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June 13, 2018 / Comments (2)

Week #15– A Different Kind of Appalachian Trail Experience

Week # 15

5/27 – S: Raven Rock
5/28 – H: Trail of Hope
5/29 – S: Toms Run
5/30 – H: Allenberry
5/31 – H: Allenberry
6/1 – H: Carlisle (Rodeway Inn)
6/2. – H: Carlisle (Days Inn)
6/3. – H: Duncannon (Red Carpet Inn)

My time in Maryland suggested that there were different experiences to be had on the AT, meaning primarily that a thru-hike was not simply or solely a wilderness adventure. While the Shenandoah was “well-maintained” and regulated to preserve the outdoor experience, it was far from a wilderness experience. There were organized, formal campgrounds (with showers, flush toilets, water readily available from spigots, etc.), “waysides” offering short-order meals and milkshakes, beautifully groomed trails, and an omnipresent “Skyline Drive.” Yet, as I indicated in my post “Oh, Shenadoah,” the time there was great fun and most enjoyable. It suggested to me that rather than bemoan the more civilized aspects of the backpacking experience there, I should embrace and enjoy the differences. It wasn’t like I had some ability to hike through this area as it was 50 years earlier.

These thoughts stayed with me as I finished Virginia and headed into Harper’s Ferry, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Immediately I was reminded that different parts of the trail provide different types of experiences. Harper’s Ferry is both a town and a national historic site (National Park Service). Maryland had state parks right on the AT offering very public visiting space as well as historic sites (such as the original Washington Monument). There were many roads, road crossings, historic markers (such as the Battle of South Mountain in connection with Sharpsburg/Antietam) and an active day hiker community visiting such highly public spots as Annapolis Rocks, Thus, again, a different kind of experience.

As I entered Pennsylvania I continued to be welcomed by many, additional state parks (Penn-Mar, Pine Grove Furnace, and others). It was actually these experiences that caused me to reflect on the similar venues through which the AT traversed and how this portion of the Trail was simply providing a different kind of trail experience, which I should embrace and enjoy it for what it is – not what it was or what some wish it could be.

I spent the first day of this week essentially completing the AT in Maryland. The shelter at Raven Rock (which required a tough, vertical climb just before the shelter site) was just a few miles from Pennsylvania where we were greeted by the Pen-Mar park (where I arrived early on Memorial Day Monday and enjoyed a breakfast break with Irish, Phin and Mojave). That morning though, before leaving our campsite I did see my first bear. And before leaving Maryland, in addition to the Raven Rock ascent, it showed us it to could offer some very challenging rocks/boulders (where I hiked with the 77 year old Loner doing his 4th thru-hike) to maneuver and descend through.

Once in Pennsylvania the fact that civilization was all around the trail was omnipresent – in addition to the state parks there were many road crossings and frequently road noise. I visited the AT Museum in Pine Grove Furnace and participated in the half-gallon challenge nearby at the General Store. While the town is lovely, the trail does take the hiker by roads and farmer fields before guiding him through the historic center. And leaving town, a 17-mile hike I did with guest hiker Barb O., the trail goes along/across many roads (including I-81) as well as through agricultural fields and along a beautiful wide creek.

The logistics (involving shuttles and visits to/through Boiling Springs and Carlisle) required to work out my guest hiker day, resupply, and enjoy a zero day only added to the nature or type of experience provided by the AT in central PA.

This “week” ended in a fashion not really dissimilar to its beginning. I hiked only a short 9 miles (determined to ease into the challenge of the famous/infamous Pennsylvania rocks) to the town of Duncannon.

I was in a better mental state than I was departing Harper’s Ferry a week earlier when I feared the rocks and the nagging discomfort of my pack. This seems to be the result of a zero day at a nice inn, a fun guest hiker day, reconnecting with a trail friend with whom I was able to share some time (and receive some advice about my pack) and taking some time to visit with fellow hikers at and around the Pine Grove Furnace General Store where I successfully completed the half-gallon challenge, and even visited with the Crawford family at this same time.

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Last modified: June 13, 2018

2 Responses to :
Week #15– A Different Kind of Appalachian Trail Experience

  1. david banks says:

    Bruce: Been following your podcasts and trying to catch up on your blog. In this one you mention the nagging discomfort of the pack. Are you still satisfied with your choice of pack or is there another issue associated with this comment?
    Continued best of luck and wishes for success,

    1. rtkchallenge_w2dqin says:

      Drill very happy with Osprey Atmos. I think I discovered that with weight loss I needed to readjustment the hip belt and most straps on the pack. Since I’ve done that the back pain has gone away – for which I am immeasurably thankful.

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