Last weekend was very domestic, and it was what I needed. Cara and I spent quality time together, mowing the lawn, going to Lowes, spreading mulch. I know that might not sound spectacular, but honestly it was very fun. I highly enjoyed myself. It was such a change from walking everyday to just stay in one spot and do some hard work. We also had a yard sale, made friends with the neighbors up the street, and had a BBQ with them and the next-door neighbors. I am learning that, while I really LOVE travel and adventure, there's just something about home that is just incredibly nice too. I feel that is one of the strong lessons the Trail is teaching me.
So early Monday I drove to Harpers Ferry and got a shuttle south to Front Royal to hike back north to my car. This worked out well, but shuttles are always pricey, and I didn't get back on the Trail until 3pm so it was another NERO (near-zero). I wanted to stop early anyway since I brought my hammock and wanted to see about setting up the tarp tent over top of it. It worked surprisingly well - as a test it even rained all night and I stayed comfortably dry and insect free off the ground... there might be something to this hammock thing! As the week progressed I got better at hanging and covering the hammock. With plenty of room to sit on the ground under the tarp and hammock to cook or hang out if the weather is crummy and a comfortable dry place to sleep, I think I will keep this setup. I thought about purchasing the pre-fab Hennesy hammock system, but at over $200 I wanted to make sure it would be worth it. I think I will stick with the setup I have now, however, as I like to have both options, either hang or tent, with carrying no additional weight. Plus I spent a lot on the Black Diamond tarp tent and I'd like to get my moneys worth out of it. I did stop at REI on the way home to return my car yesterday and got a hammock that has an integrated bug net, nice! Better than sleeping with the netting on me like I did last week (in the heat, even that was too much of a 'blanket' on me).
Summer really is here! Going through the Roller Coaster was fun, but wow was it HOT! The last couple days were dangerously hot. In heat like this I must plan for fairly low mileage days, if it isn't as hot and I can do more, well, bully; but you can't expect to hike big days with heat like this. There comes a time where it is no longer just foolhardy to push oneself like that, but it becomes stupid and unhealthy. I moderated my pace well, stopping for sodas and a nice long rest break at Bears Den hostel, I climbed the hills slowly to keep my heart rate down, and I stopped at every water source to refill bottles and pour some over my head. Some guys had setup their hammocks and were waiting out the worst of the heat. The day I made it back to Harpers Ferry it was as hot the previous day, even at 6am when I started to hike I was sweating, but I still beat the worst of the heat (99 degree high) by hiking 10 miles before 9am! That's the way to do it. Hike near 10 before 11am, wait until 3 or 4 and hike another 10... when heat like this is forecast, that is absolutely what I've got to do!
I went to the ATC headquarters and got my picture taken in front of the sign! That is big to me, really big! And encouraging. One of those landmarks on the Trail, probably the most meaningful one as of yet. I felt rejuvenated, and while the first day was again boring, the Roller Coaster spiced things up. And that's when I figured it out - the combination of too easy trail and missing Cara and home made me crank up the miles too much just to get it done. The difficulty, even the heat, made it more challenging and more fun! So after getting to see Cara last weekend and this one, plus the promise of my birthday weekend spent with her, I will be well armed to get through Pennsylvania. With luck, by my b-day weekend when she comes to get me I will be in NJ or possibly right at Delaware Water Gap! Also I have the promise of my friend Jon B to come and visit between now and then... I'm thinking I'll try and get him to come out when I'm close to the Yuengling Brewery...
Photos are still being slowly uploaded, 10 or 20 more are up now in Picasa/Google+.