More rocks, a slight mishap, a side trip and a halfway photo
Everyone talks about the rocks of Pennsylvania, and they were definitely tough. But what no one told me about was that the rocks continue into Maryland. In my mind, I would cross the Mason-Dixon Line which divides Pennsylvania and Maryland and the rocks would decrease in frequency. This was not the case. So it was another couple of days of rocky trail for me.
On my second day in Maryland, I suddenly developed a sharp pain in the front of my left ankle. I took a 15 minute break and then tried to walk it off for a further 45 minutes, to no avail. This was a new pain I hadn’t felt before and I was worried that I was making it worse by continuing to walk on it. I realised this pain was going to require some time off trail. My brain went into disaster mode, thinking that I had a stress fracture or some other injury that meant I would have to abandon my thru-hike. A few tears may have been shed.
Trail angels to the rescue
I tried to collect myself and continue to the next road when I came across two women (Sarah and Jackie) out for a day hike. They could see I was upset and asked me if I was ok. My story tumbled out and suddenly they were faced with a crying Australian girl. I don’t think they quite knew what to do with me, but said that their car was at the next road and they could give me a lift somewhere if I was still there when they finished their hike.
A bad day to a good day
Once I got to the next road, I tried to call a friend of mine that lives in DC about staying with her for a few days of recovery but was not able to get onto her. Sarah and Jackie got back to their car and said they could give me a lift somewhere. However, they had a wine tasting booked for 10 minutes time, so was it ok if I came to the wine tasting and then they would drop me off afterwards? Of course this was ok! So I spent the afternoon with them at Big Cork Winery drinking wine and eating cheese and meats. I then heard back from my DC friend, who said I could stay, and Sarah and Jackie (who also live in DC) gave me a lift there. So the day turned from a disaster to a very nice afternoon!
Side trip to DC
Another upside of my ankle hurting was that I got to spend 3 days in DC with a high school friend (Danni), who I hadn’t seen in seven years. I also got a two hour massage while in DC, which was painful but amazing. I also got a private performance by Danni’s band. The next morning my ankle did not hurt at all. In fact, even pressing on the area didn’t hurt. It seemed (and continues to seem) to have fixed itself. I had been pretty sore and tired in the lead up to the injury so it seems this was my body insisting that I take some time off. It was certainly nice to have three days off trail, my longest break since I started.
Back on trail
After my break, I caught the train from DC back to Harpers Ferry and then a shuttle back to the point where I got off trail. I then got to enjoy my first day of slack-packing as I hiked back to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Hiking with only water and food is definitely cruisy after three months of hiking with a big pack. In Harpers Ferry I visited the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and got my official photo, and SOBO number 168.
At the official half way point, I didn’t get a chance to do the half gallon challenge. This is where hikers attempt to eat half a gallon (about 1.8 litres) of ice cream. While I was in Harpers Ferry, which is seen as the “spiritual” half way point, I decided I would give it a go. Although my hiker hunger after 3 months on trail is pretty massive, I doubted my ability to eat that much ice cream. It did take me almost an hour, and there were definitely some struggles, but I managed to eat all of it.
After my brief visit to West Virginia (6km) it was then onto Virginia. Virginia (which the number plates say is “for lovers”) contains a quarter of the trail distance, so I will be hanging out in this state for quite a while. Hopefully it treats me well!
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