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.