Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Roller Coasters (Ugh) and Goodbye Virginia!

Today was a day that we should have respected a bit more.  Before you leave Virginia, you get to experience hiking "the roller coasters."  We were feeling a bit cocky, after having hiked almost 1000 miles, and so, made comments like, "Well, this is no worse than we've already hiked.  If they hadn't called them "the roller coasters," we wouldn't even notice them at all."  WRONG.  By lunch time, the roller coasters had eaten my lunch, kicked my butt, and whatever else you want to say that sounds similar to those expressions.  It made me feel a bit better that the boys were saying the same thing.  While they didn't appear THAT BAD on the elevation profile, apparently hiking 13.5 miles of ascents and descents, all about the same size, one after another, does things to your legs, that well, shouldn't be done all in one stretch.  To makes matters worse, instead of planning like MOST other hikers, to stay at the Bears Den Hostel right before the end of the coasters, we foolishly planned to hike farther, so we would not have to hike 20 miles into Harpers Ferry the next day.
We did manage to find an awesome stream (these were missing from the Shenandoah Nat'l Park), and soaked our feet all during lunch, by the time we pulled into the hostel for a cold drink, we were pretty much, toast.  I made a few weak attempts at suggesting that we should stay put for the night, but I also didn't really want to have to hike 20 into Harpers Ferry the next day.  There was a nice group of hikers staying the night, and we would have enjoyed the cameraderie.  There was the Noodleheads, Philly Steve, Big Foot, Wall-E, and a hiker from Belarusa that we had not met before.  At 5:00, they were planning on having pizza.  At about 4:45, we left and hiked north. 
The hostel was really cool, and it was tempting to stay, just to see the rest of the building.  We only saw the bunk house.  The rock mansion was built in the 30's by a wealthy family who lived in DC, and this was their "summer home."  The Appalachian Trail Conservancy owns it now, runs it as a hiker's hostel, and it is managed by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club - which brings up another subject I have been meaning to mention.  The trail for the last couple of hundred miles has been maintained by the PATC and that is one organized, impressive organization.  We have hiked by their maintenance crews on several occasions, out with their gas-powered weed eaters, cutting the trail.  One guy we saw was pruning the trail by hand with shears.  It must be a huge organization, and apparently they divide up the trail, and take care of it.  Very impressive job, you guys.  They always had on their  work shirts with PATC patches on the sleeve.  I was so impressed with them, I bought one of their bandanas at a gift shop, just to support them. 
One the way out of the hostel, another guest spotted a copperhead in the grass, and so, yes, the boys had to go over and mess with it with their trekking poles.  I have seen enough snakes, that's for sure.
Another reason we wanted to keep hiking, was we were so close to hitting the 1000 mile mark, we could taste it.  And man, it tastes good!  lol.  About that same point, we would also reach the West Virginia state line.  So, we hiked on - or I should say, the boys hiked on, and I dragged myself up the trail as best I could.  I tried to stay within sight of them, but I have to admit, they waited on me a couple of times.  They were also very exhausted from the roller coasters though.  We reached a place where we were convinced the state line was, and declared ourselves out of Virginia.  We then mumbled as we hiked, complaining that no one bothered to put a sign up or anything!  How could they do that to us?  One of the biggest milestones on the trail, and no sign?  About that time, we came up a hill to a sign - the state line!  Yay!  We had made it out of Virginia!!!  We then start complaining that there was no 1000 mile sign.
We finally found one of the prettiest campsites, along several springs, and stopped there for the night, at mile marker 1000.8.

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