Day 71: Where’s Waldo?

If This Is Tuesday, I Must Be in Maryland

My flippity-floppity thru-hike continues, though I’m starting to feel like that stripe-shirted, bespeckled Waldo cartoon character. Since last Thursday, we’ve been in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and all those states once again in reverse order. Plus, now that we’re back on the AT, I feel like every time we make a left turn, we leave Virginia for Maryland or West Virginia, or vice versa. It’s exhausting trying to figure out where we are at any given moment.

Lyle Said it Best

More likely, we’re exhausted from driving out to and attending my brother’s memorial service last weekend. Thanks to all of you who passed along your condolences, kind words, and prayers. Most of the family made the trip out to Indianapolis, setting up the paradox of contradictory emotions that Lyle Lovett sang about in “Since the Last Time.”

I went to a funeral
Lord, it made me happy
Seeing all those people that I ain’t seen
Since the last time somebody died

I talked to more people in six hours last weekend than I’d spoken to over the past two months. Many of the folks attending the funeral had heard I was hiking the AT and politely asked how it was going. But if I answered, almost none of them had any context to really grasp what they heard. Hiking miles, rain, climbs, rocks, and white blazes mean almost nothing to most people in pancake-flat Indiana, particularly in light of why we’d all gathered there.

Getting Back to AT Mode

Frankly, even Northstar and I were yanked so hard out of AT-mode by the trip, none of those things meant much to us either. Fortunately, as we drove back east again and had time to process some of our thoughts and feelings, we started to think about the trail again. But I suspect it might take a few more weeks of walking to finish processing. About the time we started driving up and down the Appalachian foothills in eastern Ohio, thoughts about the logistics of where we’d be hiking and camping next started crowding out everything else.

New Hiking Partners

This morning, we skipped a few miles ahead of where I stopped last week and started hiking north from the Harpers Ferry (WV) railroad depot. We stopped at Gathland (MD) State Park, making it a short day for me, but a long enough day for my college roommate Dan (no trail name yet) who drove out from Detroit to hike with me for a few days. His wife Beth (also no trail name) went to high school with Northstar and came along too.

Dan and his wife Beth are the kind of people who you just pick right up where you left off, even if the last time you crossed paths was four years ago. COVID travel restrictions kept us apart for a few years, and then last year I got COVID just before we were supposed to meet for a week in Glacier National Park.

Hiking Out of Harpers Ferry

The five of us hiked over the railroad bridge out of the Harpers Ferry and onto the C&O Canal Path along the Potomac. Dan, Gus, and I continued north up the trail past Weverton Cliffs, while Northstar and Beth headed back to Harpers Ferry to take in some history (a.k.a., shopping). Two months ago, a 10-mile day would have been plenty for me too. Today, I gladly traded a “short” day for Dan’s company.

I have no idea what flora and fauna we may have passed today, as we were deep in conversation the entire time. For all I know, we walked through a sleuth of dancing bears and blindly stepped over a dozen vipers. I vaguely remember a climb, humidity, stopping at the luxurious Ed Garvey Shelter (a loft, windows, benches, and a back deck) for lunch, more humidity, and then being surprised when I saw the van sitting in a parking area near the trail.

How Can the Time Go So Fast If We’re Going So Slow?

Apparently, we didn’t set any speed records, as our wives had been waiting for us in Gathland State Park for an hour, and had been asking hikers if they’d seen “seen two elderly hikers with a brown dog.” Consensus from the hiking crowd was that the two old guys were “relaxing” along the trail.

We walked fast enough to get inside the van before the thunderstorms hit. I don’t we’ll be so fortunate tomorrow. Nor do I think we’ll go any faster than “relaxing.”

It’s nice to be back. This time, I hope to stay on trail until we summit Katahdin, though we have a bit more flippity-flopping planned for the next week.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Harpers Ferry (Mile 1026.3)
  • End: Gapland Road/Gathland State Park (Mile 1036.4)
  • Weather: Puffy clouds, warm, and muggy.
  • Earworm: I Want to Dance with You (Michael Jackson)
  • Meditation: Mt. 19:26
  • Plant of the Day: Green pond scum (on the C&O canal)
  • Best Thing: Conversation
  • Worst Thing: Humidity

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Comments 3

  • Charlotte : Jun 27th

    With your comment “for all I know we walked through a sleuth of dancing bears…”, I’m surprised your earworm wasn’t Teddy Bear Picnic. Glad you have high school and college friends with you, Northstar, and Gus.
    Your posts are always wonderful!

  • thetentman : Jun 27th

    Glad you’re back.


  • Barb : Jun 28th

    Glad to read your back on trail after your brother’s funeral. Praying that all your days ahead will help with the healing.
    Thanks for bible scripture in your posts


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