Catching Up: The Journey So Far
A Note From The Author
Hey there readers! Sorry I haven’t caught you up on my latest On The Trail adventures in quite a long time. The day by day recaps have been a bit too cumbersome to keep up with out in the backcountry so I wanted to update you on Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey so far, segmenting into highlights as opposed to a timeline. This will most likely be how I post updates from now on, so I apologize to anyone who was enjoying following my previous trail breakdown. As always, thanks for reading!
I also quickly wanted to post a disclaimer for all of my future blogs. Tenderfoot and I are ambassadors for and/or have been given discounts on gear by the following companies: Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Feathered Friends, Vargo Outdoors, Marmot, La Sportiva, and Thermarest. Although we try to remain unbiased towards any one gear brand or another, we are incredibly thankful to these companies for supporting our journey.
My heart is filled with joy by the people we’ve met on the Appalachian Trail and its surrounding towns, as well as by our friends and family that are cheering us on from home. We’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the most spectacular and unique individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. It’s so hard to even sum up the sense of belonging, the feeling of being a part of a trail family, the care you have for one another after only a few short months of having met. After Trail Days, Tenderfoot and I were separated from the bubble that we had been traveling with since the first month of our trip. Friends like Ron Jon, Walnut, Ginger Snap, Oso, Mambo, and many others gained a week on us during our time off. But it was good to see a handful of familiar faces that joined us at Trail Days as well, including Spielburg, Spidey, Snap, Jelly Ankles, Cheetah, and Buckeye – many of which we hadn’t seen in weeks. We also met a lot of new people at the event as well, including Hyperlite Ambassadors Porter and Bloody Mary, YouTube trail sensation Red Beard, winter southbounding legend Jabba (aka The Real Hiking Viking), and Appalachian Trials’ very own Good Badger.
Upon returning from Trail Days, we found ourselves in a bubble with unfamiliar faces, a feeling comparable to being the new kid at school. And although we missed the bubble that we had left, our new bubble has just as many wonderful and inspiring people as the last. We find ourselves laughing a lot, hiking hard, and finding that delicate balance between laziness and over ambition. In our new bubble we were also reunited with our great friends Scuba, A$$ Captain, and Bubbles, who all took similar lengths of time off from the trail when we did. Having travelled with Scuba since the Roan Highlands in Tennessee, and with the Mayo Boys since Fontana Dam, North Carolina, it was a sight for sore eyes when we found ourselves together again in Duncannon, Pennsylvania.
Along with Trail Family, we’ve had a lot of fantastic experiences with actual family as well. Following Trail Days, I was reunited with my parents who joined us in the Shenandoah National Park. It was so good to see them for the first time since saying goodbye on the bus in Maine two and a half months earlier. Everyone on the trail, especially Tenderfoot and I, were so impressed by their perseverance through the rain and how fast they crushed 80 FREAKIN MILES! Thanks for all the cheeseburgers at waysides and the endless support guys. I also want to shout out to my relatives from Pennsylvania – Courtney, her husband Brad, Heather, and Debbie. We had an absolute blast in Boonsboro, Maryland with this group, and I cannot thank them all enough for their encouragement. Seriously, I have the best family. Tenderfoot and I miss all the Jackson’s and Perkins’ back home too, and we love you all!
Finally, I want to give a shout out to all the Trail Angels we’ve met along the way. There is nothing quite as pure as a complete stranger giving you a lift into town, feeding you, or giving you a cold soda on a hot day simply because they believe in you and what you’re doing. It has lifted our spirits more times than I can count, and is so inexplicably appreciated.
It’s hard to believe we’re eight states down now. We’ve seen so much in the past month, and hit so many milestones that it’s hard to know where to even start.
In order to keep ourselves on schedule for Trail Days and meeting my parents in Waynesboro, we ended up having a few extra days on our hands around mid May. That meant the opportunity to take a little extra time enjoying the different towns and hostels along the trail. Catching up where I left off coming out of Damascus, here are a few highlights from lodging:
- Zero in Pearisburg, VA after our longest day so far on the trail of 25.5 miles. We stayed at the Plaza Motel and got some great Mexican food at La Barranca with Ron Jon, Scuba, The Rock, Nutella, and Casey Jones. I’m pretty sure other than getting food, doing a quick resupply, and dropping our dirty clothes off (the owner of the Plaza Motel will actually do your laundry for you – bonus) I didn’t get out of bed all day. The day off was much needed after pushing big miles out of Damascus.
- The Captain’s is a private establishment a day or two outside of Pearisburg that will allow you to camp in the yard free of charge. The owner keeps to himself, but it’s a great place for wifi, sodas, and a place to charge your electronics. The most notable aspect of The Captain’s was the zipline that takes you across the river from the trail to the edge of the yard.
- The Four Pines is a donation hostel in Catawba, VA that we zeroed at after hiking over The Dragon’s Tooth. Joe the owner opens up his three bay garage filled with sofas, cots, tables, a bathroom with shower, fridge, and stove to hikers throughout the season while maintaining his farm. We drank a lot of beer, played so much corn hole, and ate like kings thanks to Joe’s wife Donna who cooked us a feast. Their farm hand Eddie also took us to resupply and slack packed us the 27 miles into Troutville over McAfee Knob.
- Glassgow was a charming, albeit odd, town just after the James River Bridge. Complete with a great resupply, all you can eat spaghetti at Scotto’s, a pavilion with power, a hot shower, and an 18 foot dinosaur. We also had no problem getting a hitch in an out with a local on his way to and from work.
- We took an emergency stop in Buena Vista with Ginger Snap and Mr. Wizard because of rain and my first cold on the trail. Wet and sick, we ducked beneath a perfectly overhanging boulder on our way into Hogback Gap and called a shuttle to take us all to the motel in town. Still sick the next day, and still with unfavorable weather, we decided to take one final zero before leaving for Trail Days.
- It was really cool getting the chance to revisit Damascus, but see it much busier than the last time we had stopped through. The town really does go all out for Trail Days, and the festivities are an incredibly communal experience. We really enjoyed spending a week immersed in everything AT.
- While in the Shenandoa’s with my parents we stayed at the Big Meadows Lodge just off Skyline Drive. This was probably one of our least favorable lodging experiences on the trail so far. Far too expensive for the amenities and food, and not at all attuned to hikers.
- Getting out of the Shenandoa’s we got a chance to stay at the Terrapin Station Hostel. The owner Mike slack packed us the last 25 miles out of the park, and shuttled us into town for a resupply. He was also nice enough to let my parents keep their car at the hostel until they finished their section, which was very appreciated.
- The Dahlgren Backpacker Campground was another hiker haven, with a hot shower only 0.2 miles from the road to Boonesboro. However the proximity to the road also makes it a convenient place for non-backpacking folks as well (“Muggles” as we’ve come to call them).
- The Allenberry is a hotel in Boiling Springs, PA that had its hay day about ten years ago, and is now in the process of being sold. Because of that, the playhouse and many of the amenities have ceased to be offered, but it is still an incredibly charming and historical property. Great for the one night we stayed, and a perfect place for hikers to rest.
- The Doyle was another vortex that we were sucked into in Duncannon, PA. Finally reunited with Scuba, and on his birthday no less, we decided to stay the night and spend the evening at the bar downstairs. Another historical yet somewhat rundown building, The Doyle provided a roof over our heads and a great place to hang out with our hiker family. The Doyle rules!
These past few states have certainly given us cause for celebration. We broke 1,000 miles just before crossing into West Virginia, we stopped by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters in Harper’s Ferry (aka the psychological halfway point), we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line officially re-entering the north again, we hit the official 2016 halfway point at mile 1,094.5, completed the Half Gallon Challenge, and we passed our 100th day on trail. It’s been pretty remarkable actually getting to all of these milestones after picturing them for so long.
The AT has given me the opportunity to see some of the coolest treasures the east coast has to offer. I’ve seen ponies and rainbows in The Grayson Highlands, I’ve camped with Dragon’s Tooth towering over me, I’ve watched the clouds clear over McAfee Knob, and I’ve seen seasons change in front of my eyes. It’s been pretty cool.
Just a few other random updates:
- Still not sick of honey buns.
- We switched shelter systems! Although it was hard to say goodbye to the Echo II, we decided it didn’t quite have the two person space we were looking for. We now call the Ultamid 2 our home every evening, or as we fondly nicknamed it, The Hyperlite Hotel. It’s been bomber in the rain, and has more than enough room.
- I finally got new shoes for the first time in over 1,000 miles. My Oboz Pika lows were the best shoes I’ve ever had, but they were in pretty rough shape after Rocksylvania. I ordered the exact same pair because I love them so much.
- I adopted a trail totem. Grapes the rubber duck was acquired at a motel in Daleville, and has been a constant reminder to be silly.
- I saw my first bear! And my first rattlesnake!
- There was an incessant amount of rain in May. We got 20 straight days of it. Some days it was fun to walk in the rain, and some days it totally sucked. Either way, it always made me thankful for the sunshine.
- We sent home our Ghost Whisperer jackets when we got our Helios down vests in the mail. They’ve been the perfect layer on a cool summer evening, and doubles as the perfect backcountry pillow. I’m excited to put it to the test in the White Mountains.
- Tenderfoot and I did our first official night hike coming into New York. The moon was almost full, and we made our way Prospect Rock to cowboy camp. The sunrise over Greenwood Lake was unforgettable.
That’s all for now! I’ll be catching you up on my travels soon, but if you want to follow me day by day, check out my Instagram!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.