9/9-16 93.2 miles
Since flipping from Katahdin to Harper’s Ferry and hiking south (SOBO), there’s been almost no hikers familiar to me. Or really very many hikers at all. For someone who claims to hike solo, and has, I really miss having comrades to share plans and concerns about the miles ahead. I bogged down in Daleville, just not able to walk across the highway and get back on trail. On trail depression is another new experience for me, unique to the AT. So I stuck around till Crossword caught up and we hiked out together, it’s been awhile.
After a night in my tent, we got to a weird ass hostel, 4 Pines, that had some interesting comments in the FarOut hiking app. I would have skipped it except all my gear is rain soaked and I wanted to dry it out. The hostel is an unheated converted truck garage with bunk beds, couches that our 2 human (Sprocket and Ed) staff slept on and a bathroom. No sheets or pillows, just the fluorescent overhead lights and the usual cloud of cigarette smoke right outside the door. And I did accidentally drop my toothbrush in the toilet.
It worked out though, with a 15 mile slackpack day and lots of animals—dogs Bailey and Izzy and “white cat” Ellie who I managed to track down out back and hug for a minute.
Crossword and I camped 3 more nights along good trail, now definitely cooler but clear and sunny before going into Angel’s Rest Hostel in Pearisburg where I got another private room while assorted hikers piled into the bunkhouse with Crossword.
The hostels and camaraderie at them, no matter what direction or style you’re doing, is one of the wonderful things about the AT. The fact that I’ve been able to get my own room and afford to pay for it most places, has reduced the Covid anxiety I got way back in July in New Hampshire.
Why do I feel so uneasy? I’ve been doing this long distance hiking thing for a few years now. Thru hiking the PCT in 2015, I experienced for the first time what I later learned was pretty common amongst hikers: post trail depression, a realization that the people you love are what’s important, exhaustion, just wanting to get to the end and call it done.
So for the past few years, I’ve tried to find balance and have got off the trail to connect with the people in my life—volunteer work, visits, a wedding, a trip overseas—in the middle of a long distance hike.
Because this hike is on the opposite coast from where I live, the West and Far North, I’ve been isolated. Not alone, but alone. I worry about people. I worry I’ll never get to say goodbye like I did with my dad in 2015 a month before his death when I took a few days to visit before getting back on the PCT.