Day 108 – 120 Front Royal VA to Duncannon PA 2017 Appalachian Trail Thru-hike

Wednesday 26 July to Sunday 06 August

Total Distance:
 1147.2 miles

States and AT Mileage: Virginia (from Front Royal) 36.6 miles, West Virginia17.4 miles, Maryland 30.6 miles, Pennsylvania (to Duncannon) 82.6 miles

Mountains: too lazy to list 😊

​I have had to buckle down and motor now that I am coming down to the end of my time here. My foot is feeling really good, bout 90% and the shin splints I developed have healed which certainly helps with the mileage.

Pennsylvania so far has been relatively flat allowing for higher daily mileage also. The only frustration are the rocks they are everywhere and come in all shapes and sizes. Everyone warns you about them – however similarly to many other situations until you experience something yourself its subjective. 

Rocks are everywhere and pointed so you can’t really hop over/on them. At one stage I became so frustrated I growled out loud and stamped my pole in the ground in a fury. 

Needless to say it didn’t help with the rocks, but did make me laugh out loud over such a useless display. But I get ahead of myself…first came Maryland…

When there is no TV or other distractions you watch nature a lot more and you notice so much more. A group of us watched a classic struggle of the fittest – you could almost hear David Attenborough commentating the entire episode. A giant cicada and wasp were duelling to what we thought was the death. It was quite noisy and violent with both locked in and committed to the battle.

Apparently, according to Mr Google, the wasp doesn’t kill the cicada, instead once subdued the wasp will take the cicada to its nest, implant an egg which when hatched eat the live cicada. Hmmm it was more violent than originally thought. 

The Appalachian Trail section through Maryland is only 40 miles long. Even so it was very challenging and contained the ‘roller coaster’ which I had been looking forward to. The rollercoaster is 9 rocky hills packed into 13.5 miles.

Given all the hype over the rollercoaster and other hiker comments I was expecting the section to be more physically challenging then it was. Don’t get me wrong, I was saturated with sweat and legs along with gluteus maximus were sore…just not as much as I thought I would be.

However the rollercoaster along with examples such as McAffee Knob, Dragons Tooth, the ice cream challenge are all what I call the ‘tourist aspects’, the ‘must do’s’ of the Appalachian Trail.  

Felt surreal to hit the 1000 mile mark. As I was looking at this on the ground I felt quite choked up and emotional. 1000 miles! I’ve never put in any physical effort in getting to 1000 miles before in my life. I was also not far out from Harpers Ferry, the unofficial halfway mark, which was exciting but I had to push that aside and carry on walking. 

And speaking of walking, it is interesting how often hikers, myself included, think and talk about the art of walking. How much of our daily focus goes into concentrating on how we walk and how we can improve our walking. Objective being: minimum output for maximum muscle efficiency equalling more mileage walked. Even after 1000 miles you still try and refine your walking style.

And when you’re not walking you are either eating or sleeping. As I cross the bridge into Harpers Ferry just like a typical hiker that’s exactly what I was doing; thinking about where do I sleep and what can I eat… Oh and that I must get my photo taken of course at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

And as an aside I read inside the conservancy that in 2015 they were 6800 volunteers contributed 270,000 of the labour and expertise in the maintaining of the Appalachian Trail. They also have photos dating back to 1976 – that’s just amazing.

I had a real tear in my eye as I was standing here. So many of the hikers I know have stopped hiking for many reasons like injury/family, or have stretched out in front of me so far ahead I probably won’t see them again, or now trailing behind me as a couple were taking time out to visit with friends and family or to go to DC.

I found it really quite hard to push off from Harpers Ferry in part because I feel like I have actually achieved something finally and hit a real goal and I began to question my need or ability to go on. But of course in the end I did and crossed over from Maryland into Pennsylvania.

Feels so good to tick another State off and for the briefest of moments the path ahead looked heavenly. My heart skipped a beat and my pulse quickened at the thought that there may be no rocks but alas it was indeed brief and not to be…

This particular period was quite eventful; I reached 1000 miles, the unofficial halfway mark and then the official halfway mark. Having had my photo taken in front of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, writing on it my trail name of Feisty, then placing it in the class of 2017 folder in Harpers Ferry along with taking my photo with the sign below, really makes me feel like I am part of a story so much bigger then my own individual one.

I’ve seen this sign in so many hiker blogs, photos and videos and being excited about taking my turn.

Pennsylvania is also home to the half gallon challenge. It is basically exactly what it sounds like a rolling competition to down half a gallon of ice cream trying to beat the record which was 8 minutes and 45 seconds when I did it.

I am competitive and did give it a fair crack however it isn’t quite the same when you don’t have a cheering squad and you’re 45. Anyway I’m not ashamed to say I didn’t get anywhere near the record. 

Like any good competition everybody’s a winner of course. Every person that manages to finish the ice cream get this paddle and then opportunity to write a name in the half-gallon challenge completion register.

After so many miles I wouldn’t have thought it would be easy to astound me, I was wrong, very wrong. Seeing to ‘trip hazard area ahead’ signs along the trail left me scratching my head speechless.

There are so many questions that come to mind; the first and most important of which is ‘really along this stretch of the trail is where a sign such as this is put?!’ Not here:

Or even perhaps here:

No it isn’t… anyway moving on… I laughed for quite some time. Then I’m walking along the trail at least 14 miles from the nearest town and after the hazard signs I really thought I couldn’t be shocked then, I came across the following: 

The picture may not be so clear but if you  enlarge it, you will note it appears to be the shell of a burnt out car. The car appears to have hit the tree it is up against. I could see the impact to both the tree and end of the vehicle. What?!

All I could do was shake my head, sigh and keep on walking.

The trail hasn’t been reaching the elevation levels it was so there haven’t been as many opportunities for sweeping scene photos. 

Now for something a bit different I thought I would share a thunderstorm with you 😊


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