I didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed here. When I walked up to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters, when I saw that famous wall where thousands of hikers have had their pictures taken… it gave me shivers. Overpowering. I know we’re a hundred miles short of the technical midpoint, but I can see why they call this the psychological halfway point.
The town’s full of Civil War history. Stately homes and legendary landmarks. Also, the best bug protection on the planet: a cannon. Take that, you freaking mosquitoes!
If the cannon goes missing, it wasn’t me. Just sayin’.
Harpers Ferry is also recovering from a three-hour power shortage this morning that has all the restaurants and businesses in an uproar. People are slightly grouchy. But I walked around and got fed, and now I’m clean and drinking gallons of Sprite.
This last morning was fun hiking. Easy trail, beautiful river. It kept threatening rain again, but so far it’s still dry.
I hiked fast this morning. Now that the plan is in motion, I just wanted to get my northbound leg finished!
Guess who was in the lobby when I got here? Fifteen! He hiked the last few weeks with Springbock and Kitty and Codger and Trashbag, so it was great to get news about them. We compared notes about various people. Fifteen might flip, but if he does it won’t be until later. He doesn’t have the ‘hiking home’ factor that I have. (Right now, Fifteen’s pack is in my room. He left it here until his wife picks him up later.)
After I checked in, I slackpacked up to the ATC and met the famous Laurie P. Laurie said two interesting things. First, she said that some people will tell me that a flipflop isn’t a true thru-hike. She assured me that as far as the ATC is concerned, it is. (I’m not too worried about that anyway. Anybody who starts denigrating my hike isn’t going to be somebody I’m interested in talking to.) Second, she said the ATC likes it when people flipflop and hike in other ways that are outside the bubble; it reduces the impact. So, look! I have organizational approval, which always makes me happy. 😉
I’ll be ending my hike (if I survive the toughest sections, which are where I’m headed in a couple of weeks) right there at the ATC. Right here in Harpers Ferry, when its getting near Halloween.
Unless I die.
This feels exactly like the first beginning, when I was afraid I wouldn’t get past Neels. Only instead of Blood Mountain, this is Katahdin. Oh, shit. I just scared myself a little.
Back to one day at a time!
So anyway, up in the hiker room at the ATC, Clinker was there. I met her at the Bears Den and we were the only two people at the shelter last night, and we sat on the porch swing there and had a great conversation. She’s ultralight (cuben fiber ultralight) and does big miles. Clinker said she’s not at all excited about reaching the ATC. It feels like just another little town stop to her because it’s not the mathematical halfway point.
Don’t worry, Clinker. I got choked up and excited enough for both of us!
I’m so beat. Guess what I did? I lost my poles for about 3 hours. I just left them downstairs when I checked in. Of course, that’s the problem with using them sometimes but not other times. I don’t automatically reach for them. But I’m worn out to the point where I’m doing stupid things more often than usual.
I have a lot of decisions to make next week. I need to research gear, buy some things, bug spray everything. I’m thinking about taking my stove again.
I have to figure out the resupply issue. I think I go right from Katahdin into the Hundred-Mile Wilderness, where there’s no resupply. (I’ve been going 100 miles between resupplies anyway, but usually with a potential location to top off.)
I managed to get a spot at the AT Lodge in Millinocket for the night of the 13th. It’s the SOBO special—kind of a reverse Hiker Hostel deal. It’s excellent that they had a bunk. That’s two big issues handled. All that’s left is to work out the various buses I’ll need to take. I hope they all run on weekends.
I hiked today, and tomorrow would have been a regular zero, so I’ll update then, too. During the intermission week, I’ll probably just do a couple of updates on the status of things. Then I’ll crank up the updates again when the journey resumes on the 13th. Oh, and heh; from what I’ve been told, the connectivity in Maine makes Virginia look like New York. I hope I don’t vanish for a month then post 30 updates!
Edited to add: Fifteen spent a couple of hours here in my room waiting for his wife. Talk about serendipity! When I arrived at the Hiker Hostel on March 7, Fifteen was there waiting to start his hike. I was starting the next morning. He was nervous and excited, I was nervous and excited… and tonight, there we were again. We talked about all the people, all the hostels, all the situations that happened in March, April, May. It felt like a retrospective—a whole summary of the trail this far. Like that recap episode halfway through a season of a reality show.
So this leg of my hike has been perfectly, magically framed by conversations with a retired gentleman whose trail name happens to be the date of my new beginning.