Woah, We’re (Almost) Half-Way There
Hey hikerfriends! It’s been a hot minute since I updated. Sorry. It doesn’t mean I’m not thinking of you.
When last we spoke, I was recovering from my Marathon Day in Damascus, VA, at mile 470. That was a rough aftermath- raw skin, blisters, a maybe-sprained ankle. We ended up taking not one but TWO zeros at Woodchuck’s Hostel. His blueberry pancakes were not an insignificant factor in that decision. Now I’m writing from off-trail, having left at mile 891 to spend a weekend with my ever-patient husband. I’ll hop back on around mile 930 to reunite with the Trail Fam.
I’ve been blessed to hike with the same group of excellent people since my very first night on the AT at Hawk Mountain Shelter. I am pleased to report that we are still going strong as a trail family, almost exactly two months into this adventure. Going into my thru-hike, I did not expect or even necessarily want to find one group to stick with. I was excited to be solo, and I certainly wasn’t planning to compromise my own independence for the sake of company. However, they are such excellent companions, and we are so compatible, that they have made my hike 100 times better than it would have been solo, and I don’t for a second feel like I’m missing out on anything by being with them. I’m actually spending tonight away from them for the first time ever, thanks to my wonderful husband driving down to visit and take me to a B&B in Elkton, VA, that is WAY too nice for hikertrash like me. Luckily, he brought me real-people clothes, and although I almost fell over trying to put on a pair of skinny jeans, no one yet suspects that I should really be tenting on the front lawn.
It was in Damascus that we solidified our trail family status. Our group, the Slacking Minglers, merged with another group, Hamburgers, Yay!, and became the Shady Creepers, in honor of the intersection of Shady Ave and Creepers Way in Damascus. If you are interested in collective dirtbag shenanigans, we’ve just created our own Insta account, @shadycreepers. Who knows what will go on there? Although some folks have come and gone, the bond remains strong. I know it’s been said over and over and over before, but the best part of the trail really is the people you meet out here.
So, hiking. We do a lot of that. Happy two-month Trailaversary to us today, June 25th! In 61 days, we’ve hiked 921 miles, for an average of 15ish miles a day. We are not always the most consistent. For example, two days ago we did 25.7 miles. Then the next day we did 7.3 into a campground where my mom picked us up and took us to a lodge. So although 15 is an average, we are regularly shooting for 18-22 miles on a full hiking day, and it’s a pace we all feel comfortable with. We are making excellent progress – despite being at the later end of NOBO starters, we’re on track to hit Harper’s Ferry on July 2. Conventional trail wisdom says you should aim to hit HF by Fourth of July weekend to be considered “on track” for a timely Katahdin finish, so we’re feeling good about where we are. More importantly, we’re feeling strong and confident in our hiking. Of course, we will have aches and pains – Lazarus uses KT tape on his knee every day, See-Alice is dealing with a ginormous heel blister that won’t quit, and we’ve all got some degree of chafing happening in this central-VA humidity. But at least now we know our limits, we respect each others’ hikes, and we’re in good spirits.
Shenandoah NP has been lovely. The trail weaves back and forth across the Blue Ridge Parkway, popping out of the woods at pullover viewpoints, providing easy access to the road for hop-on, hop-off hiking, or access to day visitors for yogi-ing food for those so inclined. I actually got to do a teeny bit of trail magic yesterday while playing tourist with my husband. A thru-hiker I vaguely recognized was hanging out at an overlook we stopped at. His name is Captain Planet, and we had crossed paths briefly 2 or 3 weeks earlier at The Captain’s. I gave him an extra banana we had in our car – it was a small thing but I know fruit is one of the foods I most crave when hiking so I was glad to be able to do that. It’s good “Karma”! True to the rumors, there are LOTS of bears here, and they’re not nearly as timid as the ones I’ve seen previously (even in the Smokies). While all the other bears I’ve seen have practically tripped over themselves to run away, I’ve now seen several that sit up and stare at you, following you down the trail as you nervously clap your trekking poles together, and reacting not at all to my trash talk attempts. It’s intimidating, but so far no problems. Fingers crossed.
What’s up next: finally leaving VA – although I have no blues, we have been in VA since May 26th and I’m ready to hit a new state and new region of the country. Attempting the 4-State Challenge (44 miles in one day, from VA to PA) over Fourth of July weekend- stay tuned. Hitting 1,000 miles, the unofficial halfway point in Harper’s Ferry, and the official halfway point in Pine Grove State Forest, PA. The Half-Gallon Challenge (if they have vegan Ben & Jerry’s). Hatmandu’s family assisting us with slacking in PA. So lots of good things coming our way! Need I say that it never gets old? Every day holds new scenery, new challenges, and new adventures.
As always, feel free to ask any questions in the comments, and follow along for the ride on the Instagram: @nicholeyoung1. Thanks for all the kind words I’ve been getting there!
PS – remember that fundraiser I was doing for water.org? My goal was to raise $2,189 – I closed out at $2,925!!! Thanks so much all you generous souls out there, we helped change lives!!
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