The sun shone brightly from a clear blue sky as my parents dropped us off at the trailhead in Rockfish Gap. The breeze blew in from the Valley side as my brother and I kissed our mom goodbye and set off hiking, this time my dad came along for the first eight miles. We signed in at the southern entrance of the Shenandoah National Park and the five of us (Buckets, Veggie, Dad, Jake, and I) set off northward. The pleasant weather and easy terrain went on and on as my brother and I talked for hours with our dad about all kinds of stuff. Those eight miles seemed to be the fastest eight miles of the trip thus far simply because, if only for a moment, Jake and I weren’t thru-hiking. Georgia and Maine and everywhere in-between fled from our thoughts and for a few hours we were just out with our dad, something we’d done countless times growing up. In far too little time it was all over and my dad was standing at his pick up point with my mom and before I knew it they were driving off down the pitted dirt road through Jarmen’s Gap.
Just as the car slipped out of sight the four of us were forced back to reality when we heard the distant rumbling of far-off thunder. It was 3:00pm and we still had twelve miles to go. We would not get lucky that day and make it to the shelter before the rains came, rather we found ourselves soaked through and through. The rains did not stop and all the next day we were met with even more hard-falling, cold rain. That evening, which was Monday night, our good friend, as well as a 2011 thru-hiker, Paul drove in and then backpacked for a little ways to meet up with us.
The next morning I woke up shivering and utterly surprised to see that there was three inches of snow on the ground. You could sit there and watch the snow get higher so we decided to get packed up get out as soon as possible. We could not compete against the rising snow drifts and for twelve and a half miles we fought our way through the blow-downs and giant piles of freezing snow that had now overtaken the Trail, forcing us to cut our day short. We eventually made it to a shelter and tried our best to get as dry and as warm as we could.
By the next morning we awoke to find a freezing cold wintery morning with wet, heavy snow clinging to just about everything. The sun was out and the day slowly warmed up as we trudged the long twenty-five miles to Thornton Gap. There, a good friend of Jake’s named Chad Sims picked us up and took us in to Luray, Virginia. We drove out of the snowy mountains and stayed at his father’s hotel, the incredible Mimslyn Inn. The room was absolutely amazing and the hospitality was astonishing. Chad’s father was even kind enough to drive us back to the trailhead early in the morning after allowing us to stay the night at his fantastic place. It’s strange to think about how cold and miserable the cold, snowy morning was and by nightfall we were staying in the closest thing to a palace I’ve ever been in.
Recently we’ve had much better luck with the weather. It’s been raining at night and been clear and warm during the days. After some consistent, big-mile days we made it to the West Virginia/Virginia border and thus broke through the 1,000 mile mark. After a nine mile hike from a shelter in to town, we made it to Harpers Ferry, WV. There we signed in at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, becoming to 28th and 29th thru-hikers of the season, and the rented a cabin at the KOA campground here. Seeing we needed to resupply and taking pity of us, an incredible girl named April drove us from the campground to the Walmart and back in order to resupply on food and supplies. It was a true selfless act of kindness and the only payment she asked for in return is that we “pay this good deed forward.”
Tomorrow we plan to set out early and make it deep in to Maryland and then Pennsylvania shortly thereafter. All four of us are staying in good health, however my right leg has become extremely painful, especially my knee and calf. While we are now over a thousand miles, there is still a long way to go. Soon we will be at the halfway point (roughly four days) and will hopefully make it through Pennsylvania without incident.