The Appalachian Trail, February 28, 2021 — Unfortunately everything that happens on the Appalachian Trail is not positive. This is one of those stories.
Earlier this month a member of the Trail Dames hiking group planned a stop at the Ed Garvey shelter in southern Maryland. In fact, it’s the first shelter in Maryland, just 6.3 miles north of Harpers Ferry, WV. It is a popular spot frequented by local campers as well as long distance hikers/backpackers on the AT.
She was shocked by what she found.
Someone had built a fire on the shelter’s lower sleeping deck.
The fire burned through the deck doing considerable damage. It was only thanks to luck that the shelter itself did not burn down.
It’s possible that who ever built the fire also strung this tarp across the opening. In some ways this is senseless. There’s a very sheltered sleeping area on the upper level.
She also found other detritus.
In addition to the damage to and evidence in the shelter, someone broke into the tool storage and took a couple of minor items. Not much is ever stored near shelters for this reason.
What happened? Was this caused by inexperienced people in competition for a Darwin Award? Could it have been pure vandalism? Could the damage have been caused by someone who is homeless?
The latter is most probable given the theft and the placement of the fire. Many homeless suffer from mental illness or from drug/alcohol addiction. They occupy shelters, intending to stay awhile, and tend to leave at least some of their belongings behind. We may never know for sure.
The good news is that the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club maintainers in Maryland had the damage repaired within a couple of days after its discovery.
Edward B. Garvey is the shelter’s namesake. More on Mr. Garvey at this link.