Coco and Magnus — Days 66 through 89 — Rain Skirts, a Bear, and Halfway There
Since our last installment of Coco & Magnus (or as Yankee calls us: “Moco”) we have gone to Trail Days, seen a bear, worn trash bags as clothing, and hiked 298.5 miles. It’s a glamorous life.
We’ve hiked 1,026.3 miles. To put in that in other terms: a marathon plus 1,000.1 miles up and down mountains in just under three months: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and now in Maryland. Magnus and I are celebrating with a motel stay and a six-pack. Also, the past four days of rain and chilly weather was starting to wear on us. And we got our pitcha made at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for reaching the AT’s psychological halfway point.
How I felt at that time at ATC HQ:
Elated: I have worked so hard for this! I gave up jobs I loved. Got all kinds of calluses and body pains. My feet swell when I don’t hike. Good job, me! I am tenacious.
Self-conscious: A bit like a prom photo. I’ll have to look at this pic for all time, am wearing weird stuff, am wondering how my hair looks, and am afraid I’m spending more money than I budgeted.
Depleted: Rain for four days day and night, low on water, hungry, and very aware that we’re not really halfway there.
Last week we were able to spend three glorious days off-trail in Richmond with some dear friends. They were incredibly gracious hosts, especially given our location and general needs. Much food and wine was consumed and many rounds of children’s books were read. Did you know toddlers adore sleeping pads? It’s a dedicated reading spot! It’s a robot skirt! It’s a tiny house for tucking in your bunny!
The downside to our Richmond weekend is we have been separated from our trail family. We knew the day would come and we’re holding strong, but we miss each one of them as well as everyone as a unit. Also, being off the trail for a relatively short time has placed us in a group of different hikers, some new to us and others we haven’t seen in over a month.
I know we all have things to do, so here is a brief synopsis of our journey…
5/12 Tuesday — Day 66
* Goodbye cold weather sleeping bags and clothing! It is now hot and humid.
* Some former thru-hikers brought Trail Magic to a shelter where we were staying and it brought us all much joy. Homemade burritos that were still warm. I will always love you.
5/13 Wednesday — Day 67
*THIS IS IT. We saw a bear. It was in — wait for it — … Bearwallow Gap. Little buddy was so scared we couldn’t help but feel a little bad for him. We heard and saw him scrambling away from us continually looking over his shoulder which only caused him to stumble then get caught in branches. He was terrified, and that allowed me to enjoy the experience of seeing a bear in the wild at close distance.
* Copperheads in a swimming hole. It was a cool morning, so we let them keep it to themselves.
* Butterfly mating swarm. Wildlife Wednesday!
* I also made some note in my journal about Magnus being an amazing husband. I don’t remember specifically what happened, but he’s pretty great and provides a lot of encouragement and support.
5/14 Thursday — Day 68
* We hiked a lot. I remember this being a beautiful day. The end.
5/15 Friday — Day 69
* The day we traveled to Damascus for Trail Days! I’ll be honest with you. Magnus and I were not going to put ourselves out by working very hard to travel south to Trail Days. Lucky for us, Yellow and Treearm had plans to go south past Damascus for a wedding. Their own family would be picking them up on the way from Pennsylvania. That meant — we got to hop in and catch a ride there and back! Thank you so much to Pat and the Powers family for lunch, hours of driving, and delightful company.
* We met Zach Davis, Appalachian Trials’s fearless leader, in person! Nothing short of meeting a trail celebrity in my opinion.
5/16 Saturday — Day 70
* We were in the Hiker Parade which was great. Kind of like if Mad Max (old one — I’m hoping to watch the new one today) and REI made a baby and that baby liked to shout a lot.
* Entered a scavenger hunt and Magnus was a winner! Well done, Magnus.
* Reunited with a lot of people we hadn’t seen in some time.
* Saw AWOL! Another AT celebrity. Without his guidebook, Magnus and I would be lost and thirsty.
5/17 Sunday — Day 71
* Joined the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. If you haven’t already, perhaps you should consider joining, as well.
* Our latest start ever: after 7pm. We were safely returned from Trail Days to the trail. We all drank whiskey and ate wedding cake by the light of headlamps. A good day.
5/18 Monday — Day 72
* Beer with breakfast. It’s too heavy to carry, so we drank it (and also gave one to Apple Cider). Ultra-light!
* Passed the 800 mile mark!
5/19 Tuesday — Day 73
* A surprise cool morning was a welcome change. Every morning, it’s necessary to drop all expectations about weather, terrain, distance and anything else. Though we need to have some kind of plan for practical things like resupplying our food, being open minded regarding everything else has been imperative. We cannot control anything with the exception of our responses. Even that can be difficult at times. I’ve learned that the more I try to control a situation or know all I can about it, the least content I will be. When things are less than pleasant I will think, “This sucks. I am here. This is now.” When things are outstanding and surreal I will think, “This is my amazing life. I am here. This is now.” Surprisingly enough, usually the second set of phrases immediately follow the first. I hope to carry this with me even after the trail.
* Spy Rock. One of my favorite camping spots ever. Be a champ and carry your water in. It’s worth it. Watch the sunset from the top of the rock. Enjoy the sunrise from the comfort of your tent. Enjoy the Lilies of the Valley. I carried some sprigs of the same Lilies of the Valley in my wedding bouquet that my mom carried in hers, so it felt very special to see some wild ones in real life.
5/20 Wednesday — Day 74
* The shelter log at the Priest shelter is a great way to spend some time reading all of the hiker confessions. I did include my own. You can go read it if you like.
* After hiking down the steep and slow Priest, Magnus and I stripped down and reclined in the Tye River. Completely cool, relaxing, and refreshing. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was needed to hike up and down Three Ridges. Four miles up and two miles down. It was beautiful and rocky. This was the first time I experienced exhaustion. Near the summit I became weak. Not regular end-of-the-day tired but actually shaky knees and almost nauseated. I was hydrated but also sweating profusely. I had to stop and eat before I could go on. I’m glad Magnus was there because I wasn’t thinking clearly and probably would have tried to press on without a bit of food and rest. About 15 minutes later, the same thing happened to him. Again, with a little food and rest all was okay. Huzzah for teamwork.
5/21 Thursday — Day 75
* The debut of the trashbag rain skirt on this rainy day. I have never felt finer. Also, I may or may not market a rain skirt with a killer name. It’d be huge. Stay tuned.
* Perhaps it was the trashbag rain skirt talking, but I was feeling full of life and suggested a 21-mile-day into town despite previous declarations that I would “never!” hike another long day into town. I dropped the simple word “pizza” to Magnus and it was on. Crushed it. We hitched a ride with a super nice guy who is getting a hip replacement on 6/5 (likely the day this is posted — so send the man some healing thoughts) and we were on our way into Waynesboro, VA. Let me tell you a little bit about Waynesboro. I have highlighted a total of two things in my guidebook. One is the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters in Harper’s Ferry and the others is Ming’s Garden AYCE Buffet in Waynesboro, VA. Chinese food? Yes, but why stop there? Also sushi, mac and cheese, pudding… over 100 items and a bridge with koi. But I’d have to wait until morning. This pilgrimage to Ming’s would be savored with my trail family as we would part ways for awhile for various reasons…
5/22 Friday — Day 76
* The next day did come, we were all showered, and we made the trek to Ming’s. It was all we hoped for and more. At the end of the meal — all 25 plates between the 7 of us — we took a group photo atop the restaurant bridge. I miss those guys somethin’ fierce.
* We were then whisked away to the magical land of Richmond, VA where we had a glorious time, ate many bread products, had many wonderful conversations, and became a source of entertainment for a toddler. To be fair, she was also entertainment for us.
5/23 Saturday — Day 77
* A proper zero day! We did go to REI where we felt like pros. We also went to Trader Joe’s. At one point “Call Me Maybe” came on the store radio and it was like a siren song to all in the store regardless of age, race, or gender. It may be the Great Unifier.
5/24 Sunday — Day 78
* More relaxing with friends. Magnus gave a lesson in making baguettes. The rest of us enjoyed the fruits of the lesson.
5/25 Monday — Day 79
* A bittersweet end to our weekend vacation. We loved spending time in the Other World wearing borrowed clothes with our friends but were excited to get back on the trail and make more progress toward our goal.
* We entered Shenandoah National Park and hiked a wee 7.6 miles to a shelter where we spent the rest of our afternoon reading, chatting, and drinking boxed wine. Maybe I penned a tipsy postcard to a cousin during this time. She’d have to tell you.
* Despite having almost three full days off from strenuous activity and plenty of food and sleep, our bodies did not feel fully rested. Our joints, tendons, and muscles were a little tighter than when we began our break. Also, the draw of the Other World had sunk its claws deeply and Magnus and I both had to admit a longing for familiarity as well as routine and what is now luxury — indoor plumbing, grocery stores, and the ease of access to just about anything. And reliable Wi-Fi.
5/26 Tuesday — Day 80
* Ehh, so everything hurts. Why not hike nearly 23 miles? We followed along with plenty of notes in the shelter logs from our (former) trail family as well as other hikers we know. It was an odd feeling of being left behind somehow, though it’s really just each hiker travelling at his/her own pace.
* We enjoyed the great comfort of the Shenandoahs known as the wayside and camp store. We were able to pick up sandwiches, chips, hummus, pretzels, and beer… then we went back for ice cream, cookies, and two more beers.
* La la la, hiking is fun, HOLYCRAPTHATTHUNDERISCLOSE. Very quickly the skies opened us and we were in the midst of a thunderstorm. The trail provided. There was a stealth camping spot just to the right of us (aka trail east) and just north of the side trail to the Loft Mountain Wayside (future hikers: take note). We set up camp like a pit crew and were inside and dry-ish in under three minutes.
5/27 Wednesday — Day 81
* Shared a beautiful moment with a deer at a water source. Something not uncommon in the Shenandoahs.
* Shared many frustrating moments with clouds of gnats, flies, spiders, and everything in between. Also not uncommon.
5/28 Thursday — Day 82
* We hiked our longest distance so far and maybe ever. Twenty-four miles. Maybe it was the hour-long wayside stop fueled with another round of Frito and chili bag. Maybe it was seeing a fawn nursing with its mother. Perhaps it was yet another wayside meal complete with blackberry cobbler a la mode and a conversation regarding wayside flavor profiles. No matter how or why it happened, it did and we were pleased.
5/29 Friday — Day 83
* Magnus’s birthday! Once again we took advantage of the prepared foods available within Shenandoah National Park. Honestly good coffee (a rarity on the trail), sandwiches, and some time charging devices. I’ve become adept and shameless washing my clothing in bathroom sinks, so that event also occurred. Thankfully, no one interrupted me during washer-woman time so I didn’t need to test my boldness.
* The rest of Magnus’s birthday was a treat of trail magic from another thru-hiker’s brother and sister-in-law at our campsite.
5/30 Saturday — Day 84
* A surprise 20-mile day due to excellent weather, hearty wayside breakfasts (complete with ice cream), and continual wildlife sightings. I do remember the day starting with Magnus’s declaration of being “bored as ” but we found a way around it.
* We created a delightful little tent city Hooverville at the end of our day with lovely hiking companions less than seven miles from our next town stop — Front Royal.
5/31 Sunday — Day 85
* A nero into Front Royal flew by where we hitched a ride in the back of a pickup surrounded by garbage bags on the way to the dump. True Hiker Trash.
* We saw a movie! It was wonderful. So many explosions. So much popcorn. We also ate a meal together at a real restaurant like a real couple on a normal date. It was rather novel.
6/1 Monday — Day 86
* Our motel’s maintenance guy dropped us off at the trailhead in the morning. Much to our surprise, a few warm beers were waiting for lucky hikers just like us. True to form, we each downed one and hiked on.
* The rain began on this day and didn’t let up for days. At least it provided respite from the incessant gnats and flies.
* It was good to be back on the trail.
6/2 Tuesday — Day 87
* Oh, did you say one-effing-thousand miles? No, that was Magnus and me. We hiked one thousand miles. I am not sure that I know anyone outside of the people I’ve met in the past few months who have accomplished such a feat. I feel proud, tired, sore, and determined.
* So cold and rainy that I found it important to be mentioned in my journal twice.
6/3 Wednesday — Day 88
* It hardly rained and that was exciting .
* We hiked most of a 13.5-mile section known as the Roller Coaster due to it’s quick series of ascents and descents. A final send off from Virginia. Or you could choose to replace”send” with the verb of your choice.
* I daydreamed a day, which I am now finding out is a great skill. I am able to entertain myself by allowing my mind to wander, float around, and move on. This moving meditation and mindless-mindfulness is essential for me.
6/4 Thursday — Day 89
* YES. The day Magnus and I hiked into Harper’s Ferry. The events have already been described above, so I will leave you with that. Happy Harper’s Ferry Day to us.
* We also formally entered West Virginia and Maryland. Quickest state changeover. It would have been even quicker if we hadn’t strolled down historic Potomac and High Streets. The area was so interesting and charming that we hope to visit and spend a lot more time in museums on our drive back from Maine.
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“Call Me Maybe = The Great Unifier.” I scoffed, then corrected myself, because the statement is so right.