Day 68. After 12.5 hours of walking, I finally marched through historic Harpers Ferry, WV at 7:15 pm, thus completing my 30.4 mile day on the Appalachian Trail and reaching the (unofficial) halfway point. My feet are completely beaten and my body thoroughly exhausted, but my spirits are flying high and my rest day is reached. Hello Harpers Ferry!
If I would have broken today into 2 hiking days, it would have been significantly easier, but the second I woke up, I knew I was going all the way. I was awake at 6am and on the trail before 7, which has to be a new record for me. As I was packing up, I learned Spice was one of the other 9 inhabitants of the shelter last night, so we chatted over breakfast and I told her of my crazy plan. She wished me luck, but assured me that she would not follow my lead.
The weather was supposed to be gorgeous, with sunny skies and mid-70s temps throughout the day, so I hit the road. The day was split into 3 sections of 10 miles, each with their own challenges.
The first one up was The Roller Coaster, which didn’t really live up to the hype. Perhaps it’s a big deal to day hikers, but going up and down small hills one mile at a time is nothing to me these days. In fact, it was easier because of how short each climb was. Some were steep, but really not too bad. After the first 2 climbs, I found the marker signifying 1000 miles, and a large group of hikers all gathered around. It was 6 of the hikers from the shelter last night who I learned are a tramily that has hiked together since Georgia. They all had the same ULA Cirquit backpack, and all looked to be 23 year old college grads. They were gathered here for a photo op and snack, so I joined for both.
Shortly after that, a sign welcomed me to visit a hostel/learning center for a break once I finish The Roller Coaster, though technically there are still 4 miles more after that point (according to my guidebook). I thought it would be a good rest stop for a snack, as it signifies 1/3 of today’s hike would be done. Unfortunately, the Bears Den Hostel was closed when I arrived at 10am, so it was only a very brief stop. I had my snack outside at the picnic table and marveled at the beautiful stone building. Its a rather impressive site that I expect is a treat to visit on other occasions.
Then I trudged on. The next 10 mile section was a frustrating meander through woods and small hills. Normally this would have been great hiking but for 2 problems. There were almost no streams to refill water, and the trail was once again my familiar rocky enemy. I continue to be astonished at what the communities that maintain this trail seem to think is acceptable. I would never recommend children or elderly hikers to attempt these sections, as they are dangerous and painful for miles on end. Hiking, as most people experience it at a national or state park, provides certain luxuries of trail conditions that I’ll never again take for granted. As I carefully made my way over and around the boulder infested trail, I tripped, slipped, or clipped a foot more times than I can count … and cursed a few times more than that.
The final section was a bit of a death march. Not for any fault of the trail, it was actually pretty good. Flat, less rocky than before, and water galore. This was the section where Virginia and West Virginia criss-cross leading to the Shenandoah River and Harpers Ferry. Unfortunately, I had trouble enjoying it as I was now exhausted and my feet’s rawness made every step feel like razor blades. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but not too far off.
However, when I finally saw my destination, it was all worth it! The Shenandoah River came into view and signified the end of my 30 mile triumph. And what a view it was! I crossed the river into Harpers Ferry and made the final half mile climb to the city center and the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy!
One down side. The ATC, and really all of Harpers Ferry closes at 5pm. It was almost like walking through a ghost town when I arrived after 7 o’clock. I couldn’t even find a restaurant open for dinner! I will come back to the ATC in a couple days to officially register my half-way point and check out the town. But for now, I walked down to the train station and waited for my family to pick me up. Then we headed back to Potomac for my highly anticipated day off. Tomorrow will be a big day of recovery, shopping, eating, and gear reorganizing.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)
- Start Mile: 994.4
- Start Time: 06:50
- End Mile: 1024.8
- End Time: 19:30
- Miles Hiked: 30.4
- Miles to Go: 1166.1
- Lodging: Family (Potomac, MD)