Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ohhhhh We're Halfway There...

I am just as excited to post this blog as much as the last. This week, I passed through West Virginia, Maryland, and entered Pennsylvania. I also made it to the official half way point of the trail. I have an aggressive plan for the rest of this month, which will hopefully allow me to knock out a few more states. I am pumped and ready to go. I just hope this hot weather doesn't persuade me otherwise.

Day 85 (6/4) - Zero Day
I went to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy first thing to get my picture taken and be officially in the books. It was good to see pictures of a lot of friends I have met along the way in there too. Nokey and Sprinkles met me there and I got to see them for the first time in a few weeks. Spent the day with them exploring Harpers Ferry and then going back to Leesburg to spend the night.

Day 86 (6/5) - Zero Day
This was an unplanned zero (technically yesterday was too), but I did a lot of planning for the month of June. I have an aggressive plan to get in 500 miles in the month, helping me hit 5 states and get another 25% of the trail complete. If I can pull it off, it puts me in a great position to finish mid August.

Day 87 (6/6) - Harpers Ferry, WV to Dahlgren Backpack Campground (17.8 mi)
We left the house this morning and got back to Harpers Ferry around 10:30. After a quick stop in the ATC to see what other hikers made it to town, we started on our way. The trail actually travels just on the outside of town behind several buildings. It finally turns right into the old historic part of town. Here you see people dressed in 1800's garb telling stories of the first freed slaves in the area. I really enjoyed the history and atmosphere of the town. Once we saw the railroad tracks, we followed them out of town where the trail crosses the Potomac and is also used as a bike path. As we got to the end of that section, we said goodbye to West Virginia and hello to Maryland. I have to say I really like Maryland so far. The trail has been real good to us. We got to a state park where a couple on motorcycles were intrigued with our hike. We must have talked with them for about 15 minutes. I remembered running into a guy last Saturday offering trail magic at this park. He gave me his number and so I decided to call. I left a message and soon after he called me back. He and his wife had been taking hikers to their house for pizza and swimming and camping. We were already 4 or 5 miles past the park when he called but he was willing to meet us at the next road about 2 miles from where we were. Once we got there, he told us of a situation that had occurred which was going to prevent him from taking us tonight. He felt bad since he promised us trail magic, so he took our backpacks so Nokey and I could slack pack down the mountain the next 3 miles and because Sprinkles knee was hurting, he gave her a ride too. Once we got down to the road (3 miles in 40 minutes), Sprinkles was waiting with our backpacks and $25 that the guy gave us for pizza. We ordered 2 pizzas to be delivered and were they ever delicious! At the campground, there was one other couple there and I got talking to them and it turns out they are from Lexington. They were real cool to hang out and talk with for a bit.

Day 88 (6/7) - Dahlgren Backpack Campground to Ensign Cowall Shelter (13.9 mi)
So though this wasn't a day after a zero, it sure felt like it. We were slow to get going this morning after stomachs full of pizza and basically putting all our miles in after lunch yesterday. I think cockiness set in and we thought we would kill some big miles quickly today. That wasn't the case. We spent a little time at the original Washington Monument. It is a stone tower with a great view from the top. We experienced some long stretches of rocks which I think is a precursor to Pennsylvania (which we will star hiking in tomorrow). We then got to a road that went into Smithsburg and decided to hitch in for some dinner. While we were there a huge storm hit. Talk about timing. By the time we got back on the trail it stopped but we were left with a dilemma- hike the 5 more miles and stay on target and get in after dark or stay at the shelter we are closest to. We ended up staying because we did not want to tackle walking on wet rocks in the dark. So we have some miles to make up, which may mean I don't stay at a hostel at the half way point, but I am fine with will save me a few bucks too.

Day 89 (6/8) - Ensign Cowall Shelter to Tumbling Run Shelter (18.1 mi)
I got up this morning feeling pretty good and found my groove quick. Maryland has been beautiful, but it wasn't going to let go until it made me work for it by hiking down a lot of rocks. This was the big sneak peek of Pennsylvania I bet. Once I got down the rocks, it was smooth sailing into PenMar park. This big beautiful park was made even more beautiful by the Pepsi machine in it. And this time I had some dollar bills. I ate my lunch alone, trying to figure out how Nokey and Sprinkles hadn't caught up to me yet. As I was on my way out of the park, they finally came in and so I waited as they ate. Not even a quarter mile from the park we saw a sign that said Mason Dixon. I was now officially in Pennsylvania. Luckily, this first stretch was not very rocky. The couple of shelters we passed looked real nice and had plenty of green space for camping. But we pushed on. We made it into another park and just relaxed. After that, it was a super quick mile (I did it in 15 minutes) to the shelter I was staying at. It was nice getting in around 6:30. I didn't feel so rushed to set up camp and cook dinner. Tomorrow is another good stretch, and then I hit the half way point. I am super excited about that!

Day 90 (6/9) - Tumbling Run Shelter to Birch Run Shelter (19.6 mi)
It got pretty cold this morning. I woke up shivering in the middle of the night. It was actually the first time in a while I zipped myself up in my sleeping bag. I tried to get packed and ready as fast as I could so that I would warm up with all the movement. I didn't get the early start I wanted, but I wasn't too late either. I like to be on the trail no later than 7:30 so I can get in half of my miles by lunch time. After a climb up a very rocky mountain, the trail went down again to another park. This park was crowded with families cooking out and kids at the pool. The pool was very tempting as hot as it was today. We took about a 2 hour lunch in the shade and found it hard to get motivated to get going again. I finally got going, and though the terrain was relatively flat, I just seemed to be dragging. I finally made it to the shelter and set up, ate, and got in the tent. As soon as I did, I noticed a small frog jumping around my tent, and eventually in my shoe. Frogs must have a sense of smell because he jumped out just as fast as he jumped in.

Day 91 (6/10) - Birch Run Shelter to Ironmasters Mansion Hostel (9.5 mi)
Today was a big day, though the miles don't show it. After forcing myself to wake up (it was chilly and I was sleeping so well), I got going. Anticipation was killing me the whole way. Today is the day that I will be officially half way done with the trail. The AWOL book showed the halfway point sooner than it should be. When I got to that point, I was confused that there was no sign. I pushed further to the next shelter, which was basically a quarter mile past the official halfway point. Still no sign. After a short break, I left the shelter, and sure enough right after the shelter was the sign. I made it. I have walked half of the AT. What an awesome feeling! I am trying to ignore the fact that I have only gone halfway and still have half to go. Shortly after the sign, I made it into Pine Grove Furnace State Park- home of the Half Gallon Challenge. This is a tradition for thru hikers. You buy a half gallon of ice cream and try to eat the entire thing. Luckily, the only ice cream they had left was chocolate. I dove right in with my spork and the first scoop broke it. Fail! I kept diving in. Thirty one minutes and fifty seconds later, I finished my half gallon. The prize? A little wooden spoon! I washed the ice cream down with a cheeseburger and coke. I had to sit and let all that dairy settle in. I also had to wait till 5 for the hostel to open so I could pick up my drop box. The plan was to keep going another 7 miles, but that just wasn't going to happen after consuming 1600 calories of chocolatey goodness. I decided to stay in the hostel so tomorrow, on my 3 month anniversary, I can start at the half way point. It's a new beginning. I feel great (with the exception of all that ice cream in my belly), and I am ready to tackle this second half.

To all of you who have been keeping up with my hike, sending me support and prayers, and cheering me on- Thank You! Every step I take is a blessing. To know that I am able to make an impact half way around the world through hiking the AT makes this adventure so worth it and one I will never forget! If you haven't had a chance to check out Active Water, please do so. I am halfway through the hike and halfway through raising the support for a second well in Zambia.


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