Monthly Archives: June 2014

Day 117: An unsatisfying zero day is had

Miles Hiked: 1.9
Miles Left: 1040.3
Ending Location: Staying at the Stardust hotel, Duncannon PA, Mile 1145.0

After hiking 25 miles the day before I was ready for a relaxing zero day. The problem was, I didn’t want to spend it at the Doyle. Looking back at it, I should have sucked it up and stayed there, but I had visions of a proper hotel floating in my head.

The Stardust motel was a couple miles off the trail but in my guidebook it mentioned they would provide rides to and from it so I figured I’d give them a try. They picked up from the Pilot gas station on the edge of town so if you want to get technical I turned today into a Nero by hiking the two miles to it. Every little bit counts 🙂

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Day 116: Staying at the historic Doyle. Also 25 miles hiked, go me!!

Miles Hiked: 25.4
Miles Left: 1067.8
Ending Location: Staying at the Doyle hotel, Duncannon PA, Mile 1143.1

Originally I had been planning to zero today. I was at a nice hotel and my last zero day was all the way back in Waynesboro VA. My goal was to update my blog, sleep, and perhaps even watch some Netflix. I know, real exciting. I decided to hike instead since it was a Monday and pretty much everything in the resort was closed. Not only that, but with no wifi and no cell signal I would have been able to check “sleeping” off my todo list but not much else. Even that would have been tricky since if I wanted anything to eat I would have had to hike downtown. The ironic part was that Sunshine, Youngbeard, and Owl did end up zeroing even though they had originally planned to go hiking today. Sunshine was still feeling sick and Owl was nursing an injured foot. It would later turn out that Owl was suffering from a ruptured nerve casing in his foot but don’t worry, he seems to be doing ok as of when I’m writing this, (nearly two weeks into the future).

So that’s how I went from zeroing to hiking 25 miles instead.

The first eighteen miles were surprisingly pleasant. Flat, relatively rock free hiking through fields and strips of forests pretty much sums it up. Some of these were Amish farms so it was hard not to stare at the men and women in old style garb working the fields. At one point I ran across some amazing trail magic as well in the form of two coolers filled with ice cold soda and beer along with some folding chairs set up for hikers to relax in. I ended up showing some rare good judgement by grabbing a beer for later and drinking lemonade instead. Near the end of this section the trail it ran along a fairly substantial river. Considering that it was downstream of all the farms I had been passing I had no desire to go swimming in it, but there were a lot of kids playing in the shallower parts.

After that the AT returned to normal with a rocky climb up to a ridge line. This was where the two shelters for this section were located. The Darlington shelter contained one of the bigger disappointments of the trail so far. AWOL’s guide stated it had a “Taj Mahal” privy. When I got there the outhouse was much like any other privy though. It just had a “Taj Mahal” sign over it. I guess it’s all about the branding. Hey, these things matter in the woods!

By the time I reached the second shelter it was already getting dark so I just paused long enough to read the log book. According to the entries written by other hikers, a porcupine lived under the shelter and would occasionally get aggressive. Yet another threat I hadn’t considered when deciding to hike the AT. There was also a plastic monster glove hanging from the wall. No clue about the story behind that one.

Now the climb down to Duncanon may have been one of the more dangerous things I’ve done on the trail. Rocks doesn’t really describe it. You know when you see a rock slide along a mountain? That was pretty much it all the way down with football sized rocks stacked on top of each other forming the stepping stones. Now imagine all if these rocks being loose and hiking on them in the dark with a backpack on and you can start to see that it was a bit tricky. The worst part though was unknown to me the AT took a turn to go over one last hump so I completely missed it and kept going down. I found myself in a parking lot with no white blazes anywhere so I consulted my map and realized my error. Then it was back up the mountain, over the hump, and then back down to a spot about 50 feet from where I was originally. Grrrr.

The walk into Duncanon was a bit depressing at night. This wasn’t what I would call an up and coming town and everything looked worn down and dirty. This impression continued as I got closer to the historic Doyle hotel where I was planning on staying. Well add to that the fact that it was locked up and closed to and you can imagine my disappointment. There was a bar downstairs and it was only 11 so I was sure it would have been open. Luckily another hiker was on the patio so he grabbed one of the owners and I was able to get a room for the night. The place itself was a hoot. Decrepit doesn’t even begin to cover it. Holes in the roof, mold, carpet that hadn’t been cleaned since the Eisenhower administration…. It was one of the most run down places I’ve stayed at on the trail so far. But I was exhausted so I immediately fell asleep.

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Day 115: Boiling Springs PA, and a trip to the theator

Miles Hiked: 19.8
Miles Left: 1067.6
Ending Location: Staying at the Allenberry Resort Inn and Playhouse, Stopped at mile 1117.7

I found myself on the trail this morning by myself. Sunshine was feeling very sick so her, Youngbeard, and Owl ended up zeroing and skipping ahead to Boiling Springs instead. I on the other hand had the ambitious goal to hike 19 miles that day and meet them in town later that night.

It certainly was good terrain for a high milage day. The trail in the park followed an old railway track so it was mostly flat and rock free. Even when the AT eventually broke off and left the park it was easy going. The only thing I needed to keep an eye out for were people running along the trail. With the lack of rocks, proximity to the park, and it being the weekend there were a ton of joggers out. Being the slow one I always tried to get off to the side of the trail to let them pass but it was a bit disheartening to see someone going back and forth while you trudged on with your pack.

At the first shelter of the day I came across a beer sitting on the shelter log. My initial reaction was “Woho! Trail Magic!”, but on reading the last journal entry I saw it was left for someone’s friend who was lagging a day behind. Since I’m all for giving your friends a hard time I reluctantly left the beer where it was. That was probably for the best as it was still early in the day.

Near mile 1110 in AWOL’s guide it lists “Rock Maze”. I found out that was a pretty good description since that point was actually a mountain covered with huge boulders. Rather than going up or around them the trail weaved in and out of the crevices and paths created by the rocks. This led to some interesting trail paths where the entrance and the exit would often be a couple of feet away from each other but you would have to scramble fifty feet to follow the real trail and hit every white blaze. It was a ton of fun and really helped liven up the day.

Near the end of the day I stopped by the Alec Kennedy shelter to take a quick break. As I was there it started to rain a bit which was annoying. It’s never fun to be tired and wet. Reluctantly though I put on my rain gear and pushed on. Shortly afterwards I came across the halfway rock which was a reproduction of the original AT halfway marker. Around then the rain stopped misting and things cleared up a bit which was much appreciated. Then it was down the mountain and the start of the Pennsylvania farm section of the trail where the AT runs right between farmers’ crops. There wasn’t much of that today but the next day would contain a lot of paths through the fields. These sections of the AT had been seized using eminent domain when it was being built and the story goes the farmers are still mad about it to this day. I didn’t have the chance to talk to any farmers to confirm this, but I have to say it was a fun switch up to find myself walking through fields of wheat.

The last bit of the trail for the day went through downtown Boiling Springs PA. There used to be a huge foundry operation there and the main remnants of that were the springs themselves which had been turned into canals and walled ponds to support the foundry. Now they served as the center of the town park and made the place quite fancy. This was one of the few towns that has seemed to prosper after the disappearance of the iron jobs and the area I walked through looked very well to do. Considering the “local” bar was a five star restaurant and the only hotel was a country club/resort/theater company, you can kind of get an idea of what the place was like. The AMC headquarters was also here but surprisingly it has a reputation of not being very friendly to hikers. They do mostly administrative stuff there so it is simply not set up to provide services for people currently on the AT.

Luckily the Allenberry resort and playhouse was extraordinary hiker friendly. Rooms were only $40, when normally they would go for much, much, more. Admittedly they put hikers in their own building to separate us from the paying guests, but hey the PA fly fishing museum was in the basement, (supposedly it was haunted), so I’m not going to complain. They also had a great common area there with pool tables, couches, and TVs for the hikers to enjoy.

Unfortunately they didn’t have any plays showing that night or Monday afternoon so I instead went to find Owl and company after getting settled in. Not surprisingly they were in the bar, which looked like it hadn’t been remodeled since the 70s with the dim lighting and carpet covered walls. The drinks were surprisingly good and cheep and the food was excellent though so we had a great time. A couple of the owners were also there meeting one of their daughter’s boyfriends. I got the distinct feeling that their grandfather had founded the resort and since then all if the kids have been living off of it and using it as their personal playground. They certainly liked hikers so I can’t complain though!

After that it was time to do laundry and spend some time cleaning and repairing my equipment. It had been a while since I had stayed in a hotel and while hostels are nice you really can’t doctor your equipment there like you need to. Hotels are nice since you can fully unpack, spread things around, and make full use of the shower, sink, towels, and hair driers. Because of all of this it turned into a late night but it was worth it.

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Day 114: Officially halfway done! Also the half gallon challenge is completed!

Miles Hiked: 8.9
Miles Left: 1087.4
Ending Location: Staying at the Iron Masters Hostel, Pine Grove Furnace State Patk, Mile 1097.9

Finally! Today I hit the official halfway point for the AT. Since the trail is constantly changing, the midpoint moves from year to year so the only marker is a dinky little sign the trail maintainers move around. There was a more official looking marker a mile down the road, (I think it represents the midpoint of the AT in 1978), so of course I had to have my picture taken by both. This milestone was a long time coming and it feels good to know I’ve passed this hump. Admittedly it took close to four months, but please remember Owl and I started out doing 6-8 miles a day. Now we are routinely doing 14-18. So if we can both stay healthy the second half of this adventure shouldn’t take as long. That’s the plan anyway. I’ll admit when I started the trail I had hopes that I would finish in late July or early August. Now it looks like mid September is going to be the target date. On the plus side, this is one of the many reasons I started mid February. I certainly didn’t want to worry about running out of time before the endpoint in Baxter State park closed for the year.

Now the true celebration of reaching the halfway point is the half gallon challenge held at the country store in Pine Grove Furnace state park. The goal is to eat a half gallon of ice cream as fast as you can without throwing up or letting it melt into a disgusting goo. Even for AT hikers this was not easy and several people gave up while we were there. In the days leading up to this many strategies discussed on how to best tackle the challenge but when faced with the selection of flavors I forgot all of them and picked the dreaded Peanut Butter instead. I figured I didn’t hike one thousand miles to eat vanilla! Like many things in life it started out great and got progressively harder as time went on. A last chunk of chocolate peanut butter cup at the bottom almost defeated me but I prevailed with a time of 34 minutes!

Now, as I mentioned earlier I may have a case of the hiker hunger. About 30 minutes after finishing the ice cream I stopped back in the store and ordered a cheeseburger and chips. And that was just for lunch. There was a 25 year reunion of the AT class of 1989 and they were hosting a huge potluck. So that night I downed several hotdogs, lots more chips, various side dishes, and a hunk of pie. Besides the food, it was a great time to be there because it was fascinating to hear how the trail has changed over the last twenty five years. The equipment back then was heavier, there was worse maps and support, keeping in touch with loved ones was harder, and the camping food was worse. Basically I felt like a wimp compared to everyone else there.

Pine Furnace park was also the home of the AT museum. Currently it only covers one floor of a small building but still it was cool to see artifacts such as the gear some of the first through hikers carried with them. Once again it made me feel like I had way too much stuff. I mean, they certainly weren’t carrying around Kindles. The hostel we stayed in for the night was the old Iron Master’s house back when this place smelted iron. Considering Owl was a part time blacksmith, he was on cloud nine for this. Unfortunately they didn’t offer smithing work for stay. The hostel itself was nice and clean and I enjoyed sitting on the couch and working on my journal backlog. It also had a secret room that we all happily explored, but it was a little disappointing. It just lead to the area under the foundation and there was no pirate treasure to be found.

That was pretty much my day. Tons of cool stories, food, and secret rooms. Let’s see what the second half of the AT has to offer!

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Day 113: No pool party today

Miles Hiked: 13.0
Miles Left: 1088.4
Ending Location: Birch Run Shelter, Mile 1096.9

The decent down Rocky Mountain, as the name might imply, was quite rocky. On the plus side some of those rocks were boulders so we all amused ourselves climbing on them for a bit. Sunshine and Youngbeard were both experienced climbers and it was interesting seeing them attack the boulders and listen to them talk about it afterwards. Apparently in bouldering a particular rock will be referred to as a problem set and there is a specific way you are supposed to climb it. I really like how they phrased climbing as solving a problem and that term has rattled around in my head since then whenever I’ve been hopping between some of Pennsylvania’s many rocks.

At the bottom of the hill was Caledonia State Park. In a piece of rare bad timing for us, the “summer season” didn’t start till that weekend so the burger stand was not open and more importantly the pool was closed! That was probably a good thing since there’s no way we would have made any further forward progress if it was open, but still you should have seen it. The water looked so cool and refreshing, the pool itself was huge, and it had a slide! What more could you want after hiking? Luckily their showers were operational so I was able to have my second shower in three days. It was almost like being civilized. Before the shower though we ended up waiting almost two hours by the campground HQ for our pizza delivery to show up. Hey, when an opportunity like that presents itself you have to take advantage of it! When the food finally did arrive we were very happy though we probably horrified the weekend campers as we demolished our cheese steaks, pizzas, and strombolis.

Clean and full we then headed back out on the trail. The next shelter we ran into was the Quarry Gap Shelters, which hands down wins the award for best shelter on the AT. It’s obviously a work of love by the caretaker as there were potted plants and board games, plus everything about the place was immaculate and well taken care of. Even the babbling brook flowing by it was clean and free of leaves and other debris. Unfortunately once again it just wasn’t in a good spot milage wise for us to stop for the day. What made this worse was the shelter we were aiming for, Birch Run, had a new danger. There had been a local in the area calling himself “Birchy” and claiming to be an AMC employee tasked with taking care of that shelter. He wasn’t, but that hadn’t stopped him from preying on the hikers there. His normal scam has been to invite hikers back to his “hostel” and then shake them down in the morning demanding money, gear, and drugs. There had been more disturbing stories about him and female hikers. I don’t know why a restraining order hadn’t been placed on him yet banning him from the AT, but he was bad news. Luckily he didn’t show up that night and there was tons of camping so it was a pretty good night. The only downside for me was it got a bit cold so I was really regretting my new summer sleeping bag.

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Day 112: Don’t drink the water but the Chinese food is great

Miles Hiked: 13.8
Miles Left: 1109.9
Ending Location: Rocky Mountain Shelter, Mile 1074.4

Today Owl and I found ourselves hiking a couple of hours in front of Youngbeard and Sunshine. It would later turn out that Sunshine had a cold but at the time we all thought it was allergies. I know that feeling from before…

The weather had cleared up but there were some water issues. Not the type you would think though. We were all running low on drinking water since the stream we had planned on filling up from had warnings posted all around it saying that the waste water treatment plant had been forced to dump raw sewage upstream a couple of weeks ago. I trust my steri-pen to filter my water, but not that much!

We eventually hit a road crossing and Owl and I decided to hitch into Waynsboro PA for lunch, (not Waynsboro VA where we were at earlier. Apparently that is a popular town name). After sticking our thumbs out for a bit a truck pulled over and we hopped in the back. The bed was filled with plastic trash cans so we hung on and tried to not fall out while speeding down the highway. It all turned out ok and we found ourselves dropped off in front of a Chinese buffet.

Now over the last section of the trail I had been realizing that I was acquiring the hiker hunger. Lots of food along the Shenandoahs combined with big milage days really did something to my metabolism. I hadn’t realized quite how developed it was until today though when I destroyed that buffet. I actually got angry when they took my spoon away after my fourth serving of ice cream! Needless to say, it was a worthwhile town trip. Owl had to go further into town to pick up a poison ivy treatment prescription, so I hitched out by myself. A nice couple picked me up and gave me cookies to boot!

Back on the trail I joined up with Youngbeard and Sunshine again at a mountain spring where they were refilling their water. We then headed out together. On the way we ran across a group of teenage kids who were on some sort of planned outing and obviously not enjoying it at all. We would later see another group that night experiencing similar issues. In these cases I really blame the trip organizers. It takes a lot of work and planning to make camping enjoyable for people who are new to it, but that’s essential if you don’t want to scare them away from outdoor activities in the future!

At this point we hit a stretch in the trail where there was a shelter just about every four miles. Well I guess I should say shelters since for whatever reason the fad here was to construct two shelters side by side. The nicest ones we saw were the Tumbling Run shelters, and it was with much regret we moved on since it was too early in the day to stop there. We also passed Antietam shelter which I assume was near the battlefield. When hiking around it we kept hearing gunfire and were hopeful a reenactment was going on but unfortunately I think there was just a shooting range nearby.

We ended the night camping in the hills above Rocky Mountain Shelter. I’m pretty happy I remembered these campsites on the way down to the shelter since all the campsites there were taken up by one of the before mentioned youth groups. Also the water situation was horrible. You had to walk all the way down the mountain to get to it. When we came to the road at the bottom I joked the next step would be to hitch into town and refill at the local pub, but we dealt with scooping water out of a muddy spring trickling out from the ground by the road instead. It was not ideal. Luckily the weather was ideal and we were able to dry out our tents from the previous night. It also was just the right temperature to sleep in so it was a good night.

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Day 111: Too many snakes! Also, hello Pennsylvania!

Miles Hiked: 17.0
Miles Left: 1124.2
Ending Location: Camping at the Falls Creek Campsite, Mile 1061.6

The title of this post pretty much explains today. I had my first snake encounter even before I left the campsite. I was making my way to the trail when another hiker exclaimed, ” I can’t believe you just stepped over that copperhead!” Sure enough, there was one slithering off the trail. I hadn’t even been looking for them since I wasn’t “hiking” yet. Later on, Youngbeard and I were hiking ahead of the group when a rattler in the middle of the trail announced his presence with a “If you take one more step I will mess you up!” tail shaking. I was cool with that. If the ratter had asked for my wallet I probably would have given it to him as well. Thinking back on it, I like rattlers much more than copperheads. I don’t want to step on a snake so if they let me know where they are, we’re cool.

By the time we saw our third snake, a harmless black racer which startled me, I may have yelled out a word that I did not learn in Sunday School. I was absolutely paranoid the rest of the day. I only saw one more black snake going up Raven’s Roost, but that was more than enough.

At one point Owl fell into some poison ivy so we had to split up so he could go to a nearby hostel to wash up. Sunshine, Youngbeard, and myself meanwhile did a crazy thing and all cooked a warm lunches while hanging out at the Cowall Shelter. It was glorious, I don’t know why I don’t do that more often. Oh yeah, I guess it’s because finding Mountain House meals is getting to be a bit tricky and we were there for over an hour, but still it was nice.

I think the climb up Raven’s Roost was Maryland’s way of saying, “See, I have mountains too!” What was trickier though was the climb down as it was covered in boulders. I believe that section was called the Devil’s Playground, and I can see why. Luckily no one fell and no snakes were encountered so life was good. We met up with Owl again at Pen Mar park; He had taken a side trail while we had been lazily eating our lunches and beat us there. His dad also met us at the park, as Owl had been trying out a hammock but after a couple of nights realized he preferred his tent. In addition his dad had brought dinner and fresh fruit for all of us so we all chowed down at one of the park benches.

Right after leaving the park we said goodbye to Maryland and crossed the Mason Dixie line into Pennsylvania and the North! I think all of us were Yankees at heart so it was a good milestone to hit. It was threatening to rain so we didn’t celebrate too much though and quickly made our way to an old abandoned forest road. We somehow managed to set up our tents there before a small storm hit. In conclusion, we finished the day with six states behind us and seven states ahead of us. It was a good day … Except for all those snakes!

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Day 110: Back with the old group

Miles Hiked: 14.1
Miles Left: 1141.2
Ending Location: Camping at Annapolis Rocks Campsite, Mile 1044.1

Due to my late arrival the night before I ended up sleeping in this morning. That’s my excuse anyways. When I finally got going I found Owl, Youngbeard, and Sunshine in the final stages of packing up but we still managed to find some time to swap stories. Apperantly aqua blazing was awesome. To hear more about it, check out Suneshine’s blog. Since I still didn’t have my act together though they left without me and I didn’t catch up to them till that night.

This stretch of trail continued the string of nice shelters. Rocky Run shelter in particular was very posh with the old shelter still standing down by the water for hikers who wanted a bit of privacy or to lounge in the swing out front. The newer shelter though was nicer than some houses I’ve seen. The trail was also very easy so it was a pleasant hike. That being said, for some reason I didn’t have much energy. I blame that on the fact that I didn’t have a hot meal the night before and just ate energy bars instead. Things like that can make a huge difference.

I stopped for a quick bite at the Dahlgreen Backpack Campground. They had free showers and electricity to recharge my phone, both of which were desperately needed, so I instead ended up staying there for quite a while. I was hoping to then grab lunch at “The Old South Mountain Inn”, (the guidebook suggested showering first…), but unfortunately it was closed so I pressed on. Quite a few civil war battles were fought around here which made the hike interesting as there were info plaques everywhere. Mostly they described the Union kicking butt so that made me happy.

The highlight of the day was hiking up to the original Washington Monument. Apparently the citizens of the town decided back in the day that George Washington needed a monument so they all got together and built it. It has been restored and rebuilt numerous times since then, but it offered a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside.

Near the end of the hike the AT ran through a residential area. It’s always a bit weird when you are walking through someone’s backyard. Then the trail crossed a major highway before getting back to normal by climbing a hill and then running along a ridge-line. Rather then stay at a shelter we instead camped at the Annapolis Rocks campsite, which at one point was one of the most overused campsites on the AT. I can see why since the view was spectacular, but now they have fairly strict camping regulations to let the vegetation grow back. It was nice cooking dinner on the rocks with everyone while looking out over the surrounding countryside. The weather was also perfect so I had no problems whatsoever sleeping that night. After hiking by myself for the last couple of weeks it was good to get back with our original group.

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Day 109: Harpers Ferry, and goodbye Virginia, hello Maryland!

Miles Hiked: 14.5
Miles Left: 1155.3
Ending Location: Crampton Gap Shelter, Mile 1030.0

Today I finally said goodbye to Virginia for the last time on this trip. It’s hard to describe how good that felt. No more Virginia Blues. From here on I’ll just have the good old AT blues!

The decent into Harpers Ferry was rocky but I didn’t care. Fittingly it was a beautiful day and I ended up hanging out on the bridge into town just looking at the Potomac River. Once in town I made my way to the AT headquarters to have my ceremonial halfway picture taken and to find out how many through hikers have come before me. This is the only count I’ll see until sometime next year when the AMC publishes the official completion statistics. It was a fun occasion and I spent the time joking with the people there and flipping through the log book to see all the hikers who I met along the way who passed me by. Also they had a scale so I weighed myself and then had to check with the staff to see if it was accurate. They assured me it was so apparently I’ve managed to loose slightly over 25 pounds so far. I need to eat more ice cream!

Walking through downtown Harpers Ferry I stopped by Cannonball Deli for a gyro and they were very hiker friendly. I felt a bit like hiker trash refilling my water bottles from the pitcher of water they left at my table, but it was much appreciated. Then I went next door for a necessary helping of ice cream and then it was on to the outfitter. They had horrible selection there but I was able to pick up some food and a new summer sleeping bag. It was a fairly quick shopping experience since I desperately needed a new sleeping bag because my zero degree one was so warm it was unusable. Also they only had one bag to choose from. It was cheep but heavier then my current one, and as a fifty five degree bag it’s been problematic since then as a bit too cold at night. Ah if only I had more regular internet access and better planning skills so I could order a good sleeping bag online. Don’t worry, I’ve been adapting by wearing my vest and additional clothing to bed. It actually feels good as I’m making use of just about everything I’m carrying every night.

Since the outfitter also was able to mail my old sleeping bag home I was able to leave town before 2pm. I was very happy at this quick stop as back when I started such a town visit would have included a zero day as well. The trail out of Harpers Ferry followed the old C&O canal which meant it was super flat. The canal itself was overgrown and a breeding ground for mosquitos and turtles, but the Potomac on the other side was picturesque. I came across some fellow hikers who had the great idea of swimming in it so I joined them and had a blast. Pyro even nearly caught a huge fish with his hands as it swum by. Unfortunately it was too slippery but honestly I have no idea what we would have done if he had caught it. Getting out of the water on the other hand was a pain, but luckily I had my camp towel handy. That is one piece of gear I never used in the winter but has become vital as things have warmed up.

All good things come to an end though, and eventually the AT broke off from the C&O canal and headed back up the mountain. I was making great time until at one point I stopped to check where I was using my smartphone gps and somehow got turned around and walked two miles in the wrong direction. I’m sure there’s some deep life lesson in that but I was too annoyed to find it. Therefore I ended up night hiking once again. At one point I was walking through a park dedicated to journalists who died in the civil war which had big signs saying it closed at night, sure that I was going to be ticketed for trespassing. Thankfully no encounters with law enforcement or other scary creatures were had and I arrived into camp without incident. Admittedly I was “that guy” again who woke everyone up while pitching my tent, but hey, at least I made it here!

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Hiked over 1000 miles, passed through 5 states, saw 9 bears, 2 rattlesnakes. and lost 25 pounds. Onward to the second half of this adventure!20140616-112932-41372311.jpg

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Day 108: One thousand miles, hello West Virginia, and a hiker feed OMG!

Miles Hiked: 16.4
Miles Left: 1169.8
Ending Location: Camping at a campsite located at mile 1015.5

Somehow I was the first one up in the morning and I started it by realizing I had completely forgotten how to cook a real meal after the last four months on the trail. At least that’s how I tried to explain how I forgot to use Pam on the skillet when cooking pancakes. That turned into an absolute mess but luckily I was able to get it cleaned up before other people started wandering into the kitchen so my ego remained intact. Admittedly my pancakes looked like a pile of mashed potatoes but when combined with some ice cream, leftover pie, and fresh fruit, it turned into a very respectable breakfast. Then I was off on the trail to Harper’s Ferry. I had big plans of reaching it today as not only was that the symbolic halfway point of the AT, but also where I was meeting up again with Owl, Youngbeard, and Sunshine after their aqua blazing adventures.

I was so intent on making those miles to town I somehow managed to completely miss the first time I crossed the West Virginia boarder along with the point whet I officially hit the 1000 mile mark. I was a bit bummed when someone pointed that out to me as I was sitting on a rocky overlook admiring one of the rare views for this section of the trail. I don’t know why since it’s not like there was a 1k mile marker, and quite honestly I’d find myself passing between the two Virginias several times that day. I guess I’m just a sucker for random milestones.

My plan to reach Harpers Ferry today quickly changed when I reached the Blackburn center though. It was another AMC hostel and also the end of the Roller Coaster. More importantly the Washington DC hiking club was there hosting a hiker feed so that was how I found myself losing five hours of the day. Let me add, totally worth it. When I walked in I was handed a burger and a beer, then the spaghetti was rolled out, and eventually warm brownies and ice cream were made available. That doesn’t even cover all the sides like an amazing strawberry and pecan salad and tons of chips that I had been craving. Plus it was an absolute blast talking to everyone. Considering there were beds right there I’m still amazed I eventually pulled myself away from that to hike several more miles. I no longer expected to get into town, but I reasoned that if I was able to arrive early enough in the morning I could get resupplied and meet up with everyone later that night as Owl and the rest were planning on hiking out that day.

The rest of the hike was fairly uneventful. Buzzards rock had vultures sitting in the trees around it so I can see how it got its name. That was actually the first time I’ve seen vultures just chilling and not flying around. I then ended up doing some night hiking due to my five hour Arriving at the campsite four miles out of town, I found it packed with other tents so I was “that guy” who woke everyone up in the middle of the night with my headlamp while trying to find a spot and then setting up my tent. That being said at least I didn’t have to cook dinner afterwards. Technically at this point I was still in Virginia and Looking back on the day it was a good way to end my time in that state.

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