Day mileage: 23.2
AT total mileage: 999.1
Time: 8.5 hours
It's safe to assume that I'm not pleased with the fact that the mileage listed above is 0.9 miles shy of the beautiful number 1,000. The truth is that as I neared the side trail for the Bear's Den hostel that I'm staying at, I very seriously debated hiking the 1.8 miles (round trip) down to the 1,000 mile mark and back to the hostel. It was about this time that the sky, which had been threatening severe weather all day, grumbled alive with some serious thunder, and raindrops began falling. Since I was relatively dry and would ultimately hike past the 1,000 mile mark tomorrow, I decided against my extra journey. So there... starting at the end, let's revisit the beginning.
I slept using my sleeping bag as a blanket, hoping to fight off the humidity that moved in overnight. After packing up around 6:30, I ate breakfast and talked with Jug and Huckabee about their hike and their interest in a thru-hike. They headed south as I turned north, and began an adventure forward on my own as Pneumo had left fifteen minutes or so before me. He was meeting his mom at a road crossing 7 miles from the shelter we stayed at, and was trying to make it there rather quickly. I kept a good pace throughout the day, at almost 3 miles an hour the entire time. Since Pneumo was with his parents, I was hiking alone all day. About 8 miles into the hike I came across a gorgeous mountaintop field, with clear skies and the sun shining down, I actually paused to close my eyes and feel the cold breeze blow across the pasture. It felt rather amazing, for whatever reason. The simplicity of these moments are ones I'll remember fondly.
After coming down off the mountaintop the Appalachian Trail crossed over a 4 lane highway before disappearing back into the woods. I had turned my iPod on and was listening to the radio as I went along, which probably attributed to my hiking speed. With classic rock in my ear, I passed by a few thru-hikers in quick succession. At noon I had hiked 13 miles and was sitting at the side trail to the Rod Hollow shelter. It's funny to think that I've hiked 999.1 miles and will not hike 0.2 miles on a side trail to a shelter if I can avoid it. I instead sat on a rock on the Appalachian Trail and ate a Pop Tart, allowing myself a full half hour break for lunch. Hikers English Girl and Dirty Harry arrived as I was packing up, and stayed for lunch... neither walked down the side trail. About a half mile after Rod Hollow was a sign posted welcoming hikers to The Roller Coaster. A somewhat famous section of the Appalachian Trail, Roller Coaster encompasses 13.5 miles of extremely strenuous climbs and descents, 4-600' a piece, happening in immediate succession. The rest of my day would be comprised of these small mountains. With the temperature at 88 degrees and humidity well above 70%, this tough section of trail became horrid for hiking. My bandana, kept handy for sweat, was dripping on its own by the time I hit my third hill in the Coaster. I crossed by a few hikers headed southbound before coming across a man walking alone northbound. I can honestly say this was the first time on the Trail that I've been nervous of my surroundings. Approaching from behind and giving myself a wide berth to study the individual, I saw he was in long pants, a white t-shirt, and was barefoot. After hearing gunfire from hunters all day, I was somewhat on edge of what I was coming across... the barefoot thing really caught me off guard. I announced my presence behind him and inquired about the lack of footwear, to which he replied it strengthened his feet on the rocks by not wearing shoes. Needless to say when I walked past him I hightailed it out of sign down the trail. I had a weird feeling I was going to be shot from behind and die by an act of the Shoeless Hiker. That being said, I'm sure he was harmless.
I got off the Appalachian Trail at mile 999.1 just after 1700hrs, hiking two tenths of a mile to the Bears Den hostel. A large stone building, almost castle-like in its appearance, it is owned by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and managed by the Potomac Appalachian Mountain Club. For $30 a night hikers are offered the famed 'hiker special' which includes a bunk, shower, laundry, personal 16" pizza, pint of Ben & Jerry's, and a pancake breakfast. There's also a large group area with a TV/movie library, and a computer with free Internet access. I was happy to stay here, especially as the heavens opened and torrential rain fell from the sky. I was dry, warm, and not in my tent... a win as far as I'm concerned. Pneumo arrived soaking wet at 2045hrs safely after a long day. I'm headed to bed after watching Spaceballs and A Knight's Tale with Cool Luke, Stumbles, and English Girl. I'll be waking up early to cross the 1,000 mile mark and make it into the famed trail town of Harper's Ferry.
Lots of excitement with that piece of information, but we'll go over that tomorrow. Also, for whatever it's worth, I've been wondering if there are any questions you might want me to answer about the trail, hiking, or anything else. Blog viewership has dropped off by 1,500 or so visits a week, so I wasn't sure if you're all bored of my writing or if there was a format change that would keep it from becoming repetitious. Anyway! Input is always welcome. For now though I'm headed to bed.
Edit: As of 7:30 AM on Wednesday I have crossed the 1,000 mile mark of the Appalachian Trail. Go team.