Day 1 – We Depart from the ATC

Our day began at the Quality Inn in Harpers Ferry, WV, where I slept enough to make up for the lack of sleep the night before. We ate a delicious breakfast in town, hosted by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the local Methodist church, and didn’t set foot on the trail until 11. We planned to take it easy, especially at first, and Maryland is perhaps one of the easiest stretches on the whole trail. Its topography is but a wrinkle on the otherwise humpy, bumpy 3D model of the AT displayed at the ATC headquarters.

Day 1 – We Arrive at Ed Garvey Shelter 

We arrived at the Ed Garvey shelter around 3:00 and quickly found a level campsite for our tent. Our next job was to get water. This required walking down a steep .4 mi descent to a flowing stream, followed by a return climb laden with 6 L of water. It proved to be the hardest part of the day. Or so Kevin tells me.

The remainder of the day and evening was spent sitting in front of a fire that was almost endlessly replenished, listening to the kinds of stories that hikers like to tell. That was a lot better, and warmer, than heading to the tent early. So far I’ve met hikers from as far away as Luxembourg, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Moscow.

Weather forecast looked good for the next several days. Not too hot, and no rain.

Day 2 – Ed Garvey to Dahlgren Camp

Temperatures were quite cool last night and stayed cool throughout the day. But the sun was shining and the conviviality from the night before extended throughout the day’s hike as we reconnected off and on at breaks and view spots. The forest is erupting with new leaves, tightly curled ferns, and early spring pink flowers. It is not dense, but not barren.

My sunglasses became the first gear casualty, perhaps cracking while packed in a shirt pocket. As a result I lost a lens while approaching Rocky Run shelter for an afternoon break. By luck my new friend Trig, a professional surveyor, spotted the lens on his way to the same rest spot. Together we retraced our steps and found the lens. By dinner time my glasses were repaired, albeit with a strip of duct tape.

A group of AT hikers, many of them fellow flip flop hikers, stayed at Dahlgren Backpack Camp, where a few hitched a ride into nearby Boonsboro for takeout pizza. Kevin and I enjoyed the free hot showers, then bundled up in clean clothes before cooking our dinner and heading into our tent. Sleep is my biggest challenge, even in civilian life. I got very little last night and expect it will take several days to settle into a rhythm.

Day 3 – Dahlgren Camp to Pogo Campground 

With the help of an antihistamine, I slept 11 hours last night. I managed to stay pretty comfortable despite temperatures in the low 30sF. The weather remained cool, but sunny as we made our way across the narrow strip of Maryland sandwiched between West Virginia and Pennsylvania. We walked over I70 via a thin concrete span wrapped in a sleeve of black chain link. We were blasted with the noise from the thundering corridor of trucks below. I was glad this was for just a few moments.

Our destination was Pogo Campground, a facility with several dispersed campsites along a hillside with sunset views. It lacked a shelter and group fire ring; nonetheless we made an excellent fire at our own fire ring, along with a creative, but kind of messy dinner. It’s not easy to clean when water is not unlimited, and requires additional hiking, filtering, and carrying. I think about people gathering water from a community well, which would have been the norm for most of history and is still common in many places.


Day 4 – Pogo Campground to Ravenrock Shelter 

We knew we’d have to replenish our water supply, so it made sense to head to the spring for breakfast. Apparently we weren’t the only ones with this idea, and an impromptu diner was established. After a slow start we hit the trail at 10.

The trail took us through several rock-filled sections with some ups and downs. So far nothing extreme, but I realized this was not the consensus upon hearing comments at the next shelter, Ravenrock.

Water acquisition was most certainly an added chore here, requiring a .25 mile descent. I felt pretty good and offered to collect and filter 3L plus collect the additional 3L to be filtered at the campsite. It was about 425 steps each way. The water flowed strong from a little waterfall where I noticed an aluminum bottle of Miller Lite was cached. I knew no one at the shelter hiked in with beer, and considered dumping the beer in order to have another vessel to carry water to the top. Then I considered not dumping the beer, but giving it to Kevin. Lastly I considered that we’d have to carry the trash out, and decided to leave the beer there.

Later that evening I discovered others saw the beer and wondered about taking it, too. But no one did.

Day 5 – Ravenrock Shelter to Waynesboro, PA

The hike started out with a good climb, followed by a long, winding descent through piles of large rocks. At 10:30 we entered Pennsylvania and immediately landed in PenMar park. Unfortunately the restrooms were not open, nor was the water turned on. We enjoyed a few minutes of cell service from a lookout point and moved on.

After another climb or two, we rested at a stream along state road 16. The cold water was a foot refresher, even if it was a challenge to hold both feet under and count to ten.

We booked two nights for a hotel in Waynesboro after learning about the horrible, no good, very bad forecast for Friday. Our new friends who also planned to stay in Waynesboro had arranged a shuttle from Rattlesnake Run Road with a fellow hiker who has family nearby and decided to take a day off. We were most grateful to her for the ride to the hotel. We immediately got showers and I headed to the laundry room where I wrote these entries while listening to my clothes churn.

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