Hello from historic Harpers Ferry, the spiritual halfway point of the Appalachian Trail! This milestone is a big one for Northbound hikers. The sprawling state of Virginia is now complete and we’ve hit a town worthy of a day off, with scenic river views at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah. Harpers Ferry is also a necessary visit for the Appalachian Trail Headquarters, where I had my photo added to the annals of hiker legend.
It’s hard to let it sink in, but Virginia, the breaker of hikers, has finally been defeated. The 544-mile sprawl of the state really wears you down and makes you question your motives, as aforementioned in my last accounting. My injuries all came to bloom here and even in Virginia’s last gasp I had a moment’s more misfortune; I snapped a trekking pole and fell into a stream in “The Rollercoaster”, its final little section which gets its own name, so you know it’s extra evil. Black Diamond replaced the part on a warranty claim.
Our tenure through Virginia will be remembered for the near-constant rain. A few sunny, unbearably humid days occurred in succession near its end, but weren’t long before the resumption of further deluges. It’s fortunate at least that most of this precipitation is happening in warmer climes; this would have been abject misery in March. One day of wintry sleet atop Mount Rogers back near Damascus was enough exposure.
On the sunny side, my injuries faded soon after I passed the town of Daleville, so I gave myself a challenge, now dubbed my turbo boost. I successfully upped my pace to a twenty mile a day pace for a week straight. It was a significant one up to my confidence and I’m gonna base my daily estimates on keeping an average near that pace thus forth, hopefully finishing now in late August. Coupled with lighting the afterburners was lightening my load; I said goodbye to all nonessentials: frisbee, juggling balls, phone charger and even the extra straps on my backpack.
An interesting side effect of my turbo boost was that it propelled me into a pleasant collection of people who had been hiking consistently a few days ahead of me. For the first time on the trail, I had a brief tramily (“trail family”) as serendipity put a quintet of us together. “Slim Rims”, “Forrest”, “Sacagawea” and “Prefix Paul” are their names. I let the turbo slide a little bit to enjoy their company, but by Harpers Ferry we have been dispersed once more.
A man I met throughout Shenandoah by the name of “Thorny” put all of us up in his home for a night in Front Royal and cemented the foundation of the group through his hospitality. Thorny, aged 59, did a thru-hike in 2007 and is embarking on his second journey soon, this time Southbound. We’ll all be keeping our eyes peeled in New England for him.
I’ve been calling myself Scavenger, the Elder, on the trail lately. Why? Well, you walk a thousand miles and you learn a bit about the world. Nah… it’s actually just a jibe at a teenaged lad with the same trail name as me. The British idiom, “Taking the piss”, is a favorite pastime out here for many.
One thing I still am figuring out is how to get a proper night’s rest; it’s a nearly nightly struggle. Earplugs are a necessity in the cramped confines of a packed shelter or bunkroom, but even in my tent alone I still wake seemingly on the conclusion of each rem cycle. I deal by trying to eke out about ten hours of “sleep time” which gets whittled to eight. Maybe I should get a pillow?