Virginia to Pennsylvania: How The States And Miles Fly By

The Roller Coaster

After leaving WMG in Front Royal, I enjoyed meeting David, a dayhiker, with whom I hiked for several hours. He told me that the wineberries, pictured below, were ripe. And sure enough, the were. They are delicious.

That night, I camped at a designated campsite in the Thompson Wildlife Management Area. The area is treeless, presumably clear cut, and consists of several scruffy  acres of shrubs. The site itself was unattractive, but at night it was aglow with fireflies and the light of a nearly- full moon. I  heard fireworks from the north, south, and west,  and briefly saw them from the east.

The next day, I began hiking the “roller coaster,” a 15 mile section with 10  ascents and descents of significant elevation changes, no views, and often rocky terrain. To say the least, it was difficult.

The trail boss and crew have a sick sense of humor. I don’t know anyone who had fun.

The heat and humidity added to the difficulty of the hike. I split up the roller coaster by staying at the Bear’s Den, a hiker hostel near the trail. I had the backpacker’s special; hot shower, laundry, and a bunk, plus a frozen pizza, soda, and pint of ice cream. I had been so debilitated by the heat when I arrived, that the next morning I was unaware that I had already paid for my lodging.

While still on the roller coaster, I left Virginia and entered West Virginia, a joyful milestone.  Over 500 miles of the AT is in Virginia, resulting in some hikers experiencing “the Virginia blues.”  Everyone was happy to get through the state.

Harpers Ferry

Many hikers pushed through the roller coaster into Harpers Ferry to take the train to Washington DC for July 4.  Not me. I stayed at a quiet campsite about 7 miles south of town. The next day, I enjoyed hiking into Harpers Ferry with Sharp Iron, whom I had met at the Bears Den.

Harpers Ferry is a quaint town, alive with history. As I arrived,  I first registered at the ATC Headquarters.

I was the  25th hiker who started in Georgia and planned to flip flop. 1185 northbound hikers or NOBOs had already registered.

On the way to the post office, I stopped at a bakery for a savory potato curry samosa and a sweet chocolate-dipped macaroon. Walking through town, I met Country Road, who gave me a bracelet made of string and small beads. After lunch, I toured some of the historic commercial buildings, like the men’s clothing store below,  and listened to a fascinating talk by a park ranger that brought significant civil war battles alive.

Leaving Harpers Ferry, I spent a night at Cross Trails Hostel. Manager Peak Freak told me 70 people had been there the night before for their July 4 party. I ate a delicious dinner at The Guide House Restaurant and enjoyed talking with locals Parker, his son, a river guide, and the bartender. Back at Cross Trails Hostel, Kodak, an anthropology student at McGill University, interviewed me as part of his study of the AT hiking community and culture.

The next day, I hiked to the Dahlgren Backpacker Campsite, which has bathrooms with flush toilets, sinks, and hot showers. Such luxury! Several other hikers on that hot day also appreciated the amenities.

After showering, I ordered pizza and salad from Dominoes, which was delivered to the trailhead in 25 minutes. I enjoyed my meal sitting at a picnic table.

The heat and humidity continued. JP, whom I had met before and camped at Dahlgren, hiked with me part of the way to the Washington Monument, pictured below. It was constructed by 500 residents of Boonsboro in 2 days in the early 19th century.

South of Pen-Mar State Park, I stayed in the hiker hut at Sunflower Cottage. Soolah served a delicious breakfast. Back on the trail, in a couple of days I reached the 1100 mile marker and then the halfway point.

The Halfway Point

Pine Grove Furnace State Park is just beyond the halfway point. Hikers start talking about the half-gallon challenge weeks before arriving at the camp store. If you eat a half gallon of ice cream, it is free, and you receive a wooden spoon as a momento.

I had already decided I was not taking the challenge. Instead, I ate a veggie wrap and 3 scoops of ice cream—blueberry cheesecake, coconut and peach. Yummy!

Mosey is pictured below, after successfully completing the challenge. She is from Wisconsin and had told me she had been training for the challenge for years! Although she was happy after taking her last bite, as I watched her eat the ice cream, she struggled mightily.

Many people who ate a half gallon then had to recover  for the rest of the day. I, on the other hand, went for a dip in Fuller Lake and continued hiking.

The heat and humidity continued. The trail south and north of Boiling Springs went through miles of sunny,  corn fields. Grueling.

My goal was to arrive in Duncannon, PA, on July 13 to meet my sisters Susan and Leslie, who planned to hike with me a few miles on the 14th and provide trail magic while they waited for me at Clarks Valley Road. And the journey continues.

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Comments 5

  • Carol B : Jul 16th

    Really enjoying your posts! I love the picture of you, GMG, when you crossed from VA to West VA. The smile on your face is so genuine, wearing your gear and looking strong, fully experiencing the moment.
    Question-when do you generally start walking each day, or do you not pay attention to the time? Do you have a goal for each day, or do you have to play it by ear, depending on terrain and weather? Also wondered what time you stop for the day. Do you hike several hours at a time, do you set a timer so you remember to rest? Inquiring minds and such. Travel safe and wishing you the best trail magic from now on.

    • GMG : Jul 16th

      Hi Carol,
      Great to hear from you and get your interesting questions. I was so happy to leave VA! That smile was TRULY genuine.

      I never set an alarm. I normally wake up on the trail between 5 and 6 a.m. if I wake up at 5, I may linger for awhile. The closer it gets to 6 a.m., the sooner I dress, put away my sleeping system, take everything out of the tent, and leave the tent for my morning constitutional. Then I pick up the tent and let the bottom dry out if it is damp or simply roll it up. I eat breakfast, pack up, and am usually on the trail by 7:30 a.m. In the recent period of high heat and humidity, I have gotten up around 5;30 a.m. and have been on the trail around 6:45.

      Each night I write in my journal and determine how far I might hike the next day. I may aspire to hike a certain distance and I get there, or not, or hike further.

      I don’t have set times to hike or break. Yes, difficulty of terrain or weather conditions are a huge factor. I know I’ll stop for a morning snack when I am hungry and/ or feeling tired. I might eat lunch as early as 11 a.m., especially if I had an early start or have a second morning snack. I also stop for lunch and/or snacks in the afternoon. I may stop at a vista, shelter, water source, or other interesting location, or if someone else has stopped, or just because I want to rest.

      I usually have energy to hike until 6 p.m. Sometimes I want to hike longer, especially if I took long breaks during the day. Sometimes I have to hike longer if I am not at a shelter or campsite. I hike at the senior pace—slow and steady.

      Let me know if you have other questions. I’m happy

  • Jhony Yermo : Jul 16th

    ALWAYS look so forward to your posts. Well written, interesting and fun. IMNSHO, the best of the best of all the many posters I read. You are the real deal Also love your outfit-well played. For me also, loose is best. Like my shorts, I like them almost like culottes for guys, but not near that long.
    After reading this, might have to go buy some icecream
    Thanks for all and thanks in advance for the next installment

    • GMG : Jul 16th

      Hi Jhony,
      Thanks again for your positive feedback! Enjoy the ice cream!


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