july 2nd, 2013
I didn’t think I would spent any more than three nights at my friend’s place in Washington D.C. It was suppose to be a quick trip: take the train from Harper’s Ferry–which I did after night hiking into town with snakes skin, siracha and wolf spider–visit my friend, collect my package, maybe spend a night drinking with Lincoln, shoot the breeze about the general state of global affairs, maybe even spare a moment or two to reflect on a thousand miles trek across America….
well, at least, I was drinking every night, sailed the Potomac, had the distinct pleasure of making breakfast for fine company, and even ‘bartended’ a dinner party over eight days in D.C., five more zero days than I had planned.
it wasn’t all fun and games, however; I redesigned my webpage(yes, this one), sorted out my gear resupply, arranged to have the tent I won at trail days traded out for a footprint and a filter, and even managed to pencil in some time for some memorable magic off the trail.
at the mount Vernon shelter–which isn’t meant for over night camping btw but they made an exception for us but first extracting a promise to clear out by 7 am–, there is a roaring fire, electricity, good water, and even a fellow hiker to pass the night. this quaint stone edifice will serve as shelter tonight and I wont bother hiking the rest of the 22 miles to make the four state challenge. the hot chocolate with some choice bourbon settled the matter, particularly after two dinners–mountain house beef stew and cous cous with tuna. I am satiated, a bit tired after a 20 mile day straight from 8 nights in a comfortable bed and among fine people.
I am watching the embers right now and their crimson glow pales next to the artificial iridescence of my phone screen( upon which I am typing this blog). it is quite dark and the fireflies are already at play, playing luminous hookie through the night…
the fire is low; I think ill feed its hunger for a while longer yet.
It was a solid break in DC and I am not quite sure how it will affect my hike to come. I had promised some people that I would catch them quite quickly but ten days in an urbane environment isn’t exactly conducive to long miles.
In fact, I only hiked five miles the first day out of the trek. After an uneventful train ride into Harper’s Ferry I ran into Rainbow Bright, one of the thru hikers injured during the Damascus Incident ( I have to spend some time to write my thoughts on that whole Damascus shakedown, it left me reeling and disturbed and took me a while to regain trail equilibrium, but more on that another time–it deserves its due) and she was perched right on the grassy bank opposite to the ice cream shop. It was good seeing her back on her trail after all that she had gone through.
So, while she looked after my pack, I ran to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to pick up the filter and footprint for which I traded my tent, met some old hiker buddies who thought I had died when I attempted–and completed–an insane 61.3 mile hike in a 24-hr period from the stately Woods Hole Hostel to Roanoke, Virginia, over some not so friendly terrain (again, more on this Wood’s Hole Delirium hike, in another entry of its own–yes, I have quite a bit of catching up to do). I was determined to hike far after that, but made it only three miles out of town, to a lovely stealth camping spot along the sandy shores of the Shenandoah River. I spent the night with BearCloud, RainbowBright and one other thru hiker and had a bottle of Fin du Monde, a Quebecois beer i managed to locate in DC to commemorate Canada Day, to a roaring fire.
Staring out into the steady rush of the river lit intermittently by a thousand errand fireflies, I remember the feeling distinctively. It was surreal being there at Harper’s Ferry, so close the 150th Anniversary of Independent USA, where John Brown stormed into history with his band with an ill advised and myopic battle plan but with a vision for a free America. I wish I had taken the time to see a bit more of this strange place that was so uncharacteristically unaccommodating towards hikers, despite having the Appalachian Trail Conservancy smack dab in the middle of the town. A friend who spent a couple of nights there after I had left mentioned that the walking ghost and civil war tours around the town were quite memorable. And you can feel that. History was palpable in the streets of Harper’s Ferry, the shores of Shenandoah River that roared along its boundaries and along the multitudes of footpaths crisscrossed across the Appalachian Trail, worn smooth by thousands of feet over historic times…and I was walking those too, right along the ghost whisperers, with John Brown, the former slave fighting for a freedom that had always been his…
I slept peacefully that night, gently lulled into a dreamless slumber by a susurrous Shenandoah, watching the fire flies dance across the water…