FireBall and I hiked together today, which is something we don't do very often. We had a good time trading stories and telling odd jokes. There were tons of flowers to grab our attention today. That was one thing that was noticably absent from Shenandoah National Park.
At one point today we passed a little pond whose surface was choked with algae and banks a muddy expanse. At first glance it just seemed like a dead, mud-choked oversized puddle, but as we stopped to look the pond came to life. We spotted two absoutely huge bullfrogs sitting half in/ half out of the water. Between them a form suddenly moved and became some type of soft shell looking turtle that swam off into the muddy depths. Fish where hanging in the water just below the surface and we also saw two water moccasins going about their pond patrol. The larger of the two made an attempt at some tadpoles as we watched and created quite a little commotion in that section of the pond.
We're here tonight at Dick's Dome Shelter with Bulldog and Aquaholic. Aquaholic is originally from Indiana, then moved to West Virginia as a white-water rafting guide, and he's also keeping a journal on the web through Wingfoot's web page.
We got in early enough today for me to take my flute to a nearby creek and play for a while. I find it really relaxing for me and very much worth the extra little bit of weight in my pack.
Wildflower report: Hyssop Skullcap, Asiatic Dayflower, Chicory, Moth Mullein, Yellow Sweet Clover, Rought-fruited Cinquefoil, Lopseed, Ground Ivy, Deptford Pinks, Evening Lychnis, Crown Vetch.
We were tempted to cut our day short at the Glaser Maintenance Hut after only 7 miles, but we stopped there for a few hours and I was able to catch a quick nap. I was also hoping to meet Scott Haberman at the Sam Moore Shelter. Scott had written me e-mail one time offering a little trial magic when I reached his neck of the woods. I had called his home a few days ago and just left a phone message with our tenative plans, so I was hoping to see him this evening. Sure enough when we pulled into the shelter a little before 6, there he was with his dog Maggie, a cooler full of beer, pizza, fresh fruit, and peanut M&Ms. What a feast! I had given Aquaholic a heads up that we might be getting a little trail magic, so he was there too.
Scott stayed until almost dark. we all drank and ate and talked for a few hours. Backpacking was the major topic, of course, but the conversation definitely wandered at times to everything from racism to body hygene. :^) It was a great evening!
At the hostel we met Mushroom, who had thru-hiked in '96 and was back out to do some section-hiking. Aquaholic soon pulled in too, and we all bought some snacks and relaxed on the lawn a while. After that it was another .6 miles to the road and a 3/4 mile roadwalk to the Pine Grove Restaurant for a great late breakfast followed by coconut cream pie. I think the pie was overdoing it, cause I was MISERABLE as we left the restaurant. FireBall and Aquaholic weren't doing much better and we all stopped for a half hour break at the first creek we came to.
I think a little more digestion time was all we needed because the rest of the afternoon was a blast. We all took turns telling jokes, sharing confessions, and narrating stories. Aquaholic was extremely impressive as he knew the entire "Alice's Restaurant" song by Guthrie. The miles flew by and we arrived at the Blackburn Center by 5 in very good spirits.
Blackburn is owned by the Potomac AT Club and run by caretakers Geoge "Travelin Man" and Mary Sue "Shouthern Harp" Roach. We were greeted by Walkie Talkie, Cheesehead, and Graybeard. Within five minutes we had cold sodas in hand and had been invited to partiake of a spaghettie dinner. I got to clean off in the solar shower, pig out on pasta, top my meal off with ice cream, and enjoy an evening of great company. Micah wasn't allowed in the bunk building, but we were very happy just sleeping on the screened in porch. Mary Sue brought down some mattresses and Cheesehead, FireBall, Micah, and I slept on their screened in porch. As I was falling asleep, I watched the fireflies sending otu their little love messages against the backdrop of the forest's blackness.
Harper's Ferry was founded in 1747 and the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park seems to overshadow the rest of the community. Nevertheless, it is also known to thru-hikers for the ATC Headquarters. It is traditional to check in at the HQ, get your picture taken, and sign the register. I was thru-hiker #251 to pass through this year. I was told that so far there were 50 more hikers who had passed through than this same time last year, but there was a lower percentage of women so far. I also picked up a note from Julie, Puget Pounder's wife, who had just been in town a few days ago to visit him. From her note it sounds like Puget, Tew-Ton, Chops, and Stringer are all doing great.
We took some group photos and then headed to King's Pizzeria for a celebratory meal. Bubbles and a friend of hers had been out section-hiking and had met up with us at the headquarters, so we had a pretty large group: Cheesehead, Aquaholic, FireBall, Bulldog, WalkieTalkie, Bubbles, Chris and myself. While waiting for our pies, we all ran down to the P.O. to get our mail. I had lots of letters and postcards from The Professor, Mike ke kaahawe, Stargazer, Andy, my grandmother, and a goodie box of "ice cream" from Lyn Owen. :-)
After a late lunch, we all ended up crammed into my very small motel room and sat around on the floor laughing and joking and continuing our celebration accompanied by ice cream and beer.
I have some mixed emotions about reaching this point in my journey. On the one hand I'm ecstatic and proud to have completed so much of the trail and to have endured some pretty challenging hardships. On the other hand I just hate the idea that my adventure is half over. I love being on the trail. I love the freedom and I love how I feel both physically and mentally. Each day seems to get better and I just want to hang on to all these feelings for as long as possible.
A wonderful, memorable day NOT on the trail.
Can anybody help me to see this poor boy's dreams fulfilled? Think of it as the "Make a Wish Foundation" of the AT.
Today was a peculiar mix of goods and bads on the trail. We got an easy ride into Harpers Ferrry by 8am, but arrived to find out we had an hour wait for the PO to open. We sat in the parking lot and ate our breakfast, which included a wonderfully sweet and juicy melon we'd bought the previous day for $1 off the back of a farmer's pickup. I groomed and inspected Micah, spent some time stretching, and talked to local townfolk.
Our one hour delay meant ATC headquarters was now open, so we stopped by one last time. We got some homemade oatmeal cookies and wonderful banana nut muffins that the woman from the B&B across the street brought by. I also got to weight my pack for the first time in months - 30 punds with 1 quart water and 4 days of food! I was extremely happy with that number. I also checked my own weight, and I've gained 4 pounds on the trail!
We spent some time talking with Longhorn while we were there. He volunteers full time at HQ for the summer, but lives in New Zealand. A very interesting person and we spoke at length about backpacking in New Zealand. He also tod me about WWOOFer farms (Willing Workers On Organic Farms), where you work on the farm approximately 4 hrs/day in exchange for room and board. It attracts people from all different countries. Some stay a week or two, some stay a year or two. It was all very interesting, and very attractive to me.
It was almost 10 by the time we finally started hiking. A VERY hot day, my hottest yet, and temps were to get into the mid 90s. We stopped often to talk with people and made terribly slow progress on what was originally to have been a 16 mile day.
Once again I was extremely stupid about water and wasn't carrying enough. We made it 5 miles and completed a tough climb up Weverton Cliffs on 1-1/2 quarts of water. That left us just another 1/2 quart to get us 6 more miles to the next water source. Keeping Micah hydrated and preventing overheating was my biggest concern. I was pretty worried about our prospects and mighty hot and thirsty when our hero appeared - not quite on a white horse, but a welcome sight nonetheless. It was Mushroom, who we'd met briefly at the Bear's Den Hostel a few days ago. He was southbound and headed to Harpers Ferry to leave the trail a little earlier than planned due to a hip injury. He was able to give us another 1-1/2 quarts and I will be forever grateful.
Next bad event - I realized I'd lost an earring I'd just gotten yesterday at a shop in Harpers Ferry. It was a sterling silver earring of Kokopelli, a Native American figure, playing a flute. I was so disappointed! I collect images of Kokopelli and was ecstatic to have found these earring while on the AT. I was hoping they'd travel to Maine with me. I left a note on the trail describing it and giving my address, but I don't have much hope for it's return. :^(
We finally arrived at Gathland State Park where we immediately drank quarts of water, dunked our heads under the spigot, and soaked our aching feet. I wet Micah down to cool him off and we all stretched out in the shade to cool off and rest. We got going again around 4 with intentions of hiking another 5 miles, but as we walked across the park, we were invited to join a very large cookout at a nearby pavilion. FireBall and I were stuffed, so we didn't actually eat any of their food, but Micah got sausages and rolls galore! We spent over a half hour talking with everybody and were fully questioned, photographed, and videotaped from every angle.
Back to hiking, finally by 4:45. It was a lot later than we would have liked and we were all a little drained from the heat. We didn't make it very far before we spotted Dwight, the photographer I've mentioned before. He asked if he could take some shots of Micah, so we spent a good bit of time with him.
We finally got back underway and decided to cut our miles a little short. We took a side trail to a spring and started looking for a campsite. We probably walked close to 1/2 a mile before we found something, but we got to set up camp in time for me to listen to the Lake Wobegone section of A Prarie Home Companion on NPR. A nice close to a long day.