There was no rain in the morning forecast, but when I woke up I could hear light rain. I checked my weather app and it said no precipitation. I checked my radar app and it showed no rain. Yet I was in the clouds and everything was dripping wet, and so the day would go.
The Bears Den Hostel was built in 1933 as the summer home of Dr. Huron Lawson, an OB/GYN professor at George Washington University. It is a gorgeous stone structure that looks even more imposing in the morning fog because it was built to resemble a Medieval castle. After sitting empty for 20 years, it was purchased by the ATC in 1984 and converted into a hiker hostel.
After getting dressed, I went inside the hostel and climbed to the second floor kitchen where everything was already laid out to cook my pancake breakfast. With my plate of pancakes, I joined Fake News, Priestess, and Bear Bell in the huge ornate dining room. These folks were a fun group and I was sorry to have to say goodbye.
The wet grass in the backyard of the hostel had my shoes soaking wet by the time I packed my gear and headed down the trail. At least I got to start downhill to finish my final 3.5 miles of the Roller Coaster. I could hear traffic in the distance and knew I would make it to Snickers Gap soon, but when I reached the bottom of the hill I saw a strangely familiar wooden bridge instead of the road I expected. I had turned the wrong way when I left the hostel! After dropping my load of f-bombs on the bridge, I did an about face and climbed back up the same hill that I had climbed yesterday. The Roller Coaster just wasn’t challenging enough, so I hiked 1.2 miles of it twice.
Once the trail left the torture chamber aka Roller Coaster, it finally flattened out to allow me to crush some miles. There were a few rocky stretches, but overall it was a nice, albeit wet, stretch of trail. Originally, I wanted to stop at the Blackburn ATC Center for lunch, but my feet were so sore from being wet that I decided to forgo the extra half mile side trip. I didn’t take a lot of pictures through this section because it becomes extremely difficult to unlock my phone with moisture on the screen, but it was shaping up to be a beautiful ending to Virginia.
After hiking 544 miles through the State of Virginia, I reached the state line near the end of the day and entered West Virginia. Four states down and only ten to go! Although it was neither all flat or easy, Virginia is a beautiful state and I enjoyed hiking through it. No Virginia blues for me.
Now I was excited to be near Harpers Ferry, WV, the psychological halfway point on the A.T. Even more exciting was that my sister Sharon and her husband Win were meeting me there! She and I had been trading text messages throughout the day regarding my estimated time of arrival, so I put my head down and started pressing to ensure I arrived by the last estimate I had sent to her. Despite the damp weather, I had passed several day and weekend hikers on the trail, so it came as no surprise when I looked up and saw two more coming down the trail. What did surprise me was that when I got closer I recognized this couple.
Sharon and Win had hiked up from Harpers Ferry to meet me on the trail! What a wonderful surprise! I was way too wet and smelly to give her the big hug that I wanted to give her. She had arrived in Harpers Ferry the day prior and had walked the A.T. across the bridge to Maryland, so I told her that Virginia was only 12 minutes away and that I had no problem with taking a break. So off they went to bag another state line while I rested my feet.
Once they had completed their three state challenge, we started hiking the steep descent to the Shenandoah River. To make sure that they were afforded the complete A.T. experience, it also started raining pretty hard. We finally reached the trailhead at the bottom and started the long bridge walk across the river. There was a lot of traffic on the bridge and something about the road surface made even the smallest compact car sound like an Indy racer as it went by. The sound was a bit unnerving.
Win had parked his truck in a parking area at the end of the bridge so I climbed into the back to spare them the joy of being with me in an enclosed place. They whisked me away to the room they had reserved at the Clarion Inn where I was able to peel off my nasty clothes, take a shower, and finally give my sister the big hug that she deserved.
The Clarion Inn has a restaurant/bar conveniently located on site, so we went there so that I could demonstrate my prowess at making two plates of food disappear. They also had some pretty decent craft beer on tap and I felt like I had arrived in nirvana. It was so nice to relax and catch up on all the news with family. After dinner, I felt compelled to launder my clothing before the smell made the room uninhabitable, so Sharon directed me to the laundry facilities.
Tomorrow we have a big day planned exploring Harpers Ferry but for now I’m enjoying being reunited with family, being dry, and having a comfortable bed in which to sleep. Thank you Win and Sharon for making the long drive to make this possible!