Day 85 — Sunday, June 8
My first of a few days hiking without Tandem, who is participating in the Four State Challenge. I woke up in a shelter, which I haven’t done in a few weeks since I prefer to sleep in my tent for privacy. Mio and Johnny Utah were with me along with a couple of section hikers. As they continued to sleep, I found a Geocache on the other side of the AT.
When I returned, the others were waking up, so I packed my mattress and sleeping bag. I noticed a young Boy Scout headed down the hill to the water .4 miles away. I grabbed my partially filled 3-liter dromedary and ran after him to get him and other Scouts to fill it up along with their containers. I ate breakfast, which included a bonus gifted apple from a weekend hiker leaving the trail today.
The Scouts returned with my dromedary totally empty. They said the water wasn’t treated, and they couldn’t figure out how to open it. Their Scout Leader came by and offered some of their water to me, so I took a liter.
We finished packing, and the three of us left the shelter at 8:45. We made good time along flat terrain and stopped four miles later at Gathland State Park. As we entered the park, we found a paper plate on the trail announcing trail magic seven miles ahead of us that was ending at 10:30 that. It was 10:00.
Johnny Utah was looking for a soda machine and opened the door to the Gathland museum, where we were pulled into an enthusiastic 20 minute historical overview of author George Alfred Townsend, who wrote under the pen name of Gath. We were able to pull away and get down to the park restroom for a break and water fill ups.
Finding the AT white blazes to get out of the park was tough, and we suspect it’s a plot to keep hikers there. On the climb from the park, I fell back to hike my own speed and listen to my music. It always amazes me when trees grow in a tight grouping of 3 or more, probably due to nuts buried together by squirrels, and I passed a group of seven large trees together, one which had a blaze on it!
I was delayed by day hiker questions about thru hiking and from eating lunch. At the Dahlgren Backpack Campground, where the trail magic had occurred, I caught up to Mio and Johnny Utah, who were showering.
Mio had saved me a leftover grape soda to enjoy while I charged my phone through his charging battery pack. We left there around 14:30 with plans to meet Mio’s parents at I-70 and US 40. They were coming two hours from home to pick him up for a break from the trail until Tuesday. It started to rain hard as we climbed the next mountain, so on went the pack cover.
We passed through another state park highlighting the original Washington Monument. We blue blazed up to the monument and climbed to the top without our packs.
After we left, we kept a pace going to put us at the meeting spot at 16:30. We arrived and crossed I-70 on a pedestrian bridge. We had heard the sirens wailing as we hiked toward the highway and could see the east bound lanes backing up from an accident. We blue blazed over to the parking lot on US 40 to sit and wait for Mio’s parents to arrive.
While we waited, a family unloaded a van of garbage bags full of camping gear, food, a large tent, and gallon jugs of water. They started walking toward the AT, and we knew that they were heading to the Pine Knob shelter campground .6 miles away. We also knew then that Johnny Utah and I wouldn’t be staying at the Pine Knob shelter campground.
When Mio’s parents showed up they brought us trail magic in the form of Burger King Whoppers, Whopper Juniors, fries, and extra-large iced teas! We gobbled down the food while we talked with his folks about who we were and our trail time spent with Mio. After the early surprise dinner, they left with our thanks, and Johnny Utah and I headed back to the AT.
We passed the family carrying the bags of camping gear and headed up the hill for 1.5 miles to the Annapolis Rock climbing wall and campground. We dropped our packs to walk the steep downhill blue blaze trail to the climbing walls. The view was amazing.
On the way back to our packs, we stopped and chatted with the caretaker, who is also an AT Ridge Runner. He said that he is there for six day shifts and alternates with ridge running. We wondered as we walked away how he keeps entertained and keeps any devices he has powered.
Packs back on, we hiked 1.5 more miles to the Pogo Memorial Campsite. We arrived at 19:30 and got our tents set up minutes before the thunderstorms and heavy rains that lasted for three hours. We had lightning hit less than a mile away and were under a tornado warning for an hour.
At midnight tonight, or in 10 minutes, Tandem and her fellow hikers embark on the Four State Challenge to go from VA to PA over 42 trail miles in 24 hours. I will be hiking six miles into Smithsburg, MD, tomorrow morning to wait for a package expected at the Post Office Tuesday morning. While I am there, Tandem will pass me Monday evening on the way to the PA state line.
While she recovers, I will hike out Tuesday midday to catch up with her and camp somewhere north of her on the trail. Johnny Utah will be two days ahead of us.
It is midnight, and the rain has stopped.