So I realize that I am not the gifted, creative, visual writer that Mike is & I think that comes from his idealism & my realism, but here's what I've (Caboose) got for ya!
The trail that I left isn't the same trail I came back to. We started where we left off of course but somehow it was different. For one I could move faster (it's amazing what a few days of rest will do for the body!) Second, it's been much drier...much to my pleasure. Don't get me wrong, we're still getting rain (/ the most horrible storms I've camped in) but its mostly been at night. This is a treat because we've either made it to a shelter or gotten our tents set up before the bottom fell out. Trust me, setting up in the rain puts a damper on things. Especially attitudes. Shortly after we came back we entered the Shenandoah National Park. I was not impressed...we ran along the Skyline Drive (aka the Blue Ridge Parkway) the entire length of the park. Real outdoors-y, believe me. One perk was the amount of restaurants along the way...we only had to carry dinner for one night the entire time we were in the park. While this was annoying to me because of how outrageously expensive these little joints were, the boys were in heaven. Seriously, you'd have thought we were on some sort of family vacation. Shenandoah won't be my favorite part of the trail for sure, but I'll always remember the bears that I saw! We were almost to the end of our time in the park and hadn't seen any bear (and very little wildlife in general) when I pulled a little ahead of the boys & came upon a mother & 2 cubs. I immediately stopped (the bear had already heard me) & back tracked to shhh the boys so they could see them too. Brock glanced at them & kept moving, but I was determined to get some pictures! Mike "stood guard" while I quietly dug out my camera & let me snap a few shots. I'm not kidding, seeing the bears in the wild is one of the coolest things I've ever seen.
I think Mike mentioned Porter, Pace, & Deva in the last post--our newest friends out here. Well, we ran into them again somewhere in the park & again enjoyed he fruits of their generosity. We pulled off at a road on Thursday because Brock had to have new shoes. It was pretty much the same situation that I dealt with in the beginning (plus the fact that we were making him do 20+ miles a day!...I'll let him give an account of his time out here though.) Back to the road. We got in & had NO service to call anyone for a shuttle, so we bummed a call off of 2 section-hikers & found out that the cab was on Skyline Drive with no service. Of course! Soooo we hung around and weren't sure what we were gonna do when Porter, Pace, & Deva showed up! The quickly got to the point with the section-hikers & got us a ride to town! 6 hikers plus all of our gear plus Rich the driver crammed into his Honda Element & headed off to Luray, VA. Once we got to town we immediately went to the outfitter & got Brock some new not waterproof shoes. Lunch was next on the list so on Gary's (the outfitter owner) recommendation we headed up the road to the local Mexican joint. Yuuuummmm! I think I had 7 refills of Diet Pepsi. It was heavenly! And, I even got to watch he baseball highlights on ESPN. Life was good! After lunch, we went to the store to resupply & headed back down the road ... again, not sure what we were going to do for a ride. We pulled back into the outfitter & what do ya know?! Porter, Pace, & Deva were in there waiting on us! Apparently when they walked by the local funeral home the owner came running out practically begging to give them a ride back to the trail. And bless them, they shared the ride with us! The best part of the ride was Deva asking Jason, the driver, "So, how is the dying business?!" Hilarious. After Jason dropped us off, the 6 of us hiked about 8 miles and found a beautiful camp spot. We got a little rain & a little wine from Pace (this time he only carried 3 liters haha!)...and a Payday for me! Oh man, good times.
Friday .. much to the boys surprise we hiked 26 miles! Yay-uh (: another marathon day for me & Mike & Brock's first! It felt great to get the miles done - but it was out of necessity. We are meeting Karena & Lauren in Harpers Ferry Saturday & needed to move! We also had the "roller coaster" coming up. This is no joke. It consists of 10 big ascents & descent over 13.5 miles. Mike & I agreed that it was by far the hardest thing we've done on the trail. Sure, there have been higher climbs or bigger descents, but none that carried on for almost 14 miles. WoooHaha. We slowly got 'em done & ended up at the Blackburn Trail Center. This is also a really neat spot (both are owned and run by the PATC) - I tried my darndest to make the boys move on, but they weren't budging. Good thing...we got a delicious spaghetti dinner with homemade bread! And it actually saved us from having to hike & set up Tentville in the rain. The skies turned mean at the end of our picnic table dinner & forced us to retreat indoors. So here I sit, exhausted, enjoying the chatter of new friends, the pitter-patter of rain on the tin roof, & a full belly. We also got an unexpected treat at dinner: we're going to get to slackpack into Harpers Ferry tomorrow! Karena & Lauren (& family) - here we come!
PS- we crossed 1000 miles today! BAM!! And we are finally out of Virginia.