25.7 miles, 935.8 overall (Luray, VA)
Today I want to deviate from my typical format a bit. The day of hiking was somewhat uneventful so I will simply summarize so that I can discuss a few random items. First, a poem by yours truly:
Oh middle Shennies, how I hate thy rocks
You negate all the cushion in my socks
Your views are so trite
And your lodges just bite
Your trail’s not even worthy of my blog.
I wake up and start hiking. The section hikers are great people and I joke with them as we leapfrog in the morning. I find I have cell signal and over a text from Christy saying she gets off early from work and would I like her to come visit for a night. YES! Instead of a 22 mile day I now want to do a 25 mile day to a road crossing. I skip the Big Meadows wayside but stop at the Big Meadows Lodge hoping for a quick milkshake. The lodge has nothing for me. I should have stopped at the wayside. Next stop: Skyland Lodge. I know there are at least vending machines there. When I arrive I am able to find cookies, a Gatorade, and a soda. Disappointing. I stop for a while to eat a snack. 10 miles left, I almost take a wrong turn to the Stony Man summit. At the last second I catch an informative sign that tells me I am at the highest point on the AT within Shenandoah. Realizing that the trail I’m about to go down is uphill I catch my mistake before it is too late. I pass some rock climbers on Stony Man cliffs and cruise along to the shelter that I was originally planning on staying at. Quick snack break and an entry in the shelter log, then downhill to the road crossing. On the way I make a quick stop at Mary’s Rock to check out the view. It is definitely a spot I’ll have to make a return visit to. When I reach the road crossing I have no cell signal so I have no way to let Christy know where I am. The road crossing is a large intersection with an entrance to the park so it would be easy for us to pass each other. I eventually camp myself at the turnoff for the entrance station figuring that if she turns into the park I’ll see her and if she drives by the park I’ll still see her. Not long after she pulls into the entrance station and we’re of to Luray for a night. I get to shower, do laundry, eat town food, and sleep in a bed for a night!
So, now for some random thoughts.
I realize some of my posts sound a little depressing lately. I don’t want to sugarcoat anything, but at the same time I probably don’t share enough of the good stuff that happens. When it rains and you have to hike in it it is not the most enjoyable experience and times like those are definitely the hardest to keep going. At the same time, I am still enjoying my hike but I increasingly think about what the next chapter of my life holds when I get home. It is exciting and sometimes it is tempting to jump ahead, but it is something that I have to recognize is the next chapter and this chapter is only half complete.
You may notice that lately I’ve also spent less time contemplating who to hike with. I am starting to really enjoy hiking on my own and not as part of an even loosely knit group. It gives me a certain freedom and it also let’s me meet more hikers than I would otherwise. I am finding as I meet all these hikers that more and more we are becoming similar. We all are seasoned backpacking veterans at this point. We can mostly identify other thru-hikers by how they look, even if we hadn’t met them before. Conversations are easier than they used to be and it seems like bonds form in a shorter time than at the beginning of the trail.
On my weekend and shakedown hikes I used to run into thru-hikers in and around Shenandoah. I often thought they seemed a bit aloof, not engaging in much conversation. They also seemed to have this sort of business-like resignation. I understand it better now. The resignation is business-like because for us it is our job. For the last 60 days we have done the same thing every day. We get up, pack everything we own into our pack, walk about 20 miles, unpack, and sleep. In between we eat when we can. The aloof-ness is because it is hard to talk to people who aren’t other thru-hikers. For one thing they don’t fully understand the difficulties of the trail. How can they if they’ve only hiked 20 miles of it? That’s less than the distance from Springer to Neel’s Gap. For another, we won’t see them again. They can’t do the miles we are capable of so tomorrow night they will be miles behind me. That’s not to say that I’m not polite when they strike up a conversation, but rather that I find myself less and less inclined to be the one to start the conversation.
In a few days I will be at the psychological halfway point of the trail in Harper’s Ferry, WV. It is hard to imagine. I haven’t thought about it much because until now it has been too far off to make it worth thinking about. As far as time left on the trail I still have almost 3 months, partly due to some time I will take off the trail for weddings and partly due to the difficulty of the terrain in parts of New England (read: the White Mountains).
Speaking of time of the trail, while I’m excited about a trip home in a couple weeks for a friend’s wedding, I am also extremely nervous about it. It is often hard for people to get back on the trail after several days away. It is even harder if those days away are at home. Christy has already told me that she will kick me out when it is time for me to go back so I’m not so much worried about physically returning as I am keeping my mental focus. This thing is so much about keeping your head in the game that I need to take advantage of the time off by using it to prepare myself for the last couple months.
Finally, have you all seen the Appalachian Trail tshirts and other apparel with the white blaze on them? I don’t get it. Am I supposed to follow you if you’re wearing one of them? Will following someone with that shirt on get me to Maine? One of these days I may have to try it out.
So, it was a good night off. I removed the mud from my clothes that had been there since the rain. I got some good food in my belly. I showered. I’ll get a good nights sleep. And tomorrow I’ll get a few miles closer to that halfway point and, ultimately, Katahdin on the Appalachian Trail.