Days 74-80 on The Appalachian Trail

Virginia took awhile. So many beautiful places and people through that stretch with memories I will carry with me always. The expanse of the views, the Virginia Triple Crown and Roller Coaster, and the wonderful Shenandoahs are all individually wonderful, and collectively mesmerizing. Apparently I couldn’t leave the state without seeing a few extra miles.

How to hike the Virginia Roller Coaster in 22 miles

My secret is being tired and not reorienting. Starting out at Bear’s Den Hostel two people talked to me about thru hiking and asked to take a picture with me. After saying farewell I headed down the trail. All white blazes look the same. I try not to look at my watch for the first couple if hours of the daily hike. Similarly I don’t look at the GPS app for the same time. That has now changed. I had walked three miles down and up some strenuous ground and noticed a familiar rock arrangement.

Checking the GPS I realized my mistake and reversed course. Add six to sixteen. This delayed my departure from VA. Trail Boss, the caretaker of that section, had a pained look on his face as I told him of my day. Coincidentally he was my shuttle driver that afternoon. Oh the shame.

Shoe Failures 

Completely my fault. I wore my TOPO Mountain 3s for 500 miles, or to be more correct, 100+ miles too long.

My pace had been slowing since the Shenandoahs and I was holding out as the Hokas I purchased in Franklin NC were waiting in Harpers Ferry. After picking them up I hiked about 14 unhappy miles as my feet have gotten wider in the past 900 miles. Into Fairfax, VA to purchase the only pair of trail runners REI had in my size. A pair of  Salomon shoes that are going to work great for short hikes back home. So, into Waynesboro, PA to James Shoes. 

It’s great when the person selling you your shoes is also a foot doctor. A pair of TOPO Ultraventures took me across the 1,100 mile mark. Small shop and you need to call first for hours.

Days 74-77 From Front Royal to Harpers Ferry 

Walking North out Front Royal provided a change of terrain and a view of the longest chain link fence I’ve seen in a long while. A refreshing walk to Ashby Gap and an intense moment of playing Frogger across the four lane. 
A new day and looking forward to reaching the 1,000 mile mark. On to the Virginia Roller Coaster. My feet had been aching for a couple of days and I knew that when I reached the Bear Den Hostel I would need to retrieve the shoes in my resupply box. The ups and downs were worth it when I rounded a curve and there sat the sign post.

I video called my wife and Mom to share the moment. Looking back on the previous miles and now this milestone made all the tribulations turn to happiness. I lingered for a bit and went onto The Bears Den Hostel. This impressive stone structure is a must see and admire. I was shuttled into town by Marie who, along with her husband, has thru hiked the AT. She’s on the available shuttle driver lists. A wonderful lady! 

Feeling rested and with my resupply, including shoes, collected and laced on, I was picked up by Marie with the goal being the VA/WV border. The walk was unpleasant as the shoes were too tight. Therein lies the happy accident. I needed an out and found the Blackburn Trail Center on the Blue Blaze at mile 1013.

A great facility and Chris the caretaker is a font of information and has previously worked in the White Mountains. This place is a must see! Shout out to Chris’s “Nahamsha” shirt. Taylor “The Nahamsha Hiker” is my favorite YouTube personality.

Trailboss picked me up and I found my way into Fairfax, VA for new shoes  and inserts. 

New day and new shoes. Trailboss drove me back to Blackburn for yet another attempt to escape Virginia. The mist in the air added a special feeling to the hike into Harpers Ferry.

A fairly level and uneventful hike with the exception of one of my water bottles sacrificing itself to lighten my load as I ran across a busy road. Onward and forward.

I signed in at the AT Conservancy as NOBO #26. I’m tag #7 out of Springer Mountain.

Days 78-80 Harpers Ferry past Pen-Mar to Mile 1,100

A meal at the Rabbit Hole and a night’s rest and I would be into Maryland. I broke up the 4 State challenge into three 2 State challenges which are VA/WV, WV/MD, and MD/PA. I think this will be less stressful on my body.

The walk across the bridge over the river and into Maryland. A quiet and introspective few mile thinking on the past months and knowing more than ever that I can make it to Maine. It was about 20 miles to Washington Monument and the architecture is inspiring. The terrain getting there fairly even and a bit plain, but the destination worth spending time walking around. I slept near there.


Another 20 mile day and I knew I could get into Pennsylvania. I had obtained my new TOPOs and was feeling just grand. It was a cool day and the walking easy. Long gradual up, long gradual down. About that last mountain before the state line being a complete rock walk, not so much fun. The terrain opened up into a big park that the trail skirted. A walk around the park and over the railroad tracks , and another goal met.

I was figuring on about a 14 mile day as I had some administrative tasks to take care of I wanted to be within striking distance of the halfway point on the trail. Having met Twenty Twenty, or 20/20 the day before I was pleased to have another NOBO to chat with. I need to read his blog on this site. He is a driven hiker with a quick pace. Sadly I probably won’t have the opportunity to see him again.  Up and across Swamp Road to mile 1080.

A big day! Another 20 miler and halfway. I was enjoying the walk and saw a couple of section hikers along the way and the three flip-floppers who started out of Harpers Ferry. It is nice to see that spark in the eyes of others. I patiently kept glancing at the map program until it showed 1,100. A quick screenshot and a selfie at the nearest white blaze and off again. I can do this! There have been moments of doubt, but I can do this! Onward a little more to find the old halfway marker and a joyful day!


Final Thoughts 

Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is.

Maxim Gorky



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Comments 8

  • Smiles : Apr 24th

    Congrats on getting halfway Boomerang!

    (And for boomeranging on the roller coaster)

    • Charles Gutierrez : May 1st

      Thanks so much! About that Rollercoaster thing, I could fib and say it built character, or tell the truth and say I’m still wanting those 6 miles back.

  • Bernard Carey : Apr 24th

    As a once upon a tie section hiker who touched on every state for the AT, I’ve been following Charles since Jan 7th. What a strong, positive person. I’ve been rooting for him the entire time. His blogs are a pleasure to read. GO Charles!!!

    • Charles Gutierrez : May 1st

      Thank you Bernard! It seems that every day brings something new and I keep telling myself I need to hike 16 miles a day for 60 days and this dream will have been fulfilled. Part of me knows that another journey will find me so that I can keep dreaming.

  • Julia : Apr 27th

    After falling in my ‘real life,’ I have a new back and one new knee since I started following your blog. What a joy to follow along. You can do this. I am absolutely sure you can. Thanks for the positivity! Thanks for the journey!

    • Charles Gutierrez : May 1st

      Thanks Julia! As you can tell, each step is a conscious move forward. I feel that mountain getting closer and the years I’ve waited slipping into the mist. Maine is calling me and am starting to get anxious to be there. Soon!
      I pray your healing is going well and you can do the things you love.

  • Beth : Apr 28th

    Hi there Boomerang!! I met you in MD! You took a pic with me, it was truly the highlight of my weekend. Your journey is inspiring to me, keep on keeping on! Beth 🙂

  • anna : May 21st

    You are doing it! You convey such joy, such a generous open heart! I love reading your posts. They always leave me smiling!


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