Monday, June 4, 2012

When Dreams Become Reality

I have a confession to make. When I started this trail, I honestly did not think I would make it 100 miles, let alone 1000 miles. I didn't have a lot of confidence in myself. Luckily, I had others who believed in me. Now, 1000 miles later, I have no doubts of finishing. I have been tossing around the the idea of writing a book about the spiritual journey of the trail and was joking with Dirty Girl that I could call it "The Sins of the Flash" and Dirty Girl said I could call it "The Spirit is Willing but the Flash is Weak." How appropriate. I believe to this day that it has not been by my own abilities, but from a little help from above that I have been able to make it this far and beyond. It is also from the people who believe in my hike and the reason I am hiking (clean water in Africa) that makes every step I take (even the hard ones on the rocks) easier to take. So thank you for the first 1,016 miles, and here is to 1,168 more! Cheers!

Day 78 (5/28) - Zero day
I got to go into Fairfax, VA to an REI and it was awesome!

Day 79 (5/29) - Elkton, VA to Big Meadow Lodge (17 mi)
I have said it before and I will say it again- it is always hard hiking after a zero day. I was in zombie mode most of the day. There were not a lot of sights to see and minimal Skyline Drive crossings. It was nice that the park was quieter. You didn't hear motorcycles speeding down the road every fifteen seconds. We did meet a few thru hikers that we haven't met before like Houdini and Five Pair. Five Pair got her name because when she started she had five pairs of everything. The day was a hot one, but around 5 it got a little overcast, which cooled everything down a touch. Around 6, we were getting within 2 miles of where we wanted to stop for the night. We didn't have any real goal or end point but that soon changed when the skies opened up and just dumped rain all over. It came down so hard and fast the trail became a creek. We got to a sign post that pointed to a wayside which is like a convenient store in the park. Dirty Girl started going towards that but then Houdini appeared out of nowhere and told us about the lodge. I figured it was worth checking out so we hiked another mile to get there. Once we got to the lodge we were able to dry off and warm up a bit. We checked on pricing and said we were hikers and the clerk told us the hiker rate was more money. What? I guess it included breakfast. The price was more than I was willing to pay and then Stingray showed up and asked if we wanted another roommate. We signed him up and split the room 3 ways. I hung all my wet stuff up to dry and decided to cook my ramen in the room. No sense paying for a meal when I have plenty of food in my food bag. I needed to shave some weight out of it anyways.

Day 80 (5/30) - Big Meadow Lodge to Pass Mountain Hut (18.8 mi)
I woke up this morning ready to take advantage of that free breakfast. And did I ever! It gave me the juice to get going this morning. We finally got on the trail around nine which is late for us. I actually had a destination in mind unlike yesterday. The trail followed along the side of a mountain just below the ridge line, allowing many views of the valley below. The further we went, the different the angle. It made for a nice enjoyable hike today. About halfway through the day we stopped at the next lodge for lunch. I figured why not? I will be out of Shenandoah tomorrow night, I might as well enjoy it. A nap would have been preferred after lunch, but we still had too many miles left. I knew today would be a long day with the timing of starting and how long our lunch took. We got to the shelter right at the end of dusk. There was just enough light to set up my tent. And I am pretty sure there are some bears very close by (there was some commotion going on in the woods not too far from where I set up). So tonight I followed the rules and hung my food bag. As much as I would love to see more bears, I don't want to see them in my tent.

Day 81 (5/31) - Pass Mountain Hut to Compton Peak (20.1 mi)
It's really crazy that the sun is up at 5:30. But that is not what woke me. I kept hearing critters walking around. When I finally did get up, I walked towards the woods to pee and the first thing I saw was a huge black bear. This one was bigger than the momma bear I saw a few days ago. It was 50-60 yards or so away, so nothing to worry about. The hike today was just as pleasant as yesterday. We made it to Elkwallow Wayside for what was just going to be a snack and soda. It turned into an hour and a half long lunch break. It was nice just hanging out with Dirty Girl, DW, Five Pairs, and Pedestrian chatting and planning miles. I realized that I only needed one day of food for resupply so instead of hitching a ride into Front Royal tomorrow I could just get everything at the wayside. We got back on the trail knowing that there was not enough daylight to push for the 23 miles we wanted to do. I didn't want to say that in front of Dirty Girl even though I am sure he knew that. I just pressed on thinking that if we kept our pace we could make it in right before 9. Well, we didn't quite make it to the shelter, but we are within a few miles of it. After a stop at a small dirty spring to get water, we found a nice stealth camp site about a mile up. I am happy that I was still able to do 20 miles and won't have to tag too many extra on tomorrow to stay on track. It also helps that tomorrow was going to be a 12-14 mile day because of resupply, but that is taken care of. Feeling good and excited about hitting Harpers Ferry Sunday night/Monday morning and the real half way point next week!

Day 82 (6/1) - Compton Peak to Manassas Gap Shelter (17.1 mi)
Two mornings in a row with bear sightings. This one snorted at Dirty Girl as he was trying to poop. Then he walked through our camp looking for food and I just watched from my tent. He stayed about 20 yards from us and then moved on down the mountain. I love bear encounters! Speaking of encounters, I ran into a big group of kids and parents who were all part of a 4H group. Their camp had a trail that went up to the AT and their leader was talking about the trail. Enter The Flash at just the right time. I spent about 5 minutes answering questions for them. They asked me questions like how many miles a day I hike, where do I sleep, what do I do about water, and several others. It was fun talking to them. Shortly after that, we made it to the highway that went to Front Royal. I resupplied yesterday but there was the temptation of fast food. I made a deal with Dirty Girl. I will work the magic thumb for 3 minutes. If we get a ride we go eat, if not, we keep hiking. So The Flash got him some McDonalds! There were a ton of flies in there though. I had to take a mcpoop and felt I was out in a privy on the trail with all the flies attacking. It started raining while we were in town, which really hurts the motivation. We hitched a ride back to the trail and sucked it up. Once we made it to the shelter it started pouring hard. I am glad to be sleeping in a shelter tonight so I won't have to pack up a wet tent tomorrow.

Day 83 (6/2) - Manassas Gap Shelter to stealth camp site (22.3 mi)
I didn't get a good night's sleep at all. Actually I should say nobody at the shelter except for one guy got a good night's sleep. A hiker who shall remain nameless snored all night long very loudly. The only time he stopped was when he peed in his Gatorade bottle or when he got up and got ready at 5:30. And who packs everything in plastic grocery bags where you have to take them out of your pack and stuff them back in several times? So even after this guy woke up he was making as much noise as when he was asleep. Sorry, enough of the rant. We put in some big miles quickly today, which was needed because we knew we would get slowed down by the Rollercoaster. The Rollercoaster is a series of ups and downs for around 13.5 miles. None of the climbs were too strenuous, but when it's one after another it starts to beat you down. We tackled 9 miles of it today and will finish strong tomorrow, where there will be a few major victories...

Day 84 (6/3) - Stealth camp site to Harpers Ferry, WV (20.3 mi)
We finished up the Rollercoaster with ease this morning, which was good because we wanted to blow through the rest of Virginia pretty quickly, and quickly we did. First major victory- we finished Virginia (state #4) and entered West Virginia (state #5). A quick trip down the bottom of the mountain led to major victory number 2- 1000 miles. We looked for a market of some sort but none was found until a mile or so past that point, where there was a sign on the tree. The mileage changes every year so I imagine it's hard to keep track each time. After the Rollercoaster the trail stayed a little rocky, but the terrain stayed pretty flat. After lunch at the PATC Blackburn Center (they gave us free Dr. Perky), we set off to wrap this day up. I had plenty of energy and excitement to get to town, but Dirty Girl was struggling. I shot down the trail skipping over rocks and not having a care in the world. I would stop and wait for Dirty Girl and encourage him to keep trucking and then shoot off again. Once we got to the bridge over the Shenandoah River, the trail made us go down a lot of steps, walk under the bridge, and walk back up a bunch of steps. It was a little frustrating. Once we got over the bridge, we entered major victory #3- historic Harpers Ferry. This town is the psychological half way point of the trail. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is located here so it's the hub for all things trail related. Since we got in late, exploring town will take place tomorrow. I am not planning on zeroing here, but my feet are a little tender from all the rocks, so we'll see. It was a big day and plenty to be proud of and thankful for...I will celebrate tomorrow because I am too tired tonight.


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