June 25th 2018
Rockfish Gap – Blackrock Hut (mile 883.7)
20.9 miles
Total miles: 900.6


I did sleep well, but I didn’t want to wake up. I was dragged out of bed by needing a wee, the Gatorade had done its job. Around 7am we went to get breakfast. I got a waffle but could only eat a bit of it. As soon as I started eating I wasn’t hungry. I drank a few orange juices instead. We were chatting to some section hikers who had finished their section and they were saying that over 4000 people are thru-hiking this year and over 2600 have already dropped out. We asked him what his source for those numbers was and he said that’s what he heard. I swear this is ‘fake news’. I have no idea where people are pulling these numbers from! What I do know is that there are more hikers than numbers on those little orange tags because not everyone knew about them and not everyone started at Amicalola Falls, and someone who just went through Harper’s Ferry (which is about a week away) got a number in the 900s. 

We called a trail angel and we though he said he would be there in 15 minutes which would be 8:30am but what he actually said was that he would be there at 9:15am. So we sat outside the Quality Inn for a while, Short Shorts got a second breakfast, I helped a blind lady and then Yellow Truck turned up and took us back to the trailhead. 

He was a funny man. He has been helping hikers for 15 years. The first year he helped about 20 hikers, this year he says he will go over 500 hikers. He said he didn’t care about our trail names or our real names. He just wanted to know where we came from and what we did. He has lived in Wainsboro for over 60 years! 

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We eventually got back to the trail and Yellow Truck explained that the trail crosses Skyline Drive 27 times and you’re never more than 500 feet from the road at any point over the next 100 miles. He said if we had any problems at all then we could call him and he would come out to any point on Skyline Drive, which was so nice of him. 

We walked over the bridge across the interstate and then found the registration thing at the start of Shenandoah National Park. This is where Short Shorts and I part ways as he is choosing to walk the road as Skyline Drive practically parallels the AT, and I am choosing the AT. Of course the road will be quicker and easier as it will be smooth and a gentle grade. The AT ascends from the road and then descends back down, over and over again. 

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So I was on my own once more. I felt a bit weird about it. I am alone but not. I’m never going to be more than 500 feet from the road and I will cross it multiple times today and the days after, I can hear the road most of the time. Those things don’t make you feel like you’re alone in the ‘wilderness’. I definitely don’t feel like I’m in the wilderness. But I’m not. A national park is different from the wilderness. I also know there are a tonne of hikers ahead and a tonne behind me. 

The first climb takes me up to a peak with a huge weather station on top, then I descend into some really beautiful meadows with lovely purple flowers. I spend a while looking at the bees and other bugs. I’m not in a hurry today. Having not got back on trail until 9:30am I was just going to see how far I got. I figured I could do 20 miles in 10 hours which would take me until 7:30pm which was a reasonable time to end my day. 

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There is a part of the trail coming up that is named the rollercoaster. Well today felt a bit like a rollercoaster. Every time it left the road it went up to some arbitrary peak with no view and then went back down to the road again. I had an audiobook playing, but I didn’t really concentrate on it that well. My mind was running all over the place and flitting from one thought to another not sticking on anything. I just kept going and then I realised that when I got water from a spring, the next water source was 12 miles away at the next shelter so I basically had to get there tonight. 

There were so many deer on the trail today, I saw about 6 doe and a really cute little baby one. The mother and the baby didn’t seem to want to get off the trail for a while but eventually they moved off into the forest. At one point I turned a corner and came pretty much face to face with a doe who then bolted into the forest where it ran into another doe who then bolted towards me. It made my heart thump a bit just because of how quick it all was. Thank goodness it wasn’t a bear I ran into. 

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I did see a bear about 10 feet from the trail. We looked at each other (am I actually quite impressed with myself that I spotted it) and then I yelled hey bear and it ran a bit further into the forest. It was only a small bear but old enough to be on its own without fearing a mother bear appearing! 

Around 3pm I had to stop and eat something. I had been snacking on the usual stuff but I took a little break and ate some crisps and cheese. The trail was oddly quiet today, I had passed a couple of people this morning but other than that, and a few day hikers, I hadn’t seen anyone all day. 

The last bit of the trail I was so bored. Not bored to the point I’m not enjoying it or want to give up, just bored in that I couldn’t focus my mind and I was thinking about every step, which is boring. 

After a lot more of the same, up and down and crossing Skyline Drive, I made it to the shelter at 6:30pm. A good time to relax and get stuff done I thought. When I got to the shelter there were already 5 other people there. A family of 4 and a thru-hiker. Then people just kept on coming. The shelter had 7 of us in and there are at least 6 tents up around the shelter. 

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The only person I knew was the exceptional sweaty Sunshine man. He did say his trail name again but I’ve forgotten in already. I am really surprised about the amount of people who smoke (normal tobacco) on this trail, and one person was eating and smoking at the same time which looked really gross. I was looking at what people were eating to try and get some inspiration but it all looked like disgusting hiker food. Ramen, mashed potato and spam. Lentils and fast food sauces. The girl who ate this did something I’ve never seen before, she peeled her garlic (fresh garlic) and then cut it up by biting chunks off it and spitting the chunks into her pot! 

They were talking about hike naked day, all saying they did it, some just for a couple of hours. There was one man who was saying he did it and boy am I glad I didn’t come across him. I really wouldn’t want to have seen him naked. I’m glad I missed all that. I also listened to a conversation about someones tinder date and he passed a comment about women having body hair means you’re a hippy. Interesting. 

The girl, who was called something like Super Moon, but probably not exactly that, shared her chocolates which was nice. I ate my ramen and the packet of chicken I’ve been carrying for ages. I’ve decided the chicken is pretty gross so I won’t be buying that again. 

This shelter has an upper platform in a u-shape, I’ve got one of those spots so I don’t have to be next to anyone, but I’m pretty sure this is where the mice hang out so I’m not sure how good my sleep will be. 

I have my first hole in my shoe today, not bad considering they have 900 miles on them. I must get around to ordering some new ones! I look in the hut book, I don’t know why because there is no one I know ahead of me. Then I see an entry that just says Growler. It isn’t her writing, I know it’s not. Part of me was hopeful, part of me was terrified.

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It’s about 9:30pm now and one of those Willow Whippers is out. It has one of the loudest most incessant, most annoying calls and I hear someone shout ‘shut up’ from the campsite. Needless to say it didn’t shut up. 

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There are so many bugs around. I think I’m going to end up with some serious bites in the morning. 

I think I have found myself in a bubble of people who still aren’t really my people. 


Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 48

 

 


 

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