Driving back home

Twelve miles does not seem very far, but it’s far when it’s cold. I had camped high up on a ridge and ridges mean wind, so it was a little chilly that night and especially in the morning when you have to put on cold and damp clothes. But the excitement of the final day of hiking motivated me.

Just beyond the break of rocks where I had camped was a nice outcropping with a great view of Waynesboro, VA. The sun was just coming up and making great patterns with the extensive cloud cover. Can you believe that I did not snap any pictures? My brain must have been frozen. I spent nearly a half an hour taking in the views before heading towards my last destination – Rockfish Gap, and the entrance to Shenandoah National Park. Karen was set to meet me at 3PM, so I better get going.

The morning was uneventful, and the weather held out just fine. I was lucky on this entire trip to not have much rain. It could have been colder, too, but it could also have been hot and miserable. My only regret for the timing of this hike was that in the fall, the days were too short to make enough miles to get all the way to Harper’s Ferry, WV in the allotted time. First world problems.

I made good time with a light pack devoid of food or heavy water. I ended up getting to the Rockfish Gap parking area an hour early, so I sent a text to Karen letting her know I was at the pickup point. I dug out some less-dirty clothes to wear, and started digging through my food bag to find something to munch on to pass the time.

One thing that surprised me as I car-watched, was that there were way more cars than I was expecting. Like four times as many more. Being in a break-out-of-COVID-lockdown-mood, apparently all of Virginia had decided to head to Shenandoah NP. There was an unending stream of cars at every interchange, all waiting ridiculous lengths of time to merge into traffic. Karen might be late.

But as luck would have it, Karen arrived right on time. I could see her approach from the intersecting road, and loop all the way around me to get to the parking lot. Our eyes met as she looked for traffic, and I could tell that she was as glad to see me as I was to see her.

I quick hello, hug, and kiss, and it was time to load up and take off. I think she hd enough of driving for the day, and it felt weird for me to get into a car and start driving. After spending nearly two months going 2 MPH, a leisurely 55 MPH seems like light speed. It takes a while to get used to it.

The rest of the day was uneventful – check in at the hotel, take a shower, then find a place to eat. Apparently life in civilization is just like life on the trail. We found a nice outdoor pizza joint and had a pizza and a bottle of wine. Hmm, again like trail life.

I wish I could say that I learned some great revelation about life or myself on this trip, but the only thing that I can say that I have reaffirmed, is that I really love hiking. The Appalachian Trail might be a bit harsh or cruel at times, but the beauty never abates. I think I will try to keep doing this for as long as my body allows and opportunity provides.

(Editor’s note – this was published over two years after the hike ended just to put proper closure to the trip.)