Day 110: Side trip

Manassas Gap Shelter [mile 975.8]

After yesterday’s 17-mile deathmarch, I knew there’d be a price to pay. And the price came this morning when I simply couldn’t wake up. I lay there for a while, a long while, listening to the distant train whistle and chug. And I suddenly had the thought That’s Amtrak. That’s Amtrak out of Harpers Ferry. You can be done with all this. You can go home, where there’s a shower and food and a refrigerator and a computer and friends and family and a bed. And just like that, I was done. I’ll go home, I thought. I was so certain I was done that I texted my brother when I got a burst of service and told him I thought I was coming home from Harper’s Ferry. But then, as usual, as the day wore on, and especially once I had internet and could read the comments here, and once I got out of the brutal heat and ate most of a half-pound burger, I was back on the fence.

In short: I have no idea what I’m going to do or when I’m going to do it. I’m so filled with indecision that I’m making Hamlet look like General Patton. I could get off the trail at the psychological halfway point, Harpers Ferry, 1000 miles. I could get off the trail at the physical halfway point a week or so later. Or I could flipflop at either point. Or I could just keep going north from sheer momentum (and be about 200 miles short of Katahdin when the park closes).

Whatever I do, it’ll look impulsive. When I’m tired of the trail, I’m in the woods and there’s no train. When there’s a train, I’m in town so the hiking doesn’t seem so painful. See what happens? One of these days, I think, I’ll be tired of the trail and actually in a place with a train. Then boom!

But I don’t know.

Any way it goes I’ll be proud to have made it to HF. And, by the way, to not have been one of the people who quit in Virginia. So take that, you rotten stinking Virginia blues!

Anyway, I’d pretty much decided I was done. I got packed up and spotted a bear 50 yards from my tent, running away. I guess he didn’t see the memo that bears earn a stipend for staying in Shenandoah and being cute for the tourists. They’re Park Service employees, you know.

I hiked the two or three miles to the supershelter. It was nice! But honestly? It was just a shelter with some porch chairs. The privy stank worse than most, and apparently the solar shower wasn’t working. Even at 10 AM it was full of mullets. They were discussing bass riffs, man, and listening to music. I think they may have been zeroing there. (And nothing against the mullets; they’ll probably all make it to Katahdin after my busted-up body has stopped being willing to endure.)

While I was at the supershelter, I decided that if I was going home at Harpers Ferry, I might as well slow down for the last few days and not kill myself in the heat. Go shelter to shelter (ie, 8-mile days), with cheeseburgers where I could get them. There was a restaurant listed at 1.2 miles from a road crossing. In the old days (ie, yesterday), I never would have wasted 2.4 miles! But I did it today. Only it turned out to be closer to 2.5 miles from the trail, so 5 miles overall; it took over an hour, a broiling roadwalk, to get there. (The trail guide has been pretty quirky in Virginia; feels like it desperately needs an update. Even I wouldn’t have wasted 5 miles for a burger!) But the burger was excellent! And being out of the sun, eating protein, drinking some icy cold Cokes, texting with Blackbird and other people and updating the blog… well, suddenly I didn’t feel the strong desire to leave at Harpers Ferry. I was back to wanting to flip, lol!

It’s the heat and the feet. And new shoes are coming to HF.

Affer that I schlepped another hour and a half back to the trail and hiked uphill almost to the shelter. It thundered and lightninged and rained a little. Some hikers passed me in full rain gear and asked if the shelter was far. Section hikers, I thought. Most thru hikers don’t bother with rain gear anymore unless it’s cold—and it was hardly even raining. My shorts weren’t even wet.

I pitched my tent at a site right at the side trail to the shelter. There’s water here, it was flat; why walk all the way down? No bears, I hope. I did see one chipmunk.

And here I am! It’s supposed to be something like 90, 91, 92 for the next three days (today was 87) with a chance of thunderstorms. How far will I get? I have no freaking idea! Things change minute to minute… if not second to second.

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Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “Day 110: Side trip

  1. What ever you do, you will be my inspiration next year.
    Ed

  2. Bill

    Keep going. Then flip flop. Odyssa has done it both ways

  3. Beth

    Whatever you do, few can claim what you have done so far, not only for yourself but countless others including me. I have enjoyed your trail, the honesty, the beauty, I’ll follow along for as long as you want to go. Hike your own hike and thanks for sharing every mile of it with us.

  4. Blackbird

    My two cents. I got caught in the heat in Va., (In JULY, no less!) and had to get out of that badness. When I stepped onto the trail in North Adams, Mass., it was like a whole new hike. When I stopped walking, I could actually cool down in the cooler air when I stopped for a break. It was amazing. It was still, you know, hiking in summer, but without that suffocating wool blanket of heat and dampness over me all the time. The 20-somethings can power through it, but not me and probably not you.

    If I were you — and I’m not, thank the hiking gods — maybe I’d jump the train at Harpers, go home for a week, rest and recoup, then jump up north. You could always return to Harpers in the fall, after the north is done, and hike north again to finish the section. Remember how everyone is a section hiker until they reach the sign on Katahdin. But section hiking never gets easier, just harder as your body grows softer, your feet grow tender, your muscles lose tone. Now is the time. This is your time.

    Your ambivalence surely grows out of the heat and the exhaustion. Do not go quiet into the good couch. It is only soft there. You are a champion, my friend.

    • I love that. Cool air! I forget what it’s like! Of course, having done the winter thing earlier, I refuse to be too whiny about being hot.

  5. Bill

    Not saying you are odyssa. Just trying to give a bit of inspiration. She has inspired me in the past and I have done what I thought I could not. Good luck. You have done great

  6. Marge

    Having never been a thru hiker of the AT, I really cannot give you advice. But, my friend, I did go back to your Post for Day 18, entitled Wiggy! He told you it is all mental, barring a bad injury, it is ALL mental! You really respect him and all he had to say. Maybe you should stop thinking (as in an upside down sign that really means stop thinking). it’s sitting on the couch at RSL (upside down), in honor of Karma! Not saying to go into a fog, either! No black or white thinking, “stay gray in today!” Geez, even I liked that one! They told me that if I could do 13 miles , then I could do 26. Could it be that if you do 1000+, you can do 2000+?? Love you

  7. Karmajunior

    Your brother is prepared to meet you at the station, he is also prepared to have ice cream with you in PA and hug you like a . . . hugging thing in New England. Your achievement is gargantuan already so he will support what makes you the happiest. Just sayin’

  8. jack

    Great journal! The heat &humidity will affect your feelings.When you feel crappy,take a nero.

  9. Mary Miller

    Linda what ever you decide…go….stay you are to be SO admired!!! As we know, life is constantly full of “decisions” and they are up to us. After that, it’s out of our control. Be well, be safe~

  10. You totally amaze me, and if ever I needed a hero, it’s now…tag, you’re it!

  11. Kelsie

    Just wanted to send you some encouragement! Whatever you decide to do you should be proud of yourself! I’ve greatly enjoyed your journal thus far. Thanks for allowing all of us to follow along on the adventure!

  12. Shari WB

    Honestly, from what I am reading between the lines, my opinion, if I were so brave as to be in your shoes, is to make the easiest-to-plan flip. The flip that needs the least amount of maneuvering. But flip none-the-less. Don’t quit. Imagine walking the rest of the trail HOME! πŸ™‚

    It’s what I learn from running – don’t think of the full run – break it up into small parts (to the next mile marker.. to the next portapotty… to the turn in the trail.) At any time I can stop but I never think “I’m done” until my body actually stops.

    Just don’t let your mind worry about it – just focus on today – you know… the old Serenity prayer 50 times in a row…

    And they’re right – you are AMAZING no matter what your choice is.

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