This week started pretty slow and dreary with several days of rain and dampness in a row, which meant that just about everything I owned was soaked for a little while. It’s alright for a day or two, but if things are damp for too long it starts to drive you a little bit crazy. Some of the storms passed us so it wasn’t as bad as it was originally projected to be, but it was definitely the longest stretch of rain that I’ve hit so far. On the bright side, coming out of Glasgow I was able to finally catch up to my friend Amy, who I’d been trying to catch up to for a week, on her birthday and pack out some wine to celebrate. Once the weather cleared up after a few days we found ourselves at Devil’s Backbone Brewery, which is gorgeous and has very clean showers and a special camping area for hikers, where we had a good time and definitely drank way too much.
This was a fun little section of trail because I was getting closer and closer to where I grew up. In fact, I came extremely close to calling my mom and asking her to come and pick me up during our four days of rain. But I stayed strong. She wound up picking me and Amy up at the brewery, and we’ve spent the past few days relaxing and eating at my mom’s house. It’s been really nice to be able to go through all my gear to waterproof things and treat them with permethrin, which repels bugs, as well as to swap out some gear items. It also felt amazing to have my own bedroom, to get to be so clean, to wear normal clothes, and to hang out with my dog. My body definitely needed a couple of rest days. I even made it to an annual party that I haven’t been at in years and got to see lots of people that I don’t see very often! However, I’ve been careful not to stay here for too long so that I don’t lose my motivation to hike, and I’ll be heading out again tomorrow morning. I’ll be pushing it hard again this week to make it to Front Royal on Saturday (which is my birthday), to celebrate there.
It was really great to take a break for a couple of days and let my body regenerate. The past few weeks I’ve been in a hurry, first to get to some new gear and then to catch a friend, and last week I really started to feel it. I was doing a lot of high-mile days and not taking a lot of rest days. Although it wore me out this time, I actually really enjoy trying to go fast sometimes. Once you hit a certain number of miles, for me around 20, the endorphins really start kicking in and you start to feel invincible no matter how tired you are. That high is what endurance athletics are really all about – there’s nothing else like it. Whether or not I’m in a hurry I like to have long days pretty regularly so that I can capture that feeling.
It also feels really empowering to push the limits of what I can handle. Although you need to be in good shape for endurance athletics, it’s mostly just a mind game. Like how far or how fast your mind can convince your body to go. After all, your mind is really what’s in the driver’s seat. Even when your body hurts or is uncomfortable, your mind can decide to keep going. So pushing for faster speeds and higher mile days is a fun test of just how strong and determined my mind can be.
Throughout this section of the trail we’ve crossed a lot of sections that are threatened by the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Energy companies are trying to build these pipelines to carry fracked natural gas across the area, but they’ve been stalled due to widespread public outcry. Pipelines can be dangerous and volatile, threatening the drinking water and the safety of anyone who lives near them. In addition to endangering the safety of residents, both pipelines are supposed to cross the Appalachian Trail. This would mar some of the beautiful landscapes along the trail while also proving detrimental to the wildlife in those areas.
A little farther south we actually crossed very close to a construction site for the Mountain Valley Pipeline which is stopped due to protesters that have been in a tree sit for nearly a year blocking the pipeline. There was one river near there that we were told not to drink from, even if we filtered the water (which we always do), due to pollution from pipeline construction. It’s incredibly upsetting that energy companies are trying to do this to the trail, the forest, and the residents of Western Virginia and I sincerely hope that all of the opposition will be able to stop them for good. If this is upsetting to you as well, I hope that you take the time to speak out against them. You can also financially support pipeline protesters here!
I feel very refreshed, have my gear in order, and I’m excited to spend this week hiking through Shenandoah National Park. Unfortunately, due to the rain and rest days I didn’t take very many pictures this past week but these are the ones that I did manage to snap.