Thursday, July 7, 2016
Bear Den Hostel (1002.6)

An eventful day. One of the most difficult on the Trail to date, most beautiful, and ending in one of the nicest hostels.

Up early as usual, need to make 18 miles including the beginning of "The Rollercoaster". Usual trail conditions to begin with, and in a couple miles enter Sky Meadows State Park. Just forest to begin with, but soon enough enter wide meadows with curious rabbits, who seem content to sit on the Trail and check out the hiker. Only move off when you move forward in a determined fashion.

Sky Meadows State Park. Interesting and informative sign posts.

Stop at the Rod Hollow Shelter (992.7) for lunch. Yes, it's hot and humid again. Sit under small pavilion trying to cool off, wring shirt, and load up on cool spring water. Talk to trail volunteer who is curious about what I'm doing. Says he's putting in a new privy but doesn't have enough volunteers. Seems to be wondering if I'd help, so tell him I'm on a long day facing the Rollercoaster. He wanders back toward the privy.

Get back to hiking, and start the Rollercoaster soon after. This is the start of 13.5 miles of ascents and descents, generally several hundred feet, but almost all have rocks, roots, and steepness. That, plus the heat and humidity, makes for slow going. Hikers, many in their twenties, are exclaiming how challenging it is. I've been able to do a couple miles an hour in the Shenandoahs, but have dropped to a mile an hour.

One constant with the Rollercoaster, rocks, of all sizes and shapes.

About five miles from hostel, run into first Trail Magic since this section hike began. Parents are slack packing son Silent, and have lots of colds drinks, snacks, and conversation. Literally could not have been in a better place.

Four thru hikers, and trail angel (Mom of hiker "Silent", not shown)

There's a shelter three miles from the hostel, our planned destination, and think really hard about stopping there for the night. Sketch is well ahead now and has already secured a bunk at the hostel, so push on.

This is when pure willpower that gets me to grind up and down the elevations on a still healing left foot, sweat drenched clothes, harboring the clean water left, and still enjoying the adventure. I know it sounds kind of sick, but I was mindful of how privileged I am to be strong enough, supported enough (thanks Deb!), ambitious and healthy enough, to be doing this.

I hit a plateau and meet many of the hikers I've been bouncing off all day. Most are moving on, but I follow their fingers toward the hostel. I've been on the Trail over twelve hours.

Meet Sketch in this large stone hostel, run by the Potomac ATC. Included in the $30 fee is a bunk, shower, laundry, frozen pizza (cook your own), can of soda and a pint of ice cream. Try two out-of-tune guitars which I try to tune, play a little. Lots of hikers here, so lots of chatter.

Settle down at 9. Long and eventful day. Among other things, passed 1,000 miles from Georgia to here.

Yes more rocks and roots, but also passed 1,000 mile mark.


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