May 9, 2018
Destination: Stealth Campsite at mile 1005.7 Today's Miles: 19.70
Start Location: Whiskey Hollow Shelter (Dick’s Dome) Trip Miles: 1005.70
Last night was interesting. I woke up in the middle of the night / early morning to the sound of gnawing.
That’s never good in a shelter right? Something was chewing on something. I turned my red headlamp on and started shining it around. Nothing.... i crept around to the packs hanging on the wall and still didn’t see anything. I couldn’t tell where the sound was coming from. I finally gave up and went back to sleep. I sort of expected that one of us would get surprised with holes in our gear in the morning, but no one did! Others had heard the noise as well. I guess it will remain a mystery....
We got up early and had breakfast. Usually I am the only one who has coffee in the morning, but today so did Wallace and Whitewater. My shorts and t-shirt were still damp from the creek washing I had given them yesterday, as were my socks. I put them on anyway because it would be hot today, and I put on some fresh socks. I used my safety pins to pin my damp socks to the back of my pack to dry in the sun. Today the plan was to hike just past the first VA/WV border about 21 miles away. The trail dips into and out of WV before entering Harpers Ferry, so we are calling it the fake border.
The day was cool in the morning but quickly got hot. I lead the hiking this morning, so I got to eat lots of spider webs along the way. I saw some deer throughout the day, and a few nicely sized rabbits. After we passed Rod Hollow Shelter, we came upon a sign announcing that we were entering the Roller Coaster, described by the AWOL guide as a roughly “13.5 mile section of trail with many tightly packed ascents and descents.” That was pretty accurate! It was hot and Virginia had lulled us to sleep with easy trail, so this section kicked my butt a little. It was quite rocky in some places as well. We got some great trail magic at Morgan Mill Road from Sniffles, a thru hiker (flip flop) from last year. He’s an actor from DC and had cold drinks, oranges, watermelon, apples, grapes - it was awesome! Fruit on the trail always feels so good! We chatted with Sniffles for a bit and then pushed on up Buzzard Hill.
It was just after Buzzard Hill that we hit the 1000 mile mark. It was an exciting moment, but honestly I don’t entirely know why. I think it was exciting to know we had come so far, to know that those 1000 miles were hard earned, full of snow and ice, blood and sweat. We will be in Harpers Ferry soon and that is a symbolic halfway point (not quite actually half way), so the 1000 miles is significant from that angle as well. We took a group photo there, our motley crew of five. I was grateful to have reached this milestone with people I enjoy being with. Good people. It’s also interesting to think that, as much as we have been through, we still have more than half the journey to go! I hope that I can learn as much about myself in the next 1000 as I have in the first!
We kept going, jubilant, through the roller coaster until we got to Snickers Gap. There Wallace and Day Hiker peeled off to hike to a restaurant nearby. I wanted to, but couldn’t stomach the extra 0.6 miles since I was so tired, so I continued on a mile or so with Happy Feet and Whitewater and ate ramen at camp. The guys joined us later on. We had a great time chatting and Whitewater was awesome and gave me a nutty buddy to eat. We all listened to and sang “Country Roads” by John Denver. We would dip into and out of West Virginia tomorrow!
I was grateful for pretty much everything today - the weather, the green tunnel finally looking like a green tunnel, good company and lots of laughs. I’m grateful to have had 1000 miles to hike and have this great experience. I felt a little emotional thinking about it. Sometimes I don’t know how I can go back, back to whatever real life is. Maybe I can send a trail angel to scoop up my wife and kitty and whisk them to the trail with me! I guess I have more than 1000 more miles before I have to think about the journey ending. Life out here is simple and good. I lose track of the date, and the days go by fast and beautifully as I just walk north. I don’t need a compass out here; I just follow the blazes.
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong. West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home country roads.