Front Royal to Harpers Ferry: Days 80-83

Front Royal to Harpers Ferry: Days 80-83

June 18, 2017: Father’s Day. I wake up to the smell of fried eggs wafting upstairs, courtesy of former thru-hiker and current owner of the Mountain Home Cabbin, Scott.

"The younger you are, the more likely you are to get bored, because you haven't gone out and worked for a living yet. You get tired of looking at your feet, everything's green -- the older ones are more mentally strong... My trail name was Possible. I think that with determination and perseverance, anything is possible." - Scott 'Possible,' owner of Mountain Home Cabbin and former thru-hiker

Almost a month ago, I’d asked Mom whether she could meet me around Harpers Ferry: a birthday present for me. Today is the day. She will drive down to a gravel parking lot at a remote tent site at mile 986.1, northbound.

All morning, I think about seeing Mom for the first time in months (and dream of her delicious cooking). I send a text to Dad before leaving, wishing him a happy Father’s Day.

Then, I see his reply.

“See you this evening. With love, Dad.”

My heart races. A grin spreads across my face. Mom had dropped unintentional hints that Dad would join us, but I dared not believe them. Dad worked in California; how could he take time off to fly out and see me?

Father’s Day. As a family. There could be no greater gift.

I race down the trail to the tent site. Two trucks are parked at the gravel lot. There is no sign of my parents. I call Mom. Traffic delays; they’ll be here at 7:30 pm.

Wandering back along the trail, I notice a family of four camped at one of the sites. The mother walks over and offers to let me sit on the tailgate of her blue truck. Her friend even drops by with slices of watermelon for me! When she finds out I majored in math, she introduces me to her 12 year old son. He spends the next hour excitedly explaining his forays into multivariable calculus and showing me diagrams of polar coordinates. Amazing!

Then, my parents arrive. I can’t stop smiling when I see them. We retire to Bear’s Den Hostel, where I savor the veritable feast my mom prepared: shrimp, fruit, scallops, eggs…the first home-cooked food I’ve had since I started the trail.

I slackpack for the next two days, hiking from the tent site to Bear’s Den (getting soaked in a rainstorm in the process), and from Bear’s Den to the Blackburn ATC Center. My parents join me on the second day, then drive me to REI for new boots.

After 1000 miles, my old Lowa boots sport several holes at the seams. Dirt covers the exterior, the stitching is frayed, and the insoles could stink up the entire floor of a house. I will miss them.

After much debate, I decide to try a pair of Oboz: sturdy looking trail runners that resemble sneakers more than hiking boots. Mom and Dad drive home the next day as I try my Oboz for the first time.

The short hike into Harpers Ferry leaves my feet somewhat sore; I chalk that up to breaking in the new pair of shoes. A small piece of notebook paper wedged under a log marks the start of the 4-state challenge. Here, the trail winds quickly into Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Some hikers try to touch all four states in a day. Once in town, I join Tom, Carter, and Kali at their hotel room, and think no more of the shoes.

We enjoy a pizza dinner while watching Mastermind. I look forward to spending the next morning in town. Little do I realize how much trouble the Oboz will bring me…