Week 9: Days 61-63; Harper’s Ferry to Rocksylvania

Recuperating

I’m going to keep my day counter in sync with days hiked rather than the actual date. I left my hike on May 17 when Achilles picked me up and returned home on the 18th. I spent the next week icing my legs and resting. My pain subsided, and the bruise finally started to disappear. I tried a smaller hike in Sioux Falls and felt great, so I booked my flight back.

I spent over 20 hours working my way back to the east coast leaving the Sioux Falls airport in the afternoon headed to Denver, CO. I realize the Denver part is a little strange, but the flight was cheaper to route that way! Sadly I didn’t get to Denver, as they were experiencing microbursts and diverted us to Fort Collins, CO, instead. I had to explain what a microburst was to far too many people around me. Apparently I was the only one that paid attention in science class.

Two hours of sitting in the plane on the tarmac, and we were cleared for takeoff and jumped to Denver as planned. I still had about six hours to kill, so I spent my time walking around all three concourses and riding the train for a few hours. I even got a bit of trail magic at the airport! I went to Quizno’s to get a drink, and when I pulled my money out to pay, the cashier handed me a glass and said “Go for it; it’s on us.”

I sat around my gate and ended up talking to a set of identical triplets. I’d never met triplets before, and when asking them a question, I’d get a surround sound answer from all three.

After a three-hour red-eye flight and two time zone jumps, I finally arrived back on the east coast intent to keep hiking. Rampage and Minnesota had been taking a few days off with Rampage’s aunt Sally and uncle Boo at their home in Manasas. They very kindly picked me up from the airport and brought me into their home for the night. We had a great time resting, eating, and chatting. I especially enjoyed the eating part. We made crab, shrimp, pasta, and salads for supper.

I already felt better about hiking again!

Day 61

We rose early, as we had to drive about an hour to our starting point in Harper’s Ferry. This is where Rampage and Minnesota left the trail and where I’ll return to hike south to finish mine. This little town is also the home of the ATC or Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The ATC is the group in charge of the trail, and the headquarters serves as the “psychological halfway point” of the AT. The true halfway point is a few days ahead. I signed the log book, got my picture taken for their records, and registered my thru-hike as a northbounder as hiker #409. I started at Amacalola Falls in Georgia as hiker #1,201 in what seems like a year ago. That means 792 hikers have either been passed or have dropped out between these two points. Had I not been hurt, I’d still be at this point based on my prior speed and group (as they are here now as well).

The picture below from left to right is me, Rampage, and Minnesota (now Minisaurous).

Boo & Sally wanted to hike a few miles with us, so we hit the trail which goes through a historic section of town before crossing the bridge over the Potomac River.

As I’m writing this on the 7th of June, this area is heavily flooded making hiking impossible.

Following the bridge, the AT is joined with a large bike path that is both wide and flat for around three miles. When we reached the end, we said goodbye to Boo & Sally and disappeared back into the woods. The climbs in this area are incredibly gradual compared to what I’m used to doing. It’s a great place to start getting back into trail shape. I did a small side trail which led to Weverton Cliffs overlooking the river. The view is very similar to the descent into Erwin, TN.

I didn’t stay long, as the cliffs were overrun with day hikers. A few miles farther, we arrived at Gathland State Park–one of the MANY civil war monuments and battlefields in the area. A past hiker, “Blue Moon,” was doing some excellent trail magic here. He had hot dogs grilled and tons of supplies for hikers to take as needed. He also had bags of ramen, packs of tuna, candy, and sodas for us to enjoy. He used to work with cell companies helping them negotiate cell towers and environmental issues in the area. I chatted with him at length about real estate and investing, as the topics are closely related.

Things wrapped up at the park, so we helped him pack up and continued our hike. We arrived at Rocky Run and decided to stay in the shelter, as it’s quite nice and not crowded. There is a noticeable difference in hiker population at this point in the trail. The faster hikers have distanced themselves from the bubble now entering Virginia, and the only folks ahead started very early, are flip flippers, or section hikers.

My shin issues thankfully haven’t returned after a full day of hiking, but my feet seemed to have forgotten what is going on. I feel as though I did 26 miles even though it’s only 15.4, which now makes my total 832/2199.7.

Day 62

I slept surprisingly well for the insane amount of heat and humidity. I’m thankful my body is still adapted to this type of weather. Unlike Virginia, Maryland is relatively flat and the climbs are often so gradual you don’t even notice them. Granted I’m used to ignoring any climb under 500′ at this point, so it may just be my mentality. My morning hike brought me passed a few confederate monuments, a really neat old church, and the original Washington Monument.

There is so much humidity in the air that the view on top of the monument is minimal. Thankfully the fog lifted by the time I reached Annapolis Rock. Pennsylvania is often referred to as Rocksylvania because the trail in parts is nothing but boulders and jagged edges.

The rocks are coated in a layer of water and lichen, making them incredibly slippery. A fall here would easily break bones and more than likely lacerate organs. The rocks are very sharp and jagged that much of climbing over them is reminiscent of hiking on the blade of a knife.

When we arrived at Raven Rock shelter, we were all in need of water. Minisaurous and I grabbed everyone’s water bottles and made the trek down the mountain to get it. On the way, we came across a tree that had multiple black rat snakes hanging upside down vertically down the trunk. They were all adults and easily surpassed 5′ in length. I’m personally not afraid of snakes, but that many snakes that close defying physics is unsettling.

Thus far my morale is high and my legs are holding strong. Today we walked 20.6 miles, with my new total of 852.6.

Day 63

I spent yet another night in the shelter. The shelters here are relatively new and have two sleeping levels, a large atrium, laminate floors, and a covered picnic area–making them pretty luxurious. We have a very short 4.6-mile day planned to Pen Mar County Park where Rampage’s parents are coming up to meet us. I took a quick side trail to High Rock. It’s sadly vandalized heavily with graffiti. The view, however, is wonderful, and the morning fog rolling out of the forest adds to its allure.

The following rock scramble was a challenge not so much in difficulty but in navigation. I had to spend a few seconds at each blaze searching for the next, and many were unable to be seen.

Shortly after the rocks, I arrived at the park and met up with Minisaurous, Rampage, and her parents. We loaded into their van and headed into town to the Days Inn. A quick shower and laundry run are almost always first on our list. Following, we sorted out our resupply at Walmart and had lunch at Applebee’s. We then decided to go to Fun Castle and play 18 holes of mini golf, a game I’m still terrible at. Afterward, we opted to go back to the hotel and watched Black Sheep, a Chris Farley classic.

For supper we went to Parlor House, which reminded me of an Old Country Buffet based on its elderly clientele. I did indulge in a steak! After supper we watched A Knight’s Tale, one of my favorite movies. A short 4.6-mile day brings my new total to 857.2/2199.7

 

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