I spent last night on the Appalachian Trail -- but no banjo players! I stayed at the Bear's Den hostel. It was a very cool place. I was there with a group of Appalachian hikers. The hostel is about halfway up the trail and most of those hikers had been hiking for a couple months. One man was biking the trail.
I got a good look at what I could look like in the future. Most of the men were bearded and pretty thin. A few of them said they'd lost around 20 lbs since walking. They were all in good spirits and seemed healthy, but hungry. They said that they are able to walk more now than when they had started.
What's cool is that they all have trail names with which they identify each other. For example, some of the individuals I met yesterday were: Spitfire, Ninja, Old Spice, Steamer, etc. It's like a real-life mmorpg . . . but not quite. A little girl who lived at the hostel (daughter of manager) gave me a picture she drew. We all mostly sat around and talked. Most of them knew each other from running into one another on the trail and at rest stops. They gave me some advice for my walk.
Today I was walking along highway 7 through the Appalachians when a red SUV hit a deer about 100 yards in front of me. I wasn't looking at the point of impact but heard a thud. At first I just thought it was a large truck/semi rattling its cargo but looked past a passing car to see a deer bound into the woods. On the road was the SUV with its bumper hanging off and its left side lights and reflectors destroyed. I drove past me slowly and pulled over. On the road was another deer writhing on the ground. Just as I reached it another car hit it so I jumped out of the way to avoid any mess.
A few miles down the road there was a large burnt spot on the side of the road headed into a grassy median. When I reached it there was lots of small debris: glass, metal, plastic. There was a cross stuck into the burnt grass. Pretty dreary, wet day.
The heat has gotten much hotter as of late, poor timing as I reach the hills of Virginia on route to the Appalachian mountains. I only walked about 12 miles today -- about the same yesterday. My body is sore but not bad! I slept in the Hilton Garden Hotel last night. It was very nice but more expensive than I would like to admit.
I am currently in the home of the Vergamini family in Herndon, VA. They are very kind and have provided me with a room to sleep in and food. Much thanks to them!
Special thanks to my sister Amber who keeps working to find me places to sleep via couchsurfing.org. She is extremely helpful. I'll be taking a bike and walk trail to Leesburg tomorrow. I will probably stay on the trail for the next couple of days.
My four days have gone well. I am currently in the home of Jon Sandoval who I met on couchsurfing.com. He has been gracious enough to let me stay in his home a couple of days while I explore our nation's capital.
Last night was my first night sleeping in a bed since May 14. On the 15th I slept in a car on the way to Maryland and the next two night I slept in my tent and last night I just laid out my sleeping bag and slept in it. Aside from the first day, when it was very rainy, the weather has been excellent.
On my first day of walking I went 27+ miles. While I expected my legs, feet and back to hurt most, it was actually my hips and shoulders that became very sore. I was alongside highway 214 for most of the day.
I usually stop at gas stations or small stores to get food and then carry the food in bags as I walk. My diet has mostly consisted of lunch meat sandwiches, protein bars, beef jerky, gatorade, vitamin water and vitamins.
I walked around 20 miles on my second day. I camped just outisde the center of D.C. The beginning of my walk through DC was not through the safest neighborhoods, but aside from a few odd stares, everything went well.
I arrived in the center of D.C. yesterday and met with some of the staff of Free the Slaves. They were very courteous. They did invite me to lunch today as they see off one of their interns.
I have begun reading a book to help pass the time while not walking. It is called, "a long way gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah. The book is a personal account of Beah's experience with rebels in Sierre Leone--his trek with a few friends across the country from village to village as they tried to outrun and avoid the rebels, the attrocities he saw, his capture and eventual rescue. I have yet to finish, but it is a very good and quick read (just 226 pages). I certainly recommend the book.
My body is feeling well. It is a little stiff and sore, but nothing too painful. I will need to pace myself better. I originally wanted to average 15-20 miles. I get a little too impatient on my resting breaks and push myself to start walking again.
My experience so far has been positive. I've had a few nervous moments, as I expected, but I am eager to get back on the road and head towards home, where I will likely take a one week stay and reorganize what I really need and what I can do without.
I plan on leaving in one month . . . that will give me one week from the end of school. My sister has agreed to drive me to the East coast and drop me off.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous. I'm a little concerned about my sleeping situation. I have a tent, but I don't want to accidentally sleep somewhere I shouldn't. In the larger cities I'm not sure what I'll do. I don't have enough money to continuously sleep in motels. I will probably have to rely on the goodwill of others and shelters.
My friend told me about the site, www.couchsurfing.com, which is a networking site of people who open up their homes and couches to travelers. I will probably try to use that service as best I can. Thanks, Dana!
I've got most of my supplies: backpack, camcorder/camera, compass, indestructible/water resistant phone, first aid kit, walking stick w/ flashlight, thermometer, tent, sleeping bag, laptop, spare clothes, and other things.
I'm looking into walking for Free the Slaves, an organization focused on ending worldwide slavery: child soldiers, human trafficking, etc. Ball State has a chapter founded by one of my co-workers (Phil Call) in the Writing Center at Ball State.
Wish me luck and I'll keep you posted!
BTW: Feel free to follow me on Twitter! (Jaroburn)