Friday, October 10, 2014

62. Going Over a Mountain in a Lightning Storm

I want you to know that I use absolutely all of my willpower to generate entirely new content for the 200 Things List (rather than plumbing content I've already written during my thru-hike), but there are simply one or two things that cannot be re-generated. Their awesome-ness can only be described in the original way I described it, in the moment of absorption. Literal absorption in this case.  When we went over the Roller Coaster in Virginia, it was one of the most intense experiences of my life, thus fully encapsulating the terror and "rific" in Terrific.

Though the content may be from during my hike, the photographs are ones that have never been on the site before! Dumptruck and I will be trying to find more time to go through his 20,000 photos from the trail to be able to have more visuals from our trip here for your eyeballs to enjoy!

From June 13, 2013:


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

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