You would think that after an eight day break from the trail, my body would be rested and refreshed, ready to tackle the remaining 1,100 (and change) miles to Maine. Nope! I felt completely rusty and achy as I crossed the Potomac River into Maryland. On top of that, the trail has thinned out! I spent the night alone Friday and didn’t see another thru-hiker until my second afternoon. I also found out that 4 people in my tight-knit hiker group decided to drop out when I was in D.C. One I could have predicted but three of them took me by surprise. The mid-atlantic states historically really wear on people’s minds and many hikers who can physically make it to Maine, mentally burn out and choose to quit. So I miss my friends who I didn’t get to say goodbye to because of my D.C. trip and I’m missing those who are now a week ahead of me. Fortunately my body aches (and heartaches…teardrop…) only lasted a day as I felt more spring in my step today and met an0ther cool thru hiker tonight.
My break in Washington D.C. was excellent. As soon as I got off the train, I went to the Eastern Market for breakfast…one of my favorite food joints in the city. Some friends met me later at Cantina Marina for drinks on the SE waterfront. It was great to catch up with everyone and I was surprised to see how comfortably I transitioned from walking in the woods to the busy and noisy city.
For the memorial weekend, Christy and I joined friends in Dewey Beach, Delaware. As one of my colleagues put it, “from one wilderness to another.” I think this is a most appropriate statement. For those unacquainted with Dewey Beach, it is a 1 mile beach strip in Delaware of nothing but cheap motels, bars, and pizza-by-the-slice joints. I swear there must be like 40 pizza-by-the-slice joints in 1 mile. Dewey caters to all the 20-30 somethings from D.C. and Baltimore. Especially on Memorial Day weekend… it is quite a scene at night. According to Wikipedia, “While not as extreme as spring-break locales such as Panama City Beach or Cancún, Dewey Beach has developed a reputation as a wild summer “party town”, and is particularly popular in the Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Wilmington areas….the year-round population of about 300, it is not uncommon for 30,000 to descend upon the town during summer weekends.” You get the idea…fun times were had by all and I enjoyed being a beach bum for a few days.
Back on the trail in Maryland, I’ve really enjoyed the history of the area. In Maryland the A.T. loosely follows several troop movements and battle sites from the Civil War. Along the way there have been plenty of markers narrating the battles and stories from the war. I also enjoyed the first George Washington Monument near Boonesboro, MD. I must have spent about an hour talking to the monument & museum caretaker about Civil War history. He was an encyclopedia of knowledge and recommended many books to me. Since most are over 1500 pages I might have to wait until after the trail to tackle those…I’m not going to carry a 10lb book on my back! I also think he enjoyed my company as well. He said unfortunately the most popular question he answers is not about the Civil war, but rather “where is the bathroom?” This guy was so excited to find someone actually willing to talk for more than five minutes. After a lengthy discourse about the balance between individual state power vs. a powerful central government, I eventually realized I would never get to Maine, much less the next shelter, if I didn’t make a run for it. So I thanked him for the knowledge, and pressed onward.
Other highlights have been numerous snake sightings, lots of nice campgrounds with free showers (I smell good in Maryland!), and brand-spankin’ new shelters. Big shout-out to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) which does a great job maintaining the trail in this section. I’m Looking forward to hiking tomorrow with former housemates Bernie and Nick who are driving out from D.C. to join me for the day. Together we’ll be crossing the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania. It’s nice to finish a state in only 3 days after the never-ending 500 miles in Virginia.
Thanks again for everyone’s comments and emails of encouragement. It’s great to know folks are reading!