1,000 Miles, Washington D.C. & Harpers Ferry: AT Days 61-63
US Route 522 to Rod Hollow Shelter, 23.5 miles
Stumble shuttled me and the other hikers back to US Route 522 at 8:30; later than I’m typically used to starting, but it was nice spending a relaxing morning at the hostel. Texas cooked up an amazing breakfast for all of us staying, providing excellent fuel for the days hike.
The day started off flat, following the side of US Route 522 briefly before a long, gradual ascent up an unnamed hill back into the forest. Most of this section was in thick, overgrown vegetation with lots of low-hanging branches and high grass. The trail briefly opens up into a meadow walk before descending down to Manassas Gap and Tucker’s Lane, 7 miles in for the day.
The AT climbs back up another unnamed hill in long, gradual fashion, again in the thick vegetation of the green tunnel. It definitely wasn’t the most exciting or scenic day of hiking; I still must be spoiled from my time spent in the picturesque forests of Shenandoah. The day was full of what many hikers refer to as PUDs: an acronym for pointless ups-and-downs, which is when the AT climbs up a random, unnamed hill that provide no views at the top. The trail could go around these hills, but instead the AT chooses to go over every single mountain and hill it can find, regardless of its significance to the region or if there’s views or not.
More hiking in the overgrown green tunnel for several miles leads to the entrance of Sky Meadow State Park with flat and open meadow hiking to follow; easily the nicest part of the days hike. A mostly flat descent down to Ashby Gap leads to a brief climb up yet another unnamed hill, and a rocky 3 miles eventually leads to Rod Hollow Shelter, home for the night. Arriving at 5:30, the shelter was surprisingly crowded; a tramily of about 8 hikers occupied the area, but thankfully they were all shelter dwellers so I was able to secure one of the flat tent pads for my tent. I hung out briefly with the friendly group of hikers before getting an early nights sleep.
I was up early and hiking by 6 AM, because I was eager to hike the 9.6 miles to get to Bear’s Den Hostel where my parents would be picking me up to take us to Washington D.C. I was excited to explore our nations capitol, as I had never been before. Oh, and I was excited to meet up with my parents too.
The miles to the hostel wouldn’t come easy, however. I was entering a section of trial dubbed the “rollercoaster”; a 12 mile long section of trail including many steep, rocky ascents and descents with little to no breaks in between these climbs. I charged up the first two climbs at full speed ahead, proving to be the toughest climbs of the roller coaster. These climbs weren’t much different at all than what I’ve been doing for the past 900 miles; but it was the rocks that made it rather tough for me.
5 miles in, I reached a significant milestone: 1,000 miles hiked on the Appalachian Trail. I took the obligatory photo of myself at the painted marker on the tree, soaked in the moment, and continued on down the PUDs of the rollercoaster before eventually arriving at Bear’s Den Hostel just after 10:30.
I discovered that there is a brewery right near the hostel so I headed there to wait for the arrival of my parents. They eventually arrived and we enjoyed a lunch at a nearby restaurant before making the hour drive to D.C. We dropped our bags off in our AirBnB in the neighborhood of Foggy Bottom and headed out to explore the National Mall. Thankfully, we were able to walk around and see all the sights that needed to be seen just before the rain started to heavily fall.
The next day we enjoyed a relaxing morning inside the apartment as it was still raining pretty hard outside, and left for Harpers Ferry at around 11, where we would be spending the night. Although I hadn’t officially hiked into Harpers Ferry yet, my parents wanted to explore the historic town, as did I. For those who don’t know, Harpers Ferry was where John Brown’s Raid took place, way back in 1859. Abolitionist John Brown and his men raided the US Armory in an attempt to initiate a slave revolt in the southern states, thus acting as a prelude to the Civil War that was soon looming.
This was my first zero day since my double zero back in Damascus, and I was happy to give my legs and feet some much needed reprieve from hiking. We walked around the tiny, historic town before enjoying dinner right by our hotel. I was thrilled my parents were able to come down and celebrate 1,000 miles with me. The next day I’ll be dropped back off at Bear’s Den Hostel and officially hike though the Virginia/West Virginia boarder before arriving back at Harpers Ferry. My parents will head back home to New York, and I’ll see them again once I make it to the New Jersey/New York area, only less that 400 trail miles away.
Finishing Virginia is a huge milestone in itself; I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in Virginia, but 550+ miles is a long time to be spent in one state. I’m stoked to cross the Mason-Dixon Line into Pennsylvania and make my way through the mid-Atlantic region, and eventually making it back to my home state of NY. There’s so much of the trail left to experience and I’m thrilled for everything the Northern half of the trail has to offer.
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