Waynesboro, VA - Harpers Ferry, W.VA [Mile 863 - Mile 1,024]
June 12, 2018
Waynesboro to Calf Mountain Shelter
Despite the fact that I wanted to zero in Waynesboro, I've found myself hiking out this morning. Bru and Prime left around 8:30 and I've got the morning to myself to continue prepping.
I went to the local coffee shop, The French Press, and bought two breve lattes. I made some phone calls and caught up with friends back home.
Back at the hotel, I was offered a free ride to the trail head by a trail angel named Katz. His name comes from the book, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. There is a character, the less-motivated hiking partner of Bryson, named Katz. My trail angel feels that what we are doing is noble and worth supporting. I recorded our conversation but I'm not sure about the audio quality in the car.
I felt energized and motivated to hike today. The sky is completely overcast but I prefer that to sweltering heat. My hiking friends pushed 20 miles today but I was only able to make it 7.5 to the first shelter because I started in the afternoon. I thought about pushing more miles and stealth camping, but didn't feel like taking that risk my first night in the Shenandoah National Park. There are so many bears in this park.
My goal is to make it to Big Meadows Campground on Friday. A hiking friend is meeting up with friends from home and there will be free food and good company.
Maybe 26 miles tomorrow to catch up with my friends? The terrain is so relaxed in the Shenandoah (SNP).
Calf Mountain Shelter to stealth camp spot at the Cliffs
I hiked alone today. Towards the end of the day I met Spinelli, Wizard and Lucky at the campstore. SNP has waysides (restaurants) and campstores (convenience stores) throughout the park. SNP follows Skyline Drive, like the Blue Ridge Parkway, and so the park caters to car campers and driving tourists.
The terrain is so lovely here. My pack feels too heavy but otherwise this hiking is the easiest so far. I'm having trouble remaining in the moment though. I am constantly thinking of getting to Big Meadows Campground on Friday or Harpers Ferry next week to meet my parents. I think the key to a long-term journey is to remain present and happy with the now. Thinking too far ahead only causes my mind to tumble and tumble until I hit Katahdin (the end of the trail).
Cliffs stealth spot to another stealh spot near a Fire Road
Huge mental blow today. I was busting my butt to reach a shelter [for a total of 22 miles today] to meet my friends. About 16 miles into the day, close to the end, I received a text that they had encountered a trail angel. The angel was taking them to his house for the evening. All of my motivation immediately disappeared and I was crushed. Suddenly the last six miles felt impossible.
Luckily I crossed a water source (not on the guidebook) and found a stealth tent spot next to the trail. I'm exhausted and so is Sadie. Grateful to have water and a tent spot, makes me feel more grounded tonight.
Stopping early also puts my arrival in Harpers Ferry (Wednesday June 20th) into question. I'm a bit stressed by the deadline I've created.
I'm also putting a lot of thought into what motivates me at this point in the hike. It seems, lately, that I've catered my schedule to keeping up with hiking buddies. I didn't zero in Waynesboro and now i've pushed myself to the very end of the day just to meet up with friends at a shelter. My reaction to their trail magic alarms me. If I can't be happy that my friends got trail magic, if I find myself bitter at that fact, am I altering my hike too much for them?
What's the right balance for relationships out here?
Stealth Fire Road spot to Rock Spring Hut (Shelter)
Made it to Big Meadows campground! Turns out that my friends are at another campground, 27 miles south (wrong direction) because this campground was full. I didn't have service at the wayside but I wasn't too upset. I'm feeling much more clear-headed today and am happy that my friends received magic and are now cozy at a campsite with food and friends.
I ate a cheeseburger, fries, blackberry milkshake, coke and a beer. Soon after I was asleep in the grass next to Sadie. The sunshine, food and chance to relax really made today wonderful.
Despite many offers to share others' campsites, and the proximity to food, I decided to hike out of Big Meadows to the first shelter down the trail. My friends will catch up tomorrow.
Rock Spring Hut to Pass Mountain Hut
Another delicious stop in the SNP! After a quick 7 miles this morning Sadie, me and most other hikers stopped at Skyland, a lodge in the park. The all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet has been talked about for days. I stopped for food, to charge my phone, touch base with friends and enjoy one of the best perks of this park.
After breakfast we hit the trail and I noticed that Sadie was limping. At first thought it was only stiffness that would work out with more walking.
Passed through a picnic area in the afternoon and I was stopped by an elderly couple eating lunch. They asked if I was a thru-hiker and when they learned that I was they started sharing their food and asking me questions. My friend Bru walked up and soon he had food in his hands as well. Prime walked up shortly after and received the same. I'm not sure the names of this couple, but we dubbed them The Giving Tree. They often sit at this picnic table - right next to the trail - and share food and conversation with hikers.
What we're doing out here is somewhat arbitrary. This journey is meaningful but most of that meaning comes from within each hiker. From small conversations to friends from Day 1 on the trail, I'm finding that relationships are an integral part of how I create meaning and significance around my hike.
It felt wonderful to be reunited with my friends today.
Sadie's limping got worse and by the end of the day we were walking at a 1.5 mile pace (usually we're 2.0 - 2.5 mph). Bru was incredibly kind and walked with me while I worried and talked through options if it didn't get better.
1 mile south from Pass Mountain Shelter to Mountain Cabin Hostel
Bru had to carry Sadie to the tent last night. She wouldn't get up from where she lay by the shelter. I inspected her paws and there is a raw spot on one of her toe pads. It's located so that it rubs up against her center foot pad. I'm glad it's not a true injury, rather discomfort, but that doesn't change how difficult it is to see her in pain.
She was still limping this morning and by the time Bru and I got to the trail from the shelter it was obvious that she could not make a full day of hiking. I decided to hike south to a road to see if I could get a ride to the hostel we planned to stay at tonight. Bru continued to hike the miles to the hostel. We planned to meet up that night.
Walking just over a mile took forever. I had to coax Sadie to keep walking. When I got the road, a truck stopped to let me pass the road, I signaled that I wanted a ride. A kind man, Steve, heard my story and offered to drive me to a spot he knew that I could get cell service. I was able to call Lisa, the owner of Mountain Cabin Hostel. She drove out (for a shuttle fee) to pick me up and take me back to the hostel.
I'm grateful for trail angels and moments of magic. Out here we say 'the trail provides' and it always does. A day of rest has been good for Sadie. She seems improved. We're going to try and hike out tomorrow.
Zero at Whiskey Hollow Shelter
Catching up on yesterday: We hiked out of the hostel and Sadie was in good spirits and not limping a bit. After ten miles we stopped at a shelter for lunch. Yesterday was the hottest day on the trial yet. The humidity was insane and by noon we were worn down and sopping wet with sweat. Manassas Gap Shelter was empty and the water source was a cold spring close by. Bru and I cooked lunch and took a nap.
Originally we planned for 12 miles more but when Sadie got up from her nap she was limping again. I decided that I was only going to hike four more miles to Whiskey Hollow shelter and call the day short. If Sadie's paw was re-irritated then hiking more wasn't going to help.
I've not been able to think about anything else today. What do I do if she's not better tomorrow? Why didn't I stay at the hostel an additional day and let her paw heal more? That's not productive. Stay in the present. What I can do now is all I can do.
If she's not better in the morning Sadie and I will stay at the shelter all day to rest.
This is something that I knew could happen with this hike. Sadie's wellbeing is a major priority for me and hiking with a dog adds a lot of work, risk, and cost. I have such contradicting reactions: worry for her comfort, but also frustration that this hike is being slowed down. My friends are hiking onwards and I'm not sure how long this will take. But I chose to bring her out here and this is part of that choice. I feel badly for putting her in this situation.
My dad sent an idea. There is a dog kennel right next to the trail at the next road crossing (about 5 miles ahead). I can hike there, board Sadie and my parents will pick her up on the way to Harpers Ferry tomorrow. I called the kennel this morning and they had no availability. Last option gone.
We've spent the entire day at the shelter. Shelter zeroes are always talked about but I've yet to meet a hiker that has stayed immobile all day. I don't recommend them. The morning was fine, I ate, drank coffee, and read a lot. By the late afternoon I was bored and by the evening when the shelter was full of other hikers, having hiked their full day, I was sick of the place and ready to go.
Tomorrow we're going to hike to the road and wait for my parents to pick us up.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
I got to the designated pick up point by 10am. My parents weren't going to be there until 4pm. Luckily, another hiker was waiting for a shuttle he had scheduled. I offered to split the cost so I could get into town earlier.
I'm taking this in stride. This is part of my hike. But, I've got to seriously consider what to do with Sadie for the rest of this hike. What is best for her? For this hike?
Got out picture taken at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters! Harpers Ferry isn't the mathematical halfway point of the trail, but it is the spiritual or psychological halfway point. Since the ATC is headquartered here, hikers can head to the office, get their picture taken and logged into the official record of hikers.
Halfway. So much done. So much to go.