The last couple of weeks we have been slowly eaten alive by mosquitos, as expected, and these minuscule gnats, no bigger than a dot, (we call them vampire gnats) which land on one, mysteriously dissolve the skin without notice, then leave a small pool of blood behind as evidence of their visit. Shortly thereafter, furious scratching ensues in an attempt to alleviate the nagging itchiness. Every hiker we've met recently looks like they have chicken pox. Apparently, they enjoy deet, since liberal application hasn't slowed down the little blood-sucking jaws with wings.
We've had several days of hot, muggy weather, and took the opportunity to enjoy swimming when we came across the James River. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see me standing on the outside trestle of the bridge before I jumped in (about 20 feet high). We later found out there is a $125 fine for doing so, as another hiker was fined - not for jumping, but for climbing the trestle. Oops.
A few days ago, we stopped in for resupply to the Dutch Haus in Montebello, VA. Our stop happened to coincide with their trail days celebrAtion and we were treated to a cookout by the townspeople when we got in. We had a great stay and felt very welcome.
After 800 miles, our gear is beginning to wear down. Our shirts are full of holes, and inner soles worn down to nothing. Replacing the inner soles has helped a lot with foot and knee issues we were experiencing. Keith's pack had to be replaced because the straps were almost completely pulled away at the seams from the pack. REI has a great warranty policy and sent out a new pack right away, along with replacement boots for me, which were falling apart at the inner seams.
We are about to enter Shenandoah National Park and plan to hike a few days forward to Elkton and then get shuttled back to Waynesboro to do a two day canoe trip down the river and back to Elkton where we'll resume our trek. Next stop Harpers Ferry and the unofficial half way point!