Back to Harper’s Ferry

Not many thru hikers will get the opportunity to return to the starting point of their hike again. About a year ago, I started my hike north from Harper’s Ferry. Now, I’ve made it back the long way from Georgia and am jumping up to hike Maine. Here I’ll be sharing our hike from Waynesboro, VA to Harper’s Ferry, WV.

Shenandoah Hiking

Oh Deer!

Our first night in Shenandoah, we had two visitors at our campsite, deer! They didn’t seem to notice the tent. A benefit of having Zpacks duplex is the small section of mesh going completely around the tent above the bathtub floor. We were able to watch a female deer walk around about 30 minutes after we got into our tent for the night. Around midnight, I woke up to hear walking around our tent. Without having to look out, we heard a male deer rubbing his antlers against the trees around our tent. It kept me up for a bit, but I’d rather have deer than bears visit us in the night!

Finally Seeing a Wild Turkey!

During our hike, I’ve missed so many wild turkeys. Ian kept hiking ahead and seeing them before me. This one we saw started walking down the trail to avoid us, so we followed her for a while.

Ice Cream Blazing

Out of the 6 days we spent in Shenandoah National Park, 4 of those days I got ice cream. Nothing motivates me to hike more than food, especially ice cream! We stopped by Loft Mountain Camp Store for ice cream sandwiches before continuing on to Pinefield Hut. The next day we stopped at Lewis Mountain Campground right before the store closed for ice cream. Following, we stopped at Big Meadow Wayside for a blackberry milkshake. Last day in Shenandoah, we got ice cream at Elkwallow Wayside despite it being before 11am.

Staying at a campground

We had a good turn of events which resulted in us spending a night at Lewis Mountain Campground. We weren’t going to stop at the campground, but the water was shut off at the picnic area 5 miles earlier. Out of water, we had to stop by the campground. The campground hosts informed us that a boy scout troop was staying at the next hut, so it would be loud and crowded. We asked about other options for camping and were told there was a site at the campground available for thru hikers. We went to the camp store for ice cream and talked to hikers sitting there. A woman bought her memorial day weekend site an extra day early and told the staff to let thru hikers use it. We got a bundle of firewood from the camp store and had a relaxing evening chatting around the fire.

The Second Best Sunset in Virginia

Nothing could top the 24 mile day we hiked to see sunset at McAfee Knob, but this view was a close second! We ate dinner at The Little Stony Man overlook and got this view. It was beautiful watching the light slowly leave the valley before us.

Shenandoah Review

Overall, we enjoyed hiking through Shenandoah. It was nice to have easy terrain and hit a good pace. The weather was also dry with no days of rain. While pricey, the opportunity to get snacks and soda frequently motivated my hike. While there was lots of boring green tunnel hiking, we also got to see one of the best sunsets.

Unfortunately, the park was pretty dry. We ended up having longer water carries and ended up hiking 5 miles dry. The shelters were awkwardly spaced apart and farther off trail.

Learning From The Pain

While we had good weather through Shenandoah, the night we left it began with a downpour at Tom Floyd Wayside. Started the next day with light rain. It wouldn’t have been as bad if I didn’t slip crossing a stream right after camp and proceeded to spend the entire day hiking with a soaked foot. We made it to Whiskey Hollow shelter. Despite another night of rain we were happy to be at a beautiful PATC shelter that reminded us of Maryland hiking. There was a mouse running around in the loft during the night, but it was better than sleeping in our tent during a thunderstorm!

Just one day of hiking with wet feet caused my foot problems to get worse again. Hiking a day with wet feet made my callouses fall off making the following days more painful as I needed to build them back.

I had a hard time not being grouchy while my feet hurt a lot. We discussed my response to pain and how letting it get to me isn’t helping the situation. I’ve accepted that thru hiking is painful and wet, but let it ruin my experience. I’m stubborn enough to push through a lot but I won’t make it a good experience. There were lots of tears and talking until I reached a realization. I wasn’t taking the best care of my feet prior to the rain. I wasn’t letting them dry from sweat at breaks or overnight. This coupled with rain caused problems. I’ve learned to slow down, process what is happening, and accept what I can or cannot do in the moment to fix the situation. For example, I knew that while the bottom of my feet were sore and I had ankle pain from nearing 150 miles without a break, it was not the type of pain that indicated injury. My options were to take breaks and try to keep my feet as dry as possible. Ultimately, I had to try to ignore it as best I could as we had limited food and tickets already booked for getting from Harper’s Ferry to Gorham.

The Roller Coaster!

Yes, it’s hilly, but the elevation gain isn’t too much at a time. By the time I was getting out of breath, we’d be heading back down. There was also plentiful water in this section of trail. We stopped by Bears Den Hostel in the morning for pancakes midway through the roller coaster. My best advice for this section is don’t worry about carrying lots of water uphill, there’s frequent water. Also just think of it as hiking. Calling it ‘the roller coaster’ makes it sound scarier than it is. It’s just ups and downs, the same thing you’ve done before and a well groomed section of trail.

Back to the Beginning!

We stopped to take a photo with the first blaze we passed of the trail last summer.

It was a crazy experience, knowing we hiked 1900 miles to return to Harper’s Ferry. We enjoyed getting dinner with hikers we’ve been hiking with for a while, but it was hard leaving everyone to go up to New Hampshire.

See Ya in Maine!

We are now returning to hike a small portion of New Hampshire and all of Maine. It will be a huge challenge and quite different from Shenandoah. It’s exciting, knowing we’ll see our favorite portion of the trail again, The Whites, and only have 300 miles to go! 

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