Day 71. I had hoped to put in near 25 miles, but for no good reason it was a sluggish day for me. I started late, I hiked slow, and the trail just seemed to go on and on without end. There were some neat sights early on, but the afternoon was met with on and off rain that I never seemed to get comfortable with.
A few miles in, I was able to take a short side trail and visit the original Washington Monument (above). This stone tower was built in 1827 (60 years before it’s more famous brother), and provided snippets of our 1st President’s history on signposts leading up. It was an exceptional landmark to see, and upon climbing up to the top … gave a breathtaking view of Maryland. Unfortunately, it also gave a clear view of the fast approaching storm clouds, so I quickly downed my Snickers snack and moved on.
I used to live in DC, so I am familiar with the high humidity and daily 15 minute rainstorm that is common during summer afternoons. Today was a bit like that, but with the rain returning for a quick dump every few hours. The good news is that I was lucky in that the foreshadowed thunderstorm was heard in the distance, but never directly above me. That was a nice surprise at least.
Like yesterday, I saw plenty of hikers today. I realize now that this is because I am in the middle of AT flip-flop thruhiker season. For those unfamiliar, a flip-flopper is someone who starts in the middle of the Appalachian Trail and hikes North to Maine, then flies down to Georgia and hikes back to the middle where they started. There are many variations on it, but that is the general idea. The most common place to start/end is Harpers Ferry, and the most common time is May.
So there is a new influx of hikers on the trail with me now. I don’t mind this at all, as it’s nice to have the company of others again. Today’s shelter, for example, has 15-20 hikers here with me tonight. I won’t see most of these hikers again, as they are starting slower than my current pace, but there will undoubtedly be new hikers to meet each day for a couple weeks.
It’s not as common as the standard Northbound hike I am doing, but it’s becoming more popular with the help of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). They have been promoting this strategy for years, as it helps their cause to lessen the human impact of overcrowding the trail, and allows their HQ location in Harpers Ferry to help educate and support you better from the start. Last year, approximately 4000 people started Nobo from Georgia, whereas 400 started a flip-flop in Harpers Ferry. In case you are curious, the completion rates are about the same, 20% no matter which direction or style you try it. Statistics junkies can learn more halfway down the page here.
I chatted for a bit with the other hikers over dinner, and laughed to myself on how green the flip-flippers are right now. I was 100% the same way when I started of course, talking proudly about everything I thought I knew but had yet to experience. And although I felt well educated (and they sound it too), nothing compares to actually being out here. I’m humbled in that realization as I write this Day 71 post … I was the most prepared person I knew, and I got a lot wrong. When it comes to thruhiking, nothing can prepare you except a thruhike. You simply don’t know until you know. And now you know. 🙂
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start Mile: 1040.2
- Start Time: 08:20
- End Mile: 1060.8
- End Time: 16:15
- Miles Hiked: 20.6
- Miles to Go: 1130.1
- Lodging: Raven Rock Shelter