After spending several days at home with Diane, seeing a few friends and even seeing a movie (Dunkirk), we drove back to Harpers Ferry on Monday, August 7. Tuesday the 8th was my first day back on the Trail since the descent of Katahdin.
The Trail was quite easy, and with the exception of small rocks embedded and sticking out of the path, it was an easy 12-mile hike. Near the beginning of the hike I crossed a rather large bridge which spanned the Shenandoah River. Here’s the view towards Harpers Ferry.
A point of trivia here. Although WV has only 4 miles of the AT (the fewest miles of any of the 14 AT states), VA has well over 500 miles, the most of any state. It comprises more than 25% of the AT. Since WV is where I began, it was a short matter of time before I came across this sign.
After the hike, I met Diane at the Blackburn Trail Center, a rustic hostel-type campground, over two miles up a rough, pitted, narrow gravel road. It was a former mountain getaway cabin for a Washington, DC physician more than a century ago. It is presently owned and operated by the Patomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).
Years ago, a good part of the AT hiked on Wednesday the 9th was on a regular road. Then in recent years, the Trail was rerouted into the woods parallel to the road. It was fairly deep in the woods as I never heard cars or any road noise. This section is called “The Roller Coaster,” a 13.5-mile stretch of rocky ups and downs. There are about a dozen 200-500 foot ascents and descents in this section. Here is a picture during this stretch. Two local day hikers I happened to meet told me that to the distant right was WV near Harpers Ferry.
My 8-mile hike that day ended at Bears Den, a stone castle-like hostel owned by the Conservancy and operated by the PATC. It is a very good hostel enjoyed by hikers.
Diane picked me up at Bears Den and we immediately drove back to the hotel. Mileage was short that day because my daughter and three of our grandkids were coming to visit us and I wanted to spend some time with them. I hadn’t seen them since the end of March.
It was a fun afternoon! We played in the pool for well over an hour, went out to eat and then visited a local ice cream shop.
At night time, we all thought it would be neat if the grandkids sported beards to look like their Pepere.
My daughter and her kids wanted to hike a little with me, so the next morning, everybody got up very early and were on the Trail before 0700. What a great hiking crew!
The kids were champs and hiked .75 miles (one way) before we parted and they hiked back. They also enjoyed climbing on this big rock.
After we parted, I hiked the remainder of my 13.3-miles and finished up the Roller Coaster. I was pleased with my hiking and my increased speed. I ran into two hikers, Dream Catcher and Lobo, both of whom I had met at several camps and hostels in Maine. They are also flip-flopping.
Later in the day, everyone surprised me at the next Trailhead. Afterwards, my daughter and grandkids had to leave, but her visit was a special treat for me and I certainly appreciated her driving here with the kids.
That evening, Diane and I enjoyed a wonderful meal and celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary. How time flies! We have so much to be thankful for.
On Friday the 11th, Diane dropped me off at the Trail and said good bye. All good things must come to an end. We had a good time but Diane had to head home, so once again, I had the Beast on my back.
My plan was to hike 15 miles, and at mile 12, I was coming down a mountain to a trailhead when I was pleasantly surprised to see Diane! She brought a meal and then took me out for ice cream. It was totally unexpected. She told me it was part of my anniversary gift. What a treat. She is awesome!
After Diane left (for the final time), I continued my hike and arrived at the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter. As far as shelters go, this one was great. It has a deck with a nice bench (note the bench has a back to lean against – a luxury on the Trail), a covered picnic table (quite rare on the Trail), a solar shower and even a horse shoe pit. The contraption you see to the right of the horse shoe pit is called a bear pole. There are 8 hooks to hang food bags high, away from the bears.
About an hour or so after arriving at the shelter, thunder and lightning began with torrential major-league rain. I was so glad I wasn’t out on the Trail. Later that night a dad came in with his 10- or 12-year-old son. They were drenched, but at least there was room for them in the shelter. The dad looked at me and simply said, “It was pretty rough out there.” A shelter, especially in severe weather, is a welcome sight.