The Appalachian Trail in Northern Virginia: The Saga Continues

Trail Day: 69

Saturday, May 29, 2021

  • Location: Stealth campsite at mile 745.5
  • Start/End Time: 8/6
  • Weather Conditions: Rainy and chilly, but somehow still humid

I wish I could say that I woke up feeling 100% better today, but I can’t. While I slept amazing last night I’m still a little achy  and I really don’t want to hike. However, I know getting back out on the trail today is the right call.

My morale is at an all-time low. Being sick makes me just want to quit and go home. But I promised myself before I set foot on trail to never quit on a bad day. The past 2 days definitely qualify as bad days, so I’m heading out anyway.

Within 15 minutes of being on trail I had a bit of a meltdown. I called Hoagie but she didn’t answer so I left a message. I continued walking and I cried. I really didn’t want to be out there but I knew I needed to be. Luckily, Hoagie called me back soon afterward and gave me a little pep talk. I’m so glad that she’s on the trail even though she’s not with me. She knows what I’m going through, and because of that I know she knows how much I can suck out here.

Soon after I hung up the phone I had the official 1/3 mark to Maine. It’s essentially a jankee laminated piece of paper, but it made me break down. I’ve hiked 1/3 of the trail. I did. No one else got me here, just me. I kept walking.

I listened to the entire audiobook in the morning. It was called Rivals, and it was about famous rivalries throughout history. Some more entertaining than others.

Throughout the day I had to stop and stretch frequently. The medication the doctor in Damascus gave me has run out, so I’m in pain again. Looks like I’m switching back to ibuprofen. My right knee is nothing me now too so I stopped and taped it up. Unfortunately, less than an hour later the KT Tape started peeling off, which is super frustrating. I bought blue KT Tape in Daleville, it clearly doesn’t work as well as the black for some reason.

At some point, it started raining. For a long time, it was just a little bit so I didn’t put on my rain jacket. I get so sweaty when it’s humid and just not worth it. If I’m getting wet it might as well be water and not sweat.

My original plan was to only do 11 miles, but when I got to the Wilson Creek Shelter it was only 3, and I knew it was too early to stop hiking. After having a snack and chatting with Butter, who was also sick the past couple of days, I kept hiking.

I found a stealth camp spot at mile 445.5 and got organized for the evening. It’s going to be a cold night. This is what I get for complaining it was too hot last week.

Trail Day: 70

Sunday, May 30, 2021

  • Location: Bryant Ridge Shelter
  • Start/End Time: 8:45/6:30
  • Weather Conditions: Cold and cloudy in the morning, sunny and humid in the afternoon

Today wasn’t particularly exciting, but I did 16.8 miles and I’m exhausted. So today’s journal entry is going to be a brief list because I’m not in the mood to write:

  1. I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning because it was too damn cold out.
  2. The morning was boring and the views were difficult to see because of the clouds and fog.
  3. I fell on my as for the first time. I skimmed my knee and startled myself a bit.
  4. I got trail magic! Y’all know how much I love this. It was hamburgers and hot dogs.
  5. I’m staying in a HUGE shelter, Bryant Ridge, it’s the biggest one I’ve seen on the trail so far!

Trail Day: 71

Monday, May 31, 2021

  • Location: Marble Spring Campsite
  • Start/End Time: 8:30/7:15
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and Humid

I’m sorry everyone, but today is another list day. I know I’m the worst for doing this 2 days in a row, but today was by far my toughest day on the trail.

Morale-wise, I’m really low. My hip hurt all day because of the huge uphill I did, and lots of other little things happened too. In total I ended up doing 17.3 miles, and I’m exhausted.

Here are today’s highlights:

  1. 4,000+ foot uphill to start off the day.
  2. As a result of said uphill my hip was killing me.
  3. I had a complete meltdown by myself in the woods. There were lots of tears and some sobbing.
  4. I reached the beautiful Black Rock overlook and called my friend Holly. She talked me down and listened to how I was feeling. She’s amazing and I’m lucky to have her in my life.
  5. I got to walk through blooming Rhododendrons which I’ve been looking forward to for a while now.
  6. Reached the semi-wooded summit of Apple Orchard Mountain, which was very pretty.
  7. Had to walk 3 more miles than I planned because of the lack of water in water sources.
  8. Connected with 2 really nice hikers from Portland, OR, Stuff and Yukon.

In list form it doesn’t look like a bad day, but for me it was overwhelming. For the first time I thought to myself, “I don’t know if I can do this.” I know this isn’t true, but when it seems like everything is going wrong and I’m in lots of pain I get that thought.

Trail Day: 72

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

  • Location: Big Rocky Row Campsite
  • Start/End Time: 8:15/6:30
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and Humid

This morning I was woken up around 430 by a whip-poor-will singing loud and proud. Last night when it was singing I love it. Not so much this early in the morning. I put my headphones in and went back to sleep.

When I got out of my tent around 7 all the people that were camped there last night were gone except for Stuff and Yukon. The 3 of us were kind of in shock that everyone was gone so early.

The hike from Marble Spring was beautiful as so easy. It was mostly downhill until I reached the James River that I walked next to for about a mile before going over the James River Footbridge.

Once over the bridge, I met Mountain Dew who was doing trail magic. He had a whole table of goodies including oranges and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

I ended up getting a shuttle ride into Glasgow with Stuff and Yukon. Once we got to town I was determined to get in and out as fast as possible. I went shopping and got my food bag organized. I had to go back in the store because I forgot to get a sewing kit to fix my pants.

Tried to hitch out with 2 other hikers, but no one would pick us up.

We sat outside Scotto’s Pizza waiting for the shuttle we called and a local guy started talking to us about the trail and the mountains near town. To be honest, I couldn’t understand half of what he said. You know how in movies there are old-time southern guys who speak with such an accent you can’t understand them? This was that guy. He was going on about something, so we just reacted positively to what he was saying and it made him happy.

Once our shuttle driver, Piney, dropped us off I got a photo with Mountain Dew, said thank you to him, and grabbed a PB&J for the road.

From the road to the Johns Hollow Shelter, the trail was really nice. After I loaded up with water and kept heading north it started to suck! The trail was very steep and was rocky in spots. I had to stop a bunch to rest and catch my breath. With a full resupply and 3 liters of water, I was hurting.

After a long slog and 2 episodes of The Office Ladies Podcast, I reached the cliffs and there was a great tent spot overlooking the James River and the valley I hiked through this morning. I couldn’t have asked for a better campsite for the evening.

While I only ended up doing 12.5 miles today, I was able to get in a d out of town without spending money on anything other than my resupply. Now that’s a Hero day!

Trail Day: 73

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

  • Location: Brown Mountain Creek Shelter
  • Start/End Time: 8/4:30
  • Weather Conditions: Cloudy

I got an amazing night’s sleep last night. All that hard work going uphill in the afternoon really paid off in my amazing sleep. Having the camp site to myself also helped.

Today I was up and hiking at 8am! I haven’t done that in a while. The only downside of getting up this early and hiking is if you’re by yourself at the site and the first one out in the morning you’re breaking spiderwebs all morning. I wish I could hire someone to do that for me each day when I’m up early. However, I’m usually not up early. Coincidence? Probably not.

After a nice steady couple of miles I had to go up again and I started getting hot. I listened to a mediocre audio original book all the way to the top where a fire tower once stood and a memorial to a small child who was located. 

Soon after Teach, who I’ve been hiking around for several days now, and Savage, who I met yesterday, showed up. We chatted for a bit and after I finished my snack I kept hiking.

From there it was all downhill, with a few PUDS (pointless ups and downs), but overall smooth sailing.

By mid-day I hit the 800 mile mark! I’m feeling pretty good and hitting another milestone is helping me feel better and more confident after the other day.

I leap frogged Teach and Savage a few times, but otherwise I didn’t see anyone else all day. Am I between bubbles again or is it just because I camped up on the ridge last night?

I came across the sign in the woods giving information about an old settlement in the area, the Brown Mountain Creek Community. In the early 1900s freed slaves built a community in the area I was hiking. The sign said there where remnants of the settlement in the woods. I was super excited to learn this history, but other than stone walls I didn’t see anything.

Soon after seeing the sign, the shelter I was shooting for appeared! Since I’m still breaking in my shoes I decided to stop at Brown Mountain Creek Shelter making it a 15.1 mile day. 

Teach and Savage where already there hanging out. It was nice to be around people for a change. Soon after a couple

I’d never met before called the Tortoise and the Hare showed up. Turns out it’s a really small world because they live in the Manchester/Dorset area of Vermont! I was in total shock! Every time I’ve met someone from Vermont out here they’ve been from the Burlington area. One of their parents even sent them the article in the local paper that mentioned me so they knew I was out here and wondered if we’d cross paths. This made my day!

The rest of the night was just hanging out, stretching, and relaxing. My body needed this today. It’s going to rain tomorrow so giving myself a shorter day that was pretty easy is a gift to myself in preparation for a longer, rainy day tomorrow.

Trail Day: 74

Thursday, June 3, 2021

  • Location: The Priest Shelter 
  • Start/End Time: 7:15/7:15
  • Weather Conditions: Cloudy with patches of sunshine and scattered rain, but oh so humid.

This girl did her first 20 miles day today! My grand total for the day was 22.5 miles! I did a big 4,000 foot uphill and an entire ridge line. I feel like myself again after being sick and I’m so proud of myself for doing a 20+ mile day. I’m going to work towards doing this a couple times a week.

Anyway, I was woken up at 5 am by these other hikers in the shelter. If you’re going to get up that early don’t stay in the shelter. It sucks for everyone that doesn’t want to get out of their sleeping bags before 6am.

Once I started walking I saw some cool remanence of the Brown Mountain Creek Community. The ruins included a chimney, several large piles of rocks (which could have been chimneys or parts of other buildings), and a couple of foundations.

I took the uphill real slow and did the alpine step. It was a 4,000+ foot climb. And before it was 8am it was already hot and humid. It was so hot I could feel the sweat dripping down my back. At first I thought it was a bug, and I can’t decide whether I wanted it to be a big or sweat.

When I had reached the top and the terrain was too difficult I decided to go for a 20 mile day. I still doubted whether I could do it or not, but wanted to try anyway.

Throughout the day I switched up listening to music, podcasts, and audio books. Around 1 I really got into a groove. It was like walking meditation. The miles just seemed to fly by.

Before I knew it I had reached 18 miles and still had plenty of energy and daylight left! I kicked it into high gear and did my final push to The Priest Shelter.

When I arrived, grinning ear to ear, the people who woke me up earlier that morning were there. I excitedly shared with them that today had been my biggest mileage day on trail! One of them responded with, “Only 22.5 miles?” Here’s the deal, I don’t care if we’ve been hiking together for weeks or I met you 2 seconds ago, if you tell me about some big trail milestone I’m going to be excited for you. This is how majority of the hikers I’ve met out here are. It was very disappointing to not be around those kinds of people when I arrived.

Then, the guy asked how many days I’ve been in trail and I told him 74, and he scoffed. What an ass hole. I told him I was playing the long game and pacing myself, and he responded with, “Clearly.” It took everything I had not to say something rude back to him, but it just wasn’t worth it. People like that are more focused in miles than the journey.

Anyway, when thru hiking the AT you’re supposed to stop and make confession to The Priest. The shelter logbook at this particular shelter is known as, “The Book of Confessions.” It is filled with the sins of thru hikers. I took a bunch of pictures to share some of the confessions I found funny or absolutely disgusting.

It was an amazing day with a slightly frustrating end.

Trail Day: 75

Friday, June 4, 2021

  • Location: Maupin Field Shelter 
  • Start/End Time: 7:45/5:30
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and Humid

I’m sure it’s no surprise that the lame people in the shelter last night were up at 5am again. Hopefully I won’t have to see them again after today because they’ll be going too fast.

I took my time getting up and organized this morning, and left a little before 8am. The downhill was rocky and I had to pay extra close attention to where I was stepping because of the rocks. 

At an overlook I texted my Support Crew and shared the exciting news about my big day yesterday. Holly, who at this point I feel is my own personal nurse, said I did a great job, but I’m not supposed to do that again. She reminded me that I need to think long term about my hip pain and health. She’s obviously right, damn her, but not really.

At the base of the downhill there was a little paper sign taped to the information kiosk that read, “Trail Magic.” With a little set up next to a camper van I met 2020 thru hiker, Water Queen

In addition to the trail magic Water Queen was doing, I got Jake’s Trail Magic. I met Jake’s Uncle who put a 24 pack of PBR out. Less than a year ago Jake, who was 32, took his own life. His uncle told me when he was at the store the PBR called to him and he bought it in honor of Jake who was an avid outdoorsman. I toasted to Jake’s memory and enjoyed my beer, thankful that being out on the trail is improving my mental health. 

The ascent to Three Ridges was the most difficult climb I’ve done in Virginia so far. It was extremely rocky and it was 85 degrees with high humidity. I lost track of how many times I stopped to rest and not overheat. I had many snacks and listened to the first episode of Rainn Wilson’s podcast Dark Air with Terry Carnation. I’ll be listening to this again.

Once I got up and over Three Ridges I didn’t have the energy to go any further. I was completely drained. I stopped for the night way earlier than normal at the Maupin Field Shelter. When I arrived I ran into Teach and Savage. It was a little strange to see them there because they didn’t pass me when I was going uphill.

Eventually, they told me they took a blue blaze trail (At side trail) that went past waterfalls and streams up to the shelter. They skipped all those rocks and that brutal uphill. Ugh, if I had known I would have too. I’m no AT purist, if I’m hiking I’m counting it.

Then I burnt my dinner. It’s like I’m in college again burning Mac and cheese on the stove top. Except this time my dinner is gross and the bottom of my pot is messed up. I ate half my dinner and put the rest of the leftovers in my trash bag to carry out with me. 

As I was prepping dinner Rip Tide showed up. She carries a ukulele and is kind and friendly. I liked her instantly. 

As we were getting ready for bed I had my first experience with a bear pole. A bear pole is a way of securing food in the Shenandoahs. It’s a large metal pole with hooks at the top, and it looks a bit like a large coat rack. There is a pole you use to hoist up your food bag and hang it on one of the hooks.

Because I’m so short I had to stand on a large log to put mine up. I wasn’t prepared for how heavy the pole was going to be and nearly dropped it on myself and another hiker. After a few tries I got my food up successfully.

Trail Day: 76

Saturday, June 5, 2021

  • Location: Paul Wolfe Shelter 
  • Start/End Time: 7:45/6:15
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and Humid

This morning was uneventful and not too difficult hiking wise. I leap frogged with Savage and Rip Tide a bunch and saw a couple of views.

Just before lunch I arrived at a road crossing and found Teach, Savage, and Rip Tide. They were contemplating walking the road up to a nice picnic area with real bathrooms and running water.

As we were discussing this idea a man in a bicycle came down the AT. The four of us just stood there and stared at him as there was a very clear sign of a bicycle with a red cross over it. The AT is a bike free trail. People that can’t follow simple directions because they feel the rules don’t apply to them drive me crazy. 

We decided to go for it and did a yellow blaze on foot, which is probably a blue blaze? I don’t know. Walking the road we got to see several beautiful views, nearly got hit by at least 3 cars, and ended up having lunch with clean hands at an actual picnic table. I even got to use a flushing toilet. It was a full in event.

After we wandered around the picnic area looking for the blue blaze trail that led back to the AT I walked through the heat until I found a sweet rock to sit on. With only 7-ish more miles to go for the day I figured I’d take a siesta.

For about an hour I sat on the rock, takes to my friend Taylor in the phone, got kisses from the cutest chocolate lab puppy, and ran into 3 hikers I hadn’t seen in weeks!

After 77 days of hiking, I finally had an encounter with a bear. With only 3 more miles to the shelter for the night I was walking along a part of the trail this is an old rocky roadbed. On my right side, I see a bear. We saw each other at the same time and both of us were startled. I backed up instantly and the bear ran behind a tree. I held my poles above my head and started yelling at it in hopes to scare it off. This bear was not afraid of me. I mean, I don’t blame him. I’m not very scary. From behind the tree, it fake charged me and I slowly started making my way up the hill away from the bear. We both made it out of the interaction unscathed.

The rest of the evening was fast-paced and a little crazy. I finally met the hiker Gang Signs. We’ve been hiking around each other for our entire hikes. She’s high energy and full of funny observations. We talked movies and Marvel. Just before heading to bed Rip Tide played her ukulele and we had a sing-a-long. She has a beautiful voice and is so talented musically.

Note to my future self: avoid easy access shelters and campsites on the weekends. This place is crowded with weekend warriors partying.

Trail Day: 77

Sunday, June 6, 2021

  • Location: Stanimals Hostel, Waynesboro, VA 
  • Start/End Time: 6:45/9
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and Humid

Section hikers were up really late drunk, watching TikTok videos, and talking really loud. Please, please, please, if you’re going to stay in a shelter, respect hiker midnight, which is sundown.

While I was up late because of the loud dudes in the shelter, some reason I couldn’t sleep past 5:30. I was up and out by 6:45 and I instantly started sweating going uphill. How it was so hot so early I’ll never understand.

5 miles later, which we all thought was downhill for some reason but wasn’t, we all got to Rockfish Gap and picked up by the Stanimals Hostel shuttle. 

Upon arrival at the hostel I had a welcome beverage (I obviously chose a beer.), showered, and did my laundry.

In the loaner clothes bin in found some amazing clothes to wear. I picked out a floral mini dress, while Rip Tide wore a red pair of boxers and a sweet white button down patterned shirt. We looked amazing!

For lunch, I downtown to The River Burger Bar with Teach, Savage, Rip Tide, and Gang Signs. It reminded me of the bar I went to in grad school. I ordered the Western, it was delicious!

On the way to and from The River I took silly photos of Rip Tide doing her “old man thumbs up”. Enjoy the photos.

After lunch I went to the movies. I haven’t been to a movie theater in over a year and I was so excited. Rip Tide, Savage, and Gang Signs came with me. We went to see Cruella, and it was amazing! We got popcorn and soda and lots of it. For some reason there was a throne in the lobby of the theater so we took some silly photos.

For dinner I had ice cream at Kline’s Ice Cream. It’s homemade! I ordered raspberry hot fudge with walnuts and whipped cream.

I spent the night hanging out outside the hostel chatting with some new thru-hikers doing a flip flop. Their packs are huge (one of them is 40 pounds!) and I offered to help. I gave them a little advice, but they think they need the shower bag, extra clothes, and bug net they’re carrying, among other things. They’ll learn soon enough.

Trail Day: 78

Monday, June 7, 2021

  • Location: Stanimals Hostel, Waynesboro, VA 
  • Start/End Time: 
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and Humid

I was worked up by the person on the bunk above me, who is not a hiker, reaching over my head to grab a bag they had hung off the bunk the night before. Hopefully I’m never woken up like this again.

Savage and Gang Signs decided to head back to the trail this morning instead of taking a zero.

Teach, Rip Tide and I stayed and walked down the street to get breakfast at Burger King. The only thing I regret is eating the greasy tater tot like things. My chicken biscuit sandwich was tasty.

From there we walked down to the Neighborhood Walmart, which is just a grocery store, to do a resupply. I only needed a few things thanks to the package my Support Crew sent me. I also had to stop at the CVS next door as one of my charging cables had stopped working on trail.

Since Savage left I moved my stuff into the double room with Teach. We had a TV in there for Rip Tide and I spent the rest of the morning watching Stranger Things. 

The rest of the day consisted of me eating too much pizza, eating too many chicken wings, and drinking too much beer.

I got to chat with Will too. He’s going to come and visit me once I reach Pennsylvania!

I ended up staying up way too late to watch the newest episode of The Handmaids Tale. 

Trail Day: 79

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

  • Location: Stealth campsite at mile 879.2
  • Start/End Time: 8:30/6
  • Weather Conditions: Hot, Humid, Sticky, Gross

While it was way too cold in our room last night I had 3 blankets so I was perfectly comfortable. 

Teach, Rip Tide, Mileage, and I all got in a shuttle at 8 back to Rockfish Gap. We were hiking by 8:30.

My legs and feet didn’t want to hike today. Everyone else took off like a shot and I was dragging behind.

It was already hot and humid by the time I reached the southern entrance station for Shenandoah National Park. I filled out my permit, which had way too many carbon copies and stuffed half of it in the box and took the other half with me. Chances are, just like in the Smokies, no one will as for it.

I’m not impressed with the Shenandoah so far. It could have been hiking anywhere in Virginia by the looks of this trail. It isn’t particularly special so far and it was hot as hell.

For a little inspiration I started listening to Grandma Gatewood’s Walk on audiobook. Emma Gatewood was the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail solo and the first person to hike the trail 3 times. She’s a big inspiration for me and I’m excited to learn more about her and her first journey along the AT.

At Turks Gap I met a Father with 2 little girls. They were so cute and the little one, who was no older than 3, was really interested in me. She asked where my car was and was confused as to how I was getting home or how I got there in the first place. Together we watched a deer stroll around the parking lot and trail. 

I met up with Mileage soon afterwards, and decided to cut down our day by a couple of miles because of the heat. A few miles up the trail we found a stealth camp site which totaled 15 miles for the day. A shorter day than I would have liked, but the heat completely drained me.

The evening was low key and relaxing. It finally started to cool off which was nice after the heat of the day. I’m excited to be back in my tent after about a week of sleeping in shelters and at Stanimals.

Trail Day: 80

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

  • Location: Pinefield Hut
  • Start/End Time: 8:15/7:15
  • Weather Conditions: Hot and humid with light rain

Waking up to wet shoes is by far the thing I hate most about hiking the AT. The thunderstorm that rolled through last night blew rain under my vestibule and my shoes are soaked. It’s hard for me to get into a positive mindset with things like this.

I left camp before Mileage did today and about 10 minutes down the trail I ran into a rattlesnake right in the center of the trail. This is the first one I’ve encountered on the trail. Actually, in my whole life. As a result, I didn’t know what to do. I accidentally got really close to it and it didn’t move or rattle. I didn’t know if it was dead or cold or digesting a meal. 

Finally, Mileage showed up and she suggested that we toss some pebbles at it to see if we could get it to move. One of the pebbles hit it and it started to rattle. It was definitely not dead, but it didn’t move either.

We decided to go on the left side of the trail, which happened to be downhill to make our way past the snake. I successfully went 8 feet down and came back on trail past the snake. It saw me when I emerged on the other side and started to rattle again. Mileage did the same thing, but when she got on the trail where I started to run away from the snake, which made me panic and start to run too. So there we were 2 women with full packs on running from a snake that wasn’t chasing us.

After the rattlesnake ordeal we hiked to a parking lot where we found sun and laid out our tents to dry. Everything was covered in mud and soaked. 

A few hours of hiking later we stopped at Blackrock Hut to eat lunch. There we found a father with 2 teenage sons taking a zero day in the woods after hiking too many miles the day before on their first backpacking trip. Mileage and I ate and chatted, but the teenagers didn’t say a word. The father talked and asked questions, but any time we would ask the boys anything the dad would answer. It was pretty creepy.

After lunch I had service so I called Hoagie and about 5 minutes into our conversation I found a bag hanging from a tree full of fresh fruit. Day made! I rounded the corner and found even more trail magic! There were 4 girls with their teacher out doing trail magic. They gave Mileage and I Gatorade, muffins, and fruit. We had so much fun chatting with them. They asked us a bunch of questions about the trail and filmed it to show people at school. They were all student athletes, well spoken, and enthusiastic. It was so fun and refreshing to meet these girls. The trail magic and our conversation really made my day.

Then we hiked to wayside store and got ice cream and coke. A guy I’m naming Doom and Gloom told us a big storm was coming in with 60 mile an hour winds and hail. We decided to hike to Pinefield Hut just in case the storm rolled in. This way we’d have something over our heads to be safe.

After walking hard we arrived at the hut and toasted to Mileage’s longest day for 18.6! We shared a sandwich from the wayside for dinner and slept in the shelter.

Trail Day: 81

Thursday, June 10, 2021

  • Location: Stealth campsite at mile 914.-
  • Start/End Time: 9/6:30
  • Weather Conditions: Hot and humid in the morning and rain in the early evening

We slept in this morning without even meaning to. I didn’t get out of my sleeping bag until 8 and I feel great about it! When I woke up there were tons of people at the shelter eating breakfast and packing up. They all slept in tents the night before and not the shelter.

Mileage and I didn’t leave camp until 9. We were the last ones to head out, and guess what it was hot and humid…again! Within 5 minutes of walking I was drenched in sweat.

Before I knew it we had reached the 900 mile mark! We’re only 196 miles to the halfway point of the trail. Every time I reach a new milestone I’m in awe. I can’t believe I’m still out here. Despite how much the AT can totally and completely suck I’m in love with this journey and what’s it’s teaching me about myself. I can’t believe I’ve made it this far. It was great to get to share this moment with Mileage. We met way back at Fontana Dam, NC that’s over 700 miles ago. We’ve both come a long way.

From there we walked down to the Rod and ranger station. Unfortunately, the ranger station was .2 miles off trail and we didn’t want to walk down there to get water. There was a shuttle driver parked next to the road and he thought we were his riders. He offered us some ice cold water. The kindness of the trail community has me feeling so blessed every day.

As we where getting ready to leave Mileage got stung by a bee. While that isn’t funny her reaction to the sting was. She looked at me, arms out by her sides with her palms up and facing me and said in an extremely intense voice, “I just need a moment!” It took everything I had not to laugh. I told her so later in the day and we had a good laugh.

Once we started walking up the next PUD I got really hot. I had to slow way down and stop for a snack. Mileage continued to press in as I did so.

I put on my new audiobook Grandma Gatewood’s Walk and learned more about Grandma Gatewood’s journey in the AT. So far it’s a pretty good book I just wish it was narrated by a woman and less random asides about the state of the world and more about her adventure.

When I reached Smith Roach Gap I was too hot and hungry to walk anymore so I stopped for lunch. Earlier in the day Mileage and I saw the weather report calling for rain and thunderstorms all day tomorrow. Because of the bad weather tomorrow and the humidity we’ve been walking through over the past few days we’ve decided to treat ourselves with a stay at the Big Meadows Lodge. During my lunch stopped I booked our room for tomorrow night. We’ll still be hiking through the rain during the day, but will have a nice dry bed to sleep in at night. They also have a tap room we’re pretty excited about.

At the top of the next uphill we had a beautiful view of the valley below. Probably the best view we’ve had in the park so far. I met up with Mileage halfway up the hill and we stopped to enjoy it together.

From there we went down and over a highway. I was out in front as my downhills are stronger than Mileage’s. When we crossed the rod to go up again I met a couple who was out in the park for a hike along the AT. The husband and wife were from Wisconsin on a short vacation/business trip. He was asking me all kinds of questions about the AT including my gear, food, and mileage. About 10 minutes into an uphill he asked about my pack and wanted to try it on. I thought it was funny so I let him. As we hiked and talked he carried my pack. For a total of a 1.5 miles he carried my pack. Score! My hip was giving me trouble today, so many this was the universe’s way of giving me a break?

When we reached the top they turned around and I put my pack back on. By this point Mileage, who had come up behind us, and I was about 1 mile from South River Picnic Area where there was a water spigot. However, when we got there we found that all the water was turned off. There were no other water sources for 3 miles. I asked a family that we had passed walking to the picnic area if they had water to spare and they gave us each a 20 oz bottle! Again, the kindness of others saved us.

Then, out of no where the skies opened up and it started to pour! We hung out in the bathroom while heavy rain pelted the ground. It rained hard for about 20 minutes. During that time we used the bathroom, got rid of our trash, and planned our next stop. About a mile ahead there was a stealth camp spot listed in a Guthooks comment. That was our destination for the night.

When the rain stopped we went for it. We had gotten the weather report from a van camper in the picnic area parking lot who told us it was going to rain all night. We just needed to get to camp before it started raining again.

After a sweaty uphill in raincoats we found it! We were both able to get our tents up and make dinner before the rain came. We even split a beer I had in my backpack which raised our morale a bit. Mileage is having a rough day because things are dry and it’s humid. I’m having a rough day because my hip hurts.

It was on and off while the sun was still up and right before bed, we put our bear hang up. I got the rope over a branch and when we went to haul it up we heard a loud SNAP and the entire branch and the bags came down on top of us. Thankfully neither of us got hit…hard. I threw the bag over another branch and got it up on the first try! (I’m getting pretty good at this.) This time the branch held and we both climbed into our tents for the night.

Trail Day: 82

Friday, June 11, 2021

  • Location: Big Meadows Lodge
  • Weather Conditions: Lots of rain and humidity 

As I write this I’m sitting in a warm bubble bath at Big Meadows Lodge inside Shenandoah National Park. I’m clean as a whistle, I’m relaxed, and my belly is full. However, my day definitely didn’t start off that way.

My sleep last night was troubled at best. I tossed and turned as there was either a rock or a root under my sleeping pad right where my hip rested. The rain, thunder, and lightening was a staple throughout the night. When I finally had to give in and pee at 2am I discovered that the inside of my vestibule which I pee in when it’s raining buckets was completely drenched along with my shoes. 

I was able to restlessly fall back asleep until around 6:45 when I really needed to get my butt moving. Packing up today was going to be a process. Everything was either soaked or covered in mud. My clothes from yesterday didn’t dry overnight, which I didn’t expect them to. My backpack was still wet. My tent was dry on the inside, thankfully, but the outside looked like a Jackson Pollock painting with mud and leaves. By the time I had everything packed up I had a layer of dirt covering my hands which I promptly wiped on my shirt because there was no other option. #hikertrash

Because I’m lazy and didn’t want to walk down the trail to a cabin that had water, I decided what I had would have to last for a few more miles. Little did I know that universe had my back as there was a small trickle near the trail as a result of the rain last night. I used some rocks and a leaf to make a funnel to get it in my water bottle.

I started to get hangry just before lunchtime and was looking for a place to stop and eat before the rain picked up. I found a decent rock and placed my pack on the ground, but it would stay up. As a result I did what any normal, hungry hiker would do, I yelled at it. After yelling, I threw it across the trail. Mileage, who didn’t stop later told me she could hear me yelling and it gave her a good chuckle.

Once I calmed down and started eating, a deer strolled over to spend some time with me. She slowly came closer and closer eating greens the entire time. I talked to her and took some photos and videos. She came so close and I nearly got her to eat some greens (from the forest, not my food) out of my hand. Then, when I packed up to go she followed me for a while walking behind me down the trail.

From there I put it into high gear. I cranked up my hiking playlist and hit the road.  Before I knew it I was in the home stretch to our final destination for the day, the Big Meadows Lodge!

I came upon a group of 10 people on the trail taking. They definitely weren’t thru hikers and I knew I was close. I asked them if they knew where the Lodge was and they told me it was just up the hill. I made it and it wasn’t even raining very heavy yet.

When I walked into the lobby of the lodge Mileage was inside. She hadn’t passed me, how did she get here first? Apparently there was an earlier path I had gone by,  it she had to hike .5 miles to get here. I only had to do an additional .2!

We checked in, took showers, and went to go get food. On the way down to the tap room we ran into Maui and Nat Geo who got food and needed to dry out Nat Geo’s sleeping bag from last night’s storm. Maui joined us for a beer. Unfortunately, we couldn’t order food other than pizza in the tap room, so we got beer and went up to the dining room. I had a pretty decent burger and a salad for lunch.

The Shenandoah is known for all things blackberry so I had to get the tasty desert of blackberry cobbler and blackberry ice cream. I wish I had room for a second it was so delicious!

The rest of the afternoon was us doing housekeeping. Mileage took our cloths to the laundry while I got the mud off our tents and set them up or hung them to dry around our room. It was like a hiker tornado blew through our room. 

We ate again before the dining room closed and tried to get ourselves organized. The tents were very slowly drying out, thankfully. With any luck they’ll be ready to get completely soaked again tomorrow!

Trail Day: 83

Saturday, June 12, 2021

  • Location: Byrd’s Nest Hut #3
  • Start/End Time: 9/6:30
  • Weather Conditions: Mostly cloudy

Mine was so comfortable I didn’t want to get out of it! But hunger made me get dressed and head to the dining room. My breakfast consisted of buttermilk pancakes with blackberry compote, bacon, and hot chocolate. It really hit the spot.

After several tries last night, this morning I was able to download the first episode of the Loki TV show on Disney+ to watch on trail! This is one of the ways I keep myself motivated. I’ll save it for a tough day as a reward for getting to camp.

Spent 20 minutes hanging out with the first buck I’ve seen on the trail. I got within 10 feet of him and could have gotten closer, but I really needed to keep hiking.

On an uphill I was growled at by a little dog who was thankfully on a leash. I curious as to why dogs are allowed in the park when it’s supposed to be known for its bears.

Soon after Mileage caught up to me and we arrived at the Skyland Resort for lunch. I purchased some postcards to mail home, and we put our names in for a table in the dining room. 

We met Mermaid, who joined us for lunch. She has done the PCT and CDT. We have very different views of the world, but had an amazing conversation about those differences. I wish people had more conversations like this.

The entire day all the views were socked in, but in the afternoon we finally got a small view! I wish the wether was better for my time in the Shenandoah. 

On the way to camp for the night, I listened to  Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. When she was walking through New York on her first hike she ended up staying at a Girl Scout camp and telling stories to the girls around the campfire. When she was done all the girls wanted her autograph. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be one of those girls. I may have cried just thinking about what an amazing camp experience that would have been. OK, I did cry.

When I arrived at Bryd’s Nest #3 for the night I met a former thru hiker who was taking his 2 nephews on their first backpacking trip. I chatted with Mermaid who was there and ran into Bassman, who I hiked into the Smokey Mountains with and haven’t seen it since.

The shelter was cozy and the boys had made a fire in the fireplace. I fell asleep watch the fire burn out in the darkness.

Trail Day: 84

Sunday, June 13, 2021

  • Location: Gravel Springs Hut
  • Start/End Time: 7:30/4:45
  • Weather Conditions: Some sun, some rain, some humidity 

I was woken up this morning at 5:30 by a guy packing up his stuff and feeling like he can have a conversation really loud. I feel like 85% of the time it’s always an old dude that does this. Just an observation.

Because I was up early I left the shelter early with thoughts of blackberry milkshakes in my head!

As with every other day in the Shenandoah, my morning was filled with crappy weather and zero views. It’s such a bummer that my entire time in this beautiful national park has been like this. 

I’m almost done listening to Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. Today I got really emotional while listening to her story. Literally crying while I was hiking. Her story is so inspiring and I can’t believe all the things she overcame during her life. She finished her first AT thru hike on September 25th. I’m on track to finish in September and now I really want to finish as close to that day, if not on that day, as possible.

Blackberry milkshake was everything I wanted! I got fries too. In hindsight I should have ordered a second one for the road.

Once I got my food it started to rain and a bunch of thru hikers were freaking out about the rain. It was like they had never seen rain before. Rain is part of the AT experience. I’m not sure why everyone was trying to run from it. This entire adventure is all about embracing the suck, and this is one of those moments where you need to lean into it.

Before they figured out if they were getting picked up to go into town I left. It was pouring and I didn’t care. I cranked up my music and sang as loud as I could for the next 6 miles.

I left the wayside at 2:15 and arrived at Gravel Spring Hut at 4:45. I can’t believe I did just under 6 miles 2 1/2 hours!

At the shelter I found Trippy Hippie, DK, and Noodles. These guys are always a good time to hang out with. As time went on the shelter filled up and by 6 we had a full house.

The night was full of intense conversations. Mermaid brought up politic, again. I really hope this doesn’t become a regular thing. I’m trying to escape the world and don’t want to talk about COVID anymore. 

At one point Noodles said, “Everyone out here is either searching for something or running from something.” I’ve thought about it for a while now a d I don’t know which category I fall under. I think he’s right though.

Trail Day: 85

Monday, June 14, 2021

  • Location: Front Royal, VA
  • Start/End Time: 8/1:45
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny

Even though I woke up around 6 I didn’t get out of my sleeping bag until 6:45. With so many people in the shelter it’s difficult to get organized. So I slowly got ready after the shelter cleared out a bit.

Before leaving the shelter I called back and forth with a barred owl. It’s been a while since I’ve done this and it called back to me several times. Sadly, I didn’t actually see it, but it made me feel good that I still have this random and mostly useless skill.

The plan was to hike at a pretty fast pace most of the day to catch the 2:20 trolley into Front Royal. Not sure if I was going to make it, but I was going to try my best.

About an hour in Mileage and I met a family doing a 100 mile hike with their 7 year old daughter at a viewpoint. You read that right, an actual view! The little girl was so cute, and really excited about her hike. I love seeing young girls out on the trail! We need more ladies out in the woods exploring.

My pace was so good today that I actually caught up with Trippy, DK, and Noodles a few times while hiking. They’re really fast and when they pass me I usually don’t see them again.

I stopped at the Tom Floyd Shelter for a short break and to use the privy. The floor of the privy was so rotted out I was afraid it would give out while I was pooping and I’d fall in. This is my biggest fear on trail. 

Soon after not falling in the privy I arrived at a country road and saw Trippy Hippie sitting on a cooler. I got so excited that someone had left cold drinks for trail magic! It was empty. Biggest bummer ever.

Once I was there I had an hour to go 1.5 miles to catch the trolly. I booked it.

I cranked up my music and started the short uphill. Noodles passed me pretty early on, and I thought Trippy Hippie was in front of me. While hiking I was singing and dancing the whole way. I don’t know how many songs I sang or how long her was behind me, but I realized Trippy Hippie was there. When I asked him how long her was behind me he said, “Long enough.”

I ended up doing the 1.5 miles in half an hour and when I got to the road there was trail magic! Trip, a 2021 thru hiker is injured so she was giving back to the hiker community. She had cold drinks, chips, and fruit. I was a happy hiker!

Wilderness Bob showed up with his trailer and offered to give several of us a ride. He took DK, Trippy Hippie, and Noodles to their hotel and me to the post office.

As a late birthday present Sweet William bought me a quilt. It’s 30 degrees, packs down super small, and reduced my pack weight by about a pound! I send my old sleeping bag home along with a few other things I no longer needed.

From there I explored downtown Front Royal. There are so many beautiful murals and cute shops. I passed a beer museum and an arcade that had lots of old video games, but both were closed.

From there I walked to the Super 8, showered, and wrote postcards to my parents, Sweet William, and my friend Laurence’s kids who are following my progress.

For dinner we walked downtown to the Front Royal Brewing Company. Before eating I did a little resupply at the local outfitter and went to The Basecamp with Mileage to do laundry for free thanks to several local businesses. 

As usual, the trail provides. I needed a sleep shirt that wasn’t long sleeves. I found one in the hiker box at The Basecaml. It’s lulu lemon and NOT my style at all. It is powder pink with tiny black strips and actually has ruffles around the collar and on the back. To say it’s hideous is an understatement. But it’s lightweight and free so I took it.

Dinner was amazing! For several hours Mileage, Just Heath, Hocus Pocus, and I drank, ate, and swapped stories. I didn’t know how much I needed a night like this.

When we were finished Mileage was tipsy and really funny on the way back. It reminded me of drunk walks back to my dorm room when I was in college.

Trail Day: 86

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

  • Location: Stealth site at mile 992.4
  • Start/End Time: 9:30/7:45
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and Humid

I woke up late, as I always do when I’m in a real bed. For some reason this Super 8 didn’t serve any kind of breakfast, not even a bagged one. What sucks is I bet the price was the same as it was when they did serve breakfast.

I packed up my stuff and walked through the Burger King drive-thru for breakfast. Apparently you can order a whopper at BK any time of day. This is good information I’ll be keeping in mind for the future. I’m not a huge breakfast fan, but can destroy a burger no matter the time of day.

After attempting to hitch hike I ended up calling Front Royal Taxi to take me back to trailhead. Sometimes it’s just easier to call a shuttle or taxi instead of wasting time hitch hiking.

When I started hiking I saw a broken old sign that said, “Breeding Center National Zoological Center” the top of the sign was cut off. I ran into a local on the trail who told me it’s a Smithsonian Zoological thing. They have all kinds of animals and they open up to the public once a year for tours.

Throughout the day there were lots of ups and downs, but they weren’t too difficult. It was just hot and I had to take plenty of breaks so I didn’t overheat. As a result I played leap frog with a group of guys all day. They played their music on a Bluetooth speaker, which I hate, but overall they were nice enough. I’m going to call this group the dude-bros.

Luckily, I ran into Doc a thru hiker and trail volunteer. He was doing some weed whacking and trail magic. I got a much needed Gatorade and a freeze dried meal for later!

On one of the rocky uphills in the afternoon I stopped to cool off. By this time I was over the day, but ran into a nice women who gave me the sweetest pep talk. She told me about a few of the things I had to look forward to on the trail and gave me a granola bar. It was exactly what I needed, the trail provides.

Listened to this history podcast I enjoy called, Behind the Bastards. I explores the stories and atrocities of the worst people in history. Afterwards I finished Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. I don’t know why listening to this book makes me so emotional. I cried again. 

When I arrived at the spot I was planning to camp I realize it was a state park and I couldn’t camp there. Plus it was an open field full of weeds and ferns. It was most likely full of snakes and ticks too.

I ended up hiking an additional 2 miles and found a stealth site that was on an incline and a bit rocky.

While setting up my tent I realized that my center pole was broken and couldn’t set it up properly. One of the pieces that keeps the roof poles together is somehow missing. I tried at least 6 different ways to set it up including my hair ties, KT tape, and using a sapling instead of a pole. Nothing worked.

Then, it took forever to find a tree to hang my food from and I couldn’t get the line up. This is just a testament to my sleepiness and frustration over my tent as I can usually get the line up in the first try. I eventually made it work.

It was a crappy end to a decent day.

Trail Day: 87

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

  • Location: Talia’s House
  • Start/End Time: 7:45/3:45
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and Hot

Between sleeping on a rocky incline and feeling like my tent was caving in on me all night I obviously slept like complete garbage.

My morning started off with 4 easy miles to the beginning of the Appalachian Roller Coaster. This is a section of the trail with 14 pointless ups and downs. Some sections are a bit steep. Others have rocks. Overall it’s not super fun for anyone.

Before I got started on the roller coaster I stopped and had a snack at the sign. The dude-bros showed up with their group of about 10 people. There were some women in the group today. The music was blasting and everyone was talking really loud. They asked if I could take their photo and one of them was made that they guy that gave me a his camera for the photo had an android instead of an iPhone. He literally tried to start a fight about it. It was super uncomfortable. They left, only one of them said thank you, and no one offered to take my picture in return.

Then, Plaid, who I’d met in passing the day before showed up. He asked if I could take his picture, said thanks when I did, then asked if I wanted a photo. You know like a nice person would do.

A few ups and downs later I hit the 1000 mile mark. But the moment was ruined by the dude-bros showing up and the angry one from earlier bitching about the ATC taking down the 100 mile mark graffiti. He’s basically an entitled little fuck complaining that he couldn’t get a photo for Instagram, boo hoo. 

I eventually was able to get some space between myself and the dude-bros and had a pretty quiet and chill afternoon of hiking. It was really hot, but I took it slow uphill and was rewarded with a great view at the end of the day.

When I was supposed to meet Talia I clearly missed the turn for the parking lot I was meeting her at and ended up at a highway. Luckily, Talia picked me up before I needed to play frogger to cross said highway to the other side of the trail.

The rest of the night went as follows:

  1. Showered and did laundry
  2. Went to brewery
  3. Got ice cream
  4. Helped feed Talias animals 
  5. More Beer
  6. Sleep in a comfy bed

All my Appalachian Trail Journals

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