Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, April 16 -17, 2016 — Flip flops are not going to be the recommended hiking boot anytime soon. Certainly they have merit. After all they’d tread lightly on the environment – with no cleats to rearrange the dirt. They’re cool and airy which might help limit athletes foot. Certainly they’d dry quickly. Alas, they’re just not practical.
Flip flops are a type of Appalachian Trail thru hike. Rather than hike in a single straight line direction from one terminus to the other, flip floppers are hiker jazz artists, jumping ahead or starting somewhere between the two ends and working outward. They still hike all 2,200 miles within 12 consecutive months, they just don’t book a linear itinerary.
Enter the flip flop Festival, an attempt to increase awareness of and participation in nontraditional AT thru hikes.
More than a hundred aspiring thru hikers and hundreds of hikers attended the many seminars on hiking-related subjects including trail etiquette, hygiene, basic hiking, trail issues and long distance backpacking. I offered the latter. My slides are here: Eating the Elephant
The festival featured vendors, displays and even a food truck. The cannon is located in the exact same spot as one that appears in a civil war era photograph.
Sunday morning we sent those starting their hikes off in style following a tasty pancake breakfast hosted by the Harpers Ferry Odd Fellows Club which was chartered in 1833! It’s building is graced with (rather poorly) repaired cannonball holes from the civil war. Talk about history!
Later that afternoon we were hiking up the southern shoulder of South Mountain (Maryland), just outside Harpers Ferry, leading the second of Sunday’s day hikes up to a nice viewpoint overlooking the Potomac River called Weverton Cliff.
The conga line of hikers winding up the switchbacks reminded me of a big city rush hour traffic jam. People were stepping all over each other.
Why would anyone do this, I thought. I like to share scenery and the outdoor experience with a few friends or people that I like in small doses. That’s when I realized that above all, one word describes why I like to be on the trail where ever that trail may be. Solitude… and that’s no flip flop on my part.