Day 56 – Harpers Ferry, West Virginia – Dahlgren Backpack Campground – 18.0 miles
Today was a great day to be back on trail and I felt rested and ready to go once I woke up. I stayed at the Teahorse Hostel last night and went to sleep early because I was tired from the train ride. I slept from 6:30 in the afternoon to 7 in the morning. The owner of the hostel made waffles for everyone and I ate my share before leaving for the day. I had to walk through town to get back to the trail so I stopped at a coffee shop to catch up on some writing. After about an hour I set off for the trail. The A.T. runs through Virginia for just 4 miles before it enters Maryland. I only had to walk 1 mile before I was done with another state. The weather was pleasant and there were a ton of day hikers out on the trail. I talked with many of them and a lot were interested in my thru hike. One older hiker even called me “her hero”. What I’m doing doesn’t make me even close to being a hero, but it was cool to see the support from people who wish to be out here themselves. By 1 in the afternoon I made it 12 miles and stopped at a shelter for lunch. I met a section hiker named Big Toe, and we talked as I ate a peanut butter and honey wrap and some crackers. I knew I wasn’t going to go too far the rest of the afternoon, so I moved a bit slower for the rest of the hike. I met Grandpa Don and stopped and talked for almost 20 minutes. He was proud to be getting his PhD in history soon and wanted to tell me all about it. After that, I didn’t see anyone else for the rest of the afternoon. I got to the campground around 6:30 and made dinner before setting up my tent. I thought I was going to be the only one there for the night, but an hour later 4 other thru hikers showed up, and there were two other people out camping for the night. One of the hikers in the group ordered pizza to be delivered to the campground. Unfortunately, not being in this “trail family”, meant I was not invited to the pizza party. Nonetheless, the day was a great day, I’m ready for another great one tomorrow, and I didn’t want any pizza anyway.
Day 57 – Dahlgren Backpack Campground – Falls Creek Campsite – 24.3 miles
Today was a great day out on the trail. The mix of good weather and nice people made it very enjoyable. I woke up really early, around 5:45, and laid in my tent for another hour. Eventually I got up, brushed my teeth, packed my bag, and was on the trail by 7:30. The trail didn’t have any big climbs today, but a lot of it was rocky. The size of the rocks varied constantly. Two miles up the trail was the Washington Monument. They had picnic tables there so I sat down and ate breakfast. I decided to try something new so I mixed a chocolate flavored. Carnation Instant Breakfast in my pot with some water and then added some frosted mini wheats. It was amazing. After I ate I went on the .2 mile side trail and checked out the monument. One thing that was cool about Maryland is that it passed through a lot of historic sites so there was a lot to see and a lot of history to be learned. Back on the trail, I stopped to let an older couple go by. Their names were Theresa and Howie and they are retired grandparents. They travel around in their RV and hike all over the place. We talked for about 10 minutes, then Howie took a picture of me and Theresa before I hiked on. The trail didn’t have any big climbs today so most of the effort went towards jumping from rock to rock. I hiked all day and got to Pen-Mar Park around 6:30. I was the only person in the park besides one of the groundskeepers and as I was unpacking my bag he drove over to me in his cart and told me to “pack my bag up and leave the park…”. Just kidding. We talked for about ten minutes and as the evening went on more and more families showed up to have dinner and let the kids play. One of the families sitting near me offered some rice and chips and salsa. I gladly accepted and we talked as I ate the rice. After dinner, I walked .2 miles and got to the Mason Dixon Line or the Pen-Mar border! I am no longer in the south anymore. The campsite was just a half mile down the trail and I got there with daylight so I didn’t have to use my headlamp to set up. One other hiker, Poles, made a fire and is the only other one camping tonight. I feel happy to make it through another state and it fires me up for more!
Day 58 – Falls Creek Campsite – Birch Run Shelter – 27.3 miles
I woke up a little late, around 8:00, and took my time packing up. I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up at the end of the day, but I didn’t feel rushed. There was a stream right next to me, so it was nice being able to have water right away and be able to wash up and get ready. It didn’t take too long for me to be back on trail, and I was hiking by 8:45. The trail had some ups and downs, but for the most part was pretty easy terrain and I made good time in the morning. It was also a beautiful day, a bit hot a times, but when there was a breeze it was pretty much perfect hiking weather. By 2 in the afternoon I had hiked 17 miles and the trail passed Caledonia State Park. They had a pool and a snack bar. I didn’t go to the pool, but hit up the snack bar and got a Gatorade, some chicken fingers and French fries, and a pretzel. More hikers showed up as I was eating and there was a hiker feed starting up as I was getting done. They had chips, drinks, and were making quesadillas on the grill. I had a quesadilla and then hiked on to the next shelter after taking a couple hours off from the trail. It was only 4 miles away and I decided to keep going to the next shelter because I felt like I could push it there with daylight. I ended up rolling into the shelter as the sun was setting and joined Baker, Poles, and a section hiker with her dog. I had some rice and my last avocado and then got right to bed to get off my feet. My legs feel tired, but after a good rest I’ll be ready for another day!
Day 59 – Birch Run Shelter – Stealth Camp – 21.3 miles
I was excited getting up in the morning because within my first 10 miles I knew I was going to pass the 1,100 mile mark and also the official halfway point. The way I see it now is I’m just counting down the miles to Katahdin, rather than counting up towards it. I’ve enjoyed the terrain through Pennsylvania so fat. It hasn’t been as bad as people said it was going to be, as far as the rocks go, and not too many climbs either. I hiked the ten miles by 11:30 and got to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The A.T. Museum is here and also a convenient store which is where some hiker will do the half gallon challenge. I chose not to eat a half gallon of ice cream, but opted for a couple breakfast sandwiches which filled me up pretty good. After I ate I went over to the museum, took a tour, and chilled for a couple hours in their hiker lounge. Around 2:30 I got back on trail, only to pass a lake with people swimming and another snack bar just .5 miles down trail. I stopped and talked with a couple hikers and debated on getting more food to eat, but decided not to and hiked on. The rest of the afternoon was good hiking, and towards the end of the day I passed a hiker named Kiwi and hiked with her for a little bit. She is from New Zealand and was attempting the half gallon challenge as I was eating. Around 6 o’clock the trail passed a road that had a deli just .3 off trail. I couldn’t pass this opportunity and got an Italian sub with some chips and ate with Cool Rock and Granite who I saw inside. Granite is from New Hampshire and it’s always cool meeting people from close to home. I had a frappe for dessert and then made it 4 more miles to a spot by a creek. I set my tent up, took a creek bath, and then got in my tent for the night. I brought a lacrosse ball from home that I roll my feet out with at night and it seems to be helping a lot. I’ve been feeling good since being back on the trail and ready for more hiking tomorrow!