Our feet took us 141.8 miles this week
Video of the Week
We had our first visitor on the trail! We enjoyed the most incredible sunset dinner. See "Trail Angel" below for more about our visit with this beauty.
A kind farmer picked us up in Luray and offered to drive us back to the Shenandoahs. We got talking about his sustainable, organic farm and as soon as he mentioned three day old lambs, there was no going back. He offered a full tour of his farm- it was an awesome opportunity we couldn't turn down. I have always secretly wanted a farm, but this experience encouraged me to add "sustainable farming" to my running list of possible careers. Only bummer was that the baby lamb totally peed all over me. I tried to be chill, but it was the least chill.
Instead of hiking the last 40ish miles of Shenandoah National Park, we decided to canoe those 40 miles on the Shenandoah River, which runs adjacent to the trail. Some people might consider this a betrayal of a true thru hike, but you gotta hike your own hike, right? I guess this part of my hike happens to involve lots of beer and canoeing. We embarked on this cabrewing adventure from Front Royal, VA to Harper's Ferry, WV with our buds McLovin' and Barnum.
Obviously our feet are our vehicles of transportation. So when Danielle and I went grocery shopping for the canoe trip (shopping list: two 24 packs, two gallons of water, and one party size bag of Cool Ranch Doritos), we were not about to carry that load home- gotta conserve energy where we can. The only option was to take the shopping cart back to our hotel. We felt super guilty/homeless/rebellious walking down the street with a borrowed grocery cart. The most shocking part was literally no one thought it was weird. We rolled the cart into the lobby of the hotel, into the elevator, and directly into our room. We just smiled and waved at anyone who looked at us and no questions were asked. We really did return the cart, so I felt a lot better about the whole situation. But seriously, after walking so many miles, a girl has gotta be resourceful!
When someone surprises you with kindness on the trail
Anticipating Liz's arrival, we needed to hike 26 miles to meet her at an agreed upon location. We got a late start out of town that morning, so we had only hiked 16 miles by 2pm. After a frustrating bear encounter (see "Bummers" below), two kind ladies, Pack Rat and Slack, approached us and congratulated Danielle on her bravery. We got chatting and it was revealed that we were camping at the same site later. The women were driving to the camp site and would arrive before the camp store closed (shoutout to Shenandoah National Park for having beer for sale at frequent intervals). They were impressed with our marathon day and promised to buy us beers before the store closed and would keep them cold until we arrived later that night. They stuck to their word and approached us with ice-cold tall boys when we got to camp. Honestly, it was the best beer I've had in my life. We were too tired to cook a hot dinner that night, so we had a nutritious meal of sour gummy worms, Cheez-its and beer.
When we arrived to Front Royal, someone picked us up from the trail immediately. When he found out that we were canoeing, he offered us his cooler. After he dropped us off at the canoe place, he returned half an hour later with a 100 beer cooler. Precisely what we needed. It was a huge success and we are eternally grateful for his generosity.
A kind soul who helps a hiker in need
Liz Gerber aka GBABY came out to hike about 35 miles of Shenandoah National Park with us! Liz led trips on the Appalachian Trail with Danielle through Trinity Collge's QUEST program, so she is an experienced backpacker. She knows exactly what you crave when you're in the woods, so she brought us beer and goodie bags filled with all the wonderful treats I could ask for! Fruit roll-ups, homemade brownies, applesauce pouches and candies- YUM! We had so much fun hiking with Liz- she's such a light and super fun to be around. However, Danielle and I are definitely desensitized to the difficulty of a 20 mile day. The Shenandoahs are relatively flat, so we thought it would be fun to push 20 miles with Liz. That girl is a hero. Her heels were rubbed raw and her knees were verge of disaster, yet she didn't complain and kept a smile on her face the entire time. We were incredibly impressed that she hiked all 20 miles, but definitely need to keep in mind that regular civilians don't have trail legs. For the sake of our future hiking guests, we will spare them the pain of a 20 mile day.
The inevitable, devastating, yet retrospectively hilarious moments on the trail
BEARS! The Shenandoahs are creeping with bears around every corner. Specifically, there are 2.65 bears per square mile, but come 5pm there are bear sightings every few minutes. Many tourists are really excited about the chance to see a bear, but when you're carrying everything you need on your back and have to share woods with the bears at night, you don't feel the same way.
I first encountered a bear when I heard Danielle clacking her poles and yelling "GO AWAY BEAR!" She walked towards me and explained that a large black bear was in the middle of the trail and wouldn't move. He just looked at her like "...why are you yelling at me, human? I'm just minding my own business". Not long after the bear apparently moved off the trail, so we continued on. I looked to my right and I kid you not, my first thoughts were "oh my god, why is there a stuffed animal bear in the woods?" Then I was like "holy sh*t, that bear is so cute" Then "holy sh*t, that's a real bear!" So that was the first of many bear encounters.
You might be wondering what a hiker is supposed to do when one sees a bear. Well, Danielle and I have it down. Clack your poles over your head (to scare the bear and appear larger). Speak in a monotone, loud voice. We usually go with: GO THE F*CK AWAY! SERIOUSLY BEAR, WE UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS YOUR HOME, AND WE ARE ON YOUR TRAIL, BUT WE ARE MINDING OUR OWN BUSINESS AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO. PLEASE, JUST GO THE F*CK AWAY. Sometimes, we get distracted by their cuteness, but maintain a stern voice: GET YOUR CUTE FACE OUT OF HERE DUMB BEAR OR I'LL COME OVER THERE AND SQUEEZE IT. DON'T MAKE ME COME OVER THERE, BEAR, YOU'RE REALLY CUTE. I'LL DO IT. Sometimes, bears will get on their hind legs. In that case, we try to be more firm: GET YOUR ASS BACK DOWN, BEAR. DON'T YOU DARE SIZE US UP. YOU'RE NOT EATING HUMAN TONIGHT, THAT'S FOR DAMN SURE, SO DON'T EVEN FANCY THE THOUGHT. Bears usually just look at us with their cute faces like we are the craziest people they've ever seen and run off.