Welcome to The Bubble
BIG NEWS! As of last Thursday morning, I am officially the 26th flip flip hiker to pass through the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. That’s right, my northbound thru hike is now turning into a flip flop thru hike! The final mountain on the trail (Mt. Katahdin in Maine) closes for the season on October 15 due to severe weather threats. Because of college graduation, I had to start about a month later than the “average” thru hiker starts. The late start combined with my foot issues severely slowing me down in the beginning had me nowhere near on track to finish the trail before Katahdin closes. Instead of killing myself with 30 miles days, I will be doing a flip flop hike to ensure I reach Katadhin in time.
I got off the trail last week a little bit past Hot Springs, NC and I am now jumping up 700 miles to Harper’s Ferry, WV (which is the unofficial halfway point of the trail). I will be hiking straight up from WV all the way to Mt. Katahdin in Maine, and immediately after I summit the mountain, I will go back to WV and southbound hike to the point where I got off by Hot Springs.
This ensures that I get to finish every inch of the trail, and I won’t have to worry about getting shut out of the final mountain. This also gives me an opportunity to hike with a larger group of thru hikers and meet a ton of new people since I will be hiking in “the bubble” (which is just the large group of hikers that started at the end of March / Beginning of April).
So, needless to say, these last few days have been very exciting with all the new people and terrains I have been getting used to:
Day 38: My parents were awesome and drove me all the way down to Harper’s Ferry, WV. Since this is the unofficial halfway point for most thru hikers, many hikers take time to visit the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), which is located right off the trail in Harper’s Ferry. Once at the office, thru hikers check in by getting their photos taken and filling out contact information so that other hikers can find them after the trail! After the excitement at the ATC I walked a quick 6 miles to the Ed Garvey shelter. Although my legs were tired from taking a week off, the terrain was really nice so it was a great way to ease back into the hike. I have to admit though, I was a little nervous going up to the shelter that night. I was so used to knowing most of the hikers out on the trail down south, and now I didn’t know a soul. Everyone at the shelter that night was SO friendly and welcoming though – it definitely made me feel really good about my decision to flip flop.
Day 39: Today was a long day. My body was still getting readjusted to hiking, and although the terrain was smooth again, there really weren’t too many views which made the 16.6 mile day seem like it took forever. Despite this, I felt really strong at the end of the day. My feet apparently got used to not hiking while I took a week off so I had some foot pain again, but my muscles felt awesome and I was in good spirits! The shelter was right next to I-70, so I didn’t get a very good night sleep due to the noises of cars and trucks keeping me up all night.
Day 40: Today was a hard day. I really didn’t get too much sleep the past two nights, and I didn’t feel too well. Instead of pushing myself when my body was telling me “no,” I decided to take it easy and slowly walk to the next shelter. I spent a lot of time at each lookout point, and talked to a ridge runner for a while. I have realized that the third day out in the woods without a shower is the day when most hikers start smelling. The whole “not bathing” thing is okay for the first couple days, but after a while it definitely starts to get to you. Waking up in your smelly tent, and putting on your sweat covered socks, shirt, and shorts is not the greatest way to wake up. It helps that everyone is equally as disgusting and gross though – it also makes that long awaited shower in town feel extra good.
Day 41: It’s official – I am back in the north! That’s right, we have officially crossed the Mason Dixon Line! Before crossing the border, the trail goes through PenMar state park. There were lots of Father’s Day celebrations going on in the park, and lots of people stopped to stare at the line of dirty hikers coming out of the woods. As I came down the mountain to the border, two trail angels were by the line with cold beer and snacks for thru hikers. A large group of us spent a while at the PA line celebrating the new state, which was a lot of fun.
Day 42: The PA rocks have begun slowly starting to become more extreme, however the terrain is still generally smooth which made for fast hiking. We passed through Caledonia State Park and a group of hikers spent a while swimming in a really pretty creek in the park. The shelter that night was the nicest I have seen yet. I don’t know why I didn’t take any pictures, but it had plotted flowers, a swinging bench, an enclosed porch, and not one but TWO shelters. All of this was about 5 miles into the middle of the woods. God bless the PATC for having the nicest and cleanest shelters I have seen so far on the trail!
Day 43: About an hour into the day, a huge thunderstorm engulfed the area. It poured for the next few hours, so I decided to take an early lunch and take a short nap to wait out the storm. It worked! When I woke up it was bright and sunny and I was able to enjoy the rest of my day. Today the trail crossed the official halfway mark of the trail. This was a huge deal for everyone that went straight from GA – PA, but for me it was just another mile on the trail because of the flip flopping!
Day 44: I woke up and walked the short distance down the trail to Pine Grove Furnace State Park, which is famous for the half gallon challenge. Essentially, thru hikers eat an entire half gallon of ice cream to celebrate the halfway point of the trail. I watched some of my friends attempt the challenge, and then went to scope out the free showers offered by the park. It was a really hot day, so a group of us spent a while hanging out by the lake and swimming. Eventually, my friend Dan arrived at the park and we knocked out a section of the trail together. We climbed to Pole Steeple, which was an awesome rock formation that had really nice views of the surrounding state forest. After the hike, I drove home with Dan and we went to go play ultimate frisbee with the league that I usually play in each summer. After the game, I slept at home that night which was really nice. It’s really cool being in my home state and being able to take advantage of how close I live to a lot of parts of the trail. It also gives a lot of my friends and family a chance to come visit me out on the trail, which is always a good time.
Day 45: My mom already had plans in advance to come visit me for the day, so I just drove up with her after a night of frisbee. Once we arrived back at Pine Grove State Park, I attempted the half gallon (and completed it!), and visited the AT museum that was in the park. James also came up with us that day so that he could spend the weekend hiking with me. Once my mom left, we raced an approaching thunderstorm and made it to a really nice campsite on top of the ridge. We also found out that Deer Park bottled water is gathered from the mountain streams in this region which means that I have been drinking water on the trail (for free) that is so good that people buy bottles of it.
Day 46: We woke up to pouring rain and humidity. The rain stopped around 10, but the heat and humidity decided to stick around. Other than the weather, the day was a lot of fun. We got to climb through giant boulders, and through some really pretty creeks. James is starting to actually get the hang of this backpacking thing, which is really exciting. He did really well this trip and I was so happy that I got to hike with him again. As we got to the shelter the rain started up again, which wasn’t a big deal because we had a dry place to hang out and a lot of new faces to talk to.
Day 47: We got a late start on the day, and hiked down the mountain and through some large pastures to where the trail crosses Boiling Springs, PA. The town is known for fly fishing and it’s beautiful limestone creeks. We decided the spend the night in the town to fill up on pizza, beer, and sleep. Lately the trail has been somewhat scary because hikers are dropping like flies. It seems like a pretty large amount of people are getting off the trail due to injury. It’s just another reminder that I have to make sure I take good care of my body and listen to it when I am in pain or tired. Get well soon to everyone that is temporarily off the trail due to injury, we all miss you!!
Total miles hiked: 390.6
Miles to go: 1798.9
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