Miles Today: 15.0
Mile Marker: 547.6
Last night I decided I would sleep in and catch the 11:00 bus back to the trail head. However I still woke up exactly at 7:00. I went down to the lobby for the “hot breakfast” they advertise. Call me crazy, but a waffle iron and a toaster for bagels doesn't exactly qualify as a hot breakfast to me. That's still a continental breakfast. At any rate I loaded up my plate with the bountiful selection of carbs and went back to my room to eat, shower, pack, and lounge.
I got to the bus stop at 10:58, but the bus was already gone. I later learned the driver said “This is good enough, we're going.” at 10:55. Oh well, I walked down to the street and stuck out my thumb. A lady immediately pulled over, but said she was only going downtown. Forward progress is forward progress, so I got in. Turns out she's from Austin and her husband is from West Texas, but they now live in Marion, VA. She works at her family’s cafe. She parked in the back and ran in to see if it was slow enough for her to take me to the trail, but unfortunately she couldn't. I walked a block to get back to US 16 and started over. Shortly after a guy in a truck pulled over who was already taking Nomad and Raven back to the trail. He is going to hike the trail next year so he grilled us about gear and footwear in exchange for the ride. Hikers always love to talk about gear, so it worked out well.
Once I finally got on trail it was the perfect day. The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, and the trail was in great shape. Toward the end of the day there were lower sections that were still flooded and muddy, but nothing like Sunday.
About half way through the day there was a historic school house and a settlers museum. It turns out the local church keeps the school house stocked with sodas, snacks, and every toiletry a hiker could want. Advil, benadryl, toothpaste, wet wipes, chapstick, shoe laces, sun screen, muscle soreness cream, and on and on. We were all incredibly impressed by everything they had. All of us needed something different, but the magic box had it. Shortly after we arrived a car pulled up with two of the people from the church that stock the school house. It turns out the lady’s son hiked in 2013. That explained the perfect selection.
The next stop was the Barn Restaurant 2.8 miles away for a one pound burger and some potato salad. It wasn't that great, but it wasn't bad.
After all of the delays, I ended up hiking until just before sunset to make it to my goal of hitting the 25% mark. Supposedly there is a sign, but I didn't see it. My guess is this section of trail has been expanded and the sign is now actually slightly past the 25% mark. Hopefully I see it first thing in the morning. Just like the 500 mile mark, I'm very excited for this goal. I finally feel like I've got some momentum behind me, and I'm mostly out of the rookie stage. I've just got to stay focused and do what I've already done three more times. Thinking about the end goal is incredibly daunting. I normally only focus on three to five days out, but at these big milestones I stop and reflect on what I've accomplished and what I still have left to do. Knowing I've made it this far fortifies my resolve and confidence of making it to Katahdin. I still get awe struck by the fact I'm actually out here doing it. I'm really hiking the Appalachian Trail. I thought at a certain point that feeling would fade, but now I'm starting to suspect I'll continue to have these moments the whole way through. I certainly hope I do.
I started typing this while the sun was setting and now it is completely dark. I'm still close enough to town to have some light pollution, but I'm going to stay up past my normal bedtime and stare up at the stars for a while. Magnificent.