Hello! Sorry for the month long hiatus, had a hard time getting to a computer. Last time I checked in I was in Damascus, VA, and I have since hiked some 375+ miles to my current location in Waynesboro, VA. The last month has gone by crazy fast with some ups and downs, but mostly ups:) Unfortunately, Pac-man, Hollywood and Flugelhorn have decided to get off the trail permanently. They were offered awesome Wilderness Ranger jobs that were too good to pass up. We are all really excited for them but also sad not to be hiking with them anymore. Daystar, Gribley, Pants, Lighthouse and I have carried on. I'm not really sure how to recap the last month, Virginia is a long state and I feel as though I've been in it forever. Some hikers have definitely got the "Virginia Blues" and I think we did for a few days as well. As we become stronger hikers (we are consistently doing 18-24 miles a day now), the challenges we face are more mental. The honeymoon period is over for a lot of hikers and they are slowly get sick of being out here. I have definitely had my days where I wake up and have no desire to strap all of my belongings to my back and hike over mountains all day. But despite our 'blue period' I still love being out here and VA has been good to me. Even on the totally shit days you just have to say to yourself, 'well, f*ck that day, there will be new days." Somehow sleep cures everything. Days that my ankle hurts so bad and I'm tired and wet and eating another fricken Pasta Side and I go to bed thinking how long will I be able to do this - but you wake up and your body feels a bit better and birds are chirping and you get to enjoy your coffee while looking at an amazing view of the mountains, and you start to wonder about what you're going to see today or who you'll meet or where you'll end up and you start to get excited again. I think if you lose that excitement, maybe it is time to get off. I hope I never do.
Despite the boring rainy beginning of VA, we have been having a good time - some of Gribley's friends came to hike with us for a few days and it was awesome introducing the trail to them. Daystar's sister has joined us as well and will be hiking with us for another couple of weeks. We stayed at an amazing farm called Woods Hole before heading back to Damascus for Trail Days. The energy at this hostel was so healing, and it was one of my favorite places so far on the trail. It was a very relaxing place to chill before heading to the madness that was Trail Days. Trail Days is a three day hiker festival that takes place in Damascus (we had to drive back to it as we were about 200 trail miles past). I got some gear repaired, ate, drank and was merry:) There was a 'hiker parade' in which all the current and previous years thru-hikers walk down the main street and have a water fight with the locals. It was basically a 3,000 person water balloon fight and it was awesome. There was also a hiker talent show - some of it was great, some was a great showcase as to why none of us have jobs and live in the woods.
After Trail Days we got dropped back where we left off and climbed up to McAfee knob (that's the pic where I am dangling off the edge that everyone is freaking out about, it's ok I won't fall). We watched the sunset up there and all seemed right with the world. We have been exposed to some phenomenal views lately, and some stupidly hot weather. It's amazing how something as simple as a gust of wind can change your life for just a second. Virginia has also given me my first bears! I've seen two now, and am no longer afraid of them as they seem to be more afraid of me. Virginia is also home to the Devil's Backbone Brewing Co., the most magical place on earth. This brewery picked the 5 of us up at the trailhead for free and took us to their brewery where I ate the most ridiculous thing I've ever eaten: 1/2lb burger topped with a pile of pulled pork, bacon, cheese, an onion ring and of course BBQ sauce. It started raining while we were there so the brewery guys let us sleep on their enclosed outdoor patio, started a fire in the pit for us, and gave us two free growlers of beer. What generous (and trusting) people to just pick up strangers out of the woods, give them a bunch of beer and leave to let them sleep at their place of business. The beer was good too:)
We made our way to Waynesboro, where I met up with my dad (he is a little over 100 miles ahead, he rented a car and drove back to hang for a few days). Yesterday we went to Monticello and to the Luray Caverns. It was so nice to see him and to take a break from the trail, but I am so ready to get back in the woods. I'm not sure I like the outside world as much as I used to and I far prefer the woods for the time being. I'm a day behind my friends, so I will hike faster to try and catch up, but I am looking forward to having a few days on my own. I usually hike alone during the day and we meet up for breaks/camp so it will be nice to have a few nights to myself....I say this skeptically as I am about to enter Shenandoah National Park (Blue Ridge mountains, Shenandoah River, John Denver and all that), and it is notoriously crowded with tourists. I should be hitting Harpers Ferry, WV in 9ish days, known as the mental halfway point of the AT. I couldn't be more excited!!!!! I still have a long way to go......but I've got 842.3 miles under my boots. Only 1341.9 to go!!