Homer's Travels: Appalachian Trail: Front Royal VA To Harper's Ferry, WV

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Front Royal VA To Harper's Ferry, WV

🐻 x 6
UPDATED 11-14-2020

I'm closing in on the half way mark.  I crossed the one thousand mile mark and left my fourth state behind in the dust.  I was rewarded with a too brief visit from the Wife and a picture in the hiker's yearbook.

It's a bit depressing that I'm only half way after three months of effort.  The good thing is that it's all downhill from here.

The one thousand mile mark during the roller coaster.
Day 94 - I took a taxi to the trailhead and climbed out of Front Royal.  The terrain wasn't very bad but the heat and humidity cranked up the difficulty.

I stopped at the first shelter, and was amazed at how nice it was.  The shelter had a porch and an Adirondack couch.  There were flowers planted near the shelter. The picnic table had its own roof, there was a horseshoe pit with horseshoes, and a solar shower.  I was there only for a rest and snack but this would have been a nice place to stay.

An awesome shelter with a horseshoe pit and a solar shower.
The next shelter had a resident copperhead which was pointed out to me by a resident hobo.  That's how he described himself.  I've met a few hobos on the trail.  I had a more substantial snack here before moving on.

My destination for the day was Dick's Dome Shelter.  Turns out the geodesic shelter has been decommissioned and replaced by the newer and larger Whiskey Creek Shelter.  I spent the night here with a few day hikers.

The Bears Den Trail Center where I spent the night.
Day 95 - This was going to be a long day.  First I hiked eight miles to the next shelter for a snack and rest.  Then I entered a section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) called the Roller Coaster.

The roller coaster is a 13.5 mile (21.7 km) stretch with twelve ascents and eleven descents.  The climbs are all between 200 and 600 feet (61 and 183 m) which isn't too bad but the rapid succession of climbs combined with the heat and humidity made it very challenging to do.  To add to the difficulty the trail was extremely rocky which slowed you down even more.

I hit one thousand miles during the roller coaster.

I rested at a shelter after five climbs before doing three more to my destination, the Bears Den Trail Center.  The last climb was in the rain.  I arrived at the hostel wet and exhausted.  I stumbled through the questions the host threw at me before getting a shower, a bunk, a pizza, a pint of ice cream, and a load of laundry.

There was a weird guy who walked around the bunk room wrapped in a blanket.  Later on I discover that Red Bush had seen him in the middle of the night standing in the room, wrapped in his blanket staring at Choo Choo and another girl hiker as they slept.  Red Bush watched him until he returned to his bunk.  Scary.

The view from Bears Den Rocks.
Day 96 - I slept in slightly and left the hostel to complete the last four climbs of the roller coaster.  I enjoyed the views from Bears Den Rocks.  Unfortunately my spoon stayed behind to enjoy the views at the hostel.

After the roller coaster the trail calmed down a bit.   I arrived at Keys Gap and made my way to the Bear Feet Retreat.  Turns out I took the long way to the hostel. I walked nearly two miles when there was an unmarked trail 0.1 miles long to the hostel.  It's unmarked because the AT does not allow advertising on the trail so the owner couldn't put up a sign.

I was the only person at the hostel so I had my second solo hostel stay on my AT.  At first the hostel owner's son put me in a bedroom upstairs but this turned out to be the wrong place.  She was not happy with her son.  She asked me if I could move to the bunkroom in the basement and I was totally fine with this.  They had a new dog (Hawkeye - all their dogs were named after MASH characters) who barked a bit but I got a good night's sleep.  The owner was sorry about the noise and confusion and would not take my money.

The fourth state is now behind me … finally.
Day 97 - It was drizzling when I left the hostel. The owner pointed out the side trail back to the AT so I wouldn't have to walk so far.  Soon the drizzle turned to hard rain.  The trail, in parts, looked like a river. The day was a short one taking me into Harper's Ferry, WV.  Finally, after forty-three days, I left Virginia behind and entered my fifth state.

This river is the trail.
I got off the trail in the historic downtown area and walked the half mile to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's visitors center.  There I got my picture taken and I got my thru-hiker's tag to hang on my backpack.  I looked through the pictures to see when everyone I've met along the trail passed through Harper's Ferry.  Some were over two weeks ahead of me. Harper's Ferry is often considered the half way point of the AT even though it's short by about seventy-one miles.

I talked with other thru-hikers as they checked in including Choo Choo, George, Jesus, and Cakes.  A couple hours later the Wife arrived honking the horn.  She picked me up and we headed to a hotel so I could shower the sweat off.

I spent a nearo and two zero days with the wife enjoying the area around Harper's Ferry, antiquing, and playing spot the hiker.

The Wife dropped me off at the trail in downtown Harper's Ferry on our wedding anniversary.  With a twenty-two year anniversary kiss I was back on the trail north … in the rain.

Happy Anniversary to the Wife!

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 1,025.5 Miles (1,650.4 km)
Section Distance: 59.4 Miles (95.6 km)
Section Elevation Up: 11,319 ft (3,450 m)
Section Elevation Down: 11,811 ft (3,600 m)

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