The Return to Normalcy
Going home was like hitting the reset button on my AT adventure. I slowly became accustomed to the daily comforts of running water, fresh fruit, and a comfy bed found at home. My swollen feet appreciated the break and seemed to return to normal size within three days. I even gained some weight as my hiker appetite remained, even without actually hiking each day. I was blissful at home and enjoyed seeing family and friends each day. Easing back to home life made me doubt my return to the trail, but in my heart I knew I had to return and try trail life once more.
My dad was the one that picked me up for my venture home, but it was two of my sisters that took me back to the trail in Waynesboro, VA. They were excited to see what trail life was about and decided to hike with me for a day. Their excitement lessened my nervousness to return and I instead focused on showing them everything I loved about the trail. Although the people would be different on the trail upon my return, the beautiful scenery and quietness that I craved would remain. I still wondered if I could do the trail on my own after they left, but decided to just take one day at a time and see what God had planned for me.
As my sister pulled up to the trail head, we had to return to town to pick up a few last minute items. It was then that we met Diatom, who needed a ride back to the trail head. We obliged to offer a helping hand by taking him to the trail with us and enjoyed seeing him throughout the day on our hike. Amazingly enough, Diatom and I matched pace throughout the whole Shenadoahs and have been hiking together ever since. At the shelter back on my first night, we also met Myles and New Hampshire Bob (NHB) who would become part of our trail family as well. Trail life is so much happier with company and it has been a blessing to have a group to hike with and to spend the evenings together in the shelter. We look out for one another, enjoy the views together, and share many laughs before falling asleep.
Having a trail family helped ease the transition back to the trail. It took a few days for my appetite to return (I could only make it through half my dinner the first few nights), but my feet were happy to return to the trail and I was able to keep the pace I had pre-break. The Shenadoahs weren’t as amazing as I hoped (they were a little bland and repetitive for my taste), but the people we met each night kept it interesting and amusing. (Especially the hikers who took advantage of the alcohol served at the waysides and showed up drunk at the shelters after everyone was in bed…. but that is a story for another time.)
Since the Shenadoahs, we have been enjoying all the history and towns along the way. I have now been craving ice cream in every town and have been lucky to find a good dairy-free option in Front Royal at C&C creamery. The owner handmade four dairy free flavors with rice milk, almond milk, and coconut milk! Front Royal was also the first time we have had Thai food as an option on the trail as well. It was a cute town with friendly people, especially at the Mountain Home B&B. A couple recently purchased this historic property where we stayed and even gave us a tour of the old plantation home.
After Front Royal, we passed the 1000 mile mark and then stayed for free at a spiritual community for a night called the Twelve Tribes. This group has been really supportive of hikers along the trail and it was nice to be able to visit their home for a night. They provided us with a hot dinner and breakfast and had even built cute little cabins for hikers to stay in, stocked with goodie bags for us with homemade treats, a homemade card, an apple and a Gatorade. Since no other girl hikers where there, I even had the whole girl cabin to myself! I think it has been the first time I spent the night alone since starting the AT since we always share shelters on the trail and hostels/hotels in town. In the morning, we helped the community by stacking wood and then returned to the trail by 10:30am to continue our hike.
Since then, we also went through Harper’s Ferry, which is the emotional halfway point on the trail. It was exciting to have our picture taken and our arrival date recorded in their big book for anyone to access and review. I had started at Amicalola Falls, Georgia as the 1096 North bound, thru hiker to start the trail and was number 564 at the ATC. It was here that I finally received my new hiking poles, which have been desperately needed for the past few weeks. Since receiving them, I have been able to manage mountains better, cross rivers with extra ease, and have also been able to heal a few blisters on my hands caused by my last set of poles.
We ended up spending a few hours in Harper’s Ferry since it was such a pretty town with a rich historic background. Although I couldn’t relate to the war history too much, I did enjoy the museum dedicated to Lewis & Clark and their expeditions. Since our trail family would be splitting for a few days, we decided to enjoy a patio lunch together before parting ways. Myles would be heading to DC for a few days, NHB would be staying in Harper’s Ferry for the night, and Diatom and I would be off to spend a few nights in York, PA with some old friends. It was hard to part after having such a great week together, but I know we will be reunited soon!
So, it has been an interesting trail life since returning to the trail, but I feel back in the groove and have enjoyed everything the trail has brought along the way. It is crazy to believe that the journey is not even halfway over, but we should be in Pine Grove Furnace (the official halfway point!) by tomorrow. We are amply stocked with food and should be making decent mileage this week, despite the rock field the trail has now become. It is refreshing to be in my home state and feel blessed to share the memories with both old friends from my pre-trail life and new friends that have been made along the way. May God continue to bless our time on the trail- it has been quite a blessing thus far!
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