I wound up leaving the hostel a bit later than I wanted; 8:30 rather than 7:30 or 8. My target today was Harpers Ferry, specifically, the Econo Lodge that's just off the trail after it crosses the Shenandoah River. While I didn't need to get in early (I made reservations yesterday during one of my breaks), I still didn't want to get in late enough that getting dinner would be problematic.
After returning to the AT from the side trail from Bears Den, I continued on the roller coaster, which continued to be an unfun rocky PUDS (pointless ups and downs). About an hour's hike brought me to the VA-WV border, which the trail would follow for awhile before fully turning into West Virginia.
After making it past the last 3.5 miles of the roller coaster, the trail flattened out somewhat. The trail couldn't decided if it wanted to be nice or mean, and alternated between being a joy to walk on and being incredibly rocky, before settling on being rocky for the duration of the hike into Harpers Ferry.
The rocks were killing my feet, and after 20 miles of rocks, I was really getting tired of the trail today. So words can not really describe how happy I was when the Shenandoah River first appeared beyond the trees.
I had asked Beast last week (I think) if he knew if we'd see the Shenandoah River from the trail. He didn't know offhand, and neither of us bothered to check. The answer is, yes, you can see the river from the trail, and you even cross over it, but this only happens during the approach to Harpers Ferry, long after exiting the park.
I knew from the map in the guidebook that the Econo Lodge was pretty close to the trail, but I was honestly not expecting to be able to see the sign for the hotel from the trail. I hopped the guard rail on 340, and a short walk later, I had a hotel room and a shower (and air conditioning).
I ate dinner at The Anvil, because it was close to the hotel, but I'm sad to say that I can't recommend the restaurant. While the food is good, the portions are small (even the beer!) and it's somewhat expensive.
After leaving The Anvil, I walked down the street looking for an actual bar which might serve beer in actual pints. Instead, I found a group of thru-hikers sitting in the outdoor seating area of Bisou Bistro, the next block over. I hung out there until closing time ("you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here"), and then got a ride back to my hotel (from Brave, NOBO 2014; thanks again for the ride!) since it was dark, I didn't have my headlamp, and the street my hotel is on does not have sidewalks.
It feels great to be in Harpers Ferry. It's not quite halfway, but it's the spiritual halfway point of the trail, and the home of the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy).
Tomorrow and Sunday: my first double-zero. After averaging 20 miles a day over the last four days, I deserve a break.