The Appalachian Trail in West Virginia and Maryland: That didn’t Take Long!

Trail Day: 88

Thursday, June 17, 2021

  • Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Start/End Time: 8:30/6:30
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny

Up early to get organized and have breakfast. Talia had a busy day at work so I wanted to make sure I was up and ready to move out when she needed to. For breakfast, I ate the rest of my ice cream from last night. Then Talia toasted me an English muffin and I covered it in butter and jam.

Thanks to Talia I didn’t have to play frogger and she dropped me off on the opposite side of the highway. I’m so thankful that I didn’t need to cross that busy highway. I was so back on the trail by 8:30 to finish the roller coaster.

Through the morning I didn’t see too many people. When I reached Raven Rocks I sat and ate my roast beef sandwich for a mid-morning snack. Then all the thru-hikers and day hikers started rolling by. I relaxed while they hiked past me and then I continued on.

In passing, I met Not So Bad. She was sitting on the side of the trail resting. It looked like she was having a hard day.

About an hour later she passed me while I was having a snack and told me she was having a moment when we first met. She’s genuinely kind and pretty funny. She named her legs, “Employees of the Month,” and told me she cries on the trail a bunch. I offered her a hug and we were 

Mid-day I received a text from Platinum saying she got to Harpers Ferry and was zeroing. She’s with Upchuck, Legend, Full Moon, and Pretty in Pink. I asked if I could crash on their floor and she said yes. I was headed to West Virginia!

A few short hours later I crossed into West Virginia and got trail magic! This is exactly what I needed to get me the rest of the way to town. I had a coke, some chips, and candy. The woman that provided the Trail Magic was heading up to Vermont a few days later to do the Long Trail.

After a section that was rockier than I expected I started headed downhill and towards the Shenandoah River. I ended up hiking over the Shenandoah River to Harpers Ferry with, “Country Roads” blasting in my headphones. It was fitting for the moment. I strolled with confidence over the bridge to meet up with a shuttle driver I had called earlier.

To get to the hotel, which was a short barely 5-minute ride down the street, cost me $10. I feel like I was completely ripped off. However, that feeling melted away when I was greeted with a big hug from Platinum, Legend, and Upchuck and immediately given a drink.

It has been a while since I had seen Platinum and Upchuck and even longer since I had seen Legend. We caught up while I got my things organized. 

The rest of the night was spent in the room. Full Moon and Pretty in Pink joined us and we ordered pizza for dinner. And we watched John Wick 1 and 3, still not sure why we didn’t watch 2. 

Trail Day: 89

Friday, June 18, 2021

  • Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Start/End Time:
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny

Since the crew I stayed with last night had already taken a zero they were headed out bright and early. We all had breakfast at the hotel, and when they left I took a shower before heading into town.

I sat out front of the hotel and asked a woman if she’d give me a ride to the trail, so I didn’t have to walk along the highway. She said yes and 15 minutes later I was sitting in the backseat of her RAV4 chatting with her 7-year-old daughter. They dropped me off at the end of the bridge over the Shenandoah and I headed up the trail.

I walked up the AT only .2 miles to a blue blaze trail to the ATC Headquarters. It is the symbolic halfway point of the AT.

Upon rounding the corner and seeing the ATC sign I was overcome with emotion. I reach out, put the palms of my hands on the sign, and cried. I walked all the way here from Georgia. Me, the little girl who was always picked on for being too short or too tiny. The person who has never been particularly athletic and was always picked last for sports. The former roller derby player who never won a game. 

I’ve been listening to a lot of musicals lately, and I can’t remember if I’ve written this before, but in the musical Matilda there’s a song called, “Naughty,” and in the song the title character sings, “never let a little thing like little stop you.” And I’m going to.

I got my photo taken by the ATC volunteer for the hiker album. I’m hiker number 498 to come through Harpers Ferry this year and stop at the ATC. And while it’s taken me 89 days to get here I couldn’t be happier that I made it and I’m still going.

Afterward, I walked back to the AT and hiked into the Historic District of Harpers Ferry. I went past the ruins of an old church and Jefferson’s Rock. The rock was just as exciting as Plymouth Rock in case you were wondering.

I stopped at the Outfitter to try and get my tent fixed. They didn’t have the parts but the woman working there helped me out! She found an old drill bit and it works to hold up my tent. I did my resupply there because she gave me the drill bit for free and I try to support as many small businesses as possible.

Other hikers outside complaining about how the outfitter sucks and so does the ATC. One of them actually said, “The ATC wouldn’t exist without us.” Well, the trail wouldn’t exist without the ATC, sooooo…

By then I was hungry so I got lunch at the Cannonball Deli. It was a tiny little restaurant and I got a really good falafel wrap with a side salad and chips.

After thinking she might be dead for a week I heard from Rip Tide. She showed up to hang out and we wandered around the historic district popping in and out of the little museums.

When we parted ways I went into a few more museums before beginning my walk to the Quality Inn. As I was walking up the hill to the hotel to meet Mileage I hear, “Hey Pikachu, want a ride?” And it was Mileage in a car! The trail provides.

The hotel wasn’t anything special, but it was clean and quiet. I took an epsom salt bath and organized my pack. I also attempted to take a nap, but couldn’t.

Mileage and I walked back to the historic district to The Rabbit Hole restaurant. There we met Gourmet and her friend Weslynn who was coming to hike with her for about a week. The ambiance and the restaurant were amazing and the food was OK.

When dinner was finished Mileage and I headed over to the episcopal church where our ghost tour was meeting. It’s considered one of the oldest ghost tours in the country and goes all around the historic district in Harpers ferry.

To be honest it’s more of a history tour than a ghost tour as the guy who does it is a bit of a skeptic when it comes to ghosts. He’s also huge into history and does tours at Gettysburg as well. While he told too many bad jokes in my opinion he really knew his history and was extremely passionate about sharing it with us.

At the end of the tour, we were really lazy and didn’t wanna walk the mile and a half back down to the Quality Inn. I asked the guy that was leading the tour if he drove by the QualityIn on his way home and he said yes. Not only was a door amazing he was so kind to give us that ride.

Trail Day: 90

Saturday, June 19, 2021

  • Location: Dahlgren Backpacker Campground
  • Start/End Time: 9/6:15
  • Weather Conditions: Sunny and Humid with scattered showers

As usual, I slept in. However, what does that even mean? I don’t set an alarm and I don’t have a schedule of things to do. Maybe it means I’m sleeping later than you think I should? I’m really not sure.

I had breakfast at the hotel, and it was amazing. We have lots of muffins, Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches, and plenty of fruit. I packed out a ton of it in my backpack.

I couldn’t get a ride downtown without paying, so I did the section of the trail from Shenandoah Street to the historic district again. I’m just glad that section of the trail is pretty easy.

We’re leaving the store District Harpers Ferry hi girls have to walk over a footbridge. It is where the Potomac and Shanandoah rivers me and parallels a railroad track. While I was walking over the bridge I was kind of hoping for a train to go by.

Average it was 3 miles on a flat gravel path. In the section, the AT parallels the American Discovery Trail.

During the flat section and going up my first in kind of a day I spoke with Jess Sousa, Sweet William, and Iris. It was great catching up and made the miles fly by.

After a while, I reached the ruins at Gathland State Park. There is an unused tomb and several other buildings. I didn’t know I was in Maryland until I got there. Not sure if there was even a sign saying I left West Virginia. Maybe it was the bridge that was the border, not sure.

So far I’m absolutely loving Maryland! The trail is super well maintained, wide, and provides easy walking. However, despite all of this I stopped several times because of the heat.

Around 6:25 I arrived at Dahlgren Backpacker Campground earlier than expected. I made and ate dinner with Rainman, Gourmet, and Weslynn just in time for a rain shower to come out of nowhere.

I escaped the rain in my tent and watched the first episode of Loki! It was really interesting and I can’t wait to watch episode 2. 

I’ve been way behind on my journal, so before bed, I caught up on 2 days when I was exiting Virginia. I hope this doesn’t become a trend, but I think it might. With the heat, I’m just so tired at the end of the day.

Trail Day: 91

Sunday, June 20, 2021

  • Location: Raven Rock Shelter
  • Start/End Time: 8:30/7:30
  • Weather Conditions: Hot and Humid. This hottest day I’ve ever hiked.

Within 20 minutes of hiking this morning, I fell and twisted my ankle. I had to sit on the side of the trail for a bit and rest it before taking off again. This was not how I wanted to start my day.

However, soon after I walked up to Rainman who was standing right next to some trail magic! There was a cooler full of Gatorade and a box full of chips bags. I grabbed a ted Gatorade and a bag of Cheetos and put them in my bag so I could have a nice rest up the trail a little way.

I brought my snacks up to the original Washington Monument. I didn’t even know that the one in DC wasn’t the original. This one is shaped like a large jug and is made of stone. I feel so lucky because it was open and I walked to the top of the stairs for a beautiful view. I’ve heard it’s not always open.

Rainman and I got really lucky as when we were eating our trail Magic a family out for a hike offered us some oranges they had. Double trail magic!

As the day went on it kept getting hotter and hotter. I had to keep stopping to take breaks so I didn’t overheat. I drank several electrolyte drinks and lots of water. I’m so thankful for that Gatorade from earlier!

Walked over to Black Rock Cliffs. It was an extra .5 there and back to the AT. The view was was pretty good, but not sure it was worth the extra mileage. On my way back to the AT I stopped to sign the trail log and spoke with the ATC Ridgerunner for the area.

Raven Rock Shelter didn’t have any water so I had to camel up before the hike uphill. While it sucked to have to carry so much water up what promised to be a rocky climb, I did soak my feet in the stream. They were very happy about it and I took my time and relaxed while the others hiking around me zoomed by.

The last 1.25 miles of the day to Rocky Ridge Shelter were the worst. Even though it was late in the afternoon it was still extremely hot and the climb took forever as a result. I eventually rolled into camp to find the shelter full. Thankfully there were plenty of tent sites.

Gourmet and Weslynn were at the shelter when I arrived. We all pitched our tents in the same area and sat down to dinner together. That’s when Weslynn started to not look so good.

Upon talking to her it was clear she was dehydrated and had not eaten enough that day. She had a slight fever and was nauseous. I made her an electrolyte drink with one of my Nuun tablets and luckily another hiker in the shelter had an extra ramen so she could get some easy-to-digest sodium and carbs. I gave her a snickers bar so she could get some sugars too.

All of a sudden she got cold really fast. Her hands were freezing and her teeth were chattering. She was going into hypothermia. The sweat in her clothes made her cold, so I had her change into dry clothes. Thankfully, didn’t take her long to warm up after that.

After she changed and started eating she was feeling better. The whole thing was very emotional for her and at one point she was pacing around in tears. She expressed out loud that this is what living feels like and that so many people that sit on their couches all day don’t understand what it’s like. She told Gourmet and I that we were amazing for doing the AT and that she didn’t know if she could do this every day. She was able to step into the thru-hiking world and out into words how so many of us feel out here. While I was worried for her in these moments, it was also really beautiful to see her reaction and realized of her past 2 days.

Trail Day: 92

Monday, June 21, 2021

  • Location: Tumbling Run Shelter
  • Start/End Time: 8:30/5
  • Weather Conditions: Hot with a severe thunderstorm in the afternoon

Everything was stiff this morning. Plus I didn’t fall asleep until midnight last night. I think I was worried about Weslynn and couldn’t sleep because of it.

I started hiking slow and stopped for a snack. Rainman came up behind me and asked why I stopped before the shelter. So I checked my map and saw that Big Rock was .2 miles ahead.

When I arrived I found Rainman sitting by himself on top of this big overlook covered in graffiti. The view of the nearby farmland and towns was spectacular. One of the best views we’ve had in a while.

Today is National Hike Naked Day so I obviously had to join in on the fun! Rainman and I took some naked photos at Big Rock and they might be my favorite photo of the whole hike so far. We planned to do a mile or 2 together naked when we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line. It might be strange, but for us it was less weird to hike naked together just in case we ran into non-thru hikers. 

From there, I put my clothes back on and hiked the rocky downhill to Penn Mar Park. Rainman caught up with me and we had a DMC (deep meaningful conversation).  I met him with the dude-bros a while back, and he’s definitely not a dude-bro.

At Penn Mar Park we met Pachouli. She’s a section Hiker and for her birthday, which was yesterday, she and her family did trail magic birthday party. It was so much fun. They had pasta salad, potato salad, fruit salad, grilled cheese, and hot dogs. Then they pulled out all the snacks like chips, peanut butter crackers, and Swiss cake rolls.

On top of all the delicious snacks, Pachouli was giving mini Reiki sessions. She has such amazing energy, and even in a pavilion full of people she did an amazingly calming and healing session. Rainman got a session after me so I hung out and had some more food.

From there we stepped into the woods and out of our clothes. We hit the Mason-Dixon Line in the buff!

I found Hoagie’s message to me in the trail log, signed it myself, and did another 2 miles naked. It felt so free and breezy, until my thighs started chaffing. Then it was time to put my shorts and sports bra back on.

From there I put my headphones in and made plans with Rainman to meet up at the shelters and stealth camp up on a ridge which would end up being around 17 miles for the day.

Like we planned we saw each other at the shelters and even at a road crossing. When we left Deer Lick Shelters I turned my audiobook off and we hiked and talked. He also picks up trash while hiking as we found a few things along the way.

Just before Old Forge Park, we started to hear rumbling in the distance and the sky began to get dark. Neither of us needed any water as we were planning on passing the next shelter and could get water there, so we kept hiking.

This was the worst idea ever. Within minutes we heard a roar and the wind circled around us. I’ve never seen trees bend this way before. Huge trees had the tops at odd angles. We booked it. I’ve never moved so fast down a trail in my life. We only had a mile to go, we could do it.

Splashing through puddles we started getting hit with what I thought was hail. It wasn’t. Sticks and pine ones were coming out of the trees. Out of nowhere, we heard a big snap. A tree off in the distance broke in 2. The wind was blowing in all directions and about 20 feet in front of us another tree uprooted itself and fell across the trail. 

I grabbed Rainman’s arm and pulled him back. We turned around to get back to the pavilion at Old Forge Park. 

The entire trail was a puddle, a stream gushing with water. We had to go over several trees that had only just fallen. After a few minutes, we came to an area where we lost the trail because of 4 huge downed trees. We couldn’t get over them and find the trail in the rain, so we turned back once again. 

Even more, trees had fallen across the trail. We had to go around one of them and my leg got caught on some briars. There was some blood, but we needed to keep going.

Rainman was in front of me and all of a sudden a large stick fell in him. He brushed it off and kept moving. 

We were back in the section we had been in earlier and there was a massive tree across the trail. The fact that this didn’t fall on us is a small miracle. To get over it Rainman had to sit on some of the branches for me to climb over them.

Then we ran. My backpack popping up a d down on my lower back and my shoes completely soaked through we kept making our way north to the next shelter. Slowly the wind subsided and the rain stopped. 

After 20 feet there was a tree across the trail. When we reached the road we could see trees down in both directions. But even though the rain and wind had stopped we didn’t. We kept trudging forward to get to the shelter. Then we saw the sign. It’s name is Tumbling Run, and boy is that how I’d describe how we got there.

I’ve never been more terrified in my life. I had no control of what was happening around me during that storm. However, we got to the shelter soaked and with a few bumps and brushes, but in one piece.

I put up a clothesline with my bear line and we hung out all our stuff. I put on my dry clothes and cooked dinner. We hung out at the shelter with 2 section hikers and a flip-flopper who just started his hike. 

I reached out to my friends on trail and was relieved to find that everyone was safe either in a shelter or at a hotel.

To tell someone I texted Hoagie about the storm and finally started to process it all. How did I only come out of it with scratches and Rainman with a bump on his face? We’re so lucky!

Today was the best and the worst the trail has to offer in one day. How fast things can change is crazy. I’ll never stop being in awe of the power, both powerful and destructive, of the trail. 

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