top of page

Appalachian Trail: Days 63-73

Day 63 - May 2nd

Daily miles: 20.5

Official distance covered on trail: 884.9

First day in Shenandoah National Park and also first day in my new boots! I have a few small blisters and my arches are sore, but I'm optimistic they'll be broken in soon enough. My last Salomon boots didn't need much time at all, so hopefully these are about the same. Was definitely ready to take them off at the end of the day, though. Since the tread is so new and hasn't worn down yet, I felt my feet assuming different positions than in my old boots - kinda like wearing high heels, but obviously not so high. But my hamstrings were much tighter than normal by the time we reached the shelter.

Today was a perfect day of hiking, despite my sore feet. The weather was mid- to high-70s and sunny, so it was definitely warm, but hardly humid, and when we stopped to take breaks, we didn't have to put coats on to be comfortable! What a concept! The hills were also sooo manageable. Even the longer uphills were pretty gentle, so it wasn't so tough to get through them. A lot of the day was flat or at such gentle elevation changes that it felt flat. Loved that. And it was just pleasant scenery. Saw a lot of wildflowers and birds and greenery. On the lookout for a bear - I know they're here!!

And we got two separate trail magics! One was toward the beginning of the day - totally didn't need it yet, coming from a town day and being only like 5 miles in - and it was a cooler full of pops and beers. There was a walkie talkie on the cooler, and we tried to thank whoever left the cooler, but sadly there was no response. The second trail magic was a cache of water and lemonade jugs around 14 miles into the day, which was left by the people from the hostel we stayed at in Waynesboro. Thank goodness, too, because water was scarce after the first 7 miles.

Day 64 - May 3rd

Daily miles: 21.4*

Official distance covered on trail: 906.3

Ok, so we did a bit less than the 21 miles. Not by a ton, but still less. The frustrating thing about the trail through Shenandoah is that it plays jumprope with Skyline Drive instead of just running parallel, and the park is designed to offer amazing views from the road itself, and you miss the views from the trail, or the views happen when you intersect with the road. I've been to SNP a few times, and the trail doesn't include any of my favorite hikes, and it runs near a bunch of summits but never actual runs along them, so you'd have to go out of your way to see them, and like... we're already hiking so much, another half mile round trip to a summit when you can see a similar view from the road isn't worth it to us. So we road hiked for a substantial part of the day. Honestly no regrets. It only cut off about a mile, too. May do it tomorrow, maybe even through the entire park. To be determined.

After a cloudless and warm day yesterday, it was odd to wake up to rain and fog. We knew it was coming but still. But it was acceptable rain. It never was more than a heavy drizzle. The temperature outside was high enough that the rain wasn't chilling our bones, and it was a good cooling mechanism on the longer uphills. The first good rain we've had! And it stopped by about 10:00, so it wasn't very persistent. Didn't take my rain jacket off until about 3:00, though; didn't want to tempt fate. It rained again after dinner, which totally interrupted euchre, but we were all able to crowd in the shelter and chat for awhile.

Maybe it was just because it was something different than what we normally see, but road walking today was excellent for our mental game. Just something other than the rocky and rooty and stick-y and dirt-y trail and the finally-blossoming trees and occasional patches of grass and wildflowers. Just something else to look at for a change. It was good.

It's now tick-checking season. That and all things buggy is probably the worst part about it getting warmer outside.

Day 65 - May 4th

Daily miles: 20.8

Official distance covered on trail: 927.1

Back to the trail today. It was odd because I started with Mitch, but once he kept going when I stopped to remove my fleece, I didn't see anyone in our party until I got to our destination. I was able to call my sister for some company along the way, but the service was so spotty, we never had more than 20 minutes of consistent conversation. But we tried our damndest.

The hike was fine, but it's hard to push 20 "fine" miles. We were actually supposed to do 3 more than we did; we planned to stop in the lodge on site for dinner and continue on to a shelter, but severe storm/flash flood warnings (and the downpour that began as soon as we stepped inside) motivated us to stay here for the night, even when it was apparent that the weather had passed. We were going to stay in a town on Thursday, but now we just won't. Plus we still hit 20 miles, so a break feels justified enough.

Near the beginning of the day, a section hiker called Goat gave me a tangerine and an apple, which made a wonderful mid-day snack. It was the first time I'd successfully eaten an entire apple - core and all - so I didn't have to carry the weight of the core in my pack.

Day 66 - May 5th

Daily miles: ~20

Official distance covered on trail: 952.9

Today was a weird one for sure. We're all experiencing the effects of the Virginia Blues, and it's manifesting in different ways for all of us. For me, I feel sluggish and irritated. Mitch wants to push extra miles just to get through the damn state. Problem has been feeling tired and unmotivated.

Problem decided today that she's going to take some time off from the trail. She's been feeling like she needs to slow down and take a break for awhile, and unfortunately a lot of us have a very strict deadline that doesn't allow for a ton of extra leeway, so we haven't been able to do that for her as much as she needs. And, since she's taking a break and then easing back into the miles, we all know she isn't going to catch up. I know it's what she needs to do for herself, and I'm glad she's doing what's best for her, but damn it I hate that she's leaving our tramily. Maria, I'm going to miss your chaotic energy and your humor and your strange ability to have a relevant story for every weird occasion. See you back in Columbus, I hope!

Today also kinda sucked for me because I started my period yesterday and my fucking menstrual cup doesn't work for me like it used to. Ever since I got my IUD a year and a half or so ago, my Diva Cup has been leaking. I used to be like a freaking period commercial, able to wear white pants or whatever and not worry about anything, but now it leaks all the time and it makes me so mad. Last week, I bought a new Diva Cup at a CVS to see if maybe my old one was faulty in some way; maybe I just need to try a new brand, but I know now for sure that my old cup wasn't the issue. And I know the issue isn't my IUD string because I had them cut it short so it wouldn't interfere with the suction. So if anyone out there has any advice or suggestions regarding menstrual cups, please let me know, because hiking is hard enough as it is without worrying about fucking period blood.

Mitch and I hiked together all day today, which was a nice change of pace from yesterday's solitude.

About halfway through our hike, we got a much-needed morale boost through some trail magic from Karhop, who thruhiked the AT last year. It was at this picnic area in the park, and we were able to sit down and enjoy chatting over pop and snacks. Conveniently enough, there was a shelter for us to take refuge in when it briefly downpoured, so we were able to avoid getting wet. Super lucky timing!

Girl Scout's boyfriend Joey is visiting for the night, so we're staying in a park-sanctioned campsite instead of one on the trail. Joey picked us up from the road so we didn't have to hike all the way here, which is why the daily miles is a rough estimate. Mitch and I met Joey briefly when he dropped Girl Scout off at the approach trail on day 1, so it was great to officially meet him! He won us over immediately with cupcakes. And his winning personality, but the food did not hurt his likability!

Day 67 - May 6th

Daily miles: 22.5

Official distance covered on trail: 975.4

Despite everything that happened yesterday, today was a great day of hiking. I never really found myself in a bad mood or wishing for the end of the day, even though I started out pretty low energy. I think a lot of it was the easy terrain; even the hardest uphill of the day left me barely sweating, and there weren't any killer downhills either. We finished 12 miles before lunchtime. Even with doing 22 miles today, we were able to stop in town for a little over 3 hours and still make it to our campsite before sunset.

It felt good to feel good. The Virginia Blues have been hitting so hard and so often, sometimes I forget that I actually enjoy this activity.

I think part of it was leaving Shenandoah. SNP is a beautiful park, and I would totally recommend it for a trip, but the AT section of the park was a bit of a letdown. Mostly, it crisscrossed with Skyline Drive way too much. Just make a fucking sidewalk that runs along the road instead of us having to snake back and forth, do pointless climbs to nowhere, only to come back to the road and get the view from there since the views from the trail were blocked by trees. It was also mentally so tough to constantly be near a road and road noise, wheres we're normally pretty isolated from those. Or, if you're going to make us hike separately from the road, at least give us good places to go. We didn't ever hit any summits, but we got near them? Like I'm not going to walk an extra half mile to get to the top of a mountain. Just route us to the summit. The rest of the trail has gone out of its way to bring us to mountaintops, even the pointless ones, but that wasn't the case in SNP. The park's destinations were clearly designed for automobiles and day hikers. I'm used to the trail rewarding our efforts, but the AT was not at all made a priority through the park. Oh and we still haven't seen any bears. People kept saying we probably would in Shenandoah, but it never happened. But I still like the park! Just not the AT part of it.

We stopped in Front Royal, VA to have dinner and resupply. I think this has been my favorite trail town yet! Some recommendations if anyone ever visits the area:

  • Mountain Home Bed & Breakfast. We didn't stay there, but the we had to stop in so Girl Scout could pick up some packages, and they were so kind and hospitable to us, even though they knew we weren't staying. They didn't make Girl Scout pay for holding his packages. They gave us lemonade while we sorted stuff out. They even shuttled us to the main part of town for free (although Girl Scout insisted on paying them, since it was on his behalf that we had to stop in their establishment). Good people, good energy, good stuff all around!

  • Try Thai Restaurant & Sushi Bar. Some of the best Thai red curry I've ever had, and the tofu was really well prepared! Super kind staff, too!

  • C&C Frozen Treats. Get the brownie batter ice cream. That's all.

Also it was super easy to get a hitch back to the trail, which is an A+ in my book. I wish hitching were still a commonplace activity; it's so convenient and you meet some great people! Thanks a lot, Jeffrey Dahmer, for fucking it up for everyone.

Day 68 - May 7th

Daily miles: 20.2

Official distance covered on trail: 995.6

Uneventful day. Not a bad one, but really nothing happened. Only some sprinkles before getting to camp, where it poured. Mitch and I won both games of euchre after dinner. In our sleeping bags before dark because it's so cold.

Tomorrow we have a challenging low mileage day planned, so we have to have energy for that in the morning. Also, we'll hit a big milestone after not getting much of that in awhile!

Day 69 - May 8th

Daily miles: 13.8

Official distance covered on trail: 1009.4

Ohhh baby, today was awesome!

So we hit a section of the trail called The Rollercoaster, named after the 13.5 mile series of short but steep uphills and downhills. We've heard scary things about it, so we stayed at a campsite right before it and planned to do only that section today. Maybe it's the trail legs speaking, but it really wasn't that bad! Like it wasn't the easiest section we've ever done, but it wasn't close to the hardest. Just psyched us out because it has a name.

Also, we hit the 1000 mile mark!! It's been awhile since we've hit a big milestone, so this felt so good. Freaking 1000 miles.

We also took a 3 hour break at a pub about a quarter mile off trail. Did we need to order almost ever fried app on the menu and 3+ drinks per person? No. Was it the best way to spend our afternoon? Absolutely. And we only had 3 miles after that, so it was a perfect break!

AND we actually got a good view toward the end! It's been a minute. Couldn't stay long 'cause we were clearly interrupting a date, but it was a nice spot. Good on that couple for going somewhere other than freaking McAfee's Knob.

Tomorrow, we'll be in Harper's Ferry in West Virginia! Although we won't be done with Virginia just yet... More on that later.

Day 70 - May 9th

Daily miles: 16.6

Official distance covered on trail: 1026.0

Town days are so funny. Even though we had 16 miles of hiking, all I could think was "Can't I just be there now?" Made for a kind of long day, but then we got to spend all afternoon relaxing in Harper's Ferry.

There's something so normal and soothing about ordering pizza and watching hockey and scrolling aimlessly through Instagram while lying in bed. We need the normalcy every now and again.

Day 71 - May 10th

Daily miles: 0.0

Official distance covered on trail: 1026.0

We took the day off to relax because we have a big 24 hours coming up. We hiked a short distance back to the VA/WV border and set up camp there. Tomorrow - or, rather, May 11th at 4:00am through May 12th at 4:00am - we are doing two AT challenges. Because the trail itself isn't hard enough, right?

The one challenge is called the four state challenge. We start in Virginia, get to and through West Virginia, get to and through Maryland, and get to Pennsylvania. That alone is around 43 miles. We're combining that challenge with the 24 hour challenge, in which we hike relatively nonstop for 24 hours and see how far we get. We figure the four state challenge will take way longer than a regular day of hiking anyway so we may as well just keep it going.

We know this is stupid but we're doing it anyway. Tomorrow's entry should be interesting...

Day 72 - May 11th

Four state challenge

Daily miles: 44.3

Official distance covered on trail:

Starting point: 1023.2

Starting time: 4:17am

Ending point: 1067.5

Ending time: 10:48pm

Ouch god fuck damn my hips and feet and legs and body and soul.

So obviously we didn't achieve the 24 hours. In fairness, it's not because we couldn't stay awake; the trail suddenly got really rocky and confusing a few miles from the Maryland/Pennsylvania border and it was treacherous in the dark, and we got lost a few times, so we just decided to call it early. See, we're capable of making good choices!

BUT, we did achieve the 4 states!

Started in Virginia and immediately crossed into West Virginia:

Time stamp: 4:18am

The Byron Memorial Footbridge over the Potomac River was the border between West Virginia and Maryland. Didn't see an official border marker but snapped this photo after looking around a bit:

Time stamp: 5:34am

And then we were just in Maryland basically all day. The state is about 39 miles long so it took awhile. The first few miles were along the C&O Trail, and it just about put me to sleep. All I have from it is this blurry photo:

The key to today was good breaks. We tried to break every 10 miles or so for 30-45 minutes. Honestly I was tired but I felt okay most of the day!

We would have gotten to Pennsylvania earlier but the trail a few miles before the border was soo challenging to navigate in the dark, and we had to take really measured steps over the rocks. If the trail had been daylit during this section, it would have taken us at least an hour less to complete. We almost got lost many times. But eventually, we got to Pennsylvania:

Time stamp: 10:37pm

And now we're also out of the South! Big day.

Today ended on a strange note. I turned my phone off of airplane mode to text my group, since only Mitch and I were hiking together, about our camping plans, and I received a text from my mom saying my grandpa had passed. It's okay - his decline has been ongoing for many years, and he passed peacefully, which is truly the best you can ask for - but it's still the loss of a beloved family member. My family keeps saying, "It's sad, but it's not sad." It felt odd to go immediately from the high of such a huge accomplishment to the low of processing my family's loss, especially while I can't be home. He was an exceptionally charming man with a deep love for his family, a wonderful sense of humor, and an appreciation for red wine that he made absolutely sure to pass onto his kids and grandkids. Cheers to 97 years of Grandpa Ed, who will be sorely missed.

Edmonde DeGreg, 11/21/1923 - 05/11/2021

Day 73 - May 12th

Daily miles: 2.2

Official distance covered on trail: 1069.7

So we had grand plans to do like 20 miles today and get into Fayetteville, PA. I was mentally ready to go, but my body had other plans. I could barely walk today - not out of soreness, but out of actual injury. Every step sent a shooting pain through my left quad and groin area, which was super fun and conducive to hiking. So we decided to take our break in Washington DC a few days early and just extend our days off. We need it. Never walk 45 miles in one day, folks. Only worth it for the bragging rights.

We'll be getting back to the trail Monday. For those asking what we'll be doing in DC, the answer is, nothing. Sitting on the couch and watching tv and sleeping in. We'll come back and enjoy the city another time. See ya after some much-needed rest and zeroes.


Follow my hike!

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page