Six weeks to Harpers Ferry

Today 36

I woke up at 6:00 to weather a rainstorm in the late afternoon. I started the track just before 6:30, and the morning looked like any other quiet morning on the road. I heard thunder after half an hour of hiking, and I speeded up my pace a bit. Then it started raining. I began to descend on the humpback rocks when the rain and thunder began to build up. After the rocks had completely descended, I went back to take a look at the top of the hills. That’s when I saw lightning hitting something on the hills. Flash, Bang. I started walking faster. As I continued down the road, I saw an older lady walking in the opposite direction to me towards the hills. I told her what I had just seen and that I would probably wait before I went up. Seconds after saying that, we watched lightning strike the hills again. We were right under the storm. I immediately started running down the road (while shouting some swear words). Rain drenched, lightning and thunder continued. After an hour of brisk walking, they both waned, and I was left with a path too muddy to deal with.

At 10:00 I hit the road, and I’ve done 12 miles in about 3.5 hours. On the way, I met another hiker who was looking forward to the hiking-friendly town of Waynesboro. A shuttle driver from Stanimals Hostel saw us on the side of the road trying to get around, and kindly offered to drive us into town. I ordered a quick stop at Blue Ridge Bucha brewery as I was supposed to pick up some leftover bottles at the front door. To my disappointment, there were no bottles at the front door. It was closed on Sunday, so I called the day before and asked where I can buy kombucha there. The worker on the line said they would leave me some bottles at the front door. So this was a huge disappointment when I didn’t see them there.

The Stanimals Inn was fully booked so I was only able to wash my clothes and take a shower. Tried the church hostel, but they were closed because it was a Sunday. I then decided to try the camp site in Waynesboro but after a quick evaluation I didn’t feel comfortable sleeping there. There are only two toilets for 30 parks in a field near a Mexican restaurant. I’ve almost exhausted all options, so I decided to spend some money and try the Quality Inn. Fully booked. There should have been more than 100 parks in the city on this day. Completely damaged, I made the decision to put Uber back on the road and enter Shenandoah into camp. I walked a little at night but got to the shelter.

Miles: ~20

Calf Mountain Shelter

Today 37

I got up around 5:30 and left the camp around 6:00. I wasn’t really sure how long I was going to be up today. I just wanted to get to the Waysides in the park that sell ice cream and soft drinks. Shenandoah is known for their blackberry milkshakes, so that was a major incentive for a walk in the park.

Got to the roadside but unfortunately they don’t sell milkshakes in this location. I was told that the next route in 20+ miles would be theirs. I settled on a pre-made sandwich and some chocolate milk.

I had already walked close to 17 miles at this point and it was 1:00. I just had to travel another 13 miles and hit another 30 miles a day. But Virginia heated up in the afternoon. We’re not that high anymore (compared to walking 4,000 and 5,000 feet in NC), so I was baking a little faster. The heat got really bad and bugs swept over me. I suppose they were trying to get rid of my sweat. It was utter torture. I decided to salvage on a 30-mile day, even though I was 2 miles away from it. I arrived at Simmons Gap and called a local inn to pick me up. A beautiful farm called Little Ax Farms became my home all night long. I had a home cooked dinner on the balcony overlooking the grazing cattle. The sun faded and soon the fireflies took in the meadow below. I washed down dinner with some ice cream.

Miles: 28

small ax farmer

Today 38

There was a thunderstorm, so I didn’t leave the farm until 12:00. Until then I was playing checkers and chess with the owners’ young son. Few of me did not want to go back there, but I knew I was close to the capital, and I would be able to get out of there.

I was stopped and rode for 10 miles. That’s when I looked at my schedule and realized I’d be going early to Harpers Ferry. Knowing this, I called the hostel again and asked if they could pick me up again. They are of course obligatory. However, this time I asked to be moved in Elkton where I was showering and washing clothes in the clothing store. I also wanted a burger.

Elkton is a new AT town, and I hope it becomes more popular because it has a brewery, a bunch of restaurants, a re-supply grocery store, and a clothing store. I suppose my next writing assignment will be around this city.

When I was taken out of town and back to the hostel, I passed out on the sofa.

Today 39

They dropped me off on the road at 7:00. I really needed to push today because there was a storm sometime in the evening and I wanted to avoid that. I paid well done. But I actually fell, and I felt some discomfort in my ankle. So I called another local hostel. I feel bad about the platinum burning, but I feel like in the miles I do, I’ve earned these stays in bed. The owner picked me up at Open Arms Hostel (I waited 2 hours for my walk up the mountain). She and I watched Stranger Things in the living room before I decided to call it a night.

Miles: 35

Open Arms Inn

Today 40

The track started at 7:00 with the intention of leaving the park. I had a few big climbs during the day, but it was something I hadn’t seen before. However, it got hot again, and I’m starting to feel it. I was probably walking less than 2.5 mph and sweating profusely. The bugs were circling around me again trying to get a lick of my sweat. They are trying to get in your eyes which is very annoying. How I longed for the electric fly bat.

I cried when I got to Compton Peak, the last NOBO summit in Shenandoah. This was my first real scream on this trip. I really couldn’t believe I had gone nearly 1,000 miles and was about to be rewarded by seeing friends in the capital. I wanted to do it for today. Fortunately, getting off was easy. But in typical AT fashion, it went from a 90-degree heat to a hailstorm and rain. The last two miles were through puddles and overflowing precipitation. I decided to stay again. At this point, I don’t care if I stay in a lot of hostels. This is part of the experience. It was a B&B run by a former park in 2012. It was an old mansion built in the 1780s. After I showered, they drove me to the historic Front Royal so I could have dinner. He criticized the cheeseburger as a day on the town. The house was great, and I wouldn’t mind going back again after a hike.

Miles: 28

Mountain Home . Bed and Breakfast

Today 41

What was great about this next extension is that I did exactly that section a year ago. It was my first backpacking and backpacking trip, and I did this 55-mile section of Harpers Ferry in three days. Now I’ve been trying it in two days.

After a great blueberry pancake breakfast, I hit the road. It was nostalgic to go down this all-too-familiar route. Flashbacks of myself a year ago popped into my mind as I walked. I realized how slow I was hiking, or rather the fact that I didn’t have a trail.

This section is fairly easy until one gets to the Roller Coaster section. That’s about 14 miles of continuous ups and downs. No views, hardly any ridge to walk, and few breaks at the base of the hills. My plan was to start Roller Coaster late in the evening to avoid the midday heat. I would do half of it and then stop at Bears Den Hostel (a 1930s mansion converted into a hostel. Maintained by ATC). Tomorrow morning I get up and do the rest in the morning temperatures.

The climb wasn’t as bad as I remember it. My strategy for doing this in the evening paid off. I arrived at Bears Den at 9:00 (too late!), but took a shower, a sink, a whole pizza, ice cream, soda, and two decks for $35. Fantastic deal! I ate calories and went to bed.

Miles: 34

Beers Dunn Inn

Today 42

I was 20 miles from Harpers Ferry, so I knew I was making it today. I got up early and finished the roller coaster at about 10:00. Now it was a gentle descent to Harpers Ferry. I texted my friends Kylie and Karan from my backpacking club and they said they’d drive to meet me for lunch. When I got to town, I went to the ATC headquarters and had my picture taken. They printed the picture and put me in the yearbook. As I was browsing through HQ, I got a tap on my shoulder and was surprised (or not surprised because I knew she was coming) to see Kylie. We went to the Cannonball Deli and had a treat for lunch. We discussed my plan for this next half of the track and it’s basically doing the same thing I’ve been doing lately. I obviously slow down where I need to slow down, but I plan on maintaining 25-35 miles a day when I can. They left around 4:00, and a member of the Twelve Tribes community picked me up. Yes, I stayed with them that night. I don’t really want to talk about the details of my stay with them because they are their own religious practices, and frankly, so much has been said about them that one can read about them for oneself and come to their own conclusion. All I can say is that I enjoyed my stay, the food was delicious, they were all incredibly nice to me, and yes, I drank the mate.

Miles: ~20

Twelve Tribes / Stonebrook Farm

Today 43

I took my first day zero. After twelve tribes brought me to Harpers Ferry, my friends Abby and Emily arrived to take me back to the capital. We enjoyed lunch at Rabbit Hole, and for the next couple of hours were stuck listening to all my stories about the track because I know none of them read my blog (or did they? I suppose I figured out if I got a text that explains). When we returned to the capital, Emily and I went to the chocolate shop where I reconnected with my old colleagues. Emily had to sit through another hour of me telling stories about the road. Then I had to get new boots because I put 1000 miles on my Altra Lone Peaks and finally needed a new pair. I headed to REI and reconnected with co-workers there. They were all surprised to see me because many thought I’d get to Harpers Ferry after July 4th (boy was wrong). Grab a new pair of Lone Peaks and avoid them. To end the day, I went out to dinner with four friends at The Diner in Adams Morgan to retell the stories again and follow what happened. Emily let me sleep on her couch. I offered her an air mattress, but I insisted that the sofa was significantly better. I’ve slept well.

Miles: 0

DC sofa / Emily’s

I’m very proud of what I’ve done so far. 6 weeks left from Amicalola to Harpers Ferry. I am proud of myself. It’s weird to think that this has come 1,000 miles so far, but here we are. It has been lonely at times, and I am really glad to be outside of Virginia, but I will say there was no better medicine than seeing my friends who came to Harpers Ferry and those I saw in DC. I didn’t think hiking alone would actually hit me, but it does. The trail was empty in Virginia, and when I got to the shelters late, everyone was already asleep. It’s what I chose, so I have to live with it, but I can’t help but feel it a bit. Here are another 1000+ miles of healthy and happy hiking.

These saw over 1,000 miles

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