AT Day 54 – A Fresh Start
Harper’s Ferry to Weverton ridge
DC Couch Camp to Burritos and Toad Camp
AT miles: 5.2
Total miles: 1039.8
Elevation change: 1161ft gain, 233ft loss
As Thomas Jefferson once said, “all good times in DC must come to an end.” And even if I just made that up, I’m sure that he would have agreed with me. My time marinating and recovering amongst the storied monuments, languishing on a craigslist couch from California, was exactly what my body and mind needed before turning my attention back to the trail. As Karishma and Didj returned to their jobs after giving me their weekend, I knew that it was time to return to mine. My feet were starting to get itchy, my legs fatigued from inactivity. And of course, it was time to give y’all something to read about. This is a hiking blog isn’t it? Although I could change the name to Couch For Days. That has a nice ring to it.
The hiking didn’t come until the evening, though, and the day started back on that couch. I awoke naturally from my best sleep of the entire trail at 7:30am, over an hour later than my circadian rhythm typically allows. There was no rush today, plenty of time to do the things that needed doing, and I think that my mind had finally come to believe that. Until those waking moments, noticing that my brain didn’t instantly start figuring out what it needed to do, I hadn’t realized that the opposite was generally true. Regaining my freedom from the oppression of the omnipresent checklist was a purpose of this visit, even if I hadn’t known it.
Didj fixed me up some hot oatmeal, a DC delicacy, and poured me a glass of OJ. We all ate around the kitchen island without saying much. I think that each of the other two were getting their mental checklists going, but I just enjoyed being in their presence one last time. Karishma and I hugged and said farewell, and she left for work.
Didj and I then settled into a coworking routine. He tapped his keyboard with alarming speed at his standing desk, and I tapped away from the couch, working on some longer term computer projects that had been pushed aside by the higher priorities of trail living. That arrangement carried us through the morning until lunch. We ate some daal leftovers and shared a short call with our buddy, Alamo, all the way in Germany.
After that, it was time for me to get down to business, prepping for trail. I took Didj’s spare bike and backpack to their neighborhood Safeway for a long overdue resupply run. The store was confusing, expansive, and expensive, but I got all the things I needed, and some things that I didn’t. With a satisfying and reassuring load on my back, I remounted the my pedaled steed for the ride home. The weather was gorgeous, as good as can be with blue sky and warm air. Reminded of how good it can feel to be outside, I was hit with a round of fluttering from the butterflies in my gut. I was excited to get back on trail, and that felt good.
Back at the ranch, I disturbed Didj’s concentration (pure speculation on my part) as I consolidated my resupply and started packing all my crinkly plastic gear back into my pack. Satisfied that I was almost ready, I took my pint of Ben & Jerry’s to the front stoop and called my parents for a quick check-in. Of course, as soon as I sat down, a gigantic truck started beeping and whining, but I was not disturbed for long. My ice cream was much more interesting than my annoyance. Then, after a blur of activity, Didj and I were on the road, headed to the trail.
The drawn out goodbye of the long commute was kind, and I was grateful for the time to sit and just talk. As we approached our destination on surprisingly busy backroads, I again looked at the hills with an eye for where the trail visited. Was it this ridge or that ridge? I recognized Stealth sitting on a bench as we crept along the ancient streets of Harper’s Ferry, and wondered who else might have caught up with me during my hiking hiatus.
Didj joined me for the first mile away from the cute AF town, across the Potomac on a pedestrian path attached to a railroad bridge, and along a gravel track, flat as could be. One last hug, one last wave, and I was on my own once more, hiking north. I was in Maryland now too. A new state, kind of cool.
My legs felt strong and ready, my feet felt comfortably disconnected from the ground, held distant by the thick stack of foam of my new shoes. After two miles, the trail left the mighty brown river, seeking a ridge to ride. The sun was just setting behind a haze of clouds when I reached a viewpoint at Wever Cliffs. The river churned, the freight train ka-chunked, and the highway screamed. All were distant though, and I felt a peace that easily overwhelmed the cacophony.
Turning back to the AT, I hiked on for another mile before finding a flat spot easily on the flat ridge and pitching my tent. A large toad rustled the leaves nearby as I untied my shoes and zipped in for the evening. Three frozen burritos provided a quick and delicious dinner. Not as good as the food that my friends had fed me, but gourmet by trail standards. The evening was quiet and my tent smelled a little organic after spending over two days rolled up and damp. The warm air would dry it out though. I wasn’t worried about that. I wasn’t worried about anything really. Life was good. I’d spent a long time away from the trail, but it was so worth it. Fresh food and a fresh start. Fresh shoes and fresh eyes. Fresh clothes and fresh braids. Plenty of freshness, even if my tent wasn’t.
This post was originally published on my blog hikefordays.com. Check it out for trip reports from my other hikes including the CDT and Sierra High Route.
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