Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA to Harpers Ferry, WV, June 30 – July 6,, 2016 — My annual hikes with our ridgerunners have begun. This year my muffin top needs shrinking so I decided to walk all 240 miles of the PATC section in hopes of burning some of it off. I’d like to do it nonstop, but schedules, theirs and mine, dictate otherwise.
After dropping my car at the Harpers Ferry National Park long term parking, Robin Hobbs schlepped me up to meet Mitch Mitchell at the store where hikers traditionally eat a half gallon of ice cream to celebrate reaching the halfway point which is just down the trail. From here the math for them changes from counting up the miles to counting them down.
Prospective ridgerunners think the job is about hiking. Readers of this blog know from last year in Georgia and other missives that the opposite is true. It mostly about picking up trash, coaching hikers in Leave No Trace outdoor ethics, counting and interacting with hikers. The miles per day are generally slow and short.
This trip was no different, but here’s fair warning. I’m going to let you in on some ridgerunner reality show secrets and it’s gonna get gross…
We were also out over the July 4th holiday weekend, meaning more people in general, more nubes, and the laggard thru hiker party crowd which is not known for its trail decorum. In fact, they openly admit to yellow blazing (hitch hiking) and to using booze and drugs in excess.
The rule of thumb is that if a hiker isn’t at Harpers Ferry by the Fourth of July, they need to “flip” to Maine and hike south or risk winter weather shutting them out of Mt. Katahdin in October. These folks are walking on the bleeding edge of that axiom.
Selfie at the official half way marker.
Our start was leisurely enough. We got about a half gallon (by volume) worth of trash out of the fire pit at Toms Run shelter and pressed on. Before the day’s end Mitch’s pack reminded me of a colonial tinker plying his trade along the rutted byways that traced the very region we were trekking.
As we moved along, trash of all kinds accumulated.
I don’t know what it is with me and finding pots and pans. Since hiking with Hal and Lauralee last year, I’ve found enough to open my own store.
Any more trash and he won’t have a place to put it. It’s the second pair of new (cheap) boots I’ve found this year alone.
Taking inventory before feeding the friendly dumpster at New Caledonia State Park, PA. We’re not showing you the snack bar just out of the photo. I packed out some of their tasty treats for dinner for that night.
Homeless camp on state park property. It was a family that appeared to have left in a hurry. Some toys and a pink blanket were in one of the tents along with clothing. The food in the cooler was rotten. The park rangers cleaned it up. Too big for us to haul out on our backs.
After spending the night at Birch Run shelter with a noisy crowd of hikers, we press on.
Ridgerunners see a lot of gross stuff on the trail including unburied human waste, used feminine hygiene products, wipes and toilet paper (Charmin blossoms) and the like. We fish it out of privies, pick it up and pack it out or bury it as appropriate. What comes next is a first for me. Why I was surprised, I don’t know.
You’d think after more than 1,000 miles on the trail, hikers would learn a thing or three, especially about hygiene. Maybe not. We found the young woman who owns this food dish improperly camped too close to a stream and illegally camped in the vicinity of a PATC rental cabin. I’d met her previously while hiking with Denise the week prior in Virginia. The embedded dirt on her skin reminded me of a character made up to be in a movie about peasants in the middle ages. My stinky gym socks smell better. Small wonder hikers get sick on the trail.
There were fewer flies on this pile of human scat I buried than on our hiker’s food plate. These videos will go into every presentation I will ever give from now forward on backpacking.
Approaching Deer Lick shelter, we bumped into a PATC trail crew hiking out their tools. They were nice enough to invite us to dinner with the North Chapter group, so we grabbed some of their tools and Chris Ferme’s chainsaw and tagged along for some chicken pot pie, green salad and fresh backed blueberry and lemon pie for dessert. Yum! Chris hauled us back to the trail in time to reach Deer Lick before dark. The next day we hiked over their handiwork. Nice job guys!
The following morning Mitch dropped off to participate in a PATC North Chapter hiker feed back at Pine Grove Furnace. I pushed on to Raven Rock shelter in Maryland to rendezvous with Robin.
People love to steal this sign. I was lucky it was there this trip.
Removed a small blowdown obstructing the trail using a folding saw.
Evidence of the party crowd. Scattered the sticks.
The last of the rhododendron blooms.
Bear activity has been unusually high this season. The good news is that most hikers have found religion when it comes to bears and are hanging their food and toiletries rather than sleeping with them. Yogi and Boo Boo have been working overtime. Bears have entered shelters and stolen packs in search of food and destroyed tents. Shenandoah has closed a section to camping and bear sightings in the PATC’s 240 mile section have been frequent.
While at Raven Rock shelter, MD, Robin and I hiked down to the old Devil’s Race Course shelter location (now torn down) and dismantled the fire ring. That will help make it less inviting for high school drinking parties that caused the new shelter to be built up a steep hill from there.
Now, it didn’t happen by accident that I timed my hike to be at Annapolis Rock for July Fourth ’cause guess what? You can see fireworks from that lofty perch. Unfortunately the rain was falling in buckets with heavy fog. We saw zip, but the campground was nearly full in spite of the forecast.
The clouds were clearing the next morning when I set off for Crampton Gap after a quick photo op with Robin. It was Kyle’s day off (the other Maryland ridgerunner), but I’ve been out with him before and we intercepted him along the way. He’ll be there through Oct. 31, so we’ve got plenty of time.
The AT foot bridge over I-70.
The original Washington Monument outside Boonsboro, MD. My camera lens was foggy with sweat!
C&O Canal lock # 33 just outside Harpers Ferry. I’m standing on the tow path.
Back to Virginia and Shenandoah soon. Sisu