Days since my thruhike began: 197
AT miles hiked today: 12.5
Total AT miles hiked: 1766.3
Miles to complete my thruhike: 417.9

Caroline from The Blackburn Center dropped us off in Harpers Ferry at the ATC office this morning after letting us get coffee at 7-11. Once I started hiking I met Babu, the maintainer for that section of trail, with a dog called Rip. Babu is the guy who is in the National Geographic AT movie. He was documenting the trees that had blown down in Sandy's winds and rain so he could hike back in with a chainsaw to clear the trail. I'd like to thank all the volunteer trail maintainers who keep the trail clear and passable for us hikers. Maybe I can give back on this trail, or another, by maintaining a section of trail.

I tried moving branches for a while, but finally got tired and just stepped around them. There were quite a few large blowdowns and some sections where water was still pooled in the trail, but it wasn't too bad, considering it could have been much worse. Still, with the cold wind blowing the trees around, I checked above my head for possible widow makers, and saw a few large branches, and even whole trees, hanging or leaning, ready to come down. I hurried under them, keeping an eye up.

Water had run down and cleared parts of the trail of the seemingly unending duff of fallen leaves. I stepped there, happy to see what I was stepping on without a cover of leaves. The leaves are very loud, too. I notice, and greatly appreciate, the sections of trail where I don't rustle and crackle and drown myself in noise. It looks like winter to me, even without snow, because the trees are bare. Only a few hardy maples are sporting some color. A few patches of red and bright green leaves punctuate the barren tree limbs. The dry leaves fill in the trail until it is quite difficult to see where it goes and there aren't enough white blazes for southbound hikers right when I can't see the buried trail and need them the most. Multiple times I had to resort to turning around to search for the northbound blazes just to make sure I was still on the trail.

One bonus to bare trees is being able to see the green fields, white barns, and blue mountain horizon through the trees.

It was an easy hike today. Even going up the ridge wasn't bad. The wind got colder and I hiked in my new blaze orange ski cap, with my ear warmer around my neck. My fleece gloves are awesome, and I carried, but didn't use, my rainpants. Nomad was on the trail and he joined us at the Blackburn center tonight. I truly appreciate the warm, wood stove that heated up this little bunkhouse so well, and the caretakers were great, too. Maybe I could be a caretaker for one of these cabins or hostels after my hike.