trail friends: days 58-59

Day 58: Tom Floyd Shelter to Manassas Gap Shelter, 13.6 miles
Day 59: Manassas Gap to Bear’s Den Hostel, 22.7 miles
Total AT miles hiked: 1003.1

We weren’t in a hurry to get moving from Tom Floyd Shelter. We only had 2.9 miles to go to get the road to Front Royal, where we would try and hitch into town to resupply. Nevertheless we still made it to the road around 8am, where there were many cars passing by. I thought we’d have an easy time getting into town only a few miles down the road, but we didn’t have any luck after five minutes. Most people seemed on their way to work, with no time for smelly hikers! A woman in the parking lot offered us a ride once her friend came to meet her, they were spotting cars at the end and beginning of their day hike, and her friend arrived soon after. We were at the grocery by 830am, and walking the quick walk to the visitors center an hour later. On the way, a couple asked us for some help moving a table into the bed of a truck, so we did and continued on our way. We had coffee and caught up on a few things, then headed to lunch at the bar across the street. It just happened the woman we helped worked there, and she bought us beers for helping her out earlier! We got a quick hitch out of town, and a few miles later we found two more beers sitting on a rock. We’ve been beer-lucky lately! We grabbed them to cool them off in the spring when we camped later. We stopped at a cool shelter with horseshoes, a solar shower, and a nice sunny porch with chairs. Our friends Bubbles and Pudge ambled up a bit later, and we chatted before reluctantly moving on to the next shelter. I really like Bubbles and Pudge, we camped with them the four nights previous, and they are getting off the trail for a couple of days- so we may not see them for awhile. Such is the rhythm of the trail.

 The hike to the next shelter was easy, and I figured out how to cook macaroni and cheese in my small pot, finally! The trick is to boil the noodles until they start to take up too much room, then let them sit off the heat for awhile to absorb the rest, before mixing in the cheese powder. I may eat macaroni and cheese for the rest of the trip now!

The next day was predicted to be in the 90s, and it definitely was. We saw a raccoon climbing a vine hand over hand, like a little ninja, and we were impressed by its ability to do so. No doubt training to climb bear poles and get hiker food! We also saw a weird looking lizard, which we later identified as a five-striped skink. Skinks kinds of look like snakes with legs. After lunch we entered an area of the AT nicknamed the rollercoaster for its 13.5 miles of short, but steep ascents and descents. Luckily, at the bottom of each hill was a cold stream to cool off in and to drink from. When we were eating lunch Garrett remembered there was a place not far off the trail that sold cold sodas. We looked ahead and found that in 12 miles there was Bear’s Den Hostel that did just that, and not only that, they had a thru-hiker special which included a bunk, shower, laundry, soda, a pizza, a pint of Ben&Jerry’s ice cream, and a pancake breakfast for $30. That all sounded wonderful, so we pushed through the heat knowing cold showers, sodas, and ice cream were waiting for us. The hostel is in an old stone building, and when we walked up from inside I heard someone yell out, “I called it! I knew they’d walk up tonight!” It was our friends Frodo & Nopol, we hadn’t seen them in a couple of weeks after seeing them quite frequently. They hiked ahead when we chose to stay in Daleville, and we’ve been seeing that we’ve been catching-up to them in the hiker logs hikers sign at the various shelters and businesses along the trail. Seeing lots of wildlife and friends, showers and laundry, pizza and ice cream, sleeping in a soft bed in a cool basement to escape the heat outside, and crossing the 1,000 mile mark on the Appalachian Trail made it one of the best days yet!