My First Blog

Camp after Wolf Rock
Day 95 (7/14/19)
Miles – 22.3
Total miles – 1284.9

We still woke at are normal 6:00 even though we had a late night. Today we had two small ups and a lot of level trail that is covered in rocks. Everyone talks about the rocks in Pennsylvania and we can now with first hand experience, claim the rumors to be true. But most of the state is not an issue. It is only the last 2 or 3 days we have finally seen a lot of rocks. Yesterday, Icarus told us that the rocks should drop off quickly in New Jersey.

After a short night sleep, we climbed the small but very rocky mountain( although it was pretty small). Right around 10, about the time of our first brake, conveniently there was trail magic at the Smith Gap road. It was a dirt road. There was cucumber, drinks, yummy brownies, chips, hummus, and potatoes salad. We left after about an hour. We ridged walk on a very rocky ridge for miles until we reached Wind Gap where there was a little town. At the little parkinglot area, some man gave Bling a jug of water. The whole day there was no water so we where watching our drinking, so we would not run out. When we got the jug of water, we split it between us and another group of hikers. Next we had the second climb, 500ft. It was pretty steep. After that climb we ran, yet again, another rock ridge for miles. In his section Whisper saw a racer snake, but only a baby. We were trying to get to one of two different places: a Wolf Cliffs Detour which had a spring there. This detour would skip a rocky climb on to Wolf Cliffs and had a possible camp. The other place was the shelter, which for sure had water. We needed water for dinner because we did not have enough. We got to the spring and in was a beautiful one. It had lots of water that was cold and clear. We were going to take the detour because in would be fastser and less rocks. Sure enough Papa Raven messed up (thanks dad)😒😣😬. We ended up going over the Wolf Cliffs which actually were kinda fun. Then we started down. Soon after we got off and out of the rocks, there was a camp waiting patiently to be taken. After we pitched tents, two hikers past heading to the shelter. They said they saw a bear and she started singing Queen music to it. She said the bear clearly did not like Queen because it ran away. I guess it was not that kind of bear that liked Queen music. Now I am writing this blog because I am bored and trying to figure out if there is a mouse running around outside our tent

Written By: Whisper

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Surprised

Little Gap Road
Day 94 (7/13/19)
Miles – 21.6
Today miles – 1262.5

No one really wanted to get up, but we had to. We need to keep moving forward. For most of the day the trail was not difficult. There were times that the trail would go through rock fields, which really slowed us down. Throughout most of the day we bumped into Buffy. Her friend Sunflower got off the trail due to severe tendonitis in her achellis(misspell). She will be pushing beyond us because she is trying to get to Bear Mountain Bridge two days before us. We stopped at two shelters for cold spring water. The first was a long walk down from the shelter and we had to fill everything. The second shelters water was right next to the trail. Soon after leaving the last shelter, we reached Lehigh Gap and that is where our day took a twist. This gap has a busy bridge crossing the Lehigh River and two towns. One up river and the other down. The gap was a rare one because it was tree free and completely exposed to the hot sun. We had and good size down to get to the bridge and there was a big up on the other side. As we came out of the trees on the south side of the river someone gave Bling and Whisper three cold drinks. They were mineral water, which we are not fond off but they were atleast cold. Plus we were appreciative of the person who gave them to the kids. We all shared them. We crossed the river and climbed up away from the busy road. As we began to cross a small field near the trail head parking lot, someone called out to us. A trail angel name Icarus was passing out drinks. We each took one and talked with him for a few minutes. Icarus had hiked the entire AT in 2013. He warned us the climb we were about to start was the steepest up south of New Hampshire. He offered to slack pack us the five miles to Little Gap Road. He would even loan us his a day pack. Eagerly, we took him up on the offer. We would meet him up the trail at 7:00, two hours from now. Off we went. Yesterday and today, Mama Ravens lower back had been hurting her. The bottom two discs in her spine have degeneration and are worn away. Before we left to begin the AT, she got a steroid injection that has done really well to reduce pain. But all of a sudden, her low back has decided to flare up causing great discomfort for her. Not having a pack on made this difficult climb much easier. The climb was steep! We had to use our hands to climb up some of the rocks. It was hot, sweaty work. The kids were like mountain goats and were up it in no time. They liked the up. Papa and Mama Raven were not as excited by the up as the kids did, however we enjoyed the traverse toward the gap a lot more. Bling reached the gap at 6:59. Icarus was there. A number of other thru-hikers, whom we have not seen in a while, were just being dropped off and enjoying Icarus’s trail magic. We sat and talked with Icarus for awhile. Then he offered to take us to get a bit to eat. He drove us the a grill at a ski resort just a next to the trail. We sat and talked for a bit, waiting for a table. The food was great. Mama Raven and Icarus had shrimp and bison sausage and a bed of mashed potatoes. Whisper had chicken quesadillas. Bling had a burger will a spicy sauce. And I had a meatloaf sandwich. We finished with four small cups filled with four different desserts. It was an amazing dinner. Icarus then drove us back to the gap. By this time it was 10:30, well past our bed times and Icarus still had to drive home to Philadelphia, an hour away. We walked a short distance back up a road and set up camp. We so enjoyed our visit with Icarus. He is a young man that looks like he just got off the trail, lean and in good shape. He even had a beard. He is not a large man, but he has an enormous heart. He loves the AT and the hikers that hike it. It was a previlage to meet Icarus!

Buffy

Icarus

Onward

After Allentown Shelter (1210.7)
Day 93 (7/12/19)
Miles – 19.0
Total miles – 1240.9

We were in no hurry because we would not be able to get a ride back to the trail before 9:00. The free Cabela,’s shuttle for AT hikers was in an accident late yesterday and is out of commission. Thus we had to find another method back to the trailhead. We ate breakfast and then Mama and Papa Raven walked over to the Walmart and gas station for some last minute items. When we returned to the hotel, we got the phone number of someone who provides rides for a small fee. One call later, we had a ride back to Port Clinton. Twenty minutes later Steve and his Boston Terrier, Sizzle, picked us up and dropped us off at the PO in Port Clinton. We shouldered our packs and started the climb out of town. It was a steep slow climb, but it was not too long, just about 2 miles. Over the next few hours, we did the ridge PUD walk then dropped down to Windsor Furnace area. Back in the 1700’s, there was a furnace here, but we saw no sign of it. It was a pretty park like setting, with a stream, cut green grass fields, and gravel paths leading in all directions. It was too nice of a spot to just pass through so we took a break. From there we headed back up to the ridge top. We encountered some other hikers that were slackpacking in the other direction. We have seen them numerous times but never had the opportunity to talk with them. We said hello and they mentioned this was there first time of slackpacking. Hiking without the heavy pack on the back fills light and airy! Every part of the body appreciates the freedom from the heavy burden, especially the feet! Eventually we dropped of the ridge and crossed to the next one, finally climbing up to Dan’s Pulpit. A good spot for our next break. We were running low on water so we headed to the Allentown Shelter. We filled everything plus extra for dinner at the spring. Buffy and Sunflower, who we have been bumping into for many weeks now were already there and setting up for a night’s stay. Briefly we talked to them before heading out. We were not planning on staying at the shelter so we pushed on, even though it was about 8:00. After about a mile and a half, we found a place that would fit our two large tents and settled down for the night. Just after leaving the spring, Whisper almost steped on a rattlesnake. It was on the back side of a rock in the trail so it did not see her and she did not see it.. We all pulled back and waited for it to move off. Since we left so late this morning, we were surprised how many miles we covered today? We are happy with that.

Layover

Hamburg
Day 92 (7/11/19) R
Miles – 0
Total miles – 1221.9

We have settled in for a day off. The rain is supposed to come in early afternoon. Bling, Whisper, and Papa Raven need new shoes. New shoes usually are obtained every four hundred miles. Mama Raven got hers back at Duncannon. Bling’s bottoms are peeling away. Whisper’s are flat at the bottom after nearly eight hundred miles. They should have been replaced long ago but she did not want new ones earlier and we lost track of time. Papa Raven’s are flat at the bottom also, but his are only four hundred miles. Since they have the world’s largest Cabela’s in Hamburg, we went over to see if we could find new shoes. With luck, everybody has new shoes now. Upon Whisper’s request, Five Guys was for lunch. This is her favorite restaurant. Next, we headed to Walmart for a few missing items. The rest of the day was relaxing. It did rain a bit but not heavy nor hard. Tomorrow we head back to Port Clinton and then northward.

Muddy

Hamburg
Day 91 (7/10/19)
Miles – 18.8
Total miles – 1221.9

We wanted to make it to Port Clinton before the PO closed at 4:30, almost 19 miles away. A long distance to hike by closing time. Why it is important to make it in time is the PO does not open till 12:30 the next day. We will have to wait around several hours in a town where there is nothing, not even a gas station convenient store. Thus we woke up at 5:00 and got going. We were on the trail by six. There trail to town was mostly down so we moved quickly. The only problem we ran into was mud. A lot of it! Our pace would slow down as we would have to walk on the edges of the trail and push through the plants. When not bogged down, we had a brisk pace and covered the distance toward town. The last mile down to town was a 1,000 foot intense drop with deep steps that where one and half to two feet deep. It was a down we never, ever want to have to go up! We are hoping the up out of Port Clinton is nothing like the down. Nonetheless, we walked into Port Clinton around 3:30. We got our two boxes and stared looking for a way to Hamburg. Port Clinton only has only a B&B and no stores so it is not the best place to re-supply. The worlds largest Cabela’s is in Hamburg and they have a free shuttle service from Port Clinton to their store or the Microtel Inn. We gave them a call and a short time later the shuttle showed up off to town we went. Getting into town so late we will need more time to do our town chores, plus new shoes are badly needed.

Beaver pond

Hertline (1168.4)
Day 90 (7/9/19)
Miles – 22.8
Total miles – 1203.1

We were all a bit tied from yesterday’s hiking. Having so many days off, it is hard to get going. Grudgingly and slowly we got moving. Last night was the first time the kids used their new tent. None of us have been happy with the Six Moons Duo. Condensation had been a large problem. On rainy night’s it seemed to drop as much water inside as out. When rain drops hit the tent it would splatter condensation down on to the kids. Another problem was that the tent would collect deep pools of water at the bottom ends of the tent. When they would eventually over flow the water often times headed directly into their tent. The tent would be fine in a drier climate, but it has been a disaster out here. Grandpa Bob and Grammie Melody offered to buy the kids a new tent like Mama and Papa Raven has, which is the Stratosphere II by Tarptent. It took longer than we liked to receive because the tent was on back order, but it all came together and we picked it up in Boiling Springs. Last night was the first night the kids slept in it since we received it. Bling and Whisper were so excited for their new home in the evenings. We even think they are looking forward to a night of rain! Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!!
Today’s hiking was not hard, just a great deal of ridge walking. It seems like that is all we did. Although we did have to cope with a large beaver dam first thing this morning. Since we have had rains recently, the dam was overflowing it’s entire length. We have hiked over half the AT and this morning was the first time we had to take off our shoes and cross a water source in our Crocs. It was very muddy and cold. Sometimes the feet would sink so deep into the mud that the Crocs would not be released and the feet would come up without the shoes. It was if the mud was a big suction cup and held the Crocs down in the mud. Actually the crossing of the beaver pond was fun and something different from the monotonous green tunnel we hike in daily. After cleaning up and drying off from the adventures of the beaver dam, we continued on. We were completely out of water this morning, so we were very relieved when Bling noticed a spring flowing off the side of the trail. It was a spring that flowed strongly and was icy cold just the way a good spring should be. We filled up, and continued on. Shorty later we came across Mr. Zip and his wonderful trail magic. He thru hiked the entire AT last year, and this year he wanted to provide magic to the hikers! And that he did with sodas, fruit, snacks of all type. Simple acts of kindness like this are awesome moral boosters. Thanks Mr.Zip!There was not much to see today as we traveled along the ridge. We did stop twice at rocky overlooks to eat something. Pennsylvania is known for its rocky trails, and today it lived up to its reputation. Atleast they were not steep rock outcroppings to get up and over. Instead it was one boulder field to the next to wade through. This was slow walking because each foot step is a potential for disaster if not done carefully. And to slow us down even more, if there was not rocks in the trail there was mud! We forgot to stop at the last shelter for water and found ourselves empty again. Nighttime is drawing near. Unlike last night, we did not even have water to cook dinner with. To make matters worst we have not seen water since this morning. Mama Raven, who is a true tree hugger at heart went up to an old moss covered tree and hugged it and said we need a spring. The rest of The Ravens thought she was rather silly, but that is the way of Mama Raven. We continued on and before too long we heard a river with lots of water flowing below us. Well, it was not a spring but it is water! However as Papa Raven scouted out the water source, he discovered that the river is actually coming from a large spring with an enormous quantity of water flowing from it creating the large river as it traveled down the hill side. It was icy cold too. Mama Raven just smiled as we thankfully filled our water bottles. She later admitted she too thought it was silly to hug a tree and ask for water. And she added, maybe I need to hug more trees more often. Since it was nearly dark, we found a semi level spot further down the hill. Actually the spring is one of the prettiest we have seen as the water tumbled over tree roots and moss covered rocks and ferns that lined the river’s edge. As Mama Raven would say, the woodland divas are hard at work here. All is good out on the trail!
Our next re-supply is eighteen miles away at Port Clinton tomorrow. Our re-supply box is in the PO and they close at 4:30. I’m not sure if we will make it. Once we arrive to Port Clinton, we might head down to Hamburg, which is only three miles away, for the night. We are also hearing a large storm system is due for Thursday.

Mr Zip

Back on the trail

Stoney Valley Railroad Grade
Day 89 (7/8/19) R
Miles – 22.0
Total miles – 1180.3

It rained heavily most of the night. Today’s forecast called for rain in the morning and then it should clear. So far the rain part was accurate, we are hoping the second part is also. We walked across the street to Goodies for breakfast. We had an omelet, French toast, and pancakes. Jim, the gentleman who gave us a ride yesterday, was meeting us at 7:30 to take us back to the trail. We went back to our room and finished packing. Bling and Papa Raven walked over to the Quick Mart for water and Gatorade. The hundred year old Doyle hotel with its old pipes made it’s water taste horrible, thus we purchased water. Shortly before 7:30, we went down and loaded our packs into Jim’s car. Jim was impressed that we stayed two nights at the Doyle. Yes it was old, no air conditioning, minimum of furniture that was barely staying together. Our trash can was an old used plastic paint tub. Broken glass windows were repaired with duct tape. Curtains that were merely a narrow piece of dingy old cloth with holes. We slept on old mattresses with no bed skirts, however they did have clean sheets. Raw wood flooring that if it was cleaned and finished would be beautiful. There were shared bathrooms that were in such poor condition we could not find the courage to take a shower, Despite these issues, it was not too bad. The owners, who were a likeable elderly couple warmed us they have a no star rating and they acknowledged the place is in poor condition. Their warnings didn’t scare off seven to ten hikers who stayed here last night. The Doyle Hotel had character and so much potential. However in order to fix the old place up would take a fortune since it is so large. It’s location is not a place people would flock to either. Nevertheless hikers stay. The best part of the place is the first floors bar and restaurant. This is a place even the locals come and enjoy. There is an award for best hamburgers on the AT, and the Doyle won last year, hence we had to try them. We agree, their simple burgers were big and juicy and best we have had on trail!The grey sky was still raining when we left Duncannon, but it stopped soon after. Jim dropped us off in the same parking lot we were in two days ago when we slackpacked down to Duncannon. We said goodbye and thank you to Jim, quickly put pack covers on, and resumed our hike north. The trail wandered gently up and down on a ridge, for almost nine miles. Papa Raven was very careful with hip belt placement over his incisions. Over the morning he experimented with different positions and tensions. By the end of the day he finally had it figured out. He always had someone help put on and off his pack. As we hiked during the day, we noted that the terrain had changed. We were hiking through a lot more shale and there was much less plant cover under the trees. there also was more spruce and other evergreens. If felt very similar to the forests we are familiar with. As we hiked a gentle wind blew causing water to drop from the trees. Occasionally the grey sky did rain a few times, but not hard or long. For the most part, the clouds hung low in the sky and looked threatening but very little percepitation came from them. This was a good thing. Today felt like we were not moving very fast and the day went on forever. How quickly out of shape one becomes when taking a week off the trail! In the late afternoon, we hiked several miles in a nearly flat area. Normally this would be a good thing but having just rained last night and trail was a muddy mess. At times it was difficult to walk around the mud puddles because the thick under brush provided no room to step. Our feet were wet and coated with mud. We called it quits when we came to an old railroad bed. They are flat and drain well just in case it rains tonight. Our camping location is situated in the midst of a great symphony of frog vocals to serenade us to sleep as the fireflies perform their nightly dancing routines. The Ravens are so glad to be back on the trail!

Jim

Return to the cemetery

Duncannon
Day 88 (7/7/19)
Miles – 19.8
Total miles – 1158.3We woke early and ate breakfast. Our ride arrived at 7:30 for our second day of slackpacking. We loaded into his car. About 30 minutes later, we were back at Old Stone House Road, the place where Papa Raven was taken off the trail almost a week ago. We pulled out our two backpacks, talked to Jim, our driver, about a ride for tomorrow morning, and then hit the trail. Within minutes we were back at the cemetery. This way a very old family cemetery. Most of the head stones were very hard to read. However we were able to read one women’s, who was born in 1758 and died in 1809. Hiking away from the cemetery, we headed back into the fields of corn and soy beans. We were relieved the day was overcast. The sun can make it very hard crossing the fields. Despite the overcast skies, it was still humid. We moved at a good pace as we climbed out first up of the day. After several hours, we left the fields and worked our way up a ridge. We took a break at a shaded bench with a view back South. It was a much better location for a break then our next one, which was underneath power lines. The power lines are always in clear it areaa providing open views. Our break under the power lines started out fine but then the sun came out and we became very uncomfortably hot. We quickly packed up and hiked back into the shade. So far Papa Raven has been feeling good with the hiking. Basically no pain. With only 6 miles to go, he decided to try carrying a light pack. The hip belt did not hit any of the incisions., Which still hurt if they are pressed on them. The last of the ridge walk went by quickly and he experienced no discomfort. We returned to the hotel and 5:30. It was time for dinner and to pack up for tomorrow. We will be getting a ride back to Hwy 225, where we were two days ago.

Test run

Duncannon
Day 87 (7/6/19) R
Miles – 8.6
Total miles – 1138.5

Our ride to Duncannon would not pick us up until 10:30, so we had a quite morning. After eating breakfast we returned the rental car and a shuttle back to the room. Our ride showed up right on time and we were off to Duncannon and a short slack pack. Duncannon is about thirty minutes from Carlisle by car. We pulled up to the Doyle Hotel a few minutes after eleven. The Doyle Hotel is a 100 year old building in down town Duncannon. It is a bit run down. Some hikers love it and others call it a dump. But there are few choices to stay so we took the room. We stashed the packs in a safe place, loaded back in the car and rode to the AT at road 225. From here we will slackpack south back to Duncannon. It was 84° at the trail head and very sticky. It was a pleasure to be under all the trees, because it was a bit cooler. We started hiking. Papa Raven did not have any real pain, just a few small aches. Over the next few hours, we walked a thin ridge, sometimes there were big rocks we would climb over and around. We took one break at an opening overlooking the Susquehanna River. As we approached the end of the ridge we started down a set of switchbacks. As we dropped in elevation, the temperature rose. At the bottom we walked next to a highway across the wide Susquehanna River. The walk into town was hot with no shade. Temperature was in the low nineties. We finally arrived at the hotel. We settled into our room and sorted our box for the next section, which will start the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow we will return to where Papa Raven was rescued and slackpack northward back to Duncannon, a distance of twenty miles.

Eating zeros

Carlisle
Day 83, 84, 85, and 86 (7/2/19 R, 7/3/19, 7/4/19 R, and 7/5/19 R)
Miles – 0
Total miles – 1129.9

7/2/19

My night in the hospital was not bad and I was feeling pretty good come morning. Very little pain but hospitals are great at controlling pain. We will see what it is like after I am released. I talked with the doctor about what to expect and he signed my release. I called the rest of the family to come get me 8:50. I was informed that I had to wait ten minutes until they finished watching Dr. Jeff. Rocky Mountian Vet in the hotel room! A short time later the crew arrived to pick me up and we walked back to the hotel, which is right around the corner from the hospital. I got into a bed a stayed there all day. As the day went on, my abdomen started to hurt but as long as did not move too much I could tolerate it. I had to move very slowly getting up and down. Walking about was not too bad. The nearest food is a good 20 minutes walk away. Mama Raven, Whisper, and Bling made the walk a little before lunch. Come dinner we ordered Panera.
We have been trying to figure out what we will do next. The two main options are to stay where we are for three to four days or go to New York for some time off. We’re not going to make that decision today.

Papa Raven

7/3/19

We still are uncertain of exactly when and how we will get back on trail. It is sort of a wait and see situation. However we have decided to take a Pennsylvania vacation for a few days. Today was another lazy day of resting in the hotel room. Tomorrow we will do the same except for Whisper’s horse riding. Thanks to a blog follower named Canada Goose, who sent us a listing of possible horse riding locations near the AT, we found one near Carlisle. Best part of all is they are pretty inexpensive for such an activity compared to most other places. So if you read this Canada Goose, thanks for your help! We will be renting a car for transportation. Because we are AT thru hikers, we will receive a discount on the rental. Luckily the hotel room is not too expensive. Some how, all this will all work out. As much as Whisper is excited about tomorrow’s horse riding, she is going to burst with joy because, on Friday, we are going to attend the 156th Gettysburg Anniversary Civil War Battle Reenactments. After seeing an advertisement on the hotel TV for the event for this weekend, we looked into purchasing tickets. The timing of the event is too perfect to pass up. That will be day four after surgery for Papa Raven. His doctor said it will be good for him to be walking a good bit by then. All the Ravens are looking forward to going to Gettysburg!

Most of the time when we take a zero day off the trail, we are busy doing chores. There are so many tasks to attend to it really is not a day off at all. To get a day off, we need two zeros: one for all the chores and the second for resting. But it is rare to do this. On the CDT, we did this several times as we waited out snow storms in Montana and once in New Mexico when Mama Raven had a toe infection. On the PCT, we took several days off for Bling’s broken femur. So I guess this is our AT down time.
It has been a while since we have thanked all those who take the time to read and write in to our blog. As we have said before, we read every comment with great joy. We are uncertain as the proper etiquette as a blogger. Are we suppose to respond back to every comment or not? If we are. I apologise for not doing so. When in town, it seems we barely have time to write the blog, edit photographs, and attach photographs. So one BIG THANK YOU to everyone will have to work!
There is one more thank you to shout out to Karin, Denise and Grammie Emily for taking the time to mail our re-supply boxes. It is a relentless job all summer long. Thanks once again for stepping up to do it. With each box we receive, we give a silent thank you.

BLOG CORRECTION – In our Harper’s Ferry post, we mentioned James Brown. This is wrong, it is suppose to be John Brown. So sorry for the confusion!

7/4/19

We had a quiet morning. Papa Ravens abdomen was feeling better. Not pain free, but better. Around 10:30 everyone loaded into the rental car and headed to Winsome Farm Ranch for Whisper’s trail ride, her belated birthday present. Whisper got to ride Amber, an Arabian horse mix. She really enjoyed the ride. At one point she got to trot. Since we are backpacking, she did not have long pants. During her trotting of Amber, she developed raw spots on one leg. She was ok with that, she was riding! While Whisper rode the trail, Mama and Papa Raven and Bling were given a tour of the fifty acre ranch. As we walked around their fields, we visited horses, goats, lamas, chickens, koi pond, chickens, dogs, and one cat. It started to rain just as we were leaving the ranch. Whisper helped to unsaddle the horses before they got too wet. Mid-afternoon a big thunderstorm rolled over and the rain came down hard. The amount of water coming down was impressive. After the rain let up, the kids went swimming in the hotel pool while Mama and Papa Raven made a run to Walmart. For Saturday and Sunday, we have arranged for two days of slack packing with a trail angel in Carlisle. Ideally we would like to get one more in. This would make a full week after surgery. Papa Raven’s doctor said he sees no problem with walking. It is lifting weight that causes a hernia, not having the weight on the back. Infact he feels the hip belt on the pack will be good for his three incisions because it will provide compression, which will help hold everything together. Although it probably will hurt a bit. This is all good news and gives us hope that this is all duable. However we do not want to get back on the trail too soon and cause any damage that would create further delays. We are moving forward but cautiously.

7/5/19

It’s Gettysburg day and Whisper was excited. She has been looking forward to this for days. It was an hour drive down to Gettysburg and we got there about 9:15. We stopped by the National Park museum visitor center, but we needed a reservation to see anything thus we left and drove over to the field where the reenactments would take place. The clouds were low and thick, yet it was hot and humid. Today’s reenactment was based on day one of the three day Gettysburg battle. Tomorrow’s would be based on day two and so on. Thus our first battle, which started at 11:00, was a cavalry battle. Before it began we took some time and walked through the living history area. There were two encampment areas set up at both ends of the battlefield. One side was Union and the other was Confederate. First we did the Confederate camp before finding a spot to watch the first military campaign involving horses. After watching two cavalry units fight for 20 minutes, we walked through the Union camp. The clouds broke up towards the end of the reenactment, and the temperature climbed. Being from California, we do not have to deal with humidity. As we watched the war scene, we noticed a lot of people people, both men and women, using hand fans, fanning their faces. We thought hand fans were a thing used long ago. A women next to us, said she could not survive a summer without her fan. Obviously we did not have fans, but we did have our brochures. After folding them up, we fanned away like most every one else. It really helped. People also had sun umbrellas, but only those in the back row were allowed to use them because they blocked the view for those sitting behind. It was getting hot and sticky. Next up was something Bling wanted to see, a live mortar demonstration. It was fun to watch the mortars shooting at targets 100 and 200 yards away. We all enjoyed that. The next two reenactments would not start for two hours thus we walked about a bit on the Union side, before attending a 1860’s fashion show, which was held underneath a large tent and protected from the sun. We got lucky and found seats towards the front. Next we listened to Union generals talk about what had happened on that first day of the battle of Gettysburg. Poor Bling was board silly as Whisper was thrilled by every little detail! Finally the last two battles of the day, Buford’s battle at Barlow’s Knoll. It was fun watching all the soldiers yelling and firing, men falling, horseman riding, drummers drumming, and cannons firing. Just as the actual day 156 years ago, the Union soldiers did not have a good first day. After the battles ended, we headed back to our room in Carlisle. Whisper wished we would come back for the other days reenactments,. Unfortunately for her, that will not happen. We will be moving from Carlisle to Duncannon tomorrow and doing a short slack pack. It is time to be moving on. Our plan is to slack pack for two or three days so Papa Raven will not have to carry any weight. Walking about Gettysburg did not bother Papa Raven’s abdomen. The only parts of the day that did, was sitting while driving.

On right is General Grants great-great-grandson

Interesting day

Carlisle
Day 82 (7/1/19)
Miles – 6.5
Today miles – 1129.9

Here we are in an unknown hospital, in an unknown town in Pennsylvania. This was where the ambulance brought Papa Raven. A police officer delivered the remainder of the Ravens and their gear shortly later. Here I am (Mama Raven) in the surgery waiting room contemplating today’s events from their beginnings.

Since we were camped literally right next to busy train tracks, last night’s sleeping was difficult. It seems like a freight train came through every half hour. That probably is not true but it sure did seem like it. Despite this, Papa Raven woke this morning claiming what a quiet night’s sleep. The other three Ravens looked at him in disbelief. Papa Raven has always been a sound sleeper! Being camped amongst a number of other hikers, we packed up as silently as possible. However there were a few hikers that have left already. Since we had to wait till the post office opened at nine o’clock, we were not in a hurry to leave early as normal. First task at hand was to pick up breakfast from the gas station convenient store. While we were there, Bling noticed they had fireworks for sale. Thus we bought some sparklers and something called Black Snakes. Now all we need is to find a small American flag and we are set for a Fourth of July celebration on the trail. After breakfast, and post office chores, we were headed up the trail. The time was 9:38. Eight minutes past our goal of 9:30. Not too bad. Despite this Papa Raven was cranky. I asked him what is wrong and he said he was having a good bit of abdominal pain. Nonetheless he said he was ready to hike out. Despite the trail being so amazingly and wonderfully easy, Papa Raven was struggling. He hurt and had no energy. Shortly after we started, I asked if he wanted to turn back and he said no, we should go on. After six miles, we stopped at an old family cemetery, Whisper was wandering about looking for the oldest headstone, which was dated late 1700’s. The writing was difficult to read clearly. Papa Raven was reading a map. All of a sudden, Papa Raven started writhing in incredible pain. He instantly turned white, and stayed that way as he shivered with extreme cold. His sharp stabbing abdominal pain lasted for about 5 minutes. I covered him up with our sleeping bag. We needed help. A hiker named John arrived to the scene and asked if we needed help. We told him about the situation. He had some medical experience in the army so he was able to ask the important questions. Plus it was comforting to have some one else who was very calm around at that moment. I asked if we should hit the Spot device, but Papa Raven said no. Why scare everyone. Instead I called 911. John helped relay the important information about location to the dispatcher. Sending Bling to the closest road, which was only a short quarter of a mile away, he waited to flag down the police officer. Within 5 to 10 minutes he showed up. A short time later everyone else showed up. They did not realize that Papa Raven was only .2 from a road. There was two firetrucks, one police car, an emergency pickup, another pickup with a ATV on a trailer, and an ambulance. All for Papa Raven. I told the EMT that Papa Raven has had several incidents this year with his appendix. They asked why did he not have it removed. His doctor kept saying it can be treated with antibiotics when it gets infected. They were surprised with that information. Anyways they drove the ambulance through a field so Papa Raven only walked just a short distance and climbed on to the gurney. Within a few minutes he was off to the hospital.
At the hospital, they took a cat scan of his abdominal and yes his appendix was the root of all his pain. It had not burst yet but it was on its way. Again, the emergency room doctor could not believe that his doctor did not have his appendix taken out, especially after four other bouts of this in less than a year. Well he was finally going to get the job done here in Pennsylvania! After talking to the surgeon before the procedure, we felt better about Papa Raven’s personal doctor. He said recently a study came out in the medical journals that stated it was fine to treat infected appendicitis with antibiotics to avoid surgery. Further he said that the study has proven to cause a lot of problems in the real world. It does not solve the problem, it just postpones the issues resulting in more serious cases. He said Papa Raven was really lucky that it had not ruptured which would be a far worse ordeal to contend with. As it is, since the surgery is so late in the day, Papa Raven will spend the night in the hospital after his procedure. We will be off the trail for three to four days. Walking will be fine for him. However he said for the next two to three weeks, he cannot lift more than twenty pounds. More than that could cause a hernia to develop. We are trying to figure out if there is any way to slack pack. This would be the best scenario, then he would not have any weight to contend with, atleast for the first few days of hiking. We have several days to get a plan into action. This is a doable problem even if we divide up Papa Raven’s gear amongst the rest of the Ravens. I can’t say we are looking forward to that solution, but it would work.

John (Woobie)

Boiling Springs

Boiling Springs
Day 81 (6/30/19)
Miles 10.7
Total miles – 1123.4

Last night was a bit noisy. As we was writing yesterday’s blog there were flashes way off in the sky. When finished and laid down for bed, we started to hear quite rumble of thunder. Quickly the thunder became louder. Within ten minutes, the storm was near. The rain picked up. The thunder boomed over head. Bling was startled awake, and was trying to figure out what was going on. Then the storm passed on, as quickly as it came. Lucky we did not get hit with a down pour, just a light rain. We fell asleep before it ended.
Although we did not have far to go to reach Boiling Springs we still got moving at our normal time. It is never fun packing a wet tent, but we knew that we would be able to dry out after we got to town. The hiking was the same as it has been for the last few days, easy ups and downs, covered in trees. But that all changed a short distance before town. We walked out of the trees and into rows of corn. The first fields we encountered had young plants, only a foot or two high. As we got closer to town the plants became taller. Finally we left the fields at the edge of town, which was a good thing because it was hot in the corn fields! Boiling Springs is a small quaint town with two restaurants, gas station and an outfitter. It also has a big public swimming pool and home of the Appalachian Trail headquarters. However there is no place to stay and no laundry. At the AT office, they said they had a laundromat and a hotel, however a few years ago, a sinkhole devoured both buildings. The community has set up a hiker campground on the edge of town next to the cornfields and the very busy railroad tracks. No running water was at the campground. After five days of hiking in high humidity we stunk to high heaven. We collected information on our options and then, over lunch, we decided to camp at the campground. There was a hostel a few miles outside of town however we decided against it. The kids would not be able to swim and we could not enjoy this wonderful town. In the middle of it is a huge spring that creates a small lake. It is all tastefully laid out with pathways, grassy areas, along the waters edge. Ducks and geese greet you as you walk by. People would be paddeling their boats. With wonderful old homes overlooking the lake. Very picturesque the setting was. We pitched our wet tents at the campground that was thankfully well shaded. Next we gathered our town clothes and walked to the community pool. There were showers for $2 a person. We entered the shower wearing our smelly hiking clothes and rinsed the sweat from them before cleaning ourselves. We had no shampoo but just rinsing off with water was a luxury. We had no towels either. Getting clean felt really good. We stayed by the pool and finally Bling and Whisper got their courage to go swimming. After paying an additional fee, they were having the time of their lives in the pool. Papa Raven joined them a short time later. There were actually three different pools with two big spiral slides. Afterwards, we took our wet things back to camp and went back to the same Mexican restaurant for dinner that we had for lunch. Finally a quiet walk back to camp ended our day.
After the PO opens tomorrow we will hike on toward Duncannon, just 25 miles away.

Food and rain

Abandoned dirt road
Day 80 (6/29/19) R
Miles – 21.3
Total miles – 1112.7

We slept well and were up with the dawn light. Atleast, Mama and Papa Raven were, the kids had to be woken. We would reach a store around mid day so that motivated us along. Within a half mile of leaving camp, we came to a locked cabin. It is rented out by the local trail club. We left it and headed up to an easy ridge walk. Over the next few miles we past through an area of woodlands the Forest Service is experimenting with. Part of it was bulldozed between the trees. Another was controlled burn. One more was cleared and had grasses growing. They were trying to find what works best to cut down on the undergrowth so wildfires would not be such a problem. Six miles before the store, we took a short break because we were so hungry. Hunger is becoming common for us. We will wake in the middle of the night, with hunger pains knawing at us! When we walked up to the store we were incredibly hot and sweaty. The temperature was in the low 90’s with a lot of humidity! As we put down our packs in front of the store, we noticed there was also a grill. This was a huge bonus. Many hikers were on the front deck eating away. Some we knew and some we did not. ADD and the gang was amongst them. So was Seth and Rogue. First task at hand was to go in and purchase two drinks for each Raven. Incredibly thirsty we were. Next we ordered burgers. It was great to sit out of the sun, drinking cold beverages and eating burgers. These are life’s little luxeries out on the trail. After lunch we plan to go swimming at the lake to cool off and rid the body of sweat. A number of hikers were doing the icecream challenge, which is the consumption of a half gallon of ice cream at one sitting. Icecream manufactures no longer sell this quantity in one container, the store sales a large container and an additional pint of ice cream to total half a gallon. Some succeeded while others did not. No one made it under the record of five minutes. Those that completed the challenge, took an hour to two hours. The Ravens did not even try. However The Ravens were the recipients of the extra pints of icecream that the challengers could not eat!

Around 2:00 we started to get ready to hike out. Rogue was talking about a line of thunderstorms coming through. We heard that it would be about an hour from now. Bling and Papa Raven walked away from the buildings to look at the clouds. Very dark and ominous clouds were coming our way fast. Mama Raven came out to look and instantly a strong wind came up. Within minutes a light rain had started with the addition of thunder and lightening. Our plans of a lake swim were cancelled. An easy decision was made to wait out the storm. Instead, we walked across the parking lot to the AT Museum. As we entered the building the rain picked up and then it poured. We walked around the museum and let it rain and hail outside. The women behind the information desk gave us a bag of blue berries she picked from her yard this morning. They were sweet and delicious. After awhile the rain let up and we could return to the stores porch were our packs were. Where we placed our packs on the porch was in the path of rain driven by the wind. Somebody had noticed our packs were getting wet and moved them further underneath the covered porch. Random acts of kindness still does exist! We waited awhile longer before deciding it was time to go. However first we ordered two chicken fajita wraps for dinner. When they are done, we hulled the packs on and headed out. We quickly covered seven miles to the next shelter before eating dinner. Then we went about thirty more minutes to an old abandoned road. As we set up camp, it started t to sprinkle along with more thunder and lightening. It has been doing that on and off for a few hours. Papa and Mama Raven remember just a few years ago on the PCT, Whisper, who was nine, was absolutely terrified of thunder and lightening. If this night was then, she would be cowering inside our tent, buried deep down inside of our sleeping bag with us. We miss those days! Now she is fourteen, and hanging out with her big brother in their tent listening to the storm is far more “cooler.” How fast they sadly must grow up, This is why we will never regret doing what we doing with Bling and Whisper. How rare for an entire family to spend so much time together! The best part of it all is the Ravens truly love hanging out together.

AT midway point

Parks

3 points
Day 79 (6/28/19)
Miles – 24.2
Total miles – 1091.4

We woke late. We were more tired than I thought. We were not the only ones. Just two other people were move we the other 8 or 9 tents. We were the first to leave camp. We moved quickly in the cool morning air. Are first stop was a park. There was tables, water, and bathrooms. Upon leaving we had a 1200′ climb. We were a bit lucky that the day was still somewhat cool, but that did not last long. Once on top the hiking became easier. For part of yesterday and most of today the trees have opened out a bit and you can see farther into the forest. But we still had very few big views. As the day heated up we started to go slower. Our second break was in thick shade on the side of a gravel road. Not the most beautiful places, but we just enjoyed not moving in the humidity. From that break we made a short climb to a ridge and followed it for a few miles. It was a show reversal because it was covered in boulders. We had to pick our way through them. Along the way I took a look at the weather. It was 90° and it should stay that way tomorrow then a little cooler. One thunderhead formed, but it never rained on us. After the slow walk through the boulders we head down to another state park. We saw many tables, a river, water fountains, and a pool. Bling, whisper and I walked over to the pool in the hopes that they would have a smaller store at the pool, but there wasn’t. We could not even break a twenty to get drinks from the soda machine. We walked back to Mama Raven and the packs. Near us there was a group of people and some tables. I walked over to the drinking fountain and noticed a bunch of Diet Pepsi. Thinking it was this people’s I left them. When they left, without the Pepsi I retrieved one. We split it, but warn Pepsi does not taste good. We decided to head out, but just them a, on the other side of the river, a girl was having troubles carrying a cooler. I went to help. She was Manifest a fellow thru-hike out doing some trail magic. We all ending getting cold drinks, banana, and some tangerines. We left the park and headed to the next shelter for water. This turned out to be a very nice shelter. It was well maintained building with a swing, hanging plants, potted plants, and more. We got our water and headed out for a few miles in the cooler evening air. We finally called it a day where the trail crosses a road about the next shelter.

On to Pennsylvania

Falls Creek
Day 78 (6/27/19) R
Miles – 24.4
Total miles – 1067.2

With so many people at this camp, about 12 tents, we tried to be extra quiet as we packed our gear in the morning. One group hiked out before us and then we left. We started our day with a climb up Monument Knob to see another Washington Monument. From the monument there was a great view south. The trail then rode ridges and we moved along at a good pace. The hiking in Maryland has been easy with a trail that has been flat and wide, but sometimes very rocky. Since we have left Harper’s Ferry yesterday, we have past a number of civil war battle sites. There is some sort of hiking path that is called Maryland’s Civil War Trails that takes you from battle site to battle site. The AT follows it for a little ways. Mama Raven took a hard fall and bloodied her knee a bit. Periodically, she does this as she takes photographs and not paying attention to rocks or tree roots in the trail. We took our first break at Annapolis Rocks with grand views to the West. Then off we went again dropping down to gaps or roads and then heading back up to the ridge tops. As normal, everything was shrouded in trees with occasional views popping up when we came across a rock outcropping. We are starting to embrace the trees that we hike in daily. They are crucially necessary because it is so hot and humid. The minute you walk out of the trees the temperature rises dramatically. Head back into the trees, the opposite occurs. Stopping at Ensign Cowall Shelter, we had lunch. A little more than a mile from the shelter, we crossed Foxville Road and trail magic! A woman was slack packing her daughter and sister and she had brought extra ice cold drinks and apples to hand out to other hikers that came by. We each took an apple and split six Gatorades amongst the four Ravens. They were very cold and went down easily on this terribly hot and humid day. She also gave us icecubes to put in our hats to help cool us down a bit. For the last few days it has been in the upper 80’s with high humidity. We have been sweating like crazy! A thunderhead built in the afternoon and the storm rumbled off to the Southwest. Briefly we did get sprinkled upon, but we did not stop to put on any rain gear. It was a terse relief from the hot weather! In the late afternoon, we crossed into Pennsylvania. Like us, a number of hikers wanted to push into Pennsylvania because of Maryland’s restrictions on where we could camp. Right now we are at a camp a short ways into the state with a number of other hikers just outside a town called Pen Mar. Pennsylvania and Maryland is what the name stands for because parts of the town straddle over state border lines. We did something we have done very rarely on this trip, and that is camp next to a river. After dinner, we sat on rocks in the water and actually cleaned up before we went to bed. It felt great to get the layers of sweat off of us and to soak the feet in cold water. Afterwards, we crawled into the tents. A tough day of hiking we had today because of the heat and humidity. However the evening was very pleasurable falling asleep listening to water tumble over rocks and watching the magic of fire flies flicker about!

Late start, early stop

Dahlgren Campground
Day 77 (6/26/19)
Miles – 18.2
Total miles – 1042.8

It was a real slow start. First we had to wait until the PO opened to mail a box, then we hiked out. We were on the trail by 8:45 and walking through Harper’s Ferry, again, but this time we crossed the railroad bridge and into Maryland. The trail started level next to the Potomac River for four miles. The river was on our right. On our left was the old lock canal, which had many pools. Turtles and ducks sun bathed themselves on downed logs in the water. One log alone, we counted twenty turtles of various sizes. Finally our easy trail ended and we climbed up onto a ridge. Our ridge walk was very easy and we moved along without much effort. Mama Raven was feeling very sluggish. After yesterday’s Washington visit and her not sleeping well last night, she did not have a lot of energy. She was almost asleep on her feet. When we came to Crampton Gap, we stopped for a break and Mama Raven took a long nap. Whisper and Papa Raven read all the signs telling us about the Civil War battle fought on the pass. After leaving the gap we headed back up on the ridge. The hiking was very easy and the views nonexistent. We decided to stop at Dahlgren Campground for dinner. It had water, which we needed. Through Maryland, we need to stay at designated camp spots. It makes for a shorter day for us, but after yesterday’s big adventure, we all are extra tired. Besides, the next camp was eight miles away, too far unless we hiked late into the night. Staying put was really our only solution. We stopped two hours early than normal. With luck, we will be out of Maryland tomorrow.

Washington DC

Harper’s Ferry
Day 76 (6/25/19)
Miles – 0.0
Today miles – 1024.6

We ate an early quick breakfast and headed to the train station for a 6:50am ride to Washington DC. It was a short one mile walk. As we were getting close to the station we heard the train whistle for boarding. We had to run to catch it. Being first time visitors to DC, we are thrilled for this opportunity. One and a half hours later, we were in the very busy Union Station. Not knowing where to go, we followed all the well dressed men in their suits and women in their dresses and high heels, both wearing official name tags around their necks. Most were leaving the station heading in only one direction and we were amongst them. Standing at red lights with this well atired group, we felt a little underdressed. Nonetheless, we went with the herd and in no time, we saw the Capitol Building before us. That was an exciting moment. After taking a family photo, we just stared at the building with awe. So much history right before us! From a distance, we saw numerous black suburbans pulling up and dropping more well dressed people off. We assume they were congressman and senators heading to their offices inside the Capitol. Being here at 8:30 in the morning was a good idea, not only did we get to see people coming to work, but it was very quiet. The masses of tourists had not arrived. There were a few other tourists around like us, but not many. The Capitol Building police were everywhere. Not only did they have hand guns around their belts, but also machine guns in hand. We walked over to the Capital Building and got in line for something we had no idea what for. We finally found an official to ask what the line was for and they said it was for a tour of the Capitol. What we did not know was most of these people had reservations. Once in, we found someone to explain how all this works. She guided us so we could get in on a tour. With her help and pure luck, we walked right up and joined the 9:00 tour. It was a well spent 1:15 minutes. Mama Raven spotted Senator Elijah Cummings (She thinks that is his name) coming down one of the hallways. She also noticed the office door of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, off to one side of the Rotunda. If we had time we could have gotten “gallery tickets” that would have allowed us to sit in on congress! Now that would have been something!!! If we did that, we would not have had time to see anything else today.

Thus when our tour was over, we walked down The Mall to Washington’s Monument. Since it was fenced off, we could not get right up to it, so we headed to the White House Visitor Center before heading to the actual White House. This was a little disappointing because we were so far away behind numerous barriers. However we understand why this is so. Despite this ,we were still excited by seeing first hand the Whitehouse. Secret service, guards, and policeman were everywhere. Lunch was inside the Ronald Reagen Building. Next we continued The Mall walk to the Lincoln Memorial. We stood on the very spot Martin Luther King gave his “I Had A Dream speech.” That was an emotional moment. . .imaging him standing at the top of the stairs, in front of the the statue of Abraham Lincoln and looking out at all the people as he is about to give one of the most profound speeches in American history. As we start to head back up The Mall, we stopped by the Korean War Memorial. Of all the war memorials we visited, it was our favorite. We soaked our hot and tired feet in the big fountain of water in the middle of at the World War II Memorial. Our final stops were a short visit to the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History. Bling wanted to see the fossils in the former and Whisper wanted to see the Civil War in the latter. We did not stay long because we had to catch our return train. We walked back to Union Station, purchased our tickets, and quickly bought dinner. While we were eating, Whisper tells us that the train leaves in ten minutes. Once again we were running off to catch our train. We made it, but it was a bit stressful. Eventhough we are exhausted with today’s whirlwind tour of Washington DC, we are so glad we took the time for it. If we had to say what was the highlight of the day was, we would probably respond with the whole day!

Korean Memorial

Korean Memorial

Harper’s Ferry

Harper’s Ferry
Day 74 and 75 (6/23/19 and 6/24/19 R)
Miles – 15.9
Total miles – 1024.6

6/23/19
With the Roller Coaster behind us, we left camp in high spirits. Being a town day only adds to the good mood. Harper’s Ferry is our next destination. Although not exactly the mid point of the AT, Harper’s Ferry is considered by the hikers the halfway point. Most take a few days off the trail at this location. Many often go on to Washington DC. We are uncertain of our exact plans other than Whisper gets her birthday present of riding a horse in Harper’s Ferry.

With fifteen miles to town, we left camp at a brisk pace. The morning began, with an easy up to a ridge that we would take us all the way to town. At close to the days midway point, we took our first break of the day. Of course we took our break just 100 yards from a shelter without knowing it. So we missed out on a table and a swing. Hoping for water, we went to the building anyways. Once arriving at the shelter we discovered that the water was half a mile away. Thus, not being completely out of water, we chose not to make the trip down to the water source. Despite this we still enjoyed the beautifully made shelter with a swing, and big porch. After our break we continued on. Hiking along the ridge was fast and easy. We soon came to Keys Gap and trail magic. Fruit, drinks, chips, and candy was to be had. We all had a little bit of everything. Our favorite item had to be the cherries! We did not stay long, town was calling. We said our thanks and on we went. Just before dropping down to Harper’s Ferry, we crossed into West Virginia, or fifth state. Next we came the expansive Shenandoah River, which we crossed over on a bridge. When we looked backed up the river we saw where the Shenandoah and the Potomac River joined together. We are so looking forward to seeing this historical area! It was mid afternoon when we walked into town and up to our hotel. We were hot, sweaty, and especially tired from yesterday’s hiking.

We all cycled through the shower as we did the laundry. By five o’clock, Papa Raven looked into the horse riding for Whisper. Tragic news for Whisper, who has been dreaming about her adventure on a horse since we began the AT. Horse rides are only Friday, Saturday, and Sunday’s. Today is Sunday, but after closing hours. Being one not to show much emotion, Whisper took the news well. However, we knew that she was crushed. We could see it on her face. Nothing we could do other than hopefully find another location up the trail at some point. Finally we walked into the old part of Harper’s Ferry to look for dinner. We were too late on a Sunday evening, because every place we went was closed or closing. Luckily we kept looking and found The Rabbit Hole still open. It was a very good dinner. On the way back to our room, Whisper and Papa Raven drove Bling up the wall by reading all the historical signs, and there is a lot of them in Harper’s Ferry! As we have stated earlier, Whisper is fascinated by all things history, especially Civil War. . . and Harper’s Ferry is were the big event started with John Brown. The museums were closed by the time we got there. For now, Bling was saved from having to read signs inside the museums, but tomorrow we will be back!

6/24/19
Zero. Papa Raven, Bling, and Whisper took a very long walk to 7-Eleven, for drinks and a bit of food. Mama and Papa Raven took a walk to the PO for our five boxes. One box was missing. After looking into it I found out that it should be here tomorrow. We sorted the next sections food and we are ready for the next section. We did take some time and walk through more of the older parts of Harper’s Ferry. It was an easy zero.

The Roller Coaster

Sand Spring (976.1)
Day 73 (6/22/19)
Miles – 19.7
Today miles – 1008.7

The sun hit our tents first thing this morning. That has not happened very often on this trip. This got us moving sooner than we have been and we were on the trail before 7:00. Our day started walking through open fields before heading back into the trees and down to Ashby Gap. As usual, we needed water. We stopped at Rod Hollow Shelter, filled our bottles and had a snack on a picnic table. It is a treat to eat at a table and to dangle the feet down. One of life’s daily routines that so many take for granted. Three meals a day, we sit and eat on the dirt along with the creepy, crawly things of life: ticks, caterpillars, ants, spiders, beetles. If we get lucky, there are rocks offering a relatively clean place to sit. From here we started the Roller Coaster. This is a series of small ridges and mountains that we needed to cross. The climbs and drops were no more than 400′, but there were a lot of them and no switchbacks. This meant that the trail was steep. The Roller Coaster went up and down for 13.5 miles. There was basically no views except for the Ravens Rocks right at the end. The other problem was that the trail was very rocky causing twisting and turning of the ankles all day long. Everyone’s feet, including Bling and Whisper, hurt by the end of the day. It was a tough day. Towards the end Mama Raven simply sat down on a particular hard up an claimed she was done and going home! She said this is cruel and some sort of unusual punishment! The Roller Coaster whooped us!!! We are all physically tired and ready for bed. We should reach Harper’s Ferry tomorrow.

A little trail magic

Dirt road (956.5)
Day 72 (6/21/19)
Miles – 22.1
Total miles – 989.0

The wind stared to blow real strong shortly before dawn. This made sleeping difficult. At one point we woke up and looked about. What we found strange was the bright lights shining on our tents. We thought that the kids were having a problem with their tent and trying to fix it, so Papa Raven popped hishead out of the tent. It was not the kids. There were two people standing just beyond the tents. They asked if they could pass. He said sure. They said that they were out for an early sunrise hike. After they passsed by, Papa Raven looked at the time, it was 5:05. We started our day a bit early. A short distance from departing the camp, we past out of Shenandoah National Park. Everyone was very low on water so we stopped a mile or so farther at a shelter and got just enough water to hold us until a better spring came along later in the day. It was a bad source of water that was incredibly slow and very dirty. Throughout the morning the hiking was easy. We are hiking at a lower elevation, around 800′ to 1500′. Being lower means that vegetation under the trees is dense. This can be a problem when we are trying to find a camp. Our second break for the day was an unplanned surprise. We came out at Fiery Run Road at about the same time as three other hikers. Someone was meeting one of them and she had brought food from Chick-fil-A. She gave us some fruit and we each got a box of chicken nuggets. It was a great treat! We did not stay long and headed for I66. We stopped just before the freeway, at a stream and snacked a bit more and soaked our feet. Leaving I66 marked the beginning of a big climb, 1,200′. It was not badly graded and it took several hours to reach the top where everything was covered with green vines. We believe that it was Kudzu, a vine that grows profusely over everything. We had to hike farther than we wanted because there was no place to camp. Finally, we came across a clear enough area to set up the tents. It was next to open grassland on one side, hence we would be entertained tonight by the fireflies!