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!

Day #86-Flo says you can run but you can’t hide; Miles hiked: 24.8

I woke up around 4 am to the sound of the first hurricane bands rolling in. By 6, it was time to face the elements and get rolling.

Let me tell you, hiking in a hurricane (especially the one I just spent 4 days and almost 1000 miles of travel trying to outrun) is quite an experience.

It was pouring rain and the wind was raging. I’ve never seen trees get whipped around like they were. The extra exciting part was not seeing another living soul for 25 miles. I was pretty convinced that the rapture had occurred and I had been left behind. Skyline drive and the waysides (much to my chagrin) were all shut down for weather so the park was a ghost town.

Nonetheless, around mile 23 the sun came out and I heard the familiar hum of traffic again-town!

Tonight I’m treating myself to a stay at Open Arms hostel where I’m safe from my friend Flo the hurricane. Back at it tomorrow!

Day #85-Back at last!; Miles hiked: 9.1

Getting back to the trail was none short of a saga, but the journey is complete! Thanks to my best friend (and family) Emily for the ride to the Knoxville airport, to my cousin Michael for a place to crash in DC, and megabus for the ride to Front Royal.

No pictures from today because as soon as I hit the trail, so did the rain. However, a summary of my second “first day back” is as follows.

1. Receive all sorts of random kindness from locals in Front Royal to get me back to the random road crossing I bailed at last week.

2. Six easy miles to VA 522 where I left all of my sharp items so that I could fly back with my pack right by my side.

3. Almost stay at the hostel where I left my things but eventually decide it would be best to move on.

4. Three more miles to the border of Shenandoah National Park.

5. Pitch my tent in the shelter because it was leaking so much from the rain.

Shenandoah starts tomorrow!

Update: Thru hike on hold again

After driving home from Virginia into the wee hours of the morning yesterday, my friend River and I were ready to tackle some miles in North Carolina so we didn’t get behind schedule with hurricane Florence.

Overnight, the storm decided to follow us and head south. On the way down to Fontana Dam to hike for 3 days, phones started buzzing with word that the exact section of trail we were headed to was set to close. We did an about face and have determined that we indeed will not be able to ride out this storm on the Appalachian Trail.

I’m quite the “type A” individual, so changes like this can be challenging, but River and I have decided to make the best of it and enjoy Knoxville for the indefinite future.

When the storm moves out, it’ll be back to the trail in Northern VA. For now, goodnight from home sweet home.

Day #84-Florence has spoken; Miles hiked: 17.1

Today was a bit shambly, but the show goes on. I started the morning with a 3 mile round trip backtrack when I had that gut feeling that my pack was 2 ounces lighter and I’d left my water bladder behind. Oops.

Less than 10 miles into what was supposed to be an easy day, phones started buzzing with word that Shenandoah National Park, my next stop, was closing tomorrow (Wednesday) until further notice for hurricane Florence. Time to come up with an evacuation plan!

After several phone calls, I got the wonderful news that my dad (Papa Blueberry the airline pilot) was on the way back from Europe and could scoop me up and drive me out of the path of the storm.Instead of holing up in a hotel in Front Royal for 5 days, another hiker and I are headed to Knoxville where we plan to knock out some miles down South away from Florence.

We will return to Northern Virginia as soon as it’s safe. Goodnight from a long “yellow blaze” down I-81.

Day #83-Back on track with my pack; Miles hiked: 10.3

This morning I was finally reunited with my pack! We only spent 36 hours apart, but I couldn’t have been more relieved. I promise I’ll never complain about how heavy it is again.

I did my official mid-hike check in at the ATC and low and behold ran into a SOBO chick I met in Vermont. I’d hoped I’d see her again…what are the chances!

Once again today, I got a pretty late start and was going to have a hard time making the miles I had planned on. The Lord knew what he was up to though!

Walking up to Bears Den hostel to get my southbound AT guide, I heard a Shofar blowing down the trail. Knowing that it’s Rosh Hashanah, I ventured over to check it out. It turns out the Shofar blowers were eating lunch and welcomed me to join them. They are actually believers who practice Hebrew traditions as a means of connecting with the Lord of the Old Testament. We had a sweet time of fellowship and they even prayed over me and anointed my head with oil (and my stomach with their extra lunch food)!

There’s no way I would have connected with them if I had gotten my pack when I was expecting it. The Lord works in mysterious ways indeed.The rest of the day was too rainy for pictures, but I met my first two SOBO friends. I’ve had to do some extra thinking to make sure I’m headed the right direction.Holing up at Rod Hollow tonight to see what Florence is up to.

Day #82-Going packless in Harpers; Miles hiked: 20.1

My backpack was still not recovered when I woke up this morning. It was pouring down rain, windy, and 50 degrees outside. Somehow, I still found a way to hike.

According to the ATC, the biggest SOBO bubble they’ve seen passed through in the past few days and I want every opportunity to meet all of those folks…meaning I need to start hiking.

The incredibly kind couple (former thru hikers) that have let me stay in their home while I wait on my pack offered to help me “slack pack,” or hike from a nearby road crossing back to Harpers Ferry with only a daypack. Tumbalina even offered me her warm clothes and rain gear given all I have are the clothes on my back!

Nonetheless, I hiked 20 miles NOBO, passed in and out of 2 states, and didn’t hardly see a soul because the weather was so fowl.I couldn’t have been happier to get back to Tumbalina’s house where the other hikers here had dinner waiting. Tonight I’m dry, but the next week is looking rather wet. Hopefully I will be reunited with my pack in the morning!

Update: I have a backpack!

Intermission update and an odd prayer request; Miles hiked: 0.0

Hello faithful blog readers…after a 5 day repose from hiking, I have traveled safely back to Harpers Ferry, WV to begin the southbound part of my hike, the “flop.”

My backpack, which contains not only the things that make me comfortable like my toothbrush, but also the things I need to stay alive in the woods, has not made it with me. It is lost somewhere in the world of airline abyss and is nowhere to be found. Without it, I can’t really get back to hiking…

Would you join me in praying for the safe and speedy return of my pack? Specifically, that the box it is in doesn’t split open and spill my belongings all over a conveyor belt when it is found. If the Lord can part the Red Sea, I trust that He is more than capable of rescuing my backpack from baggage claim.

On a more positive note, enjoy some miscellaneous pictures from my off-trail vacation. I have eaten everything I can get my hands on and my body is thankful for both the rest and the sufficient nutrition.Day trip to Acadia National Park on the Maine seacoast–that ocean water was cold!Playing with my brother and my graduation present-my how much faster this is than hiking! Going back to Nashville to visit my Vanderbilt friends and eat at my favorite Mexican restaurant 3 times in 30 hours. Before my tarp, this was my last residence!Hiker-sized breakfast with my cousin and grandparents. This was the last time I laid eyes on my pack. Playing with my dog who I’ve missed dearly. She will hopefully be walking the last mile of the trail with me.

Not pictured: getting new shoes and visiting Wildcat, going to the dentist, crashing a high school soccer game.

I’ve at least found a dry place to sleep tonight, things are looking up!

Day #81-Summit day; Miles hiked: 10.4

Wow, what a day! The alarms went off at 4 am this morning for a very exciting day of my thru hike–the climb up Katahdin! For my NOBO friends, this marks the end of their journey from Georgia to Maine on the AT. For me, it is still a huge milestone as it is my unofficial halfway point (I hit halfway in mileage a few days ago). The best part about it? I got to share today with my dad and Alan.

Here are the bleary-eyed hikers this morning:After what is well known to be the hardest climb on the AT (although I believe that the hardest climb is an incredibly personal/psychological moment, likely not on Katahdin), we reached the summit of Mt. Katahdin. The winds were ripping across the ridge and we didn’t get views, but the mountain was spectacular nonetheless.Per my request, my dad brought out his Hawaiian shirt and per my friend’s request I brought out my shiny “toaster leggings.”The clouds did blow off for a bit on our way down and we were able to capture some views of the trail and the ridge line.I had to say my final goodbyes (until Trail Days, the annual hiker reunion) to my friends this afternoon. It was quite difficult, but I trust the Lord will put a whole new crop of hikers in my path as I begin to minister going southbound from Harpers Ferry.Goodnight from the AT Lodge in Millinocket and thank you to my cousin Sarah for the delicious brownies!

Day #80-Sabbath with God’s family; Miles hiked: 0.0

Today was an incredibly special time spent with the people of Park Street and Brownville Junction UMC. Pastor Stephen invited Alan and I to share our music and our stories.I was deeply encouraged by inviting the believers here to pray with me for my friends on the trail-that is powerful stuff!

We also got treated like celebrities which is always fun, hehe.After a lunch with the ATOM family, I’ve gotten to spend the rest of the day connecting with my parents who I’ve missed dearly. Katahdin tomorrow!!!