Week 11: Mommies & Milestones
Our feet took us 96.8 miles this week
Note: We only hiked four days this week (two days off with our Moms and one day off due to extreme weather (see "Bummers"))
Video of the week
I didn't take much footage this week, so I had to use all te videos I took- even the shaky ones.
Harper's Ferry in West Virginia is the unofficial halfway point of the Appalachian Trail! Here, we had our picture taken and officially went down in history in the AMC books. On April 7th, we were the 1333rd and 1334th thru hikers to register. On June 16th, we were the 762nd and 763rd hikers to reach Harper's Ferry!
After reaching Harper's Ferry, we headed into DC to meet our loving mothers! I honestly teared up thinking about reuniting with my adorable mom and was so excited to give her a hug and a smooch. We were fortunate enough to once again experience the generosity of the Bell family. Danielle's boyfriend's parents, Toni and Richard, allowed us girls and our moms to enjoy their home in Alexandria during our visit. The weekend with our Moms was everything we needed and more! We had so much fun catching up while getting showered with good food and good wine.
My mother was eager to experience trail life, so we decided to hike a portion of Shenandoah National Park. Once we parked, we needed to hitch a ride about six miles up Skyline Drive where we could begin our hike back to the car. My mom was excited for her first hitch hiking experience. Shenandoah National Park is filled with tourists terrified of hitchhikers, so it was more difficult to get a ride than it would be in a trail-friendly town. Additionally, I did not have my huge pack with me, so it was not obvious that I was an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, thus further reducing our chances of getting a hitch. After several unsuccessful attempts, I was dejected and embarrassed that no one would pick us up. "I swear it's usually easier than this". I'm not sure if this was comforting or unsettling for my mom to hear. We decided to wait for ten more minutes before hiking an alternate there-and-back trail. My mom stuck her thumb up for the first time to try her luck. The FIRST car we saw, a utility truck, immediately picked us up. She thinks it was luck, but I think the grounds workers thought she was cute. My mom got a taste of trail life on our hike- and even saw a bear cub!
We reached the official halfway point on the Appalachian Trail! It is bittersweet to have reached this point. It means that we are now closer and more accessible for friends and family to visit us (and bring us beer and food). But it also means that this incredible adventure is half way over. Now that we have our stride, it will take us two months or less to complete the second half of the Appalachian Trail. I am so excited for what the trail has in store for us.
Last highlight: June 21 is hike naked day. Yes, that's a thing. I heard it was more of a myth and wasn't expecting to see any trail booty. After a rocky hike, Danielle and I began a steep decent when we looked up to see a jolly hiker with his wiener flapping around trekking toward us. This fellow confidently bounced up the mountain with his beer belly pouring over his tight backpack waist strap. I tried SO hard to hold eye contact and was like "hell ya!" to mask the awkwardness. The worst part- just minutes before seeing this naked hiker, we passed a father-son duo on their first backpacking trip. The poor kid was only 10 years old and was about to be scarred for life.
When someone surprises you with kindness on the trail
The trail provides. I cannot explain it, but just when you need something, your needs are met- sometimes before you even know you needed something! About 20 miles into a hike, Danielle and I were super bummed out because the icecream place we planned to go to slightly off trail had closed 15 minutes before we got there. We hiked on and soon came across a truck on a dirt road. A 2015 thru hiker, Chicklet, and her dad were giving out sweet tea, beer, and bananas! Happy is an understatement. We drank a beer and traded stories. When it was time to hike on, they insisted we take a few beers for the trail. Obviously, we obliged and happily drank the beers a view we came across a few miles later.
A generous soul who helps a hiker in need
Our moms are the MVPs this week. They truly made our week by coming down to visit! I was especially excited to be treated to a sushi feast the first night- a trail delicacy. Danielle's mommy, Susan, is known to be horrified by our trail diets and balled out at Whole Foods to supply us with more wholesome meals and snacks. Additionally, she bought enough for a second resupply that we shipped four days ahead of us. Good, high quality food seriously increases our energy levels and makes us feel, overall, better. Thank you so, so much, Sus!! It was SO nice to sip coffee all morning (shoutout to Toni for the Starbucks), relax, and chat.
The inevitably devastating, yet retrospectively hilarious moments on the trail
We were seven miles from a state park that sold cheeseburgers when it started raining. It wasn't too bad at first, but after half an hour, it began downpouring. It was the most intense rain I've experienced in my entire life- worse than the time it rained in the Smokies. We were quickly soaked to the core and had to tredge through ankle-deep puddles. As it was hike naked day, we considered stripping down and sudsing up with some Dr. Bronners soap. We were too grumpy to find this humor in the moment. When we finally (mostly) dried off, Danielle fell in the river while collecting water. The least ideal.
After yet another rain horror story (no, we will never be one with the rain, people), we were rattled when the forecast two days ahead reported torrential downpours, thunderstorms, and tornado-like conditions 3am until 10pm. We were getting out of there. We needed to hike 30 miles to get to town- our biggest day yet. But there was no way in hell we were gonna get caught in a tornado. We had about 8 miles left when it became dark. I wasn't wearing my contacts, so I couldn't see shit. Is that a rock? A stick? Or a shadow? Beats me. It was too late to put contacts in and we had to reach town by 9:45pm where a shuttle would be waiting for us. So I'm hiking my fastest, following the white blazes- or so I thought. Danielle stopped me after a while "I think those are blue blazes". Sure enough, we were hiking off the AT and we lost at least 30 minutes making our way back to the AT. UGH DAMN EYES. Now it was crunch time. We had to run down this mountain and a few more miles to make the shuttle. Danielle, who was now ahead for obvious reasons, was literally running down the mountain. I was trying to go my fastest and keep up but I was blind as a fricken bat so every step was a risk. I felt like I was on Space Mountain, the Disney World roller coaster, that takes you on a high speed journey in a pitch black room. Which way was I gonna go next? A glimpse of light here and there. I was speeding down the mountain and felt totally out of control. It was terrifying and kindof exhilarating. Fortunately, I didn't fall much and I will wear contacts on future night hiking excursions! Also, we made the shuttle. Also, the storm totally and completely missed us. We still took the day off.