Possum and Ukelady Hit 1,000 Miles and Beyond!
Day 126: July 31th – 5 miles
Breakfast was lovely at Mountain Home B&B. Everything was lovely about this B&B. Especially Lisa, who drove us in and out of town so we could resupply, do laundry, and get lunch.
Since we only had a five mile hike today we didn’t stress about leaving and stayed in town until 4:30 PM. The hike itself was pressured by overstuffed packs. Ukelady especially bought way too much food. When we got to our shelter she ended up gifting two hikers a Star Crunch each. Pink and Stink were their names (they were named separately), and got along fantastically. They reminded us of our friends back home. We really miss them.
Day 127: August 1st – 10 miles
During today’s hike we mostly listened to Ready Player One on our devices. it made the hard uphill climbs fly by. During our lunch break I called my sister and chatted with her and my niece and nephew. My nephew learned to swim and my niece is talking a lot. I miss them and the rest of my family. it will be nice this week, spending so much time with Ukelady’s family.
Day 128: August 2nd – 10 miles
We woke up early today because we were going to meet Ukelady’s dad and brother on the trail. They started a few miles north of us and hiked south until we met.
We all then hiked north to our shelter which we arrived at super early: 2:30 PM. Wood was gathered and we built a fire to keep bugs away. We chatted and listened to music on our brand new wireless speaker. (Thanks, Chuck!) Eventually we grilled a gourmet dinner of quesodillas over our fire. Ukelady made Jiffy Pop for dessert, and I tried to pop the unpopped kernels afterwards. It was impossible, and I just ended up charring them.
It was a great day. I was excited for Ukelady’s dad and brother to hike with us because so far the friends and family we met all took us off trail. It was nice to share the experience of our day-to-day with them. Tomorrow will be the real challenge as we enter the dreaded roller coaster.
Day 129: August 3rd – 10 miles
The roller coaster. Today’s stretch included seven steep ups and seven steep downs. Chuck and Drew, Ukelady’s dad and brother, picked the best/worst couple of days to hike with us. On one hand it was a real challenge for this athletically inclined pair, who Ukelady was concerned would be bored with just a meager ten mile hike. On the other hand it was a crazy introduction to the AT for two people who hadn’t hiked with 35+ pound packs on before. It proved to be both. They loved it, but were both exhausted at various points while Ukelady and I handled it as just another really hard hike. But we had the advantage of four months of practice. I hadn’t really noticed how fit we had actually become. Drew remarked to me at one point that he was working as hard as he could, hiking until he was completely out of strength, and his sister was not at all far behind him. He said it blew his mind how well she was doing compared to him. To be fair, this was one of the top three hardest hikes we’ve had so far.
Also, we hit 1,000 miles today. Very big deal.
The reward for today was Bear’s Den, one of the best hostels we stayed at. Each of us got a frozen pizza, a can of Pepsi with real sugar, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Drew nailed it when he said that on any random day at home this would be a lazy meal, but after that hike it was one of the best tasting meals ever. Out here, devoid of most modern conveniences, the simplest of pleasures feels like the height of luxury.
Day 130: August 4th – 8 miles
Last night we were all woken up by a loud door slamming shut thanks to a raging thunderstorm outside. Boy, were we glad to be in a stone fortress. When daylight broke we enjoyed a mulberry pancake breakfast courtesy of Allen, a caretaker at Bear’s Den.
We started the hike with the last part of the roller coaster which was by no means the easiest part.
But we were rewarded when we got to the end with a relatively flat four mile section leading us to our destination: the Blackburn AT Center. We met the caretaker, Trail Boss, who had shuttled Chuck and Drew from the Center to where we met them two days ago. We also weighed our packs on their scale and it turned out Ukelady was carrying 39 pounds while I was only carrying 34 pounds. To be fair she did have a lot more food than me. Ukelady’s dad had brought a box of food for us with him and was giving us any food we didn’t eat while they were out with us. We ended up with a pretty sizable amount of food that I will now be carrying thanks to us weighing our packs. We said our goodbyes and set up for the night in the cabin.
It was a great few days with Ukelady’s family. We try to give an impression of our life on the trail through this blog, but we can’t communicate everything. They really got the trail life experience with us, and I hope it was a memorable one.
Day 131: August 5th – 8 miles
We enjoyed a leisurely morning on the enclosed porch of the Blackburn AT Center in front of a lovely view eating a nice full breakfast and reading magazines. Thanks to an eight years old issue of National Geographic I learned a lot about 1600s Jamestown, Virginia. On the same porch, a couple of southbound hikers who started at Harpers Ferry were dropping some serious weight from their packs. They were carrying twelve days of food, nine liters of water, and plenty of useless gear. They were coached for the hike by one of their fathers, who used to be a Green Beret. They said he basically prepared them for getting lost on day one and surviving for six months in the middle of nowhere. They weighed their packs and came in at 53 pounds each. We offered some advice and laughed to ourselves about their naivete. Then we packed all of the food we took from Ukelady’s dad and weighed our packs. Mine weighed 54 pounds. I wasn’t laughing anymore.
Today’s hike was the polar opposite from the roller coaster: mostly flat with gentle inclines and declines. (Sorry Chuck and Drew!) It didn’t take us long to reach our campsite. In the middle we stopped at a shelter to eat lunch. We ended up sitting on the porch swing for an hour. I love the luxuries of not rushing. At the campsite we met Allen, a NoBo turned SoBo who is hiking with his dog. We shared our hot dogs and cookies with him in exchange for asking him to relocate his setup away from the fire we wanted to cook on. It was a really nice night with good people.
Day 132: August 6th – Halfway There
Today we hiked to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia: the unofficial halfway point on the Appalachian Trail. Boy, did it feel good.
This is the official picture they take of you when you reach this point. It will be in a binder there forever. Look it up some time.
Ukelady’s grandma, Sandra, met us there and took us to her cottage in Pennsylvania to celebrate where we spent three gloriously relaxing days soundtracked by country music blasting on the stereo. We made dinner from fresh ingredients purchased at a local farmers market, toured the century-plus old property and lake, played Upwords (where I got crushed, twice), and helped gather some river rocks for a new path she wanted to build.
From there my dad picked us up and drove to to my grandmother’s house, also in PA, where we ate maple syrup from my uncle’s trees and sausage patties from his pigs and generally lived like kings.
From there we were driven to my parents house in New York to get quality time with more family and friends, including my nephew.
It was a wonderful week of family and friends. It felt like a true accomplishment and an appropriate celebration of over one thousand miles hiked. But now that we know we won’t make it to Katahdin, we have to figure out where we want to go next.
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