Days 79 through 84 on the Appalachian Trail
I tossed and turned all night even though I was in a comfy town bed. In the morning, I was annoyed that I had slept badly but was happy to be with my mom so I brushed it off quickly. We drove Bug, Lady Bird, and Lindsey back to the trail and then went to Walmart so I could resupply. It was so fun having my mom around to share all of these small trail experiences and show her what my trail life was like. We went to a CVS where I was finally able to get my first COVID vaccine and then hung out in the car for a while and talked.
We finally drove back to the trail, and I cried as I said bye to my mom. Having been reminded what it was like to be in my comfort zone while around my mom, it was so hard to go back to the trail which is more outside of my comfort zone. I started hiking with tears still in my eyes and plugged in book seven of Harry Potter in order to distract myself.
The terrain was extremely flat and easy, which I was grateful for. The miles went by fast and the wildflowers reminded me of how much I love the trail. I arrived at a shelter at 7 p.m. where Lindsey, Lady Bird, and Shaun had already set up camp. As I made dinner with them, the sadness of leaving my mom slipped away as I was reminded of how much I love all of the amazing people I’ve met. My tent was a welcoming place after my bad night’s sleep, and I decided to not set an alarm for the next morning in order to truly let my body rest.
When I woke up to the birds chirping, I was so grateful that I had let myself sleep in. I felt refreshed and packed up my tent, ready to get the day going. Once again, the wildflowers were gorgeous as I walked through fields of high grass. I took a break at a viewpoint and ate some food, including a Fruit Roll-Up which my mom had given me the day before. As I enter the green tunnel, I find myself appreciating these viewpoints more and more since there are so few of them.
I soon arrived in Duncannon, where I met up with everyone at a restaurant. Since I had already eaten lunch while I was hiking, I just sat and talked with everyone. The AC felt amazing, and I was so glad to be out of the hot sun. We walked over to an ice cream shop where Mogli’s friends bought everyone ice cream as trail magic. I got strawberry cheesecake ice cream and quickly ate it. Lindsey and I set off from town first, heading for a long and steep climb back to the top of a ridgeline. The hike was hard and felt never-ending so when we finally arrived at the shelter we collapsed on the porch, grateful to be done.
Everyone else soon arrived and we spent the next ten minutes commiserating about the horrible climb. Once we were all done complaining, the conversation turned into laughter and we enjoyed each other’s company by the fire. The magic of this group of people was so real at this moment. Shaun, Lady Bird, Lindsey, Morning Dove, Landfill, and Shades were now my trail family.
I woke up once again to the birds chirping. Everyone was starting to stir in their sleeping bags and I quietly packed up and started to eat breakfast. I hiked the first few miles alone, but soon Lindsey, Lady Bird, and Shades had caught up to me. I enjoy starting my mornings alone and hiking the first few miles in solitude. Hiking alone in the morning allows me to appreciate the beauty of every morning on trail, and I enjoy being able to have these few moments to myself before meeting back up with other hikers. We stopped at a lookout point where the view was just trees. Even though it was an anticlimactic view, we still took lots of pictures.
When we stopped at a shelter 10 miles into the day to eat, Landfill, Morning Dove, and Shaun also caught up. I continued on and felt a little slow due to the hot sun beating down. We got to a river where we quickly decided to go swimming. After enjoying the cold and refreshing water, we decided to camp there. It was the first swim of my thru-hike and I was so happy. We layout in the sun and cooked dinner. The evening was spent throwing Sour Patch Kids into each other’s mouths and sitting around a small fire. It was one of my favorite days so far on the trail, because I felt like I had found my people.
I woke up early and was hiking around 7:30 a.m. Dance Party passed me, who I hadn’t seen in over 700 miles. It is crazy how the trail works. I hiked with Lindsey, Lady Bird, and Shades for the rest of the morning. We were flying and it felt great to be able to hike fast. Just as we were going to take our lunch break, Shades realized that he had forgotten his sunglasses two miles back. He dropped his pack and ran to grab them. We later learned that he had hiked those extra four miles for $15 sunglasses from Amazon. We were quick to give him a trail name, hence “Shades.”
After a smooth 11 miles, we stopped at a shelter for lunch and a nap break. It was 90° out and it felt good to be under the shade of a roof. We continued on after two hours and crossed a beaver dam which was cool although it smelled a little funky. I got ahead of the group and found a campsite next to a creek. I sat down there, tired and ready for the hiking day to be over. Once everyone else arrived, we decided to camp there even though we had only hiked 15 miles. We went in the water to cool down and relax for the evening.
Determined to beat the heat, I was up and hiking by 6:30 am. Once again, I plugged in Harry Potter in order to lift my spirits and enjoy the first few miles of the morning. The morning went by smoothly although I was feeling sluggish. The terrain was full of rocks which didn’t help my mood. I got a text from Shades saying that there was trail magic ahead at a road crossing and I instantly started hiking faster.
At the road crossing were cold drinks and fruit. I had a banana and a cold soda. It was just what I needed to get through the rest of the day. Two miles later I got to the 501 Shelter which is famous for the pizza that you can order right to the shelter. The tramily called in our order and an hour later pizza arrived! Lady Bird and I shared a huge greek pizza.
Landfill, Morning Dove, and I decided to hike on while the rest of the tramily stayed at the 501 Shelter. We reached the 1,200-mile mark where we snapped a couple of pictures before hiking on. 5 miles later we arrived at a campsite with a cool swimming hole and rope swing. We met some other thru-hikers who we didn’t know and went for a quick dip even though it was already 8 pm.
I had plans to get up early but when my alarm went off I snoozed it. I finally got myself hiking at 7 am. Even though it was flat terrain I spent the whole day struggling mentally. Hiking was the last thing I wanted to be doing. At lunch Landfill, Morning Dove, and I made plans to go to a hotel that night. Even though I had just done my laundry with my mom, the idea of having a bed and shower sounded fantastic.
I was grateful to have people to hike with for the afternoon so I could talk and distract myself. The last downhill into town was brutal but once I was in the shower, the memories of the hard day washed away. We met up with Firebow and Mogli, who were also staying at the hotel for dinner. It was great catching up with them since I hadn’t seen them for a couple of days.
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