(Bear with me! I plan to recap day-by-day for the first 7 days of my hike. After that I will be writing highlights and also some short essays on subjects I thought of while hiking.)
Original Entry from April 10, 2019
The fourth day - today - saw an even earlier start than normal at around 7am (the first morning I was super later, like 10am, then the second morning I left camp around 9am). Amazingly I still have no blisters - the Hiker Goo I have been applying every day seems to work wonders!
Today’s Guthook app overlook had me going 2,600ft ascent and 2,600ft descent - a roller coaster. Ran into some folks coming down the South Mountain - couldn’t figure out from where to where. Maybe they were going shelter to shelter in the opposite direction?
The real nice highlight of the day was High Rock Overlook - a gorgeous day for a great view over all the farmland in the area. Definitely the best view I’d seen since starting a few days back at Harper’s Ferry. And the side trail was short and flat! Great!
Finally made my way down after that - I thought it was the last decent of the day, so the hardest part behind me (how wrong I was). Made it down super rocky terrain doing some boulder hopping going downhill, so slow progress. The white blazes sometimes seem to be positioned to lead hikers astray somehow. I had to be vigilant to keep looking for the next white blaze. And in some cases in this area they were 90 degrees from where I had expected to see it!
Finally arrived in Pen Mar park, where I was planning to go off trail to hike into town, where I booked a hotel for two nights. Thought about booking just one night, but I really want to rest. And after today’s walk to the hotel, I will definitely need more rest!
I hiked over the famous Mason-Dixon Line and crossed into Pennsylvania (which means I have completed the entire Maryland stretch of the AT!). From there I hiked into Rouserville, where I aimed to pick up a package of mostly Trader Joe’s goodies I mailed myself from D.C. I finally made it to the post office and picked up the package, but it felt a bit dangerous walking on the shoulder of the road. In some cases the shoulder disappeared entirely, and I had to really put my faith in the drivers, who luckily were all with it enough to move over a little and leave space.
There was a local bar called Blondie’s near the post office, so I got an early dinner around 4pm - a Reuben sandwich with onion rings. Tried two beers, but they were just ok. One which is more local - Yuengling - based in Pennsylvania and incidentally the oldest operating brewery in the U.S. And the other which was New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger IPA. The latter was more to my taste but was just ok. The food hit the spot better.
It did feel weird because that bar was obviously for locals - but before leaving some of the guys asked me which direction I was headed. That’s the right sort of AT question to ask - and they ought to know, living so close to the AT. A second guy cheered me on - I saw him get on his motorcycle outside as I was leaving, and he smiled at me and said “get ‘er done!”, which I wasn’t expecting. No one in the liberal Bay Area would ever say that nonironically, but it’s great to be free of the Bay Area. I know exactly what the man was saying to me, and how he was encouraging me. Still, these two sides of America still seem so alien to me. I don’t feel at home in either political extreme (I feel more at home in the woods to be honest).
After that was the challenge I had created for myself due to lack of research. The hotel was 3.5 miles away, and I decided to walk it. This was a bad idea. There were actually Lyft rides available with a small wait, as well as volunteer AT shuttle drivers, which also expected payment. But I was stubborn and cheap, so with my backpack and large USPS box, I walked dangerously on the side of the road from Rouserville - which evidently doesn’t believe in sidewalks - into Waynesboro, which thankfully does!
Picked up some supplies at a marker and ended up holding onto even more stuff - add two plastic bags to the load!
Finally made it to the hotel with burning and aching feet. Because of my poor planning with picking such a far-out option (there were definitely closer, more pricey options), today actually ended up being the longest stretch so far, according to Fitbit. I could feel areas of my feet that have blistered before… I could feel them burning, so I expected the worst.
I pulled off my shoes and peeled off my socks to find - again, no significant blisters. I was as shocked as yesterday, when I put in a similar mileage. What the heck! This Hiker Goo stuff I’ve been messily applying each day must really work! So thankful, but I know I can’t ward off blisters forever… they will come soon enough.
What I still remember one year later
And so I finished my hike through Maryland!
I think the most dangerous part of my entire hike may have been the road walk from the AT into Waynesboro. It's a 5 mile stretch lacking sidewalks and with sometimes very nonexistant shoulders. I was really thinking this would be a piece of cake after hiking so far in the wilderness. But no, the wilderness is easier and safer. There were times I really felt like I would fall off the mountains in New Hampshire and Maine, but probably statistically I was more likely to be hit by a driver here along this stretch…
Definitely a bad idea to walk it… I soon learned to use Lyft and Uber when available. And it was a sad day when I got up north and Lyft and Uber eventually became nonoptions…
I also remember trying to take time in Pen Mar part to really enjoy the view. I should have really stayed longer, but I was really itching to go into town for real food and a much needed rest. After all, this was my first time backpacking in my entire life!