June 6, forty-seven years ago was the last day of school my freshman year. My German teacher, Mr. Russell, wrote the date on the green chalkboard, 6/6/66. He commented that it would be over eleven years before the date could be written using only one numeral. At the time 1977 seemed so remote that it could have been a hundred years in the future. Little did I know as a lad of 15 that before 7/7/77 rolled around, I would be married, have two college degrees, and be a high school teacher myself. Every year on June 6, I still remember Herr Russell.
Over the years I section hiked the AT, I would usually begin as soon as the school year ended, so I’ve often been on the trail on June 6. Today I walked out of the state with the fewest number of trail miles and into the state with the second fewest. Walking across the bridge over the Potomac took me from West Virginia into Maryland, the 6th state heading north. I felt inspired and motivated on the overcast early morning. I had arrived in my sixth state on the sixth day of the sixth month.
Since I wanted to get started before 7:00, I called John for a taxi to the trailhead at the east end of High St. in Harper’s Ferry. He dropped me there at 6:40. After crossing into Maryland, the trail follows the old C&O Canal Towpath for three miles. Along that stretch I saw two runners, a cyclist, and a lady walking six dogs, all hers she said. A deer came into view at a distance but had disappeared by the time I reached the spot. The flat spacious terrain made for fast hiking. Even though I had to wait for a train to cross at the north end of the towpath where the trail begins to ascend toward Weaverton Cliffs, I averaged right at 3 miles an hour for the first six miles.
When I reached the short trail to the Ed Garvey Shelter, I took it. Ridge runner Claire was leaving as I arrived. After a short break I resumed my hike, stopping briefly to speak with Bearhawk, a southbound section hiker. I met others, but only said hello before moving on. With a relatively “easy” trail (Maryland only rates a 2 on the 1 to 10 scale), I continued to hike at a fast rate.
When I reached Gathland State Park, I took a break and briefly entered a museum. Sweet Tooth had parked nearby to wait for Molar Man to hike by. Rock Steady arrived as we talked. Before exiting the park I met trail angel Peggy from Pensacola. She was waiting for a group of hikers that she was supporting on a series of day hikes of the AT. Hancock and Gypsy were also hanging out at the picnic tables under a pavilion. Just as I left the park the rain began.
In order to reach my end point for the day before the heavy rain that was forecast began, I continued to hike quickly. I did stop at White Rock Cliff for the view. Then I zigzagged my way through a series of small rocks for a couple of miles to the Dahlgren Campground. By then the rain had increased. Rock Steady, Hancock, Gypsy, and two section hikers from Norfolk were also under the overhang, trying to keep dry. It was then that I changed my plan for the day. Since there are serious storms in the forecast for tomorrow, I decided to stop at Turner’s Gap for a 17.5 mile day. This way I could get a lift from Molar Man and Sweet Tooth rather than risk being at a hostel or shelter all day tomorrow.
When I finally got back to the trail to hike the final .3 mile, the rain had gotten heavier and colder. Rock Steady and I hiked together. He headed on up the trail as I took refuge under the front eave of a church to wait for the Volvo. Feeling a little chilled, I removed my wet T-shirt for a dry long sleeve one. I also put on my raincoat and gloves, knowing that the wait would be over an hour. As soon as Sweet Tooth parked I made a dash for the car. Molar Man soon arrived and we were off to Hagerstown.
So after another comfortable day of hiking, I’m again in a very nice motel room. I hate to take another day off so soon; however, it’s unlikely that many will hike tomorrow if the weather that is predicted arrives. Still, I had recently earned two more zero days based on my 15 miles a day formula. So I’m really in the same place that I was three days ago, regarding how many days I can still take off and reach my goal of a late August summit. So after a lackluster finish to Virginia, I re-energized in WV and started Maryland in a positive manner. Now I’ll prepare to make my way over the Mason Dixon line when I again hit the Appalachian Trail.