AT 3: The Virginia Blues… I mean Flip Flop!
Tons of photos from Virginia follow this update at the end of the post including a video from Trail Days!
Day 116: Mile 861.9
There we were, walking over the pass where the Blue Ridge Parkway ends and Skyline Drive begins. It was mid day, our bellys full, packs loaded, and the sun shining on our backs. The Shenandoah National Park, something we had looked forward to for months, was mere tenths of a mile away. Over the past few weeks we had tossed around the idea of flipping up to Maine when we reached Harpers Ferry, but nothing was set in stone. As we took those final steps along the roadway to where the AT begins to climb back into the trees it swept over me. Another wave of “get me the hell out of Virginia.”
While ending our thru hike in Harpers Ferry sounded like the best option… finishing it at the southern entrance to Shenandoah National Park had an appealing ring to it that day. Especially, if enjoying fall foliage along the way. That’s when it happened. I threw my pack down and we began looking at bus tickets. A few moments later, as we searched the internet for more information, a nice lady stopped to offer us drinks as we sat alongside the roadway. When she offered us a ride back into Waynesboro it was a done deal… we were going to Maine!
There’s no shame in admitting we like to take our time. Do the math… there are people who finish the entire trail in the same amount of time we have covered 861.9 miles or 39.4% of the trail. That’s okay though, to each their own, this trail is meant to be hiked the way you desire. Some strive to reach Katahdin as fast as they can. Whether they have commitments such as work, a visa, or just want to prove to themselves their own capabilities… they knock out killer miles in short spans of time.
This is not us… we have no deadline or desire to rush this experience. For us it’s not about crushing miles, seeing how fast we can get somewhere, or walking from sun up to sun down. For us it’s about stopping at that view, hanging out with other hikers, camping where we please regardless of how many miles we covered, and most importantly truly enjoying the hike in our own way. Plus, we like zeroing in trail towns. Ever done a quadruple zero? We have!
Regardless of how much time you spend on trail during your thru hike… 100 days, 180 days, or even 365 days… the important thing is that you truly enjoy the experience, but as we all know life holds times we’d rather do without and on the AT this is called the Virginia Blues.
The Virginia Blues
Eyes open. It’s morning. Morning once again. Already, the sun has risen and I feel the heat of the day on my chest as the rays begin to creep in. Must escape tent. We need to get moving before it gets too hot, but I’m still tired… still achy from the previous day. Oh well, I’ll rest better tonight. Packing up isn’t so bad. At this point it’s almost a daily ritual. We pack up, eat breakfast, hike, break, hike, break, hike, set up camp, eat dinner, and lie in the tent until we pass out. It’s a simple life, but something’s not right. I seem to stare at the same scenery everyday. The same green foliage, the same beaten trail and rocks, as well as seemingly identical views. That’s okay though… it’ll change soon enough… won’t it?
I mean… there’s no way I’m going to keep waking up every morning just to climb upward for 5 miles onto yet another view-less mountain… there’s no way that yet again it’s going to be so humid that I feel like the air is suffocating me… there’s just no way it’s going to be so hot that I feel as if all the energy has been drained from my body… there’s absolutely no way that today… this day… that minutes will feel like hours as we hike… right? Surely it won’t be like that today!?! Today’s going to be a good day!
Yet, once again it’s all the same… each passing day in Virginia seems to drag on and never change. Don’t get me wrong. I love the trail, I love camping, and I love hiking… but something has to change. So here we are. Sitting at Arbys in Waynesboro. Tomorrow we will be on a bus to Maine. Sure we have completed 396.6 of the approximate 554 miles in Virginia. Sure we could keep walking, exit Virginia, and be in Harpers Ferry within two weeks… but I don’t want to walk through the Shenandoahs dreading every minute of it. So we will flip flop up to Maine and finish our hike at the southern entrance to Shenandoah National Park sometime this fall… hopefully during the fall foliage.
This hike is something to be truly enjoyed. Keep it real and be honest with yourself. The ATC defines a thru-hike as hiking the entire trail in 12 months or less. It’s that simple. Hike past every white blaze… in any direction… in any order… within 12 months. Why not do it in a way that makes you happy.
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