8/3 Woke up in a lovely Planet Fitness parking lot. We had stopped in for showers last night and found a nice spot where there was minimal light shining into the truck. It was nice to have the bathrooms in the morning as well, it makes brushing your teeth so much easier. Littlefoot and I rolled out and met Casper and Lard for another day of slack packing. Still feeling tired I stayed in the parking lot for an hour after they left tidying up the place, which takes about 2 minutes because it is so small and reading. I have been rereading the Harry Potter series, which I boycotted until last December for no good reason. I then started my drive up to Pine Grove, which is only an hour drive but a few days walking, and big mileage days too. Being able to move around so quickly and with minimal effort has its ups and downs, but more on that in a second. Where was I? Oh yes, I drove to Pine Grove where I had ordered a larger battery from Bluetti (2000wh) and a solar panel (350w) to the post office. I arrived too early however, so I found a nearby park to hangout in. I recharged my smaller Jackery battery (300wh) and had some lunch. In the middle of my peanut butter sandwich, I received a phone call. It was the UPS driver who was delivering my package to the post office. He called to let me know he had my packages and if he were to deliver them to the post office, the post office would charge me over $200 for shipping fees. Not sure how that works because they weren’t the ones that shipped it. He told me however that if I wanted to meet him at one of his next stops, he could just give them to me there and save me the money. What a legend. So, I met this guy at a business inside an industrial park to get my packages. After getting them, I was opening the boxes in the almost empty lot to try and fit them in my truck, I have a lot of extra stuff I don’t need taking up space and the battery was much bigger than expected. One of the employees came out, I figured to give me a hard time about making a mess in their parking lot as I had taken a few bins out and the packaging was all over the place. He however thought my rig was very cool and knew about bluetti, the company I got the battery and solar panel from. So, we chatted about it for a little and then he left me to try and fit the over 60-pound battery inside the truck. I was using it to power my 12v fridge, which was in the back seat, so I had to rearrange some things but was able to fit it on the floor and fit everything else back in as well. Next time I won’t bring so much crap. Now I can run my fridge! So, after picking up Littlefoot we went grocery shopping and drove back to Duncannon, the town where she had gotten off trail that night. We ended up sleeping at a noisy truck stop and waking up before the sun for her and the boys to get an early start for another 30-mile day.
8/4 As mentioned above, this morning was an early one. After dropping off Littlefoot and picking up the boys’ extra weight, I went to planet fitness to work out and shower. Lifting weights is the only way for me to put on weight and after leaving the trail I am down 15 pounds that I need to put back on. I then went and did our laundry and found a nice park to read and recharge the batteries. I found a 6-mile loop near where everyone is finishing for the night and went for a hike. I sat in a river that was too low to swim, and walked on a rail trail, which for the first portion was really just a road walk. Kind of lame. Got caught in the rain and ran back to the truck. I had left the screened windows of the cap open and was afraid everything was getting soaked. Luckily it was not the case, and I was able to beat the heavy rain and close the windows. While waiting for the storm to pass I hung some party lights on the truck and finished the second Harry Potter book. *SPOILERS* Voldemort is the heir of slytherin and it was a basilisk in the chamber. Caught up with the slack packers just before 9 and gave Casper and Lard a ride to a hotel. Littlefoot and I drove back to the trail and slept in a quiet parking lot.
8/5 And so the slack packing had come to an end, for now. Littlefoot and I planned on meeting up with Papa Bear, who we had met around the 100-mile mark. He was traveling for work nearby and wanted to catch up and spend the night in the woods. Littlefoot and I hiked together all day for the first time in 2 1/2 (+) weeks. After spending almost every minute of every day together for 2 months it felt like we hadn’t spent much time together the last few weeks. We set off later than we would have liked and hiked 10 miles to meet up with Papa Bear. We said hello, hugged, and chatted for a bit before setting off. We did another 5 miles to a small campsite, and we’re treated to Mountain House meals by Papa Bear. It was the first night back in the tent for what feels like ages and I slept great.
8/6 PaPa Bear and I said bye to Littlefoot in the morning and hiked the 5 miles back to his truck, which still had its catalytic converter this time. He gave me a ride back to my truck and I gave him the tour of the new house. We said our goodbyes and parted ways. Just before leaving the parking lot 3 Thru hikers and their dog asked for a ride to a nearby hotel. Of course, I said jump on in. After dropping them off I set off to meet Littlefoot at a road crossing to pick up her pack and give her a day pack instead. The road ended up being closed. It was a gravel road operated and maintained by the PA Game Commission and had a locked gate at the end. I decided to hike up with an empty pack and still meet her at the crossing. We had lunch that I had got on the way, and I carried the bulk of her gear back to the truck. I then went to a park to charge up the batteries. Two things, one GPS and having access to look up places on my phone is amazing, it helps so much to find road crossings to pick up Littlefoot and CO., to find grocery stores, and places to sleep. Two, if I ever decided to live full time in the truck, which could be fun, I would definitely want fixed solar panels on the roof so that they charge all day without me having to worry if someone will take them. I got an unexpected call from Littlefoot saying she was getting close to the road I was going to pick her up on. She was over an hour earlier than the expected time. I packed up quickly and picked her up. We went to yet another planet fitness for showers and made a salad for dinner, packed with chicken, fresh veggies from a farm stand Littlefoot picked up while walking, strawberries, and much more.
8/7 Zero Day! Littlefoot did the math and even with a zero, she will still be able to make it out of NJ before we leave for Montana if she does 21 miles a day. We started by going on a shopping spree at target, she picked out a few outfits and clothes she liked, but only ended up with one shirt in the end. We then went to a lake and spent the day reading, coloring, chatting, and swimming. We cooked stir fry for dinner and then went to see the movie “Bullet Train”. After a relaxing day we went back to our spot in the parking lot behind the planet fitness for another night’s sleep in a mall parking lot.
8/8 Drove back into Port Clinton where Littlefoot had left off, getting breakfast on the way. We saw Buttercup again, who we had met at standing bear just after the Smokys. He is a character to put it nicely. Littlefoot set off and I went to meet her a few miles ahead. Near the Pinnacle and Pulpit Rocks the AT goes through the area in a backwards C formation. There was a blue blaze connecting the AT back to itself that I was able to take back down to the parking lot. I was able to do roughly 6 miles with Littlefoot over both views. We got peach iced tea from two members of an astronomy club near Pulpit Rocks that had a few buildings housing telescopes. I went for a swim in the reservoir behind a dam on the blue blaze. The no swimming signs were on the other side of the reservoir. That is not my fault. It was refreshing and I regret nothing. The spot we spelt in was far more what I had imagined our camps would look like. It was a small parking lot for 4-5 cars off a gravel road on PA Game Commission property. It was a nice spot, and the night was going great until one of the windows on the truck cap decided it wanted to explode into a million pieces all over the bed. After cleaning the glass off the bed as best we could we went to bed. A little after midnight someone pulled into the lot, shinning their headlights right through the truck windows for a few seconds. It had both Littlefoot and I on edge for a little, wondering what the person was up to. Needless to say we have had better nights.