22.7 miles, 1062.9 overall (Deer Lick shelters)
You wake up just before 6 but roll over to get a few more minutes of sleep. You can already tell this morning will be a tough one. You’re tired and your legs are tight. They shouldn’t be tight, you took an ibuprofen last night before bed. Hopefully your body isn’t getting to a point where it will need more ibuprofen either because your body is that sore or because it has adapted to the current dosage.
You finally get up and start packing around 6:30. By now you know Mouse will be gone. She likes to get out by 6 so she can get her 10 miles in by 10:00. You get out of the sleeping bag and change into your hiking clothes. Luckily you’re only on day 2 so they don’t smell bad yet. The sleeping bag goes in its stuff sack and into the backpack. You fill the Camelbak and put it in next, being careful where you put the bite valve so you don’t end up sitting in a puddle. One by one things go into the bag until it is time to get out of the tent. The backpack goes against a tree while the tent comes down. It was dry and cool last night so the tent will be packed dry today, a good start to the day. Now comes breakfast. The food bags come down off the bear pole and you pull out the bagels and peanut butter. You smear a generous helping of peanut butter onto the bagel with your spork since you recently resupplied and the more you eat the lighter your pack gets. It is quiet as you eat except for the cars on the nearby interstate. Hopefully the trail today is as easy as it was yesterday.
After eating, the snacks for the day come out of the food bag and into readily accessible pockets on the pack. The food bags go into the pack with the last minute stuff and it gets cinched closed. Now comes the bad part – hoisting it to your back. You hope to notice a decrease in weight since yesterday but it feels about the same. It will take a couple more days of eating before it really begins to become noticeable.
As you leave around 7:30 you do some math in your head. 23 miles at 3 mph would take almost 8 hours, putting you there at 3:30. At 2.5 mph it will take 9 hours, arriving at 4:30. You figure somewhere in that range is when you will get to stop today. It will be a long day. Maybe you’ll catch up to Mouse. She left 1.5 hours before you and hikes around 2.5 mph, meaning she is almost 4 miles ahead. If you hiked 3 mph it would take you about 8 hours to catch up. Oh well, probably won’t see her today until the shelter.
The trail starts uphill but it is a much gentler uphill than what you’ve already come through in the south. You wonder if these little uphills will keep you prepared for the big climbs ahead in New England. Pretty soon you get to Annapolis Rocks and hesitate. It is threatening rain today and is cloudy so there may not be a view. Also, you’re only at 1800 ft elevation so the view can’t be THAT great. You decide to chance it and hike over. You’re pleasantly surprised that there is a campsite here with a privy, seeing as how you forgot to go before leaving camp. Although the view isn’t very impressive at least the side trip wasn’t a total loss.
Onward you hike. Your muscles are warmed up now but your Achilles tendons are a bit tight today. Also it feels like the blisters on your heels might act up again today. They’re not worth stopping for but you’ll have to do something about them tonight so they don’t keep bothering you the next few days.
At Black Rock Cliffs you hike up the extra 50 yards and are disappointed with an even worse view than before. No more views in Maryland, you decide. You pass a few day hikers and a thru-hiker couple. You can identify them as thrus by their gear and his beard. However you need a snack and don’t feel like chatting. The shelter is just ahead and you stop there to eat and grab some water. Snack number 1 – gorp. The register has familiar people in it. Einstein and Blue Fox stayed here last night! You thought Einstein was in PA by now. Perhaps you’ll catch him today or tomorrow. It would be fun to do the half-gallon challenge with him.
As you start hiking again you hear a hiker behind you and look back to find Rennaissance Man catching up to you. He is really hauling! You’re already doing around 3 mph so he must be doing at least 4. He passes and you know you won’t see him again today until perhaps at the shelter.
Several miles later you reach another shelter where you stop to refuel. Snack number 2 – Snickers bar. Tipsy and Fetch are zeroing here. The shelter is beautiful and they didn’t want to chance the rain. Also here is Radical, a new guy who started in Harper’s Ferry. Apparently he just started hiking one day and when he got to Harper’s he found out about the AT and hopped on. Hopefully you’ll get to talk to him more because he seems really intriguing, but for now you need to move on.
The trail doesn’t turn out to be as nice today. In addition to a lack of parks and informational placards, you decide that Maryland is bipolar: it is either soft, spongy, wonderful trail or a rock garden from hell. Maryland is no longer your favorite.
Hours later is Pen-Mar park on the border of PA and MD. It has vending machines but they only take $1 bills. You only have a $5 bill. Doh! Luckily a man working nearby asks if you have change and when you say you only have a $5 he pulls out some ones and makes change for you. It’s your lucky day! You drink the Pepsi (no Coke machines) with snack #3, a Pro Bar. It is actually starting to rain now but only in fits and starts. The man warns you about a tornado watch, so you decide to hurry up and get going. It is 5 miles to the shelter.
On the way out of the park is the border so you stop and grab a quick self-picture. Too bad nobody is around to take a more proper photo, but this will do. Onward! You pick up the pace to beat the rain and any potential swirling wind of death. You’re making great time and you wind up at the shelter less than 1.5 hrs after leaving the park, a remarkable pace. At first it doesn’t look like anyone is here but as you turn the corner there is Mouse with an older woman hiker. Mouse introduces you to Very Mary, a thru-hiker from last year who had to stop at 800 miles. She is back to hopefully finish.
You consider sleeping in the shelter tonight because of the weather but you know you wouldn’t sleep well. There are really nice tent pads behind the shelter. You decide to set up your tent. The tornado watch was only until 9 and you won’t be in your tent until 8 anyway.
Once the tent is set up you attend to food. The others are cooking in the shelter tonight because it has begun to rain, so you join them. You and Mouse catch up on the day and discuss plans for the next couple days. Very Mary hikes slower and so she doesn’t participate in the planning. It seems from the shelter register that Caveman completed his 4 state challenge and you’re both happy for him. Tomorrow will be another 23 mile day. Mouse says you need to get up early. You assume that’s because she wants you to hike with her (why else would it matter?) and you like the thought of someone to take your mind off of the monotony of the trail. You go to your tent earlier than usual, a luxury afforded by getting into camp early today. You do a quick baby wipe bath to get the dirt and grime off and change into clean(er) sleeping clothes after checking for ticks. It is raining hard outside now but a check of the weather (yay technology!) shows it should subside in a few hours. After studying the data book for a while and figuring out some options for the next few days you start writing your journal entry. As you start yawning you wrap it up almost an hour earlier than last night and zip yourself into your sleeping bag. If you can translate that into an earlier start in the morning you’ll be right behind Mouse tomorrow. You fall asleep to the sound of a light rain still falling on the Appalachian Trail.