Before long, small signs of civilization began to appear in view. First, it was a large, chain link fence. Then a row of houses appeared with their back yards abutting the trail.
Later, a large field, and beyond it several large buildings with red roofs, caught my eye.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the buildings I saw were part of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. I might have paid more attention to them, but at this point I was trying to keep my head down as I powered my way to the highway.
The only time I turned my attention away from the five or six feet of trail in front of me was when I checked my watch every few minutes to see how much time I had left.
The path for the last eight-tenths of a mile to the highway was a straight shot, all slightly downhill. I put on the afterburners and flew down the trail.
I arrived with three minutes to spare.
“Safe!” Stick shouted, waving his arms as a baseball umpire would for a runner at home plate.
Sharon arrived a few minutes later. She drove us to her house, which is where Mike had left his car before getting a ride down to Rockfish Gap to meet us a week ago today.
Mike then drove us to a Holiday Inn in Front Royal. He kindly paid for our room.
As with any town stop, the first order of business was a shower. We then did laundry and went to a nearby Walmart to resupply for the next leg of our hike.