Day 61: Waynesboro, VA

NOTE: Before I give today’s update – For anyone a few days behind me, there is a forest fire on the AT between Catawba and Daleville, including McAfee Knob. Firefighters are working to contain the fire, but the trail is closed between mile 709.4 and 729.2. All hikers have been safely evacuated from the area, and it looks like it may be a long time before it opens again. Stay safe and keep an eye on updates here for changes in status.

Day 61. Our hiker party from last night ended very early, and everyone was in bed by 6:30pm. It’s an odd feeling going to bed when it’s so early and bright out, but it does mean you get a good 12 hours of sleep.

And that I did. I woke up around 7am feeling extremely rested and ready to roll. I was the late riser as usual, as everyone else was pretty much gone by the time I opened the hammock tarp. I ate breakfast and headed out to enjoy the multiple vista views in today’s hike and the slow decline in to Waynesboro, VA. I have to add that state qualifier at the end because the trail actually goes through another Waynesboro in Pennsylvania a few hundred miles from here. Here’s a panorama of one of the amazing views from today:

This Waynesboro is a pretty big hiker town. You may not think so as first though. When you first exit the trail at Rockfish Gap, you are greeted with a dilapidated truck stop, where only a popcorn food truck remains. The remnants of a gas station and fast food joint haunt the background of the turn off, and look like they haven’t seen business in 20+ years, but the popcorn truck is good. Cold drinks and hot food while you hitchhike or wait for an arranged ride.

The city has dozens of Trail Angels willing to drive hikers to and fro for free, so I called one up and he graciously dropped me off at Stanimals 328 Hostel. For such a big town, it’s odd that this is the only listed hostel in town, but thankfully it’s a nice one. There is also a church which will pull hikers up for any donation, but it is not open until May. And rumor has it, this is their last year offering that service. Lastly, some hikers choose to camp for free in town (which is permitted), then use the complimentary YMCA bathroom and shower facilities nearby.

When I arrived at Stanimals, I was pleased to see more than one familiar face. Spice was here, which I expected as we discussed it last night. But a hiker I haven’t seen since Day 1 was also here … Poncho Villa. Readers of this blog may not recall him, but I do! On my first day on the trail with Gandalf and The Captain, we met Poncho Villa and gave him his name. It was the first trail name I gave out, and I tracked his progress in shelter registries for weeks afterwards. I expected him to be in Pennsylvania by now, given his early speed, but he took on a bad ankle injury a couple weeks ago and has taken it very slow since (10 mile days). I think he was embarrassed, as his registry entries disappeared around the same time. It was a nice homecoming to see him again though, so I snapped the photo below.

After getting situated in the bunk room, I went to collect the resupply box I mailed here. But … it was nowhere to be found. As Stanimal checked his mail room, he asked me if I sent it to this hostel or his other one in Glasgow. A ghostly look of dread swept over my face as I checked the tracking number online. Yep, I sent it to the other location. D’oh!

Stanimal said he couldn’t make the drive down there tonight, but would bounce it forward to me later on the trail. Fortunately, USPS will let you do that for free, so I asked him to send it to my family in DC so I get it in Harper’s Ferry. Then I did my resupply in town at the Dollar General instead.

After shopping, Spice and I went further in to town for some dinner at Five Guys. It hit the spot, and just as we were readying to leave, I noticed a movie theater down the street. A big one too, with lots of new films out that were on my to-see list. So I walked over and caught a showing of “A Quiet Place”, a movie that I’ve been dying to see. The reviews of this film were spot on, excellent thriller / horror movie that is exceptionally well made.

The movie got out late, but I had already coordinated a ride back to Stanimals from a Trail Angel named “Yellow Truck”, who was waiting outside for me. I tell you, the people that help hikers like this are the nicest you’ll ever meet. They rarely want money (he didn’t), and genuinely want to assist you in your quest to complete a thruhike (he did). We are a very fortunate community to have aid like this throughout our 2190 mile walk.

Back at Stanimals, everyone was still up and about. It’s not too crowded here, maybe a half dozen people, but it feels like a full house all the same. Someone was watching TV, another doing dishes, 2 more shmoozing in the dining room … you get the idea. But pretty soon, everyone departed for bed, so I did the same.

Tomorrow I enter Shenandoah National Park, and the weather looks great for days!

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)

  • Start Mile: 842.2
  • Start Time: 08:10
  • End Mile: 863.0
  • End Time: 16:30
  • Miles Hiked: 20.8
  • Miles to Go: 1327.9
  • Lodging: Stanimals 328 Hostel

Day 60: Maupin Field Shelter

Day 60. With family in town, and a really fun resort to take advantage of, It was a nice relaxing Nero Day today. After sleeping in late, we went to the resort’s aquatic center to play in the indoor pool and soak in the outdoor hot tub. It was bliss. Especially because it got darn cold last night. The family all agreed, camping in last night’s 30 degree weather would have been absolutely miserable. But a hot tub in cold weather … is there anything better?

After a couple hours we had lunch and then packed up to go our separate ways. They had to get back to Maryland and I have to get back to the mountains. I was very fortunate to have family company all weekend and it was wonderful to be able to share a bit of this experience with them. We discussed the next few weeks and decided to meet up again next weekend in Shenandoah National Park around the Big Meadows Campground area. Depending on my speed, I’m expecting to get there on Thursday night and hopefully we can have a day hike together on Friday or Saturday.

Side note, my sister was able to pick up a couple gear items for me in Lexington, so I finally have new insoles for my boots. The Dr. Scholl’s I bought in Franklin 600 miles ago were long worn out, so this time I went with the more durable/expensive Superfeet. They make a world of difference already and today’s short 10 mile hike was a significant upgrade to my feet.

I also picked up a new water bottle with built in filter called the Katadyn BeFree. It basically does the same thing as a Sawyer Squeeze, but the filter is inside the soft collapsible bottle. They have been popular out here lately so I’ve seen them around, and yesterday broke my spirit on the Aqua Mira drops I normally use. I was very dehydrated, I finally reached a creek after 8 miles without water … and having to wait 20 minutes for the treatment solution to purify my bottle was torture. It was so nice to just scoop up water and start drinking today. I still like Aqua Mira in general for its simplicity and weight … but this is so much easier!

Speaking of upgrades, I have a bunch of gear changes coming when I get to Harpers Ferry. I’ll provide a longer blog post with a mid-hike gear review at that time: what worked, what didn’t, what will go the distance, what was replaced, etc. Stay tuned for that soon.

As for today’s hike, it was a nice Nero Day that started around noon and ended less than 10 miles later. However, it was basically straight up for 6 miles on more of that strenuous and frustrating rocky terrain I hate. During one of my screaming fits of frustration at the trail, I stopped to take a photo as well. You can see above why days like this are less than appealing and slow me down considerably. Can you even tell where the trail starts and stops? Now I fully understand why people say this trail is the hardest of the US long distance triple crown trails (AT, PCT, CDT). It’s not the constant ups and downs, it’s the rocks! And again, this is supposedly nothing compared to what’s coming in Pennsylvania.

Even with the trail doing it’s best to cripple me, I showed up at Maupin Field Shelter pretty early in the evening. When I walked up, I was pleased to see Spice, a friend I briefly saw yesterday, was already setup for the night. You may recall Spice from a couple weeks ago, as she lives in Minnesota and I was ecstatic to meet someone else whom with I could talk about home. She has an awesome attitude and fun personality so I set up camp nearby and we enjoyed a campfire together. An older gentlemen from Australia was also here (and technically, he made the fire), so we all shmoozed while cooking rehydrating our dinners. Before long, Whitewater, the young girl I sheltered with 2 days ago, walked up also. Spice and Whitewater camped together yesterday so we’re also friends by now. Then another hiker showed up, then another … before long it was a full-blown hiker party! I haven’t had this many camp-mates in weeks.

Tomorrow will be a hopefully breezy 21 miles into Waybesboro. The elevation change is minimal, but I’m sure there are more rocks to cuss out. I have a box waiting for me at Stanimals 328 Hostel so will get a warm bed again tomorrow. For those keeping track, that makes 3 out of the past 4 nights on a real mattress. After Waynesboro, I enter Shenandoah National Park. Since most of my Smoky Mountain section was ruined by snow and cold, I am excited for the amazing weather forecast expected during the net week in SNP. It’s supposedly going to get in the high 80s by midweek, and this is another highly anticipated section of the AT to hike. Woot!

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)

  • Start Mile: 833.2
  • Start Time: 12:15
  • End Mile: 842.2
  • End Time: 16:10
  • Miles Hiked: 9
  • Miles to Go: 1348.7
  • Lodging: Maupin Field Shelter