Duncannon, Pennsylvania [mile 2061.6; SOBO 1043.4]
OH MY GOD. I was originally going to do a Dungeon versus Doyle cagematch post, but the Doyle is huge! Monolithic! It needs a post all its own.
Let me get the daily minutia out of the way first. And then I can get to THE DOYLE. It should always be spoken of thusly, in giant capital letters. THE DOYLE. The infamous, infamous Doyle.
So I woke up and it was surprisingly unwindy. Still a little windy, but the forecast yesterday made it sound like Oz was coming. Of course, by the time these forecasts apply I’m usually in the next ZIP code, so they’re always a moving target.
Sleeping for twelve hours a night certainly helps. I don’t have anything else to do in my tent now that I’ve finished my book and it’s dark at 5:00 PM. Luckily I’ve never been one to balk at twelve puny hours of sleep.
I woke up this morning before 5:00 even without the alarm, and I packed up and hit the trail well before dawn. I didn’t check, but I’m guessing it was 6ish. Aaannnddd… I walked. The walking this morning was as rocky and cliffy as anything I’ve seen lately. It was a ridgewalk; the trail kept cresting the spine of the mountain and crossing down one side then the other—and on both sides was the Susquehanna.
Man. I’ve had the privilege of walking across some mighty rivers, but the Susquehanna is the king of them. It’s the Moosilauke of rivers—old and vast and majestic. At one point early I reached a cliff and looked out; the sun was rising scarlet over the mountains off to the left, and there, about a billion miles away, was the Filmore Tidings bridge on 95. (That’s the name of that bridge, right?) It was a shivery moment. Next time you’re driving down 95 toward Baltimore, glance to your right and look up at the mountains; the ghost of me, today, will be there looking back at you. I blew you a kiss.
After the rocky bits, the trail started a fairly steep descent. Switchbacks, slippery leaves, scree underneath… it was slow going. I passed a group of trail maintainers heading upward, and I thanked them profusely for their hard work. What they’re doing is a gift to all of us.
Then… Duncannon! Pennsylvania’s own trail town!
First there was a long walk through a typical working class suburban neighborhood. But this town is run down. A lot of the trail towns are mostly for sale, but Duncannon’s for sale, boarded up, and overgrown; there’s trash blowing in the streets. Some of the buildings are fire-wracked hulks that nobody bothered to rebuild. Porches falling down, houses gone lopsided from flooded foundations—this place is like a zombie town.
And then there’s the Doyle.
The Doyle is an old hotel that rents rooms to hikers for the princely sum of $25 a night—about what you’d pay for a room in a hostel. You hear about the infamous Doyle as soon as you start researching the trail, and the name reverberates up and down the trail like some kind of horrified drumbeat. It’s supposed to be the worst place on the trail to stay (not counting the Dungeon at Lake of the Clouds, which actually IS the worst place to stay). Legendarily bad. As in disgusting. Except with good food, go figure, and incredible friendliness toward hikers.
So of course I had to stay here. How can you not have that experience? LOL.
There’s also a little restaurant on the first floor and a taproom, if you’re into that sort of thing. Let me tell you—I’ve slept in some massively disgusting shelters on this trip, and none of them had a restaurant downstairs. A restaurant which, I might add, made the best cheeseburger I’ve eaten in 2050 miles, and I’ve eaten a LOT of cheeseburgers.
The Doyle. This is a magnificent building. It was built in 1905, just a few years before the Titanic. The architecture and woodwork are amazing. Think about it: cars were new, the streets were wide, for wagons… there was even a fountain out front for horses to drink from. This place has seen swing and jazz and big band. It’s seen two world wars, a depression, and the 60s. And it feels like the Overlook. I swear, walking up that central staircase I could hear big band music and bar fights. It feels haunted. It remembers.
And it should have been condemned about fifty years ago; hence the reputation.
The place is falling apart. Exposed beams, rotten plaster, repair after repair after repair stacked on top of one another, all of them as insufficient as a finger to plug a hole in a dam. Mold and rust and rot and ruin.
It smells of hundred-year-old tobacco. There’s an ancient bloodsmear on the shredded rag of a doily on my splintered wreck of a dresser. I won’t put my clothes on the chair because who knows what those unspeakable stains are?
And I might sleep with the light on.
The Doyle! It just makes me cackle! I’m so glad I stayed here. And even gladder that it’s just for one night.
And get this. A few minutes ago, a knock on my door: flipflopper Gumby, whom I’d met in Glencliff! They wondered if I was the one next door.They saw the 2000 at Eagles Nest and were also overjoyed. Gumby got tick-bit a few days ago and had to go to a clinic. He and his wife Cricket now have a car with them and wanted to give me their number in case I need anything. (One of them drives the car ahead in the morning and parks it, then they hike in opposite directions all day.)
The trail pulse keeps on beating.
Twelve more days, give or take.
Note: Because of the juice issue and because I’m back in the wilderness, sort of, with a signal that flicks in and out, I’m back to updating from town. I might stay in Boiling Springs; if not, I probably won’t be able to update until Waynesboro next weekend.