I did 117 miles in the week since I've been back, getting into Daleville, VA yesterday afternoon. It has been difficult being back out here in a lot of different ways. It's been a pretty wet week. It has rained for a little bit every day it seemed like, and when it hasn't been raining it's been incredibly hot and sticky - reminds me of GA humidity. I left all of my rain gear at home, just because I figured I'd rather be wet from the rain than wet from sweat (the rain gear doesn't breathe at all), so at least I've had a good week to test out that theory. It poured on me for most of my third day back out, and I kept cool while not getting cold, so I think I made the right decision.
I've had little nagging injuries this week, too, that I attribute mostly to my body just getting readjusted to trail life, and partly to my stupidity. My ankle has been bothering me slightly, especially on longer days, so I've been taking my shoes off at every stream and soaking it. A couple days ago while soaking in Laurel Creek, I slipped on a rock and banged the side of my foot on another rock, so my foot has swollen up, too. I'm hoping it's just bruised and not fractured, but I'm going to keep an eye on it. Luckily it doesn't hurt all that much when I'm hiking; the swelling just makes my shoe a tad uncomfortable.
And it's been tough being away from home after having a couple weeks to be there. I miss Pauline a lot and I'm feeling a little bit more lonely this week than I have felt for most of the trip. I'm doing longer days, averaging about 17 this past week, so I'm hiking faster than a lot of people I'm meeting. I did run into Velvet, who I had met back in Georgia, so that was nice to see a familiar face. It's taken a little extra effort to meet new people, because I feel like a lot of people at this point on the trail have already created their "trail families" and don't have a huge desire to get to know new people. So a lot of instances happen where I walk up to a shelter with people I haven't met before, give out a friendly "Hi!", and get a lot of silence and empty stares back at me in return. But that hasn't been everyone, and I've met some really great people, too. "Team Indecision" is this group of 3 older guys in their 50s and 60s, who crack jokes all day long, while bitching and complaining - think "Grumpy Old Men". They've been some of the most entertaining company I've had on the trail.
But it's been a really good week, too. I've experienced some highlights of the trail for me so far this past week. I stayed at Wood's Hole Hostel my first night, and unfriendly hikers at first and three hikers stumbling in and waking me up at 3 am, couldn't have ruined this incredible place. It has been by far the best hostel I've stayed at so far. Michael and Neville, the couple that runs the place, are unbelievably friendly, wonderful people, and they cooked an amazing breakfast with tons of veggies from their huge organic farm. I also made it to "The Homeplace" in Catawba for a meal a couple days ago. I had only eaten a poptart and a candy bar before I arrived around 5 pm for this "all you can eat" heaven, just so I was sure to get my money's worth. You get 3 meats - fried chicken, roast beef and country ham, biscuits and apple butter, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, mac and cheese, cole slaw, pinto beans and fruit cobbler and ice cream at the end, and you can eat as much, for as long as you want. It was as incredible as it sounds;a Thanksgiving dinner in May.
And I've made it to some big milestones on my trip! Yesterday I hiked up to McAffee's Knob in the morning, one of the most photographed spots on the trail, and got the iconic "feet dangling over the edge" shot. I'm past the 700 mile mark, at about 719 miles so far, and I'm getting closer to the Shenandoah's. I climbed up to Dragon's Tooth the other day, too, and the descent was some of the first real rugged terrain I've experienced on the trail. People kept saying it was what all of New Hampshire is like, and if that's the case, I'm pretty excited. It was tough climbing down steep rock faces, and using metal bars in the rock to climb down like a ladder, but it was exhilarating and a whole lot of fun, too.
It looks like I'm about 16 days behind Mayo and Tom. After reading Mayo's trail journal today, it sounds like he's having some shin splints and slowing down his pace to get in to Harper's Ferry in the next 3 or 4 days. I will be there the 16th or 17th of June to meet Pauline for the weekend. It's going to be our 2-year anniversary on the 19th, so I'm super excited I get to see her for that. I'm counting down the days - less than 3 weeks! Well, it's back to trail to see how far I can get today. I look to get into either Glasgow in 3 or 4 days or Buena Vista, before hitting Waynesboro and the Shenandoah National Park. It may be a remote stretch, so I'll see yall sometime soon!