Day 0: Four Trains to Harpers Ferry
Everyone keeps asking me if I’m super jazzed about my hike, but to be honest, I haven’t had much space to think about it. I am exhausted from all of the pre-hike preparation, including packing, moving, wrapping up at work, and organizing all the gear I’m leaving behind so that my aunt can ship me stuff as needed when seasons change.
I did my best but didn’t get everything labeled and inventoried. I think I captured the essentials, though. I didn’t sleep great because I was afraid of missing my train. After some last minute deliberation over which anti-chafing product to bring with me, I set off on a 1.7-mile walk to the train stop in Bay Head, where my journey began.
I nearly missed my stop at Penn Station in Newark because I was so sleepy and out of it. But I managed to rudely shove some people out of the way to heave myself onto the platform before making this inconvenient mistake.
Upon arriving in Newark, I decided to take care of a last minute errand, mailing my AirPods and Apple Watch to my dad. There was a post office nearby and I quickly walked there to offload these items. By then it was lunch time, and in the food desert that is Newark Penn Station I found a decent meal of mini pretzel dogs from Auntie Anne’s.
Soon enough, I was on my third train, the Amtrak Northeast Regional to DC. I spent the train ride writing my second pre-hike blog and sharing my first post with friends and family. I am now moving through life without my own laptop and I am already amazed at how difficult I find it to do things solely on my phone.
As I queued to board the Capitol Limited to Harpers Ferry, I saw passengers with giant packs full of camping gear. Hikers!!! I started feeling less alien with my giant pack and trekking poles. Throughout the journey, I overheard a conversation some hikers were having about hiking the AT in Georgia. They were using all of the keywords from my research, like Neels Gap, Jarrard Gap, and Blood Mountain. These are places I don’t expect to reach until the very end of my trek in October or November. I was feeling slightly more energized but also still fatigued and glad to not be actively participating in the discussion.
Once I arrived in HF, I set off to find my hostel. I had imagined towns near the trail being flat for some reason. Wishful thinking? Anyway, it was a climb up some stone steps and a somewhat steep road to reach my hostel.
The hostel owner greeted me when I arrived and oriented me to the space. I asked where I could find dinner and she graciously offered to share a meal she had cooked. It was tofu and vegetables with rice, which was very welcome nutrition after my pretzel dog lunch. We had a pleasant conversation as we ate. I learned about how she made her way to Harpers Ferry and what it has been like to operate a hostel in town. As our meal was winding down, she informed me that only one other hiker, a man in his 50s or 60s, had booked a bed in the bunk room. She asked if I was comfortable with that, and assured me I could stay in another room if I wanted. I told her it was ok, I was fine with the current arrangement, but I appreciated her offer. I felt very cared for, and like the trail community I had read about online was the real deal. I made my way up to the room, where I started getting ready for bed. My roommate came up soon after and we exchanged cursory introductions, but I quickly fell asleep, the exhaustion of the past day and days and weeks catching up with me. I was out before 8 pm.
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