So, you know the drill by now – we don’t post an update for awhile, keeping y’all biting your nails in anticipation…then we wait a little longer…then BAM! Massive updates all at once! Well, our blog-writing habits haven’t changed. Sorry for the delay. Let’s catch up, shall we?
As mentioned in a previous ‘By the Numbers’ post, we had a wonderful send-off from Charlottesville by our friends Edward, Erin, Rafe, and Zach. These guys made leaving C-Ville a little easier by camping with us our last night in the area — they walked us to our 900-mile mark 🙂 Thanks for the fried chicken and hot dogs; the punny jokes; and awesome night. Y’all are amazing friends!
Best selfie photo bomb ever 😉 You guys are amazing, thank you for sending us off in style!
Edward greets us after our last day of slack packing out of C-Ville with Katherine’s favorite food. This guy’s a gem.
Edward and Zach walked us to the 900-mile mark the next AM. We didn’t have to take a selfie!
We spent the majority of our remaining time in Virginia hiking through Shenandoah National Park (SNP). SNP was very green and lovely with relatively easy hiking and lots of blue berries, black berries and wine berries. We hiked along Skyline Drive quite a bit, which meant we also got to enjoy ice cream and sandwiches from their ‘Waysides’ (basically convenience stores).
A view from an over look on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah. The AT intersects with the road many times in VA.
Enjoying those green, lovely VA mountains before we flip up to Maine!
Virginia succulents! Who knew? Not us!
These are cool! Some sort of lily…. Turks Cap?
Again, not sure what this is… ideas?
Maybe a thistle?
“Sorry we’re not home right now, we’re walking through/around the spider webs, so leave a message….”
Try to tell us that this DOESN’T look JUST like a rhino’s head?
We also had a bunch of fun wildlife sightings in Shenandoah:
You can’t really tell in this photo, but this little guy was tiny!
Horrible photo quality, but the only picture we’ve gotten of the many Scarlet Tanagers we’ve been lucky enough to see on the AT.
Lookin’ out for those falcons!
The corresponding protected falcon home 🙂
Gotta love sweet Emma’s reenactment of that bear video (Katherine’s niece):
We saw a RIDICULOUS number of bears in Shenandoah. Seriously — we’d see as many as four in a day! They were all generally nonchalant about our presence, so instead of the bear butts we were used to seeing as they fled into the woods, there was a lot of “Oh, hey bear. Yep, you see me and I see you. I’m gonna hike on by and you just keep digging around looking for grub. Sound good? Great.” We did have one slightly nerve-wracking with a stubborn mama bear who was hanging out too close to the trail for our comfort, but all ended well.
We got to know a few thru-hikers in SNP who were new to us, and we particularly enjoyed hiking with Ghost and Tex for a few days. Ghost’s real name is David Startzell, and he is the former director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy! We were flabbergasted – a genuine A.T. celebrity, out on the trail, just hanging out with us! Ghost spent 25 years as the longest-serving director in ATC history, and he said that he spent much of his time as director trying to convince members of Congress to appropriate funding for the ATC. It worked – when Ghost started at the ATC, it had six employees and a $300,000 annual budget. When he left, there were 50 employees and a $6.5 million budget. He also led the conservancy in buying more than 200,000 acres for trail expansion. Basically, he’s a big deal, and it was really great getting to spend time with him.
After exiting SNP, we were in northern Virginia and our lovely friend Emily picked us up for a fun weekend in DC! On Friday, we were treated to tasty tacos and several inappropriate rounds of Cards Against Humanity with a combination of college, high school, and Charlottesville friends. On Saturday, we hung out with Katherine’s high school friend Andy and his wife Val at their wonderful apartment. We were treated to crackers and cheese on their roof deck, sausage and burgers from the grill, and much laughter throughout. Andy and Val drove us back to the trail on Sunday with our hiker hunger satiated and much-needed R&R under our belt. Thanks to our DC friends for a fantastic weekend getaway!
We finished off our hiking in Virginia with the infamous Roller Coaster – 13.5 miles of 10 tightly packed 500 foot ascents and descents capable of wearing out the hardiest of hikers. We crushed it, and we crossed the much anticipated 1,000-mile mark!
The ‘hiker warning’ sign before entering the ‘Roller Coaster’ in northern VA. We crushed it 😉
The 1000 mile mark at the end of the Roller Coaster! Unreal.
Katherine’s feet had been acting OK since leaving Charlottesville — not great, but not horrible. So, we went forward with strategizing on how to get up to Maine from Harpers Ferry, WV, to start our flip-flop hike. We could rent a car, or take a train, or fly….each option sounded like a logistical mess. Then, out of the blue, Brandon received an email from his uncle Doug offering to drive us from West Virginia all the way up to Maine! Talk about a trail angel!
So, we arrived in Harpers Ferry, WV; got our picture taken at the ATC headquarters; met Uncle Doug and hit the road to Maine!
Crossing into West Virginia!
Approaching Harpers Ferry — crossing that Potomac!
Signed in to the ATC’s fancy thru-hiker book, and off to Maine!
Several fast food stops, one hotel night, and 13 hours of driving later, we arrived at Baxter State Park — home of Mt. Katahdin and the northernmost point of the AT! Thank you, Uncle Doug, for the amazing amount of time, energy, and miles on the road you put in to get us up to Maine. You made what would have been a tumultuous journey a relative breeze, filled with great conversation and family bonding time.
And so, we made it to Maine and began our trek south back to Harpers Ferry! That seems like a good stopping point for now. Look forward to moss, mud, and moose in our next blog installment: ‘Maine Madness’!