Appalachian Trail Mile 1,023; Harper’s Ferry, WV

Saturday, July 15, 2017 (Day 73)

The parking lot was busy in the morning. The first car pulled in just after 7 am. I opened my eyes, sat at a 90 degree angle, and watched the passengers get out and grab their day packs and disappear on to the trail. I  returned to a horizontal position. More cars pulled in. It was Saturday, and the trail was popular. I decided it was time I began to put away my things. One day hiker offered me a PB & J and a gatorade. I accepted the sandwich gratefully.

More and more cars pulled in in rapid succession, until the only space left was right beside me. I began to feel self-conscious about the space I was taking. The hiker that pulled in to that very last spot was very kind. We spoke briefly and he let me use his phone to check the location of stores in D.C. He gave me $10 and a sparkling water, and as a result– much needed encouragement and motivation. I was so thankful! I began my hike in the best of moods.

I finished the rest of The Rollercoaster. I came to a road crossing. I glanced to my left “Welcome to West Virginia; Wild and Wonderful”, to my right “Welcome to Virginia; Virginia is for Lovers”.

I turned east towards Virginia to walk the road the .3 miles to the Sweet Springs General Store. They were very overpriced. I purchased oatmeal, a box of dehydrated potatoes, and off-brand saltine crackers. I repackaged the goods in the front of the store, smiling at the teenagers blasting hip-hop music in the parking lot.

…It was not far to Harper’s Ferry, now. I was excited.

I came to the highway bridge of US 340, across the Shenandoah River. As I walked alongside the highway on the bridge over the glorious river, the sky was peach with dusk. A flock of birds flew through the sky; synchronized shadows. I spotted young folks in the distance, splashing in the water at the river’s edge. I stopped and gazed at the water, transfixed. Someone barked at me out their car window, zooming from behind.

The river is such a wide expanse. The current appears gentle, but strong. Green shrubs grow on the scattered stones it rolls over. So calming is the hushing sound that rises from its movements. It makes me think that this is where the term “hush” comes from. Hush, be quiet and calm and steady as this river.

I cannot see the rivers end from my spot on the bridge that bounces with the weight of the heavy vehicles. It travels off into the pastels of the returning night; the pinks, greens, and blues that anounce the stars and moon.

The cars whizzing by sound so squeaky and laborsome and strenuous and futuristic…have they always sounded this way?

Across the other side of the bridge the sky is blue and the clouds wispy. The clouds are no longer white, but entirely pink and floating just above the trees.

It is just after 9pm when I walk in to Harper’s Ferry.  I am immediately struck by its old-world feel. The town is sleepy; everything has shut down for the evening.

I headed to the railroad tracks. I tried sleeping on the bench.  After a bit of tossing, I decided I would be more comfortable on the ground. I had just completed the relocation process and went to sit on my mat, when I spotted a light in the distance. Could this be an Amtrak? Would passengers get off here? it was certainly not a passenger train.

I had never seen a locomotive move so fast! So powerful! It seemed well within the realm of possibility, that it would fly off the tracks and careen towards me from the sheer force of its own weight and speed. Then, from the opposing direction, another train — equally as fast and powerful! It grew terribly cold in the wind of their speeds in opposing directions. The sounds were deafening and fierce. This is the dark side to my beloved train, I thought. A steam roller of the shadows; a train to take you to the underworld; so dark and industrious and beautiful.

I wonder if more will pass in the night.

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