Monday, June 15, 2009

Halfway, well almost

I made it to Harpers Ferry, WV, the psychological halfway point for most thru-hikers. The actual halfway point is about 75 miles north in PA but because Harpers Ferry is home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters and is the closest large town near the true halfway point, it is most often celebrated as a major milestone. The AT passes next to the beautiful, historic downtown Harpers Ferry. Nicole picked me up from there on Saturday afternoon for my much anticipated week off! I'm getting back on the trail June 23 and hope to meet up with some hikers I left behind early in the trip.
In the past week I have hiked 160 miles completing the entire Shenandoah National Park in 4.5 days. I left Waynesboro, VA last Sunday where I met a great group of people. We would go on to hike all the way into Harpers Ferry together. I saw the most wildlife in the Shenandoah's then anywhere else. Here's a list: tons of deer, 1 bear, timber rattlesnake, 5 black snakes, 2 copperheads, and 1 mountain lion. A group I was hiking on and off with was Wheeler and his chocolate lab Winston, Rainman and Ahab, they saw 7 bears in one day in the park! The most exciting adventure in the Shenandoah's was the attempt at a 24 hour hike. Bonesey, Wampus Cat, Fat Kid, Huck Finn and myself got off to an early start that morning but because there are these stores/restaurants located throughout the park we became easily distracted by long lunches so by 8pm we had only walked about 22 miles. We ate dinner (smores) and started the night hike by 9pm. There was a full moon that night but was too low on the horizon so headlamps were required. Within 15 minutes of our hike we heard a bear grunting in the woods to our right. As the night grew darker more eyes began to appear in the woods, mostly deer but we did get a quick glimpse of a mountain lion before it disappeared into the woods. By 1am we found ourselves lying on Skyline Drive staring at the stars and dreading the next few miles. We finally got moving again, Bonesey was now leading the group. He had darted ahead about 20 yards ahead of us when we all of sudden heard a loud and steady hsssssssssss and then saw Bonesey jump off to the side of the trail. I was in the back of the group and was trying to figure out what was going on up ahead of me. As I got along side the group I looked to the spot where four other headlamps were shining and saw a very angry rattlesnake. It was coiled up but still facing Bonesey. It was rattling so fast that it sounded like a steady hssssssssss. Apparently, Bonesey accidentally stabbed it with his trekking pole but managed to escape without injury. We set up camp shortly after and were sound asleep on a ridge by 2 30am.
Shortly after leaving the Shenandoah's, Bonesey and I had a nice surprise from a friend of mine from graduate school at UNCW, Clay Morris. Clay lives about 10 minutes from the trail and earlier in my trip he had offered to pick me up when I got close to his home. Bonesey and I heard t-storms and flash floods were expected in the area so I gave him a call and before we knew it we were sitting down to a pork roast dinner! It was great to catch up with Clay and spend time with his wife and kids, thanks again Clay!
So now I have a little over a week to rest up for the last half of the AT which I here is the best half. If anyone needs me I will be by the pool, seriously, Nicole has a pool at her house!


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