No Hike July
July starts out with us taking a zero on the first. The second gets the train back on the tracks by having a double figure day at slightly over 12 miles. We make it to Pearisburg, VA. One of the guidebooks we are using lists it at about the 635 mile mark on the trail. JoJo and I will not hike again until the last few days of July. Although, the hike at the end of the month will be glorious.
Day 3 through 8 are all zeroes. We start with a rental car ride from Pearisburg to Waynesboro, VA. TinMan is traveling with us after Sunset got picked up by family to let her knee heal a bit. The plan is to get the aquablaze details and wait for Sunset to get back on trail. Then the four of us will canoe the Shenandoah river.
Waynesboro is hiker friendly. There is a small park in town that is used as a thruhiker stopover. You can tent for free up to 3 days. The library and YMCA are two blocks away providing internet and showers, respectively. Plenty of food choices. Perfect place for a multiple day stop.
Each day hikers come and go at the park. We meet Parakeet and Crazy Korean. Savage, who we get to know bettter later, also makes a stop there. Parakeet travels with us when we take the rental car to check out the aquablaze plans at the various outfitters. Parakeet and Crazy Korean start their aquablaze a few days before us and JoJo keeps in touch to gain any insight they may be able to pass along.
After four days at the free tenting park we decide to move to a hotel. It is July 7th and Sunset has finally made it back to us. We spend another day getting supplies together on July 8th. B-Squared and his hiking group of No Stress, Birthday, Magic Mike, and Bushmaster are doing the same aquablaze planning. We are lucky enough to get rides back and forth to Walmart with them.
JoJo and I spend our last night in Waynesboro back at the free camp to say hello once again to Potato and Bison. They are planning to aquablaze also but starting a day after us. Our time together is the last time we see each other. Two days after they begin they call it quits and start to form a new plan. Last I saw they were at the Grand Canyon traveling with a couple people we were just starting to get to know in Raven and Crow.
The morning of July 9th starts with a shuttle ride from our hotel to the drop off at Port Republic. The outfitter shows up shortly afterward with our canoes. TinMan and Sunset in one canoe and JoJo and I in another. The first day is full of excitement as we are not sure what to expect from this trip. We stop on the backside of an island to camp. We are told any island on the river is public land but most of both shores is private property so finding places to camp might be a little tricky.
The next day we canoe a short distance and reach our first portage spot. This is one of two times the outfitter will shuttle us around dams. Day 2 ends with us setting up our tents in a cow pasture on what is more than likely private land. The cows aren’t around when we set up for the night but the amount of their crap laying around let us know they were not far away.
Day 3 seemed long. We stopped to eat at a convenience store close to the river. Somehow JoJo was getting the possible stops information from Parakeet. This one was a winner. The daily special of roast beef and mashed potatoes was excellent. Our camping selections was not. As darkness started to fall JoJo and TinMan had to go up to a house and ask if it was okay for us to tent in their yard. I had zero confidence they would come back down to the water with good news but they somehow worked their magic. We tented on a finely manicured plot of flat ground right next to the river.
A Day With Others
Day 4 of the canoe trip started with a quick ride to the second portage spot. This time we were being taken a few miles down the road before putting back in so we waited for the next group to show up before driving around this dam. Luckily, the next group was the one traveling with B-Squared. Another good sign was the bus driver who was picking us up was the same outfitter who initially dropped off the canoes to us and picked us up at the first portage. It was easy to convince him that a stop at the grocery would benefit everybody.
After getting dropped back off we continued to paddle with the group B-Squared was traveling with; his regular crew plus Captain and Ginger. We stopped at a spot to swim a little bit. After continuing on we managed to find a campsite at a boat launch large enough to hold everybody.
We Are Stinky Tourists
Day 5 started out with us wanting a little break from the paddling routine. As the others started to depart Sunset, TinMan, JoJo and I called for a shuttle to visit Luray Caverns. We just left our tents up and pulled the canoes up next to the tents before leaving. The shuttle driver, Allison, told us her son would probably be the tour guide; and he was.
Here is the funny part about this trip. This place was built up pretty good. Besides the cavern tour there was an old car museum, old toy museum, hedge maze, winery, etc., on the property. The parking lot was huge and full. People everywhere smelling nice. And then the four of us; on our fifth day of canoeing, with no shower. I’m sure we stood out. We had a good time anyway. After getting shuttled back to our canoes we were able to paddle a few miles before calling it a day.
The next day ended at a campground. There were showers, clean bathrooms, and a convenience store. JoJo found me a ride to go pick up some beer from the local gas station not too far away. Once I got back we ordered pizza and had it delivered to the campground office. Guys camping next to us kept coming over to talk about our trip.
Although the days were hard we were starting to hit our stride with the paddling. We were trying to do 15 miles a day and had pretty well adjusted to the change from hiking. Hiking was hard. Canoeing was kinda hard but at least it wasn’t 30 lbs on your back for 10 hours hard.
Hate or Love
After a quiet day 7, day 8 was packed with all sort of stuff. The first thing we got excited about on day 8 was the prospect of getting some Popeyes’s chicken. There was a pull off where we could have a short mile walk to a Popeyes. As we set out for the day a bald eagle cruised overhead for a litttle while. He was close enough to allow us to get a good look before flying on.
As we approached the landing to get to Popeyes there was an excited tone coming over a loud speaker. It was easy to recognize as a rally speech but we weren’t sure if it was hate or love being delivered in the message. As we got closer we could make out that it was being delivered in Spanish so we immediately knew that it was a church service. JoJo was going to stay with the canoes while the rest of us went to pick up food. At the top of the landing was a pavilion holding a few hundred people for Sunday Services. I felt bad for walking by while the sermon was being delivered but there was no way not to be seen coming up from the river as we passed.
The walk to Popeyes was quick. I ordered for both JoJo and myself and then sat beside TinMan for a minute before heading back. My hope was that I had spent enough time to allow the church service to end because the walk back was going to have me facing the congregation on the way back.
As I approached I no longer heard the loud speaker. As I got closer I could see that the congregation was almost entirely gone. Then why are all these vehicles still around? Oh man; the congregation moved down to where JoJo was setting with our canoes. They are performing a baptism.
JoJo was sitting down right in the middle of everybody. As I approached I motioned for her to move off to the side with me. We sat the food aside and waited for the service to end before eating. We were approached by the pastor and a translator to ask about forgiveness and JoJo explained that we were both already saved. Hearing that made the pastor very happy. It was a nice moment.
Best For Last
The last couple nights camping spots were awesome. One was on the front of an island where we could watch the sun set. The last was on the back of an island where the rushing water drowned out all the nights noises. The last day we had a bald eagle keep flying from one side of the river to the other as we approached. Just flying ahead of us as a sort of escort for the last miles of our aquablaze.
We finished day 10 at a campground where a large group of tubers were getting picked up. Once again, we got picked up by the same guy that initially dropped us off and helped us portage around two dams during our trip. He gave us a ride back into Front Royal. We got dropped off at Enterprise Rental Car just a couple buildings down from our Popeyes chicken stop. I am counting Aquablaze 2017 as a success.
There were no rental cars available so we got rooms across the street until the next day. TinMan and Sunset rode to Harpers Ferry with us to checkin the halfway point. TinMan is now off to a friends wedding. Sunset is thinking of skipping up to Maine like JoJo and myself. Before JoJo and I flip flop to Maine we take a week off and visit her brother and sister in law in Maryland for a week. We don’t get started hiking again until the 29th. So from the 2nd to the 29th we hiked zero miles.
I got so concerned with our lack of miles that I applied for a job. JoJo and I have an agreement that as soon as we finish hiking that we will begin to look for jobs. Luckily, the south bound miles are starting to add up so the job search can be put to rest for a little while longer.
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