Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Week 20: A walk in the woods Nov 14th

The adventures with Nate continue.

I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures as our trip did not afford us the luxury of carrying a camera. Actually I think Nate has before and after pics that I wil have to find.

A month or two ago I mentioned my desire to hike all of the AT in MD in a day, and my subsequent disappointment that Eliza and I had postponed. Well I finally got my chance, and by chance not with Eliza but with Nate.

There is a little history here, as I have hiked significant portions of the AT in my youth accompanied (or more like accompanying) my step-father Tom. These were some of my earliest cognizant memories of really loving the outdoors. Among our exploits we hiked all of the AT in MD over a 3 day weekend.

With the lack of decent hiking in MD , sometimes we have to making the hiking indecent instead. This part of the trail is not particularly beautiful, or over interesting terrain. Instead it is an endless view of tight forest, over rocky ground, with only 3 or 4 hills in the entire 43 mile stretch.

43 miles?! As we are dropping off a car at one end, we notice how long it takes to drive 43 miles, let alone walk that distance. We get to the northern point at Penmar at about 2 am after leaving at midnight and doing some car shuffling. Nate and I have a penchant for these early (late?!) starts it seems. However the goal is to make it through the night and hopefully the sun wont go down on us till we are nearly done the next day.

Not only is is dark, but its raining lightly, rather chilly and the visibility is at about 10 feet. Not that the trail is that pretty anyway in the dark. So we start off, and perhaps 1 mile in, we make a wrong turn and are lost. Well lets rephrase that. We arent lost, but we arent on the trail either. Since the whole hike follows a ridge that is pierced a few times by roads that run through the gaps, we decide not to retrace our steps, as doing so this early in the hike could be too demoralizing. 6 miles later we finally find Raven Rock road and take this back up the trail.

Without notice, my stomach churns, and I come pretty close to losing some precious calories, but i get settled and am not bothered by it again.

Similar to last week and aid climbing in the dark, its sort of a nice experience, when your senses close down to such immediate surroundings. Here the trail was the same, the mist closed in tight around me, and you are just alone with your movement.

The idea that these are great times for introspection are false, at least in my case. I am so focused on my movement, and the small happenings of my tiny space that I am not off thinking about my job, or pressing things at home, or how i need to clean the basement. But i suppose it is just that, the stripping away of all the mental clutter. It is almost like preparing the field, tilled, and waiting for seed. That is the usefulness of an adventure like this.

And strip away we did. Mile after mile after mile. A slight decrease in the rocks underfoot became big news. The slight glow of daybreak became inspiring. We knew we didnt come out here for the enjoyment of the act, but perhaps to know our limits a bit more.

At 9am we pass Annapolis Rocks and get down to the shelter near the crossing of I70. We take a quick nap, the quickest 20 minutes of my life. Though not quite halfway, mentally I feel just about halfway though. With our car about 19 miles away in one direction and 25 in the other, we really have no options but to continue.

On top of Lambs Knoll about 30 miles in I give Eliza a call (my sweet lamb) and within a mile afterwards finally develop the blister I have been worrying about for the past 5 hours. Luckily I have my Waldies which I brought just for this purpose. Maybe 10 miles to go. On the last ridge with maybe 5 miles to go it finally starts to get dark and we are so so done. The ridge doesnt want to end, and the lack of chit chat exposes our weakness.

We basically fall down Weverton and to our car. With our remaining adrenaline we drive up to Frederick (45 minutes) and have a brilliant meal of central american food. Another 30 minutes and we are back our second car at Penmar. With no discussion we push back driving back and promptly pass out for an hour. We finally get back around midnight. Another 24 hours. Pushed the envelope a little further, and I think ill be paying for this one for a while.

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