Hiking close to Nova
The next morning I began walking the first few miles with a nice section hiker named Julie. I was really excited to see a ripe black raspberry under a power line . I crossed the road where I could go to Front Royal and headed uphill. I was out of the Shenandoahs but nearly at the top I got a surprise bear in front of me on the trail. Luckily, making some noises scared it off but I was bearanoid for a bit. I took a break at a really fancy looking shelter which had a shower then I headed through a field being mindful of the poison ivy (it’s out in full force). On top of a hill I was looking forward to a bench with a view but it had been crushed by a tree. I headed down hearing the roar of the road and crossed under the busy I-66! I had one more mountain to conquer but when I got to the shelter all the tent spots were taken. I was surprised when I found I was the only thru hiker and that everyone was section hiking. Luckily only one lady was in the shelter so I set my tent up in there (for the bugs) and tried to get some shut eye.
Creeper Number 2
I didn’t sleep too well and the next day it was super humid. My ankle was bothering me and it kept threatening to rain but didn’t. After only a few miles in I decided to have lunch at the turnoff for a shelter (not at the river close by because I saw a giant snake in it). I was starting to eat and talking with another couple when a dude I’d just passed heading south came back and started listening to us. He said his name was Upgrade and when the couple left he stayed and chatted with me. My creeper radar didn’t go off for some time but then he started giving me “too much information” about his life while asking me very personal questions. I was a tad freaked out but I tried to keep the conversation light while packing my backpack explaining I had to leave because I have nine more miles to do. Luckily some other backpackers came and I walked away from them, happy to leave creeper number 2 of my journey. After my lunch encounter the trail was quite nice. I was going through a green tunnel (it had been cut that way) and then it went through fields and open forest. I may have even celebrated hike naked day by hiking in my underwear. There was a very busy road to run across near the end of the day and right afterwards I was blessed with another bear sighting. There was a bit of a thunderstorm during my last few miles to the shelter but it had mostly died down when I got there. All there was to do was to eat, go to bed early, and hope the next day roller coaster wouldn’t be as bad as people said it was.
It was as bad as people say it is. I woke up the next day to a very uncomfortable political discussion about guns (very rare on the trail). I packed up and hiked down to the beginning of the roller coaster. There is a sign that says, “warning you are about to enter the roller coaster”. It’s basically a bunch of steep ascents and descents that are right after another. The first climb wasn’t that bad and I saw my third bear outside the Shenandoahs running fast. It was the last bear I’ve seen (so far). The next hill wasn’t bad either. It was coming down the third hill when it began getting rocky. I took a long lunch break at the shelter in the middle of the “coaster” and figured I’d be ok. I passed the 1000 mile marker and took a few selfies. Then it got rockier and my ankle started bothering me again. I passed a sign for Bears Den and called my mother crying about how I was in pain and didn’t think I could make it to the end of the roller coaster. She suggested I go to the Bears Den Hostel. So I walked back to the sign and up the hill to a castle like building. The hiker special was 30 dollars for a bunk, pizza, Ben and Jerry’s pint (The Tonight Dough), shower, and laundry – SOLD! Some section hikers shared there pizza with me so after my first pint of Ben and Jerry’s I got a second pint of ice cream instead of pizza. I took a shower, did laundry (was happy even though it came out smelling like dirty socks), and went to bed pretty content.
Last Day in Virginia
I waited out the rain the next morning and headed out to finish the roller coaster. There was a very busy road to cross but the rear of the roller coaster was much easier when I was fresh. I stopped to chat with some people heading south who told me PA wasn’t too bad. I grabbed some water since there weren’t anymore sources on the trail for the day and started off again. I started feeling a bit sick and my options were camp without water, go 20 miles to Harper’s ferry, or have a short day and stay at the last shelter in Virginia (which also had one of the last water sources before Harper’s Ferry). I decided the shelter was a fine idea and made it there pretty early. A section hiker had given out some Mountain House meals so I cooked that for dinner, set up camp, walked the long rocky path to get water, and then had an early night.
Welcome to West Virginia
I only had 9 miles to do to get to Harper’s Ferry. I started early and walked quickly excited about getting to that special landmark on the trail. With a few stops I managed to get in around lunch time to the Appalachain Trail Conservancy. It was pretty neat. They had merchandise, information on the trail, and a hiker lounge. As I entered they gave me a friendly greeting and asked if I was hiking the trail and if I had gotten my picture taken yet. There is a tradition to get your photo taken in front of the ATC sign and put in the log book with all the other hikers. Then they’ll color code your number depending on what type of hiker you are (north bound, south bound, flip-flop north south, flip-flop south north, section hiker, unconventional). I recently decided I will flip flop around July 4th weekend and head up to Katahdin (aka when my parents have their vacation planned) so I was number 34 in that category to have passed through (I would have been 990 of I had stuck to my plan of going North bound the whole way). I have decided to flip in order to increase my possibility of finishing on time and avoid nasty weather in the north. After hanging out in the ATC I made my way to an Italian place and then over to the Tea Horse Hostel. I grabbed a bunk and met an interesting fellow by the name of Nemo and we headed to explore Harper’s Ferry. I would love to come back to this town when I have more time because I didn’t have a lot of time to explore. I tried to take in what I could by walking through. I checked out a historic candy shop for a laugh and then headed to the outfitters to grab a resupply. I ran into some other thru hikers (Chicken Fried, Ninja, Rev) who I ate dinner with. I got back to the hostel and dragged myself to 7/11 to purchase some food I couldn’t find at the outfitter (including a box of cheerios since I couldn’t think of anything else for breakfast). I got back super late but felt pretty happy for getting to Harper’s Ferry (the unofficial half way point).
I’ve had a few questions lately regarding what I eat on the trail so here’s a quick summary. I apologize because I can’t recite the calories off the top of my head but I do try and get the higher caloric food when I’m grocery shopping. I started off with instant grits and occasionally oatmeal for the first two months on the trail but I finally got sick of it. Recently, I’ve been having two carnation instant milks with milk powder or milk powder with a ziplock of Cheerios. For lunch I either have crackers or tortillas with summer sausage, cheese, or dehydrated humus (complements of our natural food store Eats in Blacksburg, VA). I usually pack 2 fruit snacks, 2 bars (kind, cliff, Luna, my mothers homemade ones) for my daily snacks. I usually have a back up snack of trail mix or lately it’s been Justin’s Hazelnut Spread. I also carry some crystal light drink packets to mix with Emergency for electrolytes. For dinner I’ll have a Knorr Rice or Pasta side with spam or tuna added, 2 Ramen with powdered peanut butter, or when I’m lucky a freeze dried meal (Mountain house or Backcountry Pantry). When I stop in town I like to drink a lot of soda and Gatorade and eat as many carbs as possible (maybe some fruit and vegetables). The list is simple, but when your hiking almost everything tastes amazing!
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