We Left Front Royal, VA with more motivation than usual. We likely had more motivation knowing that in less than 100 miles we would not only be reaching over the 1000 mile marker on the trail,but also soon after hitting the psychological halfway marker on the trail: Harper’s Ferry, home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters.
While it was raining when we arrived in Front Royal, it had stopped by the time we left and once again the heat was on (metaphorically and literally speaking). We have gotten more comfortable with our pack weight and routines by now that bringing some wine in a bag or transferring a bottle into a Gatorade bottle and packing out some hot dogs isn’t out of the ordinary the first day we leave town. Bringing the comforts of civilization into the woods helps us from going a little bit more crazy than we already are.
There are days where we have contemplated eating the fungi around with hopes that it will give us super powers and make us faster like Mario and Luigi would do.
The shelters along the trail seem to keep getting better and better the further we move north. The shelters are the dream club houses I had as a child. Part of our diets are the dream diets we wanted as children. Candy all day long, chips, cereal high in sugar and wait… There’s a challenge to eat a half gallon of ice cream coming up? I don’t want to grow up-I’m a Toys ‘R’ US kid…or just a kid trapped in an adult body (However I’m pretty sure my feet are the same size as the average 4th grade student). And the pain we experience in our feet, knees and backs some days makes us feel like we may be pushing 80 years old.
We are grateful that although growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional. Life is a playground and don’t forget it. Out here on the trail is like Neverland in the movies of, “Peter Pan” and, “Hook”. We eat bowls of Ramen, imagining something more. We are all out there for different reasons and while we may not be looking for our shadows, we are sometimes looking for something more of ourselves. We have fake names that are often simple but ridiculous.
You introduce yourself and people may respond with, “oh that’s a funny name-how’d you get that?” Never in real life is that a common response when I say the name my parents gave me… And it’s OK. I often wonder that if the person who gave you your trail name is considered “your maker” like the vampires in the HBO show True Blood.
We made it to the 1000 mile marker within a few days after leaving town, with the biggest issue being trying to coordinate enough people to do our own rendition of Vanessa Carlton’s song, “1000 miles” by the sign. While we may not be the next winners on The Voice, we had fun (video on our Instagram and YouTube).
Soon after that big milestone we not only left Virginia, but flew right through West Virginia, then Maryland and have now entered Pennsylvania. We made it to Harper’s Ferry which as mentioned is the psychological halfway point, then made it past the official halfway point!
When we left Harper’s Ferry, we left missing some essential pieces of our hike-2 pieces of our trail family. Unfortunately, Cheesus and Two Step have left the trail . While we hate to see them go, we understand that they need to do what is best for them and we will support them. We met Cheesus and Two Step the first day on the approach trail on the climb to Springer mountain back in GA. Like the family we have back at home, our trail family will always be our trail family no matter where they are. A shout out to Cheesus and Two Step for making over 1000 miles and to the unofficial official halfway point.
While Trail Magic hasn’t been as common as it was in the beginning and further down south, we keep receiving the occasional trail magic which always brightens our spirits. A big shout out to, “The Real Deal” who provided us with a nice cold beer, conversation and some safety supplies.
Curtis, Tanya and pup Mocha who are caretakers at one of the awesome shelters in PA, brought us some cold sodas and provided some for us to take up the trail as well (which gave us energy to push on)
There’s always the unintentional trail magic as well…
Snorlax, Skye Stalker and I decided to do some night hiking recently to beat the heat and get miles in. We wanted to get to Pine Grove by Saturday to do the half gallon ice cream challenge. I spent the last five miles of the night hike whining about how my feet hurt and doing a frantic dance to get the moths and bugs from flying into my head lamp and face. When we were approaching the shelter around midnight it was a surprise to us to hear people up still, and having a fire. They soon signaled us to this hidden trail. When we could finally see some of their faces, it became evident based on the fact that they were wearing jeans and had coolers that these people were not hikers, and we were not at the shelter.
Turns out we ended up at a local hang out spot in the woods for some young adults. They provided us with some beer, safety supplies, some live music by the fire and even a foot massage. They loved hearing our stories of the trail and we enjoyed the socialization of non hikers and the amusing discussions they had amongst themselves. It was a great, unexpected way to end a night hike.
Game Warden, Snorlax, Skye Stalker and I hiked into Pine Grove soon after ready to eat some ice cream (Skye didn’t get ice cream). We had a light breakfast to save room for Ice cream, and a black coffee because we heard it helps balance the acids in your stomach. Snorlax and I started with black raspberry, and Game Warden with mint chocolate chip. Because half gallon tubs of ice cream aren’t actually half gallons, once you finish those tubs, you go and get a pint of another ice cream. We all went with vanilla for our pints. I finished in 56 min 58 seconds. Snorlax finished 1 hour and 20 minutes. Game Warden finished in 1 hour and 59 minutes. The wooden spoons that we received weren’t as grand as we expected but we heard it’s what you need to get into Kathadin. 😉
It took us about a full 24 hours to recover. And for the first time in my life the thought of ice cream was making me sick for pretty much all of those 24 hours.
With all that ice cream in our bellies we weren’t ready to hike and needed a place to stay. The hostel in town didn’t allow dogs (much like many of the places we have come across lately since we hit WV and further north). We tried staying at the Pine Grove State Park but that was full. The ranger there let us at least take a shower there before we attempted to waddle the trail with bloated ice cream bellies. It wasn’t soon after our showers our luck had changed. A couple nearby heard of our situation and let us set up our tents on their site. George and Kat were from Maryland, camping for the weekend. They just started getting more into hiking and backpacking and were full of questions. Of course we were happy to help, especially since they were so gracious to us. They also introduced us to giant Marshmallows, and now s’mores will never be the same. I’m hoping this time next year I’ll be reading their blog about their journey on the Appalachian Trail.
We have just entered Pennsylvania and most hikers have been calling it Rocksylvania due to all the rocks. Recently a couple we know hiking with their dog had to send him home due to the rocks, heat, and lack of water. The pup also developed a hot spot. We are staying positive and taking extra caution with our little pup hoping we do not need to do the same.
We are finding right now that prices are going up in rooms and everything else, and places are less accepting of dogs the further north we go. This has caused longer gaps in between showers, and stays with real beds-hence the lack of posts. That’s something we did consider pre trail and have been pretty lucky so far with everything so we aren’t complaining.
We are happy to be back in the north and more than halfway home. A lot has changed in the past few months and so it will be nice to be back in familiar territory. We have heard of this new thing called Pokémon Go since we have been out here… my next adventure is likely going to be trying to find out how many points are owed to us because I’ve walked more than 1100 miles with a Snorlax…if anyone can help me figure this out-just comment below.