Summary: Cross 1200 and less than 1000 miles left
Random campsite: 1179.8
Random campsite: 1201.2
Total miles: 21.4
Early in the morning, it started pouring. At around 8:30, luckily, it stopped otherwise we all would have stayed in our tents all day. Still, the rain did it's damage. Our tents were soaked, Dean's and Grant's tents got splash up from the heavy rains. When we walked through Swatara State Park, a few areas were totally flooded, and despite creative hiking, our shoes got pretty soaked.
We were pretty wiped from the rains and the long day yesterday. We took a lot of breaks. At our first snack break, which took an hour, Em and Tyler pulled off a toenail on their respective feet. Hiker bonding at its darkest.
What we had expected from rocksylvania finally appeared as we approached the 501 shelter. Basketball sized rocks with corners that still shifted when you stepped on them covered the ground. The rocks continued after 501 and we had over five miles still to go. Our wet shoes and wet socks had made our feet soft and weak so the rocks tended to tear them to shreds, making every blister worse, and possibly start some new ones. We supposed that at least only these last hundred miles of PA would have the rocks rather than the entire state.
Just to add insult to injury, clouds rolled in and rained on us just long enough to get all the plants near the trail wet, make mud and keep the rocks slick. Also, we were running out of light, so Grant and Tyler ran ahead to get water. From the stream, we had another 2.6 miles to camp and it was 7:30. Dean, after doing over 150 miles in seven days, was feeling beat.
About a half mile from the water, the trail was non-existent. The hard ground and rocks apparently offered nowhere for the water to run so the former trail was entirely underwater. Previous hikers had started cutting trails around the creeks and puddles (even occasional small waterfalls over some of the slightly graded terrains into the woods. Side note, while it is against leave no trace to use non trail trails, it would be generally unsafe to step into some of the puddle ponds and creeks we saw. The water was murky in places, covered up rocks that could normally be avoided, and roots exposed by the trail. In other words, side trails seemed unavoidable.
When Grant and Tyler made it to the planned campsite, there was nothing there. They searched a bit further down the trail, but as it was almost dark and night hiking in this creek maze would be slow at best, dangerous at worst, they decided to head back to a campsite they saw (unflooded) .7 miles back where, without a chance to set up camp and make dinner, they met up with Emily and Dean again. It was a tough day. We finally got camp together at 9:30. And Grant and Dean had to wake up at 3:30 to make it to Port Clinton 16.4 miles away to make it to the post office before it closed on Saturday.
The big win of the day though was Zatarans red beans and rice at the end of the day. That was delicious. Hopefully, we will make it to town tomorrow with enough time in the day to rest our feet.