Passing the Many Midpoints Along the AT
I left Shenandoah and cruised headlong into Harpers Ferry, the spiritual or psychological midpoint. This is a few days shy of the numerical midpoint, which itself can be vague given the differences between mathematical and monumental markers.
Roller Coaster and the End of the Old Dominion
To sour the sweet taste left over from the favorable trail conditions in Shenandoah, the Roller Coaster is a 13-mile stretch running up and over a series of mountains. I felt strong and the hiking was enjoyable, despite the trail boss taking a lesson on trail design from our friends in Georgia. “Up and over” is the motto. And as soon as the cursing subsided, that was it. Virginia down.
Was That West Virginia?
The first book I read on trail was about John Brown and Harpers Ferry. With this information on my mind, I have been looking forward to seeing the town and spending a day at the historical sites.
In summertime fashion, there were kids crawling all over the old buildings during unsupervised interludes to their scavenger hunts, with busloads of visitors making tourist circuits throughout the mid-Atlantic. And of course, one must see the hiker trash lingering around the ATC.
So I took a day in Harpers Ferry to see the sights and visit the small museum centers along the confluence. A brief stay in my fifth state, then across the Potomac and into the thin finger of Maryland.
Maryland = Mud
From the recent rains that flooded the C&O Canal, combined with the relatively flat section of Maryland, the trail was a mud slog. Frankly, it was flat and boring. Now time for a positive spin.
The trail connects a series of state parks, which means pavilions, picnic tables, and clean running water. One aspect of this small state that I did appreciate were the large and well-kept shelters. As soon as I entered Maryland I felt like I was crossing that old line to the north.
Into the Keystone
I crossed the Mason Dixon into my seventh state. Now officially into the North, and into the state that first sparked my interest in the AT and the mountains of the Eastern Seaboard.
As some may know, Pennsylvania has a reputation of being rocky. Every mile I was anticipating the beginning of the worst. But for the most part, the first part of Pennsylvania was a continuation of Maryland. Flat, boring muddy double track connecting state parks.
Just north of Caledonia State Park I met up with Slinky, with whom I hiked the Smokies. He’s to slingshot me a hundred miles to the 501, but before our section together we paused for a small celebration at the numerical midpoint and ate breakfast sandwiches at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. No ice cream for us, thank you very much.
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