Hey Folks, Well, I made it to Harpers Ferry in one piece and am done with the southern section of the AT. The weather finally started cooperating after Buena Vista, VA with the heat never getting too bad and I even got an occasional rain to cool everything down and rinse off. A few days after that I found a very unique hiker’s hostel. It’s run by an old guy named Rusty and is the oldest running hostel on the AT. I showed up in the morning and went to church with him (apparantly it was Sunday). The rest of the day I helped him with some chores around his farm consisting of two gardens, a hog, and plenty of chickens. This place is a luxury resort for hikers. There is a 9-hole frisbee golf course, rain water shower, basketball hoop, ping-pong table, skeet shooting range, a handful of natural springs, a full kitchen, and even a wood-fired hot tub. This is all spread out across 19 acres which is completely surrounded by National Forest land, so no neighbors around and only hikers are allowed to stay. The first day I was there, Rusty spent the whole time ranting to me about how the trail isn’t what it used to be and that all the hikers move too fast these days. Taking his advice, I stayed another day and ended up meeting my next group of hiker buddies. There were four of us that left Rusty’s together: Eagle, Julia, Powerbar, and myself. Eagle is a retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. who owns a desert survival school in western Texas. He’s finishing up his triple crown, which is completing the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. I know that sounds like an intense guy, but he was actually quite tame and full of great stories. Julia is a creative writing student from NYC who left Harpers Ferry early this morning to head home before school. The trail seemed to help her realize that NYC is not the center of everything and wants to do nothing but hike from now on. Powerbar was on his first long distance hike and seemed so think he could surivive on nothing but powerbars. And he did, for about a week and a half. After that Eagle, Julia, and I took him in and showed him that it didn’t have to be that rough up there. He was in good spirits, even after nothing but powerbars, so I have to give the guy credit; he’s a trooper. We all hiked together for about five days or so and split up while in the Shenendoahs. It was odd hiking in a group again after so much solo time and it felt like some twisted hillbilly family, but was fun and we all got along great. Eagle and Powerbar had a slower pace than Julia and I so we split up about halfway through the Shenendoahs. The Shenendoahs are a great range, but it just didn’t feel like hiking since we crossed its scenic highway about eight times a day. Although not the most remote place, it was nice to have blackberry milkshakes at their shops and have the overnight campers donate all of their leftover food. All in all the Shenendoahs aren’t the great outdoors, so Julia and I hitched some rides to a canoeing place that let us camp on their land for a couple nights for free and spent a day floating down a slow moving river under the sun. It was a great change of pace and a much more pleasant mode of travel.
For now I am waiting in overpriced Harpers Ferry for my friend, Jeremy, to give me a ride to D.C. on his way through. After visiting some monuments and museums I’ll make my way to NYC for another pit stop and find a way to where the AT crosses the CT/NY border. From there I will hopefully make it to Mt. Katahdin by the time it closes on Oct 15. If I start again on the 1st of September that means 734 miles in 45 days, which comes out to 16.3 miles a day. This is very possible, but won’t be upset if I have to skip up to Katahdin and hike down to where I left off. I’ll get there when I get there. Happy Trails, Cowboy