Day 81: Cornelius Creek to Marble Spring Campsite (12.2 miles)
By this point we had already been discussing our options regarding finishing the trail. Cheez-it had been accepted to the College of William & Mary School of Marine Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the moment she accepted the offer, we imposed a firm deadline for having to complete our hike. Orientation at VIMS is the 22nd and 23rd of August, and we have to find somewhere to live and move to Virginia from Florida before that. If we stayed on the trail and just kept hiking normally, the soonest we could be done with the trail was something like August 10th, which didn't seem likely since we would probably be taking a few more zeroes. We decided we would skip what we had left in Virginia and get back on the trail at Harper's Ferry. This was a really tough decision for Cheez-it to swallow. Skipping this section of trail meant leaving Icicle and Quailman behind. It meant we wouldn't hike into Harper's Ferry, proud and tired and dirty, and have our picture taken at the ATC headquarters. It meant missing 1/10th of the trail, which is really just a drop in the bucket, but there is something so emotional about making the decision to skip a significant portion of the trail. Would we really be thru-hikers at that point?
We talked and I (Cheez-it) cried a lot. But it made sense. It would put us on track to finish by late July/early August. We would be able to come back on weekends and section hike the Shenandoah's. We could take time off to rest my foot and get Sheila on new tick medication. So we decided to jump trail.
We spent one last night camped with Icicle & Quailman at Marble Spring, and we all hitched into Glasgow to get pizza and beer. We all ended up getting a ride into the larger town of Buena Vista and really celebrated with margaritas and fajitas. The next morning, the finality of our parting hit home as they caught a shuttle to the Food Lion to resupply and we tried to figure out the rental car situation. We cried and group-hugged and promised to keep in touch. It was hard watching them drive away. We had been through so much together and we connected with them like we had with no other hikers. It was at that moment that I understood what it must be like for a solo hiker to fall behind their group. I had always wondered, "Why don't they just do their own thing and find another group?" And the answer is because it's hard. When you're out here every day conquering the same obstacles with the same group of people, it's hard to leave them behind or be left behind. You build life-long friendships out here. No one really understands what your going through like another hiker, especially one that you have been with since the beginning.
Enough with the sappy stuff before I start crying all over the keyboard!
We got a rental car and drove to Reeds Gap to pick up any hikers looking to go to the Devils Backbone Brewpub, where they would let hikers camp for free. We didn't see anyone at the AT crossing, but when we got to the pub, we met ReRoute, Geared-Up, and Kristo. We spent a great night with them and offered to slackpack them into Waynesboro since we had to go there the next day anyway to go to the foot doctor to have Cheez-it's foot checked out in case of stress fracture or the dreaded plantar fasciitis. They really appreciated the offer and we had fun doing it! We also picked up the packs of Simba and Brightside as we drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway into Waynesboro. The foot doctor ended up being closed that day, so we hatched a plan to do some trail magic along Skyline Drive. We picked up some Cokes, lemonade, apples, bananas, and oranges and entered Shenandoah. The first hiker we saw was Good Company at Beagle Gap, waiting on a friend to come pick him up. We drove on and stopped at every AT crossing to try and catch hikers as they crossed the road. We ended up meeting a lot of people that we had met at Four Pines when we unexpectedly zeroed there. We were able to give out magic to Survivorman, a section hiker named Trashcan, Prom Queen, Wees, Cowgirl, Poohbear, Sunbear, Good Company (again), Spicekit, Coconut, Shybear, Top O, GramCracker, and Grasshopper. I may have missed some names, but I had them all sign-in on our trail magic log book so I'll update that later. It was so much fun doing trail magic!
Now, we are off to Washington DC to be a bit touristy and then off to Pittsburg to visit The Ramen Shaman's aunt and uncle and my sister, Cassie. We plan to get back on the trail on Friday at Harper's Ferry.
We will be updating our mail-drop page soonly to let everyone know of our next stops along the trail. The rental car and the time off has been rather costly, so I'm not sure we will be staying in too many hostels going forward. If you want to help out, but aren't sure about what to send, generic Visa gift-cards would really help us out at this point. We have our resupply down to a science, and while we surely appreciate and are excited to receive packages, sometimes we aren't sure what we need until we are in town, and putting together food for the week from a few mail-drops is hard to do. We would love to receive cards of encouragement and support to help us over this rough spot in our trail experience.
Thanks to all of our readers for the continued support and encouragement! Check out our Facebook page for new photos from the trail which we will be posting before the end of the week!