Trail Update #9: Virginia Blues edition?
Hi all, and happy Memorial Day Weekend!
Ugh. Meh. And Blah.
It’s rainy outside for the nth day in a row, I’m not sure what to write and I feel like I have nothing interesting to report, and overall I’ve been feeling sort of meh. So I’m about to complain a lot, just to warn you. ? ??♀️
Everyone talks about the Virginia Blues. It’s kind of a play on words as the trail goes along the Blue Ridge Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway, but it refers to a blah feeling that seems to commonly hit hikers somewhere in the 550 miles of Virginia through which the trail passes – a full quarter of the trail! The monotony of the scenery, the tediousness of hiking day in day out, the isolation and sometimes loneliness, and in this case the f-ing awful miserable endless rain is physically and mentally wearing. And, for many, all of the above starts to get to you around Virginia.
For me, I don’t really think I have the Virginia Blues as much as (A) I am just capital-T Tired, (B) I am affected by the weather, and (C) hiking the AT means constantly being at one emotional extreme or the other which is kind of exhausting. There is no middle ground. You either love everything and everyone, or you hate your life and want to scream.
And the rain!! ??☔️ The rain has felt endless lately. It’s basically rained for the last month.
So, Real Talk This Week
Hiking the Appalachian Trail is hard, not always fun, often uncomfortable, and sometimes really sucky. Because of this, the good moments and little things can easily make you ecstatic, which is an awesome way to live; but I’ve also become keenly aware that the good times are fleeting, and that discomfort is an inevitable eventuality, which can be a dejecting way to live.
Emotional extreme #1: utter misery
I really can’t stress enough the rainy misery of the last few weeks. The trail turns into a slippery, muddy mess when it rains, and the creeks and streams become torrential rivers that can be terrifying and, frankly, dangerous to cross. Examples here and here.
To add to my list of complaints: the two days it hasn’t rained in the last three+ weeks were hot and muggy with temperatures in the high 80s. Five days in a row last week had us climbing 3,000 – 4,000 feet at a time to summit the likes of Apple Orchard Mountain; Bluff Mountain; Bald Knob, Cole Mountain and The Priest; Chimney Rock; and Three Ridges. I walked/ran six miles through a lightning storm on the completely flash-flooded trail with puddles six inches deep racing the setting sun. The next morning I put on soaking wet clothes, socks and shoes and walked another 22 miles. Every day lately we’ve had to go through tall grass where the ticks and chiggers live, not to mention which gets you wet to your thighs if you weren’t already. Or we have to rock-hop for miles over mossy, slippery boulders trying not to fall and break an ankle or wrist. (I didn’t do either of those but I did slip and bruise the heck out of my hip.) I’m three days behind Pumba and two in front of Slim Shady. I got to see, but then had to say goodbye to, my dad (twice) and Mr. snapchat. I’ve been lonely and cell service has been spotty. I dropped my phone on a rock and shattered the screen. And as much as I love Shenandoah National Park, the trail here is just plain boring!! We don’t get to see half of the amazing views that cars on Skyline Drive can access from the overlooks. Wtf?!?
Oh, and a Shenandoah Park Ranger pulled me over, I guess you could call it, while hiking. He scared the crap out of me after having opened a gate to drive his truck behind me down a completely overgrown fire road because – I came to find out – he thought I was absconding with Park plants.
Ranger: You out for a hike today?
Me: I’m walking to my friend’s house
Ranger: What’s in the bag?
Me: Um, Cheez-Its?
Pro tip: Apparently carrying a plastic grocery bag is the universal giveaway of the flora smuggler.
Emotional extreme #2: utter glee
Okay, now that that’s done, it hasn’t been all bad. I saw two amazing giant Luna Moths, my favorite moth that I’ve been obsessed with since I was a kid for some reason. I saw turkey chicks and a very angry mama turkey which doesn’t sound cool but totally was, and a bobwhite. I camped at Devils Backbone Brewing Company where we spent an afternoon drinking, eating and relaxing; and took advantage of DB’s hospitality toward hikers, running water, and amazing $5 hiker breakfast. (Thanks, Tony!) I had a great time in Waynesboro laying around, watching movies and writing letters with a new group of great people I fell into easily. I actually honestly appreciate and am grateful to be in place in life right now where getting to unexpectedly wash my hair in a real sink with running water is all I need to feel elated and beyond content.
Home Sweet Home
And, best of all, I’ve now walked just shy of 900 miles and all the way back to my neck of the woods, so I’m getting to spend time with friends and loved ones. I’m currently enjoying a double zero with family friends at their adorable house in Shenandoah where I’m being spoiled beyond belief with food, love and comfort. ❤️ We met my dad, my aunt and my cousins in Charlottesville for dinner, and other than that I’ve basically sat around for two days and realized just how much I needed a rest, physically and mentally. And how much better I feel for it.
This coming week I have the remainder of Shenandoah to work my way up, then I’ll hike with friends out of Virginia and into Harper’s Ferry. I’m looking forward to taking it a bit easier for a few days while I have others on the trail, and getting closer to *gasp* HALFWAY!
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