We joined the 1,000-mile club! Whooooot! It’s hard to believe, but we’ve made it to West Virginia, and have now completed almost half of the Appalachian Trail. A lot has happened since we left Charlottesville, and we’ve covered a lot of ground (averaging 20 miles a day for 10 days straight). We’ve even upped our “bear count” from zero to six. Here’s what our adventuring has brought us:
Day 71 Fish Hatchery Road to Harpers Creek Shelter (12.2 miles)
After cousin Lindsay dropped us off in Montebello, VA, we headed back up the steep trail with full hearts and stomachs (lots of good eating and family time in C’ville did us good). All afternoon, a storm seemed to loom over us as we conquered “The Priest” and descended its never-ending downhill. The storm never really showed, though, and we made it safely and dryly to Harpers Creek Shelter.
Day 72 Harpers Creek Shelter to Paul C. Wolfe Shelter (22 miles)
A gray day with lots of stops and starts…to be honest, I’m not bringing to mind anything exciting from this day, but I’m sure it was great at the time!
Day 73 Paul C. Wolfe Shelter to Blackrock Hut (25 miles)
Our longest day yet! For real this time! We entered Shenandoah National Park around mile five of the day, only to realize that we had passed the station where we were supposed to register and fill out a permit. Zack dropped his pack and ran back the one mile to the register, filled it out, and ran back. So, not to brag about him or anything, but he did a 27-mile day. Look out!
Day 74 Blackrock Hut to Hightop Hut (21.4 miles)
We resupplied early in the day at a camp store in the park. It’s been really nice knowing that there are camp stores scattered around where we can get food, so we don’t have to carry too many days-worth at a time. A warm day of hiking was topped off by some roadside trail magic (brownies and bananas). After dinner that night, we both still felt hungry, making us come to the frustrating realization that after multiple 20-mile days in a row, we weren’t carrying enough food for our appetites. That all was to change…
Day 75 Hightop Hut to Big Meadows Campsite (20.4 miles)
We had our first bear sighting today! Well, there was a black furry flash across the trail (think: the Smoke Monster on “Lost”), and we’re pretty sure it was a bear. We decided to experience the side of the park that most people experience, so we stayed at a paid campsite tonight. It was a bit strange to have a perfectly flat site on which to set up our tent, with an enormous bear-box included, and showers nearby. Most people were camped next to their cars, but, still, we fit in nicely. A leisurely walk along a nature trail to the Big Meadows Wayside led to an enormous dinner. We ate the following desserts: chocolate sundae, blackberry milkshake (a Shenandoah National Park staple), blackberry cobbler and pecan pie (with ice cream on the side of both). We also ordered dinner.
Day 76 Big Meadows Campsite to Pass Mountain Hut (18.8 miles)
Today was the first day that we felt a little peopled-out in the park. So many friendly faces to talk to, but sometimes on the trail you want things to be quiet and peaceful. We remained in good spirits though, and had a mac and cheese dinner with a jolly turtle.
Day 77 Pass Mountain Hut to Front Royal Terrapin Station Hostel (22.7 miles)
We knew we had a long day ahead of us, and it was going wonderfully until…a huge storm moved in when we were only one mile from the hostel where we planned to stay the night. We tried to get there by nearly running, but we couldn’t outrun the weather. We got drenched, and then – in a surprise twist on a 90-degree day – got hailed on as well! Ultimately, the storm passed quickly, and we arrived at Terrapin Station Hostel, the basement of a former thru-hiker converted into a bunk-house, and got dry and clean. A peaceful night under a roof was just what we needed.
Day 78 Front Royal Terrapin Station Hostel to Dick’s Dome Shelter (19 miles)
With so many days doing over-20 miles, a 19-miler seems short! We got into camp by 3:00 and had a wonderful afternoon (naps included). Despite the 30+ youngsters camped nearby, we had a restful night. Though, I shall always remember the insane amount of mashed potatoes I had to eat tonight, when Mr. Z was not feeling well enough to eat his fair share. I mean, I like mashed potatoes and all, but nobody needs nine cups in one sitting…
Day 79 Dick’s Dome Shelter to Bear’s Den Hostel (18.7 miles)
The “roller coaster” is a 13-mile section with 10 significant climbs and descents, feared and revered by hikers past and present. We knew we had Bear’s Den Hostel, a literal castle in the woods, to look forward to at the end of it, so we powered through it. (And, not to sound too cool, but we didn’t find the “coaster” too taxing.) Pizza, Ben and Jerry’s and a hiker room open 24/7 at Bear’s Den made for another wonderful night.
Day 80 Bear’s Den Hostel to Harpers Ferry, WV (19.7 miles)
Within the first few miles of the morning we crossed out of Virginia! After 500+ miles in that state, we finally made it to a new state. We also crossed the 1,000-mile mark! It was a joyful morning indeed. We made it to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters in Harpers Ferry, WV and had our official picture taken for the records. The real treat was when Colin and Esther braved the DC traffic to come and pick us up. A Thai take-out dinner back in the big city was just what we needed to adjust to city living for a few days.
Day 81 Washington, DC (0 miles)
Food and friends! Food and friends! It was a beautiful day in the capitol. I met up with Becca, Whittie extraordinaire, and had a great afternoon with her. Colin’s parents also invited us over to their house for a delicious homemade dinner. Our errands were also successful…we showed up at the camera store with our supposedly broken camera, and – on cue – it started working again. Yay!
Day 82 Washington, DC to Harpers Ferry, WV (0 miles)
More errands to do today before we leave the spoils of the big city. Two zero days after long miles has made us happy hikers. As we head back onto the trail tomorrow, we’ve got lots to look forward to. Many more state crossings (Maryland and Pennsylvania, here we come!), and new boots to break in. We’re still loving the hiking life, and are grateful for all of the love and support that surrounds us.
Lara (and Zack)