Unlike some flip floppers, I didn’t head back down to Harpers Ferry right after summitting Katahdin. Instead, I took a mini vacation in the middle of my vacation. I saw friends at Acadia, other friends in NYC, flew across the Atlantic to see Hotman in his natural habitat, and then finally home for a few days. There were times I was glad I wasn’t on trail, and other times where I found myself missing the trail so much. Finally, after about a month and a week off trail I found myself boarding a train bound for Harpers Ferry.
Miles 1166.5 – 1333.3
Day 95: 9.3 miles
Harpers Ferry to David Lesser Memorial Shelter
My overnight train from Chicago started out delayed, and only got more delayed as it went. I ended up arriving in Harpers Ferry around 1:30, instead of 11:30 like I was supposed to. I got off the train and walked over to the bridge crossing the Potomac that was my official start point. I took a picture of the same sign I had photographed all those months ago, and then turned and started heading south.
I walked the little bit that goes through town, and then took the short side trail to the ATC center, where I got my second picture at the famous sign. I made sure my eyes were open for this one.
Being back at the ATC center, and Harpers Ferry in general, was weird. Months ago, I read a quote from my favorite author, Terry Pratchett, that I thought really meant a lot to flip flippers: “Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” It really meant a lot to me now, as I stood literally where I had started! When I first came to the ATC, I remember feeling so hesitant to make use of their hiker lounge and not knowing how to talk to the thru-hikers that were there, since I didn’t yet feel like one of them. Now, I was used to hiker spaces, finding outlets and other useful things, and talking to random hikers like I already knew them. I haven’t even finished the hike and I can already tell I’ve changed. I hung around the center for a bit, met a SOBO Babyface, then off to the trail.
As I left Harpers Ferry, a little before 3, I talked on the phone a little with Hotman. Almost as soon as I got off the phone I started feeling really lonely. I got so used to knowing there would be people waiting for me at camp or a lunch stop, to having a trail family. Solitude is probably going to be my one consistent companion heading south, so I’m gonna have to get used to it.
Trail was nice, but it was super hot, which slowed me down. I crossed the West Virginia/Virginia border, though I’ll be going back and forth over it for a while tomorrow, so I’m not totally done with WV. Since I got started about 2 hours later than I had planned, I only got to the first shelter out of town, instead of the Blackburn Trail Center, 13 miles out of town, that I had planned.
Day 96: 14.2 miles
David Lesser Memorial Shelter to Sam Moore Shelter
Got on trail around 7 this morning. Taking a month off, plus being 100s of miles south of where I last was, means the hours of daylight feels a lot different than when I got off. In Maine, I was waking up at 6 or so and there would be sunlight. I remember the good times when I was waking up at 5 and there was sunlight. Now, I woke up at 6 when the section hikers in the shelter began stirring and it was still dark. Didn’t get light until around 6:50 or so.
Entered the Roller Coaster, which wasn’t bad compared to Maine’s climbs, but was kinda of bad with the heat, humidity, and having slightly lost my trail legs. Saw a tiny snake and a huge spider.
At a view point, met fellow flip flopper Ponce de Leon, who I first met near Bear Mountain in NY. She said that she remembered me because I took the last soda from a vending machine on top of the mountain. Sorry Ponce, but it was a great soda. Fully crossed into Virgina a little after seeing her, though I missed the sign somehow.
Stopped at Bears Den Hostel originally just to get a soda to have with my lunch, but ended up staying 3 hours there. It was so nice to get of the heat – heat index of 94 or something today. Certainly felt that hot.
At 3:30 I noticed there wasn’t any sun coming through the windows anymore, a big storm had rolled in. Decided to head out into the storm since it would cool things off and I only had a few miles to the shelter anyway. When the hail started I slightly wondered if I had been crazy to not just wait out the storm, but ultimately those 3 or so miles were the best ones of the day.
Day 97: 15.3 miles
Sam Moore Shelter to Whiskey Hollow Shelter
Got on trail at like 7:40. It was ups and downs, finishing up the Roller Coaster. Hot and sweaty all day. Stopped in at a shelter for lunch, where I met Yalla, another flip flopper. Then it was more ups and downs but not quite as bad. Crossed over the NOBO mile marker 1000, meaning I have less than 1000 miles to go!
At the shelter it was me, Ponce, Yalla, and a SOBO named One Step. When I first saw One Step I thought he looked really familiar, but I couldn’t remember when I had met him. Then, he told a story about building a snowman in Mahoosuc Notch, and I remembered. He had been at the shelter right before the Notch (or right after, for him) and he had told us to keep an eye out for his snowman!
That night, around 8:45 when were all asleep, a guy, L, came in. I learned later One Step had woken up and told him he could fit in the shelter. L was making his dinner down by the fire pit, trying to be quiet to not wake us up, when he tipped his boiling water on his foot! None of us girls woke up for awhile, but One Step, who happens to be a retired fireman, went out to help him. He eventually called 911 since it was a really bad burn. All of us were up by the time the local firemen had arrived. They came in on some sort of 4 wheeler, and had to carry L out on a stretcher to the vehicle. One Step helped carry it, while the rest of us assisted with lighting the way with our headlamps. A little after they all left, we heard a helicopter fly over, and we knew it was L on the way to a burn center, since one of the paramedics had told him he would need to be flown out, since the burn covered parts of the bottom of his foot. Made for a very exciting evening, and all of us were glad One Step was there, since we wouldn’t really have known what to do, besides calling 911.
Day 98: 14.9 miles
Whiskey Hollow Shelter to Mountain Home Cabbin
Because of everything that happened last night, we all woke up late, with me the first out of bed around 7. On trail at like 8:40. I’m still slow at getting out of camp, over 1000 miles and that still hasn’t changed. It was rainy and misty, with nice cool temps. Really nice hiking to the first shelter, where Ponce, Yalla, and I all hd a snack. After, we hiked together for a bit, which was nice since I almost never hike with people.
We were all (including One Step, who had caught up to us) at the next shelter for lunch. It was a pretty cool one.
Then it was only 5 or so more miles to Mountain Home Cabbin, a B&B rght off trail that has a little “cabbin” where they let hikers stay. Lisa the owner drove us into town to resupply. I had no idea how much food to get. Shenandoah is about 100 miles, so 5-6 days, but Lisa said people usually use half of what they normally would need because of the waysides and everything. I ended up getting way to much, partly because I was hungry for dinner when I went shopping.
Day 99: 13.7 miles
Mountain Home Cabbin to Gravel Springs Hut
Had nice french toast made by Lisa for breakfast and was the last hiker out of the Cabbin at like 8:40. I wasn’t in any hurry because I only wanted to do 13 miles, since the other choice of shelters would have been a 26 miles day, which my legs are not ready for yet. It was uphill for like 3 miles to the first shelter, where I had a nice long break. Then it was more uphill into Shenandoah National Park! Had been misty all morning, but as soon as I got into the park it felt like I walked into a cloud.
No good place for lunch, so I just chose a log that I passed when I was getting hungry. Got to the shelter, which I shared that night with Ponce, Pivot, and Hulk Hogan – who I first met way back in Maryland!
Day 100: 17.5 miles
Gravel Springs Shelter to Bryds Nest #3
Easy hiking in the morning. Stopped in at Elk Wallow Wayside for a mid-morning grilled cheese.
Ate lunch on a rock I found. Felt a little sick in the afternoon, probably from chugging a soda this morning. Stopped at a parking lot with bathrooms to fill up water and ended up sticking around for a bit since there was service. Uphill to the shelter, where there was a cool spider and a nice sunset.
Day 101: 14 miles
Bryds Nest #3 to Bug Meadows Campground
Walked 2.2 miles to a picnic ground, where Ponce and I stopped for water, since the water source at the shelter had been .3 off trail and downhill. No one wants to hike off trail that far. After, I got some nice views from Little Stoney Man, and had a nice walk to a shelter for lunch. Then it was a quick 3.5 miles to Big Meadows, where I got a campsite for Ponce and I and then hung out in the lodge for quite a few hours.
Ponce treated me to dinner at the lodge, in return for entertaining her over the next two 20 mile days. While we had been hanging in the lodge, a random stranger named Greg gave Ponce $5, to use for our showers. So we got a nice hot shower that night along with real food!
Day 102: 20.8 miles
Big Meadows Campground to Hightop Hut
Woke up at 5, on trail around 6:15 with Ponce. Hiked in the dark for 40ish minutes. Cool and cloudy all morning. Stopped at Lewis Mountain Campstore, where I got coffee, a muffin, and some juice for lunch.
A little after our break, Ponce got a bee sting, just randomly as she was walking, no warning. I pulled out the stinger and she marched on. We stopped for lunch at South River Picnic Area, it’s always nice to have a real table. It started raining as we hiked on, then it was an uphill to Hightop Hut. First 20+ mile day in the 2nd half completed!
Day 103: 21.4 miles
Hightop Hut to Blackrock Hut
Just like yesterday, on trail in the dark for about 40 minutes or so this morning. Lots of annoying PUDs (pointless ups and downs) this morning on our way to the Lewis Mountain Campstore. On one uphill, with Ponce maybe 100ft ahead of me, I heard a rustle to the side. I thought it was just going to be a squirrel, but when I glanced over I saw a baby bear in the classic clinging to a tree pose. Momma Bear was just next to the tree, crouched in some bushes. I didn’t want to freak her out, so I didn’t stick around to take a picture.
Lunch at Lewis Mountain Campstore, then a few more miles to the shelter.
Day 104: 13 miles
Blackrock Hut to Calf Mountain Shelter
Slept in this morning – didn’t wake up until 7! I was then very slow getting out of camp, since I didn’t have far to go. Easy and fast hiking, with a nice lunch at a viewpoint along Skyline Drive.
There was a construction detour for a bit of the trail, mostly onto a forest road. Got into camp around 3.
Day 105: 12.7 miles
Calf Mountain Shelter to Paul C. Wolfe Shelter
Got going around 6:30. Hiked in the dark for a bit, and got to some open fields just as the sun was rising. Saw pretty views and lots of deer. Easy hiking this morning, did the 7 miles to the road crossing in about 3 hours.
Chickened out of hitching alone (still haven’t had to do it), so I called a Lyft to take to the YMCA in Waynesboro, where I got an awesome free shower. Then I walked to a coffeeshop where I had a latte and a muffin and sat until noon, writing my blog and charging my stuff. Had lunch there, then walked over to Walmart and resupplied.
I then Lyfted back to trail around 4. It was an easy 5 miles to the shelter, got there around 5:30. Passed an old homestead and cemetery, just a little spooky.