Day 88: Pine Grove Furnace State Park to Rocky Mountain Shelters (23 mi)
We got up early and Jim drove us to Pine Grove Furnace State Park, where we had last gotten off trail 5 days earlier in the sweltering heat. The heat wave had since passed and PA and the mid Atlantic area had been pummeled with rain from tropical storm Gordon the last 5 days, so instead of the heat, we would now face potential flooding. We got on trail at 7:15 am and started walking. It felt a little strange after so many days off trail. The body odor smell was more surprising to me (I wasn’t as used to it anymore) and my shoulders ached from my pack weight (although I think the shoulder ache had never really gone away...)
We got a very wet start as the trail was totally flooded from the recent rains the last few days. The ground was completely saturated as this area has received more rain in the last few months than it normally does annually. There was a general concern about trees falling due to the soil saturation and the roots not holding them in if there was any amount of wind (expected from hurricane Florence). Needless to say, we walked through many a waterfall trail and some very flooded sections of trail and we had to stop periodically to wring our our socks.
We reached the official halfway point of the AT!
There was a ton of concern today about Hurricane Florence, not knowing if it will come north or head south. Either way, my entire family had flights to visit us for the weekend in Harper’s Ferry for my birthday and they all decided to cancel their trips because the airports were a mess and traveling TO a disaster zone seemed like a bad idea. What a disappointment, but a completely understandable decision nonetheless.
The hiking today was absolutely gorgeous and easy. The weather was perfect (65 degrees and overcast), no rain and no wind. Aside from our feet being wet from the flooded trail, we were easily able to crank out 23 miles and in a reasonable time frame as well.
Day 89: Rocky Mountain Shelters to Raven Rock Shelter (20 mi)
We got on trail around 7:00 am. Again, easy terrain, but the ground was pretty wet. The trail seemed slightly less flooded and we also got word that the hurricane will likely head south, which means we will probably be ok, but the trail further south might be pretty destroyed.
The day was mostly easy with some rocky patches strewn about. We stopped for pm “smoothies” at a spring around mid day.
We crossed the Mason Dixon Line into Maryland!
After Waynesboro, PA we had 7.4 miles left to the shelter. It was more challenging than I would have liked! We crossed into MD and there were TONS of rocks, mountainsides of boulder fields! We had a tough climb in a boulder field and then once we were at the top it was dark. The last 2 miles to the shelter weren’t easy night hiking paths. It was rocky and when it wasn’t rocky it was flooded trail with mud patches and saturated ground that was just wet and swampy. Not to mention it was misty and foggy so it was pretty difficult to see with the headlamp.
We finally reached the shelter and made dinner (rice and lentils) and decided to just sleep in the shelter since it was so late and dark.
I feel like we have lucked out with the weather these past two days! The forecast had rain, but aside from wet feet (which started to give me some toe blisters in the last 3 miles today), we have stayed dry! I hope we can make it to Harper’s Ferry and south to VA without tons of rain! Fingers Crosses!
Day 90: Raven Rock Shelter to Rocky Run Shelter (20.6 mi)
It absolutely POURED rain all night last night. Luckily we stayed in the shelter and I wore ear plugs (snoring) so the rain didn’t keep me up, but Fresh Feet thought it dumped A TON of rain. I was worried that we would be hiking in the rain all day and that the trail would be a complete river, but the opposite was true. By the time we were packed up and leaving the shelter the rain had cleared up.
The trail was flooded just as it had been the last few days (maybe even a bit better?) and we had a some small showers for the last 4 miles of the day, but since we both have umbrellas now, we stayed dry!
The morning was a bit more challenging than I thought it would be. It was very rocky all morning with a fair share of boulder fields. In fact, ever since we entered Maryland it has been insanely rocky! Just as I was celebrating in my head how awesome my new Hokas were and how I hadn’t slipped once, I stepped on an angled rock and slipped and fell on my side. It rattled me a little, but it wasn’t too bad and I was able to just continue on as if it didn’t happen. But, my Hokas are a LOT less slippery than my Brooks Cascadias and for that I am grateful!
It got pretty hot during the day and I drank electrolytes but I still felt wilted at the end of the day. We were sweating and drinking a LOT of water today. It was a very humid day and when the sun poked out it felt like a sauna.
We stopped for a morning break at a nice shelter and I aired out my wet feet and changed socks. “Lunch” was at a campsite with a stream right on trail where we met a guy, Veto, and chatted some. We took another break at the original Washington Monument.
Between lunch and the monument we had 7 miles of pretty easy trail with some very runnable sections that felt like the hike and bike trail back at home. We ran some, but when we got to the monument we were both pretty exhausted. The last 4 miles to the shelter were tough and it was raining enough to be a nuisance. It was kind of a slog fest.
We got to the shelter and set up our sleeping pads and a minute later Veto arrived as well. A section hiker was at the shelter before we arrived, so we had a nice huge new shelter to only 4 of us. Veto set up his hammock in the loft, and after trying to sleep with a stick of incense and getting multiple mosquito buzzes in the ear, Fresh Feet and I set up our tent in the shelter to have the bug protection. This is the best of both worlds because we have a bug net as well as an actual roof protecting us from any trees or limbs that might come down if it rains tonight. Hurricane Florence is supposed to hit land tonight, so we are expecting some rain again. Tomorrow will likely be a wet day also, but we will go into Harpers Ferry, WV and have a place to stay so we can change out of wet clothes!
Day 91: Rocky Run Shelter to Harpers Ferry (15.6 mi)
Today was my birthday! I woke up and went to the privy and when I came back Veto and Poles (the two other hikers from the shelter) sang happy birthday to me! It was so sweet.
The hiking wasn’t as easy or as rockless as I would have liked it to be. My feet were hurting and I had been developing a blister on the bottom of my pinky toe from constant wet feet the last few days. I was able to talk to my family some on the phone as we walked.
Fresh Feet pushed on ahead for the last 6 miles and when I met up with him in a parking lot about 3 miles outside of HF he was carrying a big box. He had ordered me a flower crown to wear for my birthday and the florist was able to deliver it to the parking lot right on trail! Incredible! I was surprised he was able to pull off quite the surprise! It was beautiful and so thoughtful and special.
I wore the flower crown the last 3 miles on the C&O canal path. Like the hike and bike trail in Austin, the C&O trail is a flat crushed granite path that runs from Pittsburgh to DC and people ride their bikes on it for a nice week-long flat, windless, ride. Walking on it for 3 miles felt a little boring as flat can sometimes feel monotonous. My feet were really hurting and I was so ready to get to Harpers Ferry! The Potomac River was raging on one side of our path and it was so flooded it was pretty incredible to see.
Once we crossed the Potomac River (and into West Virginia!) we entered the historic Harpers Ferry. We stopped at the outfitter to pick up our resupply box (THANK YOU M&D!) and continued to our B&B up the road about half a mile.
We checked in to a very cute historic home, showered and did laundry, and went back down to town to get a late lunch. We ate guacamole and home fries and had local kombucha on tap at Mountain House Cafe (part of Town’s Inn Hostel), and then walked around town a bit. We ended up getting dinner at the same place later that evening (hummus plate and rice and veggies, yum!).
We checked in with the ATC right before it closed and they told us that the trail south of HF was closed for 54 miles to Front Royal, VA! Yikes! This was because they are afraid there could be trees falling due to the flooded conditions of the trail and the ground saturation and that emergency personnel would not be available to rescue anyone if there was a dangerous river ford or faking tree incident. We decided we would take off the next day and regroup to figure out some sort of game plan.
The weather forecast for the area looks fine for tomorrow and Sunday (with heavy rains expected Mon and Tue), so it is tricky to think about taking that much time off when the weather seems ok to be hiking... we will just have to play it by ear, like always!
Day 92: Harpers Ferry zero day
We woke up, had a nice breakfast (oatmeal, avocado bagels and biscuits with jam) with some other guests at the B&B. We took showers again and checked out.
I went back to the ATC to check up on things to see if there was any more info, and there was nothing new to report. They took my picture and added me to the thru hiker album for 2018 and said that I was #250 for Flip Floppers that have come back through HF. There have only been 85 SoBos, which really surprised me! We had seen hundreds of SoBos in the north, and have hardly met any Flip Floppers. There‘s just a lot of FF-ers ahead of us and supposedly there are more SoBos behind us? But for the second year in a row the ATC has counted more Flip Floppers than SoBos - Wow!
We hung out in the town today. It is a very touristy town with a lot of day time visitors. We ate dinner about 1 mile outside of town at a vegan friendly restaurant that has only been open for 3 months called the Canal House. They were super amenable to our diet and very friendly!
We stayed at the Town’s Inn hostel with only one other thru hiker, a SoBo from Austin, “Good Time Gummy”. He plans to go to DC for the week because he is going to a wedding next weekend in Austin and figured he would wait out the storm and be near the airport.
It didn’t rain at all today and was actually very nice weather. The sun came out for a majority of the afternoon. We decided we will get on trail tomorrow (no rain predicted for tomorrow) and hike 20 miles to the Bear’s Den hostel where we may need to take another zero Monday if there are heavy rains still in the forecast.
The trail is still technically closed, but we will forge on anyway and see what that really means...