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Hi, I’m Rachel.

I’m a freelance writer, advocate, and podcast host! I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2018 and it changed my life. Check out my Podcast, hire me, or read about my adventures!

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This is Trail Name Here.

This is a space where I share life stories, educate, and connect people. I’m glad you’re here to join me by listening to Podcast Here, reading my blog, or looking back at my journey on the AT.

Instagram: @TrailNameHere

Days 71-76

Days 71-76

Day 71: Mile 624.9 | Woods Hole Hostel Bunk House

We woke up around 8am and packed up the Safari tent. We left our packs at the bunk house and waited for the 9am taxi to Blacksburg (where we would be meeting Aunt Marci for lunch and shoe shopping) I had scheduled. When 9:15 rolled around and the taxi hadn’t shown up yet I got a little annoyed. I was also a bit hangry, to be honest... I called the company I had made an appointment with and they said no one had made any appointments with them. Confused, I told them I’d made the appointment with a woman the day before. They said the only woman who works for them was the owner’s fiancé and that she hadn’t worked the day before. They didn’t apologize or make an offer to pick me up. My anger grew. Knowing there were two taxi companies in Blacksburg I called the other one. They sent someone right away and said it would be $50. A good deal since Woods Hole Hostel was about 15 miles outside of Pearisburg, the nearest town, and that was 25 miles from Blacksburg, the town we needed to get to. Satisfied with the deal I doubled their estimated time of arrival, knowing they might have miscalculated how far out we were.

We waited. And waited. 45 minutes went by, they had estimated 20 minutes. I called and the man at the company said, “Oh sorry, we’re about halfway there. It was further than we thought.” We waited another 30 minutes and finally someone in a 2002 Chrysler Town and Country pulled into the hostel driveway.

The guy driving was yelling at someone over the phone. “You really fucked this one up, man! This is way out there! You’re gonna lose money on this! We need to charge more!” I stood in the open doorway of the back of the minivan listening. He kept hitting the steering wheel and yelling. When he finally hung up the phone I asked if we were still being charged the same price that we had agreed upon earlier. He said he didn’t know. I told him I was sorry that he came all the way out there but if we weren’t paying $50 I didn’t want to leave with him, knowing I may be able to get a shuttle (I only didn’t take a shuttle because they couldn’t do 9am and it was $70 instead...).

He rolled his eyes and said get in, he’ll do $50. We got in and buckled up. He pulled out of the gravel driveway in reverse faster than he probably should have. Down the gravel country road that curved through rural farms he pushed 55-60mph consistently. Miles and I held on for dear life. We rode in silence to town. Once in Pearisburg, he got onto the highway to Blacksburg and continued to speed, driving with barely one hand on the wheel. His phone constantly rang some loud country song. He yelled with road rage and bullied people out of the left lane. When we finally (at 11am) got to Blacksburg I was nauseous and so anxious. I knew that our driver was probably in for a bad day and he did go out of the way to come get us. I was planning on tripping him anyway but I didn’t have a lot of cash on me. I gave him what I had and he was suddenly super nice. We got out of the van and went to the restaurant’s patio to meet my aunt.

We had a great lunch with Aunt Marci, Uncle Paul, and their dog Gus Gus. After lunch (nachos, 3 cups of coffee for Miles and I, beers for Uncle Paul, and a crab club sandwich) we went to the shopping plaza and headed to the running store first. I tried on a few pairs of Brooks but they weren’t what I was looking for. We tried an outdoor store a few shops down but they didn’t have my size in the Solomons I wanted. In reality, the Solomons were the closest I was going to get to the shoes I was currently in but they didn’t have my size. The brooks weren’t really what I wanted but I’d worn the brand before and figured they’d work. We picked up a pair of Brooks, 2 pairs of Darn Tough socks, and some Gu energy gels.

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Aunt Marci and Uncle Paul didn’t have a car that would fit all of us so they paid for a taxi for us to get back. We found out Blacksburg had Lyft so we called a Lyft. They dropped us off at the Starbucks nearby and we said goodbye. Miles and I indulged in some coffee while we waited for our Lyft.

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Our Lyft driver ended up being VERY nice. He had no idea the trail was so close by or that the hostel we were staying at even existed! We had a great conversation with him on the car ride. We arrived back at the hostel around 2pm.

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I got a smoothie from the kitchen and Miles took a nap. I blogged for a while and talked to a fellow hiker who was going southbound: Cougar. She was really cool and had already hiked the PCT. We also patted the cats and dogs they had:

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We had dinner up at the main house with the other hikers. Neville, the hostel owner, and Blue, a worker, made dinner. It was great! Salad, egg salad, homemade bread, rice dishes, soup, and ice cream, all local and fresh.

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After dinner I volunteered with some other hikers to clean up in the kitchen and scoop ice cream. I finally figured out who had seen me during the ‘naked incident’. His name was Fog. I didn’t really catch who else saw because when he started telling the story the room exploded in hilarious laughter. My face flushed. It was kind of funny because of its ridiculousness the first time he told it. But when he had told it 3 times because people were in and out of the kitchen it got old. Neville put a stop to it, thankfully. The attention was a bit much.

After dinner we went to bed early in our bunks. We realized we would be passing another very cool hostel the next day. We had really pushed ourselves this week so we decided to stay at that hostel, too. We also needed to resupply still.

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Day 72: Mile 635.4 | Angel’s Rest Hiker Haven

We left the hostel around 10am after breakfast. We shared breakfast with Trial and Error; bread, butter, coffee, and smoothies. They were very cool and taught us about nomadic jobs.

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We went out and, very slowly, hike 10.6 miles to Angel’s Rest in Pearisburg proper. When we arrived we set up Miles’ tent to share.

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We went out to get a meal of Mexican food and margaritas. When we got back to the hostel we ran into Nomad, Rick James, Whisperer, Josh, Little Foot, Kevin, Mark, Chomper, Steamboat, Tang, Ahab, and Tiger Lily. I hung out around a campfire with some hikers while Miles went to bed early.

Day 73: Mile 635 | Angel’s Rest Hiker Haven

We thought we were going to head out in the morning so we packed up. I made Miles and I breakfast. The more we sat and ate, the more tired we realized we were. Some people were going slackpacking but neither of us wanted to do that. We went and did our food resupply at the Food Lyon. It was hot and sunny. We hung out at the hostel for a while and realized maybe we should just get dinner in town and hike out.

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We got some Mexican food again and headed back to the hostel again. We decided we weren’t going to leave and set up the tent again. We were sitting up near the Hiker kitchen and one of the hostel owners came out and told us that it was Mark’s birthday and they had gotten him a cake and ice cream! We all sang him happy birthday and shared cake and ice cream.

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We hung out with Sparty and Murdock while their owners went and got dinner. After dinner we went to bed early.

Day 74: Mile 655.8 | Pine Swamp Branch Shelter

We tried to catch a shuttle out of the hostel at 9am but they were a little late. We ended up getting on trail around 10am. The forests were suddenly green and blooming. The leaves were on the trees and the flowers were out! SPRING HAD FINALLY ARRIVED FOR REAL!

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We walked along some roads and up out of Pearisburg. On our way up the mountain we came to a gravel forest road where a Forest Service officer was waiting in his car. He stepped out of his car and gave us a run down on the 'project' we would be coming upon. We were told not to get off trail at all in this next section. We would be crossing the Mountain Valley Pipeline construction which was currently being protested. You can support protestors here:

https://www.facebook.com/appalachiansagainstpipelines/

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We got up to Rice Field Shelter and ate lunch there. We saw a few hikers from the day before that were slackpacking: Savage, Josh, Half Moon, Little Foot, Grandma Shorty, Plod Along, and Tang.

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My new shoes were kind of weird. They had no drop from heel to toe and the grip was weird. I had to lace them differently because my toe kept slipping. They weren’t stable like my old ones. I was over compensating for a every step I made and it was surprisingly exhausting. I started feeling it pretty badly in my Achilles. My calves were having a hard time with the drop difference.

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We kept walking. We passed a Mountain Valley Pipeline protest site and saw some Forest Service Rangers set up near the trail. We also saw their damage and heard their generator.

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As we walked we realized we would be getting to camp late. We started looking for places to camp. The terrain wasn’t exactly suited for stealth camping. The Captain’s Place, which was recommended to us, we found out was closed. The shelter near the Captain’s Place was also ‘closed’ but we decided to check it out anyway. (WARNING: I strongly recommended not defying ATC ordinances and camping at closed shelters. It is not safe.)

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On our way down to the shelter Miles and I walked separately. We listened to music and podcasts. I was singing along to music when he caught up to me finally and he thought my singing was actually me crying for help. I fall a lot so this wasn’t exactly an unfounded worry. He ran down the mountainside to meet me and when he finally did he realized that I was totally fine. His panic was for naught. After a long, hard day I felt so bad that he ran after me in panic. We laughed it off and started back down the hill for the shelter.

When we arrived at the shelter there were four other hikers already there. We decided to risk it since it was dark. We sat up Miles’ tent and I got water. We ate dinner quickly, basically just cramming as many calories in our mouths as we could in half an hour. We went to bed, 20.5 miles later: exhausted.

Day 75: Mile 668.4 | War Spur Shelter

We got up early and were out by 8:15am. We hiked separately for most of the day. I listened to a couple of stories on Levar Burton Reads. We stopped at a spring to fill up and met a guy named Sailor Pete, out for his third try for a thru-hike at 60+ years old. He was pretty cool and offered us good luck. It was VERY hot this day. High eighties. It’s like we got to Pearisburg in early spring and when we left town it was suddenly summer. We drenched in sweat all day. My compression shorts started to itch from all of the salt they had absorbed.

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By the time I got to War Spur Shelter I was pooped. Miles was there when I arrived, drinking an energy drink. We sat there looking at each other, deliriously. I stretched for a few minutes and sat down at the picnic table with him. “How would you feel about stopping here?” I got excited, I didn’t think he’d want to stop so early. I knew I could make it further but I just didn’t really feel like it. I was tired and hot and these new shoes were really inhibiting me. We agreed to stop early.

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We set up camp and I went down to the stream nearby. I used my food bag and some Sea to Summit soap sheets to clean some of my clothes a bit. I hung them to dry on my trekking poles. We ended up chatting with Chomper and Steamboat. Rick James showed up to camp eventually along with Sailor Pete.

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After dinner we went to bed early.

Day 76: Mile 686.7 | Niday Shelter

We heard Grandma Shorty, Plod Along, and Savage pass camp in the morning. I was EXHAUSTED. I couldn’t sleep lately, which seemed to be a recurring problem. Miles and I hiked together to the first view. When we got there ow as so tired that I thought o could fall asleep right there. I put on his black rain coat and lay down in the grass near the cliff. He played chess on his phone while I napped for half an hour. When he woke me up later I felt so much better.

We ran into Savage on our way out of the view. If we made it to Niday Shelter today, Savage told us, we could hike just 1 Mile tomorrow to a gap where a hostel was coming to pick up packs to slackpack the 15.7 the rest of the way to the hostel. We had planned on staying at that hostel anyway. The more people that joined the cheaper it would be. As little as $4 per person! I agreed to join, which meant we needed to get to Niday Shelter, 18.3 miles up the trail that night.

I put in my headphones and listened to Levar Burton Reads. We walked separately to camp. I was having a bit of an emotional day. For some reason, everything made me want to cry. I was overtired and over emotional. I climbed over a tough, rocky ridge, listening to Levar read “The Paper Menagerie”. A story that made me wish I had treated my parents better. And made me realize how much they meant to me. After that I listened to him read a story called “Kin”. Both stories made me cry, it was that kind of day. I was really homesick. Overtired. I couldn’t function properly.

We walked through fields:

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In the heat of mid day I came across the shelter between War Spur and Niday. This shelter was the only water source within 10 miles. I needed to get water here but didn’t want to hike the 0.7 miles down the steep trail to the water. I bucked up and got ready mentally to go down and get water in the heat. As I came up to the shelter I saw a bottle sitting under the sign for the blue blaze. There was a bottle sitting there full of water that Miles had filtered for me. It made my whole day. I was so tired and it made that hike so much easier.

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I got into camp a half hour after Miles and we shared his tent again. We made dinner and he hung our bear bags. Steamboat and Chomper rolled in not long after us. After them was Savage. Later Abab and Tiger Lily, Poe, Half Moon, and Rick James all made it there, too. Later in the evening Grandma Shorty and Plod Along got there to get water. They decided to push it the last mile or so to the gap where our packs were being picked up so they didn’t have to worry about getting up early to get there by 9am.

We went to bed as a small rain storm rolled in.

Day 77

Day 77

Day 70

Day 70