This week we took the leap from regular day packers to backpacking and camping along the Appalachian Trail. We came well prepared, having read all kinds of books on the what to bring, tips for packing, etc. Still, I was full of anxiety before the trip. What if I couldn’t handle it?
Our plan was to do a simple two-day hike along the A.T., from Greenbrier State Park in Maryland to Gathland State Park. (Basically this is sections four and five in Maryland.) As we hit the trail I had a hard time concentrating on the scenery. Was my backpack on right? Would I be able to make it? Was I carrying too much? Too little? Thankfully, after about a mile, I settled into my regular hiking mode and enjoyed the trail. I was quite proud of myself as we by-passed a few teenage boys. (Ha! An old lady can out-do the kids!) Later, I learned that the boys were part of a camp group and were just a little out of shape. Still, a small victory over youth!
We stopped at the Washington Monument, the original monument to honor George. We continued on, past Dahlgren Chapel and across Route 40, until we got to Dahlgren Campsite.
The campsite is beautiful by A.T. standards. It has level campsites for tents and a bathroom with showers. We quickly settled in by setting up our tent and making cups of coffee. I had a great time reading from an old trailside reader while relaxing at camp.
Before long, an older man with a white beard and a big pack came lumbering into camp. His trail name, we learned, was “Poppy.” Poppy is a thru hiker, meaning that he began in Georgia and intends to go all the way to Maine. Wow! We learned so much from our camp companion. We gained tips about foot care, what to pack, how much to pack, places to pick up supplies, and much more. It was so much fun to hear about his adventures and to hear stories about others on the trail.
After a delicious dinner of instant meat lasagna, Claire, who is a trail ambassador and also stayed at camp, showed us how to boost our food up the bear pole for the night. We hit the sack early. I guess we were tired!
The next day, after breakfast, we said goodbye to Poppy and took off for another day of hiking. The trail was so serene at 8 am. The sun peaked through the trees and the glow of the early morning light was really beautiful. At first things were pretty easy. I even stopped by a big set of blackberry bushes and found a ripe one! From there, though, we had to go up a very steep, 800 foot elevation, in about 1 1/2 miles. Making things tough was the condition of the trail. Poppy had warned us that it was very rocky and he was right. It was crazy! I was a little
disappointed that there wasn’t a scenic overlook at the top if the mountain but we did find an overlook on the other side a little ways downhill. We took a break to eat a power bar and the view was perfect. A little bird sang merrily on the top of a nearby tree and I can see why. She had the best view in all of Maryland.
The trip down hill was rocky but very do-able. We enjoyed the rest of our hike and it wasn’t long before we came to Gathland State Park, where we had left our car. The park has a Civil War correspondents memorial and other markers to describe the area’s significance during the war.
Overall, the trip boosted my confidence. I really can backpack!