Days since my thruhike began: 201
AT miles hiked today: 8.1
Total AT miles hiked: 1810.6
Miles to complete my thruhike: 373.6

I'm sleeping in the Tom Floyd Shelter near the north entrance to Shenandoah National Park. I'm excited to finally be here. I keep singing "Oh Shenandoah" and feeling a bit homesick for the Canyon Singers, my community choir, because we performed that song. I miss singing with you all! I'm sure the Christmas concert will be wonderful, as always.

I woke up late this morning, cocooned in my tent/tarp fort in the shelter. It's easier to wake with the light when you're in a tent and not in a building, under a bunk. It's easier to get up with the light when it is not frigid outside. I know it's not THAT cold, but it feels like it in the mornings and after dark. Anyway, based on the fact that we meant to hitch into Front Royal, and with my ankle injured again, we only planned an eight mile day, so we slept in. Eventually we left the shelter and I enjoyed some lovely hiking, but my ankle wasn't stable and I was fearful of rolling it again, and falling again, too, so I hiked cautiously.

Once we made it to the road we got a ride very quickly with Len, who was getting out the vote for Obama. He drove us to the CVS, and waited while I tried on five ankle braces and picked one out, then took us to his house where we got online and charged our phones for an hour while he fed us organic roasted red pepper soup with bread and butter. He made us hot tea, gave us bananas and homegrown cantaloupe, and gave us Halloween candy. Then he drove us back to the trail. Thank you so much, Len! I hope you get to celebrate the election with a beer.

I messed up and didn't finish my thruhike in time to vote and didn't get an absentee ballot. Not that my Obama vote counts in Utah anyway. I'm happy to have been offline for most of this election cycle. I feel a freedom from the rancor of politics. I love how it doesn't matter out here. People help each other despite our political affiliations or religious beliefs, and often without even knowing our careers or our real names. I have come to love people again, and expect good from most of them, and believe in the magic of the trail to bring us all together in ways that really mean something. I love the AT for this gift I have discovered here. No wonder some people get addicted to the Appalachian Trail. I wonder if I can settle near the AT, or another long trail, and help out hikers after my hike is done. I have been given so much, I can only pay it back by paying it forward, to the next person. And it's so easy to make a long distance hiker happy because it takes so little.

I met Goat, a SOBO, hiking up the hill to this shelter in the dark. He went for water down a thousand feet to a trickle of water pooling in a puddle too shallow to submerge a bottle. It took him a long time, and he got only 1.5 liters when he wanted two. Then I heard him curse in the shelter. He had spilled about a liter of that hard won water all over the porch. I have less than a liter of my own water, and chose to go without after watching all that. I sat by the fire and ate a dry meal of trail mix, a protein bar and the last of my beef jerky, just to avoid using water to cook. I'll have a dry breakfast as well, and save my remaining water to drink during the four miles to the next water source.

The ankle brace I bought worked perfectly! My ankle felt so much more secure and stable. I'm happy to finally have a good brace and I'll probably wear it from now on while hiking. I also bought a VISA gift card to use as a credit card for those special times when nothing else will do.