I began the second section of my hike the next year September 2012. This time I planned to go 500 miles from Damascus, Virginia to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. It was still a challenge to get where I wanted to get everyday, but this time I was familiar with what I was doing. Even so my hike unexpectedly ended about100 miles south of Harpers Ferry. A huge Hurricane named Sandy came ashore effecting half the country. It left snow in the mountains of Shenandoah National Park where I was at the time. The Park Service closed the park. People at car camps along the 100 miles of Sky Line Drive and all hikers in the park had to leave before the storm hit.
When I started my hike from Damascus my legs were stronger and I was able to deal more securely with life on the trail. I set up a tent in the pouring rain and nothing got wet except me. I was in the Hurricane Mountain campground .5 miles from the trail. It rained all night. My tent was beside a raging stream that got more swollen during the night. The next morning it was still raining. I broke camp in the rain and again nothing got wet. Then as I left it turned into a beautiful day with brilliant sunshine.
At resupply points I no longer expected to find the lightweight foil packages of dehydrated food. The advantage of that food and the reason I always looked for it was that I could carry enough to last 7 to 10 days. I was able to stay on the trail longer, and spend less money overall even though those meals were more expensive. Most long distance hikers I met went to town every 3 to 5 days, got food, and were back on the trail the same day. When I went to town I stuffed myself with food, got supplies, and stayed overnight.
At the shelters where there might be northbound and/or southbound hikers they talked about good places to go that might be days away. A good place is one that is easy to get to, and has food.
The entire 2178 mile trail goes through only about 10 towns. Most resupply points are in towns a short distance by car on roads that a hiker crosses when they go through a gap. A gap is the lowest point between any two mountains. The Appalachian Trail goes on ridges along several mountain chains extending from Georgia to Maine. There are as many gaps as there are mountains. A small number of the lowest gaps have roads passing through them.
Often times I planned to go to a town and resupply long before I got to the road in the gap that led there. There are several ways to get to town. I never did much hitch hiking, but that is one of the ways. Many hikers depend on that method of transportation. It works for them. The Appalachian Trail Guide book has the telephone numbers of shuttles that are sometimes free for hikers. Also, it is possible to meet a hiker who has a car at the gap, or will split the cost of a ride to town. If the town is close one way to get there is walk.
Another way to resupply is to have someone send a “care package” to a post office ahead on the trail. I got one in Pearisburg, Virginia. When properly addressed, the post office holds the package. There has to be a willing person at home. For me it was Jenny, my wife, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Often I telephoned my whereabouts, and once she sent a care package. I desperately needed my warm sleeping bag. To get the warmer sleeping bag was well worth the trouble, but it wasn’t worth the trouble getting food that way so I did it only once. It was like having an itinerary or having to be somewhere at a certain time. It didn’t go well with my idea of a good hike in the mountains.
When I first talked with Jenny about hiking the Appalachian Trail it was understood it was not something she wanted to do. She said to me more than once, “…if it’s something you want to do…” plus, she needed more proof she could handle things at home on a farm. It was good for both of us.
I was enjoying a zero day in Pearisburg when a car pulled up outside a fast food, fish bowl type of restaurant where I was eating. Four people got out, and I thought to myself how they looked very much like a car group of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had been with them in Cincinnati when I stopped my hike for my leg to heal. They came inside, and sat at the table next to mine. That is who they were. It was Saturday and I asked them if it was possible for me to go to their Sunday meeting the next day. Some phone calls were made, and I conversed with one father by cell phone. The next day he picked me up at the motor lodge and we went to a nearby building where the meeting was. The talk was about the good life. Afterward a group of them took me to lunch with the speaker. They treated me like family. It was very nice.