17. Pringles

DAY 88 and 89

The last 2 days were extremely weird.  I found it very hard to get a hitch back to the trail where I got off as it’s a toll road and the driver would have had to pay $20 to enter the national park.  I ended up getting a ride much further down the trail and with much deliberation I decided to hike south instead of north so that I didn’t miss the miles.  Made me feel very virtuous.  The trail was very bland today, and hiking in the opposite direction was disorientating, I dont think it helped that it was all uphill. I passed many familiar faces who all protested I was going the wrong way. I camped close enough to town that I could hear the 4th of July funzies, there was a brass band playing the stars wars theme and it made me chuckle in my sleeping bag.

After another weird southbound day I got myself back on track.  I spent an unexpected zero day in Front Royal,  it was my first real zero miles day in about a month.  I was able to sit in bed,  eat food and watch telly whilst it poured with rain outside,  exactly how bad weather days should be spent.

Day 91

Front Royal to Manassas Gap Shelter. 10.7 miles.

Because of all the rain and storms, it’s so humid. It’s about 95 degrees (35 Celsius) and 80% humidity. Within half a mile I had sweat running off my elbows and my glasses kept steaming up until finally I just took them off and hiked blind for a while.  The trail turned extremely rocky and it took me a minute to realise why it was taking me so long to make progress, I couldn’t see!! Parts of the trail were very well behaved,  the flattest trail I have ever had, with huge and imposing poplar trees lining my route.


Unfortunately the trail inevitably always goes up,  just under 1000ft but I felt every one of them.  I had to stop about a mile from the shelter which is unheard of for me,  I’m a plow on regardless kind of girl, but I had nothing left in my tank. I sat directly on the trail to eat some salty snacks.  The last mile was horrendous on my achillies and I was so relieved to get to camp.  I quickly pitched my tent and got my camp chores done. At 8:15pm I’m in bed hardly able to keep my eyes open!!

Day 92

Manassas Gap Shelter to Rod Hollow Shelter.  12.9 miles.

Today I cried a lot.  I cried because I was sad and missed home,  I cried because I fell over and bashed my knee,  I cried because I kept tripping and felt so clumsy,  I cried because my achillies is really bad and I mostly cried because I couldn’t get a damn Coldplay song out of my head and quite frankly I hate Coldplay!! Today was long and so very hot,  the humidity just sucks all of your energy. There were no nice views, just miles and miles of a green tunnel.

Day 93

Rod Hollow Shelter to Bears Den Hostel. 9.8 miles.

Bold statement: Today was some of the hardest miles I have ever hiked.  I entered what is lovingly called the roller-coaster,  it’s 14 miles of relentless mountain climbing,  9 peaks, no switchbacks,  straight up and straight down, rocks and boulders everywhere.  It was easily 100degrees, I felt like I was in the Hunger Games!

Sophie Neverclean 

There were several saviours to the day,  firstly I came across some epic trail magic. Parents of another hiker had set up at a dirt road crossing with cold beverages,  veggie chips and snacks galore, it was so wonderful.

Trail magic 

Secondly I passed the 1000 mile mark!  WHAT?!? I think I just hiked 1000 miles,  how ridiculous!

Lastly after dragging myself up the last mountain of the day, I’m very serious when I say dragged, it took me nearly an hour to climb 0.6 of a mile, I arrived at Bears Den Hostel. For a small fee you can stay or camp, use the shower and laundry facilities, they had frozen pizza you could cook and a lounge with sofas to chill on. I miss chairs with backs so much,  on the trail you either sit on the ground or if you are lucky the shelter may have a picnic table.  The hostel was everything I wanted after the hellscape of the day.  Today could have been terrible, but as much as it tried it just wasn’t. I was physically challenged beyond anything I’ve put my poor body through before but somehow I was exhilarated. The evening was spent with some great people, up until recently I’ve felt like a hiker imposter, like everyone else was legit and I was just pretending, but today I was one of them, a hiking viking!


Day 94

Bears Den Hostel to David Lesser Memorial Shelter.  11.4 miles.

I had a great pancake breakfast before leaving the hostel this morning, what luxury! The first part of the days hike was equally as brutal as yesterday,  the serious sweating has of course brought out the best in my skin, my leg rash is back with vengeance, but after 4 miles, a great snack with a view and the end of the roller-coaster,  I was finally done with Virginia!!!!!! Virginia has held 544 miles of the AT containing both my very worst and most bestest parts of the trail. I am so thankful to have reached this state line,  it’s through sheer stubbornness and determination that I’ve even made it here.

Not many minutes later the heavens opened and it downpoured,  for once I let it fall on me, I made no attempt to stay dry, grateful for the coolness and relief from the heat.  I was rewarded for my positivity about the weather with a trail centre where I was able to snag a free cherry soda to drink with my lunch. The rest of the miles seemed down right easy and uneventful in comparison to the last few days and I breezed the final 4 miles. The shelter I’m camping at tonight is one of the very best I have stayed at.  It has a porch with benches, the tent sites are all flat,  and there is a separate covered cooking pavilion with a porch swing which is where I’m sat writing my blog tonight.

Day 95

David Lesser Memorial Shelter to Harpers Ferry.  9.4 miles.

Great nights sleep last night,  I felt very at peace,  the trail the last few days has been so very challenging,  possibly the most challenging this far and I just feel so accomplished.  I guess now is a good time to announce that I’m ending my trail journey here in Harpers Ferry,  the spiritual half way mark of the AT.  Apart from the fact I’m considerably more broken than I care to admit,  I actually feel good, not great but good about this being my destination. The trail has become my tube of pringles (who doesn’t love a crisp metaphor)  if you eat half the tube you can put the lid on and save the the rest for another time,  you feel good about your decision and so does your body.  There are times when you look down in the tube and think well,  I’ve gone this far, I may as well finish the damn tube! The second half is never as tasty, tainted with guilt, leaving you with a very uncomfortable feeling.  I fear the ‘well I may as well carry on’ mentally will not only break me but leave a bad taste in my mouth about the trail. Right now the trail is still magical and wonderful to me but I’ve been hiking in considerable pain for several hundred miles because I’m too damn stubborn to stop, but I want to be the one to make the decision,  I do not want to be thrown off. I know you will all say nice things because you are all wonderful and your support has been my only form of sanity some days but I can’t help but feel I am letting people down. Once I have had time to think about the last 3 months I will dedicate a post to this decision, hopefully with more profound things to say that aren’t about snacks.

My final hike into Harpers Ferry was great, I got to pass another state line between Virginia and West Virginia and everything smelt wonderful from the rain.

Harpers Ferry holds the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the head office of the trail if you will.  I was able to have my pic taken for this year’s hiker log.

I couldn’t be luckier or richer in friends, Willow who has been my adventure partner, cheerleader and rock throughout my journey joined me for my last few miles of my trail journey.  We hiked to the Maryland state line, ending how we started,  scared, clueless,  but overwhelmingly happy.

16. Getting into the groove

Day 79

Rockfish Gap to Calf Mountain Shelter.  7.6 miles.

Great news,  I got my replacement mattress pad in the post today, mine has had a puncture in it for several weeks meaning that overnight it deflates and I end up with my old lady bones on the ground, I’m excited about the prospect of a full nights sleep.

Coming out of town I always do a short mileage day as my pack is always at its heaviest. The terrain and trail was well behaved,  I was just thankful to not be climbing directly up 4000 feet. I arrived at the shelter in great time and at the shelter was a ridgerunner, a trail warden if you will,  I love listening to their stories of pure human stupidity, like people hiking the trail in flip flops or complaining because the trees are in the way!

Perfect rest stop

It promises to rain tonight and for much of the day tomorrow,  I’m trying to he positive about it, but it’s so hard, I understand rain is the weather of my people but I can’t like it! I will enter Shenandoah National Park tomorrow which I’m excited about, loads of nature, views and tourist stops selling burgers and milkshakes.

Day 80

Calf Mountain Shelter to Blackrock Hut. 13 miles.

Around 4am there was an almighty storm, the thunder was so strong I could feel it in the ground underneath me, the rain was so heavy and loud it was oppressive and the lightning was blinding.  It did not start to even let up until after 10am. I finally crawled out of my tent and was surprised to see every other hiker still in camp, when usually people are on the trail before 8am. Everybody’s gear was a wreck including mine, my ickle tent is wonderful and feels like home to me, but no backpacking tent can withstand the level of wind and rain from last night. I had no choice but to pack everything away saturated wet inside and out, my ground sheet was buried under a sheet of thick sludge and all I could do was stuff it in.  The weather was dreary and rainy all day and I felt like my pack was so heavy it was holding the sky up. About 6 miles into my day at a road crossing a car pulled up, long story short,  I must have looked so pathetic they ended up driving me a couple of miles up the road to get me closer to my destination,  they fed me delish chocolate and I was somewhat embarrassed by my lack of cleanliness.

Hiker grime 

I had just a couple miles to the shelter and I got there seconds before another major downpour.  I have to sleep in the shelter tonight as my tent is such a wreck, but the group of hikers here are funny and interesting.  I feel like I am saying that more often now. Approximately 60% of hikers that started in Georgia have now dropped out,  the 40% of us who are left are serious about the trail, making shelter life more bearable.

Day 81

Blackrock Hut to Loft Mountain Campgrounds.  6.1 miles.

Up and out by 7:30am this morning, that’s a record for me,  but also I never sleep well in shelters so I’ve was awake from the early hours. I climbed Blackrock mountain early on, which had an incredible view down the Shenandoah valley.



In the Shenandoah National Park there are proper Campgrounds you can pay to stay at. They are mostly aimed at the road travelers with big campers but they also have little tent spots as well. For 15 bucks it’s so worth it, you get a flat camp spot, a bear vault for storage so no need to throw and store your food in a tree and a picnic table to sit at, sheer luxury for a hiker. To top it all they have flushing toilets, running water and a little shop, I’m pretty sure it’s a Hilton! I was able to admire an incredible sunset right from my campsite and had a real feeling of being humbled and privileged to see it. I am going to spend a day here before meeting my good friend Fin who is coming to hike with me for a week. I’m so much looking forward to having some company.



Day 83

Loft Mountain Campgrounds to Pinefield Hut. 7.1 miles.

Such a great day,  I love having a hiking buddy and I’m lucky Fin is an experienced backpacker.  The weather was great,  the hiking was easy and we just chatted up a storm. We stumbled upon our first piece of Shenandoah wildlife in the form of a rather large rattlesnake which took us a while to work out how to get around it. We are taking it easy for the first 2 days then I’m hoping Fin will motivate me to be doing more miles in a day than I have been recently. Fin is an athletic trainer so I’m hoping she will help me with my getting stronger goal, watch this space!!

Day 84

Pinefield Hut to Hightop Hut. 8.6 miles.

Another great hiking day, Fin and I are great hiking buddies, similar pace, similar routine and loads to chat about. There was a threat of rain and storms early evening so after a quick lunch at a beautiful overlook, which just so happened to be the 900 mile marker we booked it to the shelter and quickly decided to sleep in it to stay dry.  The rain never really transpired to anything and there was a weird vibe with some other hikers,  I definitely love my tent.


Day 85

Hightop Hut to Bearfence Mountain Hut. 12.9 miles.

Woah,  my first bigger mileage day in rather a long time and I have to say a brilliant trail day. The Shenandoahs have a bad rep from thru hikers because it’s busy with tourists and roads, but also because the trail is deep in a green tunnel with less viewpoints.  I however have been loving it. The trail is well maintained,  the terrain although very hilly is manageable, sometimes even leisurely.  We got 6.4 miles in before 11:30 where we stopped at a great picnic ground for a long lunch.  The sun came out and dried up all the rain so that achey, smelly hikers could hike the trail again.  It’s been pretty humid recently which means when I hike my glasses steam up #glassesgirlprobs. The 6 miles after lunch were good too, but by the last mile I was feeling it. On the side trail to the shelter we saw out first bear,  a cute little baby about 15ft away from us, rustling in the trees the otherside of us made us shit our pants and run, getting inbewteen a mama and baby is a sure fire way to get a bear chasing you and as Fin is a triathlete,  I’m pretty sure she’s got the upper hand.

Day 86

Bearfence Mountain Hut to Rock Spring Hut. 11.5 miles.

Boom, another double digit mileage day! Hiked our arses off all morning with the promise of a burger for lunch that did not disappoint. What absolute pleasure it is to hike in glorious sunshine, green all around with views to die for then get a great to try the famous Shenandoah blackberry milkshakes. I’m.worried I might get too accustomed to food that is so readily available.


From the shelter tonight there is a beautiful view down the valley where I got to watch yet another breathtaking sunset.  I truly feel like I’m a better person for experiencing such beauty.


Day 87

Rock Spring Hut to Byrds Nest Hut. 10.9 miles.

Another pretty big mileage day considering and I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling it, like someone poured concrete into my shoes overnight kind of feel. We had just a few miles to our lunch destination today, Skyland Resort, a fancy hotel in the middle of the Shenandoahs. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I look and smell pretty ripe stop me from getting my second hot meal on the trail.  I devoured a roast chicken dinner and then needed a small nap to recover.  They had great sofas in the reception area, I had completely forgotten what heaven it is to sit on soft furnishings with a supportive back to them!

The afternoon was tough but magnificent views put a pep in our step and we soon arrived at our last shelter before Fin has to go back home. Having such great company makes the miles float past.

The weather has been getting chilly at night and I usually sleep with my whole self,  head included in my sleeping bag, but I smell so bad I literally can’t stand my own stink. Tomorrow we have a 4 mile quick hike into town where I will have my first shower in 10 days.  I had no idea I could be so OK with being so gross.