Virginia: A Roller Coaster of a State

Well, hello again! I sincerely apologize for how long of a break I’ve taken since the last blog post, but I wanted to be more in tune with my surroundings and I’ve just been straight up lazy. With Roan Mountain being the last thing I posted about, that means you’re sufficiently behind on my goings-on. So let me catch you up real quick.

Virginia Is Not Flat

This saying is mostly tossed around by day hikers and people who aren’t thru-hiking, simply because it isn’t true. Little-known fact is that even though most of Virginia is flat, the section of the state the Appalachian Trail goes across is rigorous. My least favorite was the sheer number of ups and downs that had no apparent point. Climbing for no point is frustrating to me, especially when my nose is dripping like a faucet from the 90 degree, 100 percent humidity environment. Speaking of which, the weather was punishing on our way. It would rain for days, turning the trail into a slip and slide, making it impossible to keep shoes dry. Whenever it was done storming the sun comes out and turns the climate control on maximum overdrive and bakes your back like a child with a magnifying glass to an ant.

The Bright Side

Not everything is dark and stormy in Virginia, however. For all the dark times over the 500-plus miles there were equally frequent good times.

The first on a long list of great experiences is the Grayson Highlands. This was a major highlight, getting to see the amazing views and pet the wild ponies. The highlands were the highest part in the state, and were mostly bald, making the views panoramic. Later on that day, we almost weren’t allowed to pass through a field because of overprotective cattle and their fear of the four-legged Bella.

For the second highlight I’m going to combine Dragon’s Tooth and McAfee Knob. They’re both incredibly beautiful rock formations in the middle of Virginia. We caught the Knob at sunrise and blasted Creed on the mountaintop. Definitely a memorable experience for me, and thankfully Sam brought a beer so we could get this amazing sunrise shotgun.

This is the Knob. Dragon’s Tooth is a vertical wall rock slab resembling its namesake, but on the day we got there it was around 99 degrees and we had only three more miles to go in the day, so we pushed on.

Thirdly, Shenandoah National Park. While this wasn’t my favorite time on trail by far, it wasn’t a bad experience either. Since it’s a national park, there were waypoints to stop at almost every day to get hot food and other things, so my pack weight was pretty low for a while. Plus, it’s the location of the highest concentration of black bears in the country, and I saw three.

My aunt and her family picked us up and brought us back to their house for a home-cooked dinner and a warm bed, which was a welcomed off-trail excursion.

The last little bit of Virginia was largely uneventful, as after the Shenandoahs there are not many miles before you hit West Virginia. That being said, the last few miles were grueling on something named the Roller Coaster, which truly lives up to its namesake as it’s a pain in the ass to climb. The very last thing I’ll mention here is that yesterday I saw a baby rattlesnake for the first time and I didn’t even scream, so who’s the man now?

The Dark Side

These past few weeks, honestly, have been pretty tough for me. Personally, as I’ve been dealing with questioning my motivation. I had to really think back to what made me want to hike and why I’m out here on trail.

Originally when I set out I wanted to find who Bobby Evans really was and how he worked. Particularly to me, this meant overcoming a lot of social dependencies I had developed over my past. The feeling of being without some type of acceptance at the end of the day terrified me and I am just now beginning to hike my own hike to the fullest extent. A big thing to me is defining how I make my day, not just following others; this allows me to feel in control and in control of my experience. Most of all, though, this trail has afforded me the opportunity to see my weaknesses. With so much time to reflect every day, it’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s so easy to be self-destructive when you’re alone for so long like you are out here, but if you take advantage of the trail’s ability to spot flaws you can better yourself.

Lastly, hiking with Sam and Mittens has been so much fun and I truly love both of them. However, at this time of personal scrutiny I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around. Plus going off my ADD medication, the nonstop thunderstorms, trench foot, and harsh terrain probably didn’t help either. Long story short, those relationships were tested is all.

What Happens Now?

So right now I’m hanging out at the Teahorse Hostel in Harpers Ferry, W.V. Today I’m taking a zero to avoid more storms and also cause I have trench foot and I’m feeling quite lazy. If you liked reading this please let me know. I’m not the best writer and I’m sure I missed some things so feel free to ask as many questions as you want. But for now I’m signing off, until next time. Happy trails.

-Batman & Robin

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