Last Milestone of the Year

71C0C149-97AE-4672-9BC9-993E802AD58E_1_201_a

Annapolis Rock, MD October 24, 2020 — Each year has a melody and closing down the caretaker site at Annapolis Rock is its final note. It’s a whisper, not a crescendo.  We quietly strike the tent, fold up the tarps and secure the tool box.  Then we walk the packboards stage right, down the mountain into winter storage at Washington Monument State Park.  The concert has ended.

What comes next, the budget planning, equipment ordering and hiring process, doesn’t count because they are muffled in winter snow and darkness.

36FC1D22-7F94-4D61-B19F-320AC3A81551

The first thing we do is inspect the equipment looking for what can be repaired and what needs replacing.

8A37FB8E-F6DB-47BC-8567-1ADF404F19F0_1_201_a

We string a tarp over the tent to reduce sun damage.  Somehow the rays manage to bleach, breakdown and fade tents and tarps.

F9600140-127A-41B6-91D0-D6533D37121C

This tent is on its last legs.  We might get another year out of it – maybe.  In the past REI has been gracious enough to donate tents.  Here’s hoping their generosity continues.

C3782BA7-423B-4399-AFD7-3BAD7C60654F_1_201_a

The tool box is secured.  We leave nothing worth stealing but you never know.

43EF3791-4CB9-4AFD-89DE-689B80689E35_1_201_a

Everything is packed out.   The tarps are worn out and get recycled.  The sun-damaged polyester rope goes into the dumpster.

8A1F2D76-1F82-4BC2-9970-C0938EEA1217_1_201_a

It’s a sad ritual that closes out April’s hopes and aspirations.  We shake hands, the ridgerunner submits their final report and the switch flips.  Just as the leaves turn in the forest, it’s time for our ridgerunner to turn the page to a new chapter.  Their brake lights flash at the last stop sign and they are gone.

The tent platform and picnic table stand sentinal through the lonely winter until the new ridgerunner brings them new hopes and aspirations on April 1.

Sisu

Gilligan’s Island Hike. What could go wrong?

9D701137-65EE-4E16-B8AE-FF79929B0455

Appalachian Trail south of Harpers Ferry, WV, Friday, October 2, 2020 — We rendezvoused at the church parking lot next to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry.  Hot Starbucks and blueberry muffins fortified the blue sky, dry air and perfectly cool autumn morning.

Bellies comfortably full, the Gang of Four plus one piled into my Subaru, masks on and windows down for the shuttle to our starting point at the Keys Gap trailhead.  From there we planned a three hour tour to Harpers Ferry with a detour to the Loudon Heights scenic overlook.

Our plus one was Nancy who was dubbed the Iron Ranger for her roots in Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range.

B8E17091-829B-4E67-A0AC-BFE955B2C013_1_201_a

The start was uneventful.  We marched six to eight feet apart. 

The AT is infamous for its rocky tread.  It wasn’t long before the Iron Ranger got bucked off her horse in a classic face plant that dealt her a bruised cheek and a small skinned area on the palm of her hand.  She’s made of Viking stock, so patched up, she soldiered on.  Little did we know that by day’s end we would each do some serious soldiering.

053AAD01-98CD-425A-93E7-EBC88479DE4A

Taking a break.

8D0C4576-A478-4FF9-8E94-1FB02B982383

Badass removes a branch blocking the trail, her first experience as a trail sawyer.

5834ACEF-8DE1-4F45-B71A-57E7714FA1C5_1_201_a

D03BCAA9-F736-4441-AC2C-B3FF0D1722DA_1_201_aAD927714-C59F-4F88-A7FC-175CB586D8CD_1_201_a

FD5A12FD-9F0D-4049-94C5-7522B3E5D624_1_201_a

Along the way we photographed natures interesting handiwork.

A1E9A98F-906E-4473-8340-1344552C70A7

Not far from the orange trail that goes to the overlook on Loudon Heights.  This where the “What could go wrong” part comes in.

I’ve hiked through here dozens of times but had never diverted to see the overlook after seeing photos taken there.  It’s excellent, but Maryland Heights was much better, so I never bothered.  Besides I was always in some kind of hurry.

We rallied at the turn off behind the trail sign.  My assumption for a number of reasons was that the viewpoint was less than a mile out of the way.  When we returned, the sign said it was two miles. 

Round trip that’s at least two extra hours.  So instead of finishing at 3 p.m. we finished at 5:30 when the walk all the way back to the church parking log was factored in.  Probably would not have done that if I’d looked at the sign.

8538A4B2-3EB9-4E91-9F5B-C7AB58F2FD26_1_201_a

This view of the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers was the holy grail. 

B2808D45-16E2-48A2-9077-AB75482F0AE1

Trophy pic.

242AEC93-79F8-4320-AFC7-52B49A617C6F

By the time everyone reached the overlook many of us were spent.  We took plenty of rest breaks on the way to Harpers Ferry.

F8486FB9-E689-4FFB-BE07-C1B3E29C0480_1_201_a

Full circle.  Lunch turned into dinner at Keys Gap. Our weary bodies smacked the log benches with the sound of a waitress wet ragging a plastic table cloth.

There we were with quads made of jelly, sore feet and empty fuel tanks.

Seemingly to pick us up, AWOL bragged her gluts were in fine form.  That was a rare opening.  She has wanted a new trail name, so we started riffing – Hardass, and Buns of Steel emerged as candidates.  Being who we are, Iron Butt won the day.  Iron Butt it is.

At some point I think I was charged attempted murder if not formally that’s what everyone was thinking.  I thank them for the acquittal.

7EBAE218-F69D-422D-8673-ED70C8875D8E

Saturday night was Badass’s birthday.

EAEB3FFB-0C11-41CA-B384-374A23073A8C

Happy Birthday!

5804B8D4-8E64-4036-9C6F-947AE9C0D1FF

Celebrating six feet apart at Bulldog’s house. 

Guess what? We had as much fun as they did on Gilligan’s Island and we’re already planning our next outing.

Sisu