05/01/2016 AT from Harpers Ferry, WV to PenMar, MD Backpacking Trip

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I did this backpacking trip between May 1-5, 2016. I did it for 2 reasons: My friend Ed Sessoms was attempting another AT thru hike. He wanted to do a 'flip flop' this time. That is, he wanted to hike north from Harpers Ferry, WV to Mount Katahdin, ME. Then, come back to Harpers Ferry and hike south to Springer Mountain, GA. I wanted to hike the first state with him. Ed and I had hiked the AT together from Springer Mountain, GA to Damascus, VA in 1999. The other reason was that I had backpacked the AT from PenMar, MD to Harpers Ferry, WV 21 years ago in 1995 and wanted to experience this first backpacking trip again but from the opposite direction.

So I met Ed in Harpers Ferry on May 1st around 9:30 in the morning. I had parked my vehicle at the NPS parking lot and taken the shuttle bus to the historic town of Harpers Ferry. It was good to see Ed again as it had been at least 5 years since we had a meal together when he was hiking through Harpers Ferry. It was an overcast day. We had a bystander take our picture in front of the historic armory at Harpers Ferry. The picture did not turn out that great but at least we had a starting picture. We then hiked across the Potomac River, along the C&O Canal toepath, then started the major ascent of South Mountain, MD. We stopped at Weverton Cliffs, then experienced a major rain storm while ridging along South Mountain, MD. We hiked about 6.3 miles that day and made it to the Ed Garvey Shelter by early afternoon.

The rain cleared up that afternoon. We had a scout troop join us for the night, a few section hikers and a few other 'flip-flop' thru hikers. There were 2 ladies there that we would see during this trip. One had the trail name Mufasa and the other, who had a dog with her and was from North Carolina, I can't recall her name right now. The night was uneventful.

On May 2nd Ed and I started out early and had a good hike that day. We passed the war correspondents memorial in Gathland State Park, Crampton Gap Shelter and climbed over Lambs Knoll. We got to the Rocky Run Shelters around 4:00 PM in the afternoon. We debated whether to stay there or not. We decided to eat dinner there and push onto the Dahlgren Backpack Campground at ALT US 40. We got there around 5ish, got 2 spots to camp, set up our tents and started socializing with other hikers. One of them ordered pizza and gave us some. It was here, after I almost impaled myself with a tent stake, that I decided that I needed a tent with the opening on the wide side and not on the narrow side. We again shared the tenting area with the scouts. We had a good night. We hiked 11.1 miles that day.

On next morning which was May 3rd, we initially had a moderate up but then had a good day hiking. I believe that we had some rain again but it wasn't that bad. We crossed over I70 and US 40, then did the 3 miles to Annapolis Rocks and camped there. Mufasa and the other lady with the dog ended up camping there as well. The view from Annaplois Rocks was fantastic. Again we had a good night. We hiked about 7.5 miles that day.

On May 3rd we again set off at an easy pace. We passed the Pogo Campsite, which had a spring that was gushing water, MD17 and then we stayed at the Ensign Cowall Shelter. Maybe we got a lot of rain that day as I remember the side trails to and around the shelter being water logged. Anyway, I started a trend by suggesting that a group of us order pizzas and cokes. So we did. The person taking the order over the phone didn't speak English very well. Instead of getting regular bottles of coke we got 12 to 14 very large coke bottles. We shared them with the others at the shelter area and left the rest for others. The shelter area must have had over 100 people staying there that night. And the majority of them took our queue and also ordered pizza. That pizza parlor must have done a booming business that night. It was a cold night that night as temps were in the low 40's-high 30's. We hiked 10.2 miles that day.

On May 4th we started out again with a big up initially and then it was up and down all day. The lady with the daog hiked with us that day. Her and Ed would continue hiking for a time after we reached PenMar. I fell into a creek right before MD491. It was very cold and the air temps were only in the 40's. I was worried about hypothermia. I changed my shirt when we got to Raven Rocks Shelter. I wanted to get to PenMar as fast as possible as Julie was going to meet us there and take me back to Harpers Ferry and my vehicle. So I talked Ed and the lady and dog from NC to go to High Rock Overlook, then take High Rock Road to PenMar Park instead of the AT. High Rock was a neat place. Great view. There were hikers, bikers, people that just drove there, all sorts of people. So we walked High Rock Road down hill all the way to PenMar. As we were entering the park we saw Julie pulling into the parking lot to pick me up. Ed and the lady/dog from NC asked if we could give them a ride to a motel in Waynesboro, PA. I could tell that Julie was not that keen on taking strangers into her vehicle, let alone a dog. But I talked her into it, we took them there, said our goodbyes, Julie drove me back to Harpers Ferry to get my vehicle, then we drove home. We had hiked 8.8 miles that day.

I enjoyed hiking this stretch with Ed. It was great to see him after all these years. He continued north on the AT for awhile, then went home due to illness. He came back on the trail again for a short stint but went home again. He will try a conventional thru hike from Springer again in 2019.

As for me I would do another 5 miles or so of the AT in the White Mountains, NH in 2017. I would like to go back up there and do some short fun hikes. However, I'm not sure if I will ever finish section hiking the Appalachian Trail. I have a bit over 300 miles to go. My son John mentioned that some day he would be willing to finish it with me. That would be nice.

Mike C

Ed & I @ Harpers Ferry Armory, WV
Ed & I @ Harpers Ferry Armory, WV.
By Mike Calabrese
View from Annapolis Rocks, MD
View from Annapolis Rocks, MD.
By Mike Calabrese
Me on AT @ High Rock, MD
Me on AT @ High Rock, MD.
By Mike Calabrese
Group pic @ PenMar Park, MD
Group pic @ PenMar Park, MD.
By Mike Calabrese



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