On The Trail Again

Alton, Fitts, Don’s Brother on GA Section

When you do something poorly the first time, you sometimes want to try it again. As the next school year began I couldn’t help but recall how we had been planning our hike in the White Mountains this time last year. Even though the memories of the Whites were still fresh in my mind, I felt this desire, almost need, to get back out there. A former student and athlete, who I had coached in cross-country, had thru hiked in 2000. After listening to (trail name Jeremiah Johnson) talk about the trail to one of my classes, I knew that I had to give the AT another try. He spoke of covering the entire 42 mile stretch of Maryland in one day as some sort of challenge. As a distance runner, this seemed like something I could do. After all, I had read that Maryland was the easiest (not a term that really ever applies to the AT) state.

So without hesitation I approached my buddies about hiking Maryland as soon as the ’01-’02 school year concluded.  This time it was I, not Alton, who did most of the planning. For the entire fall I spent time convincing the others that we needed to give hiking one more try. So in late May of 2002, five of us (Fitts’ truck broke down before we left GA) set out in two SUV’s for Harper’s Ferry, WV. I had even arranged for a stay in a real AT hostel (Sandy Hook) the night before we were to begin our southbound trek from Pen Mar Park at the PA/Maryland border.

Like the previous year in the Whites, that first day was an ordeal despite the “easier” terrain. After a night at a shelter some 9 miles in, Doc, Reg, and Lindsey decided that hiking definitely was not for them. They hitched a ride back to the vehicle and opted for a tour of Gettysburg. Alton and I trudged on, determined to complete the entire 42 miles, even though we had already decided that this was a three day hike, not a one or two day one.  Our buddies, before deserting us, did offer to carry some of our gear to the Dahlgren campsite, where we planned to set up our tent (yep, still the 4 man one) the second night. We didn’t know what slackpacking meant at that time; however, over the years, “slackpacking” has become one my favorite hiking terms.

Day three took us into Harper’s Ferry and to the end of that year’s hiking adventure. Since Maryland was complete, over the next few years, Alton and I continued the section hiking, knocking off a state here and a state there. Fitts even joined us for the section from Springer to Neel’s Gap during spring break, 2003.  Alton has completed more sections than I have and has promised to complete his section hike with me in Maine, if I make it that far. That would be pretty special—Alton completing the AT section hiking at the same time I completed a thru hike, on Katahdin together. If nothing else, it should make for some interesting journaling over that last 300 miles.

Categories: Previous Hikes | Leave a comment

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