8/17-21 53.3 miles
But first a little catching up. After scrambling and hiking back to the ranger station in Baxter State Park where the 2 hostels an hour away in Millinocket pickup hikers around 4pm, Survivor and I waited an hour. The Appalachian Trail Inn shuttle had been on time but we were going to stay at the other one. No cell service but the rangers have radio contact and told us that our shuttle was on the other side of the park. So Survivor hitched us a ride to Millinocket, yay, arriving at 6 pm. I eventually found out our scheduled shuttle had to wait on the other guests and wouldn’t have got us until 6 pm anyway. Unacceptable. The AT Inn was comfy, plenty of bunks.
Slingshot, his wife Julie and the other twin daughter, had breakfast with me! I’m going to miss him on the trail—when he summited Katahdin 2 days ahead of me, he completed the AT, congrats!!
After breakfast, a group of us got the AT Inn shuttle to the Medway bus stop. From there I bused to Bangor, walked a mile to the airport, waited around till the evening and caught a Delta flight back to DC via JFK. They didn’t bother to transfer my luggage (backpack) so the next day I had to get back to the airport to pluck my pack off the luggage carousel from the morning flight before taking an Uber to Union Station and getting on Amtrak back to Harper’s Ferry. But there was a Whole Foods within walking distance of my hotel so I got my resupply for the first stretch southbound (SOBO)! Really nice folks at the DC motel, my second stay there at Hampton Inn Arlington Crystal City.
It took some mental refocusing to deal with the change in latitude, loss of daylight hours, loss of hikers and trying to calculate miles going south not north. I hung around Harper’s Ferry for a couple days since I’d been too stressed the last time I was here to explore the history.
My first day was a short one. I headed the 12 miles to the Blackburn Trail Center. I’ve been planning on it since Crocs called out to me at the Flip Flop Festival in April. Colleen invited me to dinner, I was the only hiker there, and it was absolutely wonderful to talk with them. So grateful.
I did an even shorter hike the next day. On impulse I decided to check out the Bears Den Hostel. Lovely but again no other thru hikers. Just a short walk away I got dinner and a beer at Bear Chase Brewery.
I “stealth camped” the next night, actually it was a true stealth site—hidden from the trail, leave no trace. People on the AT call any tent site or campsite “stealth” sites even if they are established and right next to the trail. Annoying.
My hiking buddy, Crossword, is taking some time off trail, and started his Flip Flop further south than I did anyway. He drove out to the trail with some special Berry Sour, took me to the grocery store and outfitter (new shoes!) in Front Royal and then to the Stumble Inn hostel where I’ll spend the night. It was good to catch up, he summited Katahdin a couple days after me and I think maybe Stratton, ME was the last time we saw each other?
I got dropped off at the trailhead and hiked to the other road that goes to Front Royal. It started to rain so I stuck out my thumb and after half an hour got a ride back to town with “Mongo.” Happy to give this guy gas money, thank you! 972 miles to go and tomorrow I’m heading into Shenandoah National Park.