Hiking the Appalachian Trail Through Maryland and West Virginia
Together, Maryland and West Virginia make up just ~45 miles of the AT, so we only hiked through them for a few days. However, crossing the Mason Dixon Line and getting to Harpers Ferry, the “psychological halfway point,” were huge milestones. We are having so much fun and really feel like we can make it to Georgia. It’s all downhill from here, right?
- Celebrating accomplishments, small and large, is critical when facing a massive undertaking like thru-hiking a long trail. Along the way, we are intentionally acknowledging when we reach certain milestones (like the halfway point), when we meet smaller goals (like walking a full marathon distance), and when we simply handle difficult situations well. Doing so has made the daunting task of hiking 2,200 miles in 5 months feel possible on a daily basis.
- Our minds and bodies are extremely strong. We cannot believe we can comfortably hike 20 miles a day consistently, but we can. Our physical and mental transformations happened gradually and we are really feeling the effects of months of walking. Sure, we are achy here and there, but we don’t feel as sore as we used to after a day hike. Our bodies are conditioned to moving and it feels natural now.
- Entering Harpers Ferry, a town teeming with people, felt overwhelming. Most of the time, we are hiking alone, only interacting with other hikers on trail who understand the thru-hiking experience. Being approached by so many people in town and simply navigating through crowds presented a stark contrast to trail life. We are getting glimpses of the types of challenges we might face post-AT and believe it or not, are starting to mentally prepare for them.
Day 88, 9/13/22: Raven Rock Shelter to Crampton Gap Shelter
26 mi, 4200 ft elevation gain
One by one, each hiker took off and we were the last ones to leave. Today, including side trail jaunts to water and views off the AT, we hiked a full marathon! It was a perfect day weather wise. The air was crisp and it felt like fall was setting in. Overall, the climbs were very gentle and the paths were wide and easy to walk on. We didn’t start the day planning to hike so far, but after realizing we didn’t have much food left in our bags, we decided to accelerate our plan to get to Harpers Ferry. We paused at a Black Rock Cliffs to enjoy the sunny view, stopped by the original Washington Monument, then cruised along for the day.
Day 89, 9/14/22: Crampton Gap Shelter to Tentsite Past Harpers Ferry
15 mi, 2200 ft elevation gain
It was still dark out when we woke up. We can feel the days getting shorter. The sun rose, lighting up the woods, and we started our day. We hiked down into a gap where we passed some Civil War monuments then hiked up another small ridge where we stayed the rest of the morning. The terrain was beautiful and mild and we decided to take the side trail to Weverton Cliffs where we got a view of the Potomac River. We headed down, walked along the C&O Canal bike path, then crossed a bridge into the center of Harpers Ferry. After a celebratory meal and drink at Rabbit Hole, we got ice cream (yay for a place having a dairy free option for Lotus), and then stopped by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters to take our official thru-hike picture. Honestly, in town, we were overwhelmed with the number of people we had to interact with. Being out of hiking mode and in crowded places is a huge adjustment and one that we anticipate being a challenge for us after this hike. We left town, crossed a bridge over the Shenandoah River, and climbed up to a campsite on the ridge. A few SOBOs joined us there later – we’re starting to catch up to the bubble people have told us about. It was great to meet some good people we’ll likely see on and off as we continue south.
Day 90, 9/15/22: Tentsite Past Harpers Ferry to Snickers Gap
15.6 mi, 2500 ft elevation gain
Yep, the days are definitely getting shorter. We woke up around 5am so we could hike about 15 miles before lunch time. To not disturb the other hikers tented near us, we packed up quietly and hiked a half mile down the trail to stop for breakfast as the sun rose. At the first road crossing at Keyes Gap, we entered Virginia and started hiking along the VA/WV border. We made it home! Getting to Virginia, where we both grew up and met, was a huge achievement. We had been looking forward to this moment for a long time. Shortly after, we entered a section of the AT called the “Roller Coaster,” described as such because of how up and down the trail goes. During this section, we met even more SOBO hikers (the SOBO bubble is clearly pretty big) and many day hikers. To pass hikers going at a slightly slower pace, we kicked into high gear. We passed the official VA/WV border sign and got to the parking lot at Snickers Gap where Stretch’s mom was waiting for us with cold water and snacks! We went to Bear Claw Brewery in Bluemont, Virginia for a celebratory beer before going back to Terry’s to take a double zero with family.