300 Miles: A Little Rain. A Little Rocks. And Lots Of Myles.
2016 Flip Flop: SNP to ME/SNP to GA
Soon after reaching the 200 milestone, I painstakingly picked my way through a flag-marked, lichen-encrusted boulder field that is the Appalachian Trail in this rocky section of Maryland. I am in awe of the AT speed record holders who had to navigate the same rocky obstacle course, quickly and perhaps even in the dark. The trail playfully threads its way among the sole-bruising rocky ridges, then dips down into the loamy forest before taking you right back up—and maybe, just maybe, over them. I know this is only a taste of what is to come, and indeed, I am finally writing this post well after 300 miles, where I’d no longer describe the trail as playful. But we’ll save that for the 400 mile update.
Part of the reason I started my flipflop thru-hike from Shenandoah National Park was because of the surprise news announced in the fall, and well after all the plans had been made, that a second grandchild was due to arrive in mid-May 2016. Instead of starting from Harper’s Ferry, my original departure point, I decided to begin further south. This gave me more options for catching a train back to Wisconsin when I received word.
My daughter picked a good place to summon me home. I was four miles from the Mid-Atlantic ATC office in Boiling Springs, PA. Only Harper’s Ferry, WV or Duncannon, PA would have provided closer access to an Amtrak station.
When I turned on my phone the morning of May 3, I saw texts, emails and even a Facebook post telling me that my daughter had gone into labor the night before. By the time I read those messages, Myles Samuel had already arrived.
Those last few miles hiking into Boiling Springs might be my fastest completed to date. I don’t think I even realized the elevation changes, one being Center Point Knob, another of the Appalachian Trail numerous (albeit historic) midpoints. I arrived in town by 10:35 a.m. where I had arranged for a shuttle pickup at 11 a.m. With good cell coverage, I had booked both the shuttle and my train ticket to Milwaukee from the trail at the Alec Kennedy Shelter. That undertaking, in itself, completely differentiates this “wilderness” trip from any of my past experiences. Within 26 hours, I was 750 miles off trail and back in Wisconsin.
After two weeks of being “Arach-nana,” I resumed hiking from that which arguably has to be the easiest section of the entire Appalachian Trail. I don’t think I could have a picked a better restart point. The first 12 miles north from Boiling Springs in basically a flat line through farm fields and forests.
With the break, I am now hiking with a new group of people and working myself back up to my 100 mile/week goal. I returned to some rain, although not as much as I had missed while off trail in Wisconsin. My daughter dealt me good cards on the weather front as well.
At mile 300, I have thus far loved Pennsylvania with its clear flowing streams, piney woods and my first experience with trail magic in the form of apples and Gatorade. Tumbling Run and Quarry Gap are quaint and well-maintained shelters that I unfortunately did not time out very well to stay. I know my initial love affair with Pennsylvania is going to change. Very soon. We all know that rocks are in my future.
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