So, I posted last week that I was going to take the 3-day weekend to get my first section of the Appalachian Trail done. That post got me in touch with Jimmy Legs and Little D who live in the area and decided to come out and join me and two other friends on the first stretch of the hike.
Saturday morning rolls around, I've got my pack all buttoned up and in the car waiting for my friends to arrive and head off to meet JL&LD. Late start and a speeding ticket later we leave 30 minutes late. Then on the way, we were detoured due to an accident that closed down the highway. This is not a good start to the day.
JL&LD were very patient and waited a total of an hour and half at the trailhead for us! Once there, my wife dropped us off and we were ready to hit the trail!
The original plan was to take 3-day/2-nights to complete the 45 miles of trail from PA state line to Harpers Ferry, WV.
Our first stop, just a few minutes away was Pen Mar Park with a great overlook of the valley.
Couple miles in the AT splits around this twisted pair of trees with the famous white blaze. (Jimmy Legs & Little D are seen on the far left.)
After the first long ascent we arrive at the highest spot on the AT in Maryland, called High Rock. Hang gliding clubs used this spot for launches until they were closed down after 9/11. Now signs warn that special permission is needed before launching. The platform is covered with graffiti, sad but fascinating at the same time.
From here it was on to Raven Rock. A nice rock outcropping that looks down on the trail as it descends down to the road you need to cross, and back up the other side of the hill.
Here's JL&LD out on Raven Rock.
Road is down in the valley here.
From here, JD&LD turned around to hikee back to the start, while my friends and I pressed on. The trail brings you down to a small highway, cross it, then follow the guardrail to where it duck back into the woods over a stream.
Back up the hill and then through a farmers field.
From this point on, we started getting a heavy, and totally unexpected snowfall. I checked weather reports and the forecast said NOTHING about rain or snow. ANd now we are hiking through it.
For some reason, there is something quite serene and peacefull about being in the woods in the snow.
We must have been taking it casual for far too long as we realized that it was getting on past 5pm and we had 8 miles to go to get to the shelter for the night.
Fast forward... we ended up hiking an hour and a half through the snow in the night to push to the shelter. Slowed by the now upper 20s temp and trying to follow blazes and trail signs only light by headlamp.
We got about a mile past Annapolis Rock, which meant we were a little over a mile to the shelter! Its close to 7 and snow is coming down heavy, our packs and hats are covered in the white stuff. Then, through the flakes we hear voices and see lights dancing around. Getting around the bend we were stopped by a group of 8-10 kids, probably late teens in age. Armed with two duffel bags, several flashlights and I can only assume a large tarp they were dragging along, they were asking how far to the Rocks and if there's camping there?! We told them how far and that no, there wasn't camping. Stunned and cold we stood in amazement as they pressed on.
Once we got to the shelter and stopped moving the cold really set in quick. We wasted no time in getting our bedding rolled out and some hot food in our stomachs.
Due to the shelter being on the west side of the hill, the open side acted as a windsock gathering up the cold wind. We sacrificed a poncho and emergency blanket to fashion a tarp to close up the opening. It did seem to give us a few degrees of warmth through what would be a very long and very cold night. For this I was prepared, but for reasons unknown to me, my hiking mates decided to bring about four blankets from home for sleeping.
Once morning came, I decided that the best thing to do was to call in the troops to come up and extract us, as I might have been on the first signs of dehydration and my hiking partners sneekers (yes, sneekers) were 4 frozen blocks of ice.
So, some lessons learned. NEVER assume the weather forecast will be what the weatherman says. I thought about packing my hardshell, but then decided not to based on the forecast. This is highly unlike me, as I'm the one that packs extras of everything. Why I didn't pack anything heavier than my fleece, I'm still trying to figure out. As for my firends, they are into adventure racing and other extreme stuff, so I try not to criticize their decisions, but I should have this time.
A little cold, sore, tired, and disappointed, I think I made the right call and will need to try again.
Thank again to Jimmy Legs & Little D for their patience and for hiking with us! So nice to meet you! Y'all have fun next week up in NH in the snow!