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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!!
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.