Many of you know that my original plan for my first summer vacation was to hike about half of the Appalachian Trail. That plan took some serious tweaking after I broke my foot during a section hike in Maryland over spring break. After a lot of healing and help from my friends, I started walking normally again. I planned a two-week hike to finish Maryland, hike through West Virginia, and end up three-quarters of the way through the Shenandoah National Park.
The first two days went really well. My dad joined Atticus and me to finish up Maryland and make it to Harpers Ferry. It was about 105 degrees, there was a hailstorm, it became real. I was really going to do this. We collapsed at a pub in Harpers Ferry where Atticus was so tired he had his first successful restaurant visit! I took my dad back to his car in Maryland before heading home for a day and a half of adjusting.
Atticus and I hit the trail again two evenings later. We walked back to the spot where we'd left off and followed the AT over the Shenandoah River and found a nice spot to camp in the woods. It was my first night camping without another human. It was hard and awesome at the same time. We were up early to hike to the Blackburn Trail Center before starting the roller coaster that precedes Front Royal if you're southbound.
After we stopped for a mid-morning break, Atticus didn't want to wear his boots any more. He's had them for about six months and has never minded them. But he stopped about every ten yards to pull at one with his teeth. When I took it off to see if there was something inside, I saw a big wound that must have been irritated by the boot. He couldn't walk in just three of them, so they all had to come off.
Later in the day, we were scrambling over some rocks when Atticus tripped and scraped the front of one of his paws. I stopped the bleeding pretty quickly, but he was obviously agitated and kept licking at the place throughout the night. When I woke up in the morning, one of the sores had burst open and was oozing some gross stuff. My once-broken foot that had hurt a little since we'd stopped for the afternoon break was also in a lot of pain.
We had to go home.
I've wanted to hike the entire Appalachian Trail since I was six and my dad took me to Whitetop. I've watched my friends thru-hike, and I knew that wasn't in the cards for me. I have a job I love that I can't imagine leaving even for a few months if I knew I could come back to it. I made my peace years ago with the fact that I would finish the trail by section hiking. But it sure is slow going.
I know that I have the rest of my life to hike the trail and that it isn't going anywhere. I know that I don't have to do it contiguously. I know I'm 53.4 miles into a journey that is going to take a little longer than I had originally planned. I also know that I need to find a good, two-legged hiking buddy. Who's in?