Days 35 through 39 on the Appalachian Trail
I spent the night at a hostel in Damascus, VA and got to sleep in. It was my second zero day since the start of my journey and I was so excited to relax and eat lots of food. I went to a diner for breakfast where I stuffed myself with pancakes, eggs, and coffee. I then went to the post office to pick up a package my mom sent me; a new portable charger and notebook! Dollar general was my only resupply option so I stocked up on ramen and tuna packets. It was sunny and warm out so Firebow and I sat outside and talked for a while. It’s so fun connecting with other people my age on trail. We went to dinner where I got a huge burrito and I went to bed full and happy.
I woke up to the sound of Bug packing up. I didn’t want to get out of the comfortable bed but I knew we had to get some miles in. The trail walks through town so we stopped at a coffee shop on our way out. At the coffee shop, we met a woman named Renee who would soon become our trail angel. She told us that she lived on a road 16 miles away by trail and that if we wanted, we could spend the night at her place. In the moment I ignored the offer, hesitant to make the day more complicated. A mile into the day, I realized this had been a mistake. Bug and I decided to try to find her place that evening, even though we didn’t really remember the directions she had given us to find her. The day was sunny and I enjoyed being back out on trail with clean clothes.
We arrived at her road at 7 pm. The sun was setting and we knew we would have to find her soon if we wanted to arrive before dark. Bug and I walked down a road for a mile, unsure of where she lived. We decided to turn around and try a different road. We were about to give up when we noticed a light on in a cabin so we knocked on the door. A woman named Karen came out. We asked her if she knew a woman named Renee. She said yes! She gave us directions to her house and with some excitement, we turned back around to finally find Rennee.
We soon arrived at her shack and teepee, grateful that we had not given up. She welcomed us inside and made us hot chocolate. It was so fascinating listening to her tell us about her goals. She wants to live completely off the grid and she had already almost completed this aspiration. She uses solar panels for her electricity, has an electric bike, and uses only rainwater. I felt so inspired hearing her stories and how she just learned to use power tools last year. I fell asleep on her couch happy and full of joy.
I woke up to the sound of a rooster crowing. Renee made me and Bug eggs with sausage which was delicious. She drove us back to the trail and we said goodbye. It was my first day hiking in shorts and I was pumped. With Renee’s inspirational story in my mind, I started the day with excitement. I took a lunch break at the top of a climb in a beautiful meadow. The sun zapped a lot of energy out of me but I continued on. I got to a nice creek and took a quick power nap. I plugged a podcast into my earbuds and pushed on.
Ponies soon appeared in front of me. I had been looking forward to seeing the wild ponies since I started my journey and I couldn’t believe I was already at them! Bug and I decided to cowboy camp with the ponies after a nice 13-mile day. Landfill and Morning Dove opted to stay in their tent out of fear of the ponies eating their gear. The stars were stunning and I had trouble falling asleep because I didn’t want to close my eyes and miss any shooting stars.
I woke up groggily to my 5:30 am alarm. Bug and I had planned to hike 25 miles in order to catch up to a group ahead of us. I started hiking just as the sun was coming up and quickly hit 500 miles! I was so stoked to have reached such a big milestone. The terrain was rocky which slowed me down and I was excited to stop for my lunch break about 10 miles into my day. Soon after lunch, I realized there was no way I was going to make the 25 miles. I sat down on the side of the trail and began to cry, disappointed in myself. I knew that I could hike big miles but it was just not my day.
A southbound hiker walked up on me crying. I was so embarrassed but he stopped and talked to me for twenty minutes. He made me feel so much better. As I hiked on, I reflected on the trail magic I had just received. Having a stranger comfort me in such a hard moment felt truly special. I stopped at a shelter 16 miles into my day, happy with my decision.
I woke up excited for the new day. I was glad to get the day before in my rearview mirror and start fresh. Night hiking before the sun comes up is one of my favorite ways to start the day so I decided to get up early. I stopped at a shelter for lunch where I was careful to sit in the shade instead of the sun. The shelter we were going to next was so close to a road that we could order pizza to it. With that in mind, I hiked as fast as I could. One mile before the shelter, I caught up to Bug, who suggested that we go straight into town and skip the pizza. I agreed to the plan.
When we arrived at the road after a 19-mile hike, we easily got a hitch. Unfortunately, the driver dropped us off three miles from our hotel. Luckily, there was a tuxedo rental shop near where he dropped us off. We asked some high school boys shopping for prom to drive us the rest of the way to our hotel. They agreed and Bug and I made it to our final destination: a travel inn motel. I did laundry, showered, and ate a huge dinner at a Mexican restaurant.
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