Monday, September 28, 2009

Marland AT-Check!

First off i'll say the trip was a success, but not without a few issues. I'm breaking up the stories into 3rds not including the drive up and back.

I didn't know EXACTLY where i was going, because i somehow forgot to get directions to the drop-off and pick-up point. And with my wife following us in her car it makes it bit more stressful doing multiple u-turns in the middle of nowhere. Regardless we made it to Harper's Ferry to drop off Erich's car which we were hiking to, but it just happened to take about a hour and a half longer than it needed to.

1st third (15-16 miles):
We reached the trail head at the Pen-Mar border right at 11. We packed everything up and left a few unnecessary items and then left. We started 2 hours late which turned out to be a good thing. The first third of the trip was in total darkness and went really well except for going off trail a solid 10 times. That section of the AT isn't marked well and it was dark, so no surprises. The first casualty occurred towards the end of this portion when somehow my pack came unzipped and a few things fell out including food, fire kit, and the water filter. The food we found and after double checking we found the fire kit, and checked again, but hours later i realized the water pump was not in my pack. So someone now has a brand new Katadyn Water Filter Pump. bummer...

Around 5am i finally got wicked tired and Erich took over the lead. We were aiming for halfway at sunrise but we found some cliffs which we thought faced east and decided it would be nice to watch the sunrise and take a break. We stopped around 6:45 and completed nearly 16 miles and the next 4-5 miles were flat/slightly downhill. So far so good. We took a quick power nap, rubbed our feet, watched as the sky became lighter (there were clouds, so no sun).2nd third (15 miles):
This section started off terribly. I preface the next little bit with-we were sleep deprived.

So, getting started, we reconnected with the AT from our lookout and started to hike. Thinking that the city in the distance was Fredrick and that we watched the sunrise from the east, it seemed that we were hiking the wrong direction (North). I got Erich to hike back to the cliffs and we pondered how this could be. It would take too long to detail everything out and just how confused we were, but finally we looked and Erich's compass (for the 2nd time) and it said "west", which according to the map would be correct.
The whole "sunrise" happened behind us, being that we were facing west and "Fredrick" happened to be Hagerstown. Bummer. To further illustrate our sleep depravity, Erich trusted me over his GPS compass, which he had checked earlier before we got terribly confused.

It was a nice afternoon, speckled with brief showers that never were intense enough or long enough to get out the gortex until about mile 28 when the rain came down hard and was not showing signs of relenting like previous spurts. This continued the rest of the trip. Not too much else to say except every step hurt like hell until my feet finally went numb.

Before the rain had started we were starting to really feel the effects of the trip, the lack of sleep, and the mundane section of the AT.

3rd...third (14 miles):
I only have one picture from this section and it was immediately as we were starting.
It was raining and raining hard the rest of the trip, so the camera stayed put inside the dry pack of mine. Plus, at this point we were too exhausted to think about being jovial. Most sentences were littered with expletives and phrases like "shut up" and "i don't care" or "you're hallucinating".

In between the 2nd and 3rd sections, we took another power nap exactly where Erich is standing in that picture.

Walking was immensely painful and at this point in the trip there was no pep in our step, i remember saying "we are moving slow" and not being able to lift the pace.

The last sections of the hike was as follows- 4 humpty-humps (not big enough to be hills/climbs, but a noticeable elevation change), a 2 mile descent characterized by terribly awkward switchbacks, 3 miles along the river on the C&O Canal, and finally 2 miles of an incredible steep climb back to the car. We blazed up to the descent and then Erich cracked hard and the descent did him in. We hit the Canal road right at dark and made it to the car nearly 2 hours later. Finally arriving at 830 at the 7-11 we parked at.

Drive Home:
Long and characterized by me saying "are you ok to drive?" and passing out as i was saying i should drive.

45+ miles-21 hours-1 Katadyn Water Pump
The trail was easily the worst and most boring section of AT i've done. I'm glad to have knocked it out quickly. The ridge was littered with large rocks, making walking a tricky mess in the dark, rain, and through exhaustion.

I'm looking forward to more but not all at once.

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