We Promise We Are Adults
Day 110: 3,440 ft ascent, 19.6 miles
I had a love/hate relationship with hiking in Maryland. I loved that we walked past so many flush toilets in the state that I didn’t have to poop in the woods once. I hated all of the extra people on the trail.
We had come to expect encountering people when we get into town after the remoteness of the trail, but we could always escape back to the solitude of the trail after town. Maryland was different. It didn’t help that we hiked through Maryland on a summer weekend, but the amount of traffic on the trails was unnerving. We became another tourist attraction to gawk at for the day hikers. We would barely go five minutes without seeing another hiker on the trail. It was frustrating.
We made good time even with all of the additional trail traffic. We pushed to the Pen-Mar Park before taking a late lunch 14 miles into the day. The park was alive with -you guessed it- even more people when we got there. Kids running on the playground and seniors dancing at the pavilion to live music.
Erik and I found a picnic shelter to ourselves. Each of us almost immediately saw something that spoke to our inner child. I saw an ice cream truck, Erik saw a zip line. I didn’t even wait to each lunch first, I got out my wallet and disappeared to the ice cream truck. Erik had a little more self-restraint and waited until we got done eating lunch before challenging me to a race on the side-by-side zip lines. We had a blast taking a break before finishing the day both crossing into Pennsylvania and crossing the Mason-Dixon line.
Day 111: 3,000 ft ascent, 17.5 miles
We were still waiting to find the flat land promised to us in Pennsylvania. The climbs were smaller, but not as gone as we had hoped. Around lunchtime we took a long break waiting to meet my mom and grandparents with a resupply on their way back home. They had dropped off my dad about 40 miles north of us. My mom surprised us with Subway for lunch! What a treat!
After the long lunch break, we knew we had some miles to make up. Around 4:30 in the afternoon we walked into a random state park. We had been doing that more often since we left Virginia. We entered the main area of the park and a swimming pool with a water slide materialized in front of our eyes!
Erik and I didn’t even really talk about it. Both of us ignored the turn to stay on the trail and made a beeline to the pool. $5 admission? Of course we’ll pay that. We quickly jumped in and got cooled off and cleaned up after a long, hot day. We half expected to see a cloud of brown dirt floating away from us after we jumped in. We both joined the line with kids half our height to go down the slide. It was a blast! Although we only stayed about 45 minutes, it was an amazing break that really motivated us to get back on trail and finish out the day strong!
Day 112: 2,190 ft ascent, 20.05 miles
We had been waiting on this day for months: halfway day! The halfway point of the trail was memorialized with some rocks on the side of the trail. I was so excited to finally reach the point of knowing I had less steps to go than I had already walked.
I practically skipped from the halfway point to Pine Grove State Park. I did not participate in the half gallon challenge (eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting to celebrate halfway), but I did get a hamburger and a pint of banana pudding ice cream.
This state park was almost as special as the one the day before. It didn’t have a pool, but it did have a lake! Did we swim for a second day in a row? Of course!
After our state park break, we were rejuvenated and ready to finish the day strong. We got to our campsite and I looked at our daily mileage: 20.05 miles! Our first 20-mile trail day! Most AT thru-hikers hit this milestone way before we did. We have carried all of our gear the entire way (no slackpacking) and have tried to leave enough time every day to enjoy the journey and not beat up our bodies so badly that we live on Advil.
We don’t hike fast. It’s day 112 since we started and we have less than three months to make it to Katahdin. We just passed halfway. Will we make it? We don’t know. Will we try? Yes. But we’re having so much fun at our current pace that we’d rather go slow and not make it than finish and be miserable. This experience is about the journey, and we want to squeeze every bit of fun out of it that we can.
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