Day 53 – Front Royal Hostel – Rod Hollow Shelter – 27.4 miles
I had to be ready by 8:30 this morning so I could get the free shuttle into town and resupply at the grocery store. I took the shuttle with 3 other hikers who were slackpacking for the day rather than resupplying. The driver dropped me off at Martin’s grocery store and then took the others to the trail. After town, I got driven back to the hostel, did a load of laundry, and laid my tent out in the sun so it could dry. The material is so thin that leaving it out in direct sun for just 5-10 minutes will completely dry it out. By the time I was back on the trail it was already noon. It was hot, muggy, and sunny and I was excited to be hiking today in the sun. The trail started with a steep decline, then flattened out for the first 6 miles until I got to a main road. As I was getting near the road, an ominous dark sky started to make its way towards me and before I knew it, heavy rain poured down on me and the trail became flooded. I pushed on and after a little over an hour the rain stopped and the sun came back out. The trail was still muddy and flooded, but the sun would stay out for the rest of the day. I stopped at a shelter around 4 and ate some cheese and crackers. There were already 6 hikers there for the night, but I wanted to push on. A few miles up the trail came to a road crossing and a nice woman named Sherica was in her car and asked me if there was any water nearby. I told her I didn’t know because I wasn’t from around here, and we went on to talk about the trail and my journey because she had never heard of the A.T. before. She gave me a couple liters of water before I left which was really nice. Literally a few minutes after that, right before I got back into the woods, a 2017 thru hiker named Summercamp was doing some trail magic and she offered me hotdogs, chips, candy, apples, vegetables, and cold Gatorade. We talked for a while as I put down 5 hotdogs and eventually Bo showed up. Bo and I ended up hiking to the next shelter together and once we got there, around 7:45, I decided to keep going so I could get more miles in. It got dark soon after I left Bo so I put on my headlamp and kept trudging through the night. The sky was perfectly clear and whenever there was an opening in the trees the moon would brighten my path and I would stop and stare out at the stars. I didn’t feel tired until around 1 in the morning and it was starting to not be fun anymore. I kept looking off the trail to see if there was any spot I could stop and throw up my tent, but there wasn’t anything so I walked for another hour to the next shelter. There was a stream right before it so I cleaned up all the mud off my body, set up my tent, and was ready to fall asleep. Man I was happy to be laying down.
Day 54 – Rod Hollow Shelter – Campsite – 26 miles
Even though I got to bed late, I still woke up at 6:30 and surprisingly I felt energized and ready to hike. There was another tent about 20 feet away from me that I didn’t see last night and he was breaking down his tent when I woke up. His name is Dog Whisperer and he was from Buffalo, New York. We talked for a little, mostly about the Bills and Patriots and then I set off to hike. It was a beautiful morning. Not too hot, sunny, and a nice breeze. I walked by 3 other hikers before the first mile and then got to the start of the “Roller Coaster” which is 13.5 miles of constant ups and downs on rocky terrain. The first climb was pretty steep and I started sweating just a minute in. The first 5 miles lived up to its name as the ascents and descents didn’t stop. At the first stream I took a break to eat breakfast and brush my teeth. I met Puff Bun and Hummingbird while I was eating. Puff Bun is in medical school and is just doing a section and Hummingbird hiked the PCT last year and now is attempting the AT. They hiked on, but I bumped into them again when we reached the 1,000 mile mark. I couldn’t believe I made it that far! I kept moving through the roller coaster and around 1 o’clock I stopped at Bears Den Hostel to take a break and eat lunch. I was jonesing for a cold drink so once I got there I drank a couple sodas from the fridge, then sat outside and made some peanut butter and honey wraps. While I was eating, I met another thru hiker named Robin Hood. We ate lunch together and I’d end up seeing him a few more times along the trail during the day. The weather made the rest of the day very pleasant and soon after the hostel I was done with the roller coaster and the trail flattened out a lot. It was still pretty rocky so I couldn’t keep as quick of a pace as I would have liked, but I was happy there wasn’t any more steep climbs. 22 miles in I stopped at a shelter to eat dinner. It was about 6 pm and there were already about 13 hikers there in the shelter and setting up camp. I walked down .4 miles to get water and met Dandelion who made her way to the trail all the way from Australia. She was hilarious and was telling me a bunch of stories from all her adventures from years passed. She had about 10,000 trail miles under her feet and she said that the A.T. has been the most difficult because of the terrain. I made some rice and put it into a tortilla with some cheese and a avocado and then I hiked another 4 miles to a campsite. I got there just as it was getting dark so I was happy I didn’t have to night hike again. There were a bunch of tents and hammocks set up when I got here and everyone is excited to get into Harpers Ferry tomorrow.
Day 55 – Campsite – Harpers Ferry, West Virginia – 4.2 miles
I woke up really early so I could meet Gabe, Fuego, and Spaceship for breakfast in Harpers Ferry. It was another beautiful morning and the trail was rocky, but flat. Right before the trail got into Harpers Ferry, I crossed the Shenandoah River and I couldn’t help, but stop and watch the water flow down stream. I got into town at 8 in the morning and walked through the historic district to get to the Country Cafe. I saw the crew there and I ate a huge omelette, bagel, and home fries. After breakfast we walked down to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and got my picture taken. Harpers Ferry is the “unofficial” or “psychological” halfway point on the trail. Many hikers drop out at this point, but also many hikers get inspired at this point and keep the momentum going to Maine. I am feeling the latter of the two. When I first started this hike I couldn’t even fathom making it this far. Now that I have though, I know that there’s nothing that will stop me from completing this journey and I will make it to Maine. I am getting off trail for a bit, to go home, rest, and visit some friends and family. So tonight we are staying at a work for stay hostel at Stoneybrook Organic Farm, which is run by the 12 tribes spiritual community!