I feel like I’ve been dragging a bit this week. I’m not sure I have an excuse for my lethargy, though.
The trail hasn’t been especially rugged or difficult. The weather has been warm, but not especially hot.
Oh, wait. Maybe I do have an excuse.
In the last three weeks I’ve walked 290 miles with only one nero day and no zeros. That’s an average of nearly 14 miles a day without a break.
|Date||Monday, June 26, 2017|
|Weather||Warm and humid|
|Trail Conditions||More ups and downs, with a few rocky sections|
So maybe I need to cut myself some slack. Or what I really need to do is get a little rest.
Fortunately, that opportunity begins tomorrow when Stick and I arrive in Harpers Ferry. Our plan to make that happen involves walking about 14 miles today, which leaves just under nine miles for tomorrow.
We were slow to wake up and get going again this morning, but we were able to leave camp about 15 minutes earlier than yesterday.
Right out of the gate the Roller Coaster resumed with a steep and rugged climb. As with the other climbs in this section, however, the climb was mercifully short.
After about an hour of hiking we made a turn and took a short side trail the Bears Den Trail Center.
The center is owned by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and operated by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. There is space for staff upstairs and a hostel for hikers downstairs.
The main building was built in 1933 as a home for Dr. Huron Lawson, a professor at George Washington University, and his wife, Francesca Kaspari, a soprano singer.
In the 1960s the home and much of the surrounding land were planned to be part of a country club community, but thanks to a downturn in the economy and a dispute between the developer and county officials, the development failed.
Finally in 1984, the land was purchased to enable a reroute of the trail. That’s when the ATC acquired the house.
Stick and I each bought a pint of ice cream and a soft drink, then sat outside in the shade of a gazebo to enjoyed the mass infusion of sugar. It was a nice, refreshing break.
We weren’t able to see it from where we sat, but we were just a few miles from the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center. It is called a Continuity of Government (COG) facility, which is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to maintain vital government activities in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.
There is reportedly a secret underground facility here, which is where Congressional leaders were taken for protection right after 9/11.
It’s called Mount Weather because a weather station has operated there since the late 1800s.
The uses of Mount Weather have changed and grown over the years, but many have remained secret. Some of what we know about the facility was first learned when news reporters came to the mountain to report on the crash of TWA Flight 514 in 1974. They became curious when they were barred from entering the grounds.
A total of 85 passengers and 7 crew members were killed in the crash.
Leaving Bears Den Trail Center, we stopped at a ledge to enjoy a wide view. From here we could see the entire northern portion of the Shenandoah Valley.
The trail made a gradual but somewhat rocky descent for a half mile to Snickers Gap.
You might think this spot commemorates the massive quantity of Snickers candy bars consumed by thru-hikers, but it’s not. The gap was named for Edward Snicker, a wealthy landowner who owned the gap in the late 1700s. He also operated a ferry near here.
Virginia Route 7, also known as Harry Byrd Memorial Highway, runs through Snickers Gap today. It wasn’t easy for us to cross because of Monday morning traffic and a shortened line of sight. There was a blind curve in one direction and the road crested over the gap in the other.
The best option for crossing was to walk along the road for a short distance to get a better view of the on-coming traffic, then make a dash for it.
A restaurant was reported to be located near here, but sadly, it was closed on Mondays. We had no choice but to soldier on without cheeseburgers.
After about three-quarters of a mile we stopped for water. A hiking couple was also stopped there. They go by the trail names Chuck and Chuck, or sometimes Chuck Squared. I’m sure using the same name never causes confusion.
They said they were high school literature teachers from Georgia doing a section hike during their summer break.
After making a sometimes-rocky climb, I reached an overlook called Raven Rocks. Stick had already been there a couple minutes when I arrived. He said to me, “Did you get your picture at the sign as you crossed into West Virginia?”
Gah! I totally walked past the sign without noticing it.
I backtracked two tenths of a mile so I could get a photo.
From this point the trail made a zig-zag pattern along the state line. For the rest of the day we wouldn’t know for sure without checking a map if we were in West Virginia or Virginia.
I returned to Raven Rocks and stayed there several minutes to enjoy the view, while Stick went on ahead.
As I was standing at the edge of the cliff, one of my trekking poles slipped from my hand and fell down the side of the rock. Miraculously, though, there was just enough jaggedness in the rock to catch the pole. Otherwise it would have fallen at least a hundred feet.
I continued on with both poles firmly in my hands.
A short distance beyond Raven Rocks was a sign marking the end of the Roller Coaster.
At one point I had to stop to deal with a problem with one of my shoes. They were still in good shape, with fewer than 400 miles on them so far, but I needed to make an adjustment to the way one of them was laced.
At least I only have two feet to deal with, unlike one hiker I saw crossing the trail.
At about 5 p.m. I reached a side trail which dropped down to another trail center. This one was also operated by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, and was used by hikers and trail maintenance crews.
It was called Blackburn Trail Center and was originally built as the summer home of a Washington, D.C. doctor. The National Park Service acquired the land in 1978 in order to protect the Appalachian Trail.
Stick and I were given a free soft drink here and chatted with the caretaker for several minutes.
We didn’t check to see if there was room to stay here. We wanted to get closer to Harpers Ferry to make tomorrow’s miles shorter, so we made the climb back up to the trail.
Just beyond where the side trail joined the AT was a short spur trail to a rocky ledge. By now it was 6 p.m. and we still had three miles to go to reach our campsite, but we decided to stop anyway and take in the view.
On any given day you have many miles to walk. But whenever possible, it’s important to just stop and take in the view where it’s available. That’s why you’re here.
We arrived at David Lesser Memorial Shelter at 7:40 p.m. It was a nice place with plenty of room for tents. There was even a covered porch swing.
The only complaint I had about the place was the distance to the water source, which was a quarter mile away.
When you’ve been hiking all day, the last thing you want to do at the end of the day is more walking.
And I feel like I've been here before
I feel like I've been here before
And you know it makes me wonder
What's going on under the ground
Do you know?
Don't you wonder
What's going on down under you?