Currently sitting in the hostel's common room...
Last night I slept with the light of a full moon beaming down on me. It was amazing to wake up in the middle of the night and be able to see! Not that I did anything with that ability, but it was cool. I woke up for real and got ready after the moon had set. I knew I only had about ten miles in to the town of Front Royal, but I didn't want to get ahead of myself. The hike started downhill, but not at a very steep angle. Nonetheless, the tendons in my shin and on top of my foot complained, so I stopped to rest in the gap. The rest of my morning hike was pretty standard with the added stress of another nagging injury. I think I probably put extra strain on these tendons as I was coddling my shin. I was forced to slow down over the rolling hills into town, but it worked out and I made it there around 10:45. I looked up the road, sizing up the best place to get a hitch, when I heard a guy's voice call out, "Hey, I remember you!" It was Mark, the guy who shuttled me in to Harper's Ferry on Monday. He was waiting to shuttle a couple hikers back to Harper's Ferry today, so he gave me a ride into town in the meantime. To top it off, he gave me a big protein bar as we parted ways.
With a somewhat ambitious mileage goal for today, I was on a bit of a schedule in town. Front Royal is spread out, so I had to pick a certain area to do everything in. I once again found myself dining at Burger King, then I went across the street to a grocery store. I resupplied and also got some extra snacks for town in the form of donuts and swiss rolls. As I packed my stuff up in front of the store, a townie gave me a tip to take a shortcut to the library. Feeling efficient, I cut across a grassy field and was in the library within a few minutes. I stank up the young adult section as I researched my tendon pain, narrowing it down to a mild case of tendonitis. I texted my chief medical consultant, who suggested getting an ace bandage to wrap around the affected area. I gave in and threw my schedule out the window, prioritizing my health over making it to an arbitrary stopping point. With a shorter day in mind, I wrapped my ankle and headed back to the trail.
I was astounded how much difference the wrap made. It leant support to my lower leg as well as applying compression. I hiked free of pain and once again found myself powering up an incline, free of worry. I came to my new intended stopping point, three miles up the trail. What I walked up to was a hiker who had his gear hanging up over absolutely everything, a radio blaring, and his hammock strung up in the entryway of the shelter. I began to reconsider my decision, but it was already too late to hike to the next shelter which was ten miles further. I sat and listened to him talk for a while, but somewhere between his confession of a colorful record, his mindless ranting about yelling at townfolk, and his wonky eye looking off in another direction, I knew I had to make other plans. I hiked on and noted Front Royal Hostel in my guide. I gave in and took the half-mile side trail down the hill. I came to the house that I suspected to be the hostel, but I gave the owner a call just in case.
"Hi, I think I'm out back, but I don't want to just knock on random doors."
"Did you read that this is a seasonal hostel that closes at the beginning of July?"
I apologized as he laughed raucously and hung up. "Bye..." I said to the disconnected phone. Mad at myself for not reading closely and a little irked at the owner, I started to pack up my stuff. Just then, I heard a voice from the deck ask me if I at least wanted to come up for a beer. The owner introduced himself as Mike, a former AT and Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker. He had to limit his hours for the neighbors' sake and because he didn't get much late-season business anyways. He teased me for not reading and for being too concerned about hiking fast, but the beers kept coming. After number three, he appeared down at the door to the garage and told me to bring my pack inside. I got to stay the night after all, and we kept talking about hiking and about music. He went to five Grateful Dead shows while thru-hiking the trail. Before he went to bed, he tried to convince me to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and to go back to school for a PhD in philosophy. I politely told him that we would have to just wait and see. Today was filled with trail magic. A ridiculous amount.