Location: Manassas Gap, VA
I’ve come 20 miles to Manassas Gap shelter tonight. I am supposed to meet Not Bad here if he was feeling better after a night at the hostel. He has not shown and it is dark. I thought that I might shorten my day tomorrow to see if he catches up to me, but now I think not. Druid is two days ahead of me, and I would like to catch him by the end of the Shenandoah National Park. I figure I can gain five miles a day on him and then I’ll catch him around Waynesboro, VA.
The 20 miles I did today was tough. I passed through a gnarly section of trail called the Roller Coaster. It wasn’t as bad as some NOBOs described, but it was tedious: ten 500ft climbs and descents in seven miles. Tomorrow I’ll enter the Shenandoah, where many claim that trail is as flat as a sidewalk for hundred miles.
I took lunch off the trail today. I went to Doc’s BBQ because their ad said that they had NC barbecue. I stuffed two sandwiches and two tablespoons of Texas Pete down my throat and washed them down with Sprite. Everything about the lunch reminded me of home. I nearly put myself to sleep when I topped off lunch with a plate of French fries. My full belly made the miles this afternoon pretty difficult.
I met a man on the trail today who section hiked the trail over a two year period. He seemed like a nice guy, and then he pushed one of my buttons. He said, ‘Aren’t you a little late for a thru-hiker?’ No! Everyone I meet seems to think that they know more than I do about the southbound hike. I think I’ll backhand the next hiker that asks me that question. I’ve heard that question for the entire trail, and I don’t think I can stand to hear it once more.
Enough of my bitterness. Today I had some feeling of longing for home. After seeing Mom and Dad, I want to see everyone else at home, friends and family alike. Virginia seems obscenely long for a state at 535 trail miles from north to south. It seems like it will take forever to complete. However, these were the same thoughts I had after the first 400 miles. Now I am at 1200 miles and I’m feeling a little down. Cold Feet and Bonefish have both left the trail. There is a chance Bonefish will return, but probably not. Now Not Bad is at risk. He mentioned yesterday that he might like to go home now and save the rest of the trail for next summer. Only 65 south-bounders that I know of made it to the halfway point at Harpers Ferry this year. There is still a long way to go on this trail. If only 15% of southbounders reached Harpers Ferry, how many will make Springer Mountain?
I’ll fight through these feelings of despair. Sure Virginia is long, but home is just on the other side of the state. I’ve got the Shenandoah to excite me now and a mission to catch Druid. Not Bad should be all right. Once he feels 100% again, Cold Feet says that she will slack-pack him to help him catch up to us. For now, I’m leaving him behind. We have been hiking together on and off since Bennington, VT, just as I was emerging from my rut in Rutland. We have hiked almost everyday since Ft. Montgomery, NY. Hopefully he’ll return to the group soon, even if it means a little yellow blazing, because I’d sure like to finish the trail with him.
I’ve the shelter to myself tonight. I’m not that tired so I think I’ll listen to the radio until I fall asleep. My radio doesn’t get great reception while I walk so I usually only listen to it in the shelter at night. I have been able to pick up some old Dragnet and Lone Ranger programs on AM radio at night. When they aren’t aired, usually I can tune into a football game or MLB playoff game that will lull me to sleep.
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