25 To Go
So there we have it, 25 more miles to go. We stayed with our plan to go to the Harpers Ferry ATC center on Monday. We were unable to celebrate completely finishing our trip, but we were able to celebrate Christians having already hiked 2158 miles which is beyond incredible!
When I met them on the trail a few days ago near Blackburn Shelter I stopped for a few minutes to check it out and man are we bummed we didn’t get to stay there! It’s such a cool little place. It’s a room with bunks and a wood burning stove, it’s super clean and the people who caretake the place are really nice. But on the other hand we did get to go meet up with our friend Bonzo in Harpers Ferry which was a great time! We went out to dinner at Bonzos favorite local spot, Longshots which had really good food. Then we all got to shower which was glorious and just relax and hang out with our friend. The weather coming up is not looking good.
Tomorrow it is suppose to still be pretty cold so chances are that Skyline Drive probably will not be open. The day after that being Monday, we have to accept that although we want nothing more than to finish by Monday, it’s not going to happen. The problem that we are having with the 25 miles that we need to do from Behams Gap to the Front Royal is how to get back out after. It is common knowledge apparently that asking for a ride from a Ranger into or out of the park would not reek of of entitlement, they do it often. The only problem in this situation is that they know the roads are going to be closed for a while so they aren’t going up there unless they have to check the conditions. There is suppose to be a decent amount of snow on Tuesday, so we are pretty much stuck right now on what to do. We ended up taking Sunday off and decided to hike from Blackburn to the ATC on Monday, then finish the last 25 right after.
Our dear friend Bonzo was so kind as to offer to drop us off at Blackburn so we could all hike the last 11 miles together. We all climbed in his Jeep a little bit behind schedule that morning, but still with enough time to get there by 4. We took the 35 minute drive over to the other side of the mountains where the one lane semi paved road, Appalachian Trail Road climbs up to the shelter. We were only about a mile from the parking lot when we reached a sharp turn on a steep hill. As we headed up the hill the tires started to slip, then we started to slip down the hill to the left and right now into a little ditch on the side of the road. Of corse this had to happen today, when of corse we are already running late. This wouldn’t have been too big a deal if this road had any kind of traffic, which it doesn’t. Or if Bonzo had his rope and chains in his car to pull himself out with should anyone come along, which he unfortunately didn’t because he used them yesterday to pull my Jeep that got stuck in the mud while he was redoing his driveway. So, there we were literally stuck in the ditch. Bonzo has two bags of kity litter that they poured all over the place, but both wheels on the drivers side were stuck in the ditch and the other two were just spinning on the ice. We gathered up as many rocks as we could find to try and build it up behind the tires in the ditch to try to reverse it down hill enough to get them back on the road. We gathered and Bonzo tried the Jeep back and forth but those two wheels on the ice just kept spinning and he could only back up just so much because there was a large rock there. Finally on one try he backed the Jeep up and almost made it back onto the road, but he didn’t realize that by going further he would run right over that large rock and pop his tire which is exactly what happened. He didn’t hear Dion or I outside the car saying, “STOP” seeing what was about to happen. We felt so terrible, our wonderful friend was trying to do us a favor by dropping us off and here he was out of the ditch, but now with a completely flat tire. His spare was also back at his house, so we grabbed our stuff out as quickly as we could so he could try to make it down the road a bit before it was completely flat. We felt horrible watching him drive away and not being able to help.
It was already 11:45 too and we had a mile to walk to get to the blue blaze to get back where we left off and then hike 11 miles by 4. Yeah, we got this! Needless to say, we were all feeling kind of down. We weren’t really finishing, our day was now rushed, our friend was in need of help and we were all feeling a little sad. Once we got back onto the trail, music going and we knew Bonzo would be alright we all hiked the blues away. After a little bit we were all feeling excited to get there and ready to remember that this is the first of many celebrations for Buddy and our family and meeting our life goals and we will finish when we are done. We kept a great pace all day and enjoyed the beautiful hike all together. We met Dion’s parents at Chestnut Hill Road around 4:30, a little later that we had planned but with a 3 hour delay we did the best we could! We were so relieved to have finally made it back to where we started. We were all so excited to see Dion’s parents there waiting for us to arrive and rush us back to the ATC. We arrived at the office just a few minutes later and took lots of victory pictures in front of the sign where we started almost 9 ago. When we arrived we were greeted by a 2013 thru hiker we met up in NH near Chet’s place, a great local family with their kids who were eager to ask Buddy lots of questions about his hike and some people from Blue Ridge Outdoors. Dion’s fantastic mother made these really great goodie bags with great snacks and buddybackpacker.com stickers which was great but they also brought this really incredible sign his whole family had made the night before which was just incredible! It was unfortunate that there wasn’t anywhere to really hang it up, but we will definitely hang it up when we get back. That was so wonderful of them to drive all the way down here to be here for us. We just absolutely love his parents! We spent some time at the ATC sipping some bubbly, aka sparking grape juice, and enjoying being back in the office for the third time this year.
We left around 5:30 and headed to the Quality Hotel where we were staying with Dion’s family. We were joined at dinner by Laurie Potteiger, an incredible member of the AT community who works at the ATC. We had a really nice time getting to talk to her and find out about her life and tell her a little bit about our journey. After a long day we were so thankful to have giant warm beds with the perfect amount of fluffy pillows to rest our heads on and slept well knowing family was in the next room. Now that we have gotten all these miles behind us, we have 25 more to go. We took off all day on Tuesday because the heavens opened up and dumped a few inches of powdery-goodness down upon us. This was fine with Buddy who was content with staying in the indoor pool all day only taking breaks to eat and go back to the ATC to take a few more pictures and pick up some souvenirs. The next day, Wednesday, we said goodbye to Dions parents who had to head back to NY and headed down toward Luray. It is our plan to hike Thursday from the road crossing at 211 and redo a few miles up to Beahms Gap and do a little over 14 miles to get to Gravel Springs shelter. I’m going to drop them off tomorrow at 211 and then drive over to Gravel Springs Trail/ Browntown Trail and hike up from there. We went and scouted out the area today, the road is covered in snow and a steep incline up to get to the trailhead so we didn’t try to get up there in the Jeep. We did end up speaking with a man who lived right down the road who offered to let us keep the Jeep there overnight while we were at the shelter. This was great news and the perfect solution to the problem of not being able to access the side trail. We have gone and loaded up on extra emergency blankets and new rain gear pants for the boys to keep their pants dry while they hike through the snow. They have extra pairs of shoes and plenty of extra socks, so we are feeling pretty confident that we shouldn’t have any issues. We are at the hotel now in Luray packing up for tomorrow night, going over everything we need and everything that we have and I wouldn’t doubt for a second that we will be fine. The temperatures are suppose to get pretty low, but not worse than anything we’ve been in before. With the emergency bevy’s, emergency blankets and setting the tent up inside the shelter, I think we will be more than fine. We are putting our itinerary on here in full detail just in case, but we are planning on staying there tomorrow night and heading out Friday morning to the Front Royal road crossing and finally being finished with the entire Appalachian Trail. We are praying the weather is half way decent tomorrow and treats us kindly so we can enjoy our last two days on the trail.
We had the most fantastic time with our friend Bonzo and our family while they were here, we couldn’t thank them enough for all they’ve done for us. It’s almost over, we just need to get through these last 25 miles. Send warm thoughts our way and we will let you know as soon as we are finished and the record is set!