Dream called from the Ramada Inn in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. He and RickRock have hiked 1270 miles. With only 900 to go, they planned a "zero day," no miles, in order to visit with RickRock's parents, Mary Anne and Dick McNelis, who had driven from Pittsburgh.
By this point on the trail, bruised heels, turned ankles, stubbed toes, and tender soles are common. So is the sentiment of northbound thru-hikers: Thank God we survived the rocks in Pennsylvania!
RickRock's dad, Dick McNelis, wrote to say that he and his wife, Mary Anne, checked their luggage at the Ramada then set out to intercept Dream and RickRock as they came off the trail. Instead, they found two other hikers, Draco and Knee High, who reported that Dream and RickRock were ahead of them on the trail and might well be on their way to the post office by then. At the post office, Dick and Mary Anne discovered that our hikers had already retrieved their parcels and were headed for the hostel in the basement of the Presbyterian church. At the church, Dick and Mary Anne were told that our duo had already left for the hotel. When it comes to the AT, the foot is always quicker than the eye.
Eventually, Dream and RickRock did rendezvous with Rick's parents. Like the other hikers who had just survived the worst of Pennsylvania's terrain, their feet were sore. Unlike many other hikers, Dream's feet remain blister free.
Both hikers expressed concern about their fellow hiker Mike. Formerly known as "Just Mike," similar to "Only Tony," Just Mike is now known as simply "Mike." He had hiked into town with Dream and RickRock in order to find a doctor. He'd been running a fever of 103 degrees; his muscles ached; he felt miserable.
Most trips to town require a visit to the post office and the laundromat. This trip was no different. Other common tasks include refilling fuel bottles for camp stoves, replacing tent poles and collapsible plastic water carriers, and shopping for groceries. The other common activity is to eat. Back at Pine Furnace, near the half-way point on the AT, Dream and RickRock accepted the traditional ice-cream challenge of eating a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting. Both men triumphed. Dream even added a double scoop of his favorite flavor, butter pecan, because, as he put it, "the half gallon was only vanilla." Now in Delaware Water Gap, they wanted even more ice cream.
This summer, the main concern among hikers is the dwindling water supply. While driving to meet their son, Dick and Mary Anne noticed the lush foliage so typical in most of Pennsylvania's rolling hills. But once they descended into the Delaware Water Gap, they noticed that the ferns and rhododendron had wilted and turned brown. In town, they heard hikers worry aloud about the rumors of dried up water supplies and broken pumps up ahead. Though water is heavy, two pounds for every quart, no hiker can afford to be without it.
Another hazard of the trail is Lyme Disease, carried by deer ticks, named for Lyme, Connecticut where it was discovered.
During their last breakfast together, Mike joined everyone at the table. The doctor had diagnosed his ailment as Lyme Disease and prescribed antibiotics. The disease would force him off the trail for several days of much-needed rest. His experience proved cautionary. Dream and RickRock each agreed to see a doctor at the first sign of a bulls-eye rash.
Eventually, RickRock's parents took them back to the trailhead. Before driving away, they stopped to give away dozens of cookies to hikers with the names such as Hedgehog, Arab, and Papa Squat. RickRock's dad is now retired, but not that long ago he wrote and edited manuals regarding the operation of components of nuclear submarines. I wonder if he ever thought he'd be a Trail Angel.