Hi everyone! It has been an atrociously long time since I posted anything, I know, and for that I’m sorry. A lot has happened since Boiling Springs, and not a lot of time to write about it, so let me just run through the story since then and hopefully explain everything.
At some point in Pennsylvania, Dad mentioned taking a break once we got out of the state to rest our feet, but we never really got around to it. Pennsylvania ended, and Maryland went by in 2 days that I hardly remember, but when we got to the Potomac we limped (literally) along the C&O Canal Towpath into the HI Harper’s Ferry Hostel overlooking the river. It was a fantastic hostel – mostly because the keeper opened the pantry and told us to help ourselves to all the food people had left, as well as all the ice cream we could eat. Dad could barely put any weight on his left heel that day because it was hurting so bad, so I figured that would be the break we were dreaming of, especially with a 90% of T-storms and 2 in. of rain the next day. But the next day found us limping (still, literally) into Harper’s Ferry and the ATC headquarters, where we checked in as the 13th and 14th SOBO thru hikers. So I missed that chance for a little blog post.
That night we met the Hiking Dude at the shelter where we were hiding from the rain. The Dude is a pretty experienced hiker, having hiked the entire Arizona Trail and Ice Age Trail. He also made his own pack, shelter, and quilt, which is way cool. He plans to hike down to Springer, and for the time being has been hiking with us. It’s nice to have someone to camp with and talk to, since Dad and I get into a quiet routine every day and it starts to feel like a grind. He blogs a lot more regularly than I do and has a GPS device that tracks where exactly he is on the trail, so if you want another perspective on the AT, check out his website, HikingDude.com.
Anyway, so at this point we’d hiked about 350 miles without a day off, and Dad’s feet weren’t getting any better, so he finally said we’d take some time off and he’d go see a podiatrist. But we were 2.5 days from Front Royal, so we kept going at our usual pace. When we got there, he was feeling slightly better, so we grabbed some groceries, hit the KFC (wayyyy better in Virginia than in Vermont), and kept going. I still didn’t get to post!
That afternoon we made it to Shenandoah National Park, which we were excited about because we’d heard the beer was cheaper than water, which turned out to be sort of true. About once a day for the next week we were passing camp stores and snack bars where we could pick up some snacks and hiker food, but more importantly, cheeseburgers and ice cream. And a 16 oz. Bud Light was 95 cents, while a 20 oz. water was 99 cents. Plus, we were all carrying water filters, so we weren’t about to pay for water.
I had one of my best days of hiking there in Shenandoah – beautiful views from the summit of Stony Man, 70 degrees and sunny all day, a cheeseburger for lunch, saw 3 bears, a bunch of deer, and a couple of turkeys, cooked some hot dogs that we bought at a camp store, and picked a bunch of wild apples.
That’s why I had to give Johnny Appleseed his due; I’ve been seeing apple trees ever since NH but they weren’t ripe enough until now. We’ve been picking them from Front Royal all the way down to Buena Vista. They spruce up any trail meal, especially chopped up in oatmeal or on a sandwich with PB.
Also, on our last day in Shenandoah, my mom – aka Kool Breeze – came up to hike with me for a day, and that was a lot of fun. It was good to catch up for hours on what has been going on at home, and those miles really flew by. we ended up doing about 15 together, and I have to say I was impressed at how well she did for someone with multiple knee surgeries and a pack so full of food that weighed nearly as much as mine.
After getting out of the park we were driven by a trail angel named DuBose Egleston, Jr., or “Yellow Truck,” to a hostel in Waynesboro, where we finally took a day off. We hit the Chinese buffet, of course, watched some James Bond, and Dad got new shoes and insoles at an outfitter there. Sounds like a good time for me to write a blog post, right? Sorry guys, but the last thing I wanted to do after hiking 500 miles straight was sit at a computer and rehash the whole thing. Turns out, all I wanted to do was lay on the couch with a cold drink.
Of course it went by too quickly, and it was bittersweet. I hate taking zeroes because it reminds me of evrything I’m missing on the trail, but I crave those things so much too. But a couple of days later I had forgotten about it, because we were back on top of 4000 footers again for the first time since Vermont. We met a bunch of college groups from Washington & Lee University who were on week long pre-orientation trips, which is way cool and I wish I’d gotten to do something like that. But on Tuesday Dad’s feet were really killing him, and he made the decision to get off the trail that afternoon in Buena Vista.
I felt awful for him, because I know it was a hard call to make. He never gives up at anything, always sees things through, but he just wasn’t enjoying himself at all. And life is too short to torture yourself for months on end just to say you did. But of course that’s not the end of the story. He didn’t actually give up. Instead he got a ride down to Roanoke, got a couple of shots of cortisone in his heels (which the doctor said have heel spurs and all that other painful junk that happens to feet), and has been laying in a Howard Johnson in Daleville watching Dumb and Dumber for the past 3 days. The Dude and I hiked on without him and just met him here today. And that’s the story up until now. I could be also lying in the room watching movies and eating cookies, but I have to blog at some point or you guys might think we both quit for good.
Highlights of the last few weeks: Lots of wildlife in Shenandoah; hiking with Kool Breeze; free apples; Chinese Buffet; tall mountains; more apples; Reeds Gap to Bald Knob; and my longest day of hiking, 27 miles. I finally completed a marathon and it took 11 hours 30 minutes, so I think that’s a good place to start. Plenty of room for improvement.
Looking ahead, I hae no clue really where we’ll be, but I can tell you that at 1461 miles down, we’re 2/3 of the way done with this trail. McAfee Knob is coming up this week, and if you don’t know what that is, just look up pictures of the Appalachian Trail and it will probably be 90% of them. I’ll try to get some pics up from my phone, since this hotel computer is weird. See you all soon, and thanks for reading.