Day 93: Harpers Ferry to the Bear’s Den Hostel (20 mi)
We got a later start than I wanted but it was nice to sleep in until 7am. We needed it.
We left Harpers Ferry and started walking out of town and I never once saw any signage of the trail being closed. We didn’t see any thru hikers today though. We saw plenty of day hiker and trail runner traffic though. The trail was not flooded or wet like it had been north of HF, so it was fine walking. We saw a lot of deer first thing in the morning and some fawns with their mamas. So cute. They definitely seemed quite tame, however.
The terrain was a bit more difficult today as there were some rock fields and a bit more elevation change than we have had recently with the beginning of what is known as “The Rollercoaster”. It isn’t too bad, but you can definitely feel it (especially at the end of a long day!)
We crossed into Virginia from West Virginia, which was pretty exciting. VA has 500 miles of trail, so it represents about 25% of the trail and is by far the state with the most AT. It feels good to finally be in this state and start chipping away at it. We’ve also been hearing for months from the NoBos about how smooth and flowy the trail is in VA.
We got to Bear’s Den hostel and showered, did laundry, made Daiya mac’’chz in the kitchen, and then watched the movie Soylent Green (sci-fi made in the ‘70s). I hadn’t seen it and since we are consuming Soylent twice a day, we figured it was important for me to understand the reference. It’s a pretty interesting movie considering it was made about 50 years ago and the setting is a post-apocalyptic world (but since it’s the 70s they still use pay phones)! It takes place in 2022 (ahem! 4 years from now!) so definitely interesting and glad I watched it.
The forecast looks like pretty heavy rain for tomorrow (and it had for about a week now), so Jamie wants to hang out here tomorrow to wait it out.
Day 94: Bear’s Den zero day
We decided to take a zero due to hurricane Florence rains and wind today - with the primary concern being falling trees and limbs from the saturated ground and high winds.
We went to a new brewery across the street from our hostel and got some good WiFi and snacks. They built a fire in the big fireplace so it was nice to sit by the fire and watch the ripping storm outside. The rain and wind seemed pretty nasty and we were glad with the decision to sit this one out. The caretaker from the hostel swung by and drove us into town to go to the grocery store. We got some pasta, mushrooms, edamame and pesto for dinner along with other vegan snacks.
We got back to the hostel and met some other Flip Floppers (Galaxy & Songbird, a newlywed couple in their mid 30s!) and Neo, a Middle aged woman with aspirations of becoming a triple crowner. In the hiking world, the triple crown refers to all three major long distance hiking trails in the U.S.: Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) out west, Continental Divide Trail (CDT) which traverses from Mexico to Canada via the Rocky Mountains, and of course the AT (Georgia to Maine). As of Jan, 2017 only 290 hikers have been designated Triple Crowners.
We went upstairs and met Scott and Marie (former caretakers of Bear’s Den and former thru hikers) and their 4 kids and we all had a big family dinner together. The family comes to Bear’s Den every Monday to give the regular caretaker a night off. It was fun to chat with them and experience the chaos and liveliness of being around children again. The energy of the trail is so adult-centric, yet the act of hiking the trail and rock scrambling and living in the wilderness feels like such a youthful or child-like experience. It’s strange to live in such a contrived space, largely void of children, women and people of color. I’ve met a few other Latinx on the trail (Pidge, a second generation young Colombian guy from FL, and Quetzal, a woman from Mexico City who had already hiked the PCT). I’ve met one black guy (Sweet Talk) and I can count the number of women I’ve met. The trail just seems to be overly saturated with white men (young and old with the occasional Northern European or Australian) and it’s just such a strange and homogenous culture.
After eating dinner we retreated back downstairs to the hostel common area and watched Seinfeld and slowly faded into sleep in our bunks.
Day 95: Bear’s Den to Whiskey Hollow Shelter (18.2 mi)
We woke up and hit the trail around 8 am. We got rained on a little during the morning hours. I used my umbrella and was able to pretty much stay dry (except for my feet of course!)
We stopped for lunch at a shelter along the way and met some NoBo section hikers. Just as I was leaving the shelter Galaxy & Songbird were arriving to the shelter. I kept hitting my face in spider webs and seeing these large orange spiders and my progress was so slow due to my trying to avoid getting spiders in my braids and head, so I eventually just stopped and waited for Fresh Feet to be the trail blazer. He didn’t seem to mind as much, so I let him lead the rest of the day.
The afternoon was a little easier than the morning because the sun came out and “the rollercoaster” was over.
We walked through some fields this afternoon and got to the shelter and were the only ones. We washed off in the creek flowing nearby (which felt amazing!) and made dinner. After dinner Galaxy & Songbird showed up and we shared the shelter with them. We set up our tent on the upper level. The shelter was pretty nice and new - built in 2016.
Day 96: Whiskey Hollow Shelter to Mountain Home Cabbin in Front Royal, VA (15 mi)
We woke up and saw a mouse hanging out in the rafters of the shelter chewing on an acorn. He was not at all scared of us. We cleared out of there pretty quickly. I also noticed a huge spider on the tent. Fresh Feet discovered it had molted and it was just the exoskeleton of a big wolf spider. Still, not comforting!
We have noticed a lot more spiders in the south! We started hiking pretty early. The trail was pretty smooth and straight forward. We stopped at a nice shelter for lunch and it even had an outdoor solar shower! We were only 5 miles away from our hiker cabin, so we opted to take showers there instead.
When we got to the cabin we were greeted by Scott, the owner and former thru hiker (2012) with cold glasses of lemonade. We had a futon and a double bed in the “suite” downstairs next to the kitchen. There was a bunk room upstairs with the bathroom, but overall a very small and old cabin.
Scott was super friendly and drove Fresh Feet to town so he could mail ahead some of our extra food and poke around town. He found some great vegan food at the pub! I stayed behind and relaxed and enjoyed the down time to myself.
I was reminded today that I need to cherish the fact that I am in nature all day every day and how lucky and privileged I am for that. I am in sync with the rhythms of the natural world in so many ways, from sunrise to sunset, to the sounds of birds, squirrels and crickets to the green tunnel that envelops me like a blanket. I am grounded because my feet are in harmony with the earth. My feet feel the rocks, leaves, sticks, mud and dirt, LITERALLY connecting me all the time to our natural earth. For all of this, I am so grateful. It sure beats sitting in my car, in traffic twice a day, and then being inside a building all day long with fluorescent lights. I am glad to breathe the fresh air and live and move in such a natural space.