AT 2016 Flashbacks Pt. 16: Front Royal, VA to Harpers Ferry WV

We were excited the next morning, because we were only about 13 miles away from Front Royal, and even fewer miles away from getting out of the gutter of the Shenandoah! We had both been to Front Royal before and liked the town, and I was planning on seeing another doctor, and hoping to get some more medicine to get me through the journey.

We ran into Denied before reaching the road, and he said that his mother and him were soon leaving the trail for good. Their visas were close to expiring, so they decided to just enjoy the rest of their time in the states and try again another year. They both had trouble getting through immigration from Canada into New York state, because the officers there apparently never heard of the Appalachian Trail and thought their lack of luggage was suspicious. After the hassle (hence their trail names), they were only granted a 4-month visa instead of the usual 6-month visa.

A couple and their young daughter, who we felt bad sitting next to in the car since we smelled so bad, picked us up and dropped us off in the center of town. We ate at one of our favorite places in Front Royal called “Soul Mountain Café” and tried to figure out where the Urgent Care Center was located.

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I had received a message from Detained who met a very helpful local named Vicki, who would drive me to the Urgent Care from the Quality Inn down the street. I was super grateful for Detained for the suggestion, and for Vicki for carting me around town!

Vicki was a very nice woman who was just introduced to the whole AT thru hiker culture, and felt that helping out hikers was a new calling for her after going through a rough patch. She took me to Urgent Care and was nice enough to wait.

I told the doctor that the pain I was experiencing had relocated and was now stemming from my groin area. She suspected that I started walking funny to redistribute my weight to prevent pain as I walked and thought I may have developed tendonitis because of it. I didn’t get anything strong, but she gave me a script for a milder pain medicine to take with ibuprofen.

Vicki was great! She not only waited for me during my appointment so I wouldn’t have to hitch back, she drove me across town to the pharmacy and waited forever there too while they filled my script and I gathered resupply! I thanked her as she dropped me back off at the hotel. The kindness of strangers will surprise you!

We went across the street to eat and drink at a new restaurant called Pave Mint which was located in an old rehabbed gas station. The food was great (a new fav!), and they had an excellent beer selection. We lounged in our room the rest of the day so I could rest up for the next.

The next day on the trail would be very mellow as far as the terrain. We passed by a really nice shelter, the Jim and Molly Denton Shelter, which had a solar shower, a porch, chairs, a gazebo, and a horseshoe pit!

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If all the shelters were this luxurious, everyone would be hiking the trail!

Once again, we never would time our mileage well enough to get stuck at awesome shelters like this.

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Instead we bumped along to a swampy area where we would stay at an unusually shaped, but otherwise, un-exciting Dicks Dome Shelter.

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We got all up in that dome

We passed through Sky Meadows State Park the following morning and as we walked through the field there, I kept hearing a bird call that sounded like a robot cat “meowing” (if any fellow “bird-nerds” out there know what it could be, I would love to know)!

The scenery would be a bit uneventful for the most part, but the fauna got stranger. We saw a shiny lizard with blue and black stripes (I was unaware that we had lizards like that, other than salamanders, so close to home), and we passed dead moles on two occasions down the trail.

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The wildlife wasn’t the only interesting part of this portion, the terrain got a bit crazy too. The section we passed through for the next 13 1/2 miles was coined, “The Rollercoaster” for its frequent ascents and descents.

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I wasn’t tall enough, but I rode anyway

We passed the 1,000-mile mark (on our 3-month anniversary), then stopped at a camp site 2 miles afterwards.

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We celebrated a huge milestone, and were about to cross a state border after being in Virginia for well over a month. We saw how the terrain had changed when we looked at the view from Raven Rock. There used to be mountains in the distance, and now it was just flat.

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We saw our last bear and it was huge! He was uphill and it didn’t see us for a while. We stopped and watched it scratch its ear before hearing us and running off.

 


Out of curiosity, we wandered off trail to check out the Blackburn AT Center. We were surprised to run back into Refill who stayed the night there. He told us he had to pack up, but would catch up with us in Harpers Ferry or sooner. I later went to check the logbook at the David Lesser Memorial Shelter and was further disappointed by our timing. It was a big beautiful shelter with a ton of tent sites!

There was trail magic at Keys Gap, so we scarfed down some hot dogs. Refill caught up with us and it started to drizzle. We helped move their table under a nearby awning, then broke for the border.

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It was a super emotional hike for me as we approached US-340 and passed over the Shenandoah River Bridge that I had driven over so many times before. I felt like I walked all the way home! I was smiling the whole time and getting choke up, trying hard not to cry tears of joy.

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We took the side trail to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to check in and get our photo out front.

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We were #1,084 and #1,085 in the list of NOBO hikers that arrived in 2016

Although we knew there was a short cut, we walked back to where we left off on the trail, and hiked into historic downtown Harpers Ferry.

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Refill, Frisbee, and I got drinks at the Coach House Bar & Grill, one of the only places you can get a beer in town. We must have smelled awful in that tiny bar area, but nobody seemed to care. Others at the bar asked questions about our hike and one guy paid for our first round of drinks!

Frisbee went out on a whim, and called our friend John, who drove us to Georgia at the start of our hike, to see if he was willing to pick us up and take us home for the night (cheaper than paying for a place to stay). He did, although complained about how badly we smelled the whole time. No matter! We felt super accomplished to have made it all the way to Harpers Ferry, the un-official halfway point of the Appalachian Trail!

Total AT Mileage: 1,009.0 miles

Number of Hiking Days: 74

Number of Zero Days: 17

Average Mileage per Day Total: 13.6 miles

Average Mileage this Chapter: 16.9 miles (4 days)

Longest Hiking Day: 26.2 miles (Groundhog Creek Shelter, NC/TN to Hot Springs, NC)

Shortest Hiking Day: 3.5 miles (mile mark 802.6 to Buena Vista, VA)

 

Jump Back to Part 15 or Jump Ahead to Part 17

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