Tuesday, July 10, 2001
Harper’s Ferry, WV to Ed Garvey Shelter
Today’s Miles: 7
Trip Miles: 1002.7
Had a great day in town, just gallivanting around, happy to be there. Some more people I hadn’t seen in a few weeks caught up – too many to mention.
A guy called Blue Moon drove Sugardaddy, Eggman and I to a Super Walmart out of town to resupply, and showed us a cool swimming hole on the way back.
I had my picture taken at the ATC Headquarters, and I think I was about the six hundredth thru-hiker to be there. I visited the outfitter, ate a good stromboli, and stopped by the library.
It was late in the day by the time I was hiking again, over a bridge where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet. The trail followed the C&O Canal and Potomac River for a few miles before going back up into the mountains.
It required some night hiking to get to the shelter. I was suspecting that anybody there would be asleep, but I was greeted by the Italian Scallion, entertaining a large family with wide eyed kids – he had their full attention with old fashioned campfire stories! A classic scene.
The gathering of hikers at the ATC headquarters was a lot of fun, as the entire “Walking Wounded” crew seemed to be in town at the time. Everybody was in good spirits upon reaching this milestone of walking 1,000 miles. Modern tradition held that the ATC kept somebody on staff to take a polaroid picture of individual thru-hikers in front of the building.
They kept these pictures with their records, and jotted down some vital statistics such as your trail name and whether you were going northbound or southbound. As I paged through the faces of the hikers that had gone before me, it was a neat feeling to be memorialized as one of them.
I ate way too much cheesy stromboli and felt sick to my stomach as I hiked out of town.
Wednesday, July 11, 2001
Ed Gravey Shelter to Campsite
Today’s Miles: 25.9
Trip Miles: 1028.6
Started early today, but unfortunately, I think it was too early. I hiked an hour or two and took a long nap until almost one in the afternoon. Moved on about seven more miles until Turners Gap, where I caught Madcow and two other friends whom I hadn’t seen in a while, only to learn they were meeting parents in a few hours and getting off the trail. Madcow and I had dinner with them, and it was so sad to see them go. It always is.
It was there that he and I had a crazy idea – to hike all night through the dawn, and get to the Pennsylvania border. I want to get there so badly (It’s my home state).
We decided to go for it.
We climbed up to the first Washington Monument, in Maryland’s state park. It’s not the popular monument, and was built well before the one in Washington DC. It’s just a stone tower with steps inside like a castle, winding to the top and a view. Madcow and I waited there for the sunset, raided a nearby soda machine, and vanished into the night.
The most spectacular part of the night was crossing a footbridge over I-70. There was a streaming line of headlights and taillights in both directions, and countless stars above. A trucker managed to see us, even in the dark, and beeped the horn!
It was a beautiful night, and the moon didn’t rise until very late. We saw some deer that were fascinated by our headlamps, simultaneously frightened and intrigued … like a deer in headlights!
It was just getting light in the east around five in the morning when we collapsed at the first flat site we saw. We didn’t make it to Pennsylvania.
The friends leaving the trail were Drizzt and Moe.
We caught up with them at a picnic area only a short way from Turners Gap on state highway 40A, where they had a rendezvous with Moe’s parents to take them back to civilization.
A short walk down the road was the Old South Mountain Inn, a fine dining restaurant with a history that spanned back to colonial times. They’d planned to have dinner there with Moe’s parents, and Madcow and I were invited to join them.
I felt extremely self-conscious of my grungy hiker-stink in the fine dining atmosphere. The food was served in high-priced, small portions with your typical fare, like veal and filet mignon. I remember thinking I’d have been far happier with with your typical pancakes and cheeseburgers in huge, economical portions. I was a starving young man.
Gathering up a handful of smelly hikers in such an atmosphere with Moe’s “outsider” parents felt altogether awkward, but it was great to spend a little more time with them before they left the trail.
Maryland’s Washington Monument State Park was likewise home to a rather silly structure. Built in the 1820’s, the “monument” is a short and stout stone structure with a winding stairway leading to an observation deck on top. More interesting to me was the soda machine at the site that allowed me to juice up for our attempted overnight marathon.
It was inspired by what some hikers referred to as the Four State Challenge. If you could manage to hike 40+ miles in 24 hours, you could theoretically begin the day in the state of Virginia, hike through Harpers Ferry (West Virginia) and Maryland, and finish the day in Pennsylvania. I reasoned that if some hikers were doing this, then we could at least shoot for a 30-mile day into Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is my home state and the middle point of the entire Appalachian Trail. “Walking home” from Georgia would be a monumental accomplishment to me in itself.
We didn’t make it there that night, as Madcow and I were basically sleepwalking by the time we passed out. The trail in Maryland had a lot of rocks by the light of our headlamps that slowed us down… but it was fun to try, and to be out there in the middle of the night on such a fool’s errand – such was the thru-hiking life.
Thursday, July 12, 2001
Campsite to Deer Lick Shelters
Today’s Miles: 12.9
Trip Miles: 1041.5
I’m in Pennsylvania!
Mama, I’m comin’ home!
The weather is perfect – blue skies, breezy…and it’s supposed to stay like this for a week! Yeah!
I spent the late afternoon in PenMar Park with Madcow and some random, young local kid. The kid had probably spent all his days playing there for the whole summer. He had such a dirty mouth for a little kid. I promised him I’d check out the South Park movie when I get home.
And then there was nothing left to do but finally cross the border and the Mason Dixon Line, into Pennsylvania.
I slept late today after hiking so late last night, and still felt groggy throughout the day.
The Pen Mar Park was a developed area with a big green lawn. There was a flagpole and a large sign that marked the mileages from there in both directions to Georgia and Maine. It was a nice place to rest for a time before passing into Pennsylvania.
There was an epic poster at the time, sold by the ATC that featured a photo of a thru-hiker at the sign on top of Mount Katahdin. The hiker was on his knees and seemingly collapsed on the sign as wisps of cloud enveloped him. The photo conveyed so much emotion that its sight stopped most thru-hikers dead in their tracks – they’d just freeze and stare for a second.
Reaching Pennsylvania was such a monumental moment for me that I wanted to have a similar photo taken at the border. Around the corner from Pen Mar Park we came to a sign that read “Mason Dixon Line.” Thinking that this was it, I dropped to my knees and had Madcow take a picture of me. He was certainly confused by my dramatic posturing, saying something like “That’s a rather pious pose, don’t you think?”
It only added to the silliness of the photo shoot when we continued a few yards down the trail to find the real Welcome to Pennsylvania sign, and repeat the process.
We continued for a couple more miles to the Deer Lick Shelters. The camp actually consisted of two small shelters that sat adjacent to each other.
Friday, July 13, 2001
Deer Lick Shelters to Quarry Gap Shelters
Today’s Miles: 15.8
Trip Miles: 1057.3
It looks like Pennsylvania, sounds like Pennsylvania, feels like Pennsylvania, hell, even smells like Pennsylvania.
It’s Pennsylvania! It’s he same type of woods I’ve been romping around in since I was a wee lad.
I met a local trail maintainer, Ben H, and reunited briefly with Hiker Chic and Italian Scallion again as well. I hiked on with Madcow until about ten pm, and bedded down here at this shelter on my second Friday the thirteenth of the journey.
I crossed a paved road on this day that leads 15 miles to the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Sometimes hikers will go visit the National Battlefield (I was there once on field trip in grade school).
I remember hearing Baltimore Jack tell a story about how he illegally “stealth camped” at Gettysburg and was haunted by ghosts.
Shortly beyond the road crossing was Caledonia State Park, home to a pool and concession stand that I most certainly raided.
Saturday, July 14, 2001
Quarry Gap Shelters to Tom’s Run Shelter
Today’s Miles: 12.7
Trip Miles: 1070
Holy late start, Batman!
Maybe, uh, one o’clock when I started hiking? It’s all good. For the most part it was just a breezy ridge-walk today. Met the ridgerunner Gingerbread, and also saw some huge anthills! There were so many ants, I’ll bet they could take down a small mammal. Speaking of small mammals, the chipmunks at the spot where I had lunch were so brave that they’d come within inches of my feet!
Sunday, July 15, 2001
Tom’s Run Shelter to Alec Kennedy Shelter
Today’s Miles: 19.2
Trip Miles: 1089.2
The halfway marker!
A great day. Stopped at a state park concession stand for lunch. Then, ah yes, the halfway marker. I reflected on all the wonderful things that have happened over the last months, marveled that the experiences will be doubled, and so many other emotions.
Continued onward and upward, bouncing along the trail in a great mood, and made a pit stop down a small road to yet another general store. Great places.
Went on to continue seven more miles for the night, and came upon a fantastic view to the direct west, so I of course had to stay and watch the sunset there, and night hike on to the shelter. Italian Scallion and I were pleased to find that the was shelter empty.
This was a great day as the weather cooled and I was buoyed by the notion of crossing the Appalachian Trail’s official halfway marker.
It was only four miles into the day that I entered Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The park was home to the Ironmaster’s Mansion Hostel – a lot of hikers reported having a great stay there, but I skipped it.
A nearby camp store is the setting of the famed “Half Gallon Challenge,” where tradition held that thru hikers are supposed to devour an entire half gallon of ice cream as quickly as possible. The record of the time was 12 minutes and 10 seconds. I stopped at the store but didn’t go for the ice cream.
I came to the Midpoint Marker about a mile after leaving the camp store. I as hiking solo and the entire setting of the state park just had a great vibe to it – probably because it once again felt like home, like Pennsylvania. A day hiker took a photo for me at the signpost.
The marker was a great motivator – it served to remind me that despite the hardship and self-doubt that I was still doing this – still on my way from Georgia to Maine in a continuous journey.
I crossed several more paved roads into the evening, pausing at the Green Mountain General Store for more food and drink near sunset. It was beyond the store that I serendipitous-ly viewed a stunning sunset and later caught up with Italian Scallion. We did some night hiking and were rewarded to find an empty shelter – no need to worry about waking the other hikers upon our arrival.