Day 68 20 Miles
I’m blown away by the generosity on the trail. Close to the Washington Monument I got some trail magic from a former Vietnam Vet who was in a wheelchair. I’ll repeat: he was in a wheelchair. I can’t believe this. He made banana bread, and also brought some pasta salad. He had a couple Sobo thru hikers help him out but just his generosity blew me away. Also he’s been doing this for at least 15 years he stated. I left with a very happy heart and will have to pay it forward in the future after I complete the trail.
I don’t really remember much the rest of the day except the the trail was rocky and pretty flat as my mind started to daydream. I called my girlfriend and it was lovely to hear her voice after several days. Soon enough I made it to Ensign Cowall Shelter and met Tengo Hambre and a couple other section hikers from the local area. Speakup came by later and also a new girl named Bambi. Did some online shopping at the shelter since I had service and bought some new trail running shoes to be shipped to the Doyle Hotel in Duncanon, PA. My current shoes have taken a beating and have holes in many places.
Day 67 11 Miles
Slept in on the comfy BB bed until 9. Ate some delicious cinnamon roll and bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. Left the BB around 10 or so then walked back on the AT where we left off yesterday. If you are history buff you should definitely spend some time to visit Harpers Ferry, you would spend many days here and love it. Everything is recreated back in the original time period when John Brown made his famous raid into town. We grabbed some food with Mechanic at the Potomac Grill where I again grabbed another burger. Probably the best burger I’ve had on the trail so far. Walked across the CO canal bridge and turned the wrong way the first quarter mile and had to backtrack to east of the bridge. I was planning on staying at the first shelter out of town but the water was a mile round trip. Nope not happening. So then I headed to the second and hammocked for the night. Staypuff was there and I met a new guy named Uncle Polly (? on the name) who has been off trail recently because of Giardia. We all shared some Old Bay potato chips that Stay Puff provided then called it a night.
Day 66 12 Miles
Hiked into Harpers Ferry, WV after a quick 12 miles from the Blackburn Center. Called my friend Brian telling him how awesome this place was since he was caretaker here for about 3 years before leaving Blackburn. Stopped by the ATC headquarters once I got into Harpers Ferry and got my official picture taken for the official book. I’m number 1157 Nobo who have signed and gotten their picture taken at HQ. I started as number 1908 at Harpers Ferry, so I’d say I’m doing alright overall with time and speed. After chatting and catching up with a few other people at HQ me and Tom headed over to the Lily Garden BB for the night. Lodging and dinner was provided by an old friend of mine named Dana Hesse who I met when I biked across the country several years ago. He took me, Speakup, and Anonymous out to the Potomac Grill downtown for dinner where we chowed down on juicy burgers and had pleasant conversation. Afterward Dana even drove me out to Charlestown to resupply at the local grocery store. Thank you so much Dana for being there for me and some other thru hikers, it was awfully kind of you to go out of your way on a Monday. I will have to pay it forward in the future.
Day 65 17.8 Miles
Started the morning with a pop tart and smoothie from the colonel and then said my goodbyes to the Boy Scouts and good luck while at Philmont coming up in a couple months. The Rollercoaster began which is a series of ups and downs for a series of 13 miles past Bears Dens Hostel right before Blackburn AT Center. It wasn’t really too bad to say the least and I thought I was back in GA again. Crossed the 1000 mile mark and was super excited! Went to Bears Dens Hostel for a coke and lunch. The site manager was a pretty angry guy yelling at an older lady volunteer for putting plant food on some plants. The way he handled the situation was very unprofessional so I got up and left short thereafter. The rest of the day I was passing many day hikers and then I caught back up with Anonymous who I met a few days ago at Denton Shelter. We talked about life and also how he worked up in the huts in the Whites for a couple seasons before hiking the trail. He was heading to D.C. for a couple days to visit his aunt and and a couple museums. Got down to Blackburn center around 530 or so and met the trail ridge runner for the PATC and then later on the site caretaker Cheryl. She fixed me and Tom some pasta salad and some tea to drink and it was all donation based. Took a solar shower on the grounds below the house and then chilled the rest of the night. Nice place to stay for the night and is definitely a step up from just your typical shelter on the trail.
Day 64 18.4 Miles
Started fairly early this morning after drinking another smoothie my mom provided a couple days ago for breakfast. Said my goodbyes to some people I met the night before and then headed to Dicks Dome Shelter for lunch. Stopped for quite some time for lunch and texted a few people back home to catch up. Sky Meadows State Park was pretty nice with a huge field of meadows and I caught a few weekenders in action. Don’t remember much from Dicks Dome to Rod Hollow Shelter for the night. A group of Boy Scouts were at the shelter, doing a prep hike to plan for their Philmont High Adventure coming up in August. I mentioned that I’m an Eagle Scout and also went to Philmont and gave them some pointers when there. It was a fun night, Dori and Splat caught up and so did Speakup. The Boy Scouts talked incessantly for hours around the campfire and I couldn’t understand really anything because it was so fast. Talked with a southbound section hiker from Maine and he gave me a contact when I get close to the area in getting back to Bangor. Then I talked to a colonel infantry man in the military about war and the current events of wars/conflicts in the world. Overall it was a good night with some good quality of people.
Day 63 18.6 Miles
Drank a delicious smoothie for breakfast and left around the shelter at 830. Speakup said he had to resupply in Front Royal so I told him goodbye and see him come Christmas time. Lol. Terrain wise today was kind of boring so I got the music and the audiobook and tried to listen to a couple more chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring. Currently Strider and the company of hobbits are on there way to Rivendell and trying to stay away from those Black Riders.
Stopped at Tom Floyds Wayside or Shelter don’t know why they can’t change the name to shelter. Got my hopes up there would be burgers and cokes there. Traveled down to the spring and around the corner a big black bear jumped out. I said oh sh@& outloud and the bear ran away. Then I scurried back up to the shelter waterless and was hoping for another side trail to the spring. Luckily there were more north on the AT. Filled up a liter and hit the trail again. The remaining miles were kind of slow.
Skipped the city of Front Royal and went to Jim and Molly Denton. Awesome shelter with a built in porch, horseshoe pits, shower (did not work) and 3 star privy in my book. Met Anyonomous from CA, two older section hikers who were high school English/literature teachers, couple from GA, and a Navy Officer. It was an interesting night and I had a chance to kick back and relax on the bench in front of the shelter. Had some burritos on some tortillas and called it a night fairly early.
Day 62 15 Miles
Got a late start today after resupplying with leftover food my mom provided from home and after Tom took a shower in the campground. Said my final goodbyes to my Mom at Thornton Gap and then took off toward Elkwallow Wayside. Thanks Mom for helping me out the past few days it was a good change in pace from the usual routine. The cold drinks and food were awesome. I can’t thank you enough.
Just before Elkwallow Wayside a dog, don’t know what kind reared up from its owner which was on a leash and bit me on the left arm. Drew blood. The owner apologized over and over and said that he has never done such thing before. I wanted to say a few foul things but I kept my anger to myself and just kept walking. Ouch. Of all the things that want to bite me out here in the woods it is a dog on a leash that has first succeeded. Anyways it’s part of hiking.
Got to Elkwallow and caught up with Mechanic and Stay Puff. Grabbed some lunch that I premade back at the campground. Went inside the store to pick up some tortillas my mom pre purchased before leaving back for KY. Thanks for the nice note on the bag. Speakup caught up and after he downed 2 burgers and a root beer float we made our way 6 more miles to Gravel Springs Shelter for the night. This is the first night I’ve stayed around a shelter since last Friday. I think I’ve forgotten what it feels like. Found a rocky hammock site, cooked my favorite Pad Thai backcountry pantry dinner and called it a night. Hopefully no dogs bite tomorrow.
Day 61 17.2 Miles
After close to a month Tom, Speakup my best friend really out here finally caught back up with me from a hurt back going back to Trail Days during late May. We caught back up at the Big Meadows wayside early in the morning and then proceeded to hike out of the campground north of course toward Luray, VA. As soon as we headed out like 2 minutes or so on trail we caught a momma bear and two tiny black bear cubs heading down the slope. It was an awesome way to start the day. In fact the whole day I saw 6 black bears and Speakup saw one extra. That makes 7 total for me so far in the Shenendoahs.
On the trail today we passed by Skyland Resort and Restaurant where we stopped for lunch, Stony Man (highest point in the Shenandoah), and Mary’s Rock. Good weather with beautiful views. As we were driving back to Big Meadows Campground we passed another black bear in the car where we photo bombed a car that was trying to get a photo of the bear. Haha it was a really funny moment and the lady was definitely not happy in the car. Back at camp we scoured down many hotdogs, ice cream, and cheese and called it a night after discussing our next few days logistics. Oh it was hike naked day today, but I didn’t hike naked for those that were wondering out there. Met a few that were. Happy Summer Solstice. Nice to be back with a good friend on the trail.
Day 60 5 Miles Nero
2 months on the trail today! Decided to take a nero day to just relax. Stayed back at the campground to dry some clothes off from the prior days rainstorm and also caught back up on some sleep. It was much needed after not really taking a zero since after Trail Days in Damascus back in late May. Waited for my mom to arrive again from her day hike and then had her shuttle me back to Bootnes Gap to hike to Big Meadows. It was a really easy 5 miles. Crossed a few road crossings and then a weird out of place cemetery. Mom caught back up with me with a mile left and we hiked back to our campsite into the Campground together. Didn’t get much sleep tonight because some partiers beside our campsite were being loud until 130 in the morning after repeated Shut Ups and Be Quiets. Some people just don’t have any respect for others anymore.
Day 59 18 Miles
Awoke again to slugs attacking my sleeping bag. Drove back to Powell Gap to be dropped off. The terrain was really easy the whole day with a few hills in between that raised just a few hundred feet in elevation. I listened to the Fellowship of the Ring on my phone for the whole day until around lunchtime. It really takes the mind off of the recurring thoughts you have about other things during the day. Got in to Lewis Mtn Campground area and it started to rain pretty hard. The trail turned into a river, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s a hard rain. Waited for my Mom at Bootnes Gap in the rain and then got some early dinner of a foot long hot dog and fries at the Big Meadows Campground. Blue Whale joined us for a bit and then headed down the trail to the next shelter. Got into the Campground and setup my hammock before some rain pelted my tarp. Nothing is going to dry around here right now. Tomorrow is going to be sunny and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.