Day 235: The Doyle

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.

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Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Day 235: The Doyle

  1. Lisa Milstead

    Holy freakin’ crap! THE DOYLE! You Definitely GOT THIS! girlfriend!

  2. Hope you make it through the night safely at THE DOYLE! You’re dead on with your thought it looked kinda of “Overlookish.” Watch out for the twins! Were they in the book or just the movie? Been to long since I read the book. Anyhow safe travels this week! Looking foward to your upcoming posts! I don’t know about the world, but the trail is your oyster!

    • I lived! I lived through the night! At… THE DOYLE!

      LOL.

      I think the girls were im the book, but I don’t remember if they were twins. Must reread!

  3. jack/snorz

    Keep on truckin’! Great photos! Stay well.your’re doing great.

  4. You are so right about the great food at The Doyle! I enjoyed an awesome cheeseburger with lots of deep fried stuff along side when I passed thru there in 2011. Some friends of mine from Texas happened to be in Pennsylvania visiting their family at the same time I was there and they met me at The Doyle and following lunch they whisked me away to their family’s home in a neighboring town, and then to a motel for the night so I did not sleep at The Doyle. I’ll take your word for what an adventure it was!
    You know, you are going to miss all this soon. You’ll be done and back home soon. ~~Flame

  5. This is one of your BEST blogs. My brother (an AT admirer like me) is visiting from out of town and I read long sections of this post to him. This blog post is so descriptive and well-written. I think you should write a book about your adventure. No joke. Self-publish if you have to, but I think a book based on your blog would be great. I have self-published two books and it is more economical than you think. I’d be happy to give you some tips if you are interested. 🙂

    • If I ever decided to self-publish, you’d be the first person I’d email for advice. 🙂

      Glad you liked THE DOYLE, lol.

  6. Shari wb

    Of course i second that motion for you to publish a book. You write so well!!

    Xoxo. Thanks for taking us along with you. I love reading your posts. They bring me right there with you. I look forward to reading as you settle back into “inside ” life too!!

  7. Mike B

    Write a book but just deliver one chapter at a time. I am going to miss reading your blogs. It’s been a great hike!!!!!

  8. Lisa Milstead

    I too will miss reading your blogs. Have you considered flipping for another thru? J/K

  9. Patricia Wykes

    Karma,

    You keep your head up.  Keep hiking and keep writing.  You’re almost there, you thru hiker, you!

    Some of the best wordsmithing i’ve seen in all your posts are right here:

    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.

    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. Psycho-pat

    ________________________________

  10. What an amazing staircase…I still don’t know how you are doing this, but you remain my heroine – if that’s how you spell it!

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