22.9 miles, 1040.2 overall (Pine Knob shelter)
Ben and I get going by 7:00. We stop at a Waffle House for breakfast before he drops me off back at the trail in Harper’s Ferry. I forget to take a picture of us before he leaves, so instead simply imagine a blond knight (read: trail angel) in shining armor (read: khakis and VT polo shirt) riding a brilliant steed (read: driving a Ford Explorer). Thanks again to Ben’s family for hosting me for a night!
Back on the trail I cross over the Potomac River into Maryland, my second state crossing in 2 days. On the other side I follow the C&O canal path for a few miles before the trail ducks into the woods again. These are easy miles and they pass by quickly. A train moves alongside me for a good portion and I enjoy the fact that I am walking as fast as it is moving, that is until it speeds up and pulls away. This works out well because I have to cross the railroad tracks so I need it out of my way.
The trail climbs up to the Weaverton Cliffs which provide an excellent view back toward Harper’s Ferry. I stop a minute to look and to talk to Twigs and Backtrack, two thru-hikers who are having lunch there.
Now I’m not generally a big fan of Maryland. It is an ok state. Growing up I liked the Orioles baseball team but I don’t follow baseball anymore. As far as colleges VT is vastly superior to Maryland, of course. However I must give credit where it is due: The trail in Maryland is very well-maintained and in places where there are no rocks it is even spongy and feels like walking on a cloud! I won’t hold the rocks against the state since it is hard to change your geology. I also enjoy the fact that the trail passes through state parks that have informational placards for me to read. I pass the War Correspondents Memorial as well as learning about a few battles that took place during the Civil War (Semmes’ Gamble and the battle at Fox’s Gap). I stop for a bit in each park, buying a Powerade from the vending machine in Gathland State Park to go with my lunch and stopping in to a museum at the Washington Monument State Park, home to the first completed monument to George Washington.
Maryland also has another great thing on its trail: backpacker campgrounds. These sites have tent pads, showers, water, and restrooms for backpackers. As far as I can tell they aren’t located near the road either which limits the amount of “car camping” possible at these sites. Although I don’t plan to stay at any they appear to be a great alternative to the shelters we are used to.
Not much else happens today. I do get trail magic twice: one is fruit left by a section hiker named Bigfoot and the other is oatmeal cream pies and water left by the West Virginia Sooner. I pass the time wondering how Bruce Willis got his big break and why the guy seems to be in just about every movie I think about while on the trail (today it was Lucky Number Slevin, don’t ask me why). I try to focus my thoughts on a single topic for a while today and have trouble. I wonder if this foreshadows difficulties I will have when I get home after I finish the trail. I also think about how much more comfortable I have become with silence and wonder if it will make social occasions weird when I’m ok with the silence and others aren’t.
When I finally make it to the shelter around 6 I find Mouse has made it as well. I thought she might because she had been talking about doing 20+ miles today. Also here is Renaissance Man, a hiker I haven’t met yet but who seems incredibly interesting. In the short time I’ve known him I’ve already noticed he has a book by Neitzche with him and he does rock climbing and yoga. Not at the shelter is Teflon who sent me a text last night letting me know he was in Harper’s Ferry. I had assumed I would see him today either while I was hiking or at the shelter. I wonder where he is.
It appears I am going to miss the hiker feed that the Pennsylvanians told me about back in Shenandoah. I want to get some miles done before I head home next week for a wedding. I also like the hikers I’m with and want to stick with them for the next few days, at least through Pine Grove Furnace State Park where we will be able to tackle the half-gallon challenge together. As for tomorrow we will be officially entering the north when we cross the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail!