May 22, 2008
Greenbrier State Park to Annapolis Rocks (3.8 miles)
As in 2007, we were scheduled to give our AT thru-hike presentation at the Greenbrier State Park Visitor Center over the Memorial Day weekend as well as camping at the park with old friends; many from our former church. We decided to make the 40 minute drive to the park late in the afternoon, park our car at Greenbrier and then hike to Annapolis Rocks, on the AT, to spend the evening. The rangers were very accommodating, especially when they realized who we were, and allowed us to park our car in front of the visitor center overnight. Hoisting our gear onto our backs, we made the steep ascent up the Bartman Trail to where it intersected the AT at the crest of the hill and then down to Boonesboro Mountain Road and across the pedestrian footbridge that crosses Interstate 70. This is familiar territory for us and the 2.2-mile trek to Annapolis Rocks went by rather quickly. Before we knew it, we were standing on the huge rock outcroppings that make Annapolis Rocks one of the more scenic and frequented spots on the trail. Since the sun was preparing to set, we decided to pitch our tent and have dinner at a beautiful rock overlook before doing anything else. With dinner completed, we returned to the outcroppings and sitting there eating their dinner were AT northbounders, “Crumbles” and “Pounder” and we spent a bit of time swapping stories about the trail and we gave them some idea of what they could look forward to as they got further north. Just as our conversation was winding down, another northbound duo, “Snoopy” and “Josh” arrived. We invited them to camp with us at our site and as they sat up their unique, internal pole, tent and wolfed down dinner in the fast-approaching darkness, I played my flute. Our time with “Josh” and “Snoopy” was going to be short-lived because “Josh” was leaving the trail on Saturday and heading to Gettysburg where he would meet his uncle and then head home. The “real world” had to take priority. We volunteered to pick both of them up at the trailhead at PA-16, in Blue Ridge Summit, and drive them to Gettysburg. For May in Maryland, it was a very cold evening and Mom’s “Jacks-R-Better” quilt and my 40° bag struggled to keep us warm.
Annapolis Rocks to Greenbrier State Park (3.8 miles) & Reno Monument Road to Rocky Run Shelter (2 miles RT)
With no real commitments, we slept in (if you can call 7:00 a.m. sleeping in). When we finally did get up, “Mom” immediately headed to the rock overlook to get some morning photos. Our campsite partners were packed and ready to go, so we bid them a safe trip, reviewed the time and place where we would pick them up the following day and began to cook our breakfast. The hike back to Greenbrier was a pleasant stroll and we even took time to stop at Pine Knob Shelter on the way. To pass the time, we read the many humorous entries in the shelter register and learned from one of them that several hikers had peed on the trucks passing under the Interstate 70 pedestrian bridge. Oh, those crazy hikers! It harkened me back to my days in a fraternity. Within a couple of relaxing hours of walking, we arrived back at Greenbrier State Park and stopped into the visitor center to confirm that things were ready for our presentation the following night. While we wandered around the center, we ran into Janine Gaylor. The AT runs right alongside her home, on Boonesboro Road; just before the I-70 footbridge. For years she and her husband, Dick, have been providing a cooler of trail magic right by their driveway. They also have a register that hikers can sign enclosed in a very clever Plexiglas case. She told us that any time we wanted to leave trail magic by their house, we were welcome to do so. We may just take her up on her generous offer. With some time to kill before our campsite was officially available, we sat in front of the center, ate lunch and then took a drive to the Reno Monument Road trailhead; site of an historic Civil War battle. From the trailhead we hiked the 1.0 mile in to see how construction of the new Rocky Run Shelter was coming along. We remember staying at the old shelter during one of our preparation hikes and, even back then, we knew that this shelter had outlived its usefulness. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club had been working on the replacement for some time and several hikers talked about staying there. We arrived to find “Oscar,” of the PATC, putting some finishing touches on the inside of the shelter. As time passed, several other day/section hikers arrived and rested on the front porch. We were a bit surprised to find the shelter incomplete since several hikers had told us they stayed there over the last few days. The privy was yet to be completed, so hikers still had to use the one at the old shelter. This new shelter is spacious, with a large covered porch and room for what appeared to be 8-10 hikers. It is truly beautiful and as we left we thanked “Oscar” for all his hard work and asked him to pass on our thanks to the many other PATC volunteers who had been working on this shelter for so many months. It was a marvelous day to hike but when we arrived back at our car we both had the uncontrollable urge to find some ice cream. Off to Smithsburg we went where we found Debbie’s Soft Serve Ice cream, ordered a milk shake (in honor of our friend “Jellybean” who is hiking the PTC and who writes us every other day to tell us about all the milkshakes she has had along the way) and a root beer float for me. They really hit the spot! It was almost 3:00 p.m., registration time at the park, so we drove back, checked in, set up camp, took showers, ate dinner, and then helped Mike set up a huge tent for his sister and her kids. Boy that tent was heavy! Ah, the joy of car camping – weight is never an issue and comfort and convenience take precedence. However, setting it up made us appreciate our one-pole, 3 lb, 6 oz. tarp tent. We spent a few minutes talking to old friend Randy Jenkins and the campground hosts, Roseanne and Max. They had heard about our upcoming AT presentation and apparently it has received a lot of good reviews from the campground staff so we were even more excited about doing it than even last year. We made a brief hike around the nearby campsites to see who all was there that we knew and then headed back to camp. Knowing that we needed to be up very early to meet “Josh” and “Snoopy” in Blue Ridge Summit the next morning, we were in our bags at “hiker midnight” but found it hard to fall asleep because of all the campground noise. Man, just give us a mountaintop with just the sound of the wind and the birds any day.
Saturday, May 24th
Red Trail – (4 miles) Lots to do today and a tight schedule to keep so we were up very early and off to Blue Ridge Summit to pick up “Snoopy” and “Josh.” – Thank goodness for onboard GPS! On the way, we stopped at a Food Lion to pick up breakfast and trail magic for the guys and other hikers we might run into. We bought blueberry muffins, a cooler, ice and juices. It harkened us back to the days on our thru-hike when “V&A” surprised us with the same things. Now it is our turn to return the favor. As soon as we arrived at the trailhead at PA-16, the guys rolled in and we spent a few minutes having breakfast before heading to Gettysburg. We had a great trip to the Walmart in Gettysburg where the guys were going to restock before meeting “Josh’s” uncle for lunch. We enjoyed our time with “Snoopy” and “Josh” and wished “Snoopy” good luck on the remainder of his thru-hike. Now it was back to Greenbrier, arriving just in time for a “day hiking” seminar and a short nature hike. We got a kick out of the kids on the hike and how their energy overshadowed their ability to take in the information being provided by our guide. With our warm-up hike out of the way, we hit the “Big Red Trail” for a brisk 4-mile walk during which we picked up trash long the way and also stopped for a snack. It was a bit discouraging to find o much trash on the trail, most of which was left behind by mountain bikers. How did we know this? Most of the trash we found was in the form of empty “Goo” packs and no self-respecting hiker would be caught dead eating that awful stuff. There were also numerous empty water bottles and hikers rely on them, even if they are empty, and would never throw them on the ground. With our daily exercise out of the way, we relaxed in camp and reviewed our presentation one last time before having dinner with our friends by the lake and attending the ice cream social at the visitor center. Right before our presentation began, we met “Coosa” and her brother. She was doing a section hike to Massachusetts and he was accompanying her through Maryland. They stopped in at Greenbrier hoping to get a campsite but because it was Memorial Day weekend, the park was full. We invited them to stay with us at our site where they could sleep in our screened-in gazebo. It felt wonderful to be able to help another AT hiker with “trail magic.” We love being trail angels. Our presentation was well attended and went very well. Ranger McCorkle gave us a wonderful introduction and gave everyone a brief background on who we were and what we were going to talk about. There were many questions, and because of that, the presentation ran way over its allotted time. Back we went to camp, with “Coosa” and her brother riding along, and after a few minutes of conversation, we all called it a day.
Sunday, May 26th
While the rest of our camping group prepared their Sunday morning vittles, we drove “Coosa” and her brother back to the trail, near Boonesboro Road, wished them luck on their journey, and drove back to our campsite to complete packing up our gear for the trip home. The weekend had been an amazingly restful, though eventful, time for us but now, knowing that we had to rush home and hurriedly prepare to leave for Las Vegas the following morning, the stress level began to rise noticeably. We emotionally regrouped, made a list of what needed to be done before leaving for two weeks and took a deep breath. Having a plan seemed to make it all much less overwhelming. We could not wait to get our bags packed and head west for another big adventure; one that had been on our “Life Plan” (or as people now call it, our “Bucket List”) for some time. We were going to spend eight days rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Bring it on!