I think I last wrote from Blacksburg, speaking of which, I did win bingo in case you were wondering. I’ve been putting in bigger miles, and getting in around 9:00 most nights so I haven’t had a ton of time to write. I average about 18 miles a day these days, and did my first 27 mile day on Sunday.
The typical day consists of waking up around 7:30am, leaving camp around 8:30ish, hiking about 5 miles at a time until I get hungry at which point I usually eat a snack. I don’t really do meals anymore. I prefer to snack and I always snack while I’m making food anyway which defeats the purpose of me cooking anything. I’ve got one more package with what I imagine will be some delicious dehydrated food that I’m excited for and then I think I’m going to send my stove home and snack my way to Maine.
After lunch I walk some more, take a break, walk some more, and try to get into a shelter just before dark. Sometimes I sleep in the shelter so I can get out earlier in the morning, sometimes I set up my tent. I still hit town once every few days or so. Lately I’ve been hitting them pretty frequently. Sometimes I get in and get out and every once in a while I get talked into splitting a hotel room or staying at a hostel.
My original group has pretty much dispersed since I left them in Damascus. I think some are going home. Now that we have hit the halfway point I’ve heard of a lot of people going home. They run out of money, get injured, decide they won’t make it to Maine in time, or decide they’re just ready to go home.
I’ve seen 8 bears and 1 rattlesnake. I decided that hiking isn’t really my thing, but that’s okay. I’m cool with the dirt, I love the people, love the wildlife, and have some really great top of the mountain moments, but I’m not a fan of the bugs or the walking. Sometimes my foot pain makes me feel like I’m going to throw up.
I’m working on a reward system now. I make little goals that are my rewards for hiking to keep me going. I love getting into town and getting a shower and real food. I also made some plans to visit family in Pennsylvania and maybe do a couple days in New York City with my friend Amanda if we can work that out, so that’s exciting.
The hiking struggle really makes me appreciate the little things in life. So although I don’t love walking, I’m still really happy out here. I get super excited about parking lots, real bathrooms, road crossings, food, trail magic, cool plants and trees, views, seeing old friends, meeting new friends, flat ground, and walking on pine needles. Walking on pine needles is my favorite. It’s like walking on a springboard.
I have been really lucky as far as health goes. My body has held up really well. I’ve only had a few blisters, and I haven’t gotten sick yet.
I had 2 experiences recently that freaked me out. I was walking one night because I took too many breaks during the day of course, and it started storming. It got dark and I kept going up the mountain walking toward the frightening lightening. I crossed a small road and then saw a pair of eyes staring at me a little ways into the woods. I thought maybe it was a deer, but then I saw a trail magic cooler tipped over about 10 feet in front of me. The eyes reflecting back at me were not the eyes of a deer, but were the eyes of a large bear, and I had interrupted it while it was drinking Dr. Pepper. I blew my whistle at the bear and eventually it moved off the trail so I could pass by, but it only moved about 10 feet and watched me as I walked through the fog and pouring rain in the dark. That was the first experience where I was like ‘I don’t really want to be in this situation right now.’
The second situation wasn’t really dangerous at all and I don’t think anyone else would have been scared by it, but I’m Paranoid Amy and I have watched way too many shows about serial killers so I was freakin’ out. I met this guy while I was hiking one day. We made small talk for about 45 minutes. Where are you from, when did you start, what do you think you’ll do after this, etc. He was walking about 10 feet behind me, so my back was turned to him the whole time. It’s not like our faces were really close together or anything, and he said “I have to ask you this. Do you want to kiss?” I turned around frowning hoping I heard him wrong and said “kiss?” I’m pretty sure I looked disgusted. He said yes and I turned back around, walked away and said “No. There will be none of that.”
This freaked me out for a few reasons. We were making small talk and the fact that he thought that was an appropriate moment to kiss shows that there is something off about his social skills and I certainly don’t want to be alone in the woods with someone like that. He put me in a situation where I had to reject him when there was nobody else around and I didn’t really have anywhere to escape to. AND I watched a news story special the night before on a young guy who felt rejected by girls so he went on a killing spree. I kept walking after he asked that and he stopped. He passed me at a road crossing, apologized as he was walking by and I haven’t seen him since. I think he hiked past the shelter we were supposed to go to making it a 30+ mile day for him and some night hiking just to avoid seeing me again. I think I was overreacting looking back now that I’m still alive, but I was pretty angry that he was so weird and put me in that situation. Oh well! Things could have been much worse.
So anyway, I’m in Harpers Ferry now (the almost halfway point) and that’s really exciting. I finally made it out of Virginia. I actually really liked Virginia and I did not experience the Virginia blues as a lot of people do. Virginia was beautiful, and a lot of it was flat. I’ve yellow blazed (skipped part of the trail by car) about 35 miles since Georgia at this point. It was mostly because I couldn’t get a ride back to the trail where I left. I try to avoid hitch hiking if I can. I felt funny about making it to the halfway point without actually hiking half of the trail so I turned around and did 35 miles South bound in the Shenny’s to see friends and make up the miles that I skipped. It doesn’t really work like that, but I can still live with myself making up the miles that way and call myself a thru hiker. It was really fun and I had to switch things up. The Shenandoah’s were beautiful. I’m still having fun out here and I still love my life! No thoughts of going home.
Things I’ve sent home: first aid kit, sleeping bag, extra shorts, extra socks, down jacket, my stove soon
Things I’ve picked up: $14.99 plush blanket from Walmart to replace sleeping bag, extra iphone plug brick to charge things, my pocket shower (which comes in handy like you wouldn’t believe), my bug net
Things I’ve lost: GoPro pole mount, pack cover (didn’t discover this until a rainy day-that was fun)
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