I thought the trail through Maryland was supposed to be easy but apparently it is a training ground to help prepare you for the rocks of Pennsylvania. For the first ten miles out of Annapolis Rocks the trail alternates between flat, smooth sections and rocky boulder fields. Just to make it a little more challenging, the weather had turned hot and humid with scattered rain thrown in for good measure.
By 1:00 pm, after nearly six hours of hiking and only covering about ten miles, I stopped at the Raven Rock Shelter for lunch and to dry my feet. Shortly after arriving, I was joined by a couple of guys and a girl who were doing the four state challenge. The four state challenge is where you try to set foot in four different states within a 24 hour period (believe me, I had no interest in taking up this challenge). They had backtracked from Harpers Ferry back to the Virginia/West Virginia border and, starting at 8:00 pm, had walked all night. They were a little punchy from sleep deprivation, but only had five miles to go to reach the Pennsylvania border and complete the challenge. I wished them well.
I was more interested in a Pepsi challenge. The A.T. Guide indicated that there was a concession stand at Pen Mar County Park and I was dying for a cold soda. So I put my head down and powered through those five miles only to find the concession stand closed when I arrived. Some guy was sitting nearby in a golf cart and I asked him if there were any vending machines in the area. He told me that there were not any vending machines but directed me towards a water spigot. This was not exactly the outcome I had hoped for.
After a short downhill walk from Pen Mar Park, I crossed the border into Pennsylvania. Six states down and eight to go!! This is also the Mason Dixon line so now I’m hiking the Appa”lay”chian trail instead of the Appa”latch”ian trail. Here I met a young man named Little Bear who started at Springer Mountain on April 15th! He was regularly hiking 30 mile days and last year had hiked the A.T. southbound from Katahdin to Harpers Ferry. This guy was born to hike and I’m certain that I will never see him again.
By now I was pretty worn out and started looking for a place to camp. At the bottom of the mountain I came across a beautiful spot at Falls Creek and decided that this was THE place to stop for the night. While I was setting up camp, a group of hikers walked by that included Cousin Eddie! I hadn’t seen her in ages so we spent some time chatting and getting caught up.
As I was finishing up dinner, a group of a dozen teenagers arrived with two adults. Based on their mixed ethnicity and matching backpacks I surmised that this was some sort of Outward Bound type of excursion for troubled youth. Initially it looked like they were going to setup right next to me but, thankfully, they ended up moving about 100 yards away. Neither the kids nor their adult leaders seemed to have a clue about what they were doing, so I was grateful that they left me in peace.
As the sun was about to set, I saw a deer making its way along the side of the mountain on the other side of the creek. The deer moved through the forest with such grace and the scene created a tranquil ending to what had been a really long day.