Hiker's Log | The Maine Event Ladies Edition | Pen Mar, PA to Harpers Ferry, WV
Join us on Thursday, November 1st to hear more about what God is doing through this program with our young ladies and the women on staff leading them on this adventure!
It’s been a month since the Maine Event Ladies Edition came off trail in Harpers Ferry, WV. Behind us laid 45 miles of pretty grueling terrain and in front of us was a 12 hour van ride. There was a plethora of emotions to be sure…but we did it.
A month later, the muscles are no longer sore, the blisters have healed and we no longer are walking with the “hiker’s hobble”. In fact, a month later we are already working to plan the next adventure (a day trip to Springer Mtn, the Appalachian Trail trailhead) where we will mark the 6th state in this 14 state challenge off our list.
We began our journey to Harpers Ferry, WV in the EARLY morning on September 28th. Early morning or late night…one cannot be sure. Having packed for what seemed like 5 days, the girls were eager to get started and piled into the RA van willingly. Stuffed to the brim with our packs, we headed up the Interstate towards West Virginia. Twelve hours and several stops later, we arrived at the Harpers Ferry Amtrak station to meet our last trail mate known to the trail as Wanda. Wanda moved to Central Florida this summer but will continue on this adventure for the next two years.
We caught our shuttle at the station and off we went to Pennsylvania by car. We had been warned that the mentally hardest part of the trip would be the moment the shuttle driver pulled away from our group sealing the fact that we definitely had to hike back to the van…but it wasn’t. I think the hardest part was 45 minutes into the drive when we realized that we had to hike this long drive back! As the shuttle driver pulled up to the drop off point he joked, “OK, I’ve decided you girls aren’t ready. I’m taking you back.” We nervously laughed…perhaps some tears were shed at the prospect.
We unloaded the shuttle, tightening our boots, making sure our hiking poles were just the right height, adjusting our packs and confirming that the GPS knew where we were…because we didn’t. We crossed the Mason Dixon Line into Maryland at twilight, stopping for a picture and then heading into the dark with our headlamps for another 4.5 miles: over boulders, steep inclines, deep mud and hard terrain all in the dark. We arrived at Raven Rock Shelter and set camp close to midnight.
Day two we were awoken by the camp mates who had already been in camp before we hiked in at midnight. Though a small group, they made up for it with noise. We used the opportunity to get moving sooner rather than later and started on our way. Quickly on the journey, we walked by our first waterfall…which, considering the amount of mud we had already encountered, would be the first of many. Regardless, we stopped to take a picture, meeting a traveling companion who would prove to be one of the highlights of our trip.
Our first adventure of the day was what we will call “the crossing of Antietam Creek” which perhaps should be named “the falling into Antietam Creek.” We traveled up the East Coast just a couple of days following the flooding in West Virginia and Maryland. This proved to create a lot of mud on the trail, full springs and flood stage creeks. Our traversing of the creek was all good until two of the girls slipped drenching one shoe and losing another which quickly washed downstream. Our traveling companion from before, himself a victim of the flood-stage creek, encouraged the girls to tie their shoes together and place them around their neck. I, meanwhile, began to process “dry foot protocol actions” in my head for that evening. After recovering the shoe, changing to dry socks and reflecting on how good the cold water felt on sore toes, we gathered to pray as a group and headed back on the trail.
Our lunch stop was at the Ensign Cowell Shelter. Our traveling companion joined us shortly at the shelter. We learned at the he worked in education and is a Catholic priest. During our lunch, a four foot black snake fell out of the roof of the shelter and landed about 10 feet from a couple of the girls. We were so impressed with their calm demeanor as they called to us to come look at it. We identified it as a rat snake and watched it scurry away into the woods. Our traveling companion asked to pray over us before we left which proved to be a blessing over our team. Father Mike shared his blog address with us where he chronicled his encounter with us as well. On an aside, we began calling him the Holy Father and were humored to find out he had named me “The Mothership” in his blog.
We left the shelter and began our southern progress again. We made good time in the afternoon portion and made it to our campsite (Pogo Memorial) before dark. En route, we saw another rat snake, this one much longer but again were encouraged that there was no shrieking from the ladies.
We made a fire to dry out the wet socks from the Little Antietam Creek debacle and enjoyed dinner of rice sides and chicken.
After a hard day before, we woke up refreshed and ready for a day of high mileage. The leaders decided that the girls respond really well to knowing just how much more mileage before we rest. With the Gut Hooks app in hand, we decided to attempt a 3 mile goal. We’d hike 3 miles and rest, 3 more and lunch, 3 more and rest, etc. If the day prior was snakes and mud, day three was all about fungi. There are so many different types on the trail and the girls (and perhaps the leaders) found ourselves pretty smitten over the different mushrooms we discovered.
We hiked from our campsite towards Washington Monument State Park where we lunched at the original Washington Monument. The girls enjoyed hanging out while they ate lunch…the leaders went through a yoga flow. It hurt so good but definitely helped our aching backs.
After lunch we were excited to find public restrooms and running water! It’s amazing how something we take for granted daily can bring such moments of glee. We quickly learned though that parks with public restrooms also come in areas which have more civilization. It’s odd to be hiking 40+ miles, sleeping in tents and cooking over portable camp stoves only to find yourselves hiking over I-40 and into neighborhoods.
The second half of the day promised some pretty steep inclines that proved to be no laughing matter. We passed the time with games of “would you rather”, corny jokes and discussions about food. After a few breakdowns on the steep hike up the hill, we came to our final campsite, Crampton Gap Shelter, just after dark. This night can be called the Night of the Granddaddy Long Legs who seemed to try to infiltrate our tents en masse. Three days on the trail made our girls quite brave as we were grabbing the spiders out of each others hair and flicking them across the campground in defense of our Rice Sides.
We woke on day four knowing that evening we’d be in a hotel bed. The soreness of the 35 miles we had covered in the past weekend was real and everyone was somewhat slap-happy as we made breakfast.
After a good breakfast and breaking camp, we headed off on our last leg of this journey. We hiked to Weverton Cliffs, a beautiful overlook above the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. We ate lunch as we watched the hawks glide in the thermal currents at our eye level and fought off the stink bugs that have invaded the eastern US. We had one more snake sighting in the rocks (though not a nice snake) but it was on its way away from our happy gathering.
The girls were eager to get started on the last leg. The final 4 miles of our journey included a steep, “no joke” decline, hiking under another highway and then three miles of hiking on a bike path through a mosquito infestation. Slowly but surely several of the aches and pains began to sink in and some tears may have been shed. We walked across the Potomac River into Harpers Ferry, WV (our fifth state on this 14 State Challenge).
Before we left the Amtrak Station in Harpers Ferry, several of the girls noticed an ice cream shop on the main street. The memory of the shop and its sweet confections helped encourage us to come off the cliffs before it closed. That was our first stop off the trail. I think it was the best ice cream we’ve ever eaten.
We had the forethought to make hotel reservations before we left for the trip. The Comfort Inn proved to be a sweet respite for our tired bodies. The shower was perhaps the best ever experienced and the fact that the Italian restaurant in town delivered made it equally happy. We ordered food, doctored our blisters and gave everyone preventative ibuprofen.
Before we drove out of the Harpers Ferry headed towards Birmingham, we visited the Appalachian Trail Nature Conservancy Headquarters located there. It was fun telling the new friends there what we were seeking to accomplish. In fact, as we explained our plans to hike a section of the trail in all 14 states, the President of the ATNC came out to greet us. It was fun sharing our experiences with her.
Once done at the ATNC, we delivered Wanda back to the Harpers Ferry Amtrak station saying goodbyes until our next journey. It was time and we pointed the van southward.
Twelve hours of driving interspersed with Chick fil A, a trip to a couple of truck stops, the Hamilton Broadway soundtrack, Audible, headphones and sweet conversation.