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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?

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

Back Pain, Biking, Exercise, Goal Setting, Goals, Healthy eating, Hiking

September Goals!

Time to revisit those August goals and see how things went…

August Goals Revisited

  • Build core strength through my glutes, back and abs.
  • Continue to build on my fitness.
  • Significantly reduce sugar intake.
  • Work towards a regular bedtime and wake up routine and getting healthier sleep.

Maybe 1 for 4. I think I had a rough August because there were a lot of things going on in multiple aspects of my life and it was hard to start a routine going. Hanna left for college two weeks ago so I’ve been missing her. Brady was interviewing for jobs, accepted an offer, and has been working on licensing things, I’ve been doing various work including teaching Pre-K kids for a few days! By the way, they are the most adorable little kids ever and I want to adopt them all! I’ve definitely found my age group if I ever wanted to go into teaching. Continue Reading

Exercise, Hiking

Hiking at Great Falls

After a few days spent with adorable Pre-K kids I had a day off on Wednesday to go hiking with my hubby! He’s been getting paperwork done so he can start his job as soon as his license comes in. So exciting! We went down to Great Falls to go hiking because apparently there are miles and miles of really cool trails that I’ve only just found out about recently.

It cost $10 to get into the park which was pretty depressing because it was the very next day that the Centennial celebration for the park began and entry would have been free. If only we had known…

We picked up a pretty and descriptive trail map from the museum/tavern house and headed towards the Billy Goat A trail. It is described as a 1.75 mi hike with lots of rock scrambling and that good balance is necessary. You have to be in good health to do this trail and it apparently takes 2-3 hours to complete.

My phone died for no reason and wouldn’t turn back on so I had to use Brady’s phone to take photos which was depressing since his camera isn’t very good.

It was a beautiful hike though and better photos wouldn’t have done the area justice anyways. I was surprised at how many people were there in the middle of the day mid-week but the parking lot was mostly full and there was a good lot of people out on the trails.

august Continue Reading

Exercise, Food, Hiking, Life, Week in Pictures

Hiking Sugarloaf Mountain

The Olympics have ended, school has started, and people are already acting like it’s fall now! Stop it! I’m loving summer and though the temps are still steamy, I’m not wishing away the warm weather anytime soon. Saturday was a hot day but was a day that was begging to be enjoyed so Brady headed out towards Frederick to hike on Sugarloaf Mountain. I’m pretty sure I’ve only been here once and I was probably 9-10 years old when we did it so it was about time for a re-visit!

There are multiple trails you can do ranging from short ones to the summit (the parking lot is higher up on the mountain, i.e. hill) and longer ones out on the ridge and base of the mountain. We chose to hike on the blue trail which was supposed to be a 5 mile hike but I’m pretty sure was a bit longer than that. We went in a clockwise direction though it seems most people are go around the other way starting by the summit. There are some really pretty views out over the Maryland farms at a few different points along the trail.

Brady was the water carrier for the hike and though we had just finished a water bottle before the hike and had a liter for each of us, we probably should have been carrying more because the humidity was high and I don’t know about Braden, but I was dripping in sweat. We used a couple Nuun tabs to flavor up the water and pretend like it was giving us a boost.

The last 3/4 of a mile or so was kind of hard because I was definitely tired (and hungry) and I was feeling some pain in my back and was just ready to sit down. The trail was very steep and rocky in places, but there were also plenty of even-ish terrain strips that were good for catching a breath. It was a really great hike and a place we will probably be visiting again before the cold weather comes.

View from Sugarloaf Mountain

august-4 Continue Reading

Hiking, Holidays, Week in Pictures

Holiday weekend adventures

Happy Independence Day! This has always (well since moving to the US) been one of my favorite holidays because it’s usually one of the best food holidays and mostly my favorite weather. I’m very much a summer person.

It’s been an adventurous few days here in the world of this homeless Mrs. —we’re “homeless” because we don’t have anywhere to actually call home. We’re temporarily living with my in-laws until Brady’s out of school and gotten a job— Hanna came to stay the night on Thursday to we could spend even more quality sibling time together. We went for a somewhat hilly 4.5 mile bike ride. Apparently it wasn’t as hilly as it felt but we both have non road-cycling appropriate bikes which makes rides much harder… so lets say the effort we put out gave us more like a 8 mile ride ok? Maybe not but I’m going to be optimistic.

Would Camelbak sponsor this photo? Idk, it’s not perfect but for an impromptu mini photo shoot with my sucky phone camera, it’s a good shot.

 

Camelbak Podium drink

Camelbak Podium drink

Sunset view

 

If it hasn’t already become clear, sunsets are my favorite. So many of my favorite moments in life have had something to do with watching a sunset or doing something at sunset. All around favorite time of day. Continue Reading