Day 84- Sunday, 6/3- Seeley-Woodworth Shelter- (14.0 miles) (821.8 total)
Got a shuttle out of town this morning back to the trailhead. Had some extra food and resupply items that I didn’t need and that I usually put in the hiker box at motels. Strangely, this motel didn’t have a hiker box. Can’t understand why a motel just off the trail where many hikers stay wouldn’t put out a couple cardboard boxes for us. So I just left all the stuff in a plastic bag in my room and told the cleaning lady that she could take anything she might need and throw away the rest. Kind of a waste tho.
It was a bit tough getting back in the hiking rhythm after a zero day. It was even tougher this morning because right away we had a 2000 foot climb right up a mountain. But I eventually found my rhythm and got moving. Around 12:30 I came to a campsite area where several other hikers were having lunch and so I joined them while I ate. There were no water sources listed for the next 6 miles or so, so all of us made the longish 0.3 mile walk down the side trail to the spring. Just as I was packed up and about to hit the trail again, the rain came in. It lasted for probably 30 minutes or so. Not too long but I certainly got soaked. I don’t wear any rain gear when it rains while I’m hiking, because I just sweat a lot while wearing the rain gear and that’s pretty much the same thing as getting rained on. My Smart Wool hiking shirt stays warm when it’s wet and dries pretty quickly, so it’s fine. I just get wet.
I was descending a hill in the forest in the rain when I looked up and saw a van parked on a dirt road up ahead. At first it looked like a creeper van, the kind you shouldn’t take candy from or get in if they offer you a ride. But as I passed it, the person flashes the headlights at me and rolled down the window. Low and behold it was Miss Janet, the famous trail angel I met a couple of weeks back. She drives up and down the AT during hiker season to support all us hikers. She invited me into her van, where several other hikers were already huddled out of the rain and gave us all sodas and snacks. Her van is awesome. Covered in bumper stickers inside and out. Painted bright colors. A big smiley face ball on the roof. She sleeps in the very back, but has lots of room for people to sit in the middle and front. She said she is still helping the Vietnamese guy Half Slow to slack pack the entire trail. We all chatted in the van for a while and waited out the rain. She has been doing this for years so I asked her what she thought of our progress at this date in terms of being able to finish. She said we are all doing totally fine and have plenty of time. She said as long as we are in Harpers Ferry in West Virginia by July 4th, give or take a few days, that we can average only 12 miles a day and still make it. I’m about 180 miles from Harpers Ferry and should be there in just over 2 weeks, which is well before the 4th of July, so I should be good. Was nice to get that confirmation from her tho.
As I hiked on a bit from Miss Janet’s van, I ran into Half Slow. Was great to see him again after quite a while. When I met him before, his wife was with him and she asked me about getting an English speaking tour guide to take her around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai for a few days on her upcoming trip toThailand. I got her email address and contacted my friend Tor in Chiang Mai, and she said she would take care if it, but I never heard what happened. Half Slow said Tor got in touch with his wife and set her up with another friend who spoke good English and is taking his wife around right now. I was happy to hear that everything worked out for her.
I arrived at the shelter a bit later than usual since I came out of town this morning. There were a few people here already when I got here, hanging out around the picnic table in front of the shelter. I did all my chores and was ready to cook dinner at 6:30pm, but when I went over there everyone was already in their sleeping bags in the shelter and going to sleep. Guess they all must have had a long day or an early start to be going to bed that early. “Hiker Midnight” is usually around 8pm. So I just enjoyed a quiet dinner and came back to my tent.
Oh I did get one piece of surprising and sad news yesterday. I don’t know if you guys remember a girl named Spice who camped with us in Georgia for a night. She was pretty small but carrying a huge pack with 14 days of food in it and weighing over 40 pounds. And she was hiking super fast and doing tons of miles. She added me on Instagram and I have been watching as she has been getting many states ahead of me. Quite amazing. She was also the one who gave me some of her food that night after I spilled all of mine while I was cooking it. Very kind girl. Anyway, she suddenly posted a picture saying she was back home. When I inquired, she said she slipped on a rock in New Jersey and broke her leg. Wow, really tough and a sad way to end this journey. I feel really bad for her. At the same time tho, I do have to wonder if all the weight and miles and speed eventually caught up with her body. I mean, any of us could slip and fall and get hurt, even if we are hiking slower. But hitting it that hard for that long had got to wear on the body and increase the odds. Well, I wish her a speedy recovery and hope she can finish it next year.
Day 85- Monday, 6/4- Harper’s Creek Shelter- (14.2 miles) (836.0 total)
Woke up to a nice surprise this morning. As I was getting ready I look up and there is Workhorse, getting ready by the shelter. I arrived a bit late last night and just saw a few older guys curled up in their sleeping bags. I had no idea that he was one of them. If you remember, I hiked a few days with Workhorse a couple weeks ago and stayed at the Angel Rest Hiker Hostel with him. Great guy. I was texting him this past week when Ira was with me to see if he might catch us and join us. We got separated when he took a couple zero days to escape the rain. Really fun guy to talk and hang out with. I’m glad we reconnected. We hiked all day together today and had a fun time. This guy has a thick Boston accent and a Boston sense of humor that keeps me laughing.
Part way through the day, we came to Priest Shelter and stopped to check it out. It is infamous for someone getting murdered behind the shelter back in the 80s or something. But it’s also famous for its log book. All shelters have a log book you can sign if you want to. They serve a couple of purposes. If you go missing they can check them, but also we can all read them and see how many days ahead your friends are from you. Today’s one however was quite different. Because this is Priest Shelter, everyone writes a trail confession in the book. Everyone starts it “Forgive me Father for I have sinned...” and then goes on admit to some hilarious and off the wall stuff they have done on the trail. Had us all laughing out loud. I won’t reveal anyone’s confessions, but if you are ever in this part of Virginia, hike up and read some. Very worth it for the laugh!
The new sleeping pad was somewhat of a failure last night. It was nice and easy to set up and break down, but it is rather thin and since I am a side sleeper, it hurt my hips a bit. I kept having to turn over and didn’t sleep too well. I’ll give it one more try tonight to see. Hopefully some better sleep...
Day 86- Tuesday, 6/5- Wintergreen View Campsite- (14.7 miles) (850.6 total)
Had to wake up in the middle of the night to blow up my air mattress to sleep on, so I guess it’s a no go with the pad. I really like it for some other uses. When I strap it to the bottom of my pack, it helps the pack stand up much better on its own, and it acts as a nice pad in my tent when I don’t have my air mattress inflated and no risk of popping. I would like to keep both but I don’t think I can justify the weight. Oh well, it was worth a try.
We had a big 2000 foot climb first thing this morning which was a challenge. But after that the app showed that the terrain got a lot easier. Unfortunately, the elevation is only one half of the equation when saying a section is hard or easy. We had very small ups and downs the rest of the day, but there were tons of big rock sections all along the way. So despite the elevation, rocks just make it a slow and tough day regardless. They take so much concentration and deliberation. We did get rewarded with some incredible views along the way today tho. Workhorse and I took a break after the first 2 hours or so at a huge rock outcropping with a phenomenal view. One of the best I’ve seen so far. We chilled out there in the warm sun for over half an hour. As predicted, the weather has finally cleared up for the first time in a while and we are finally being treated to some nice blue sky days. The spot we are camping at tonight is also right next to a huge view. With the trees having filled in for summer, we don’t get many views, but the ones we do get are spectacular.
Day 87- Wednesday, 6/6- Waynesboro , VA- (12.4 miles) (863.0 total)
Got started early today to make the 12 mile push into Waynesboro for a resupply. Waynesboro is the gateway into Shenandoah National Park, which supposedly is one of the more beautiful parts of the AT. I hear that the trail runs pretty close to the road which all the visitors drive through the park, so we are a lot more in contact with people through this section. Apparently this also means that there are a lot of hotdog and ice cream stands along the way for some treats, which everyone is excited about! We are just one mile from the park entrance here. My mom tells me that I went through the park as a 2 year old, but of course I have no memory of that. Little did we know that 41 years later I would be thru-hiking through the same area. This is one of the places along the trail that offers the possibility of “aqua-blazing.” This means getting on a raft or kayak and doing a section of the trail by river. My assumption was that we would pay some outfitter and they would have the whole trip set up for us if we wanted to do it that way. However what I’ve heard more recently is that we would actually need to buy the kayak or raft, arrange the whole trip ourselves, and then sell the boat back to the outfitter afterwards. Something crazy like that. I might have considered it if it was all set up and easy. Nice change of pace from hiking. Might get us ahead a few days faster. But not with all the hassle of doing it ourselves. I’m hiking.
During today’s hike I came up to a shelter to take a break and Workhorse was also there having some food. He looked pretty shaken when I saw him. He said that he had been hiking along, looking down at the trail, when he heard a growling sound and looked up to see a big bear on the trail. The bear climbed up a tree and Workhorse backed up. He tried to make some noise to scare the bear away but it wouldn’t budge, so he had to climb up the side of the hill and go way around to avoid the bear. Then as he kept hiking, the bear was following him up higher on the ridge, watching him. I guess eventually the bear wandered off, but he was pretty shaken. That definitely had me keeping my eyes open for the rest of the hike, but still haven’t seen a bear myself.
Workhorse and I are just planning a nero here in Waynesboro, so we had to move after getting here. Hike 12 miles in, laundry, outfitter, dinner, grocery shopping, phone calls, spraying my remaining gear with the tick spray, bed time. So exhausting. I did watch part of the first half of the NBA finals game 3 just before bed which was nice. But the games start so late on the east coast. 9pm start. Who stays up that late to watch sports? I’m used to morning or early afternoon starts in Hawaii.
Some guy on the trail was talking up some fast food burger joint in town called Cookout. He was raving on and on so we decided to go check it out. It was one of the worse burger joints I have ever been to. Very basic and cheap quality food. The milkshakes were good, but otherwise its only saving grace was that it wasn’t trail food. At least the place we are staying is nice. We are at “Stanimal’s” hostel. He is a former thru-hiker and he has hostels in both Glasgow and Waynesboro. Ira stayed in his other place and liked it, so we came to this one. Very clean and well run place. Prices are reasonable. Workhorse and I are sharing a private room with 2 queen sized beds and our own bathroom for $35 each. Not bad. Much better than the $70-$80 motel rooms I sometimes have to pay for by myself when I’m not hiking with anyone. It’s so comfortable and nice here that it is tempting me to take zero and just rest my body. Would be so easy to do. But no, I think we should push on. Harper’s Ferry, the 1000 mile mark and spiritual (but not actual) half way point is only 10 or so hiking days away and I want to push for that. It’s also only an hour train ride to Washington DC from there, where I plan to visit and take a few days off. Never been before. So will push towards that.