There are many reasons to venture off into the “great outdoors” and go for a hike. Some like to hike to get away from gadgets and gizmos and clear their heads. Others like the challenges that facing a 1000′ climb can offer a person. I could go on, but you get the idea. Me? Well I like hiking for both those reasons: I’m so “connected” during my daily life that I forget how good it feels to be unencumbered by electronics. Getting outside recharges me. Feels good.
So, last weekend I went for a 10 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) from the I-70 foot bridge in Boonsboro, MD south 5 miles to Dahlgren Backpacker Camp Ground and back. This is a great course for a day hike for a number of reasons:
10 miles (for me) seems to be that distance where I get a good workout and can get other stuff done that same day.
It is “supported” with running water and restrooms (not privies or Port-O-Potties) at the 3.5 and 5 mile marks.
It has an overlook offering great views at the top of a mountain ridge.
This is also the trek I took the first time my daughter went backpacking. You’ll see why below.
Parking at the lot on Route 40, you take a short side trail over to the AT. It crosses Interstate 70 here (I’ll get to THAT later and then briefly routes through a residential street, then off into the woods. As you can see from the above map, this part of the AT borders Maryland’s Greenbrier State Park. It’s a wonderful park for hiking, camping (RV and tent), fishing, boating, swimming and relaxing. There is a good map of their trails at http://gpstrailsource.com/parks/maryland/greenbrier-state-park/map/. If you geocache, there are only a BILLION caches on the Greenbrier trails. But I digress… The Bartman Hill Trail connects Greenbrier to the AT. It is a steep trail, going straight up a hill, from what I remember.
After Bartman Hill Trail, there is really just dirt, rock and trees for a while (and a couple roads and power lines to cross). Around mile 3.5 you’ll climb a hill up to the Washington Monument State Park, you’ll be greeted with a stone monument (walk up the stairs!), benches and a great view from atop South Mountain. I like stopping here to rest, eat a snack or lunch and just look at the view (see “selfie” below). The park has running water fountains, bathrooms, picnic tables, playgrounds and a big parking lot. Nice place to just drive right up to also if you have less time.
Me at Washington Monument State Park
It truly is all downhill from here.Well, it feels like it. The next 2 miles to Dahlgren is a peaceful mix of pines and shrubs and more rocks. On the AT there are “gaps”. These are breaks in the mountains where usually a road passes through. Traditionally gaps are the low points and the trail rises on each side (which mentally makes them challenging because what goes down, must go back up on the other side). Turner’s Gap is a welcome exception to this where ALT-Route 40 (Old National Pike) cuts through the mountains. As you come out of the forest from the north side of the road, you’ll get a view of the valley off to the left. Old South Mountain Inn lies across the road. It is another place AT hikers park. The Dahlgren Campground is south about 4/10 of a mile. And easy downhill walk.
The Dahlgren site is like a Hilton to backpackers. It has running water, electricity (for charging devices), and real toilets. Did I mention that it has a huge area for tenting each spot has a fire-ring and picnic table. Staying is free with no reservations and there is no AT shelter.
Next step is to turn around and retrace your steps and you are done!
So what about the “hating” part?
Yeah…so picture this, you get out of your car after an hour drive to the AT. You get out on the trail and have a pretty relaxing 9+ miles over 3+ hours walking through the woods. Peaceful. Calming. Then you get back near your car and, you begin to be assaulted by the roar of the I-70 road traffic. And this sound can be heard from quite a distance when you’ve been listening to leaves fall for several hours. Then you get closer and see a pretty cool site. Below is the I-70 foot bridge over the Interstate.
I-70 Foot Bridge
And then the slap back to reality as you realize that, in just a few minutes, you will be back in your car on the Interstate, just like these people. I hate that.
And I can’t wait until I can get out into the woods once again.