Day #96-The sun will come out tomorrow; Miles hiked:24.8

The conditions today were perfect for hypothermia. It was in the 50s, windy, and pouring down rain. Nonetheless, I made some miles (mainly because I was too cold to stop walking!).

My friend Spork and I were the only souls brave enough to leave the hostel this morning, but we trust sloshing for one more day will pay off when the sun returns to the AT.

This morning we crossed the James River on the longest footbridge on the AT.

I don’t have much to report other than slightly better feet, cold rain, and a foggy ridge. However, I did pass the Guillotine-this cool rock formation. Glad I didn’t get smashed!

Day #95-Feet don’t fail me now; Miles hiked: 0.0

I put on my shoes this morning with the intention of hiking. I made it as far as the local gas station to get a hitch before I knew my feet wouldn’t take another step.

Instead of venturing back up the mountain, I called up the local hostel and declared it a zero day.

A shower and trip to the Dollar Store for junk food later, I knew it was a good choice. The sun even came out for an hour or two so I could dry out my stuff!

As with most zero days, all I did was eat and watch Netflix, but sometimes that’s what you need to do!

By the afternoon, a dozen more hikers had rolled in ready to wait out one last round of bad weather tomorrow. One of them, Frogger is becoming a fast friend. She’s 17 and doing the AT with her dad in between high school semesters. I vividly remember what the year of college apps is like and enjoyed giving her essay (about the AT, of course!) a look. A large pizza for 6.95 was a perfect end to the day! The rain is going to come down hard again tomorrow, but I’m hiking on.

Day #94-All I needed was a peek; Miles hiked: 20.0

I woke up to that familiar pitter patter on the shelter roof this morning. I’m writing from a dry tent under a currently not-leaking sky.

My feet are in pretty rough shape, so the boys and I decided it would be good to go back to the valley where it’s of course not raining. After twenty pretty painful miles, we made it to Glasgow, VA. There isn’t much here besides a dinosaur statue, a Dollar General, and a town-sponsored trail shelter. However, that’s all we need!

However, exciting news!Though it was brief, I saw the sun today!!! On the way down to town, we got a little clearing that made a world of difference in spirits.The best metaphor we could come up with is that last 30 minutes of a long haul international flight when you’ve been crammed in the middle seat and miserable for 14 hours and then you open the shade and see the Sydney Opera House below. Everything still hurts, but there really is a sun up there!

Once in town, it was time for a DG resupply and all you can eat pasta for $5.50. That’s a deal I can get onboard with any day! Back to the trail with an 80-100% chance of rain for the next several days. Please pray for my disintegrating feet. Goodnight!

Day #93-Rain and religion; Miles hiked: 22.4

Guess what? It rained all day again! The weather shows no sign of stopping…at least the fire danger is pretty dang low.

Regardless, ministry continued today. I actually had one of the more serious conversations of my hike with my new trail crew today. Spork and co are all recent college graduates, two of whom don’t have a faith background and two of whom walked away from faith in college. When they asked me what I had going on my headphones (and I replied worship music), we had a 5 mile conversation about life and faith. They want to keep talking, so please join me in praying that these conversations do indeed continue and are fruitful.

After a very spiritually/emotionally intense morning, I had the gift of hiking with three other hikers I just met in the afternoon. On the complete other end of the spectrum, they are all believers (two of whom are hiking the trail before moving to Southeast Asia in the spring). It was an incredibly nourishing time for all of us to process the trail from the shared lens of faith.

When it stops raining, I promise I’ll get to take/post some more pictures, but goodnight for now from almost halfway through Virginia!

Day #92-Trail chaplain visits the Priest; Miles hiked: 15.5

After an amazing breakfast with Kim, it was back to the rainy AT again this morning. Nothing quite like wet feet in the first step!

Still too rainy for pictures today, but I caught back up to four of my new friends-Spork, BamBam, Slim, and Ollie. They are all guys around my age and a blast to hang out with…which comes in handy for all of us when the sky continues to bucket and the temps continue to drop.

After fording (yes-fording in VA) several creeks that are crazy high due to rain, we all attacked one of the most daunting southbound climbs together: The Priest.

It’s a far cry from Katahdin, but 3,000 straight feet of vertical climbing certainly gets your blood pumping.The best part of the climb was reading the shelter log at the campsite on top. Hikers for years have used it as “confessional” for all of their trail sins. The most common ones (that are blog appropriate) are not hanging food and digging cat holes right next to perfectly good tent sites.

I had to come clean to the latter for my entry…but it was an emergency!

Day #91-Magical rain rescue; Miles hiked: 19.1

There aren’t too many pictures from today because well…it’s still raining.

I don’t mean to complain, but I’ve seen one sunny day since Harpers Ferry and it looks like another week of rain is on the way. Wet and wild!

Anyway, after a lovely trip to Charlottesville it was off to hike alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I got to meet a maintenance crew at the shelter I ate lunch at and couldn’t thank them enough for clearing Flo’s blow downs. I am looking forward to joining the Tennessee Eastman trail club while I’m at ETSU for med school. Nothing better than a little manual labor to break up the studying, right?

Before the rain really got going, I found this little guy-say hello to Buster the box turtle!He’s a little camera shy.

As the rain starting coming down hard and the fog got denser, my spirits started sinking. When I finally got to the road where I was planning to hitch to Devil’s Backbone brewery to meet my friends, I was worried I wouldn’t even get a ride in the dark, cold fog.

The Lord had other plans. The first and only car that came by in my direction pulled over and not only gave me a ride down the mountain, but took me to their nearby vacation house!This is Kim, my rescuer. She treated me to leftover spaghetti, a salt bath for my destroyed feet, and a warm/dry place to sleep. I’m going to have to call this magical evening the best trail magic yet!

Day #90-Chinese food coma and friends from Nash; Miles hiked: 7.7

After putting down over 54 miles in 48 hours, today was a well deserved nero day into Waynesboro. Even though it wasn’t predicted, it rained most of last night. I thankfully chose to sleep in the shelter and only watched everyone’s headlamps come on at 1 am to secure rain flys on tents.

Nevertheless, the SOBO army exited Shenandoah National Park and caught a hitch in a pickup from the Blue Ridge Parkway straight to the parking lot of Ming’s.Upon arrival at the dynasty, we all did the place justice by putting away 4 heaping plates each.Up next was showers at the YMCA-a service offered by the Waynesboro Y for over 40 years! A former lifeguard and swim instructor myself, I was proud to be back at my high school employer. There was a group of kids (I’m guessing home school PE) there that had to be shushed by their teacher when they commented on how bad “those people with backpacks stink.”

This afternoon and evening has been a lovely time with a good friend from Vandy. She is in grad school at UVA and whisked me away to Charlottesville where I’ve been able to enjoy the luxuries of a larger town: Trader Joe’s, Chipotle, and Crazy Rich Asians.

Goodnight from a real life apartment!

Day #89-Walk now, eat later; Miles hiked: 26.2

When the SOBO army woke up today, we all left the shelter with sights set on one very special place–Ming’s Chinese Buffet. The catch? We needed to hike another marathon day to be in optimal position for the lunch special on Friday.

Into the sunrise we went!I ran my first marathon in April, and approached this day with a very similar mindset.

At mile 7, we hit Loft Mountain and the last of the Shenandoah waysides (trailside restaurants for motorists driving Skyline Drive). Unfortunately, due to hurricane closures and a broken blender, I’m leaving Shenandoah without a famous black berry milk shake, but the world will keep spinning…These new friends still found a way to smile when the cook offered the ice cream itself as a consolation prize. At mike 13, I got to spend some good time with my friend Trash Panda at this cool overlook-Black Rock.The SOBO bubble continues to roll through Shenandoah as fast as we can as there is plenty more rain on the way. Happy trails!

Day #88-And miles to go before we sleep; Miles hiked: 28.6

All of the NOBOs I hiked with said that you could push big miles through the relatively gentle trail of the Shenandoah. With the sun shining for the first time in forever, that’s exactly what I decided to do today.

There were a few hikers that I wanted to catch up to with a big day, and my efforts were successful! I’ve managed to catch my friends Trash Panda, Rebound, and Scout as well as some flip floppers that I hiked with headed northbound. Twenty-eight miles is quite a long way, so I spent almost every bit of daylight and a little bit of darkness walking, but got the opportunity to swap stories with this hiker in the blue shirt. She’s about 10 years older than me, but is interested in going to medical school too. I can’t wait to learn more about her story and what she’s learned on the trail.I’ll be honest, my body hurts after hiking for over 12 hours, but goodnight from the SOBO bubble. There is even a family of copperheads hanging out with all of us…they’re a little bold for my tastes haha.

Day #87-Rain rain went away; Miles hiked: 17.6

I got dropped off on the trail in the rain this morning. Again. Virginia continues to experience its wettest stretch in state history and I get to hike in it for about 500 more miles. Hey, at least all of the springs are flowing well!

There’s not much to report from the first half of my day as it was spent sloshing down the Appalachian National Scenic River alone.

However, by lunchtime I came across a gem in the Shenandoah wilderness–Skyland Lodge and Restaurant. It was certainly not cheap, but I ran into some other hikers who agreed the food and the warm dining room was well worth the price. We sheltered and stuffed our faces with delicious lunch and blackberry cobbler for at least two hours.If anyone is ever traveling through Shenandoah, I highly recommend this place. I’m sure the view would be amazing if it wasn’t socked in with rain!

After a few more wet miles, the sun came out! This is the first time I’ve seen that lovely glowing orb in the sky in about 100 miles-what a sight for sore eyes.

Hurricane Florence has created a SOBO “bubble” that is actually bigger than any kind of group I hiked with headed north. Tonight, I’m camping at a car camping campground (with a bath house!) with 10 other SOBOs. None of us quite know what to do with this many people around, but I’m glad for the company and the forthcoming ministry opportunities.More Shenandoah adventures to come!