This was an insane hiking/camping trip on the Appalachian Trail. It was me and my brother Brian, and our friends Chris, Jason and Josh. We started around 9pm Thursday near Palmerton, PA (right at the intersection of 873, 145, and 248, at a place called "Weiders Crossing") and finished in Delaware Water Gap, PA at noon Sunday. That's 36 miles in ~2.5 days. It was easily the most physically challenging thing I've done to date, not because of the length, but because of the rocks.
The start of the trail is a 1000-foot climb over one mile, so it's pretty steep. My pack was 48 pounds. But we were blessed in that it didn't rain except for a little drizzle, and it wasn't windy (yet). So we hiked up the mountain, covered a total of one mile, and camped. What's interesting about this night is we camped on the open face of the mountain. The view was spectacular, but the openness meant crazy wind. There were only about 30 or 40 little trees where we camped, and they were all bent over a little. It was so windy that most of us couldn't sleep from the noise. Brian didn't have tent stakes, so he had to set up 2 big tarps between trees and camp in the V formed by them, or else he'd have blown away during the night, for sure. I would estimate that the wind was gusting 40~50 miles per hour. It was just nuts.
Friday was still really windy, but it calmed down as the day progressed. You could tell that it was always really windy there, because the area looked like a complete wasteland. For a couple miles there was nothing but lots of short dead trees, and rocks.
The reason the hike was so difficult was that 90% the trail was complete rocks. Not little driveway-stone type rocks, but rocks big enough that you have to carefully place every step. Since we did 14 miles each on Friday and Saturday, we grew to hate these rocks. When you're just walking on ground, you step, and your leg muscles get to rest for part of each step. But walking on rocks, your muscles must be constantly tensed because you have to balance your body (and pack) weight differently depending on the rocks your foot lands on. The bottom line is that walking 14 miles like that is exhausting.
I had a great time on this trip, but I would definitely not hike this particular stretch of trail ever again. I mean... well, it would take a lot of money, at least. Pennsylvania has the second rockiest Appalachian Trail terrain, next to Maine. As Brian put it, if you were hiking the whole AT from Maine to Georgia, you would surely take a car around Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, I left my camera behind to save 2 pounds, which I immediately regretted. But Brian took a bunch of photos with his camera (not sure of the make/model), and here they are.