Thursday, June 7, 2012

We Become Legit! ATC Hikers #387 and #388

We were all so tired after the roller coasters yesterday, that we all woke up stiffer than normal.  We packed up a bit later than usual, and headed out with Harper's Ferry, West Virginia in our sights.  All right, not in our sights, but we hoped to spot it soon.
It was not long before the Noodleheads came up behind us with Philly Steve, and passed us.  As they zoomed past, I noticed that the rocks did not seem to slow them down at all.  They seemed to not even touch the ground.  We had visited with them over lunch a couple of days before, and learned that the Noodleheads live in Crest Butte, Colorado, and have hiked the AT before, as well as the Pacific Crest Trail, AND the Continental Divide Trail.  Their packs looked roughly half the size of ours, and they traveled like the wind.  I hated them.  Just kidding.  I really was amazed by them, and need to interrogate them to learn their secrets.  I can see where the weight issue is a big deal, and I suspect that my pack will get lighter as I go north, as I learn that some things just aren't worth carrying anymore. 
About a mile into this morning, we finally passed a little sign that said "1000," but it did not agree with any of the information that we had, so we all agreed that that sign needed to be relocated.  The AT actually gets rerouted every year, due to weather, and retiring parts of the trail, to add new parts, so the 1000 mile mark, technically would move every year.  I suspect that that sign has been there a while. 
We had lunch at the Dave Lesser Memorial Shelter, and this was definitely the nicest shelter so far.  It also had a large deck and Adirondac settee on it, as well as a shelter over a picnic table.  While we were there, an older man came over to visit who was camping nearby.  He was hiking the Harper's Ferry to Damascus section, to complete his thru-hike, and he was hoping to lose weight for his 50th high school reunion.  I'm pretty sure he will do that, although I can think of easier ways to lose weight. 
We left there, and found the trail to Harper's Ferry to be really nice and level, and wide.  About the time we started singing its praises, it became a maze of large rocks.  It was crazy to look at.  There's no way you would have guessed there was a "trail" through it, except that there were these white blazes on the trees.  Crazy.  I started just spotting the next blaze to navigate, and charted as straight of a line as I could between them.  It was wearing us out, especially since we were already tired from a rather rough week of roller coasters and high mileage. 
We finally made it to the bridge over the Shenandoah River, leading into Harper's Ferry.  It was really beautiful, and had lots and lots of rafters going down the river.  We hiked across it, following blazes the whole way, and soon spotted a sign that said, "Appalachian Trail Conservancy, .4 miles."  We were anxious to reach the ATC.  At the ATC they would take our pictures, give us an official thru-hiker number, and put our picture in their 2012 book of thru-hikers.  We also wanted to look at the pictures of who got there before us, hoping to see some familiar faces that we have not seen in a while.  They also have a large 3-D relief map of the entire trail.  I wanted to see how far we had come, but also feared seeing how far we had to go!  Harper's Ferry is also the unofficial half-way mark.  The official one is about 90 miles to the north.
We went in, and found the staff very happy to see us.  They took our pictures, and put us in "the book."  We ended up being thru-hikers numbers 387 and 388.  Swamprat was 386.  The Noodleheads and Philly Steve were there also.  We had a cold drink and looked at all of the cool AT stuff, including that huge relief map.  I didn't get a picture of it, but will try to before we leave.
We also found a scale in the bathroom.  Swamprat has lost 30 pounds, Keith has lost 20, and I have lost 18.  We are all trying to maintain that. We really do not want to lose much more, if we can help it.  I think over the past 2 weeks we've done a better job of maintaining our weight.  We definitely have what they call "hiker hunger" now, and within an hour of eating, seem to be hungry again.  I have doubled up on my snacks during the day, and if I end up with an extra supper or breakfast before resupply, I usually double up on meals.  It's a dream come true - eating everything you want, and not gaining weight!
We left the ATC, and hiked on down the trail, which meanders through the historic downtown before leaving Harper's Ferry.  We found a BBQ place that was known among the hikers to be "hiker friendly," which means they give you lots of food, usually at a discount, and don't mind your funky self or your gear.  The nice folks at Hannah's Train Depot insisted that we bring our gear inside (which is rare), and treated us like royalty.  I ordered the babyback ribs, and they were the tenderest ribs I've ever had - literally falling off of the bone.  They boys ordered something else, but made a mental note to come back and order the ribs.
We didn't have much success Yogi'ing a ride to our hotel, but did visit with a nice hiker who had just arrived from London.  He was starting the trail the next day.  He had lots of questions, and we had lots of answers.  He had read Bill Bryson's book, like a lot of folks, and found out about the trail that way.
We hiked on up the street, and it wasn't long before a nice marine biologist stopped and gave us a ride.  He was a hiker and had been very involved in Boy Scots.  He told us we really should be staying in Shepherdstown, which wasn't far.  After we saw the hotel that we had booked on line, we decided that he was probably right, and we ended up splurging on a taxi to take us there.  Swamprat had worked his magic, and found us an awesome deal at a really nice Comfort Inn in Shepherdstown.  It sat right next to a McDonalds, grocery store, pharmacy, pizza place, chinese place, and laudromat.  What more could we ask for?

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