Note: I’m writing this at 3:00am on Satuday from my tent in Harper’s Ferry – I just woke up, presumably for the day.
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I woke at 5:30 to the sun rising – the birds were chirping and it was cool (not cold) outside. I felt great – I mean ready to go. I finished packing at 6:15 and walked over to Black Santa’s tent to see if he was up. He was already slowly packing – I sat and we talked about our plans for the day. We both knew that if we wanted to arrive in Harper’s Ferry by Saturday, we’d need to put up some more big miles.
Savage was awake as well. She likely would only be hiking with us as far as the shelter 18 miles away. Her mother and grandmother are driving in to see her and she’ll be off-trail for a few days in HF.
I felt great – my feet, my legs, everything. I sat in the covered pavilion in front of the shelter and munched on granola while Black Santa and Savage cooked breakfast. We took our time – it really is a treat to eat a meal with a roof over your head.
By 8:30, we were ready to go. For once, I took the lead – and I was moving. My original plan was to hike past four different shelters today and tent at mile 1,000 – that’d be 25 miles for the day. Doing so would put me in a good position to make it to HF as early as Friday night.
I paused at a bench two miles in and sat. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day – it was already getting warm and the sun was starting to break through the cloud cover.
Savage caught up to us and Black Santa and I decided to hike on. We passed the Manassas Gap Shelter (McDoubles did end up staying here last night) and continued on our gradual ascent to the Trico Tower Trail. We found ourselves in dense forest before making it to the clearing at the top.
I hiked on, ready for lunch. It was really warming up and I was starting to sweat a lot. I’m really thankful I got this button-up Marmot hiking shirt – it pretty much stayed unbuttoned all day.
Black Santa and I stopped in front of Dick’s Dome Shelter for lunch – I ate a hot meal and relaxed before pressing on. We had easy hiking ahead until we hit the Roller Coaster, but that was six miles ahead. We left Dick’s Dome and headed for Big Meadows State Park, having only hiked 12 miles by 2:00pm.
Big Meadows was beautiful – the trail was relatively flat and the trees were grand. I don’t remember seeing so many tall oaks since leaving the Smokeys – even the Shenandoahs paled in comparison.
While we were hiking, I saw a flash in the bushes to my left. I froze just in time for a little rabbit to shoot out of the bushes, land on my boot, and subsequently hop onto the trail. It froze. I’m sure it was terrified, but it was pretty darn cute.
She was planning on tenting at the shelter. She’s been hiking big miles lately to catch up – there was no real need for her to push it considering she didn’t have to be in HF until Saturday afternoon. Black Santa and I pushed on.
It was around now that I started toying about with the idea of hiking into Harper’s Ferry. I wasn’t tired and felt great. I mentioned the idea to Black Santa – he said he’d be lucky to make to the 1,000 mile mark.
At 6:30, having hiked 19 miles on the day, we reached the beginning of the Roller Coaster.
The trail was rocky and steep – there were virtually no switchbacks. I struggled on the rugged terrain.
I stopped to change socks and Black Santa hiked on. It took longer that expected, but I finally caught up with him at the second summit. He was done for the day. His tent was set up and he was starting to make dinner.
I set my pack down and cooked a hot meal. I was still on the fence about hiking on. I knew McDoubles was probably tenting at the 1,000 mile mark as planned. Black Santa assured me he’d be in HF by Saturday to take the train to DC – he was too tired to press on any further.
The sun was starting to set as I ate. I still felt great and surprisingly alert. I reviewed my options. I could either tent now and get an extremely early start tomorrow or I could hike on and catch up with McDoubles – maybe even continue from there depending on how I felt.
Leaving now would mean that I would be night hiking. My headlamp was almost out of batteries and I didn’t have a second set. I had backup options: there was my solar light and I always had my iPhone flashlight. It was settled – I told Black Santa I’d see him in HF and hiked on.
The sun set as I was hiking – in the dense forest, it got dark quickly. In the dim light from my headlamp, I could barely see the trail. I slowly pressed on – hopping from rock to rock on the rough terrain. It was very challenging. It was 10:00pm – I was still four miles from the 1,000 mile mark.
I hiked on stopping only twice – once to change socks and again to take off my underwear.
Note: This is important. I had been sweating all day and was starting to chafe between the legs. Rewind to a week ago in the Shenandoahs. I ran across a hiker named Who Dat who instantly recognized I had fresh ink (Blue Wolf). He suggested I hike with diaper rash cream – he swore by the stuff. And it worked – Blue Wolf is looking great (sort of, I’ll explain later). So, as I’m stripping down at 11:00pm in the total darkness, I remember I have diaper rash cream. It saved my life.
I kept checking my GPS app as I neared both the 1,000 mile mark and midnight. I knew I was close – I was also sure McDoubles was expecting me if he was still tenting there as planned. I didn’t run across anything or anyone for a while. I paused to take a sip of water and checked by GPS app – I had somehow missed the campsite and the 1,000 mile marker. I took a picture of what the AT looked looks at 1,000.2 miles to semi-commemorate my achievement.
And the tattoo is healing nicely. But I (finally) caught poison ivy. It’s all over my right arm and on Blue Wolf. What was once a clean tattoo is now peeling and covered in pock marks. I’m treating the poison ivy with alcohol pads and calomine lotion.
Breakfast: Two 20 gram protein bars (blueberry and peanut butter), dried cranberries, coffee, Nature Valley protein granola
Snack: 2 blueberry cereal bars, 1 granola bar, half a bag of beef jerky
Lunch: Stroganoff Pasta Side with 10oz can of BBQ pork, 1 everything bagel.
Snack: 2 sleeves of whole wheat and cheese crackers, 1 granola bar, 1 blueberry cereal bar
Dinner: Kraft Mac and Cheese with 2 tuna packets, 1 everything bagel, the rest of my beef jerky