I Duct Taped My Foot

Day 102: 1,510 ft ascent, 7.8 miles

We originally thought we wouldn’t be able to get back on trail in Front Royal until 2pm because the free town shuttle has reduced hours on the weekends. We got lucky and our hotel provided a free shuttle back to the trail at 10am!

We started hiking and after a few miles came upon a very unique section of trail: mowed grass. We quickly came upon a beautiful signpost for a shelter. It was around noon, so we took the side trail and stepped into another world.

It was the most beautiful shelter we had seen so far on the trail. The grass was mowed around it, there was a horseshoe pit, a wooden couch, a covered picnic table, and even a solar shower! It was a beautiful place to stop for lunch. We almost considered staying there for the afternoon since we got an earlier start than expected, but we eventually decided to move on and get a few more miles in before stopping for the day.

Day 103: 3,010 ft ascent, 15.8 miles

The forecast the night before called for a strong thunderstorm to pass through around 11am. We had hiked in rain storms before but weren’t too excited about getting caught in a thunderstorm. We set our alarms the night before for a 4:30am wake-up to try to get to a shelter before the storm arrived.

We made it to the shelter we were targeting around 9:30am. The storm arrival had been pushed back, but we didn’t think we would have enough time to push on to the next shelter. We decided to go ahead and eat lunch and nap at this shelter to wait out the storm.

Six other hikers ended up joining us in the shelter for the storm, including a fellow Chattanoogan! We chatted with the other hikers some, but spent most of our time there recovering from the early alarm.

Eventually the storm came, but not nearly as bad as expected. Looking at the radar a little later, the storm had split right before it hit us and two strong cells went to the north and south of our location. Around 1:30 most of the rain had passed and we took off down the trail again happy to be dry.

Day 104: 4,680 ft ascent, 14.6 miles

Today was rollercoaster day! The rollercoaster is a 14 mile section of the trail that goes straight up and then straight back down over, and over, and over again. We had been hearing about it coming up for at least a week.

We had camped near a shelter right before the start of the rollercoaster. The first two climbs were brutal. I waited to drink my morning coffee and have breakfast until the water source after the first two climbs. That may not have been my best choice. I was dragging by the time I finally got my coffee.

We were off again after I got my coffee fix and soon came up to the 1,000 mile to Springer Mountain sign. 1,000 miles hiked! Wow! What a milestone! Every time we hit a new marker it doesn’t feel real that I’ve really hiked that far with everything I need on my back.

We finished the last climb of the roller coaster and found the first stealth site we could find. The rocks and the elevation were exhausting. We were looking forward to cruising into Harper’s Ferry the next day.

Day 105: 1,720 ft ascent, 14.9 miles

We made really good time in the morning, going about six miles in the first two hours. It was looking like we might make it into town for an early lunch. Of course when things are going too well it’s time for something to go wrong.

I have been dealing with lingering foot pain since I wore out my first pair of shoes leaving the Smokey Mountains. It had become something I was used to and I spent most evenings massaging my feet and calves to stave off any bad pain. The rollercoaster the day before on my trail runners with 275 miles on them was too much strain for my right foot.

Within a few minutes I went from almost jogging down the trail to barely limping. Every step sent shooting pain through a muscle under the arch of my foot. I took some Advil. No relief. I took out my insoles. Nothing. I even tried hiking in my crocs for a few minutes. That didn’t last long.

I hobbled my way to the last gap before Harper’s Ferry. Erik walked down the road to a gas station to get us some water. Since we were moving much slower than we thought we had run out before getting to the next water source. I didn’t know if I could make it the last five miles into Harper’s Ferry or if I should admit defeat and get a shuttle into town and come back when I had new shoes.

In a last-ditch effort, I went back to my favorite engineering flow chart. Things that are broken can be fixed with duct tape or WD-40. This situation called for some duct tape. I pulled off my sock and wrapped my foot in duct tape.

We tentatively set off and I was shocked to find I was pain-free! Ahhh what relief! This wouldn’t be a long term fix but I just wanted to get into Harper’s Ferry without causing any lasting damage. I had used up all of my duct tape I was carrying and it was barely enough to get me to town, but it was enough! We hobbled into town a little after 5pm. It was hours after we had hoped but we made it under our own power.

The bridge into Harper’s Ferry.

I had called ahead to the Harper’s Ferry Hostel where we planned to tent the next two nights. It was such a relief to get someplace I could ice my foot and get a hot shower. We had two zero (ish) days planned for the following days, so I was hopeful the break would be enough time for my foot to recover enough to go again.

The Shenandoah River.

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Comments 3

  • Ed Vitale : Jul 22nd

    Lived near the roller coaster section of the AT and have hiked it more than a few times. Created a little ditty in honor of that trail section:
    There is no fee to hike the AT, but the roller coaster takes its toll.

  • Ann : Aug 8th

    I think I just want to rent out that awesome shelter. I don’t do real rollercoasters anymore; I can’t even imagine hiking one. Take care of that foot and buy more duct tape.


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