Thru-hikers refer to the Keystone state as "rocksylvania" because the trail seems paved haphazardly with jagged stones. The payoff for the occasional stubbed toe? Long, rolling views from countless outcropping and balds. Access the trail, northbound, in Wind Gap (1) for an easy start along a gentle climb through oak and box elder, crossing the Blue Mountain Water Company Rd. at 2.1 miles (2). Gain 570 feet as you climb to a wooded ridge and track along it for 4.7 miles. At mile 6.8, you'll reach 1,620-foot Wolf Rock (3), a lichen-covered knob with views over a sea of white pines. On a clear day, you can spot New Jersey's Kittatinny Ridge, whose name means "endless mountains." In .3 mile, you'll reach an old road (4). Turn right and follow it .9 mile.
At mile 7.7, head left back into the woods. Walk .5 mile to Fox Gap (5) at PA 191. The Kirkridge shelter (sleeps six) lies straight ahead at mile nine (6). (Pack a tent? Hike another .5 mile north to camp in an open meadow.) Spend the night listening to thru-hiker anecdotes (they'll be blazing through en force midsummer). The next day, hike .8 mile to Lunch Rocks (7) and another sweeping vista. The trail turns into a gravel road at mile 11.1 and back into singletrack 1.7 miles later, where you'll begin an easy ascent of 1,461-foot Mt. Minsi (8); look and listen for red-bellied woodpeckers (chuf-chuf-chuf's alternating with br-r-r-r-t's). A mile after the summit, the AT crosses the Lookout Rock Trail (9), which leads to, yes, a sweet lookout. Gaze across the Delaware River to see 1,527-foot Mt. Tammany. Continue .1 mile through a rhododendron tunnel to Eureka Creek (10). Slosh across and reach Council Rock (11) at mile 14.4. Descend .7 mile to the Lake Lenape trailhead (12) and your shuttle car.
Shuttle car drop From Allentown, take US 22 19.7 miles to PA 33. Head 25.7 miles to I-80 E, then another four miles to PA 611. Merge onto Broad St., following signs for Delaware Water Gap. Turn left on Main St., then right on Mountain Rd. Leave shuttle car in lot on left.
To trailhead Return to PA 33. Go south five miles to Wind Gap. Exit left, then turn left at the AT marker. Gear up Get last-minute supplies like duct tape, batteries, and fuel at Cramer's Home Center (519 N. Broadway, Wind Gap, PA; 610-863-6064).
Key Skill | Massage Your Own Feet
Relieve aching dogs after one of the AT's rockiest clips with these five soothing techniques.
1) Sweep and rub Rake skin from ankle to toes. Repeat, then gently rub feet to warm them up for deeper massage.
2) Thumb walk Visualize rows of tiny squares on your sole and walk your thumbs across each row, starting at your big toe and ending at the heel.
3) Kneading Make a fist and knead the heavily treaded ball of your foot to relieve tension built up along day one's eight rocky miles.
4) Toe rotation Thread your fingers through your toes and pull up gently on each one. Twist softly. 5) Arch roll Rock your foot over a tennis ball back and forth to bring your arch back to its natural form. No ball? Substitute your water bottle–and finish with a hand sanitizer rub to clean your feet (and hands).
Earning a trail name is a thru-hiker tradition dating back to the mid-1970s. According to Roland Mueser, author of Long Distance Hiking, about 25 percent of hikers name themselves, while the majority are named by others, usually in the first few weeks of their thru-hike. Some famous names are "Trauma," "Wingfoot," "Barebutt," and "The Onion." Discuss: Is it okay to name yourself, or should you wait for others do it? And what would you name yourself or your hiking buddy anyway?
Chief Tammany Stopping at Council Rock (mile 14.9) gives you more than a breather–it'll also put you face to face with Chief Tammany. Look across the Delaware River to the gnarly ridge of 1,650-foot Mt. Tammany. Follow the serrated limestone down from the summit: You'll see a forehead, nose, and chin form. Local legend says that it perfectly resembles the 17th-century leader of the Lenni-Lenape tribe who peacefully negotiated land disputes between the Lenni-Lenape and William Penn. Fittingly, Tammany's name means "easy to talk to."
On the Menu
Bagels with peanut butter
Lunches 1 and 2 Summer Sausage Wraps
Snack 1 Hershey bar
Dinner 1 Cheesesteak Pie
Breakfast 2 Oatmeal and raisins
Snack 2 Pretzels with spicy mustard
Summer Sausage Wraps
So tasty you could sell them
1 6-inch flour tortilla
2 ounces summer sausage
2 packets mayonnaise
2 ounces cheddar cheese
Slice sausage into 1/4-inch-thick discs, then cut into cubes. Slice cheese. Spread mayo on tortillas. Layer sliced or cubed summer sausage and cheese. Roll up, burrito-style, and eat.
A Philly-inspired shepherd's pie
2/3 cup potato flakes
2 ounces beef jerky
2 ounces cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons instant dehydrated milk
1 bell pepper
1 small onion
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups water
Dice pepper, onion. Boil water. Lower to simmer, and add potato flakes, milk, red pepper, jerky, onion, and pepper. Stir. Add cheese. Scoop.
The Grocery List (Aisle # in nearest store below)
[ ] 1 pack tortillas (7)
[ ] 16-oz. summer sausage (meat dept.)
[ ] 6 mayo packets (salad bar)
[ ] 1 pack cheddar cheese (dairy)
[ ] 1 box instant mashed potatoes (8)
[ ] 2 oz. beef jerky (5)
[ ] 1 pepper (produce)
[ ] 1 onion (produce)
[ ] Pinch of red pepper flakes (6)
[ ] Dehydrated milk (6)
[ ] 2 Hershey bars (16)
[ ] 1 bag pretzels (5)
[ ] 1 jar mustard (7)
[ ] 1 jar peanut butter (4)
[ ] 4 bagels (bakery)
[ ] 1 pack raisins (2)
[ ] 4 packets instant oatmeal (1)
NEAREST GROCERY STORE
Giant 837 Male Rd., Wind Gap, PA; (610) 863-8635