Appalachian Trail: Days 99-104 Waynesboro to Elkton

Appalachian Trail: Day # 99-104

Waynseboro, Va –> Elkton, Va

Miles 861.3-906.8

 

The story of the section: Sloowwww and chasing sunsets.

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Firecracker taking it all in.

 

 

Returning to life on the go after two nearly stationary weeks was difficult. So difficult, I needed two zeroes before I was ready to resume the walk! Firecracker sure loved taking four zeroes in town….

We hitchhiked out of town, after resupplying and a long stay at the library, to Rockfish Gap and the beginning of Shenandoah National Park. We registered for our stay and we began hiking. As difficult as it was to leave town, once my feet started walkin’, my face started smilin’. Nothing compares to the freedom of the open trail.

 

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Firecracker pretending to be me, an Appalachian Trail thru-hiking photo blogger.

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Day 35: How We Handle Rain on the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail: Day #35

Bald Mountain Shelter –> Big Bald: -1.2 miles

Total AT Miles: 324.1

Rain drops onto the tin roof as we sleep adding ambient noise that drowns out the twisting, turning, snoring people packed into an Appalachian Trail shelter on a rain day. I wake feeling rested but not ready to face the day.

“Want to zero and watch a movie?!!”

“Duh.”

We lay around the shelter watching the diehards don their wetsuits. They voice their anger at mother nature and curse their ill fortune. The stoic slip silently away into the dreary day.

By evening, the rain has passed and the sky has cleared. Our heads are now fuzzy from a break in routine. It is hard to stay in one place when you are used to moving somewhere new everyday.

Two of our group move on down the trail. The rest of us backtrack to watch the sun set from the top of the bald. I take my pack planning to sleep up there.

The top turns out too cold and windy for a proper nights sleep. I watch the sun sink below the horizon in a dazzling display of stunning colors with my friends. Then, I retreat a bit towards the shelter and a covered rock with a built in fireplace.

Dinner cooks in the coals of a crevice through the rock. The full moon floats above the overhanging boulder. I play with long exposures. Resting the camera on a rock, I set the shutter speed to 30seconds. The two-second self-timer ticks away tripping the shutter. I paint the boulder with my headlamp for ten seconds then I sit beside the fire and flash my face with the camera on my phone freezing my digital, almost ghostly, image.

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Mountain Goat journaling in the shelter while rain falls outside.
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The Big Bald Shelter on a dreary, rainy morning.
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Dr. Kool-Aid’s Zpack tent.
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My TarpTent Moment. It’s been home for ten months now and still going strong.
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Further journaling by Mountain Goat.

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Finch updates her journal as well.
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My Shadow playing in the mud outside the shelter.
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Really glad we’re not walking today…
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Until we do. Hiking to the top of the Bald, Dr. Kool-Aid walks the blazes a little too literally.
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Exiting the forest into the lower bald.
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Someone decided it would be fun to camp on top. Going to be a cold night albeit a beautiful one!
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The sun setting atop Big Bald.

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Cooking rice and beans in the crevice of a rock. 
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A hole in the back creates a perfect fireplace acting as chimney to draw away the smoke.

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Sitting beside the fire after dinner playing with long exposures. I really wish I had a tripod!
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The full moon behind the rock ledge where I sleep.

 

 

 

Day 14: Majesty of the Mountains

Day #14

Siler Bald Shelter –> Wesser Bald Shelter

17.4 miles

131.4 Total AT miles

I’m standing on the rickety platform of the the Wesser Bald observation tower 4,627 feet above the sea. The western sky is ablaze in the light of the sun slowly slipping below a mountain range of purple, blue, and green. The full moon fills the eastern sky rising through a rainbow haze of reflected light. Mr. Kool-Aid stands in front of me tears streaming from his eyes. I extend a hand for a shake. He pulls me in for a hug.

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People always ask us why. Why would we do something so seemingly crazy? For moments like these. Moments of ecstasy and euphoria that break through all barriers. The climbing and physical challenges strip us bare leaving raw our emotions for moments like these.

After the sun is sufficiently set to satisfy our senses, we descend the tower and walk the mile to camp in the light of the moon. We arrive, tired and hungry, to the shelter where our friends await. We sleep inside, my second time on the trail. It seemed clean and little used. Not like some of the shelters our here.

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A cold morning at the Siler Bald Shelter.
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Hoar frost on the trail.
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Canuck hiking along the semi-frozen trail. It was only bad in places, ice.
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Trail magic ahead?!!

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Trail Magic! Manderins, bananas, all kinds of pastries, cakes, and cookies, a cooler with drinks. Thanks!
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Wayah Bald stone tower.
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And the view from atop the tower.
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Hello shadow!

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Mr. Kool-Aid had a branch pierce his leg when he was a kid. This is the scar. Wicked.
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Obstacles on the trail.
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Filling a sawyer squeeze bladder from a rhododendron leaf in the stream.

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Cold Spring Shelter.
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Mr. Kool-Aid stretching. Important stuff out here.
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Inside of the shelter where the trail register is kept.
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A view on the climb.
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Mr. Kool-Aid made the mistake of sitting down. Now he has to get up! Good luck buddy.
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Powerlines running down the mountain.
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Cool Dad and Canuck were here! The summit was too cold (we planned to camp here) so they pressed on to the shelter.
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The view from atop the Wesser Bald Observation tower at sunset.
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Mr. Kool-Aid and I took our time on the climbs timing our arrival for the sunset.
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The sun setting in the west. The full moon rising in the east. What a scene.
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Mr. Kool-Aid was brought to tears. It was that beautiful.
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The full moon over the landscape.
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Me atop the tower with the full moon. Thanks for the photo Mr. Kool-Aid.
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Mr. Kool-Aid white-knuckling it down the rickety stairs.
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You are beautiful! A sticker on a leg of the tower.
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Cool Dad filter water at the Wesser Bald Shelter
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Don’t you Quit!