I missed the rivers

As I worked my way up through NJ and down through PA for the last month, I had forgotten the feeling you get on the approach to a river. It must be a large, old, and impressive river. The Delaware. The Potomac. The Susquehanna. Yes. The Susquehanna. My parents attended Susquehanna University until their Junior year, when my Down’s Syndrome brother, Skipper was conceived.  

Those were the days when it was shameful to have a child out of wedlock. Do, they married and went to my mother’s home, Chalfont, PA, and started their young lives together. My dad, who had been accepted into the Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania, one of the best in the country, and my mom, a singing and acting standout, became a mother and a father. Mom stayed home, as was the way then, and dad learned carpentry. 

When Skipper was born, Down’s Syndrome children were most often institutionalized. Not my brother. The entire family, even the entire town,  chipped in. 

Pop Pop, our grandfather, sat with Skip for hours. Everyone nurtured. He thrived. 

Aunt Kit and mom started “The Treasure Chest” in Doylestown, a what not and antique shop, where people dropped of good to be sold, with a percentage or all of the profit would fund the fledgling Sheltered Workshop” where my brother and other special kids and adults did tasked for a small salary, to aid businesses in town. Quite an undertaking! That workshop became BARC, a network of workshops all over Bucks County, where hundreds of workers spent productive days. No I’m institutions, wasting away. 

My dad and a few other men started a special Boy Scout Troop made up of these special needs young men. (There are hilariously funny camping stories here for another time!)

Geez, my brain, back to the rivers. 

I’ve hiked, so far, into four impressive gaps created by four impressive rivers. The Delaware. The Lehigh. The Potomac. And now the huge Susquehanna gap slicing through the Appalachian Trail at the confluence of the Juniata and Susquehanna Rivers in Duncannon, PA. Cheeseburger Heaven. 

This is a truly beautiful and incredibly well maintained section of Trail, cared for by the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club. What a job they have done with blazes and trail markers. 

Pink!!!!! Yolande would love this one!

So, I started off at the intersection of Clark’s Valley Road and the AT at around noon. It was so nice to start late. I had been getting places too early. Then wondering what to do with myself until dark and my tent. So I would go into the tent early because of the cold, and be totally bored. No more. I can get to places later. I can set up my tent in the dark. Arriving early just means you could have gone farther now. So, I go farther or start later. I have more confidence in my abilities now. Not overconfidence, just confidence. Overconfidence out here could be deadly. 

I took a river photo here and looked up. Three dead, precarious trees. Dumb. 

Some brute was out here chopping obstacles for us! I passed at least 20 of these!!!

Some really great vistas. 

I arrived at a great shelter and decided to sleep inside, my first time not in a tent. 

My friend Sleeping Beauty was here!!!

Two things: Mice are around in the dead of winter AND they run around at the floor near the walls. Sleep with your head NOT IN A CORNER LIKE THIS! 

I woke up to a chewing sound…

Rocky was upstairs!!! A Pennsylvania Flying Squirrel! How cool. Nocturnal they are. I’d never seen one before. Big cute eyes. He was tame and hyper. People must feed him. I think he wanted a handout. Not me. Never will I feed the wild anything. Don’t get me started on this subject. 

A tough morning climb and there was Sherpa! 

My friend Scott hiked in from Duncannon to meet me! Crazy man with amazing agility and fitness level. (It’s the Yoga he says) He carried my pack the 6 miles or so into Duncannon! I became a “Slaker Backpacker,” hence the term “slack pack.” I slack packed into Duncannon!

On the bridge across the Susquehanna, we met Ed, Trail name “Ginger Tiger,” for obvious reasons:

He had just left The Doyle and was on his way to Port Clinton to FINISH HIS THRU HIKE!!! He had come from England, started at Katahdin, hiked SOBO to Port Clinton, traveled to Springer Mountain, and hiked NOBO to this point! It’s called a “Flip Flop” thru hike. 

He was beaming! Energized. Next he said that the cheeseburger at The Doyle was, and I quote, “The best cheeseburger on the his entire Thu hike!” So we said goodbye, congratulated Ginger Tiger on his accomplishment, crossed into Duncannon and headed to The Doyle!

And met the proprietors. 

Pat and Vicky Kelly! Married 36 years. It was the day after Valentines Day. The roses Pat gave Vicky were on the bar. They serve more the 1200 AT hikers every year now for 16 years. 


“The best burger in the AT.” 

The Doyle opened as a three story hotel in the 1700s. Today it had garnered a following from the AT hikers who depend on it for an affordable break from the Trail. 

Charles Dickens once stayed there!

So, Scott and I had our burgers and he drove me back to my car. What would I do without great people like Scott who have helped me on this crazy Section Hike quest. 

I would never be able to do it, that’s what. 

I drive home to my best friend,  a shower and a warm, soft king sized bed. 

No mice. No squirrels. Heat. I have such a good life. Full. I have a home. I’m safe. I have almost enough money. I’m clean and sober. 

It doesn’t need to get any better than this. 

What did I learn?

I need to carry more food. I ran out of energy. Trail mix. 

And I really missed the rivers. 

2 thoughts on “I missed the rivers

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