Day 7, 1pm: 39.325661, -77.740546
75 miles in 6.5 days!

Our last steps off the trail brought us to the AT gift shop, of course. Here we registered ourselves as section hikers, vowing to someday complete the entire trail. We became student members of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and got a bumper sticker, patch, and magazine subscription. And I bought a glow-in-the-dark AT nalgene water bottle!

Most hikers have trail names so we quickly came up with random ones. Terri was komodo dragon, then just dragon, then blister sister, among others. From the beginning I was walking willow, or willow for short. Though I guess I could have been BornWanderer.

We met some awesome people on the trail, mostly thru-hikers who started their journey on Springer mountain in Georgia in March. They had names like Gonzo, meadow flapjack, splash, star child, and grandpa. Grandpa slowly became our favorite. He was probably in his 60s, as thin as us but taller, smoked a pipe during any break, and sported a three month old gray beard. Your classic Appalachian mountain man, save the fact he was from Rhode Island. He had finished the entire trail two years ago, and was just taking his time this trip. But he knew all the details about the good spots ahead, made fires at every stop, including in the pouring rain, and regailed anyone who would listen with trail stories. We were happy walking at our own pace, but it was pretty embarrassing when a smoker with the nickname grandpa kept passing us. The final day we had at least a 4 mile head start on him and he still beat us to Harper’s Ferry! Most of the thru-hikers didn’t think us section hikers were worthy of interest, but we overheard their stories from afar. Mostly on their trail angel experiences. Random acts of kindness from strangers paying for their food, driving them into town for supplies, finding and returning forgotten items, or donating money when a wallet was lost.

The last few days were gorgeous: a cool breeze toyed with the tops of trees while clear skies allowed the sun to dance at our feet. Despite planning nothing about this trip except approximate the mileage, and encountering a few hiccups, everything worked out wonderfully and I don’t think we went a day without laughing.

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