20.4 miles, 1017.3 overall (Harper’s Ferry)
I wake up before my alarm goes off at 5:40. It seems I have either gotten used to this schedule or trained my body to wake up at specific times. We’ll figure out which it is in future days. I rush upstairs to make some pancakes. No Hear’em, one of the 4 section hikers, is upstairs fixing coffee. While I’m grabbing stuff to start my pancakes Mouse pops in and says goodbye as she heads out. She is getting started even before 6:00. I’m impressed but sad I won’t get to hike with her. I assume she’s going to be hiking fast and that by the time I eat and get going I won’t be able to catch her. I eat my pancakes and drink a cup of coffee. By the time I clean everything up, brush my teeth, get packed up, and get going it is around 6:20, a full half hour after Mouse. Oh well, so much for catching her. I leave Bear’s Den and start hiking north again.
Bear’s Den is only 4 miles from the 1000 mile mark. I wonder if there will be a sign marking the occasion. Based on comparing the terrain to the elevation profile I can tell when I have reached the mark and I don’t notice a sign. I am a little disappointed. However along the way I do see some excellent views, complete with morning fog, so it is not a total loss.
Soon after the views and passing the 1000 mile mark I catch up to Mouse. At first I don’t recognize her but she takes a turn on the trail and I see the characteristic maroonish-purple of her biking shirt and know it is her. As I catch up she lets me go by. We briefly discuss the 1000 mile mark and the views of the morning before I hike past. I hesitate a moment, testing to see if she minds hiking with someone else. I’d like to hike with her a while and talk but I’m not sure if she prefers hiking alone. I get the impression she prefers alone so I hike ahead.
Pretty soon I come upon the 1000 mile sign. It is about 2 miles past where it should be, putting it in the appropriate place for last year. I assume someone has simply not come along to move it yet. It has been about 2 hours since I started so I stop for a snack break to allow Mouse to catch up. I know she is excited about the sign and I plan to replay the situation I set up with Peach at the GA/NC border where I play it cool while I wait for her reaction when I see the sign. This time I will have my camera ready to catch the moment.
As she walks up I am snacking and mixing some Propel in my water bottle. We talk for a minute about snacks and energy drinks before she finally looks up and sees the sign. I capture the moment. Then we take turns standing next to the sign and taking each others’ picture. I haven’t had an opportunity to record a milestone moment like this with someone else since the GA/NC border and she says she hasn’t either, so it is special for us both to be able to get proper pictures. As we leave the sign we hike together and strike up a good conversation, talking non-stop for the next several miles.
Eventually the talking ends and the silent hiking begins. As Einstein and I discussed it is good to be able to hike with someone who is able to do both. Periodically we comment on the surroundings such as when I smell something especially sweet in the air. Thru-hiker nostrils seem to be especially attuned to different smells. I thought I was already sensitive to cigarette smoke but I may be even more sensitive to it now. Every thru-hiker has had the experience of having a day-hiker pass by and turning our heads to catch a little more of their clean, intoxicating scent.
Mouse is interested in seeing the final VA-WV border where we leave VA for good. Caveman is planning to do the 4-state challenge tomorrow and so he will camp next to this border tonight. The 4-state challenge is hiking from Virginia to Pennsylvania in one day, covering 44 miles that include West Virginia and Maryland. It is a long hike but it is made simpler by the fact that the terrain is fairly flat. Mouse wants to see where Caveman might camp and what his first few miles will look like. Her mothering instinct is kicking in.
When we find the location we take a break to eat a snack. We are only 2 miles from Harper’s Ferry. While we eat I ask about her kids and hear great stories about her 3 children. As we finish the snack a hiker approaches. He doesn’t seem like a thru-hiker because he doesn’t have a beard but Mouse recognizes him. His name is Steamer and they apparently crossed paths a while back. He had no idea Mouse ever got off the trail and jokes that she will soon be zooming past him again.
The three of us hike into Harper’s Ferry and to the ATC headquarters. Although I tell Mouse she should be the first to arrive (and thus get the lower hiker number) she insists that I go first. Her reasoning is that I helped her hike faster today and so without me she would be further back. We argue about it all the way through getting our pictures taken and she makes the volunteer at the ATC change the number on her picture from 287 to 288 so I can be hiker 287. As a result I have moved from hiker 497 at Amicalola Falls to hiker 287 at Harper’s Ferry. As previously discussed the number at Amicalola is probably an underestimate, but the number at Harper’s Ferry should be pretty accurate. Not many hikers pass by the ATC HQ without dropping in to have their picture taken.
Mouse leaves the HQ to find a room for the night at a hostel. I hike back to the trail to cover the half mile from the side trail to the ATC to the historical district of Harper’s Ferry. On my way Ben texts to say he’s on his way. I look for the outfitter to kill some time but I’m unable to locate it. By the time I hike up the road and back Ben has arrived and found me using a cool little app called Find My Friends that I had never used before. I hop in the car and off we go to his house where I take a quick shower. We meet up with his wife and 2 kids (one 4 years and one 15 months) at an AYCE Chinese buffet where I have my fill before heading to the grocery store for resupply. Then we head back to his house where we spend the evening drinking some beers and playing pool and darts.
Today turned out to be a great day as expected. It cooled off so it wasn’t an oppressive day to hike. I hiked with a really interesting person which made the time pass by quickly. I hit several milestones including the 1000 mile mark, the VA-WV border, and the psychological halfway point at Harper’s Ferry, and I got my picture taken at the ATC. And finally, thanks to Ben and his family, I am clean and have a bed to sleep in for the third night in a row. I think I may be getting spoiled on the Appalachian Trail!