Thursday, June 30, 2011

June 26

The morning was full of dew and my tent was soaked inside and out. The 17.4 miles today were filled with rocks...small and medium ones stuck halfway in the ground and large ones we had to step on and over. At Allentown Shelter, Bear Bag and I stopped for a break and met a few weekend hikers there. I came to find that they are from near my hometown! Pretty crazy to meet someone from home out here. The trail passed by a restaurant so we made a stop there for dessert. I got a piece of cake and Bear Bag got pie...so delicious! We had 5.8 miles to go for the day, which were slow going due to all the rocks. Again the trail alternated between small rocks and large boulders. We walked across the Knife Edge, a boulder-filled ridge, and finally made it to Bake Oven Knob Shelter. Tomorrow we're headed into Palmerton to stay at a hostel and do some overdue laundry!
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June 25

I slept well last night; apparently a group of people stopped by our campsite around midnight looking for a place to stop, but I didn't even wake up! I got up around 6 as usual and took my time packing. We all met up at Pulpit Rock and checked out the view and a copperhead! First copperhead I've seen on the trail. While we were there, two more slithered out from under the rocks! Very cool; Fiber got some awesome pictures but I didn't get too close. We headed on to The Pinnacle for a great view of the valley below. Lots of people were there since it's a Saturday but it was nice to enjoy the view and sunshine from the rocks. We finished off the day along a very easy and comfortable trail. We are staying at Eckville Shelter tonight; the shelter is in someone's backyard, and even has a flush toilet and a shower! We set up camp in the yard and I took a very cold but refreshing shower. It's been a beautiful and relaxing day, and the weather is supposed to stay nice for awhile!
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June 24

It poured the rain last night! Lots of lightning and thunder too, and I found a new leak in my tent at one of the door seams. Will definitely need to repair it!
The five of us left camp this morning for about 9 miles into Port Clinton. The trail was rocky but pretty flat and we made decent time, although the final descent into town was killer...nearly a thousand feet in about a half mile. Very steep and dangerous as everything was wet from the rain last night. We intended to camp at a hiker pavilion in Port Clinton but weren't very impressed with it. We decided to resupply and head back to the woods, but I did wash my hair under the COLD spigot at the pavilion and felt surprisingly "clean"...still smelly but every bit helps! We split up to hitch into nearby Hamburg to resupply. Bear Bag and I got a ride pretty quickly to Walmart and met up with the others there. We then lunched at Taco Bell, which satisfied my most recent craving. Another easy hitch back to the trail and about 3 uphill miles later, we're camping next to a spring along the trail. The bugs have been terrible tonight...I actually bought a pair of pantyhose today to slip on once I get into camp; maybe that will keep the bugs away?
Supposedly we're getting into the really rocky part of PA now, and we're only planning for 12 miles tomorrow...looking forward to a short day!
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June 23

Bear Bag and I left camp a little after 7 and got water at a spring a few miles away. It started to sprinkle a bit, enough that we stopped and put our pack covers on, but didn't rain too hard. We knew we could order pizza and have it delivered to 501 Shelter so we did exactly that! A large pizza and Mountain Dew delivered right to the road .1 from the shelter...a perfect trail lunch! We took our time and didn't leave the shelter until almost 1; we still had 15 miles to go! The afternoon was long but the terrain fairly easy, although we didn't turn when we should have at one point and got a little lost in a boulder field, but we eventually found our way. We didn't get to Eagles Nest Shelter until around 8:30...my latest arrival thus far! It started raining as soon as I got into my tent...hope I stay dry tonight!
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June 22

Lazy, lazy day! I woke up at 5:30 as usual but didn't leave camp until after 7. It sprinkled a bit in the morning but the skies cleared as the day went on. I hiked with Bear Bag and we took a long break by a nice spot at a river. We took another by a creek and got pretty far behind the others. We were planning to go 21 miles today to a shelter but decided to pull up short after about 18 miles at an abandoned powerline overlook. We'll do a bigger day tomorrow and catch the others.
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June 21

Okay, I'm getting really lazy with my blogging; this one is short and sweet as I'm writing it a week late...

First day of summer? Hike naked day! Of course I had to participate but only did so for a minute for fear of getting caught. Liberating! The day was a surprisingly easy 16.7 miles...we even found some wild raspberries and stopped to sample a few. We're camped at Rattling Run, a beautiful spot near a strangely discolored creek. The water is a yellowish-brown...just more minerals right?
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 20

I slept surprisingly well in the dirty Doyle and woke around 7 feeling refreshed. We took our time getting packed up and left town around 11. The trail followed the streets through town and across the Susquehanna River for a few miles before returning to the woods. We only had 4.6 miles to go but the last 2 were rocky and made for slow going. We arrived at Clark's Ferry Shelter around 1 and called it a day...I love getting to camp early! We set up and have been lounging around all afternoon. A few people took naps; I caught up on some of my writing. We have a fire going now and Fiber and Bear Bag have been showing off their juggling skills...they make it look so easy! I tried my hand but didn't have much luck. We are the only people here at the shelter tonight...strange but peaceful.
Looking back on the Doyle, I have to say it wasn't THAT bad...an experience for sure, but the place had lots of character and made for an interesting stay, to say the least!
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June 19

I slept so well last night in my tent! I was in bed by 8, asleep by 9:30, and up at 5:30 for 11.2 miles into Duncannon. The five of us stuck together for the most part and the rocks really weren't that bad! We got into town around 11, ate some subs for lunch, and checked into the lovely Doyle Hotel. At some point in time, the hotel was surely lovely, but...no longer. Dirty rooms, dirty communal bathroom, but certainly lots of character. We're in room 31 on the fourth floor...two beds stuffed into a tiny corner room, but we do have two windows! We got a shuttle to the local grocery store, ate dinner at the bar downstairs, and hung out there until they closed. We then went down the street to Sorrentos with a few other hikers, including a guy who has done the triple crown (AT, PCT, CDT)! and called it a night around 10. Heading out tomorrow for a short day.
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Monday, June 20, 2011

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Peace Be The Journey

Halfway done already?
Before I began this journey, I did my best to prepare myself for what I envisioned the trail would require. I based my inferences off of previous experiences and made a conscious decision to always maintain a positive outlook. Looking back on the first three months and 1090.5 miles of my adventure, I'd say my preparation has served me well. That's not to say I haven't been dealt a few surprises...
I don't think anything could have prepared me for some of the experiences out here. The trail is in every way an adventure. The thrills are as exhilarating as the lows are disheartening. Imagine waking to a beautiful sunny morning, strapping on a pack that feels comfortably familiar, and hiking to the top of an easily-graded mountain to feel the wind, see the miles of mountains looming ahead, behind, and around, and know that effort is the only means of triumph. Imagine sitting around a campfire with people who seem familial after only a few days, sharing conversations and laughs into the evening, and laying down at night listening to the owls and crickets, knowing tomorrow will bring more smiles, more freedom, and more adventures. Then imagine waking to the sounds of wind and rain, or the numbing smell of cold, hoisting a pack that seems even heavier than the day before, and walking through a constant pain for miles up thousands of feet or down a rocky, root-laden descent that only turns back upward when the bottom arrives. Imagine every belonging being damp and cold, a perpetually dark and threatening sky, and crawling into bed as the rain begins again, knowing tomorrow will likely be just as long and painful. The only motivation is the faith that the pain will fade, the terrain will flatten, and the sunshine will return. There must always be that hope.

There is something incredibly peaceful about routine. Knowing nothing beyond a northward movement is simple and cyclical, but strangely liberating. There is nothing but to walk, there is nothing but to think, there is nothing but to feel, and there is nothing but to see.
I want to see it all.
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

June 16

Apparently my June 16 entry got deleted. Basically, we hiked 17 miles, passed the halfway point, mile 1090.5, and did the half gallon challenge! I ate a half gallon of cookies & cream in 41 minutes! Delicious until about the last 10 minutes. We stayed at Pine Grove Furnace State Park because we didn't feel like hiking after all that ice cream! Bear Bag doesn't have a tent right now so he started out cowboy camping but there was a chance of rain...(see June 17...)
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June 18 - 2

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June 18

I left camp this morning with Veto, Fiber, and Bear Bag for <4 miles into Boiling Springs, PA, where we met up with Pappy and had a huge delicious breakfast at Caffe 101. Boiling Springs was a cute little town and we hung around for about 2 hours. The trail out of town was flat for 13 miles!! We walked through lots of farmland and fields; it looked like home to me! There was a steep climb up to Darlington Shelter where we are for the night. Lots of weekenders here so I'm tenting. We were spoiled today with the easy terrain; the guidebook says tomorrow is going to be rocky for about 6 miles into Duncannon...our first taste of the Pennsylvania rocks!
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June 17

It rained during the night so Bear Bag ended up sleeping in the campground bathroom! Haha, he wont live that one down for awhile! We knew today would be a fairly easy and "short" day at 15.6 miles so we took our time, took a few breaks, and stopped for about an hour at Green Mountain Store .2 from the trail for sodas and snacks. The last few miles included a few short and steep climbs and two "rock mazes", as the guidebook called them. We picked our way through and over boulders...actually pretty fun! It was a good day to Alec Kennedy Shelter...not many tent spots so I'm sheltering yet again. We're the only ones here--it's strange how spread out everyone has become! We're starting to see more sectioners and less and less thru hikers.
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June 15

How can I describe what an incredible day it's been? Nothing out of the ordinary happened but so many good things came together and made the day perfect. I didn't sleep very well last night in the shelter and Bear Bag and I were both awake at 5:30. We were intent on "sleeping in" though and didn't get up until 7...so nice to just lay around! We hiked together the entire morning over mostly level terrain. We had a 1000-foot climb and a few smaller ones but they weren't too difficult. The trail was still rocky though which slowed us down. The plan today was to resupply in Fayetteville, PA. We couldn't get a ride in but had an easy .8-mile walk to a local grocery store. Pappy, Veto, and Fiber were already in town; we stocked up, loitered in front of the store for a bit, and got back on the trail to Quarry Gap Shelter...a short 13.4-mile day. The weather was absolutely perfect and I barely broke a sweat--sunny, low 70s, and breezy. This shelter is amazing...very well maintained and in close proximity to water. All day my feet hurt less than usual and I felt like I could walk forever...I just kept basking in the easy terrain, pleasant company, and beautiful weather. I can't believe that we'll reach the halfway point tomorrow; the first 3 months have flown by. I hope to have the time to write a halfway point reflection in the next few days.
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

bear bags blog!!!

June 14: Bear Bag got hold of my phone and decided to do some blogging of his own...:

Today I ate some poptarts and honey buns. They were delicious... for real... I mean you have no idea how good honeybuns are on the trail. Then I hiked like 25 miles. Maybe it was only 15 but it felt like 30. Some weird people claimed 2 spots in the shelter, they ate pizza and then set up their tents; now they packed up their stuff and ran away. Hover's feet must really smell bad. Thumbs hurt... don't know how she does this every night

- B.B. out
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June 14

Another awesome day. I woke to another chilly morning, ate a honey bun that Pappy's brother had given me for breakfast, and left camp with Bear Bag. We hiked together for the morning and met up with the others during our morning snack/second breakfast break. We all hiked together and took a short side trail to High Rock where we had a nice view of Maryland and Pennsylvania. The weather stayed cool and breezy and made the annoyingly rocky terrain slightly more bearable. Slightly. We stopped for lunch at Pen Mar Park where a ranger gave us a bag of potato chips that he said another hiker had left behind. I couldn't resist and jumped on one of the swings in the park...so exhilarating to travel so fast! Shortly after lunch we crossed the Mason Dixon line into Pennsylvania! State #7! The rest of the trail was equally rocky and relatively flat. We did 16.9 miles to Antietam Shelter, and got sprinkled on for just a few minutes this afternoon. I'm sleeping inside for fear of rain, although it's cleared off a bit this evening. Old Forge Park is only .1 miles from here so Bear Bag and I had a pizza delivered for dinner...such a treat on the trail! Tomorrow we're stopping in Fayetteville for resupply and the day after that is the half gallon challenge...time to start the mental preparation!
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June 13

The night got chilly! I woke up early this morning to Bear Bag fiddling around with something beside me. He had unzipped his sleeping bag when he went to bed because it was hot but he got cold in the night and was trying to zip it back up. I was actually a bit chilly myself and zipped my bag up the rest of the way. The morning was cool but pleasant and sunny. We passed through lots of history on the trail today--Pappy, Fiber, Veto, Bear Bag, and I hiked together all day and saw a civil war battle field, a small museum, and the original Washington Monument. The day was cool and breezy and the terrain pretty level although still rocky, rocky, rocky. We crossed over I-70, stopped for lunch at the view at Annapolis Rocks, and ended up at Ensign Cowall Shelter for a 15.7-mile day. Pappy's brother who lives nearby met us here and took the five of us to Golden Corral in Hagerstown for dinner...amazing! Thank you Steve! We gorged ourselves and made a quick stop at Target before he drove us back. I'm sleeping in my tent tonight...first time in awhile! I couldn't get my stakes in on the tent platform I'm on so I'm using my freestanding pole. I've been carrying it for 1000 miles so I might as well use it, right?
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June 12

The Comfort Inn was absolutely amazing but we had to leave sometime and today was the day. We took our time getting packed up and met Veto's parents on the trail when we crossed through town. They hiked with us for a few miles along the flat and beautiful C&O towpath; Joe even carried Veto's pack for a bit! Haha! They left us at the end of the towpath and we continued on. As we neared Gathland State Park, we began to hear thunder. We stopped at the park to take advantage of the bathrooms and it started to sprinkle. Plan B and Smooth had arrived as well so we all hung out under the pavilion and waited out the storm. Good timing on our part! It didn't last more than an hour and we were back on the trail by 4 for about 5 more miles to Rocky Run Shelter. The terrain today was pretty flat but still rocky, although the 16 miles felt pretty easy...strange to be able to say that! We met back up with Pappy as well, and Muffin Man is back on the trail now. Oh, and we crossed into Maryland! State #6!
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June 11

So much for sleeping in! I woke up at 7...not surprising. I headed downstairs to find the breakfast area crowded and nearly wiped clean! Lots of hikers here as well as tourists; there is some kind of festival in town this weekend so the hotel is booked full. I waited around for the food to be restocked and feasted on yogurt, biscuits and gravy, muffins, and cereal. And it was so nice to eat breakfast and then go back to the room and relax! Bear Bag and Veto did a pack "shakedown" for me and helped me get rid of some things. So I walked to the post office and mailed home a pair of socks, my jacket, and a pair of leggings...close to 2 pounds of stuff! We had to switch rooms for tonight so I checked us out and checked back in. We moved across the hall and now have 4 people in a room with 1 king bed! We had a few visitors today too...one of Veto's friends came to say hello and his parents came to visit as well. They gave us a ride to Walmart to resupply and took us out to dinner too...thank you Lynn and Joe! It's been an unsurprisingly good zero day but it's back to the trail tomorrow!
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

June 10

Another early morning...up at 4:15 today! We had about a mile walk across town to the train station and wanted to be plenty early. The hotel has continental breakfast but we were too early for it. It was so nice walking without a pack though! We got to the train station about a half hour early, figured out what to do, and waited for our train to arrive. Doc and Do What arrived as well as several commuters. The train came, we loaded up, and bought our tickets. The ride was about an hour and a half with stops and we passed the time with trail stories and military stories from Doc. We got to Union Station in DC and I have to say I was a little overwhelmed...so many people, so much bustle! Our plan was to walk to the memorials at the far end of the National Mall and work our way back. The walk was deceptively far and very hot but we didn't have packs! Again it was strange to be around so many people and so much rushing around...such a contrast from the woods! We passed the Washington Monument on our way down and our first stop was the Lincoln Memorial, followed by the Korean War Memorial and Vietnam War Memorial (both stuck in my mind from when I was there in 6th grade...very powerful) and then we decided to head inside as the day was getting warmer. The Museum of Natural History was first on the list. I vaguely remembered being there but enjoyed it much more this time around, as with the memorials. Veto and Fiber left to meet with one of Peace Corps employees they knew so Bear Bag and I spent some more time inside and met up with Doc and Do What. We ate lunch from a street vendor...expensive but delicious hot dogs and ice cream. The Air and Space Museum was next and I remembered that one as well. Lots of neat stuff to see in there...airplanes, artifacts used on spaceships, etc. We lost Doc and Do What someone in there and headed to McDonald's for Bear Bag's second lunch...the hiker appetite is always there! Next was a gallery (can't remember the official name). There were paintings by Picasso, Rembrandt, and even one (the only one in America) by Da Vinci! Very awesome. Bear Bag and I still had time to kill when we were finished there so we headed to the Museum of the American Indian which was interesting but we were worn out by this time and didn't take the effort to read everything...you need more than one day in DC to see it all! The museum closed at 5:30 so we had to leave early and met up with Fiber and Veto outside. We headed back to the train station, ate dinner at the food court, and bought our train tickets back to Harpers Ferry. The ride back seemed shorter and Bear Bag's mom and brother were at the station when we arrived and gave us a ride back to the hotel...much appreciated! It's been an awesome day and it was so nice to go somewhere other than the trail for awhile. The peace of the trail will surely be welcomed but we're taking another zero tomorrow (today doesn't count for all the walking we did!) and Veto's parents are coming to visit. Tomorrow I can sleep in!!
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June 9

The stay at Bears Den was wonderful but short...we had more work to do today! I left with Bear Bag and Veto before 7 and we finished the Roller Coaster in the "cool" morning...and by cool I mean 80 degrees! Dripping sweat early again. The final three climbs weren't too difficult and the rest of the trail today was pretty smooth with gradual ascents and descents. Very rocky though...when are we going to get out of the rocks?! We crossed the 1000-mile mark this morning! An incredible feeling and a significant milestone. Almost halfway!
It was hot again; the high today was 99! Heat advisories all over the place so I drank plenty of water and we took a lot of breaks. We did the 20 miles by 4:30 and arrived at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters to get our pictures taken. I started as number 301 and am now 377...am I going that slow?! Haha. It feels good to be here after doing huge miles for the past 8 days. We're taking a train into Washington D.C. tomorrow for a day trip...looking forward to doing something other than hiking for awhile!
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June 8

Maybe the hardest day for me on the trail so far? Bear Bag, Fiber, Tomahawk, and I left the shelter for another 18-ish mile day. We said goodbye to Tomahawk at Ashby Gap and hello to Veto shortly after. The four of us hiked the 8.4 miles to a side trail to a shelter but didn't walk the .2; we just breaked at the intersection. With 10 miles to go, we entered what is known as the Roller Coaster: "13.5 miles of tightly packed ascents and descents," as the guidebook puts it. In other words, 11 climbs in 13 miles. Steep climbs. Rocky climbs. HOT climbs. The temperature today was low 90s and sunny and humid. The roller coaster exhausted me and I was drinking water like crazy. The motivation today was a shower, laundry, pizza, and ice cream waiting at Bears Den Hostel. In fact, at one point, Fiber, Veto, and I were taking a break and Bear Bag came along and didn't even stop; he walked right past and said, "Pizza, ice cream, shower, laundry, soda." Haha! We all had the same thoughts. My clothes were completely soaked in sweat but I finally made it to the top of the last climb for the day and took a side trail to the hostel. Laundry was first followed immediately by a looong shower. It's incredible how amazing a shower can feel after a week of sweaty and dirty hiking! I got myself as clean as I could, ate a pizza for dinner, and a pint of ice cream for dessert: Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked, vanilla and chocolate ice cream with brownie and cookie dough chunks. Amazing! Hopeful, who runs the hostel, has answered all of our questions about getting to and from D.C. We're planning a long day into Harpers Ferry tomorrow but a hotel bed and another shower awaits...major motivation! Also going to be crossing 1000 miles (1000 miles!!) and getting out of Virginia!
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June 7

Today was a great 18.1-mile day! I did my usual morning routine and actually wasn't feeling very well when I left camp...a little nauseous but it went away once I got moving. I caught up to Fiber and Veto who were stopped at some trail magic! I stopped as well and enjoyed an orange soda and continued on for 5 more miles to Jim and Molly Denton Shelter for a morning break. Fiber and Veto were just leaving as I arrived and Bear Bag got there shortly after me. We left at the same time for the 5.5 miles to Manassass Gap Shelter for a lunch break. On the way we heard a rustle in the woods and looked over and saw a bear cub running up a tree. Another one sprinted in the opposite direction. So neat! That makes 8 bears for me total! We knew the mother was close so we moved on and lunched at the shelter as planned. The four of us left from there for only 4.5 miles to go for the day...since when does 18 qualify as a "short" day? The miles were easy and we arrived at Dicks Dome Shelter in an hour and a half. The shelter is small; the book says it only sleeps 4...interesting. Tomahawk, Bear Bag, and I are inside again for lack of good tent spots. It was great to get to camp early in the day; I didn't feel rushed doing my camp chores! I did my daily tick check and found one in my big toe on my right foot. VERY tiny but I pulled him out and hopefully that's the end of it. I'll keep an eye on the spot for a rash. Today was a relaxed and enjoyable day. It was hot and humid though and is supposed to be even more so for the next few days. Two more big-mileage days and then Bear Bag, Fiber, Veto, and I are planning to take the train from Harpers Ferry to Washington D.C. I can't wait! On another note, Tomahawk is going home for a week or so so this is the last night we'll be with him for awhile. Hopefully we'll be able to meet up again up the trail.
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June 6

I heard the mice running around last night but they didn't get into my stuff. No snakes either! I woke around 5 and was the first one up. Everyone planned to get out early as we had a big day ahead of us: 23.6 miles! I left camp with Veto and Fiber at 6:30 for the 7 miles to Elkwallow Wayside where we stopped for a break. My new pack felt different but wonderful! It fits me so much better than the Flash! The miles were fairly easy and we made it to the wayside in about 2.5 hours. Bear Bag and Tomahawk showed up shortly after and we "resupplied" in the little store by topping off our food bags with cookies, snacks, and other junk. Got some food too at the little restaurant...I just had a blackberry shake--delicious! I took advantage of the bathrooms and treated drinking water and got back on the trail about an hour later. I hiked with Bear Bag for the 5.8 miles to a water source, and then we stopped with Fiber at a road crossing for lunch. Tomahawk and Veto showed up as well. There were a couple of rangers there too and they asked us questions about our hike and talked with us for awhile. From lunch I left with Bear Bag and hiked with him for the rest of the afternoon; we have a similar pace so I can actually keep up! I stopped and called REI (had to use his phone as AT&T had service and Verizon didn't...what are the chances?) They gave me instructions for returning the broken pack and I ordered the new pack for Peru. It's supposed to be at the ATC headquarters on Thursday so all should work out! Hoping it does.
The terrain wasn't difficult but very rocky and hard on the feet. We took a break at Compton Gap and got some trail magic! An older couple questioned us about thru-hiking and gave us some almonds. Then a day hiker came out of the woods and saw us and asked how we were doing. Bear Bag said he'd be better if he had a cold beer, and the guy responded by offering us sodas (diet Squirt, haha) from a cooler in the back of his truck. Nice yogi-ing, Bear Bag! We finished off the last few miles to Tom Floyd Wayside shelter, exiting the national park on the way. The Shenandoahs were pretty "flat" and not very difficult. We got some awesome views and got to see lots of wildlife as well...it's been enjoyable!
The water here is a loooong way down a steep hill...not what I wanted to do after hiking 23 miles! But, I got my water, cooked dinner, and am sleeping in the shelter again because I didn't feel like setting up my tent. My feet felt better today than they did after the 23.9 miles 2 days ago so that was nice. And tomorrow is a "short" day...only 18.1 miles! Ha!
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June 5

The 15 mile day was so relaxed! I slept in until a little after 7 and left camp with Veto for 4 miles to Skyland Resort where we got the breakfast buffet. Potatoes, eggs, biscuits, gravy, bacon, sausage, and french toast with blackberry syrup. Amazing! Fiber and I stopped for a break at a picnic area and a lady gave us some trail magic! She said she'd just read a book about the trail and asked if we wanted some fresh fruit. Yes we did! She gave us each a little container that she had bought this morning. We devoured it and got back on the trail. All morning I had been tightening my waistbelt but felt like my pack was sagging some...and then coming downhill I heard the unmistakable sound of a rip...again?! I could feel the load sliding downward and knew the framesheet was ripping out of this pack as it did with the first...and it hasn't even been 300 miles yet! Very disappointing and frustrating. So I carried the weight on my shoulders for the remaining 4.4 miles. I intended to sew it up myself but I showed Peru the damage in camp and she offered her skills...thank you Peru! She's been talking the last few days about how she misses her Flash pack and would prefer one over the Osprey she was carrying. "I would love to sell you my pack..." she said. So, I tried her pack on and it felt amazing. My first Flash seemed to fit me much better than this second one and the Osprey felt very natural. The only problem was that is was 50 liters versus my 65. I played around with it and got all of my junk to fit...a tight squeeze even with my tent strapped to the outside but I think it'll work. So, we worked out a deal: I'm keeping her pack, she sewed mine and is carrying it to Harper's Ferry, and I'm going to call REI and order a Flash 50 for her; she'll mail the broken one back and I'll get the refund. So hopefully all will work out and we'll both get the packs we want! I am now carrying an Osprey Atmos 50 and will not get a Flash pack again! Very disappointing that neither held up to the abuse of the trail. So, the short day turned out to be pretty eventful but I'm up late again and tomorrow is another big day: 23.6! Time for bed!
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Friday, June 10, 2011

June 4

I survived the triple 20s! Today was a long 23.9-mile day. I left early and saw 2 bears! Again they turned the other way when they saw me so I didn't get any good pictures. I stopped at Lewis Park Campground for a break at the camp store. That's the neat thing about the Shenandoahs...easy access to food from the trail! I had a sandwich, chips, and a fudge bar and left with Bear Bag and Fiber. We met up with Veto and Tomahawk along the way and we all stopped at Big Meadows resort for dinner. My feet were really bothering me today so the break was nice, but we still had 3.5 miles to go and got to Rock Spring Hut around 8...a very long day! Tomorrow is only about 15 miles so I am going to sleep in!
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June 3

Another 20! Going for the triple 20s here...yesterday was 20 even, today was 21.4, and tomorrow will be 23.9...big days!
I woke around 5:30 this morning and decided I wasn't ready to get up, so I laid around until 7...very late for me! I saw one bear on the trail this morning...pretty good sized but it lumbered away when it saw/smelled/heard me. Muffin Man's shin was really hurting him today so he decided to head back to Waynesboro with Santa's Helper, who brought us sodas at a road crossing. Love trail magic! The group is getting even smaller as Pappy is going to take a zero with his family and Fiber, Veto, and I are going to hike on. We'll meet back up in Harpers Ferry.
(I'm not meeting my goal of detailed blogs...in fact I'm getting even worse as I'm writing this one almost a week late...hence the lack of details...)
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June 2

My pad made for much better sleeping than a cot and I woke refreshed this morning, breakfasted on two bowls of cereal and an apple, and got a ride back to the trail with Santa's Helper, a guy helping with the hostel. My foot was swollen only slightly this morning and felt quite a bit better; I could actually walk without limping! Huge improvement. Vittles and Zen were the other two in the shuttle and they hike fast so I was on my own. I came to the registration area for Shenandoah and filled out a backcountry permit. The form asks that you put where you're staying each night...I just wrote "thru hiker" across that section...that'll do, right? The trail actually didn't enter the park until about 7 miles later. The day was beautiful--a cool, breezy morning and fairly easy terrain; I didn't start sweating until almost 10! I ran into Bear Bag and Do What filling up at a spring; haven't seen them for awhile so that was neat. Fiber and Veto caught up to me at lunch time and again while I was taking a break and resting my feet. I actually hiked with them for about 3 miles; I've been going so slow lately that I haven't been able to keep up, so I was pretty excited about that! Couldn't keep up the rest of the way to the shelter though as my feet were hurting and I stopped for a break a few miles away. I'll get back to normal one of these days! There was no water for a 12 mile stretch today and it was tough to ration my 2 liters once the day got hot. I have the capacity to carry 3 liters so I may have to do that on long stretches. I finally made it to Blackrock Hut around 5:30. Bear Bag is here along with some people from the hostel last night: the five of us, Peru, Smooth, Freight Train, and Plan B. I've got a nice (level!) tent spot up the hill from the shelter...haven't been in my tent for awhile! A deer was walking around camp earlier...goes to show how different "park" animals are from the normal wildlife. We crossed Skyline Drive 7 times today and will cross many more times tomorrow and in the days to come. It seems in the park we're never far from civilization!
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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1

Appalachian Trail Lesson #27: the NeoAir is way more comfortable than a fold-out cot.
I didn't get to sleep until almost midnight and woke around 6 and had to use the bathroom. Every time I moved, my cot would squeak and make a lot of noise so I probably woke up half of the hikers just getting out of bed. I laid back down since no one else was awake and actually fell back asleep until about 7:15 when one of the hostel workers woke everyone up. Breakfast was two bowls of cereal: Honey Nut Cheerios and Apple Jacks...I miss cereal in the mornings! We had to be out of the hostel by 9 so we packed everything up and basically decided to zero since the weather was supposed to be hot, and the hostel is offering a free dinner tonight! So we stashed our packs in a closet and walked a block to the public library. I used the internet for awhile and read a few magazines...got my Readers Digest fix! (Yes, I love Readers Digest) We killed a few hours there and decided to hit up Ming Garden Buffet again for lunch. Walking out of the AC was rough...glad we took the day off today! The high was 95 and very humid. The buffet was again delicious (and cheaper for lunch!). Next was another stop at Kroger since Tomahawk forgot to buy tortillas yesterday. With nothing else to do, we took the city bus to Walmart and bummed around there for awhile. I bought some bug spray and some cheap gel insoles to try in my shoes...we'll see how they work! We caught the bus back at 2:30 and had to ride the entire route for 50 minutes. No air conditioning on the bus so it was a pretty sticky ride and a hot walk back to the library from the bus stop. We hung out in the library for another few hours; I looked at an atlas and a few magazines and nearly fell asleep; these zero days wear me out! We headed to the hostel at 5 and claimed our spots. They served us dinner at 6:30...spaghetti, salad, bread, and ice cream for dessert. So awesome! We had some good laughs when Tomahawk and Fiber showed us pictures from when they were younger. Couldn't recognize Fiber but Tomahawk looks almost exactly the same! Pretty funny. Almost everyone who was here last night took a zero and is here again, plus a few more people have shown up. I forewent the cot tonight in hopes of getting better sleep. Tomorrow we enter the Shenandoah National Park and are planning for a 20 mile day. Hope we can get a quick hitch out of town!
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Thoughts From the Public Library

Waynesboro, VA, mile 854.0

I apologize for the lack of pictures...and lack of content. I normally don't journal until I'm in bed and by that time, well...I'm ready for bed. My goal for the rest of the trip is to make a conscious effort to keep a better journal with more details and stories as opposed to simple log notes. Aaand, maybe I'll eventually find the time and energy to post pictures as well. (Maybe...)

So, it's June 1. June 1! I've been on the trail now for 2.5 months; it's hard to believe so much time has passed. I think about my daily activities now compared to what they used to be and it's such a contrast that anything other than getting up and hiking every day seems abnormal. As strange as it sounds, showering daily is nearly unfathomable. Clean? What's clean? Standards out here are incredibly low but it makes life so...burdenless, so peaceful. When my family came to visit they asked me what the best part of the trail has been so far. Undoubtedly it is the freedom. Schedules and time constraints are nearly nonexistent out here. Life is simple, and life is pure. I wake, I eat, I walk, I sleep. The actions are simple but the mind is always at work..there are struggles, there are smiles, and there are sights to see. There are so many things to see. There is so much laughter to feel. And there will always be so many things to learn. This journey is incredible.

The other day I stopped for a break at a road crossing:
The old man steps out of his pristine white car, a possession cleaner than anything I have owned or touched for the last two months. "Which direction are you headed?"
I shove to the side of my mouth the monsterous bite of Clif bar that I so savagely just ravaged in my frantic caloric deficit feeding frenzy. "North," I say, and motion with my head toward the trail.
The man smiles and nods. "Well, you're headed in the right direction..."
(I'm pretty sure he's right)