Bucky, Witt, me and Sabine at the Blackburn Trail Center.
Mostly Maryland, Labor Day weekend, 2019 — This is the saddest time of year for me. Just as the sultry misery of summer begins to moderate, the ridgerunners strike their tents in search of their next adventure.
By now, two of our six ridgeunners have finished their work. Joanne served a month-long season in Shenandoah centered two weeks either side of the July 4 weekend. David in Pennsylvania left a bit early for his next gig in the southern region. Bucky and Witt finish on Labor Day. Sabine is done a couple of days later. By Friday, Mary will be the last one standing.
Mary’s season is auspiciously book-ended by April Fools Day and Halloween. Along the way she’ll see the dull dormancy of winter brown transform into the verdant green tunnel of summer hiking which is naturally followed by the bright fall hues of Alabama crimson, traffic cone orange, caution light yellow, and camouflage tan. Along the way the bears will have awakened, munched their way through a full season and planned for winter slumber.
Ridgerunning is a calling. On the downside it’s janitorial. But the upside difference can be transformational for the ridgerunner, the hikers they meet, and for the trail itself. It’s a labor of love that people love to do.
This year, for the first time, everyone said they want to return for an encore season. Usually we have one or two. Reality suggests that all six won’t make it back to us. Real life and better economic opportunities intervene. Regardless, we may get lucky. The more the merrier.
How do you value a job protecting a view like this?
I like to be with the ridgerunners on high-traffic weekends. This year it was Maryland.
Hiker traffic was light for a three-day weekend with a fantastic weather forecast. We expected around 500 day hikers at Annapolis Rock. Three ten showed up. We met only a couple of dozen along the way on the trail. Where’d they go?
Camp at Raven Rock. My tent in the foreground. Mary’s blue tarp in the distance.
Waiting for the campers. Only four showed up. We expected 30.
Hiked with Mary to Annapolis Rock where I could spend some time with Bucky. We discussed the environmental damage caused by non-padded ropes anchoring to trees. I also noted the unseen damage that can happen to ropes when they are not padded at tension spots on rock faces.
Mary hiked a mile ahead to spend the night at Pine Knob shelter which was maxed out. It’s too close to the trail head. People can easily haul in coolers and the like.
Final breakfast with Bucky at Bonnie’s Red Byrd restaurant. The stuffed blueberry french toast was yummy.