Thursday, June 13, 2013

Waterfalls in the Sky

6/9: 14.5 miles. US 211 to Gravel Spring Hut

6/10: Incidental on-trail zero day. These things happen. There are no excuses. ONLY JOY. 

6/11: 18.6 miles. Gravel Springs Hut to the Jim and Molly Denton Shelter

6/12: 22 miles. Denton Shelter to Morgan Mills Stream

6/13: 20.7 miles. Morgan Mills Stream to Keys Gap.



Scream-singing, emanating from a strangled throat filling steadily with water, barely echoes 5 feet from my face. Water is pouring over my forehead, down my eyebrows, cascading into my eyes and blinding me. I am standing calf-deep in a river, stark naked except for a sports-bra and tiny running shorts, as a veritable world of mud collects in my hiking boots. The river is the trail, and it is angrily waterfalling down the steep slope and over my knees and ankles. The world around me is blurred, I can barely see Whistle's body slip-sliding her way down the trail behind me. She never falls because she has the grace of a dancer and the tenacity of tank. In all of this haze, all of this madness, all of this psychology-questioning world rending, only one thing is certain:

It is raining. 

Drops the size of marbles explode on our skin, hurtling out of the sky with the force of a million Spartans intent on nothing but murder and victory. Spartans that know that they are charging headfirst into the Elysian fields, banners waving, spitting screams of glory, knowing that this battle may not last forever but they're going to destroy the enemy before they careen into Hades' waiting arms.

"YOU MAKE ME HAAAAPPPYYYYY WHEN SKIES AAARE *cough, hack, splutter up a cup of water* GRAAAAY."

Whistle has met up with me now, continuing my song while shaking her head back and forth. I would say that rain flies off of her face like a summer sprinkler, except that any and all exodus of water from her skull is obscured by the aforementioned deluge from the sky.

Though it is only 4 in the afternoon, the sky is as dark as night, lit only by the lightning exploding around us. The ground shakes with each reverberation of thunder. Rain smashes itself against my exposed skin, my arms, my belly, my legs. I laugh hysterically. A madwoman. Soaking wet in the woods. 


The rain turns to hail.


Whistle and I are splashing up the mountain with no regard for avoiding the water or hail. There is no point. There is no avoiding. The world is water. But in this world, there is no Kevin Costner to bare-chestedly lead the way. There is only us. Us and the boys. Grim and Dumptruck. They are behind us somewhere, lost in the darkness. We are alone, our ears filled with the inescapable white noise of the rending of the sky. Only our singing propels us forward. We cannot see the trail. All is obscured in 6-18 inches of pouring, flowing river water.

We were on a part of the trail called The Rollercoaster. It is 13 miles of densely packed steep cuts up and down mountains. A show of trail-maintenance bravado that leaves all us hikers weary but proud. Based on our particular experience, we are calling this section THE LOG FLUME. Or, if you're feeling American, THE BOSTON TEA PARTY. In this scenario, we were not the liberated patriots flinging off the shackles of oppressors from on high. We were the tea.

Thursday was one of the most insane and exhilarating days of hiking I have had. We passed mile 1000, but were unable to make a dance video because if I had taken out my iPod it would have immediately short-circuited. There was water, you see. It was coming out of the sky. We did 60 miles in 3 days, and capped it off with nature's best shower. Herbal Essences ain't got nothin on thru-hikers. Except we don't smell like flowers. We smell like garbage water. And we like it.

At Keys Gap, my wonderful Uncle John (my mom's brother) picked the four of us up. We were 7 miles south of Harper's Ferry, WV. He then dropped Grim and Whistle off in downtown Harper's Ferry, and brought Dumptruck and I to his house in Lovettsville. We had a phenomenal evening with John and my aunt Julianna, and their 3 awesome kids Kate, Russell and Nick. I was assaulted by nerf guns but I totally deserved it. I was so happy to see them. I was also happy to see a shower and a dry bed. But mostly my family. They even gave me hugs before I showered. Medals of bravery all around.

On Friday (6/14) we are going to Harper's Ferry by car, spend the day there, and then hitch-hike back to Keys Gap by Friday evening. Then we are going to hike 4 miles to the Virginia/West Virginia border and camp there (this will then be 3 miles south of Harper's).

On Saturday morning, Whistle, Grim, Dumptruck and I are going to wake up at 4am and then: hike 44 miles, across 4 states, in 24 hours. 

The 4-state challenge: Virginia through West Virginia through Maryland to Pennsylvania. 

Some questions don't have satisfactory answers. Why is the sky blue? Why is the country bi-partisan? Why does stinky cheese smell like death but taste like heaven? Why the bloody hell would you hike 44 miles in 24 hours?


The song crescendoes as we cross an actual river, now up to my upper thighs in rushing dirt brown water. I am laughing, I am happy. I am here. Here is where my feet take me, and here is where I'm meant to be. 

Clever Girl

I think we're going to catch up to Hotdog and Apple Butter on Saturday during our day of insanity. I'M EXCITED.

Dumptruck shaved his beard for ticks. Whistle caught a snake.


  1. You almost made terror sound like something I would enjoy, you most definitely made coffee shoot out my nose with your song...Happy, just slightly damp, plenty of magic filled trails. Still tagging along, Beth and Bern.

  2. Wicked funny! The only thing missing was coming across some staid hiker who could have glowered at you like the grumpy hobbits who glowered at Gandalf when he did his fireworks from the back of his other words people who have forgotten that it's important to have fun! Mom and I had two rules for you kids growing up: 1) Be polite 2) Have fun. These rules were considered equally important unless in conflict, in which case Rule 1 took precedence. You (and all Shanty Town) still abide by these rules; good, kind, decent and polite folks who remember what it's like to have fun! We are so proud of all of you and the way you handle adversity with such grace. Thanks to Uncle John, Aunt Julianna and all hands for being such trail angels. That they got to spend time with you makes us both happy and jealous! Oh, and we love ring-necked snakes. The friendliest snakes outside of Maine red-bellies! Good luck with the challenge! Love and kisses to all, Mom and Dad

  3. Sounds like a WONDERFUL weekend you've got ahead. Good luck and safe travels; we Marylanders will be thinking of you!

    Hugs and hot chocolates to all,
    -Clare from Towson

    1. Hey Clare!! Thank you so much, it's so wonderful to hear from you! :)

  4. Hey what kind of razor thing is Dumptruck using? I'm planning on thru-hiking next year and gear-searching now but have been curious about the whole shaving part and how to do that. (I'm a girl, going with a guy so trying to share as much as possible but either way)

    1. It's just a regular electric razor- we were visiting Grim's family and they had one we could borrow. We have yet to find a good way to do shaving while on trail, unfortunately. Let me know if you have any other questions while you prep, I'd be happy to help!

  5. thank you for being rid of the pubic hair on your face michaelangelo. i miss you guys.