Checkpoints and Celebrations
Firestarter and I packed out a special just-out-of-town feast, a celebration for the celebrations to come: drumsticks, corn, and beer. We grilled it all up at the Molly Denton Shelter and played a few games of chess.
Day 75 I trudged through steady rain for 18.4 miles and the next day crossed a threshold:
The rest of the day traversed “The Rollercoaster,” a stretch of steep and frequent hills leading up to Harper’s Ferry. That night I stayed at the wonderful Blackburn Center, currently under the care of the Trail Boss responsible for the creation and maintenance of large stretches of the AT. They fed and lodged me and gave me a talk about joining the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) after my hike, which I plan to do. Trail Boss talked a lot about Myron Avery, his personal hero and one of the legends who made the Appalachian Trail a reality.
The next day was another for celebration; I had arrived at the unofficial halfway of the AT: Harper’s Ferry. This marked the end of Virginia and the site of the ATC’s headquarters where most thru-hikers check in for the history books. I was the 248th NoBo hiker this year. I then bought lunch at an overpriced brewery and hiked through this historic town (massively crowded for Memorial day weekend) to a place called Harper’s Ferry Hostel. I almost never pay for lodging, but I figured it was a special occasion. In the end it was a great deal with how much food this place gave me for both dinner, breakfast, and out of their hiker box as I left. I got an old MRE (the packaged meals the US gives out to its soldiers and for foreign relief). It was fun to tear through all the excessive packaging to discover my dinner inside.
Vanguard, a middle-aged hiker with a sharp sense of humor, stayed at the hostel too. We were actually the only thru-hikers there amongst a large group of cyclists, which Vanguard thought a bit strange compared to all the hiker-centric hostels thus far. Not in the South anymore!
We passed through West Virginia and Maryland in only a couple days. Day 79 I visited the Washington Monument and caught up to Firestarter again before hiking to Raven Rock shelter.
Arriving at the shelter I set down my pack to find another hiker with a chess board already on the table. I met Wayfarer, a retired hiker with a wavy white beard. Wayfarer isn’t just hiking the AT, but 3,300 miles of the Eastern Continental Trail from Florida up into Canada. We played a close game and I’m happy to say I won.
But the surprises that night weren’t yet done. After dark who walks into camp but Airborne! If you remember, way back in the first couple weeks, Kyle and I met this guy at a shelter on a rainy day. Back then he was carrying an 80lb pack and hiking at 1mph (I hike 2.5-3.5mph). Apparently he’d been ahead of me the entire time, around 200th to pass through Harper’s Ferry, and no one saw him because he hiked mostly at night and stealth camped. He’d just taken a few days off and changed out to his 50lb Summer pack. Firestarter and I could harldy believe it, but there he was. I’m not sure he even remembered me.
The next day I passed Airborne early in the morning and hiked 15.4 miles into Pennsylvania, the third longest section of the trail.
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