Virginia Highs

Day 68

I happily munched on ripe black raspberries that we discovered along the three-mile walk to the highway. A fifty-cent trolley went into Front Royal, but it was a 45-minute wait so we hitched. I felt entirely safe doing so with two friends. Our kind driver dropped us off in a shopping plaza. We visited a natural food store, then a general grocery; both had an impressive selection of vegan and GF foods. Overwhelmed by all the options, it took me a bit to select my snacks and I’d have forgotten an avocado if Hobble-It hadn’t fetched me one.

The town had an outdoor store named Mountain Trails. We signed in and were directed to Basecamp, a room with free laundry and showers. After getting so sweaty recently, it felt amazing to be clean and put on loaner clothes so I could wash my hiking outfit. Hobble-It and I walked to Thunwa Thai for lunch, eventually joined by Come Along, who had gotten a beer and moved our laundry to the dryer. The Thai food was delicious!

I used Basecamp’s scale and found that I have only lost a few pounds. Not bad at all, especially considering I am nearly halfway. Hobble-It and Come Along have each lost large amounts. To counter the loss, we put on our clean clothes and got ice cream at a local shop. Then a girl named Comics, who hiked the AT in recent years, gave us a ride back to the trail.

We ran into Forest a short way up the trail and he hiked with us to Jim & Molly Denton Shelter. The shelter had a huge porch, covered picnic table, and a clean composting privy. Come Along and I pitched our tents in the grass behind the shelter; Hobble-It close by in her hammock. For the first time, I hung my Ursack on a bear pole. It is a metal tree with an attached rod for hoisting bags to the top. I left the rain fly off my tent and could see both fireflies and stars.

Day 69

Hobble-It got a 6 a.m. start as she’s been having trouble with the heat. It was a cool morning so I sat with my sleeping bag wrapped cozily around my legs as I ate breakfast and organized my bear bag.

Come Along was in no hurry either. When we got on trail he pointed out wild cherries in a tree. I ate a ripe one that had fallen. Though tiny it had as much flavor as a giant bing cherry.

At the next shelter, I stopped for water and saw a sign that said Trail Magic. The guy doing it had on a “The Green Tunnel Podcast” t-shirt and turned out to be none other than the host, Mills Kelly. I recognized his voice as I’d listened to an episode that morning. I was excited to meet him! The show explores the history of the AT as well as dangers, trail food, shelters, and iconic locations. Mills showed off an old-school wood & cloth backpack and interviewed me for a season two episode focused on privies.

The weather was perfect, a high of 70 with a strong breeze. A great day for walking the often overgrown path in my long-sleeved shirt and pants. Via text, Serendipity asked how I was feeling and if I’d gotten the Virginia blues. I haven’t, in fact, I’ve really enjoyed the state. Mostly due to the amazing people with whom I’ve been hiking and zeroing. Plus there was my fun visit with Mike, exploring the triple crown, snacking in Shenandoah, seeing wild ponies, and so on. Though the state is long it felt broken into segments with achievable goals.

While getting water from a creek I spotted a snake entirely submerged except for its head, so cool! I pointed it out to Come Along and we determined it was a corn snake. The three of us camped on Piney Ridge in a flat spot covered with dry leaves. A stiff breeze kept the bugs away and made my sleeping bag extra inviting.

Day 70

We started the day 1.5 miles into the roller coaster, a 17-mile section that travels up and down short steep hills. At first, it seemed like the rest of the AT, no big deal, except very rocky. By mid-day, my knees wanted a break. Early on in the coaster, I was really excited when Come Along and I found the 1,000-mile sign! The number struck me as truly epic. I listened to the Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” song to celebrate.

On FarOut, a guy posted that he left his Ursack at a roller coaster camp spot. Two days had passed, but no one carried it out because it was half full of food, frickin’ heavy! Hobble-It found it and we decided to divide up the weight and deliver it to Harpers Ferry tomorrow.

The three of us crossed the state line into West Virginia, woohoo! Goodbye to the longest state on the AT. Hobble-It suggested Crescent Rock for our lunch spot and it had an excellent view. I ate a GF bagel with vegan cream cheese, tempeh, and avocado. Heavier food, but with only three days between towns I’m treating myself to variety.

When we reached the end of the roller coaster it was a pleasant ridge walk to David Lesser shelter. The camping spots were full so I set my tent up on the expansive deck next to Alex’s tent. He was a flip-flop thru-hiker on the first day of his journey and full of fresh, eager energy. There was a small fire going so I shared and roasted marshmallows with a kid named Bear Bait. As I climbed into my sleeping bag, I had a bad nosebleed that took a long time to stop.

Day 71

Town day! The three of us got an early start so we could make it before noon. I chatted with Hobble-It most of the way. A gradual descent brought us to a bridge across the wide, rocky, rather shallow Potomac River. I marveled at this historic body of water. The trail then passed Jefferson’s Rock before depositing us in Harpers Ferry.

We got a room at a cute house called the Town’s Inn, in the heart of old town. The manager was sweet and there was kombucha on tap. We had lunch with Rocket, a woman we met at the last shelter, and Steve, a long-distance biker curious about thru-hiking. All of us but Rocket went to the ATC headquarters afterward to get photos at the trail’s symbolic halfway point. Serendipity showed up and we caught up briefly before she got picked up by a friend.

As day turned into evening, Cricket and Bumblebee made it to town. I was excited to see Cricket! I hadn’t seen her since she went ahead to hike and zero with her mom. She, Hobble-It, and I chatted for an hour, sitting on beds in the room.

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