Day 19: 9.9 miles today, 176.5 miles total

This was a brutal day. I had to hike through a section of trail called “The Roller Coaster,” which is a total of 13.5 miles of tedious, strenuous uphills and downhills, full frontal attack, no switchbacks. It was rough. But I survived….most of it. I still have to tackle 3.5 miles of the roller coaster tomorrow morning before, what seems like, a relatively easy hike into Harpers Ferry. I’ll be tackling over 20 miles tomorrow, but I think I can do it. Plus, it will be my last day on the trail and it would be really great to go home and said I did a 20 mile day.

I have eaten so much food today. I think that “hiker hunger” is starting to settle in, even though I’m about to head back home. Hopefully it won’t follow me home either. I’m heading into the Appalachian Trail headquarters on Sunday where there is weigh scale to see if I’ve lost any weight. I’ll be using this as an opportunity to kick start a healthy path for myself once I get back home, and at this point, I’m craving it. Literally, I’m craving salads and fresh fruit like crazy because there is NONE OF IT on the trail.

After 10 miles of strenuous hiking today I’ve finally landed at Bear’s Den Hostel which is right off of the AT and is completely beautiful. It’s located inside a stone-lodge house built in the 1930’s. I’m actually tenting outside though, since it will be my last opportunity to tent out before going home. I’ll be staying in Harpers Ferry tomorrow night and getting on a train and a plane on Sunday.

Wish me luck on my 20 mile day tomorrow!!!

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Great. I'm gonna die.

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Boulders and rocks today. All. Day.

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Oh, and mountain stairs!!!

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Reached mile 1000 on the AT

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Absolutely soaking wet with sweat. I hiked in my sports bra today.

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Bears Den hostel. What a gorgeous place

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And I decided to camp outside 😛

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Day 18: 10.9 miles today. 166.6 total

Today started off a little slowly. Left the hostel around 9am with a group of hikers. Mike, the owner of the hostel, dropped one off at the grocery store, 2 ladies off at the car rental place, another one off at the dentist, and then dropped me and “no regrets” off at mile 982 on the trail. Since I took a day off yesterday, but am still anxious to get home, I “yellow blazed” a little bit. So what…kill me.

It was so god damn hot today, and humid, with absolutely no breeze. Half way through the day my cloths are already soaking wet. At about mile 6 there was a road crossing where someone had trail magic waiting. I typically don’t drink sodas, but I swung back 2 Mountain Dews like they were going to get taken away from me. Again, headed into the woods and had to go uphill after that. made it to the shelter around 4pm. It was kind of an uneventful day. I’m just ready to go home.

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Harpers ferry, almost home!

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More trail magic, keeping my spirits up!

Day 8-Day 16

Haven’t had reliable Internet in a while, but I figured I would just cram 8 days worth of Journaling into 1 blog. Here we go:

Day 8: 0 miles today, 76.8 total

Well, I’m in Waynesboro! Yes, I “yellow blazed” 55 miles of the trail, but I’m ok with that. My spirits are way up, my feet and legs feel much better, and I’m once again excited to get moving! I start the Shenandoahs tomorrow and I am so excited. I’ve heard nothing but great things, and the weather is supposed to be beautiful!
I woke up this morning at 6 am in the hostel and felt fantastic. “61” warned me that “papa” was an extremely loud snorer, but he didn’t bother me at all. Oma made us all breakfast, toast and eggs and fresh fruit with coffee. Once again, absolutely glorious after a week of crumbled pop tarts for breakfast. We took “61” and “papa” back to the trail and “tally” to Lynchburg to go to an outfitter, then Oma drove me to Waynesboro where the YMCA and Parks and Rec have a free hiker tent site and let you take free showers at the YMCA. The city is very hiker friendly!

I walked to Kroger and resupplied my food, then headed back to the campsite where I gave my feet some TLC. I sat around a while and watched the police remove a dog that someone left in their tent. I saw the tent owners later on leaving with their stuff and they were homeless, not hikers. After that event, I headed down to Heritage sports bar in downtown and chatted with some other thru hikers, none of them I can remember the names of. Came back to the campsite and met Madison and Jake who are hitchhiking to Maine. Apparently a free hostel in a Lutheran Church opened up tonight, but I don’t really have an interest in sleeping in the same room with 20 other hikers. Later, I went to the YMCA and took a free shower. They even gave me a towel and a little bar of soap! Headed back to camp where I nestled in my tent waiting for a big thunderstorm that ended up wrapping around the campsite but never hit us.

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The most beautiful array of sample sized things ever

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At first I thought this was the most random sculpture ever, then I realized it says "love"

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Downtown Waynesboro

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Sunrise at the campground

Day 9: 7.6 miles today, 84.4 total

Today started with an obnoxious start. Woke up at the free campground to a thru – hiker sleeping on one of the picnic tables, beer cans everywhere, and the place looked destroyed. Someone was listening to loud music on their phone very late at night. Basically, there were 2 homeless – ish people living there and the thru hiker was hanging out with them. I woke up and got out of my tent too early and had to hang around this douche thru hiker for almost 3 hours, listening to him talk to another thru hiker about how much he wanted weed and needed to take a shit. Do some hikers think that since they live in the woods they are actually animals?

At 9:30, a trail angel named Francine picked me up and took me to the trail for free, which was great. I then got started in my first hike through the Shenandoahs. The hike itself was good, some ups and downs and areas that had no trees. It was a little stressful because I hadn’t put any more water in my camelback since last night and the only water source was at the shelter, so I had to conserve a little bit. I’ve found that I drink about 3x more water going uphill than I do going downhill. I’ve been drinking so much water, about 5 liters a day, around a gallon and a half. It’s crazy how thirsty I’ve been! But by the end of the day, my clothes are soaking wet with sweat. It has been so hot and humid lately, but I think the weather is supposed to lighten up soon, which will be much better.

I got into Calf Mountain Shelter around 3pm and set up camp and had dinner with a bunch of great people: “friction” who just graduated high school, a dad, mom and daughter trio who have lived all over the world including Norway and Alaska, and another guy from Pennsylvania who is section hiking the AT. I really enjoyed the company here tonight. Much better than the crowd that was hanging around last night.

My spirits were good in the first part of the day, but got down later on. That seems to be how it goes everyday: excitement….content….boredom…..lonliness. I just get so incredibly lonely during the day with no one to talk to or share experiences with. I get to an overlook and think it is beautiful and amazing for a minute, then move on to wishing I had Drew there to share it with. I really hope that feeling starts to fade soon, because it sucks. It makes half of my day close to miserable.

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Walking into Shenandoah

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Is this a joke? I'm so confused

Day 10: 13 miles today, 97.4 total

Today was fantastic on the trail. I was very happy most of the day which is a change! I’m getting quicker in the morning with packing up my stuff and getting out of the shelter. I very much enjoy early morning hiking and got out around 7:30 this morning. I put my headphones in today which is something I haven’t been doing much of, but it really helped me get in the mood. Listened to coldplay, red hot chili peppers, and lady Gaga. The weather was much better today, around 70, and the terrain was much more forgiving as well. Got to Blackrock hut shelter at around 3pm and set up my tent. There are 3 really awesome ladies here named Barbara, Barbara and Debra who are middle-aged, retired ladies who are just absolutely hysterical. They started a campfire and gave a bunch of their food to some thru hikers. I hung out with them and “ninja geisha” for dinner and lots of other people are rolling into camp, including 1 lady who I met a while back that said she started her hike in April. She is flying. I’m not sure I would enjoy thru hiking at that speed.

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Woke up to spiders EVERYWHERE!!!

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Lol. Penis

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The first campfire of the trip!

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Barbara, me and Debra

Day 11: 8.8 miles today, 106.2 miles total

Today has been one of my favorite days on the trail, even though it was rainy, wet, and cold. Woke up around 6 am and it was sooooooo cold. Had a hot breakfast of instant oatmeal and met “sam” and “angel” in the shelter who came in last night. Sam is pretty much doing the same section as me, and angel almost got attacked by a bear last night and didn’t want to walk alone. So we all walked tog eery her almost 9 miles to the Loft Mountain Wayside and enjoyed a burger with fries then tried to figure out how we were going to get to a motel for the rest of the day and overnight. It got even colder and rainier during the day. We got lucky because Barbara, Barbara and Debra came into the Wayside on their way out of Shenandoah and the opportunity seemed perfect! We asked if they could give us a ride and they were happy to! They took us to the country view motel where I split a room with Sam and Angel. We took showers, did laundry, ordered laundry, and watched a movie on tv.

It was a fantastic day. It felt really good to hike with other people for once, and they were really humorous company. Drew got really worried that I was sharing a room with people I just met, but it’s hard to explain the dynamic that exists with other hikers. Once you meet a hiker and share a meal with them and talk to them, you figure out pretty quickly whether or not they are someone you want to be around. I’ve had such a good day with these 2, and the idea of them being “random strangers” is arbitrary. It’s almost like we are 1 unified group with the same goals: to hike, but still have fun. So we are gonna stay in a motel during the freezing wet night.

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Boulders.

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New frenz!

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Debra, Barbara, and Barbara

Day 12: 9 miles today, 115.2 total

Today was another really good day and I had a lot of fun. Woke up this morning in the motel around 7:30! Woo, we slept in!!! Took a quick shower, got breakfast at the convenient store down the street, and then the hotel gave us a ride back to the trail. We did a lovely 9 mile stretch today and had some good times along the way. We ate lunch at one of the cabins which had this huge castle-like door and outdoor fireplace. It looks like such a nice place to reserve for a couple of days and spend some romantic evenings. We later stopped at a campground and I made a resupply trip of lunch and breakfast stuff, hopefully enough to get me to the hostel Tuesday night. We headed into bearfence hut around 3pm and had a snack, made a campfire and only slightly enjoyed the company of a group of hikers that pay a guide to hike them through the Shenandoahs. I really don’t think it could get much easier than that.

It was nice again to hike with new friends. Even though we were quiet a lot when we hiked, enjoying lunch and side trips with them was nice. We are parting ways tomorrow because they plan on doing 24 miles, whereas I plan on doing 11.5. I will miss them, but we have to hike our own hike!

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Large group in the shelter tonight!

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Deer!!!!

Day 13: 11.5 miles today, 117.7 total

Even though I was by myself today, I had a very good day and I’m starting to get into the swing of things. Woke up and Sam and Angel were still there, so it was good to see them one last time. A guy named “kitchen sink” who has thru hiked the AT before, brought breakfast and was making everyone eggs!!! I miss eggs so much! It has blown me away how kind people are out here. How much trail magic I’ve gotten, how easy it has been to find rides, how unconditional people are when they just want to do something good. To me, this is what what the Appalachian Trail is about. This is what I was hoping to find out here: the kindness of others. It is what I will miss the most when I leave, and what will bring me back to the trail.

Once I finished my amazing breakfast I headed out! Finally found some cell phone service on the trail and called mom and dad and Drew. I miss Drew so much. I think about him a lot while I’m hiking. I think about how incredibly lucky I am to have found this person who I care so much about and who very willingly shows me that he feels the same way. I think about our future and making a little nest of our own with our kitty. I think about how much I wish he was here with me, experiencing what I see. That’s the thought that makes me miss him the most. I wish I had him here to experience the beauty with me, but maybe one day we will do this together.

Anyway, I had lunch at Big Meadows Wayside and sat in the sun with “rabbit” who was waiting for a pair of shoes to get dropped off. I hiked through the campground to get back on the trail. Got to rock springs hut where there are a ton of people. It’s memorial day weekend and the entire park is packed with campers. The huts are only supposed to be for long-term hikers, but people who couldn’t get a campsite in the campgrounds are now hiking to the huts.

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Kitchen Sink making my egg!

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Bad trail...

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Good trail...

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Had to walk past a cemetery. What a beautiful place to rest in peace

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Big meadows

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Day 14: 15.3 miles today, 133 miles total

Woke up this morning to find my food bag had been chewed through by mice or raccoons or something, but they didn’t take ANYTHING! That’s almost frustrating yet humorous. If they would have at least ripped a hole in my bag for a reason, I might not be so annoyed.

I hiked 5 miles this morning and stopped at the skyline restaurant to get coffee and eggs. I found “no regrets” who I’ve been running into at the shelters every day. I heard that morning in the shelter that it was his birthday, so I sat down with him and had a birthday breakfast with him. He told me a couple of good stories about he almost found a dead guy at one of the shelters, and that one of his hiker friends heard the news and thought “no regrets” died! It was a humorous story, and it was nice to sit down and enjoy his company during my glorious coffee and 4 egg breakfast. 2 of them were free because the waitress wasn’t happy with the way the first 2 looked. Again, the kindness I have found out here can not be replicated.

After breakfast I headed out again. Stopped at a park area with picnic tables and had lunch. Ran across and older couple with their grandchildren on the trail who gave me some trail magic in the form of a brownie. I decided to keep it for later after dinner where I put a noodle in it and lit it on fire and sang happy birthday to “no regrets.” I think he really enjoyed that and it made my day to forward the trail magic I got to him.

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Thanks for nothing raccoon assholes

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Birthday breakfast with "no regrets"

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A beautiful shelter I passed but I didn't stay

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Day 15: 13.1 miles today, 146.1 miles total

Another good day on the AT! I get through the day a lot easier now knowing that I will be home soon. I miss Drew like crazy, and I feel like even though it’s only been 3 weeks, I’ve missed a lot at home. I didn’t get to meet one of his best friends who came to town and I feel bad about that because I know how much he wants me to meet him.

The hike today wasn’t too bad. Hiked 7 easy miles in the morning to a Wayside where they were still making breakfast. I got the breakfast special. I found myself very hungry today. After that it was moderately hard uphill for 2 miles, then downhill to the shelter. I got in around 4. I am definitely getting faster!

I’m very excited about tomorrow and staying at the hostel. I have to hike 10 miles in the morning to get there, but I plan on getting up early and leaving around 6 am so I can hopefully get to the hostel around noon or 1. I have a care package waiting for me there, as well as a good shower and a bed. Still debating whether or not I want to take a 0 day there or not. It has been 9 days since I had a 0 day, and it would probably be good for me, but I really want to get home as well. We will see.

So more trail magic today at the shelter. 2 gentlemen came with a backpack and brought us ice cold beer, and good beer too! Amazed again at the kindness of trail angels. The beer is knocking me out early tonight. There is talk of a curious bear that walks around this campsite. Hopefully he doesn’t get in my tent!!!

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Day 16: 9.6 miles today, 155.7 total

I walked pretty damn fast today! I was on a mission to get to Front Royal Hostel where I had a bed, shower, clean clothes, and a care package from Drews mom waiting for me. Left the shelter at 6 am and got to the hostel at 11am. Opened the care package and was so excited about all the goodies beth sent me!!! Homemade beef jerky, cheese sticks, oatmeal cream pies, chocolate, some first aid stuff, tuna packets and lotion! It was such an amazing care package and really lifted my spirits! Thank you so much Beth!!!!

A little later, Mike the owner of the hostel, took a couple of us to town to resupply and took sam to the car rental place. So I ran into Sam at the hostel, which was really great to see her before she left. It’s a really cool aspect of the trail, when you lose people but then run into them 100 miles later. I also ran into “61” and “papa” at this hostel as well! I went back into town later with them and got McDonald’s for dinner. I was starving today. I think that hiker hunger may be starting to kick in.

Called mom and dad this evening  and then talked to Drew for a while which was so nice. I miss him very much and I’m so excited to see him on Sunday. Taking a 0 day tomorrow and relaxing, then moving forward 17 miles, and I don’t feel bad about that. I have to do this on my own and hike my own hike and not feel bad and out the decisions I make. At this point I am just ready to go home. This has certainly been an experience, but I’m not sure I would call it “fun.” I would enjoy it more if i had someone to share it with. I have certainly enjoyed this adventure on my own, but everyday I wish I had someone next to me to share the view with. There is a certain extent, I think, to accomplishing things on your own before you desire for someone else to reach those accomplishments with you. It’s what makes it even more worth it. I know now, that if I were to do this again  or attempt a thru hike, I would want my teammate with me.

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Day 7: 2.0 miles today, 76.8 total

REST DAY at Three Springs Hostel!!! Woke up at 5:30 am, packed up my shit, and hiked anxiously towards US60 where Marsha from the hostel picked me up. While I waited I called mom and debated whether or not I wanted her to send me my Nikes or not. Marsha showed up, took me to the hostel where I ran into “50+” and “Pieper.” Oma, the owner, took them back to the AT and I sat and had 2 glorious cups of coffee while I waited for her to get back. Once she did, she showed me around and afterwards I took the most amazing shower I’ve ever had…in a walk in tub. I had a snack, did some laundry, hung my tent out on the line to dry since it had rained the night before, gave my feet some TLC, and took a nap. Wow, I feel so much better!!! It’s amazing how much you can appreciate such simple things when you don’t have them for a 6 day span, like a shower or using lotion, or a hot cup of coffee.

Oma is shuttling me to Waynesboro tomorrow where I plan on camping at the YMCA and resupplying over there. I was going to maybe go to the outfitter in town to buy a different pair of shoes, but I loosened up the shoelaces yesterday on my current pair and that seemed to help a lot.

Tonight has been magnificent. The hosts made us burgers, corn on the cob, salad, and ice cream for dessert. It was so delicious. I’m here with “61,” “papa,” and “tally” who are all older, retired gentlemen. They are all pretty awesome and determined and do like over 20 miles a day. I can only hope that when I’m 60 I’m in as good of shape as these guys! I played some guitar for them and they told me some pretty good trail stories in return.

I can’t wait for breakfast in the morning and to move forward to Waynesboro! 

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The best pic I have of me and "Pieper" and "50+"

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The best porch for drinking coffee on

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Hang out room

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A bed!!!!! With a pillow!!!!

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The hostel cat "skitty" and his glorified water bowl

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Real food!!!

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Me and the three springs hostel crew of may 17!

Day 6: 9.5 miles today, 74.8 total

Today was MUCH better. I need to do more days like this. I did 9.5 miles today, which is still pretty far, but I think I hit my sweet spot. The terrain was moderate, with even amounts of uphill and downhill and lots of flat areas. I think I’ve just been pushing myself too hard and getting discouraged. I need go sloooooowwwww down.

The bugs were absolutely horrible today, constantly in my face, spiderwebs all over me, and it was extremely hot and humid all day. Several hikers passed me today, a lot of them doing section hikes, which is really encouraging. You know, thru hiking might not be the right thing for me, but I don’t feel so bad about hiking the entire AT in sections. Every time a thru hiker asks me if I’m a thru hiker as well, I say, “no, I’m section hiking from Daleville to Harper’s Ferry” and their reaction is always the same: “Oh wow! That’s a big section!” It makes me feel as though I’m a little bit more than a typical section hiker.

So my day hiking ended around 2:30 pm. I set up my tent, hung a bear bag, had some food and dipped my feet in the creek next to the shelter. I pretty much took a bath in the creek. It felt so damn good to get my hair wet with something other than sweat.

Tomorrow morning I’m getting picked up around 9am and heading to the hostel. Thank god! My soul and my feet need a break. I’m jumping to Waynesboro Monday and hopefully camping for free at the Ymca. I really need to rest my feet. I don’t feel bad at all “yellow blazing” (following the yellow lines on the road) that section. I want to enjoy this hike, and the terrain I am on right now is not allowing that. I want my toes back.

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Me and my new bud "50+"

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Reached mile marker 800 on the trail

Day 5: 12.7 miles today, 65.3 total

Another physically and emotionally rough day. A lot of uphill again today,  and my toes are starting to freak me out a bit. I drained my blisters this evening and used someone’s Neosporin to hopefully help them heal tonight. 

Last night was good.  I’ve been sleeping like a rock out here.  I was nervous about the chilly nights,  but I have been very cozy in my sleeping bag. The campsite at Matts Creek was very nice as well,  and next to a beautiful creek….obviously.

The first part of the day up until Johns Hollow Shelter was nice and flat. After that it was a very steep uphill climb.  I passed one guy at the shelter who was heading out, and his pack must have weighed 70 pounds. He said he was aiming to reach this shelter I’m at tonight,  but he never made it. I also noticed he had a gun on his belt,  which was a little off-putting to me.  On the way up to the shelter I also passed a thru hiker sitting on the side of the trail named “007” who said she felt sick,  but didn’t need help.  She said she didn’t want to get anyone else sick if she had the flu or norovirus or something. She showed up shortly after me,  but I hope she’s ok. 

I was feeling very defeated again today. I feel a little lonely not talking to anyone for 10 hours a day. This morning I was talking to “Magnum” who camped at the shelter as well with his wife “Cocoa.” I was asking him what it was like to be thru hiking with her and he talked about how much he absolutely loves it because they make such a good team. Hearing that really made me miss my teammate. Maybe I misread myself but not having a partner to walk with and share experiences with is kind of dull.

Anyway, just 1 more day until my zero day and I NEED IT. I think I may actually ask the hostel if they can shuttle me up to Waynesboro so I can avoid some really tough terrain. Maybe that’s cheating, but at this point I really need to take care of my feet. I will still feel proud of myself making it to Harper’s Ferry regardless if I hiked those 40 miles or not.

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The best part of my day...flat!!!!

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The James river

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I was down there a couple of hours ago!

Day 4: 17.7 miles today, 52.6 miles total

Today was LOOOOOOOONNNNNNNGGGGGGG, but my spirits are much higher than they were yesterday.  That constant uphill yesterday did me in. Today was mostly downhill,  with some ridiculous uphill boulders to climb over. I left camp around 7:45 again and had an uphill climb to start out with.  Once I got to Apple Orchard Mountain, I made a phone call to Three Springs Hostel for Sunday night where I plan on taking a “nero” (near zero mile) day. I passed another section hiker who is doing the same hike as me but in the opposite direction,  and he told me a lot of amazing things about this hostel. I am certainly going to need that day of soon.

After lunch at Thunder Ridge shelter I hiked 12.4 miles to Matts Creek Shelter. I think my feet are going to fall off. Not the entire foot,  but my big toenail on my left foot looks disastrous. I taped an alcohol swab to it for the night, hopefully that will dry out the blisters.

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Apple Orchard Mountain

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I don't think I'm ready to cut my own arm off

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Matts Creek Shelter. Such a nice place to soak my feet

Day 3: 11.9 miles today, 34.9 total

Today was ROUGH. ALL UPHILL. My feet are a disaster.  I miss Drew and Lucy. I cried in my tent tonight because I don’t know if this hike has the same allure without someone there to share it with. But Drew’s words were encouraging. “Just keep going Bon. You knew it would be hard.” His words do help. 

The day started out fantastic. The first 3.5 miles flew by,  but after that I hiked uphill nearly 3000′. It felt like I was walking straight up.

There was more trail magic this morning in a lunch cooler, Fresca and brownies. There was beer in there too, but I can’t imagine having a beer at 9am and then hiking. 

I think these uphill days are what really get to me. I get discouraged because I watch thru hikers pass me and they are going so FAST. But they’ve been hiking nearly everyday for 2-3 months,  of course they are going to be faster!  My energy gets drained so quickly and I sweat so much and by the end of the day I’m just completely over it.  I looked at the rest of the elevation maps for my hike,  and right now is the toughest part. I just have to keep reminding myself that.  As long as I can get past the next few days,  it will quite literally be all down hill from there.

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Trail magic AGAIN!!!

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I’m alive!!!

I haven’t had Internet service for a while l, but here is my updates! I’m just gonna slam a couple days of stuff on here at one time so enjoy!

Day 2: 13.8 miles today, 23 total

What a long day! I left Wilson Creek Shelter at about 7:30 this morning, so I got a great start. Had a first lunch at a picnic table in front of an overlook which was beautiful, then 2nd lunch at Bobblet’s Gap where I met “Chappy” who was a gentlemen in his mid 30s from Clearwater. He later passed me on the trail, but I ran into him again at a road crossing where 2 gals named “Apple Butter” and Gwen were handing out trail magic. Whooo! Trail magic already?! I grabbed an ice cold Gatorade and an apple and sat down for 15 minutes or so and chatted with them and then it was time to move on. My feet are already starting to show some wear and tear.  I may have pushed myself too far today, but I do feel accomplished and I know I’ll sleep well tonight. The 2 older gentlemen that were at the shelter last night are here as well,  “50+” and “Pieper” as well as 2 girls with a dog and another guy.

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The best view at lunch time

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Crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway

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Trail magic with Chappy, Apple Butter and Gwen

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