Goodbye Maryland. Hello Pennsylvania! Today I walked into the 7th state on the Appalachian Trail, passing the Mason-Dixon Line just prior to Pen-Mar Rd. I guess I’m officially in the north. The blue skies and white puffy clouds enhanced the enjoyment of the final few miles on a comfortable 23.5 mile day. Despite a few tough stretches of rocks, some slanted in various directions, today’s hike progressed about as smoothly as any I’ve done over the entire trip. I continue to be at my best using my motto of “light pack, big miles, and beds.” Hey, it’s working.
So when Molar Man said he wanted to get an early start, I had no idea he meant that we would be standing in the lobby of McDonalds at 5:00. With breakfast to go, we drove along with Sweet Tooth to the trailhead at Turners Gap, arriving in time to begin the hike at 5:45. Chirping birds and a couple of scurrying squirrels greeted us as we ascended the first gradual incline shortly after dawn. Just prior to the two mile mark we walked into Washington Monument State Park. A side trail of about fifty yards led to the “original” Washington Monument, a stone edifice erected in 1827. After a brief stop and photo opt, Molar Man and I picked up the pace.
With a slightly humid, overcast mild morning, we banged out the miles at near record pace. By 8:00 we were crossing the footbridge over I-70. Sparse traffic travelled the interstate on this early Saturday morning. We zipped by the blue-blazed trail to Annapolis Rocks, choosing to make miles rather than check out yet another view. By 11:30 we had already hiked 14.9 miles to Foxville Rd. where Sweet Tooth waited with the cooler and snacks. I had packed two burgers and a root beer, but I did take a bag of chips. While we ate, section hiker Fis walked up and graciously accepted some of Sweet Tooth’s trail magic. Molar Man and I would pass her shortly after resuming our hike. We would see no thru hikers, however, all day.
As the afternoon began, we encountered a challenging segment of rocks which required some diligent maneuvering. Molar Man continued to lead and I followed throughout most of the day. When we got to the north end of the High Rock Loop Trail, I convinced my buddy that it was worth the short walk to the scenic view. With a tad of reluctance he agreed. Several folks were hanging out at the site that had formerly been used for hang gliding. A young man from Rockville, MD, Carlo, told us that rock climbing permits can be obtained for the dangerously steep looking outcrop. A section hiker at times himself, Carlo offered to take our picture.
When we returned to the trail, we were again faced with an extremely rocky descent. I painstakingly navigated the rocks, falling behind Molar Man. After the rock section we arrived at Pen-Mar Park, one of the prettiest recreation areas I’ve seen thus far. I commented that this would be an ideal place for some “yogi-ing” on the busy Saturday afternoon, were we not so close to the end of today’s hike. Since Pen-Mar Rd. was less than a mile away, however, we just kept moving, arriving at the road a little after 3:00. Indeed, we had knocked out big miles in good time.
Today was a great day to hike. For Don, it would have been a great day to fish. He often had already launched his bass boat, readying for a day on the lake, at about the same time I started hiking today. On many picture-perfect Saturdays like today, he would in all likelihood have still been casting away. There were no lakes on today’s hike, but there were many reminders of my brother’s life. Ferns bordered the trail in several areas today. As I passed through them on either side, I was reminded of how Don regularly brought ferns to our mother and how much she appreciated his kindness. Today beauty abounded everywhere as it does so often on the Appalachian Trail.