March 22 Day 3 Boiling Springs Backpacker campsite
I got up early after a deep, deep sleep and took full advantage of the continental breakfast at the motel. I then walked a few hundred feet down the highway to a truck stop. There I bought a great pair of mirrored sunglasses, and after the lovely hike in the sun today I’m so glad I did. I was breaking trail through anywhere between 8 and 12 inches of snow. There were times when people had gotten on the trail and hiked for a mile or so with snowshoes and that was nice. The snow is so powdery I don’t think snowshoes would be worth it. And the sun is melting the snow fairly quickly.
I got into Boiling Springs around 2pm after an 8 miles hike and I was beat. I stopped into the Appalachian Trail Conservancy office and chatted with the nice folks there while I got my AT passport stamped. There’s a hiker box there too, my first one this hike. Someone left a nearly full canister of fuel so I grabbed that. I’ve been using a lot of fuel lately due to the cold. Hot beverages are so great to have whenever I want one! And here in my tent it’s nice to have my hot water bottles.
I did a quick resupply for 3 days at the mini mart and then walked .2 miles out of town to the backpacker campsite. Nothing here! I did find a flat spot with not that much snow so I cleared it off and pitched my tent. I’m hoping I’ll be warmer in my tent than I was at the shelter a couple of nights ago. The problem is not my sleeping bag, it’s plenty warm. I lose heat through my inflatable sleeping pad. I love it, it’s very comfortable. I wanted to find a foam mat to put under it when I was in town but the outdoor store there didn’t have them. Oh well. I didn’t want to carry the weight anyway.
I’m going to hike 12 miles tomorrow so I’m hoping to get a good rest tonight. I’ll be glad to get out of this valley and the farmlands, back up into the mountains, such as they are.
March 23 Day 4 Tagg Run Shelter
It was a cold night but I was happy to see my shoes were not completely frozen solid. The backpackers campsite is 200 feet from trail tracks. I think seven trains passed in the night. I’ve noticed that snow makes everything take twice as long for me. Usually, my morning routine from wake up to pack on is about 35 minutes. Now it’s about 1.25 hours. Ugh.
Once I got going the sun was just coming up over the pastures and it was gorgeous. Breaking trail was tough due to the sunshine yesterday; no more powdery, easy to shuffle through snow.
I got into a good rhythm and powered up my first ascent of the day in about an hour and a half. Three miles. Down hill, then up. And down again to Alec Kennedy shelter where I had second breakfast. Nice to have a place to sit down for a spell too.
The rest of the day continued in the same way, up and down. Ascending through unbroken snow is exhausting. The lack of sleep kicked in and I decided it would be a good time to start working on my Bear Grylls impressions. At one point I stopped in the middle of the trail laughing so hard it hurt. Oh my.
I got to highway 34 and took a left where I found the Green Mountain Market just up the road. I was a bit short on snacks and so I picked up a few things. Happy to be nearing the end of this day I walked the last 1.3 miles to the Tagg Run Shelter. Whew.
After I had pitched my tent, gotten water from the nearby spring I cooked dinner. Finally relaxing. It felt so good to have, once again, accomplished the goal I set out with in the morning. Setting my intentions is important for me nowadays. It’s a way of holding myself accountable for my decisions.
I was almost finished with my dinner when a couple of backpackers showed up! Aside from the day hikers I saw the first day, these were the first people I have seen on the trail. Ryan and Colleen are section hikers from DC. We chatted and they gave me a chicken tender. I shared chocolate with them and Colleen made a fire. It didn’t last long, and I struggled to keep my eyes open. I retired to my tent and was asleep soon after.
March 24 Day 5 Tom’s Run Shelter
Is it really March 24? It feels like I’ve been out here for weeks.
Last night was probably around 20 degrees and I started to get cold around 4am. Awake by 6 am, I slowly began my morning routine.
I broke trail all morning and made very slow progress. At times the snow was knee deep. I spent some time grumbling to myself and then finally came out of my self imposed snow funk once the trail began to descend down to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. I talked to some nice people, washed my hankie and pee rag in the ladies bathroom and washed my hands in hot water. HEAVEN.
I walked over to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy office and got my passport stamped. Those folks sure are nice; the office wasn’t even open yet for the season and the man running things was in the middle of an orientation when I walked in the open screen door. I sheepishly held up my passport and he stopped his talk and showed the new volunteers how to stamp an AT passport. Cool! Thanks nice guy!
I went happily on my way with only 4 miles to hike to get to Tom’s Run Shelter. I got here to find Ryan and Colleen taking a break; they then left and headed on to the next shelter. I decided to be done for the day. An Outward Bound group showed up and I chatted with them for a bit. It’s so nice to have people around. Now it’s time to read for a bit and sleep soon after.
March 25 Day 6 Quarry Gap Shelter
I woke up to frozen shoes and blue skies. I’m guessing it was somewhere around 20 degrees. My morning routine was faster; I was up and hiking down the trail around 7:15. Icy trail. But broken trail, which was so nice. I had broken trail all day, and saw few people. A Boy Scout troop was camped at Birch Run Shelter and we chatted for a bit. They told me that the other half of their group was going to my destination, Quarry Gap. I was about 2 miles from the shelter when I caught up to them. Very nice folks.
Since there were two shelters at Quarry Gap, I had one to myself and the boys had the other. The adults pitched tents, and I was happy to be in a shelter. The scouts were very generous with salami, baby carrots, Oreos and Girl Scout cookies.
The girls made a fire and I chatted with Carol and Jim about hiking and trails; Carol told me all about her Kilimanjaro hike. I’d love to do that someday.
I fell asleep around 8pm to a quiet camp. A great day.
March 26 Day 7 Tumbling Run Shelter
I hiked 2 miles to the highway and walked a quarter of a mile down to the Timbers Cafe, a very hiker friendly place. I had a very inexpensive breakfast and coffee and chatted with another hiker about trail conditions. I was pleased to learn that the trail south was all broken and that I’d have no problem making the Tumbling Run shelters. Yes!
A the hostel down the street is run by an older hiker named Junker, and he told me that if I wanted a shower and a place to reorganize my resupply that I could go down there and do that. Another local offered to drive me to Dollar General to resupply.
So many nice folks. I got back on trail around noon, clean and happy. I put away 10 miles in just a few hours and met Serena Williams and his dog Loki, they are hiking SOBO (southbound) and they are super nice.
Tonight is supposed to be the last cold night. This is good news.
Another amazing day on the Appalachian Trail.
March 27 Day 8 Raven Rock Shelter
I crushed 9 miles out of camp before noon this morning; the trail was mostly ice and snow free and the trail was meandering through hardwoods and sycamore trees. I got to Pen Mar just inside of Maryland and saw Serena Williams and Loki having lunch under one of the pavilions there. I joined them and we talked about how nice the hiking had been. The stop was short, as temps are still in the mid 30s. But, temps are supposed to rise through the rest of the day and night, on into tomorrow and then next few days. Rain is in the forecast. Will it melt the snow? There is still so much up here in the higher elevations (1,600 feet). All I know is that I really, really want the snow to go away. I feel like I have learned a lot this past week with the snow and cold temps. I’ve learned that everything takes longer, and that it is more challenging for me to make decisions and to keep track of my gear. I made the mistake of not picking up an extra fuel canister in Boiling Springs; I thought I would be able to get one in Fayetteville yesterday but none were to be had. I might have enough fuel to get to Harper’s Ferry but only for cooking dinner. No hot bevies. I have also learned that the cold makes me spacy; it is harder to focus and a couple of times I have gotten my mileage off. Which usually never happens.
And most importantly, while I do like hiking in cooler temps, I do not like hiking in snow and the cold. The kind of cold that wakes me up at 4 am shivering and I can’t make it stop. I can feel the shivers like waves through my body, and I realized that they do actually make me warmer.
And I didn’t need to know that.
So, these next few days will be, hopefully, the last of the snow and that is good. I am looking forward to getting to Harper’s Ferry and having a short day of hiking, getting a bunk and the hostel and getting Keith’s insulated inflatable sleeping pad, which will go a long way for keeping me warmer. Why didn’t I take it in the first place? Because I am stubborn.
But for now I am happy to be where I am. I am warm. I have food. There are two other hikers here, and it’a nice to have company.
Oh, and I have seen the last of the rocks of PA. There was an uphill section today of big rocks covered in snow. And it was raining. And I made it.
I did it.
Another brutal and beautiful day on the Appalachian Trail.
March 28 Day 9 Pine Knob Shelter
This morning I woke up warm. A first for this hike. I unzipped my bag and hustled out to the privy and when I got back Old and Slow was awake. He’s a NOBO section hiker who got in yesterday evening. We chatted a little bit and Serena woke up and took Loki out. I was ready to go soon after; my morning routine getting more and more efficient. Must be the warmer weather. And by warmer I mean in the mid 40s. I headed out to the trail and for the first five miles the trail went up and down. The ascents are tough because since I’m heading south the most snow is on the north facing side. The up side. Even though the trail was broken it was still difficult. I was pleased to make one final ascent before getting on a ridge line which I followed the rest of the day. Serena and Loki caught up with me mid day and once it started raining they went on ahead. When I got to the shelter, someone had pitched a tent inside the shelter (not the best trail etiquette), and Serena told me the shelter was leaking all along the back wall. So I pitched my tent, and I’m glad I did. I love my tent and oftentimes I like having my personal space.
It’s been a week since I’ve slept in a bed and I am looking forward to getting into Harper’s Ferry on Friday.
March 29 Day 10 Ed Garvey Shelter
The gentle rain that began in the evening lasted most of the night, however, when I got out of my tent at 6am much of it was dry. It was warm! And the few patches of snow that lingered around the shelter were gone. Sweet, sweet joy. I happily packed up my things and topped off my water bottles before heading out. Today will be my longest day yet, almost 17 miles to my destination. I wanted to push today to set myself up for a short day on Friday into town.
All day the hike was lovely. Long flat-ish stretches of trail with now snow. It’s safe to say now that the snow is gone. The trail goes right by the Washington Monument, the first one. It’s a very interesting stone building that was also used as a look out point during the Civil War. I was thinking, if I were in a car and I saw a sign directing me to this monument I probably would not stop. But since it’s right on the trail, I got to experience this little bit of history. I love that about the trail. Things like this are most accessible. Funny, because it would be easy to think that cars make things easier to reach. Which is true in some cases.
Serena and Loki caught up to me in the middle of the day and they went on ahead. I caught them just before Crampton Gap and we had a second lunch by the water pump (delicious well water) and hiked the three miles here to Ed Garvey Shelter. It’s a great shelter with a loft second level. There’s a staircase on the back of the shelter and a small balcony with a door leading to the sleeping loft, where I am now.
Happy to be here.
March 30 Day 11 Teahorse Hostel, Harper’s Ferry
Happy to be here. Got into town around 10:30 and had a nice breakfast at the local coffee shop and hit up the outfitter for some canister fuel (I had just enough gas to make it here, yay!) and some odds and ends. I checked into the hostel at 1pm, Serena and Loki are here too so we split a shuttle over to Walmart. Trailboss was out driver and he and his wife do lots of trail work in the area. Very nice older gentleman who obviously loves the trail. I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again, one of the things I love most about the trail is the people.
After eating half a frozen pizza, I’m lounging around waiting for laundry downstairs to finish. The hostel is a private residence, the downstairs being Benjamin’s (the owner) private quarters. The upstairs is the hostel; two large rooms with bunks each with a bathroom, a living room and full kitchen. Maps of the area cover the walls and it is all very clean. Benjamin asked us what time we would like him to come upstairs and cook waffles. Wow! We decided on 7:30am. There is also a small store downstairs where he sells all hiker foods and items like fuel and batteries.
So now I’ll update this, as it has been awhile. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll hike out of West Virginia into Virginia. Progress.
Cougar out until next time!