Just Shy of West Virginia

Mile 1019

Today I showered and it may have been the best shower of my entire life. At least top ten. Showering is one of my favorite thru hiking activities and I do it so infrequently. I’m not normally a dirty dude. In my non-hiking life I stay pretty clean and shower at least daily, but out on the trail, bathrooms aren’t always readily available to me. It’s hard to explain how good it feels to scrub off a hundred and something miles worth of sweat, mud and grime. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy feeling like a feral beast. Everybody out here smells like a wild animal and it’s to the point where only day hikers and people in towns can smell us. A hot shower after 4 or 5 days on trail is indescribably amazing. Even if the good of it doesn’t last very long.

Okay enough boring hygiene talk. Things between me and the Appalachian Trail have been going quite nicely lately. I feel as if I may have cranked up the pace just a hair and am moving along rather quickly. Knock on wood but right now my body feels fast and strong and my legs have been firing on all cylinders. Donuts and soda have been powering me through long days of cranking out big miles. I’ve still been hiking primarily solo on this trail but I’ve met lots of great people and some very formidable hikers. For a few days I hiked with ‘Badger’ and ‘Grouse’ and their dog ‘Shenny’. This is a fun couple who hike fast, enjoy slack packing, and eat ramen by the block. The other day I spent an afternoon bombing down the trail with ‘Svagnum P.I.’to beat an incoming thunderstorm. This girl, who is from Iowa, somehow pinpointed my accent to Lynn, Massachusetts. I was totally impressed. This morning I hiked with ‘Lava Monster’. We crushed about a dozen miles through ‘the Rollercoaster'(a section of trail named for its many steep ups and downs). This guy who is a competitive ultra runner can really fly on the trail. Today, however, was his last day since he was getting off trail in Harper’s Ferry. I’ve also come across some pretty sweet trail magic in the last week. The other night after a huge day, I got to a lodge within Shenandoah NP. I was hoping to get some hot food but the bartender already called last call. He still hooked me up with a Sprite and half a pizza which I promptly devoured. ‘Slay’ who was at the bar, let me crash on her site at the adjacent campground. Good thing because it was already super late and there wasn’t any good camping for miles afterward. Sunday, my friend ‘Shadowhawk’ from the PCT was passing through Waynesboro, VA while I was there. He treated me to breakfast and hooked me up with a ride back to the trail. A few days back I came across the Lexington, VA hiking club serving food at a road crossing and it was perfect timing. I guess they do it once a year and that day was my day. They insisted that I eat like forty cookies. #realtalk. Today ‘Shaggy’, a local thru hiker, and his mom were serving sodas and food and providing shade at a road crossing. Nothing like an ice cold Mountain Dew at a road crossing during the middle of a hot day of backpacking. I felt like we should have been on a Mountain Dew commercial.

So tomorrow is a day I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I’ll be attempting the 4 State Challenge. Right now I’m tenting in Virginia about a mile from the West Virginia border. The challenge starts here, follows the trail for about 4 miles through Wild and Wonderful West ‘by God’ Virginia (really thats what they call it) then travels through about 40 miles of Maryland before ending in the 4th state of the day, Pennsylvania. It will be a big day but I’ve got faith in myself plus I have a plan. I’ll get up early, start walking, and listen to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ like 200 times in a row. Then as I enter PA I’ll switch it to ‘Chariots of Fire’ for the last 20 minutes or so. What could possibly go wrong?

Let me leave you with this little story. While hiking, I wear this green university of Oregon track tank top every single day(it stinks). You may be familiar with it if you’ve seen any of my recent pictures. I wear this jersey for no good reason besides its comfortable AF. I’m not from Oregon, I didn’t go to school there and I’m not a fan of their sports. I have nothing against the place, I love the state actually, and of course as a runner I’m pro Prefontaine. Everybody I come across has something to say about the shirt, it’s usually just, “Go Ducks!” or “PRE!!” But tonight a girl, who was section hiking southbound, told me how she’s a huge fan of Steve Prefontaine and his quotes and dropped this gem on me. “The best pace is a suicide pace, and today feels like a good day to die.” Morbid, sure and I’d regret dying, but inspiring. I’m about to crush it tomorrow: 4 State challenge at a suicide pace, let’s do the damn thing!!


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