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  1. #21

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    I never got into any kind of rhythm when hiking Northern PA. Another hiker told me it was in my interest to stay on top of the rocks to extent possible (as opposed to going between them). Is that good advice?

  2. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Recalc View Post
    I never got into any kind of rhythm when hiking Northern PA. Another hiker told me it was in my interest to stay on top of the rocks to extent possible (as opposed to going between them). Is that good advice?
    I aim for flatter, wider spots in order to land more of my sole while also minimizing repeated up and down (height) changes, which can be energy wasteful. So I might stay on the rocks or drop between. I avoid tight crevices which can squeeze my shoe sides as well as pointy rock tops which poke. I also scan ahead for flatter routes, sometimes this is a series of rocks rather than patches of dirt trail. Yet another thing I do is add in tilted but flat in the tilt of the plane rocks where I can plant my foot and lean into my poles.
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  3. #23

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    Sometimes you can step around the rocks, other times you have to rock hop. All I know is the toes of my boots got tore up real bad from dragging them across the top of rocks. The sides of the boots got tore up from getting caught between rocks.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  4. #24
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    The northern 100 miles of trail in PA has LOTS of trail that looks like the pics below (taken near Wind Gap) - and where it isn't almost completely rock there are plenty just sticking up out of the ground in the middle of the trail waiting for your toes and ankles. Careful foot placement is a must.

    SANY0991A.jpg

    SANY0993A.JPG

    SANY0994A.jpg

  5. #25

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    Every state has it's own unique challenges. In PA it's the dreaded rocks. To some extent, this is overly hyped but it is what it is. From a geological aspect, it is an interesting area.

    I once hiked thru PA with a retired NP ranger. He would often mudder "just painting blazes on trees and rocks doesn't make a trail". Except in PA. Finding the route through the rock mazes is fun. Unless it's raining. The rocks are randomly spaced and at random heights and angles. At times you have to stop and look around to find the proper path. Look out for rattle snakes too, they like the sunny rocks.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  6. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Recalc View Post
    I never got into any kind of rhythm when hiking Northern PA. Another hiker told me it was in my interest to stay on top of the rocks to extent possible (as opposed to going between them). Is that good advice?
    Agreed. Be agile. Stay on top of the rocks.

  7. #27
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    It is every bit as bad as you expect it to be. Or, it’s every bit as good as you expect as well. All depends on whether you are looking for what is cool or what sucks. I actually enjoy dancing across the the rocks in Pa, except for maybe the section from Wind Gap to DWG. I think the rocks of Pa are the most overhyped thing on the AT, but then again I live in Pa and trail run on the AT so I’m a bit biased.
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

  8. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by stephanD View Post
    Have you thought of the Pinhoti trail in Alabama? Much closer to home.
    Thought, yes. I am looking further north on the AT to avoid the stifling heat/humidity in the South. Also avoiding some ticks.

  9. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by BAontheTrail View Post
    Thought, yes. I am looking further north on the AT to avoid the stifling heat/humidity in the South. Also avoiding some ticks.
    With all the deer in PA, it's ground zero for Lyme. I recommend PA in the early spring to minimize the risk and to avoid the stifling heat/humidity which starts to build in around early June.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  10. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hikingchef View Post
    If that looks to be too hard for you because of the rocks, you could always to SNP to Harpers Ferry.
    I have been in SNP before, mostly blue blazing, but I will look into this idea. Thanks for commenting!

    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    They don't call it Rocksylvania for nothing. The middle to northern part is the worst of it. Lots of oddly angled ankle twisting, toe stubbing, tripping type rocks, which can be slippery as well. It can get tiresome, tedious, annoying at times - pick an adjective. Unless it was part of filling in miles toward a 2000 patch, I'd rather hike a lot of other AT sections that are more than just the long ridge walks which is a lot of PA. There are other sections that also have bus or train service to major airports. I would check out transportation for a similar length hike in VA (I don't know the public transport options there, but I bet you could do a 250 - 300 mile section via bus service). There's also some other similar length hikes (right around 300 miles) further north: Delaware Water Gap (bus to NYC) to North Adams/Williamstown, MA (bus to Boston), Pawling, NY (Metro North train/bus NYC) to Hanover, NH (Amtrak train NYC/bus NYC or Boston). All offer better hiking terrain IMO than PA. But if it's rocks you really want, you could go for big rocks! The 145 miles or so from Hanover, NH to Gorham, NH(bus to Boston) through the Whites is as good - and tough - as it gets! And budgeting 3 weeks with a few zeros thrown in for rest and/or weather zeros wouldn't be out of the question in the Whites. Just my opinion though, and apologies to my friends in PA.
    The scenery is something I am taking into account, as this is sort of a detox from the teaching year. While not hugely important, I really appreciate the suggestions for transportation to/from other parts of the trail. Thanks so much!!

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    *Disclaimer* I haven't done the northernmost 75 miles of PA yet, which many people say is the worst part of the rocks.

    However, I'd argue that starting in Harper's Ferry and going north is a good place to start out (assuming the bridge over the Potomac is repaired by then). MD is mostly pretty easy: it's mostly flat, and the few climbs are pretty short. There are a few rocky sections in the northern part that will give you a small taste of what the PA rocks are like.

    Southern PA (up to Duncannon) is as easy as it gets on the AT. I'd be considered a slow hiker by most, and I averaged 15 MPD on that section, no sweat. The rocks are few and far between until you get to the last ridge south of Duncannon. In fact, the rocks didn't really get annoying for me until north of Swatara Gap. Then you start to get into the parts where the trail is just a bunch of jumbled rocks sticking up at random angles. But, by then you will have been on the trail for 2 weeks and should be in good hiking shape. Just take it slow and you'll be fine.

    I do agree with the people who say this section isn't that great in terms of scenery, and it definitely doesn't feel very remote at all. There are some occasional views along the ridges, and the section of open farm country between Boiling Springs and Duncannon was pretty neat, but that's about it. Also you'll get differing opinions from different people on this site, but IMO the Doyle in Duncannon was a pretty cool town stop.
    I am liking the idea of the warm up on easy terrain out of Harpers Ferry (I'm really hoping the pedestrian bridge is fixed) and then getting to the rocks.

    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I hike all over the whites with trail runners and do far better on the rocks than with my prior custom leather boots. It all comes down to pre hike conditioning. I actually did the stretch from Duncannon to Swatera in sandals as my feet got blistered up from my long term leather boots. When I got home I retired the boots and have used trail runners ever since. The fundamental difference between white mountain rocks and PA rocks is in the whites you may have to rock hop between large rocks but there is high likelihood that the rock does move, in PA the rocks are smaller but its a high likelihood that they will move. its just hard to get a good stride going especially as the trail is darn close to flat in PA.
    I hike in trail runners as well, plus some nice inserts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I just did that section last spring. Took me just under 3 weeks. Maryland is pretty darn rocky too. On the whole MD/PA isn't all that bad. There are some nasty sections, but they tend to be relatively short -1/4 to 1/2 mile of ankle twisting BS, then back to nice, easy trail. Wind Gap to the DWG is about the worse of it, about 20 miles.

    Make sure you have a boot with a good rock plate in the sole and superfeet inserts or you will bruise the bottom of your feet. Wimpy trail runners can really beat up your feet. Also make sure your feet don't roll inside the boot. When you do hit the rocky sections, most of them are pointy or set into the ground at a sideways angle. They are also randomly spaced, so you have a studdering, swaying stride. I call it hiking like a drunken sailor on the first day of shore leave.

    I wouldn't worry much about the rocks, it's starting to get really hot in June and that might be an issue. But you got a lot of daylight and sunrise is early that time of year. Take advantage of it with a start at dawn, take an afternoon siesta, then finish up in the late afternoon or early evening.

    Or you could head south from Harpers and to go Daleville, which is close to Roanoke and a way home. This is a much more interesting section to hike then MD/PA. It's a bit harder though, (once out of the SNP) as this is the bumpy section of VA and all the thru hikers you meet will be bitching about how VA was suppose to be flat and they were lied to. I really like that section for that reason though. It feels more like your in the mountains and have better views.
    Rock plate, CHECK. Siestas, SUPER CHECK!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by chknfngrs View Post
    I would suggest that you go hike this section and determine for yourself how the rocks are behaving. I mean, why not?
    I like the way you reason.

    Quote Originally Posted by Strategic View Post
    I've spent a lot of time sectioning the trail in PA (used to live in Philly) and yes, it does have a lot of rocks. You'll develop the "Pennsylvania Rock Hop" pretty quickly as you go north. The good thing is that you're planning to do it the right way, NOBO. That gives you the MD and southern PA sections to warm up for the real rocks that start north of Swatara Gap. As long as you don't try to do this in trail runners, you'll be fine. Despite what a lot of people would have you think, the trail is quite nice otherwise and has some great aspects (some really good views from particular high points like Bake Oven Knob, exciting ridge walking like the Knife Edge, etc.) and some of the best shelters going (Quarry Gap is outstanding.) It's a great hike, so enjoy yourself and don't let anyone scare you off.
    Somehow you've made the rocks sound enticing with your PA ROCK HOP term. Sounds like a dance move (think the Lindy Hop).

  11. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    With all the deer in PA, it's ground zero for Lyme. I recommend PA in the early spring to minimize the risk and to avoid the stifling heat/humidity which starts to build in around early June.
    I was hoping someone would comment with this info. Maybe I should go even further north on the AT??...

  12. #32

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    Lyme is pretty well prevalent in much of the trail south of the Whites. The AT in the whites, the Mahoosucs and the ridgelines in Maine do not have deer ticks yet. They are definitely south of the whites and in Maine south of the AT. There were no ticks to speak of 20 years ago in the whites but the wood ticks are moving in so given the warmer climate I expect the deer ticks will be moving north also. Of course there are not a lot of deer in the whites or on the ridgeline through Maine so that may slow them down.

  13. #33
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BAontheTrail View Post
    I was hoping someone would comment with this info. Maybe I should go even further north on the AT??...
    About the only place you won't find ticks on the AT is in the higher elevations of NH and ME. But it's possible to get them in the lower elevations where there's more wildlife and browse. Like anywhere else, they tend to be worse in areas where you have to walk through long grass or overgrown vegetation. They're not as bad as in MA and south, but you still need to check for them. Treating clothing with permethrin is recommended.

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  14. #34

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    I don't perceive it as good or bad. i see it more as just another set of conditions to adapt.

    I blew through PA averaging greater MPD than VA not with the rocks on one AT thru/completion. Why?, two main attributes/two main reasons I surmise: 1) I was going lighter wt and lighter bulk by the time hence less momentum fighting a heavier shifting larger load, sidewards and forwards. Further, I learned less momentum loss side to side movement stops and loss walking techniques. I learned to glide with less effort like a lumber jack does on rolly poly logs floating in a river as they walked/ran across them. 2) My approach to the rocks. The system I often adopted was going over the top anticipating which rocks would roll and how they would roll. In that over the top approach I sought out rocks that had firmer non rolly polly-ness. I learned to read the terrain better and adapt to it rather that fight it or going down to a negative mental state like lumber jacks do on those shifting rolly poly floating logs. Logs larger may have less resistance to rolling more surface are to step. larger rocks same thing! Too often in larger rock sections taking a stepping between the rocks slower pace approach I found my ankle bone - that ball on the exterior and interior part of the ankle that is currently evading my mind issuing a more precise medical term, caught/rubbed on the rocks even at times wearing taller hikers or boots or with gaiters or high socks. I think a over the top approach can be more important attempting to go fast and if utilizing low cut hiker shoes or trail runners. However I saw some speed through rock sections taking only a between rocks foot placement approach also gliding with trekking poles like a mogul skier. Sure enough when asking some of these folk of their abilities they were also snow skiers sometimes specializing in moguls. I learned that hiking requires improvisation and adaption.
    Last edited by Dogwood; 01-19-2020 at 03:30.

  15. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Every state has it's own unique challenges. In PA it's the dreaded rocks. To some extent, this is overly hyped but it is what it is. From a geological aspect, it is an interesting area.

    I once hiked thru PA with a retired NP ranger. He would often mudder "just painting blazes on trees and rocks doesn't make a trail". Except in PA. Finding the route through the rock mazes is fun. Unless it's raining. The rocks are randomly spaced and at random heights and angles. At times you have to stop and look around to find the proper path. Look out for rattle snakes too, they like the sunny rocks.
    This too. Lots of timber rattlers I've found on the PA AT state section. Don't hike not being able to hear. Situational awareness.

    The ticks? It's been so over discussed and hyped up IMHO. Lack of getting up to speed on prevention can be the cause with so much Lyme Disease. Poor immunology of an individual not as often discussed can be another. Preventing tick bites is not a hard thing when on the move in PA nor is it at rest. FWIW, far greater tick infestation in the Pinelands Preserve in NJ such as on the Batona Tr which is no where near the AT. I lived here for yrs. And people hike the BT(Back to Nature) Tr not getting a tick bit or Lyme Disease during the hts of tick infestation and movement. I've done it twice and many sections of it many other times.

    The climbs in PA and elsewhere?, take them like any other - slower and more deliberately with lower impact movements especially the steep one heading down into Hamburg area going down to the train yard going NOBO and in inclement weather conditions. Beware of those steep and extremely deep higher riser ht step downs that should be taken by making more than a one larger higher riser ht down movement. Beware of avoiding extensively long stride lengths on steep descents and in wet or icy conditions even in summer with dew on grass or more slippery wet leaves on flats that can act like slick ice or trail construction made of wood or roots that can be as or more slippery than slippery rock crossings a stream. Steep descents in NH in The Whites and especially Mt Moosilauke NOBO - that when wet or with black ice IMHO is one of the most hazardous descents of the entire AT), MA - going NOBO over Mt Greylock steep but rather short with some deep steep downs NORTH SIDE that should be taken by breaking up the riser hts into several smaller riser ht increments. These can be applied to ascents as well. NO NO NO trekking poles are not the only way to reduce slips trips and falls, ease descents, and lower impacts to joints and muscles and achieve enhanced balance. Ignoring these things are as much marketing short sightedness attempting to sell more trekking poles!!!! It occurs!!! Gear is NOT the only way to solution-ing.

    This is to say it's not always the terrain that makes things hazardous but our approaches, who we are! To turn one's mind off, situation awareness off, often leads to trouble! That is not to say this gear junkie ignores the roles gear can play.
    Last edited by Dogwood; 01-19-2020 at 03:54.

  16. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strategic View Post
    I've spent a lot of time sectioning the trail in PA (used to live in Philly) and yes, it does have a lot of rocks. You'll develop the "Pennsylvania Rock Hop" pretty quickly as you go north. The good thing is that you're planning to do it the right way, NOBO. That gives you the MD and southern PA sections to warm up for the real rocks that start north of Swatara Gap. As long as you don't try to do this in trail runners, you'll be fine. Despite what a lot of people would have you think, the trail is quite nice otherwise and has some great aspects (some really good views from particular high points like Bake Oven Knob, exciting ridge walking like the Knife Edge, etc.) and some of the best shelters going (Quarry Gap is outstanding.) It's a great hike, so enjoy yourself and don't let anyone scare you off.
    I like almost all of what Strategic is posting.

    1) the rocks of PA and PA has so much to offer positively and as a challenge to embrace/"embrace the suck", perhaps negatively perceived at at first that can be taken ultimately into positives. I too like adapting and thinking outside of the box contradictory to norms which irritates some making me seem more irascible than I can be
    2) don't buy into the Rocksylvania PA AT is "BAD" hype, as Stewart says. Get your mind /mentality in a better place. The more focus on how bad and non rewarding PA AT and rocks the more we find of it. Create the mindset by focusing on how GREAT PA AT and rocks can be! It opens the mind to greater solutions. Be more solution minded than complaint fault finding minded. OMG this applies not just to hiking!
    3) his PA Rock Hop talk which is similar to techniques what I've seen in mogul skiers taking deep moguls or lumberjacks employ running across floating rolly poly log jams never falling or slipping either with a supporting staff or without one or describes the top of rocks approach I often take in rocks.

  17. #37

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    What is deemed bad or good, and for that matter if breathability is a market scam/ does not work , it sucks to hike in the rain, WP shoes suck, it's hard to hike the AT, I'm not at the right place to attempt an AT thru hike, etc are matters of perspective. Read Anthony Andrews? books like The Observer in concluding it's a matter of perspective one of the greatest lessons I've ever read through a book,,,which is also a matter of perspective coming to that conclusion. LOL.

  18. #38

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    Silence on Sun which can be a day of higher WB activity. Everyone suddenly go to church or be mesmerized all day with a NFL playoff game that started what time?, spending long hrs at Sun brunch, too long a post which is rather comparatively short OR did some nerves get plucked, offense taken, ignoring occur after reading so to not change limiting habits defending a complaining mindset hitting home? Resistance is rampant not just here on WB but society. Alternatively, one can be joyous knowledge wisdom and a less limiting mind less ignorance is being offered through behavioral change. People don't like to change their behaviors me to at times.

  19. #39

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    Quote Originally Posted by JPritch View Post
    I sat around a campfire one night with a couple guys who had stayed at the Doyle. After hearing their descriptions of how decrepit and dirty this place was, poor lighting, shared bathrooms and an overall fire hazard.....I just knew I had to stay!
    Do they sell "I Survived the Doyle" shirts?
    They Should!
    The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
    Richard Ewell, CSA General


  20. #40

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    As a SOBO back in 1999 all I heard from the NOBOs was how bad PA was. I wasn't a fast hiker but I managed to average about 15 miles per day. Yes there are rocks but there are also a number of ridge walks between gaps in which you could stretch out.
    I think the NOBO experience of PA is in part explained by what they have just accomplished. Came from GA, struggled a bit in the heat in VA and then had an easy time in SNP. Get to PA and the rocks causes them to have to slow down a bit and breakes their stride. It brings frustration.
    That is my take on it.
    I wouldn't mind doing PA again.

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