Backpacking, Hiking, Life

Backpacking to Harpers Ferry on the Appalachian Trail

I told you we are hooked! We sprung for a full weekend backpacking trip instead of just an overnight and we conquered around 17.5 miles mostly on Saturday and Sunday due to a late start on Friday. Ideally we would have hiked from the I-70 AT trailhead but that would have been 7 miles night one and we just didn’t have the daylight to accomplish that. So the plan was to leave at 3:40ish from Brady’s work, drive both cars out to Harpers Ferry, park and then take one car up to Washington Monument State Park and then start the hike from there. That would have gotten us there by at least 5:30 pm and been just under a 4 mile hike to the shelter for our first night. 

That was the plan. 

Hanna, my sister, was going to come with us for her first backpacking adventure and sleep in our tent while Brady and I were going to try hammock camping. We were expecting 2 Amazon packages to arrive that afternoon containing the second hammock, the tarp, and two 64 oz Sawyer squeeze bags for our water filter. Usually it gets delivered between 2:30 and 3:30 but we were still waiting on it to arrive once Brady got off work so we decided to delay for a little while and hope it came before we left. We played a card game and when it still hadn’t come, we decided to just go knowing it would probably get delivered a few minutes after we left. As we were walking to the door with all our stuff, guess what was delivered! 

Finally we were on our way but since we were leaving later, we knew we were going to be dealing with heavier traffic trying to get out there. We arrived in Harpers Ferry around 6:30 but the signage for where to park was very unclear. We ended up parking at the Cavalier Heights Visitor Center but even that was frustrating because signs said we needed to pay and you could only park overnight with a permit… but there was no one there to pay! We ended up finally leaving at 7, without paying, to drive the 30 minutes up to our start point. Since we were only going to have 1 hour til sunset, we parked on Reno Monument Road in a small dirt lot and started the mile hike in towards Rocky Run Shelter.

 

When we got there, all the spots near the new shelter were full so we went down the hill towards the spring where there was a clearing and a great spot for us to set up. Hanna set up the tent and then started making her dinner while we worked on the hammocks. A group of teenage backpacking boy scouts came in and set up in the same area right at sunset which was a bit of a bummer considering it was a nice quiet area we were in. By the time we’d eaten and gotten everything cleaned up, it was already 10:30 so we went to bed. I didn’t sleep amazingly the first night but I slept so much better than I did on the ground when backpacking the weekend before.

I woke up around 6:30 on Saturday morning but Brady wasn’t in the mood to get up so I just creeped on the boy scout conversations from my hammock until 7:30 when I made the family “cooo-eeee” call to my sister. I didn’t think she’d heard me but a few minutes later there she was going, “did you cooo-ee me?” lol. We filtered water from the spring which was right next to us and we finally started to tear down after we’d finished our oatmeal and hot chocolate breakfast. We didn’t leave camp until almost 10:30 and by that point everyone else had already left.

 

 

Leaving rocky run was straight uphill. I think we spent the first 30-45 minutes of the hike just going straight up. The first half of the 750 ft elevation increase felt like walking up a ladder so we had to stop a couple times for water to replace all the water I was sweating out. Yuck. Eventually the trail leveled out and we were mostly hiking along the ridgeline. We reached White Rock about 2 miles into the hike and had a quick snack by the view before trekking on. We passed a number of people who must have been either thru-hiking or backpacking a longer section because there was often a smelly cloud that traveled with them

 

 

 

The last section of trail heading into Gathland State Park was a fairly steep decline and was killer on my knees. Just before we reached the clearing, a loud explosion went off that made me almost jump full off the trail and give me a heart attack. If my knees weren’t shaking before, they were now. It turns out that it was a cannon in the state park near the pavilion where we stopped to have lunch. This was the halfway point of our hike for the day and we knew that most people headed south were stopping at the same shelter area that night. We didn’t want the leftover camping spots that night so to beat out the 2 groups stopped for lunch, we didn’t linger after we ate.

Over the next couple hours we shared stories about family hikes we’d done in the past, stories of silly things we did as kids, and just enjoyed hiking together. A lot of the trail at this point was following along next to a large rocky wall that probably would have been fun to explore if we were on just a day hike. 

 

We reached the Ed Garvey shelter a little after 3 pm for a 9.2 mile hiking time of 4 hours and 45 minutes including breaks. We did some exploring to find the right spot for the night and settled on an area right next the shelter on the north side. It was nice having a large log to act as our chairs and one of the first things I did was take off my shoes! I’d had a blister forming on my left pinky toe for the last hour or two so it was great to have naked feet. All I wanted to do at this point was lay down in the hammock.

We didn’t have much of an issue with bugs the first night but there was an overabundance of them at this shelter. I was getting eaten alive so we also strung up my bug net. 

To get to the spring at this shelter, you basically had to hike down the side of the mountain almost half a mile on a steep trail. We took all our water bottles and all the filter bags and came back with everything full so we wouldn’t have to go down again before leaving the next morning. I sat and filtered almost 6 liters of water next to the spring before we hiked back up and it ended up being an hour long excursion by the time we got back to camp.

 

 

Dinner was a bowlful of steaming hot Spanish rice and then it was time to hang the bear bag. Hanna wanted to watch the sunset from Weverton Cliffs but I had to make a judgment call… As much as I love chasing sunsets, I knew it was at least 4 miles round trip and I really didn’t want to irritate the growing blister on my toe so I had to say no. I mean I’d already taken 32,000 steps! Here are a couple of the photos she took though. <3 <3 <3

 

 

Sunday was going to be a hotter day than Saturday with temperatures well into the 90s so instead of taking the time to cook breakfast, we just packed up quick and ate from our snack reserves knowing we’d probably snack again once we reached Weverton Cliffs. Once we reached the cliffs, I think we spent at least an hour just relaxing and soaking in the views. I think we lingered a little extra knowing we had a steep hike down to the C&O canal below.

 

 

When you reach the canal, it’s almost 4 miles to Harpers Ferry on a flat gravel path that runs between the railroad and the Potomac River. We walked down to the water at one point which was a beautiful temperature, but we were all tired and ready to be off our feet so it was hard to think about enjoying the water though it was extremely tempting. We saw a lot of people out tubing on the river which looks like so much fun and is now on my bucket list for this summer.

All along I was thinking that the flat section would be the easiest and most relieving to hike but boy was I wrong. It’s long and flat so since you’re no longer focused on footing, it becomes dull and even harder on your feet. It was after 1 pm by the time we were crossing the bridge into Harpers Ferry and our focus was getting some ice cream to cool down!

 

 

We grabbed some Turkey Hill ice cream – I got black raspberry and cotton candy – and then walked up to the shuttle that takes you up to the visitor center so you don’t have to walk an extra 2 miles after having already hiked 6 and a half. Most of Harpers Ferry and the surrounding area is a national park and it would be so much fun to spend a day exploring and hiking… just not on tired feet. 

We picked up Brady’s car and while we were driving back to mine, we were looking up at the mountains and realizing… wow, we just hiked all of this! It was a pretty crazy feeling. We picked up my car and on the way back to I-70 I recognized South Mountain Creamery from the weekend before and decided we had to stop for some homemade goodness! Some grasshopper mint and lemon meringue hit the spot.

In the end, we hiked at least 17.5 miles (Hanna an extra 4.5) and came back itchy from mosquito bites, exhausted, and happy from a great weekend in the woods. 

 

 

What did you do this weekend?

Disney World, Vacation

Disney World Day 2: Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom!

Tuesday at Disney World was full of animals and Disney magic! We were at Animal Kingdom before rope drop which was pretty easy since our hotel was less than a 5 minute drive away! While we were waiting to be let in, I was complimented a few times on my dress and tiara which made me feel pretty princess-like. The only park opening we missed during the week was on Thursday at the Magic Kingdom – which I’ll recap soon – but of all the other parks, the opening at Animal Kingdom was spectacular. They told us that the Macaws were going to fly over our heads and not to duck or they’ll just fly lower. It was a really cool thing to see and experience – you can get an idea of what happens here.

 

They allowed us to go free into the parks at the stroke of 9 and we headed directly for Expedition Everest in Asia by going through Discovery Island instead of Dino Land. We were able to walk straight onto the ride twice in a row which was great since it’s one of my top two favorite rides in the park! However, since we did it twice in a row, it gave Brady a bit of stomach trouble so I browsed the shop in the middle of Africa while he sat. We were also trying to kill time before the 10 am train left for Rafiki’s Planet Watch.  Continue Reading

Backpacking, Hiking

Our First Backpacking Trip on the Appalachian Trail!

We finally did it! The first backpacking trip for this duo is in the books and now we’re hooked. We hiked about 8 and a bit miles on the Appalachian Trail and got to enjoy the vista views from Annapolis Rock and Black Rock. If the views are this beautiful here on our east coast mini-mountains then I can only imagine how breathtaking the views are out west. We enjoyed this trip so much that we’re already planning to go out again this weekend. 

I’m behind on posting our Disney trip and I want to get back to that because I want to have it journaled, even if it’s only for myself! My website has been having issues the last week and I’m hoping I’ve finally got it all figured out but it did throw me back a little. So for now, I need to get back to posting my current goings on before I’ve missed all the exciting happenings of my life

Our trek was a mini getaway since it was gear testing and was also a tad last minute. That’s not to say we weren’t prepared because we began collecting gear back in early April but a trip just didn’t work out until now when we were like, hey we’ve got nothing else going on, let’s go backpacking!  Luckily I had all the food and stuff we needed without having to shop for anything so I spent the day on Friday getting everything ready while Brady was at work and we left the apartment around 4:45 pm once he got home. 

We got stuck in traffic because of leaving so late and we didn’t arrive at the trailhead until 6 pm with a tad less than 2.5 hours before sunset. We were going to try and make it to the Pogo Memorial backpacking camp but we knew it would be mostly dark when we got there. Our backup was camping near Annapolis Rocks but I’d read online that camping there was allowed only in “designated areas”.

What did that mean?

Where were these areas?

How was I supposed to know where they were?

How many people could stay there?

I don’t like not having answers. Once we were on the offshoot trail towards Annapolis Rocks, there was finally a sign to answer my questions.  Continue Reading

Disney World, Life, Vacation

Disney World 2017 Day 1: Hollywood Studios and Epcot!

As I’m looking through photos to share in this post, I have some tears a brewin. Why? It was a really fun vacation and something we both really needed. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a vacation and this much one-on-one quality time. I wanted this to be a great vacation for my husband because he’s been working so hard the last few years. PT school straight into a full time job that he puts a lot of hours and energy into. He needed some time off and we had so many thing to celebrate! Graduations, anniversaries, birthdays… it was about time. I’m so glad we had this week for just the two of us; it really was incredible. Now I’m actually crying… aghh. 

To Hollywood Studios! I used the Undercover Tourist Crowd Calendar to plan out which parks what days and Monday was rope drop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Hollywood Studios is majorly under construction at the moment which really makes it a 1/2 day park. It’s almost not worth going to unless you have a park hopper… but with that being said, it does have a few of the best Disney World rides.

We were about a 7 minute drive away from the DHS gates and we arrived a tad before 8:30. We still had our magic bands from our honeymoon but we weren’t sure if they were still going to work since it’s been almost 3 years and we’d heard the batteries die after a couple years. Luckily they were still working which was a pretty exciting discovery. I thought for a second it wasn’t going to work, but the cast member was like, “don’t be sad yet!” because I hadn’t scanned my finger yet. Yay! We were in. 
Continue Reading

Life, Vacation

Daytona Beach, Disney Springs, and a budget hotel review

We’re back from Disney World! Well actually, we’ve been back since Sunday but it was an amazing and much needed vacation and I can’t wait to spam you with our vacay photos! We did 5 full days in the parks last week so I’m going to split them all up into separate posts so I’m going to start off with the beginning of our vacation just to catch us up. 

This post is part of a series I’m doing on Disney World – If you want to check out more posts, click here.

We left for our vacation after Brady finished work on Friday (May 5) and started our long drive down to Florida. Driving saved money on flights and rental cars so it’s what made sense. We had a room booked at the Hampton Inn in North Florence, SC on the way down which ended up being a bit over 7 hours drive because of the traffic we hit going around DC.  Continue Reading

Happiness, Life, Vacation

Our Disney World Honeymoon

After we got engaged in March 2013, we quickly decided on a July wedding the following year because there was a natural break where my husband would be out of PT school for a week. We looked into a lot of places for our honeymoon with some of the top contenders being Hawaii and St. Lucia. The reservation with either vacation was the amount of time it was going to take to travel compared to the amount of time we had total. 8 months after getting engaged we looked at each other and said, “Disney World Honeymoon?” It was the perfect solution since it would come well under budget (ie: lots of spending money), quick travel, no language barrier, and it would be a lot of fun. 

We decided to stay off property and rented a nearby private vacation home with our own pool. This saved a lot of money in comparison to staying in a Disney resort as well as being quiet and private. The company we rented through no longer exists, but Trip Advisor and Air BnB are great places to start your search. Some people feel that we were missing out because we didn’t stay on property, but having this place was magical enough for me!

Vacation Home in Florida near DIsney World

 

We flew from Maryland to MCO around midday on July 21st, 2014 (the day after our wedding) and we picked up our Chevy Spark rental car for the week since we weren’t staying on property. Renting a car gave us the freedom to go out for dinner, visit all the local outlets, grocery shop, etc, and the size of the car was perfect for the two of us! Continue Reading