Finally got out of Virginia! It only took about a month and a half, but afterwards West Virginia passed quickly with only 17 miles, then Maryland, and now in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.
Last update was from Waynesboro, VA just before the aquablaze. Hiking the AT is known as Whiteblazing because the trail is marked with white blazes on trees, while aquablazing is the term used for paddling the river. The South Fork River runs from Waynesboro into the Shenandoah River and can be paddled all the way to Harper's Ferry, WV. That was the plan atleast.
Smitter, a friend of mine on the trail bought an inflatable 6-person boat at the outfitter in Waynesboro. We wanted to go all the way to Harper's Ferry, but it didn't happen. It was Smitter, Coozie, Darwin, and me with all of our gear in the boat, while Hermes was in a kayak he bought.
We put in about 20 miles north at Port Republic and made it up the river about 50-60 miles or so over four and a half days. Lots of neat sights, walking over river rocks, and a run in with the game warden later, we had an unrepairable leak in the bottom. We were not so much losing air, as it was filling with water and becoming incredibly slow to paddle. We made it all the way to Luray, VA, where we got off at the Luray Dam.
Hermes kept on going and probably paddled all the way into Harper's Ferry. The rest of us stayed a night at the highly overpriced Best Western. It didn't even have the free breakfast of stale donuts and coffee like other cheaper hotels. Smitter and I stayed for a zero while Coozie and Darwin headed out early in the morning, but luckily Maps and DR caught up the next afternoon after actually hiking the Shendandoahs. We saw a couple movies and had a good time. We got back on the trail in Front Royal, VA after hearing that the trail was closed due to fires.
Hiked a couple days out of Front Royal and ended up getting a hitch to the Horshoe Curve grill and bar with Cheeze-Wiz and Apollo. It was nice place with good burgers and happened to have a bluegrass band, Banana Express playing that night. We hung out for awhile as a large storm blew in, taking out the power for all around and blowing down trees everywhere as the band kept playing all night.
We had no plans on where to stay that night, thinking worse case scenario would be a three mile hike in a thunderstorm at night up the mountain to the next campsite. Luckily, just before closing we met James who offered to let us camp in his buddy Drew's lawn and stay for a big party the next day. We could'nt say no.
The party was pretty awesome with a cool band playing, and Drew smoked an entire pig. It was said to weigh about 150lbs. I hadn't seen an entire pig roasted before, but it turned out great. We were able to just reach in and grab chucks of meat right off of it. The three of us stayed the next night too and spent most of the day just watching movies.
We hit the trail Sunday night about 9pm for a night hike after it finally cooled off some. The weather has been about 100 degrees everyday for way too long. The heat index was said to be 114F. We FINALLY made it out of VA a little bit before midnight, at the 1000 mile mark. Seeing the sign for West Virginia is a great milestone. We hiked until about 2am to get to the free hostel at the Blackburn AT Center. It was a nice place and hung out the next day to wait out the heat for more night hiking.
We got into Harper's Ferry on July 3 and headed to the ATC Headquarters to get our pictures taken for the records. Harper's Ferry is considered to be the mental halfway point because it is a major milestone, but the real halfway point is about 70 miles up in Pennsylvania, and varies with the length of the trail each year.
Harper's turned out to be pretty lame. Aside from the ATC center, the rest of the town is just kitschy tourist stores selling overpriced knick-knacks. I had hoped it would be more interesting and hiker friendly. The outfitter turned out to mostly sell t-shirts and didn't live up to the good stories I had heard. The Townsend Inn was pretty neat, it is a very old building and had cheap ice cream, but the hostel bunks were too expensive to consider.
After leaving VA, the trail gets a lot easier. The heat is by far the hardest thing to deal with. The terrain is a lot flatter, but still rocky. PA is said to be horrible, nothing but pointy rocks, rattlesnakes, poison ivy, and no shade. We will see. Hopefully it won't live up to its reputation.
Lots of people have dropped and gone home, especially around Harper's Ferry. It is sad, but I hope to keep in touch and see them sometime in the future.