5/17 Day 61

Today we started back in the trail. We were dropped back off at Ashby Gap and after three miles, we entered “The Rollercoaster”. This section is named for the 13.5 miles with ten consecutive ascents and descents. The Virginia corridor is narrow here so the trail has been routed up and over this series of viewless, rocky ridges. We had lunch at Sam Moore Shelter, took a break at Bear’s Den Rocks (with a view of the Shenandoah Valley) and crossed four lanes of traffic at Rt 7. Overall, “The Rollercoaster” was more mentally challenging than physically challenging. While we noticed our days of rest in a slower beginning pace, it was knowing we had the series of peaks to climb that was more exhausting. At mile marker 1,000, we crossed into West Virginia! It was strange to think that nearly 540 miles and less than one month earlier, we had started our hike in Virginia. We spent the night at the Blackburn Trail Center, staffed by a PATC caretaker. The caretakers this season were a young couple who thu-hiked last season. They gave us rice crispie treats and soda and set up their telescope so we could see the National Cathedral. On a clear day, you can see the Washington Monument from the center as well. The center has a free bunk house for hikers, solar shower, picnic pavilion, wood burning stove, tent platforms, garden and hiker book exchange program. The bunk house was full but we got a spot on the screened in porch for the night. We hiked 21.4 miles total for he day.

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