Come On, Just One More Minute! (Days 82 to 85, Harper’s Ferry to Waynesboro PA)
Start: Harper’s Ferry
Finish: Harper’s Ferry
AT Miles Hiked Today: 0!
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,022.4
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,166.7
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – zero days are the best.
When I woke up, it was absolutely pouring outside. I was glad to be comfy in a bed! I actually slept pretty well, considering there were 10 others in the room with me. Guess the Roller Coaster took more out of me than I thought!
A stay at the Tea Horse Hostle includes a waffle breakfast, so we all made our way out to the common room for waffles and bananas.
My buddy Nard, who hiked with me from Front Royal to Harper’s Ferry, took me to Walmart yesterday before he went back to Richmond. I made sure to pick up enough food there to last me through the day today! I knew the weather was going to be nasty, plus I took it as a personal challenge to remain in bed for as much of the day as possible.
Well, I can confirm that the day was a smashing success. I think I was horizontal for more of the day than I was vertical. So today’s post will be a bit boring. I ate ice cream, Pringles, oranges, bananas, cookies, granola bars, Fritos, Raman, everything. All in so much quantify that I felt a bit sick towards the end of the day. Such a satisfying feeling. Gluttony looks good on me.
I messed around on my phone for most of the day, lying in bed. The Appalachian Trials website isn’t talking right with the Android WordPress app, so my blog posts are all erroring out when I try to upload them. The technical team was looking into it, but I manually redid my blog posts on the mobile browser for the site. Extremely tedious, but you, my adoring blog audience, you are worth it.
Towards the end of the day two bikers came into the hostel, and we struck up a conversation. They were biking along the canal, going from Pittsburgh to DC over the course of several days, in celebration of one man’s 50th birthday. I have immense respect for older people who still manage to lead extremely active lifestyles. It takes dedication and lots of hard work, especially when family life and a job take up so much time.
Before my hike, I allowed my job to become an excuse to ignore my health. It was dumb, and resulted in physical therapy and issues with my hips and knees that I’m still dealing with today. One thing that has become clear on my thru hike is that I want to be like these men when I am 50 and beyond. I never want to lose control of my health like I did over the past three years. It will stay a priority for the rest of my life.
Oh, speaking of health, the hostel had a scale! I weighed myself for the first time since I left Springer mountain in April. 157! I have gained two pounds since starting the trail! I call that a success.
Anyway, Nemo and I were following the results of the Brexit vote all night. Both of us are well versed in investments, he because of actual investing experience throughout his life, I because of my previous employment. It was fun to follow the results as they rolled in and see the currency market movements, and watch foreign equity markets swing back and forth. No way they actually vote to leave, right?
I plan on leaving as early as possible tomorrow. I’m meeting my friend Alli at a road crossing 17 miles or so into my day tomorrow at 4:30pm. So, I’m all packed up and ready to haul ass down the trail.
Start: Harper’s Ferry
Finish: Dahlgren Backpack Campground
AT Miles Hiked Today: 17.9
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,040.3
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,148.8
I woke to find the EU in shambles. Brexit! Equity markets around the world getting crushed, trading temporarily suspended in Japan! European banking stocks down as much as 30% overnight! Ah, I miss the banking world sometimes. Such drama and entertainment.
Fortunately for me, all I have to do these days is walk through the woods in a semi straight line! I rolled out of bed, ate another delicious breakfast of waffles and bananas, then walked about a mile back to where the trail branches off to the ATC.
I was flying for most of the morning. The first three miles out of Harper’s Ferry follow the canal and river, so it was completely flat. The two guys from last night biked past on their way to DC! Lots of hikers and bikers both sharing the flat road.
The trail eventually turned back to the mountains. It was about a 1,000 foot climb, and the terrain was a bit rocky, but not terrible. I was moving fast after resting all day yesterday. I cleared the first 10 miles out of town by noon, and took a nice long break at a park with drinkable water.
The remainder of the day flew by. I was hiking alone and the ground was relatively flat, so before I knew it, I was at the gap where I was meeting Alli.
Alli is a friend from college and is hiking with me through Waynesboro PA, only 25 or so miles from the gap where we met. She is a crazy marathon runner so I had no doubt she could keep up. She wanted to get some backpacking experience, as she’s climbing Kilimanjaro this summer. That’s a truly badass adventure.
I got to the gap two hours before our meeting time, so I chilled and read all the historical facts at the gap. I love running into educational stuff out on the trail. It reminds me of my middle school field trips to historical places.
There were a whole bunch of boy scouts at the gap waiting for resupply. I threw on my crocs, lay down and relaxed for a few hours, until Alli arrived around 5.
Alli and I hiked a quick 0.8 miles to our planned campground, which has a ton of hikers tonight. The campground has drinkable water out of a faucet, full bathrooms, picnic tables and so much room for tenting. Alli called it Glamping, and I think I agree.
We had plenty of company as we killed the hours until hiker midnight, swapping stories with Peter Pan, Big Tuna, Hellbender, Backseat Driver, Morel, Strider, and many others. I think Alli got the full thru hiker experience tonight! Strider ordered pizza for the other hikers, which he went and grabbed from the closest road crossing. There was a weekender there with a guitar, so we listened to music and ate pizza and enjoyed the warm evening until hiker midnight.
By the way, I didn’t need to filter water at all today for the first time since I got on trail. The state park 10 miles in was my only water refill on the day. Maryland is treating us right so far.
We plan on 14 miles tomorrow. There’s more history stuff along the way via blue blazes, and I’m excited to take it slow and enjoy the trail with another friend!
Start: Dahlgren Backpack Campground
Finish: Ensign Cowell Shelter
AT Miles Hiked Today: 14.0
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,054.3
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,134.8
We couldn’t have asked for a better day of hiking today. Warm, sunny and lots of historical stuff to see!
Alli was up before me, surprisingly. We packed up, ate our breakfasts of pop tarts, and started down the trail. After only a few easy miles we arrived at the Washington Monument State Park, home of the original Washington Monument before the nice one went up in DC. We spent time hanging out at the monument and met Uke and PG. Uke is thru hiking and PG is joining her for the last half of the trail.
We meandered our way down the trail, passing historical plaques placed on the trail, taking time to read each one. We started calling things like this “school” – as in, “Oh look, there’s more school ahead! Awesome!” We were in no rush, as the trail was among the flattest and smoothest I’ve seen along the AT. It sometimes went directly through people’s backyards!
Around 11:45 we saw a sign for trail magic, so we hustled ahead and found a huge spread, hosted by a 2011 thru hiker named Full Time! Burgers, hot dogs, soda and chips. It was among the best shows of trail magic I’ve seen yet.
We hung out eating with Morel, Hellbender and Backseat Driver for about 30 minutes, then cruised on. Our next stop was up a slight hill to Annapolis Rock, where we found Uke and PG! We sat down for about 45 minutes and enjoyed the conversation and good views. Honestly, today was just about as laid back as you could ever imagine a 2,189 mile backpacking trip could be. In fact Alli kind of called me out as we were walking, saying she wished she joined for a more difficult section! I laughed, knowing that she could be the fittest person in the world, but the trail would find a way to kick her butt. Maybe tomorrow will humble her up a bit.
On our way down to the campsite, Alli and I passed a bush of what appeared to be blackberries or raspberries. Alli and I were in the middle of a spirited debate when Peter Pan shows up. So of course we ask him, and while he is considering, Cavs shows up. So of course we ask him too, until we are all eating the berries, looking thoughtful, and yelling out one answer or another. The berries were black, but looked more like raspberries! Peter Pan finally takes out his phone and discovers that they are “Black Raspberries”, which apparently exist. Alli laughed, knowing she was right, and Peter Pan later called me out in a shelter log for being wrong. How was I supposed to know raspberries could be black? I thought those were just called blackberries! Unbelievable.
When we got to the shelter, it was full of weekenders and faster thru hikers. So Alli and I found a flat spot, set out my groundsheet, and decided to cowboy camp for the night and do some star gazing.
The night was beautiful, with a low in the upper 60’s, and zero bugs to bother us. We fell asleep staring upward, watching the stars emerge in the night sky among a spectacle of gently glowing fireflies.
Start: Ensign Cowell Shelter
Finish: Bushcamp just beyond PA 16
AT Miles Hiked Today: 12.4
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,066.7
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,122.4
We woke with the sunrise around 6, but were feeling super lazy. We lay together talking and enjoying breakfast until around 8:30, watching all the other hikers leave camp, and periodically just lying back down and staring into the sky. On our way out of camp, Uke and PG serenaded us with their ukulele and mini guitar, to the tune of Fare Thee Well by the Grateful Dead. They substituted lyrics to include “Alli and Slice”. They were legitimately harmonizing vocals! It cemented them as my favorite thru hikers I’ve met on trail. Awesome.
We started out the day coasting, similar to yesterday. We walked through a few fields and enjoyed the cloudless sky. It was looking to be a hot one!
Just like yesterday, we took a bunch of breaks. We explored up and down the river, and Alli rescued a centipede trapped on a rock near the river. She named him Henry and saw that he was carried to safety.
Just as we thought today was going to be as easy as yesterday, the chop started. We climbed about 900 feet and it started to get hot. We took several breaks on the way up. At the end of every break I would look at Alli and say “Ready to roll?” and she would smile at me and say “One more minute!”, earning her the trail name One More Minute. I can’t blame her for wanting to remain seated, because it was getting hot!
We slowly made our way to High Rock Ledges, which is also accessible via a road. So there was plenty of good people watching to be done as selfie-taking tourists rolled in and out of the overlook.
The climb down from the ledges was tough. There’s a reason why they call Pennsylvania “Rock-sylvania” – and I think we got a taste of it on our way down. The heat combined with the tricky footing made for some slow going.
Still, the payoff at the end was worth it, as we rolled into Pen Mar Park, which was PACKED! Live music playing on a stage, an ice cream truck selling concessions, and thru hikers bumming around together in the back of the crowd. I walked over to find Cavs sleeping on a picnic table and Peter Pan walking nearby. Alli and I caught a breather and joked around with the two of them for about 30 minutes or so. Cavs bought a sweet Spiderman shirt at the Walmart in a town nearby, and was trying to figure out how he could cut off the sleeves. Folks, we are not classy people.
The band nearby was playing what can only be described as old people music. Like, with an e-drum kit playing a basic beat and them singing the pop hits from decades past. Hot Hot Hot by Buster Poindexter is the only song I distinctly remember them playing, but it perfectly sums up the music being played. And there were about 50 elderly people out dancing to it! I was impressed by their dance moves.
Shortly thereafter we hit the Pennsylvania border! The Mason Dixon line! Ah, I was so pumped to finally be in the North! We’re hitting milestones left and right now that we’re finally out of Virginia!
We had one more bad climb up and over a viewless summit, then we got to Alli’s car. She drove me into town and we made a beeline for the local Mexican restaurant. We both bonded over our love for chipotle as we were hiking, and we were craving burritos pretty bad. Seriously, a girl who likes chipotle as much as I do? Alli, you may be my dream girl.
I payed her back for shuttling me around town by driving her around Walmart in a cart, at least until I accidentally ran her into a cracker display and she decided that I had lost my ability to drive both vehicles and shopping carts. Still, I successfully resupplied and she dropped me back at the trailhead a few miles away. I would have loved to stay the night in Waynesboro, but she needed to get back for work, and I figured having her drop me at the trail was a lot easier than hitching out in the morning. I ended up bushcamping about a minute in from the gap at a dry, unmarked campsite. I just barely managed to get my site all set up before it got dark and I crashed.
I’ve got a lot of respect for Alli, coming out here and doing this section with me. She had minimal backpacking experience and cobbled together gear from friends, then drove all the way from the DC area. She tolerated ankle-breaking rocks, hot hot hot heat (callback to Buster Poindexter!), and she managed to kick some ass out here and keep up. So Alli, I’m sure you’re reading this from the summit of Kilimanjaro, but way to go – now that Africa has whipped you into shape, come join me in the Whites in New Hampshire!
Its Sunday, June 26th as I write this. Next up is pulling some good mileage to Duncannon to get there by Friday, so I can meet another friend who wants to hike through 4th of July weekend. I’m lucky to have people want to hike out here with me! Hopefully the trail cooperates and I can do some big days to get there in time.
Until next time, happy trails!
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