June 29th 2018
Tom Floyd Wayside Shelter – trailhead and tenting (mile 987.2)
19.2 miles
Total miles: 1004.5

The shelter was awful last night. It was like sleeping next to Bevis and Butthead. They were farting and then sniggering about it like little boys. Eventually at 10:30pm I told them to shut up. Of course they found that hilarious too. That’s what drinking whiskey does for you. I’m pretty sure that they are the ‘beer blazers’ we saw getting a ride down the road yesterday. 

The shelter wasn’t big enough for 5 men and me. We were all horribly close and butthead next to me kept kneeing me so I really didn’t get a great night sleep. Cartographer was the other side of me and he barely moved. In the morning he commented that I was very close in the night and I had to point out that we were all close! I’m not staying in a shelter again, unless it’s pissing down. 

I woke up at 5:30am and started packing up, without much care for the noise I was making. Cartographer was also up and we packed up and left around the same time, just after 6am. We hiked together for about a mile and chatted about random stuff but he walks too quickly for me, and it feels like he’s trying to make it a race so I hung back knowing that the road was only another couple of miles. I was going to suggest we hitch into town together, as he told me he’s had trouble hitchhiking. But I knew I would get a ride and if he wanted to run ahead then he could. 


The trail wasn’t hard, there were a few ups and downs and then it seemed to take us behind a few houses with nice views over the meadows, but the views were obstructed by an ugly fence. When I got to the road he was already trying to hitch but obviously having no success. I joined him and we got picked up in less than 10 minutes and climbed into the back of this guys pickup truck. 


He didn’t ask us where we wanted to go but took us straight to the supermarket. He said he had picked up a few hikers and this is where they all want to go! He was right. Ideally I wanted to resupply, find something to eat and get out of there quickly. It was still only 7:30am by the time we got to town. 

I wondered around the supermarket picking up things and putting them down again. I stared at the guacamole for a while. I had been thinking about it all last night when I ate my plain crisps and thought they would be delicious with some guacamole on. The tub was the equivalent of 3 avocados and I knew I couldn’t (but probably could and shouldn’t) eat all that. That would just slide right through me. One avocado is bad enough when I’m on the trail! So I decided to look at the avocados instead but they were all rock hard. 

So I wandered around some more and ended up leaving with a chocolate milk and some fruit snacks. 2 boxes. 20 packets of fruit snacks. I’m eating these instead of candy, not because I think they are any better for you, but because I’ve gone off the candy. 

Cartographer was outside and he had bought a thing of pre-chopped fruit and he shared it with me which was nice. I think he was trying to be extra nice today to prove he’s not an asshole. He seems like a nice enough guy. My plan was to go over the road to McDonald’s for an hour. Get a refillable soda, use the WiFi, the outlets and the air conditioning and make a plan so I knew what to buy in the supermarket. Cartographer said he’d come too but when we walked over there it was closed and it basically looked like a construction site. Bummer. 

So we walked a few blocks up the road to the visitors centre. It was still so early that nothing was open. The visitors centre didn’t open until 9 but there were benches, WiFi and outlets outside and we didn’t need much more than that. At around 8:45am a lady asked me if I was waiting for the trolley out of town. There is one at 9am and one at 2pm. I kicked myself for not just getting my resupply done because I would have been able to easily go back to the trail in 15 minutes. There was zero chance of getting to the supermarket and back in that time. 

So I left my battery pack on charge and I left my pack with Cartographer and walked back to the supermarket again. I wandered about with a bit more purpose. I was still craving guacamole and so even though they were a bit more expensive I got a pack of 4 individual pots of guac. They said keep refrigerated but I figure because they are individual pots they will last for a couple of days. I grabbed some Twix bars and cliff bars and another bag of crisps and a Gatorade and that was it. That was going to have to get me through the next 2 and a half days. 

I used the bathroom in the supermarket and when I looked in the mirror I noticed I had a really long and very dark hair growing out of my chin. I hadn’t even noticed that one growing. I just got an insight into my future. I carry tweezers especially for these moments but this one was long enough just to rip out with my fingers. 

A man approached me in the supermarket and asked me if I was a thru-hiker, he was from the class of 2011. People I speak to keep telling me I am late in the season, but there are so many people behind me! He gave me some advice about the next part of the trail and we spoke for ages which meant it was about an hour before I went back to the visitors centre. 

I also bought a sandwich from the deli, a chicken caesar wrap. I was going to go for the chicken pesto one but it had a best before date of over 10 days away. That’s not right! So I avoided that one. 

I ate the sandwich on the way back and it was starting to get really really hot. There is a lot in Front Royal but like with most American towns it’s all so spread out. There was a Subway, and I have been wanting a Subway in every town since Damascus, which was 24 days ago, and I’ve not had one. It was too far away to get to so I had to make do with my crappy supermarket ready made thing. 

I walked back to the visitors centre and organised my food and decided I really needed to leave because now I was just hanging around. Cartographer wanted to stay and let his battery charge and he wanted to get lunch in town so I gathered my stuff and walked to a more suitable hitching spot. It was quite a long walk, at least a mile down the highway to get to the road where everyone going along there would be going past the trail. It was absolutely roasting walking along there and I felt like I was melting. I hoped it wasn’t this hot on the trail in the trees and I hoped it was just because I was on the ‘blacktop’. 

When I got to the road it took all of 30 seconds to get a ride. A man pulled over a little ways up and I ran to get to him. He was a really nice man, he didn’t ask me anything about myself, instead he told me about his race horses and his dog who was in the car too. A Labrador Pitbull cross. The lab part was cute. He said he got on better with animals than people and he told me to make sure I stayed safe because there are a lot of weirdos out there. 

When we got to the trailhead which was only 3.5 miles up the road he helped me get my pack on and he gave me a hug and wished me well. He waited until I had crossed the road and I was safely back on the trail before moving off and giving a little toot. He was such a nice man. I regret not getting a picture. 

After being so hot on the road it was nice to be back in the shade of the trees. I don’t have a plan. I was just going to see how far I could get. There were a couple of open areas early on in the day, a boardwalk and a couple of meadows but thankfully the rest of the day was in the trees. It’s supposed to be up around 100 degrees for the next few days. 


I’m back doing my own thing on my own schedule. 

After a few miles the trail crosses under interstate 66 and back on the trail there is a little parking area and a picnic table. When I got there my stomach wasn’t feeling too good and I had to find a spot to take and urgent poo. It wasn’t solid but it wasn’t in the dire state it had been some times in town, and the common thread…the fruit! 


I sat for a moment and ate one of my guacs with my crisps. It was the most garlicky thing I have eaten for a long time but it was good. The ingredients didn’t seem too bad, all natural, but of course it still didn’t taste like fresh guacamole, and being out of the fridge it was very oily. But it did the job. What was nice about today was that the bugs were nowhere near as bad as they were yesterday when it was impossible to stop for even a moment. 

I carried on and there were a few ups and downs but the trail was actually quite easy today, the grade remains gentle for now and it wasn’t even that rocky for the most part. There were some exceptions of course. 

I thought some people would pass me today but just one very quiet hiker passed me and didn’t say anything. The group from the hut yesterday are staying in town so hopefully I won’t see them again! 

There isn’t much else to say about the trail, it was an uneventful walk with hundreds of squirrels around and a couple of deer. When I looked at the app I saw there was an area where you can’t camp in which is about 4 miles long. I had to decide whether to camp before or after that. In the end I decided to camp before. There was a decent looking tentsite about a mile before the restricted bit. I got water from a spring and found the tentsite which was down a little overgrown side trail. There were a few thorny plants and I got a bit of a scratch near my eye. 


It was just before 7pm and it was looking like I was going to be camping alone. I got set up and ate some more guac and crisps. I could have eaten all three pots. One really wasn’t enough but I had to save some for tomorrow. As I was eating I noticed that there was a big hole in the net of my tent. Great. I was a bit annoyed about it. It seems like nothing can be kept nice and stuff keeps getting chewed by horrible creatures. So I got the tenacious tape out and repaired it. 


I just took it easy for a while and just after I had got changed and I was cleaning my teeth and man with a French accent came by. I said there was room at this site but he carried on a tiny bit to another spot. 

A short while later I heard some movement in the forest which was bigger than a squirrel and bigger than the rabbits which had been bouncing around when I arrived. When I heard another crash I thought it was a bear, so I got out of my tent and grabbed my phone – perfect for fighting a bear with – and I set off looking for it. It wasn’t a bear. It was a man carrying a massive branch from a tree out of the forest. I told him I thought he was a bear and he told me he was collecting fire wood. Fire wood? I thought. You’re carring a small tree! How big is your fire going to be!!

He apologised for scaring me and I went back to my tent, thinking that his giant fire will probably scare away the bears anyway. Getting in and out of the tent without letting any of those horrible flies in was difficult and I had to squash the ones that made it in. The others were gathering under my tent fly and making it sound like it was raining. But it’s a totally clear night so I don’t think it’ll rain tonight. 


I got to camp at a reasonable time and yet I still find myself awake at 10pm writing this! I need to sleep…

Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 52




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