It didn’t take long to start meeting more thru-hikers in PA, first up was Trailwalker, a high schooler who’d worked something out to hike the trail for school credit. (there’s a hustle if I ever saw one) We hung out with a father-daughter section hiker pair for a couple days leading up to the real halfway point and the associated half gallon of Ice cream waiting for each of us at Pine Grove Furnace. Half a gallon is maybe too much ice cream, but that didn’t stop me from having 3 burgers after ice cream and explaining my sword our section hiker friends, who had missed it up till then. I like carrying it loosely disguised as an umbrella, like magic that escapes the notice of anyone not watching for it.
Sputnik caught us the day after, a goofy gap year kid who was quite the cosmonaut in his neoprene cap, he’d done some work for the huts in the whites too. Soon after we ran into Sweet Blood, a british girl under constant torment of mosquitoes, I had met her briefly with Nemo before getting picked up by Rescue near Harper’s Ferry. Cruise Control and Sunshine caught us aoon after Sweet Blood, Cruise had landed some quick work as a bartender at a wedding we had seen being set up when we had passed through Pine Grove Furnace. I recall hearing that he scored that gig purely on merit that he was from Louisiana. Sunshine was ironically named, he was hella dour and looked like Micheal Cera, I killed some big wolf spiders in a shelter with my sword for him. Though his crocs were more fitted to the task I couldn’t pass up adding “killed large spiders with sword” to my lifetime list of accomplishments.
As I was nearing the end of NJ, I was caught by a thru-hiker of some note, Mammoth. He is even moreso a kindred spirit even among thru-hikers, but much farther in his journey than I. Having walked across the US twice, and the PCT continuously, and aiming to hit all 49 of the continental US states without breaking his footpath. He is far faster than me, but I did manage to stay with him for a couple days, learning what I could and swapping stories. I had heard about him in passing very early on in my hike, from Smokes I think. His departing from the shelter at noon, intent on making 30 miles before 8pm, put me in a long list of hikers recently behind him.
Meeting Mammoth solidified my long term trip plan to its current state, walk continuously coast to coast and complete the triple crown without breaking the footpath. Accepting a little bit of non-linearity, particularly when it facilitates something cool, like aqua-blazing and then returning to the beginning of the Shenandoah, or more recently catching a ride out to the Mackinac bridge crossing from the Adirondacks. These are the only exceptions I can think of sofar.