July 2nd 2018
Harpers Ferry – Dahlgren Backpack campground (mile 1042)
17.9 miles
Total miles: 1060.5

I made sure my phone was away from my bed and I shut my eyes at 10pm and went to sleep instantly. I don’t even remember my head touching the pillow. I slept through until 5:30am. 7.5 hours was not bad. 

I didn’t have to rush this morning, breakfast was served at 7am, waffles and banana, and I even managed 1.5 waffles and a whole banana. Normally I can barely force down one waffle. I finished up my chocolate milk I got yesterday, drank a couple of glasses of orange juice and some water. I wanted to start out this day fully hydrated. 

I packed up my stuff and I decided to ship some stuff back to my friend in Boston. It’s just too hot and it’s going to be hot for the foreseeable future. I’m ditching my stove. I haven’t used it for a couple of weeks, it feels like and it’s too hot to want anything cooked. Plus I hate all the food you can ‘cook’ in it. My puffy vest is going. The dollar store t-shirt is going. 2 reasons. It’s cotton which is not ideal and the short sleeves are not good for sleeping because the mat makes me sweaty, so I am also shipping back my long sleeve sleep top as I’ve picked up a lighter more loose fitting long sleeve from a hiker box. And the patches I’ve bought, my little single knife and a couple of other random bits are going too. I carried it down to the post office in a bag and it felt like I was shedding a significant amount of weight. My pack felt good even with 3ish days of food, water and about 10lb of pizza (ok, but it was definitely over a pound…). 


After that I went back to the AT conservancy and followed the blue blazes back to the trail. If I had stayed on the road I would have just gone straight into downtown but the road was hot and I was hoping the trail would be shaded in the trees, which it was. I strolled down the trail, stopping to look at Jefferson Rock. A rock Thomas Jefferson stood on and declared there was a nice view over the Shenandoah river. 


As I made my way into downtown Harpers Ferry I was struck with how nice the town is. It’s quaint and has history and the buildings are joined on to each other. I would have liked more time to stop there and explore, maybe on a cooler day. There was a street that had little underground cellars where people used to keep their food in the days before refrigeration. 


I went to the outfitter and I was there 10 minutes before they opened so I found a bit of shade to sit and wait in. A man came over and handed me a cold orange Gatorade. Yes! It was so cold and delicious. I drank the whole thing straight down. 


In the store I got some new shoes. Same model just a different colour. These ones are a very bright blue. They were expensive. I could have got them on Amazon for $30 less, but I would have also had to wait for delivery and get to a post office at the right time. My shoes were well overdue for replacement so I decided to just suck it up and deal with the cost. Plus it’s nice to support an independent shop over the Amazon giant. 

I sat outside and compared my old ones with the new ones. I was actually really impressed with how well they have held up. Just one small hole in the right shoe and still a decent amount of grip with the exception of a couple of patches. Maybe these new ones will last me until the end. 


The new ones were pretty uncomfortable. My feet were hot and swollen and the old ones were exactly the shape of my foot. They had spread and moulded around my foot. These new ones were stiff and unforgiving and I felt clumsy in them. 

I limped off down the trail which crossed the Potomec river on a footbridge. I realised that as soon as I crossed the bridge I was now in Maryland, my 6th state, but there was no sign to say I had crossed a state line, or maybe I missed it. But anyway. Now I’m in Maryland. 


It was 10:30pm by the time I left so I was just going to see how the day went. The trail follows the towpath for 2.5 miles and my feet were already sore. I was getting quite a significant amount of pain in my right outer ball joint. The shoes were just so tight in the width. I know they will stretch over time but that’s not good for now. All I could do was carry on. I passed Peaches as she was sat having a break and went on the do the only really significant climb of the day and even that wasn’t that significant. At the top I rewarded myself with a piece of pizza. I was worried it was going to be soggy and gross but it tasted great and yes it was a little soggy. 


The trail is then the flattest it’s been for the entire time (with the exception of the towpath of course) and it just followed this ridge line for a few miles, gently undulating. Some parts were a dream, clear wide trail, and other parts were pretty rocky. I couldn’t feel any of the rocks under my feet and I missed that rock massage a bit. I had to stop a couple of times to take off my shoes and release my feet to give them a break from their tight confines when the pain got too much. And at times it was too painful to walk. 

Blake (that’s totally not his name but I can’t remember what it is) caught up to me as I was just strolling. It was hot, have I mentioned that yet? It was 39°c / 102°f. That’s hot. Too hot for hiking. So I was trying to walk in a way that I wasn’t exerting myself too much. I wasn’t breathing too heavily or sweating (any more than I was) unnecessarily. But I managed to keep up with Blake and walked a bit quicker with him until we reached a picnic area which, 10 miles into the day, was our first water. There was a toilet and a spigot which gave us cold water and we were happy with that. We sat outside on benches and I almost moved on because the black flies were surrounding us in clouds. Peaches arrived and sat with us. Then a guy came over and said there was trail magic at the pavilion, which we could see from where we were sat. 


I was up and over there like a shot. 2015 AT hiker Reptar and his dad were there with beer and soda. There were only cokes which I don’t really like but it was cold and sweet and fizzy so I took one. We sat under the pavilion for about an hour, and there were a bunch of other hikers there. I ate my second slice of pizza and when Reptar said he was leaving and I got another coke and he took my trash. Excellent trail magic! Even the flies gave us a break. 


Carrying on there were only 7 miles to do to get to a campground which had water, toilets and showers! Blake and Peaches said they were going to go there too and I thought I sounded like as good a place as any. It was only 4pm and I could take my time. 

The trail was nice again. Barely going up and down and with only a few rocks. I got a Twix out which had basically turned to liquid. After picking out the biscuit parts I just had to lick the rest of it off the packet. The bugs were horrible. So many mosquitoes and big buggers too. I got stabbed a few times and I squashed one with my blood in it. At some points I was just waving my hand in front of my face and swatting about 10 in a swoop. 


I got to the campsite at 6:45pm and there were a bunch of people already camping here. I saw my new friends rucksacks but no sign of them. A man mentioned there was trail magic 0.2 up the road and that’s where the others were, if I went quickly they might still be there. You’ve not got to tell me twice. I dumped my pack and hotfooted it up the road, even though a minute before I felt like my foot was about to explode with pain. It was Reptar and his dad again with a replenished cooler full of beer and soda, and this time he had Sprite. 

There were a bunch of us sat around on the gravel of the parking area and we sat and drank beer if that was your thing and I drank 2 sprites. 4 sodas and a Gatorade in one day! Very happy with that! There were about 6 of us and we sat there, chatting and telling jokes until it got dark and they wanted to go home. The 4 of us went back down the gravel road in the dark and we were all quite jumpy and the sounds and movements of the forest. This is why I don’t like night hiking! Although tonight would have been a perfect night to do it. It’s not going to go below 24°C tonight. 


I pitched my tent in the dark and slung everything inside. It was 9:30pm by the time I got myself sorted. Then I had to eat. I wasn’t starving but I wanted to eat that pizza up before it went bad. It was a huge slice but I made my way through it. I didn’t have the fly on my tent but I looked up the weather and it said 40% chance of rain overnight so I decided to put the fly on. It was hot in my tent without it, now it feels at least 5 degrees hotter with it on. 

It’s now 22:45pm and I’m just finishing up writing this. Another late one!! But aside from the foot issue and the heat, it’s been a really lovely day. Although those drinks were appreciated all the more because it was so hot. I had a really nice evening sitting around chatting. 

Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 55