It’s been a while since we’ve been able to write a decent email- so I will try to remember everything that has happened in the last several hundred miles.
Right now we are stuck in a town called Stroudsburg, PA- which is a largish town outside of Delaware Water Gap, where the trail runs out of PA into NJ. We are stuck here because we have become sick with some sort of intestinal bug.
The first signs of the sickness came when Dirt Stew got very- and I mean VERY sick in the woods on Monday. We had to stop hiking in the middle of the day and try to find a place in the shade to camp out. PA is mostly rock. I have no idea how trees even grow here, I’m not convinced there is actually any dirt in the state… let alone water. Dirt Stew was trying his best to make a bolder field a comfortable place to curl up and contemplate dying. I searched around for a place to put up the tent in a desperate attempt to get him out of the heat and somewhere slightly more comfortable. I found a tiny square of ground and set us up. Dirt Stew curled in and fell asleep. I checked our water. We had about 3 liters, and the nearest water source was about 5 miles away. It was just after the heat of the day, and we were unlikely to make it any further. I decided we could survive until the next morning, and if Dirt Stew didn’t feel better, I would hike out in search of water.
A few hours later, Dirt Stew woke up and vomited next to the tent creating my next mission- finding a new tent site clear away from the animal-attracting heap next to us. I found us a site only a few hundred yards away, and dragged our belongings over. A few hundred feet felt like miles to Dirt Stew who was dizzy and feverish…
The next day Dirt Stew was feeling quite a bit better (to my huge relief), and we made it to the water source. We were very dehydrated and set up tent next to the water and napped for a few hours before making it the rest of the distance into town. I was so thankful to get us into a hotel room with running water, air conditioning, a toilet, a shower, and a phone to call my mother. In the middle of my phone call, the power goes out. Looks like our bad luck was going to stick around…
At this point I started to develop a few of the same symptoms John had, and we started to try to seek medical help. We have now been to see a doctor who believes we have Giardia, and we are taking something which supposedly will make us better in about 2 days. We hope tomorrow to hike out again if we’re better.
Going back to my last email—many people have sent their congratulations to Dirt Stew for his half gallon of ice cream record, and have asked if I also completed the challenge. I didn’t get the time in the last email to admit that I completely failed at the half gallon challenge. In fact about two minutes after I purchased the half gallon of ice cream, I realized there was no was in hell I was going to finish a half gallon of ice cream. A half gallon, for those of you who are trying to visualize this is 4 pints—you know, the size Ben and Jerry’s come in. That is A LOT of ice cream! I don’t even think I ate more than a pint, and then Dirt Stew decided (after he finished his half gallon) that he would try to help me finish mine. I told him this was not at all necessary (but you know how the male ego goes…). He probably ate about half of my ice cream before he started to feel sick (although he was fine about an hour later).
As I mentioned before, Pennsylvania is ALL rock. And the rocks get worst as you go north in PA. Every through hiker mentally prepares for the rocks in PA, and from day one everyone is talking about it. “Wait till you get to PA, then you get REAL rocks” or “you think this is bad, wait till you hit the rocks in PA”. This is what you hear for miles and miles while you are lead to believe that every rock you encounter south of PA is a figment of your imagination. By the time you actually get to PA, you’re completely convinced that when you get to PA you will hit the border and see nothing but rocks and pointed straight up, sharpened to a point ready to destroy your boots. In reality the rocks in West VA and Maryland were pretty bad too, and then once you enter southern PA, the rocks are really not that bad. Then people say “wait till you get to northern PA! That’s when the REAL rocks start”. Then people say “wait till after Port Clinton, those are the bad ones” then “wait till Lehigh Gap” then “Wind Gap is where it all begins.” By this point my feet are feeling like mashed potatoes, and there are only 15 miles left to PA. At this point people start telling you that the rocks continue into NJ. Obviously this is a topic of contention, but if there’s anything I’ve learned- it’s not to listen to people. Even so, every time someone comes down the trail in the opposite direction I ask them curiously “what’s the trail like ahead!?” and then believe them. I learn my lesson again every day.
PA is also covered in miles of waist high poison ivy, has been sweltering hot, and as we’ve decided, is the armpit of the Appalachian Trail (sorry to those of you from PA, but you’ve really got to be a masochist). There are almost no views, also almost no mountains; the trail goes straight up the edge of something, then goes flat over bolder fields for 40 miles before going at a 90 degree angle back down to the next town. We’re looking forward to the swamps of NJ.
June 21st is the longest day of the year and is celebrated by hikers with “hike naked day,” a fun tradition, especially for unexpecting day-hikers. We talked about it the day before and decided it was a pretty bad idea because of the bugs, poison ivy, sun burn, pack rubbing here and there and the obvious embarrassment… Then we had a much more interesting conversation about which we thought would be more embarrassing: actually partaking in “hike naked day” or merely admitting it in an email to just about everyone we knew. We both agreed that admitting to hiking naked would definitely be more embarrassing.
Right now a friend of Dirt Stew’s, Michelle has come to visit us from Long Island. She’s saving us from complete boredom, and has brought a laptop on which I am writing this email! Thanks to Michelle for some great bagels and muffins! We had been going crazy spending almost a week in town. We’re almost done with the puzzle we bought before she came, and now we’re enjoying some company.
Hopefully the next time you hear from us we’ll be back in shape, and in a town far away from here!