On the northern terminus of Shenandoah we met up with some more members of Rockman’s clan. Four platinum blonde children met us going southbound wearing signs that read “trail magic” and “cookies.” Rockman and I had been particularly productive making miles in the last few days but he expected to slow down now that he was hiking with his sister. Nothing personal but after a few hundred miles everyone that’s been visited by a friend has slowed down. Even though I really wanted to catch up with the rest of thru tang, Rockman’s sister was delightful and she opened the door to embarrassing information about Rocky that I couldn’t pass up.
Right out of the gate Rockman’s sister was ready. Her pack was light and efficient. She clearly had done her research. She took off our first afternoon and the next day Rock and I didn’t see her until we made camp around 6pm. Rockman’s sister’s enthusiasm and nonchalance with the blister farm that was her feet earned her the name BlisterKrieg. That night she shared a delightful story about the day Rockman was born I’ll never forget and that he never wants to hear again.
You get to come as yourself on the trail and tell people what you want them to know about you. Visitors and family open up an uncontrolled and unpredictable sharing channel I love.
Rockman was born to two delightful missionaries in Africa some 30 or 40 years ago. The village they lived in was small and didn’t have any other white folks other than the Rockman’s. Every new life is celebrated but to the villagers who had never seen a white baby, this was worth extra attention. After he was born he was held high amongst a crowd of over 50 while everyone gasped and cheered for the magic white baby. The story is sweet and gives you a wonderful Lion King of a moment in your head but the treat is how much Rockman disliked and was embarrassed by the tale. You get to come as yourself on the trail and tell people what you want them to know about you. Visitors and family open up an uncontrolled and unpredictable sharing channel I love.
The next day had its own special allure as we entered the roller coaster section of Northern Virginia.
The roller coaster section is 13 miles south of snickers gap that exemplifies the challenges of hiking in the east. Despite the fact that the elevation stays below 1500 ft. and there aren’t many views, a consistent climbing and dropping exhausts hikers faster then one large climb or fall. Throughout the day we would climb for about 15 to 30 minutes and go down hill for the same. The climbs and downhills weren’t debilitating but steep enough to make you pay attention. The difficulty lies in changing so often you challenge your focus and time fades away. Switching so often engages your up hill and down hill leg meat so everything gets consistently used and spent. It was engaging but with only 13 miles to go we took it at a consistent clip and got to the cars in the afternoon. Yet again the road presented many options and distractions. I told myself I was set on continuing to try my luck at a 4 state challenge in the next few daysn (hike through 4 states, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania in 24 hours) but BlisterKrieg opened her home and her pool for the evening. How can someone say no to a private pool in July? I quickly gave up on extra miles and ran away to picturesque Northern Virginia.
I spent the next few hours playing with children in a pool like we were a big family until my hiker hunger forced my path as it does every 100 minutes or so. Quick showers and a spare change of clothes gave Rockman and I a nice Pulp Fiction fashion moment and then we were off to the food. BlisterKreig mastered taco take out and got chipotle for the adults and taco bell for the children (all vegetarian). I took the rare opportunity to taste test the two tiers of taco quality and got dinner from both. I was not surprised to find the Chipotle diverse, fresh, and satisfying and the Taco bell artificial, scary and also satisfying.
I was not surprised to find the Chipotle diverse, fresh, and satisfying and the Taco bell artificial, scary and also satisfying.
We spent the rest of the night listening to all of the children play instruments and sing. All four children showed budding talent with the guitar, an interest undoubtedly spurred from their father’s ridiculous playing ability.
All in all it was a great surprise night under a roof and with a darling family. We can all hike strong and live isolated in our egos and accomplishments in the mountains but everyone needs at least a brief sense of family and support to stay sound. I spent the night in a beautiful pink room that was as cozy as a womb.
The next morning Rockman dropped me off at the trail head so I could get in place for the four state challenge. I hiked a dozen miles then waited at a campsite Rockman and Ziplock would be hitting late. While I was hiking Zippy got picked up after a destination wedding in Panama. I didn’t see them until the next morning but by then I had decided to hike with them to Harper’s Ferry. We had a leisurely sunny day hiking in this funny middle ground between Shenandoah and Harpers Ferry. Thru hiker minds jump from check point to checkpoint without thinking of the days in between.
My camp was perfectly out of sight yet easy to find (not always easy to do with the purple and teal tarp but the DSM set up is too good looking to hide often I.e. Peacock Plumage).
We hit the West Virginia Border and I looked for a camp. I ran up a small ridge and found a place I could set my hammock and a bear line in Virginia. The plan was to make a stealth camp at the Virginia/West Virginia Border, walk into Harpers Ferry with Rockman and zippy (approx. 1.7 miles) for dinner and sight seeing, then return to my camp to catch a few hour of sleep before I started the 4 state challenge.
My camp was perfectly out of sight yet easy to find (not always easy to do with the purple and teal tarp but the DSM set up is too good looking to hide often I.e. Peacock Plumage). I dropped most everything except a small pack of essentials. I hung my food and North we went.
Harper’s Ferry is one of our National Park walk throughs as well as the ceremonial halfway point of the trail. Hikers are encouraged to stop by the AT headquarters to registered and take a picture.
The afternoon we walked into town was July 8, making us the tail end of the thru hikers. I was surprised to see that I was number 1127 to walk from Georgia to Harpers (sort of, by this time I had seen that A LOT of hikers cut corners to make miles. Some with shuttling supplies and others just hitching ahead). I flipped through the scores of albums of every hiker that got there picture at that halfway for decades.
Ziplock, Rockman, and I sauntered around town looking for our best dining option to settle on a pub that we saw first. I felt strong teeing up a large meal and conquering but Rockman for some reason couldn’t seem to put his meal together correctly and have his town meal bliss. We did manage to get inside right before a large storm rolled through town. Whatever a “microburst” really is, it was sending massive winds and colorful thunderstorms around our region. After a harsh rain session I decided to use the break to high tail back to my camp. I hugged Rockman and Ziplock goodbye and turned south alone and back over the Shenendoah into a storm.