Day 1 or 96
Harpers Ferry to Crampton Gap Shelter, 10 miles.
Yep, back on the trail peeps, only for a few days, enough time to knock out another state but I’m definitely back. Feeling so good about hiking again, packing my pack was so exciting, doing a food supply shop, packing everything into zip lock bags, being frivolous and packing 3 pairs of underwear, buddy I was pumped, until I felt the weight of my full pack and suddenly it all came flashing back, walking until your feet were bleeding, bruises everywhere, dirt in all your creases, matted hair, bears, snakes, ticks, all the dreadful things, what the hell was I doing……..
Adventuring with my best friend, that’s what, and I couldn’t wait to get going, I was physically (shout out to Sarah and her marathon ballet) and mentally ready, I felt strong of body and mind, so off we went!
The first 3 miles were a glorious, flat, canal towpath, a nice gentle ease in, it’s over a month later in the summer compared to last year so it was hot, not as hot as it could be, a tornado blew through the state just a few days previously and cleared a lot of heat out but the humidity was high, humidity = sweaty, very very sweaty! I was absolutely ready to get into the trees and up mountains by the time the 3 miles were over, as soon as we turned off the towpath the trail was right there, familiarly brown, roots and rocks galore, but I’d missed it! No prizes for guessing, it was up time, the elevation in Maryland is pretty low in comparison to other states and the climb out of town felt unusually easy. The best thing about day one is undoubtedly being able to pack a gourmet lunch, subway subs!
When willow and I hike together we often spend hours not saying a word to each other, not because we have nothing to say but because we have so much to think about. The silence is often broken up with profound thoughts and stories about life, work, family and play and other times we talk about our favourite vegetables or best ever showers!
Right at the end of the day we popped out at Gathland State Park, Maryland is rich in civil war history and there is cool stuff to see and read but very best of all was the flush toilets and running drinking water. Even if you don’t need to go, as a hiker it’s mandatory to spend at least 5 minutes trying to poop in every real toilet you come across, this one had seats, a locking door, paper, soap, it was pure luxury!
With less than half a mile to our destination for the evening we filled every container we had with water, this late in the summer, the streams we crossed were bone dry, so we couldn’t believe our luck to have running drinking water. We hiked on feeling good after our first day and found our spot for the night, it was upsettingly off the trail though, I will walk all day to get to a destination, but when I get there and have to walk 0.3 of a mile off the trail I get pretty upset and I am fully aware of how irrational it is. Luckily the campsite was worth walking extra for, there were lots of beautifully flat spots, lots of logs to sit on and the whole place to ourselves. Nearly all of the thru hikers are way ahead by now if they are to make it to the end before winter sets in, but we did cross paths with a few sections hikers.
Our evening consisted of camp chores which look like; crocs on, quick yoga stretch, tents up, sleeping pad inflated, sleeping bag out and pack unpacked, cook dinner whilst having a quick baby wipe wash, eat dinner, brush teeth, spend 20 mins trying to hang a bear bag, a couple of tent games including what’s in my hand (willow really got me with holding a trekking pole this time) and bed. The crickets, cicadas, and other night insects were so loud I could barely hear willow in her tent right next to mine but I comforted myself by thinking that I wouldn’t be able to hear the snap of a branch under the foot of a larger animal which keeps me awake a lot more!
Day 2 or 97
Crampton Gap Shelter to Anapolis Rocks, 14.9 miles.
We planned a pretty big mileage day today considering we have only just got back the trail, but we were up for it. Maryland had been pretty well behaved so far. Nice trail, easier elevation, nice weather etc, and the morning flew by. There are very few views on this section trail and so deep into the summer months, the vegetation is lush and full, blocking out a lot of light, it really is a green tunnel, the air feels like it’s full of oxygen, the smell is like no other, unless you can smell yourself, that is a smell I could do without.
7 miles bashed out by lunch, willow took a small tumble on the way, hitting the deck knees first, she seemed to bounce down and back up again but managed to scrape up her shins, so we were glad our pitstop included yet more flushing toilets and running water. My feet really were feeling it, the trail before lunch went from trail to boulder field a few more times than necessary and we rocked into lunch starving, I had to really contain myself from eating my next days breakfast already! We probably sat for over an hour for lunch, it was such a lovely spot, there were a few hikers milling around and I was also putting off putting my shoes back on but we forced ourselves back into our sweaty everything and took off for the afternoon.
Within a couple of miles we were going to see the original Washington monument, the one before the big white finger in DC. I caught a glimpse of a sign that said ‘Washington Monument State Park, 4 mins’ that was of course driving time, which was slightly disheartening as it would take us over an hour to stomp the 3 mile uphill!
Right after the monument was my turn to bite the dust. I’m not as bouncy as willow, when I go down I go down hard, so hard in fact I literally couldn’t get up, my hands were pinned under my body and my body was completely pinned under my pack, I was panicking, then laughing, then when I was finally free, crying again at my stupid scraped up leg and stupidity. It’s such a shock when one second the trail is under your feet and the next it’s right under your face. My thought pattern is always; oh my God I’m dead, nope I’m not but I’m definitely paralysed, nope I feel everything and I’ve definitely broken my pelvis, nope just kidding I’ve got a bit of a graze and I’m filthy but I’ll survive this time. Completely dramatic I know but falling hurts as a grown up, you are really far from the ground!!
We had a bit of trouble finding a camp spot for a while tonight, we had to hike nearly half a mile off the trail, but we got a great location right next to a water source coming right out of the rocks, it was ice cold and amazing. I stripped off and washed as much of the days sweat off me as I could stand, it was like an ice bath. Today we passed a few day hikers carrying just a little water bottle if anything, out on a little mile long hike and they said something along the lines of ‘great day for a walk’, now usually I’m very jovial and respond with great English niceties, however when you just biffed it with 35lbs on your back I just wanted to scream back, ‘you mean nice day for some very vigorous sport, I’m a fricking hiking athlete bitches’ however I refrained.
Had a bit of a mishap with dinner, we have been trying new things and had found a pesto pasta, but didn’t realise it was spaghetti pasta which didn’t fit in the pot and whilst trying to break it up I spilt pesto dust everywhere and we were pretty convinced a hipster bear would come for us in the night (spoiler alert, we made it!)
We were treated to a great view right by our tenting spot which was Anapolis Rocks, a beautiful vantage point where we sat and took in the glowing sky after the sunset. A pretty great day considering how terrible it could have turned out, chuffed with our mileage, chuffed with how uninjured we both are and chuffed with not having to dig a hole to shit in so far!
Day 3 or 98
Annapolis Rocks to Raven Rock Shelter, 12 miles.
Today was a head down and hike kind of day. We had no real view points or points of interest, it was just us and a very wooded trail, which was a relief as it would have been roasting in the direct sun. The trail wasn’t easy today, lots of boulders making it slow going and tedious, meaning we got to our lunch destination much later than anticipated, both of us having the hunger cranks, I literally ripped open my food bag and started eating immediately, so hungry in fact I did eat some of my next days breakfast!
We had done a good bulk of our miles in the morning giving us a more relaxed afternoon however the trail had other ideas, the very last mile and a bit of the day was an uphill battle, I’ve really been working on my uphill strength and was very pleased that I was able to finally keep up with feather weight Willow. It was a tough climb because it was so sweaty, that amount of humidity just zaps your energy, I was sweating so much it was pooling on my eyelashes then I would blink salt water into my eyeballs, which was mildly unpleasant. The humidity has caused other even more unpleasant side effects, when you are wearing tight sports shorts and your are moist for pretty much 90% of your day, chafing happens, arse chafing to be exact and not forgetting the spectacular rash!
We arrived at a shelter tonight which was pretty much brand new, it was beautiful, but still my tent is the place I want to sleep, always. We got our camp chores done and had time to sit, and relax before retiring for the evening to our boudoirs. I actually had a pretty terrible nights sleep which mainly consisted of a series of unfortunate events, including but not limited to, rolling over my water bladder causing a small amount of flooding inside my tent, finding what I was convinced was a tick on me and after realising my headlamp batteries had died and I had deleted my torch app on my phone realised it was actually just a small very sticky sticker from the inside label of my t-shirt attached to me and also my air mattress deflating every few hours, not my favourite!!
Day 4 or 99
Raven Rock Shelter to some Road crossing in Pennsilvania, 8 miles.
Packed up ready to go with only crossing the Maryland – Pennsilvania border on our minds. We had a quick view point pitstop first thing followed by a literal sick joke boulder field decent for what seemed like miles. It was truly tough going, so impactful on your body, it’s impossible to get any kind of pace going and we are so fearful of falling that it takes forever! After just 5 miles we came to Pen-mar State Park where we ate lunch on real benches and pooped in a real toilet, I must always remember to appreciate these small things in the real world, it’s so easy to take for granted!
After just a 5 min hike after lunch we crossed the border of Maryland and Pennsilvania, ending my 6th state and entering my 7th, it was also the Mason-Dixon line. I have now officially hiked all of the trail in the southern United States and have now entered the northern states. Unfortunately on this trip we could go just a few more miles to end the day, I dearly hope my future will consist of more hiking, this trial and others all around the world. I try not to complain too much about trail life, it certainly isn’t the easy life, but I’m addicted.