Thursday, April 2, 2015

April Flowers on the Appalachian Trail

Spring arrived at Maple Tree Campground on 26 Mar this year

30 Apr: Today we agreed to end our hike. The rocks in Pennsylvania have been NO FUN, and we don't need to risk our bodies and health to the whims of the elitist trail maintainers who think that Thru-hikers should be subjected to every stretch of NASTY rocks that they can find. Equally galling was the obvious disregard for basic trail maintenance (clearing water bars for instance, trimming overhanging trees for another, clearing smaller logs across the trail, preventing erosion by constructing water bars ... the list is endless). We are quite pleased with our hike; we enjoyed hiking every day; we got much stronger (and Younger Next Year). Camping was not Cynthia's favorite activity, but she adapted marvelously well to camping on this, her first camping trip. (Who else do you know that hiked 160 miles on her first camping trip?) So we are jumping north to a favorite spot, the Inn at Long Trail, which opens 22 May. There we can walk out the door and hike in any of five directions, see how our trail maintenance has held up in the intervening two years, and encourage hikers to use the OLD AT, now known as the Sherbourne Pass Trail, which we maintain whenever we stay there. Unless Ron gets a knee replacement, our future Appalachian Trail section hikes will be limited to five days between resupply and might involve zero-mile days for trail maintenance.



Rausch Gap was pretty place
man-made waterfall was scenic
Skyline will disappear in two weeks
geese laughing while Ron crossed log
This "bridge" is an accident waiting to happen

30 Apr: We were out of the tent early today, 7:15, and RevC hiked out of camp by 8:30, new records for us. The four Thru-hikers and Pack left before Cynthia, Bear and Rain & Sprinkles later. Shakedown Cruise was the last one out. He hiked along at full tilt boogie and passed Rain & Sprinkles after a mile and caught up to Cynthia at the top of that first long, long uphill. Strange that the hike today was again very pleasant with very few unbearably rocky segments. Trail reroutes and erosion were still highly visible and irritating. Sad to see excellent early construction left untended and eroding during every storm. We were surprised that our hike today dragged on long after we expected to be finished. The final uphill and downhill on raw, new, unimproved trail was an insult to sensible hikers. The high-water tree trunk crossing pictured was daunting and dangerous. After Ron crossed, he sought out a much less risky crossing for Cynthia.

29 Apr: Gosh, how quickly the memory vanishes. We awoke early, and again it was a pleasure that water was so near. RevC agreed to start hiking early rather than be chilled while waiting for Shakedown Cruise to finish packing; he didn't start until 10:46. Today the trail was much more pleasant and comfortable than previous days. It was actually pleasurable hiking. Ron set out at a very rapid clip to catch Cynthia and enjoyed the athletic exertion; his trail legs are developing nicely, painlessly. He caught sight of Cynthia on a continual uphill grind on an old road with good waterbars that needed to be cleaned, so he commenced cleaning after touching base with Cynthia. Along the trail today we met first Bear, eating lunch, and later Pack, resting beneath the sign for the "General," a derelict 1920s gasoline-powered coal shovel abandoned in the woods. Ron soon caught up to cynthia and invited her to lunch. Afterwards we continued on a nice, mostly-level trail through obvious coal mined country to the Rausch Gap Shelter. As we followed the blue blaze to the shelter, that very wide, very level, coal-covered pathway suddenly seemed VERY familiar to Shakedown Cruise. We chose to camp in a small tenting area just 50 yards before the shelter. The shelter itself, with it's rock wall and steps and the stainless steel spring-water trough, was memorable, one of the few remembered from 2008. Bear and Pack were already there with a new couple, Rain and Sprinkle, who began their flip-flop at Harper's Ferry on April 12th. Two Thru-hiker couples came into the shelter later in the afternoon, BootsAndBackpacks on Wordpress and IanandHannahsHike on blogspot. While we got an early start and had a good day, Cynthia's feet are again very sore, and she is very tired, mostly due to the blister growing larger on her toe.

28 Apr: Again we slept long and hard. Our sleep has been phenomenal on this trip. We awoke early in our secluded, off-trail tent site. Lovely that water was only 30 yards away, running from a spring onto and down the trail. Coffee and peanut butter breakfast were soon over, and Shakedown tried to pack quickly by stuffing the tent instead of folding it. By some miracle it stuffs into a smaller volume. Our hike started good, although we missed a landmark and passed the ?? trail unexpectedly. Immediately after that, we ran out of energy. For RevC, the problem was her blister; it had grown larger and more painful. The Band-aid was inadequate protection, and she was unwilling to lance it without a sterile needle or knife. Our hunt for a tent site dragged on and on, seemingly for miles, and we encountered an area thick with mountain laurel and covered by large rocks everywhere. We were surprised and relieved to come to ??, a greenish stream with one good tent site, although there was ample evidence that our chosen spot would fill with water in a heavy rain. It was only mid-afternoon, but we opted for the water and concluded hiking for the day. Soon after we had selected our pine-duff bed, another hiker appeared and recognized us. This was Sweet from a week ago, out to clear his head again. He hung his hammock nearby and commenced to read and snooze. Four more hikers arrived and set up camp across the stream before dark. This evening we discussed our hike. The rocks in Pennsylvania had been NO FUN, and it would only get worse; once we admitted that, it was easy and sensible to quit before the lousy condition of the trail caused broken bones or disaster.

27 Apr: Cynthia duct taped her blister. Ron wanted her to get an early start to see if we could hike f
arther in a day, but she waited for him a couple of times and was not very far down the trail when he caught up to her after packing camp for an hour. The explanation is that she feels much more secure if he is hiking ahead of her. Again we experienced several difficult rocky patches that slowed us down, and Cynthia's blister grew large during the day after the duct tape moved. We found s secluded, off-trail tent site near a series of springs that flowed onto the trail briefly before disappearing into the ground. Lovely that water was only 30 yards away.

26 Apr: We had been told that this would be an easy walk along the ridge without undue ups, downs, or rocks. That was NOT as true as we'd prefer. We were quite tired by the time we arrived and did not relish the thought of the 300 stone steps down to the spring. There was only one other hiker tenting there, so we decided to sleep inside the shelter for a change. It was a very pleasant night although a chill wind blew all night long. Cynthia had developed a tiny blister on her left toe, but her feet were otherwise without pain. Thank God.

25 Apr: Ron was up and blogging at 4:20 AM awaiting the usual call from his beloved. Cynthia exchanged her Solomon trail shoes for her older Vasque hiking boots, which turned out to be a good decision. Despite previous assurances, the staff at the Hilton Garden Inn was unable to mail our boxes, so their driver took us to the Post Office to mail our bounce boxes forward, one to the Lickdale Comfort Inn and the other to Port Clinton. We were all disappointed that Avon Lady Trail Angel Mary couldn't shuttle us to the Trail until 4 PM. Since we needed to get an earlier start (because our next re-supply is 7 days = 35 miles at Swatara Gap), we called upon the same cabby to drive us back to the Doyle for a beer and a meal and another gander at 2008 pictures (Six-Iron & Twelve-Iron, Loafy, Railroad King, Jukebox). After that we started hiking through town carrying our heavy packs close to 2 PM. Crossing the Clark's Ferry Bridge over the Susquehenna provided an interesting, bird's-eye view of the river's turbulence. Continuing across the RR tracks, we hit that memorable unrelentingly uphill grind, and RevC kept plugging along without rest until we leveled out a half mile later. The difficulty ratched up several notches on the rocky ascent that soon followed. It was a NASTY, ugly, ROCKY mess for a LONG mile to reach the ridgetop and procede along it. The views down to the river and bridges were certainly exceptional but hardly worth enduring more rocks. Once we passed the Susquehenna Trail blue blaze, we started seeing multitudes of day hikers out for a pleasant stroll, so we checked and discovered that the Susquehenna Trail bypasses the rocks, ascending via another route to the ridgetop. Again we were outraged that the powers dictating the official Appalachian Trail route (the ATC) subject their hikers to so much unnecessary danger. Just today (May 2nd) I learned of a hiker who recently fell on the rocks in New Jersey and broke her wrist. (On the other hand, Orange Crush is already in Dalton, Massachusetts.) The rest of the walk for an hour along the ridge was pure pleasure, with views of the Susquehenna upstream to the left and downstream to the right. The river makes a wide horseshoe turn through a gap in the mountains at Duncannon (part of which town were owned by a Colonial Swede Rambo descendant, Marcus Huling). After the river views were behind us, the farmlands right and left were still very pleasing, even after we descended from the ridge. The multitude of day hikers seemed bound for a power line cut that had excellent views or perhaps Table Rock. (Someone has tipped it off its pedestal.) We enjoyed brief conversation with a local couple who agreed that the official ATC routing over unnecessary rocks is DEFINITELY inappropriate. (Maybe that couple could date the landslide that buried the old, improved trail south of Duncannon.) The rocky path improved a bit towards the shelter, and we arrived there at a reasonable time but really quite tired. The new old boots worked marvelously; no blisters, no pain - what a joy !!

24 Apr: Morning in Harrisburg, PA at the Hilton Garden Inn, Ron updated (as Shakedown Cruise). With great anticipation and much joy Cynthia laundered. She decided to wear her old Vasque hiking boots (of the four choices in hand) to better cope with the notorious Pennsylvania rocks. After joyous anticipation, we were extremely disappointed that the Bass Pro Shop here does NOT have a restaurant; Ruby Tuesday was second best. Target furnished food for re-supply. (It would have been closer if Ron hadn't gotten lost.) Our bounce boxes are determined, one short, one long. After the freezing temperatures the last three nights, we are not quite ready to jettison winter gear.

typical exhausted hikers
Photo credits Vickey at the Doyle
again typical exhausted hiker, the General
view before the scary descent into Duncannon
We were thankful that the rain held off all day
Beautiful river views from Hawk Rock

23 Apr: Despite very low temperatures, Shakedown Cruise espied no frozen water. After biding adeau to departing ten-day section hikers Paul and Joni in the chill early morning air, we hiked down the 4 miles into Duncannon. Mee beloved WeeFee dictated that we WILL spend this night in a hotel because she will not tolerate being SO VERY cold two mornings in a row. Thank God that the temperatures should be improving soon. Cynthia was apprehensive much of the final mile by the fear of falling in the jumble of rock and the thought of bodily damage from such a fall, especially where the descent was precipitous. (This is what is meant by the term "exposure.") Once we were off the rock, her feet quickly became very painful as we walked on asphalt into town. Again, I am so proud of Cynthia that she was willing and able to endure such stress in order to "enjoy" the hike. The surprising part is that once she was seated at the Doyle (click here), the foot pain subsided instantly. The Doyle is an icon on the trail, and the food and beer are excellent and cheap. We enjoyed a hamburger with diet coke and grilled chicken with a 22-ounce Rolling Rock and a baked potato respectively, and Vickey did a marvelous job of cooking fat free for Ron. However, hiker accommodations at the Doyle are not quite up to Hilton Garden Inn standards, so Cynthia opted to hire a taxi to take us to a HGI in Harrisburg. Ron's reply, "Yes dear. "

22 Apr: This was a long day, 7.3 miles to the Cove Mountain Shelter, and the infamous Pennsylvania rocks and obvious trail erosion due to TOTAL absence of water bars causes a far rockier and more hazardous trail than necessary. (Apparently Pennsylvania trail maintainers like to display ALL their rocks to visitors.) The Mountain Club of Maryland (?!) maintains a very nice shelter and privy and must be cultivating the magnificent, Hydra-like growth of poison ivy atop a stump reaching out to the access trail. After pitching the tent and getting water from the lovely spring, Ron enjoyed an agreeable conversation with Paul and Joni. Cynthia was too cold and retreated to the tent early.

21 Apr: Ron is up before 2 AM in the suburban Carlisle, PA Hampton Inn blogging and anticipating a call from RevC when she is rested. Todays 6.6 mile hike to the Darlington Shelter again routed us over several stretches of nasty rock. Cynthia's feet held up well, perhaps because we started at a slower pace than previously.

WOW, new fleurs at lower elevations
Not quite a "wilderness experience,"
but lovely winter colors enhanced by a drizzly day
The infamous "green tunnel" draws nearer daily

20 Apr: Today Trevor was not feeling well, so Mary Lois took us back to our hike at 8:30 AM. Ron was up early typing and checking to see if the rain was supposed to end soon (YES, but they lied) or if we needed to swim. After waiting for the drizzle to end over a delightful breakfast at the Caffe 101 in Boiling Springs (the omelet was so good that Ron had two besides the blueberry pancakes), we hiked eight miles in five hours pausing infrequently to rest. As expected, the trail through the lowlands was wonderfully comfortable with only isolated patches of rockiness; however the 8 miles distance took its toll on Cynthia's feet (tendinitis, inflammation). Thunderstorms were forecast to arrive before dark (and they did). Cynthia phoned the Hampton Inn with high hopes, but there is no shuttle. Not to be deterred, she phoned a taxi for the ride to our Hampton Inn home for the night and again for a ride to dinner at the Middlesex Diner (which Shakedown Cruise remembered from 2008 - it is GOOD). After a delicious and filling dinner of haddock (Ron) and orange roughy (Cynthia), prepared to our no oil, no fat, no butter specifications, we retired very early to rest our weary, worn out feet. Ron did make a trip across the highway to the Love's truckstop for sufficient (inferior) resupply.

19 Apr, Sunday: Another lovely night's sleep on a comfortable mattress was followed by a quick breakfast and then church at the Tidings of Joy Mennonite Church in York. After lunch Ron enjoyed operating the clam shell post hole digger to deepen the compost pit a bit and to start a new hole. We thoroughly enjoyed our additional day of rest, worship, and conversation accented by lots of fine food - even hot air popped popcorn - an unusual treat for Ron on this diet.

Caught in the act - mending pants

18 Apr: York, PA. What a lovely day, and what a lovely night's sleep on a real, comfortable mattress, thanks to Pappa Bear and Mary Lois. Breakfast was fat-free blueberry pancakes (YUM). Today Ron (as Shakedown Cruise) joined Clayton and kids for a bicycle ride across the city to a green/ organic block party downtown. The weather was beautiful, as was the company. In the afternoon Ron borrowed the use of Mary Lois's sewing machine to mend the huge rip top to bottom across the seat of his hiking pants (by adding another layer of fabric to the underside). The girls were not so astonished since their brother Austin had sewn a dress for his fiancee. (Married last year; CONGRATULATIONS Austin, and best wishes for a long and happy marriage. OK, yes I can log on and finish this in the wee hours tomorrow [NO, I slept instead]. Stacking firewood in the warm sun was indeed pleasant fun.

17 April: Marvelous sleep, 53 degree temperature and we are well fed for a short four mile day into Boiling Springs where we were met by Trevor, a pre-med student and friend, who calls Ron Grandpa Shakedown. Our experience of the family's Care and Share Friday night gathering was awesome. The house and lawn was filled with church, school and neighbors. We will spend the weekend in his parents home in York, PA.

BoilingSprings is at lower elevation; spring is sprung !!
Wonderful contrasting colors, photo woefully inadequate
duckie in lake at Boiling Springs
Center Point Knob

16 April: Slept well, Foodified and Strengthened, we thought we were ready for the day; the hike was supposed to be easy, but it turned into a very tough rock scramble, twisted turns up and over, down and around, in very precarious positions. We were challenged! We set up our campsite a ways from the shelter because it was located too far off trail. After our delicious peanut butter sandwiches and trail mix, the tent is up and ready for occupancy. Orange Crush Just in time, it started to rain.

Mee beloved WeeFee showcasing spring blooms
Mt Holly Springs after breakfast

15 April: 7.5 miles, included a stop at a Deli for some delicious food followed by another two miles with a ride into Mt. Holly Springs to sleep in a motel. Zzzzzz

halfway marker on AT

14 April: Rain fell gently in the middle of the night. Awesome to awaken to the sounds of the stream with a lovely waterfall near our tent site and a comfortable temperature of 53 degrees. We had a great deal of energy today for the day's 6 mile journey that turned into a seven mile hike, proving we are getting younger next year. Thanks to our new friend Lone Bull who remembers us in every shelter log!!! Thanks to Sarah, new law school grad and Trillium, two courageous women hiking solo, for being inspirations. Thanks to Tortuga for a reminder of Robert Frost's poem: The woods are lovely, dark and deep,But I have promises to keep,And miles to go before I sleepAnd miles to go before I sleep.And miles to go before I sleep,And miles to go before I sleep.

13 April: 6.3 miles on a great stretch of the trail. We missed the mid-point rock because we were moving swiftly. Dear Trillium: we were saddened to read in the Tom's Run Shelter Log of the death of your grandmother. Our hearts hurt for you but rejoice in the inner awareness she is running the trail in and with you now and forever. Love from Ron and Cynthia

12 April: 7.4 miles to Birch Run Shelter

Quarry Run Shelter is one of the best (note hanging flowers)

11 Apr: 4:35 AM and Ron is again up and blogging. Forecast today and for the next week is marvelous, so we expect to hike past the midway point of the trail before Ron's next opportunity to blog. He will be recording daily blog entries on his Olympus digital voice recorder. (I wonder what it weighs; updating the gear list is in order ASAP.) Thanks to Rev. John Spangler and his lovely wife, Dr. Maria Erling, for transportation to the A.T. to resume hiking. Ron presented a huge surprise to Cynthia to fuel our hike (Dulce De Leche for RevC and Raspberry Sorbet for Shakedown). Fueling works; we enjoyed great energy, and the 2.5 miles to Quarry Gap Shelter just melted away easily despite ups and downs. As we approached a vivid yellow gate, Ron was greatly surprised to remember this scene and shelter from his 2008 hike. The trail was surrounded by lush and lovely mountain laurel, not yet in bloom. We chose privacy in the group campground, thinking that the VERY rocky path would deter most. Then we returned to the shelter and met the caretaker Jim, who insists on keeping the shelter neat, clean and tidy (including several lovely blooming hanging potted plants); he has been married 48 years to his childhood sweetheart, and she encourages him to get out of the house and into the woods. We met a darling three year old named Willa and a couple from Boston who impressed us with their ultralight gear made from cuben fiber. (The wife even sewed her own camp shoes that are feather-light.) Our privacy in the group campground was invaded by a pleasant couple and by Trillium, a delightful woman, mother of two teenagers, who hiked thru in 2014 and is now a weekend hiker completing a few sections she skipped. We had been reading Trillium's entries in the shelter logs and were amazed to meet her. Likewise, she had been reading Shakedown Cruise and RevC in the logs. In the morning, Dunkin Donuts delivered (photo)!!

10 Apr: Aleve helped Cynthia get a great nights sleep; her right hip has an aching muscle that is improving daily. At 4:45 Ron is polishing final perfection into this April blog post. We are sitting still yet another day due to forecast of thunderstorms - and again the forecasters missed; instead of thunderstorms, we had an hour of light rain from 2 PM to 3; hey, better safe than sorry; let's hope their forecasts for the next four sunny days are more accurate. Cynthia spent the day reading; Ron mending & blogging. We didn't even leave the hotel except for Ron's sunset (beautiful stripes of reds) trip to Subway (gormet meal). (The return across the wet field was fine; thanks to luck, not smarts.)

9 Apr: At 4:30 AM Ron resumed computer usage; Cynthia's sleep was disturbed in the early hours of the night by muscle soreness, but Aleve helped, and she slept soundly and awoke feeling rested. The forecast remains dreary and chilly, so we agreed to stay warm and dry in the hotel another day. As we hike, not every rainy day will have such a palatable option. Besides Ron has mending yet to do. Well and weller; We rode the Rabbit Transit into Gettysburg, and Cynthia again ordered a bowl of chili at the Pub & Restaurant; Ron bought two French baguettes at the Gettysburg Baking Company. Afterwards we walked briefly along Carlisle Street until the city's church bells started ringing in commemoration of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, which effectively ended the Civil War. Soon thereafter we met a delightful, interesting, and lovely woman, Rosalie, who with her sister were among the first to integrate Baltimore schools in 1955. Gettysburg College has a beautiful campus full of interesting old architecture (as is the town itself). We are now returned via RabbitTransit (our white-bearded driver is a hoot) to the hotel; only items left on agenda are a light dinner and warm soaking of feet in the hotel's hot tub. Wouldn't you know it, but the hot tub is kaput and can only maintain 80 degrees. Phui !! After the dismal forecast at 7 AM, the prognosticators revised by 10 AM, and no rain ever arrived until 7 PM - although it was certainly a cold day. Had we hiked, our chances of resupply in four days at Pine Grove Furnace would have been excellent; now resupply in Pine Grove Furnace is doubtful, so we will carry two additional days food. In the evening DNA and answering genealogical e-queries trumped mending.

Da Lovely WeeFee before Da lovely Tulip Tree
view from window of The Pub and Restaurant
Enlarge to read fine print

8 Apr: At 3:35 AM Shakedown Cruise (aka Ron Beatty) was awake and journaling on TrailJournals. Another zero is vindicated by the forecast and by Cynthia's sore feet and aching legs, although she reports the feet are much better. YES, we are getting stronger, and we believe that we are becoming "Younger Next Year." The city bus (RabbitTransit) picked us up close by the hotel for the scenic tour ending at the Pub & Restaurant at Lincoln Square. The food was delicious, especially the HUGE piece of contraband carrot cake. (Why did Cynthia not take a picture?) The Gettysburg Baking Company next door has several choices of yummy fat free breads (French & sourdough). We walked (without backpacks - oh joy) eight blocks (less than a mile - more joy) to the Seminary Ridge Museum to see pictures and documentary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Good God, what an awful tragedy; what terrible slaughter and suffering. After the museum closed at five PM, Ron could not locate his bus map, so Cynthia stepped back inside to ask the location of the nearest bus stop, and a lovely, pleasant woman offered to drive us back to the hotel. Imagine our astonishment that she knew about us because she is Dr. Maria Erling, Dr. Spangler's wife and Kim Eric's friend !! Afterwards Ron crossed the parking lot to the Giant grocery for Crazy Richard's peanut butter, but the chilly drizzle convinced him to delay the trip to Walmart (for MSM) until morning. Last but not least, we thoroughly enjoyed soaking our feet in the hot tub (although it was tepid rather than hot). Ron made full use of his time by mending another seam on his pants and by talking with a retired military man about the sorry state of the world.

7 Apr: It was a warm and rainy night. We were glad that our gear was dry as we packed in the morning. Ron made another LONG trip downhill to the spring for two more quarts of water. We were packed and hiking by 10:15. RevC is feeling stronger already and is far more optimistic about making a good long hike this year. There were two stretches of "gratuitous" rocks - indicators of Yankee elite-ism, provinciality, and "superiority." Coleman "sprinted" by us in the middle of the second set of rocks; he was also wondering "WHY? - are we in jeopardy up here on the rocks when there appears to be a perfectly fine tablelands slightly below us?" We arrived at U.S. 30 and were delighted to be picked up by trail angel and hosteller, Reckless. The log at the Trail of Hope hostel reported that NOBO #1, Windwacker, had come through earlier that very morning; Ron indulged in the proffered cherry pie while we awaited Kim-Eric's friend, Dr. John Spangler, VP of the Gettysburg Seminary and Director of Communications, who shuttled us to the Hilton Garden Inn east of Gettysburg. Thanks to all three men for making our trip to the hotel so simple and easy. Ron immediately walked to Wally World to purchase Aloe for his painfully sunburned back. (Oh what a relief it is - anyone out there remember that jingle?) The Dollar Tree provided Vitamin C, Glucosamine and Pennysticks Pretzels. We walked to Ruby Tuesday for mostly salad dinner, and Ron was delighted to hear from MIT buddy Bob W. We were asleep just before "hiker midnight," i.e. between dark and dark-thirty. We could have continued hiking today, but it was too likely that the forecast rain would have made the rocks were wet and slippery; we don't need to take that risk.

6 Apr: Good God, What a trauma we had to start this day !! We awoke refreshed; Shakedown had slept deeply between several restroom trips throughout the night. After coffee and protein powder, peanut butter bread with nuts & honey, Cynthia asked if she could help pack, and Ron suggested that she go up to the shelters to talk with the other interesting hikers and then on to the spring to get a quart of fresh, pure springwater. He continued cleaning up after breakfast, fastidiously packing air mattresses, dismantling and packing the tent, etc. Finally done packing, he walked from the group campground up to the shelters and was surprised to find them empty. Then he realized that the yelling he had attributed to kids at the parking lot/ picnic area was coming from the direction of the spring, and his heart nearly stopped upon realizing that it was probably Cynthia screaming ... and it was. He was soon greatly relieved to see her upright, but her legs were shaking uncontrollably as he hurried towards her. She had made it across the stream without difficulty, but panicked and froze straddling a torrent with one foot on one rock and the other foot on another rock, certain that if she moved forward or backward she would fall. Shakedown Cruise (to the rescue) crossed quickly to her and held her while she backed to the previous rock and back onto shore. We sat her down for ten minutes of shaking, sobbing relief before commencing to lecture (no, no, there was NO lecture, that was a joke). Once Cynthia had Ron's hand to hold, she crossed over those difficult rocks like a pro. Needless to say, 30 minutes of fear, screaming, and isometrics left her limp and exhausted. Back at the shelters and seated at a picnic table, she slumped forward, exhausted, with her head on the table. Still she insisted that we hike rather than zero. The caretaker, Curt's father, and his dog soon appeared to tend to the outhouse. He is also hard of hearing, but was a delightful conversationalist. He recommended that the blue blaze trail to Chimney Rocks was less demanding that the steep, "official," white-blazed trail. The blue blaze was also much prettier since it followed the stream for quite a distance. Cynthia soon grew much stronger as we hiked and enjoyed the scenery and the hike, all the while avering that she will never, ever cross another stream without Ron there to give a hand if needed. We could have stopped earlier, but RevC opted to continue to the Rocky Mountain Shelters as originally planned, 6.6 miles. It turned out to be a pleasant day after all. We set up tent inside the shelter (to keep mosquitos away) because rain is forecast for the night and tomorrow. A new NOBO hiker friend showed up there, Coleman.

5 Apr, Easter Sunday !!: And we did indeed resume hiking and thanking God for every safe step. We hope you also enjoyed a blessed Easter ! Cynthia was not feeling particularly well rested or strong, but as the hike continued, she gained strength and motivation so that we passed by the Antietam Shelter en route to Tumbling Run Shelter. One southbound hiker overnighting at Tumbling Run, "Shackleford," was resuming a thru-hike that had been curtailed by lime disease; another girl arrived later also resuming a 2012 SOBO thru-hike. Ron was grooming his selected campsite when the caretakers Curt, Tanya, and Mocha (the dog) arrived and recommended the group campground, "newly" built as an Eagle Scout project. Mocha loved the attentive petting, and Ron was very appreciative of the effort required to keep the usual trashy partiers out of the campground with such attractive shelters so close to the roadway and convenient parking. Curt highly recommended the local spring water (on the other side of the stream). We were abed early.

4 Apr: Happily ensconced in the Cobblestone Inn in Rouzerville, PA for the second night (with a third still reserved !), Ron is up again at

4 AM to wrestle with placement of pictures on this blog. Oh, yes, and he successfully mended another six inches of his cargo hiking pants. Breakfast at the Keystone was again wonderful. Dean & Benjamin & Ron went for a delightful walk in the woods. (That means they lost the trail & bushwhacked for a mile.) After discovering the absence of trail, they headed northeast for a while then west until finding a dirt road going south that eventually intersected the AT. At the highway, they enjoyed the Tree Trail, delightful although much neglected. Dinner with Jim and Joni at the Schmankerl Stube in Hagerstown was absolutely excellent. (Strange that the Hagerstown library looks so familiar to us genealogy addicts.)

3 Apr: Poor little SmoochSmooch hobbled the mile to the Keystone Family Restaurant this morning, and we were rewarded with a delicious breakfast of egg white veggie omelets. Cynthia had salad with hers; Ron had a stack of blueberry pancakes with syrup. As we returned to the Cobblestone, we passed by JP Nails, and they were able to immediately pedicure and manicure the WeeFee while Ron shopped for hiker foodstuffs in the adjoining Food Lion. The afternoon was spent by Ron mending his pants and by Cynthia pursuing new DNA results. Walmart sells a lightweight tent stake that is 2" longer and almost as light as an aluminum gutter spike, so we now have three additional tent spikes for loose soil. Ron spent the evening unsuccessfully wrestling with pictures on this blog.

Pen Mar State Park (thanks to Elizabeth for photo)
Mason-Dixon Line = Maryland is behind us now !!
Marvelous brook & bridge,
wonderfully open and peaceful brown woods











2 April: Today we hiked our final miles in Maryland, from Pen Mar State Park past the Mason-Dixon Line to Waynesboro, PA. Amusing that Elizabeth dropped us off in Maryland about 11 AM and picked us up three hours later in Pennsylvania to shuttle us to this Cobblestone Inn so that Ron could have a computer keyboard for his blogging. The wildlife sighting today was a tiny downy woodpecker high in the trees; his call was compelling, so Ron was able to sight him. Cynthia is one tired girl and deserves a sound sleep and a zero hiking day (or two); I wish we could find her a pedicure & manicure nearby.

1 April, 2015 - RevC: 7-mile exhausting day to Pen-Mar Park. Traversing the rocks and boulders steeply down the mountain from High Rock was tough. Cynthia rejoiced when Elizabeth, owner of the Nostalgic Dreams B&B, said she had space available for the night and she would pick us up in ten minutes. Her cozy home was a delight and so is she; she even did our laundry!!! Ron walked to the deli for turkey subs and fruit for dinner. Ron's turn to blog (as Shakedown Cruise): All is well - or maybe weller. Cynthia made it through several days and challenging rocks without falling again - even though her legs have been fatigued and her sleep disturbed. My legs typically feel fine in the morning and tire quickly on the first uphill. We are doing GREAT and are still enthused and still having "fun." The 0.2 mile loop to High Rock was again worth while for the expansive view, but the rock itself is grossly defaced by paint & graffiti; you begin to expect that where ever a road leads to scenery. Today a quail burst into flight ahead of us and glided through the trees into open air; four white tail deer fled uphill with tails flagging as they bounded. The plan called for no more than six miles a day, but the lure of a REAL BED was too great, so Cynthia carried on for one more mile despite a bit of wobble and stagger after the rocky, rocky descent.