knob it brought back memories.

Bob and I completed just over 40 miles in five days, four nights. Start and end points were selected by Bob based on his familiarity with the Appalachian Trail road crossings in the area. If you have read the earlier posts, you know this certainly was not selected because of the easy terrain. The climbs were easier than our earlier hikes. The amount of rocks was much more than previous hikes.


Keeping the daily distance at ten miles or less makes for a more pleasant journey. The downside is even having coffee and not rushing in the morning with a couple of half hour breaks we were into camp pretty early. Having a hiking partner that you have known for almost 60 years at least gives you plenty to talk about. I also had time to update my journal and upload it each night. Only one night without cell service.

My favorite parts of this hike were the two nights camping in our tents next to streams. Dolora likes the sound of the ocean. I find comfort in the sound of the woods with a stream nearby. Sometimes it is also nice not to have cell service. Sunsets, sunrises, views, flowers and the occasional forest creature are some of the simple pleasures that we seem to overlook in our busy everyday lives.

I have a fear of heights and found going over the Knife’s Edge to be one of my favorite parts. It was not exactly enjoyable at the time but looking back there is a little feeling of overcoming a challenge that is rewarding. Maybe that feeling exists from carrying everything you need in a thirty pound pack for five days as well.

Although we did not meet many other hikers, I always enjoy the fact that hiking gets you out of your normal social circle. Hikers vary in age, income level and social views. It seems like we tend to spend our time with other people like us in our day to day. Hiking gives you some variety in the people you interact with.

Hiking like many other hobbies is a never ending selection and tweaks to your gear. I am on my third tent, second sleeping bag. My pack and sleeping pad have been with me from the start. On this trip, I decided I should replace my stove. Bob and I both have JetBoil stoves which work great and heat water for dehydrated meals or coffee quickly and efficiently. The pots are an integrated part of the cooking system. I noticed that Bob’s stove had a symbol on the side which is a snowflake. My only complaint with my JetBoil is that when it gets cold, 20 or so, it does not heat water nearly as fast. On Thursday morning when it was 27 and time to make coffee, my stove slowed down as it had in the past. Bob’s stove heated the water for his coffee in two minutes. I used his stove to heat water for my coffee. Back home, a little internet research and I see that you can get a stove with a regulator for cold weather – Bob’s version. Soooooo something to look forward to in the mail. Fortunately I was able to purchase the burner separately and not have to get a whole new cooking system.

Backpacking is a trade-off of weight and comfort. Less weight allows you to travel further each day and is easier on your body. But the comfort items all add weight. Some people do not carry stoves. I would never give up my hot dinner. A thicker sleeping pad adds weight. A tent is heavier than a tarp. Bob and I are able to carry five days food and two liters of water and keep the weight at 30 pounds. We could go lighter but be less comfortable and maybe have less safety margin. We are at the point of only making slight changes to our gear.

I have completed the AT through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and most of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania lives up to it’s reputation as “Rocksylvania”. This stretch had shorter rocky stretches than I expected but the stretches were more difficult than expected. The rocks are mentally as well as physically exhausting. You have to concentrate on each and every step. A slip can easily result in a broken ankle. We met two hikers before we got to the Knife’s Edge who had ended their hike last year when both got injured there. There is a sense of accomplishment having completed this section.

When we left on Sunday our expected low temperature was 37 on Wednesday night. It ended up going down to 27. Our equipment choices allowed us to be comfortable. Another reason not to be stupid light. Some hikers tailor their equipment based on the forecast and can find themselves in an unsafe condition with changes in the weather. We carried extra clothing compared to our earlier hikes.

Why backpack? Along with all the enjoyment of nature, there are other reasons. The comforts of daily life can become routine and be taken for granted. I think nothing of a hot daily shower normally. But go five days washing with cold spring water and when you get home a shower is delightful. You appreciate that hot shower each day for the next week or two. Same goes for other things, a newspaper, running water, temperature control, the list goes on and on. You get to appreciate getting outdoors and also appreciate getting back.

Finally there is the hike ending cheeseburger and beer. You are burning 4,000 – 6,000 calories a day while backpacking. You can really only carry and eat about 2,000 calories a day while out. You can not carry the weight of the additional calories and your appetite does not change that fast. After about 2 – 3 weeks you would develop “hiker hunger” eating everything in sight and always being hungry. With a week or two hike you are able to reward yourself with a huge cheeseburger, fries, dessert and feel no guilt.

That’s the end of my rambling until next time.

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