When a Thru-Hiker Meets a Hurricane

As I was on trail for a consecutive 74 days, it’s been hard coming to terms with getting off trail. I was with Dreamer and Sun Chaser when we got wind of it. Hurricane Florence. Having grown up in Canada, I’ve seen hurricanes only on the news as they hit the United States, then we prepare for the leftover winds and say we experienced it too (but not really). We found out when we got to Duncannon, PA, and I brushed it off–no problem. Severe warnings were aimed at the Carolinas and Virginia, with extensive damage also predicted in West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. I went over and over it in my mind. Could I endure the possible rain and wind or was it worth it to take cover? The competitor in me screamed “yes!” but there was a nagging voice in the back of my mind that disagreed.

The next few days were not so fun; featuring constant rain, wet gear, and a not so happy camper (me). I fell behind and hiked alone as I was really struggling with hiking in those conditions. I couldn’t help but think how Florence may be a tad bit worse than what I was already experiencing. Taking cover was starting to make sense to me due to the threat of flooding, rock falls, mudslides, and tree-crushing capabilities predicted.

We planned to be picked up in Maryland (giving up our plans of the Maryland Challenge), where we would wait out the storm from the safety of Sun Chaser’s contact, but when we found out a bridge had reopened we continued on. It didn’t feel like hurricane weather so we left Pennsylvania and hiked 40 miles in 14 hours (46 miles total that day because, why not?) and straight into Harpers Ferry, WV. It was certainly not easy and I’ll get into that in a later post so stay tuned for me being terrified while night hiking. Upon arrival we were informed that the trail south of Harpers Ferry was closed and everyone was ordered off.

Classic Harpers Ferry photo collection of the three of us

Where am I now? Northern Virginia. I’m blown away–not by the hurricane–but by the willingness of friends, friends of friends, and strangers who reached out, eager to help in any way possible. Angela, a family friend of Sun Chasers, picked us up in Harpers Ferry on Sept. 13–the day of the trail closure.

If I didn’t catch up to Dreamer and Sun Chaser I’d like to think I’d have sought out cover. In reality I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up stuck on trail somewhere thinking I could get through it, regardless of the branches I saw falling around me. Apparently I’m not in Canada anymore.

Since arriving at the house we’ve had the chance to rest up, eat well, tour DC on bikes, get to know a wonderful family, and stay clean for longer than five minutes. I’m extremely grateful for the help they’ve offered in giving us shelter from the storm. They’re such amazing people, and I’m quite excited to write a separate post about the actual experience here. Currently, though, as I’m still working on my patience, a large part inside of me is crushed. From Northern Virginia it seems like there is no storm, and I’m longing to get back to the trail. I came out here to hike, and selfishly speaking, my hike has been disrupted and the connection to the trail severed.

It’s as if all the progress I’ve made on trail: speed, strength, mental toughness, and everything else hasn’t only been postponed, but it’s been lost and I’ll have to relearn everything when the trail reopens. There’s nothing I can do, since believe it or not, we aren’t capable of controlling the weather, and that’s what I’m choosing to focus on to keep from feeling guilty with the extended rest period. I often get antsy with urges to hike, yet my borrowed-cotton clothes make me feel like I don’t want to leave the comfort.

Florence making me desperate for warmth and dry clothes at night.

On Sunday morning we went to church with Angela’s family and I was humbled to be in the presence of such a welcoming community. It’s selfish of me to focus so hard on the destruction of the trail and the miles I’m losing while others up and down the eastern coastline are in actual danger. I’m rooting for everyone’s safety and hope the worst has passed as we continue playing this waiting game. Be careful, everyone!









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