May 10th, 2017
Tom & Molly Denton Shelter to Morgan Mill Stream
Jim & Molly Denton Shelter is definitely one of the nicer shelters on the entire trail. It had a porch, eating area, well built fire pit, and the shelter itself was had bunks and more efficient spacing than older shelters. It’s definitely worth staying in, just don’t get there in the dark so you can enjoy some of the amenities!
We woke up in lower spirits than we normally do on the trail, namely because of how the previous night was such a failure. I’m not sure why it effected us all so much, but wasting all that time in town to see the movie, only to not see it, and then have to night hike out with that hanging over your heads…it just sucked. By I digress, we are literally on vacation, so let’s not get too hang dog. Dawg.
Legs and I set off in the usual way; second to last. You know us, we hate a fast morning. We strolled omg the moderately easy terrain, up and down, until hitting a clearing where sat Machine on a bench, legs crossed, and reading a book.
He looked so serene and calm, and I seriously envied his ability to stop and sit still during the day. For me, I can’t help it but try and hike the miles as fast as possible. I want to hike at least 3 mph if I’m hiking, and I want to get it done, get to camp, and then chill. HARD. The difference in hiker style is amazing. Machine has the innate ability to look like he has reached a state of nirvana, while on the inside, I know him to be quite the stormy individual. He’s a good chap, maybe we will hike other trails together in the future (we do).
Leaving Machine, we made our way down to Manassas Gap, and then of course, up to Manassas Gap Shelter. Such is the way of the AT, up and down, endlessly. These climbs and descents do have a purpose though.
Our Tramily has a sort of morning routine, like an airport. The trail is the runway, and the hikers are the planes. First out is usually Lumber Jill and/or Oz. For some reason, despite almost 1000 miles, and them ALWAYS arriving to camp first, they still think they are slow hikers who will be left behind unless they leave 2 hours before everyone else.
Machine is usually next out, but he’s a floater for sure. It’s hard to pinpoint what he’s going to do in a day. He’s Machine, so he will hike 30 miles in a day if he has to, or he’ll stop on a bench for a good read.
Next out is usually a mix of Strider, Winter, and Stache. Strider, one of the faster hikers I know, is plagued with hiker zoomies, and will occasionally work himself up into hiking like a maniac. Still, he doesn’t need to be the FIRST one from camp. Winter and Stache are little harder to put your finger on, as they are both enigmas wrapped in mystery, and dusted with a little essence of Bermuda Triangle. I’ve seen Winter walking south with a blissful look on her face. I’ve seen Stache hike as fast as anyone, and I’ve seen him look like he’s about to sink into the stone he’s sitting on. In the end, they are always at camp, somewhere usually in the middle of the crew.
Next out are yours truly, Darwin and Legs, and half the time, Wet Wipes. Why are we usually in the second to last group to leave? Well firstly, we are fast. We can hike around 3 mph in this relatively easy Virginia terrain. Secondly, I’m not breaking an endless amount of spider webs with my face. That’s what the early bird go getters deserve! Also we enjoy a calm, relaxed morning. Get off our backs! Jeez.
Finally, always last out, Glim Glom. Glom is a fucking legend when it comes to leaving camp. We’ve left at 11am some mornings and he was still in his hammock. I’ve heard him say proudly, “I’m not leaving until at least noon.” He’s been known to ponder night hiking, so as not to leave camp too early. Like I said, legend.
At some point during the later part of the day, Wet Wipe’s, Strider, and I all grouped up and decided to take a break, letting Legs go on ahead. Our plan was to chill for a while, then hike as hard as we could to try and catch her. It was during this planning that Wipes almost choked on some Oreos, and began stuffing gummy snacks into his hip belt pocket. “For quick access.”
Well we waited too long and despite hiking hard never caught Legs, who had gotten to our campsite for the night, Morgan Mill Stream. There are several flat areas, though the quality of this site was somewhat lacking. Think rocky and rooty. But the stream was lovely, and we had taken advantage of the amazing weather. It feels so good to hike 20 miles or more in a day.
Some of the latter end of the tramily, like Stache and Machine, decided they were going to cowboy camp, despite the poor weather prediction incoming that night. What’s the worst that could happen?
May 11th, 2017
Morgan Mill Stream to Bear’s Den Hostel
Well, the worst happened. The downpour began sometime around 5am, and those who had cowboy camped had to make quick moves to stay dry. Stache and Machine just got up and left. Lumber Jill took her tent down under Wet Wipes’ hammock tarp. Like literally next to him as he slept, to stay dry. Oz could be heard in her tarp tent trying to muster up the motivation to get out. Strider was saying that we MUST reach Harper’s Ferry because he had mile fever. And Glim Glom was pleasantly asleep, with an early afternoon departure likely.
You should have seen us all. Failures. The previous day, we bragged about bagging another 20+ mile day. We made big plans about ‘crushing’ the remaining 26 miles into Harper’s Ferry, hitting 1000 miles, and setting ourselves up for the quad state challenge.
Hard cut to us now. Scattered, and not wanting to hike a single mile. Thankfully, the rain died down enough for Legs and I to pack up and leave, our usually airport schedule totally destroyed!
The rain, of course, came back. Those grand plans of a 26 mile day began to fade fast, especially after pulling up to a shelter 3 miles into the hike to find Stache totally unpacked and in his sleeping bag. He had made it 3 miles, and would only make it three miles that day.
We continued on eventually, when another sucker hole appeared in the clouds. A sucker hole for those who do not know, are little gaps in storms that ONLY SUCKERS WOULD TRUST. We were suckers, and the rain came back, drenching us again to the bone.
On top of the rain, we were on a particularly annoying stretch of the trail called, The Rollercoaster. It is a series of POINTLESS ups and downs in quick, steep, succession like a stupid rollercoaster, except way more rocky, and you’re powering yourself. It wasn’t a pleasant time to hike it.
After 6 miles, through the mist, we saw something large, made of stone, and more importantly, roofed. We made for it, like moths to a flame, believing it to be the well known hiker hostel The Bears Den. We knocked on the door and became the fastest patrons that hostel had seen in some time. It was WELL WORTH the money spent. For $30 the hostel offered pizza, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, breakfast, laundry and showers. Totally worth it.
P.S. THEY ALSO HAD BOOT DRIERS!!!!
P.P.S. We hit 1000 miles on this 6.6 mile day. We are dynamic hiking machines.
May 12th, 2017
Bear’s Den Hostel to Harper’s Ferry
Bear’s Den Hostel is a mega vortex, and I could see hikers getting lost in it’s soft beds, and fresh baked cookies that seemed to constantly be around. I was quite ready to eat the lotuses and stay forever, but Legs mentioned something about Maine, and wondering where the tramily was.
Well as an update, this is what happened of our, ‘Everyone is Doing 26 Miles to Harpers Ferry Plan.” Stache made it 3 miles to the first shelter he found after being forced to get up by the rain, and never left. Machine vanished, and to this day I have no idea where he slept that night. Legs, myself, and Wet Wipes all ditched at 6.6 miles and went to Bears Den. Oz, Glim Glom, Lumber Jill, and Winter, made it about 14 miles to a shelter and bailed there. The only one to make it to Harper’s was Strider. Mile fever will do that to a perfectly sane person. Walking a marathon in the rain…what the hell is wrong with him?!
I need to mention something now, as we are soon approaching the end of Virginia. At 550 miles, it is a quarter of the trail, and can be really daunting. From the first day in VA to the last, we have binged all 7 Harry Potter audiobooks. As we hiked our last day in VA, the last of the Harry Potter books played over our tiny speaker. What an accomplishment! We are almost done with Harry Potter, I mean Virginia!
They day was not nearly as wet as the previous, but it was still cold and wet, with scattered showers here and there. After leaving the comfort of the hostel, and realizing we would have to hike a 20 to reach HF, and the weather had barely improved, Legs and I were in bad moods.
From Legs on this day” Sometimes it’s hard hiking with a partner. Especially if one of them (me) is much slower than the other. Darwin had a hard time staying behind me today, which is totally understandable. I would be annoyed too at times if the person I hiked behind wasn’t able to keep up a pace suitable for my own athletic abilities. However with great patience and understanding of the fact that I didn’t want to injure myself, Darwin stayed with me and listened to HP, while loving the fact that he’s hiking with his most beloved. “
Yea we argued a lot that day.
With the greatest feeling of relief, we walked into Harper’s Ferry. The trail is a little road walk through the historic town, and it passes some American ‘ruins’, before crossing hte Potomac and entering West Virginia. We also saw a few beavers and goslings, and the weather improved. Things were looking up!
HF is a posh little town, nestled between the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. There aren’t many options there for the economic hiker, but the Italian/pizza place was very good. We also stayed at a hiker hostel, but I am blanking on it’s name. We would nero here tomorrow, to set up for the ‘quad’ state challenge. Not everyone in the tramily was attempting this challenge, and those who were all had different ideas.
Some like Strider, Wet Wipes, Machine, and Glim Glom, actually hiked backwards around 2 miles to start at the official VA/WV border, making it the real QUAD state challenge. Legs and I are not sick, twisted individuals and thus did not back track and chose to start the hike from Harper’s Ferry, not giving us the QUAD state designation, but still clocking us in at over 40 miles.
Oz and the rest of the tramily didn’t care about the challenge and hiked the stretch in two days. They caught us after all the 40ers took a zero, essentially hiking the same distance in the same amount of time as those who did it in two easy days. But, but, challenge, but but quad state, but but. No one cares dude. We are on vacation hiking. Nothing matters.
This was a pretty lazy, and uneventful day. We registered at the Appalachian Trail Head Quarters, ate a ton of Italian food at the restaurant, and then began looking for a stealth camp.