Trail Update #10: the road to Harper’s Ferry
Mile 1023 and the ATC
Woot woot! I made it to Harper’s Ferry and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy HQ and the emotional/spiritual/psychological halfway point of this journey.
Like that former presidential candidate, the ATC keeps binders full of hikers and I’m stoked and proud to have my official polaroid included as the 620th northbound thru-hiker of 2017.
Also shoutout to my college friend and 2005 thru-hiker Janet/Flare, whose picture I had to go and find:
And who I also happened to spend the afternoon with the following day in DC:
But I’m getting ahead of myself…..
Sharing is Caring
First off, I feel much better since my last post where I was kinda wet, miserable and sad. Partly it feels really good to have hit some major milestones (the 1000 mile mark, getting out of Virginia, and Harper’s Ferry); partly I’ve seen a lot of loved ones in the last two weeks and their enthusiasm and admiration for the bigger picture of this journey has gotten me out of the tedium and daily grind of just hike hike hike (aka they can see the forest through the trees and it’s nice to have that change in perspective); partly I had two friends join me on the trail; and lastly I’ve talked to a LOT of other thru-hikers who’ve been feeling a bit meh themselves, and it’s a whole lot less isolating to know others are struggling too and to be able to talk about it.
Expectations vs. Reality
In my last post I was really excited to get through Shenandoah and see friends, but it turns out this part of the trail was actually the hardest for me – by far. Wasn’t expecting that! I’m from DC, so I was really looking forward to being close to home and having people come out to visit; I did not at all expect to feel (A) terribly homesick in a way I hadn’t experienced before (B) still exhausted despite relatively easy terrain and (C) somewhat overwhelmed trying to describe the trail and my experiences to my friends.
On Homesickness, Relaxing and HYOH
After spending Memorial Day weekend with family friends Dolores and Robert, I almost cried going back to the trail in that way that you want to cry (or do) when your parents drop you off at college – you know this is something you want and it’ll be really good but you also want to jump in the car and go back home. You’re just always near the road in Shenandoah – you can hear cars driving past the shelters at night, you cross the road about 100 times a day, there are parking lots and day-hikers everywhere, etc. For me, Skyline Drive became this constant reminder that I’m just one hitch and a 45 minute drive from my house and my bed and my boyfriend and my friends and why was I choosing to be dirty and alone when I was so close to home and didn’t have to be and what was I even out there for anyway?? Luckily I ran into some friends, Blink, Hoss and Chipmunk, at the end of my first day back after the weekend, and I spent the rest of the week with them alternately complaining about Shenandoah (the cars, the lack of views, the lost sense of being in the backcountry) and taking advantage of the conveniences of Shenandoah (the waysides, the running water, the easy terrain and multiple bear sightings). They helped me relax, hike my own hike (hyoh) and not feel guilty the one exhausted day I just really wanted to sit around a campground for 7 hours eating fried chicken, soaking up the sun, napping in the grass, and shaving my legs with wet wipes on top of a picnic table (oh yes, that happened). When did hiking only 11 miles become such a failure that I need to be counseled through how it is ok to relax if I want to relax? It was a bit of an eye opener – everyone out here is obviously driven, and it’s a reality that we all do have a weather-related deadline to get to Katahdin by the fall, but it’s very easy to get caught up in mileage and being overly competitive with yourself and making what should be our time and our journey into a stressful job. Or at least that’s my experience. So it was both a nice and necessary reminder that I’m out here for me and I can make my hike whatever I want it to be.
On Having to Relearn the English Language Because I am Not Used to Speaking for the Majority of My Day Anymore
Flippant header aside, I really do feel like I’m forgetting words because I spend so much of my day not speaking to anyone. And while it was so great to have people come out to meet me and to see everyone I had been missing, I also found myself overwhelmed and embarrassed at being the center of attention and downplaying my accomplishments. Which is weird because I usually kind of love being the center of attention! 😉
I did get to see so many people while near DC: my best friends came out for brunch in Front Royal, my work family organized a staff off-site at a vineyard in Bluemont, and a family friend took me out to lunch in Harper’s Ferry. On top of that, my friend Melanie came out for a night despite camping not being her favorite activity, and my friend Rob hiked 53 miles from Front Royal to Harper’s Ferry with me.
Thank you so much for the support and company and love, everyone!! It means the world to me.
Also – funny side note – anyone from this area can appreciate these pictures of the classification stickers all over the trail posts in Shenandoah. DC’s got the jokes:
Once we made it to Harper’s Ferry I decided to go home for a long weekend because HYOH and homesickness and all. Now I’m back on the trail in MD and back to chasing down Slim Shady and hopefully catching him for the half gallon challenge in PA in few days. Maybe then we can bust a** to reunite with Pumba after that!
P.S. Oh and for good measure and because, well, Maryland: a bunch of black widow spiders and what can only be described as a giant tarantula-like land octopus (killed by section hikers – I won’t mess with spider karma in that way).
And some good old VA / MD rivalry 😉
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