Saturday, May 5, 2018

Monthly Hike - April Edition

April Hike - Flip Flop Fun

This month's hike was a little different then the others I have done so far this year.  At the end of April, the ATC held its annual Flip-Flop Festival.  I decided that I would attend the festival (especially since I am registered as a Flip-Flopper this year) and spend the night out in the woods somewhere.

The forecast was calling for rain, but the day turned into a perfect one for being outside.  I arrived in Harpers Ferry before 0930 and headed over to the Conservancy to see what was going on.  

I visited the vendor tents set up in the Odd Fellows area, including the AT Museum tent, manned by Nate the manager.  

Next I embarked on a new feature of the festival.  I scavenger hunt that takes you to many of the area businesses to learn a fact or two about the trail and to earn a stamp from each place.  Once you finish and turn in your card, you may win some nice prizes (I didn't).  I really enjoyed walking through upper and lower town and had a nice slice at Mena's Pizza for lunch.  LoGear and I had eaten there after a section hike back in 2012. It was just as good as I remembered it.

Mena's Pizza

My phone battery was getting low, so I hung out in the Hiker Lounge in the Conservancy and looked through last year's photos as my phone charged.  It was fun finding my hiker family from 2017 in the large photo album.  I had a nice surprise seeing one of our Tramily, Bruno "Osprey G", who we had hiked with down in NC and TN and who had gotten off trail somewhere in ME after flipping up there.  He had been there a day or two ago and was heading north again to finish what he started last year.  

Osprey G, back on the Trail

Heading to Camp on the C and O

When I went back outside, it had sprinkled a little, but was still a nice day.  Around 1430 or so, I grabbed my pack and headed down to the Trail and then out of town, across the Potomac and onto the C and O canal trail.  

The AT turns right after crossing the river, but I turned left.  I was headed to a nearby Hiker/Biker campsite that was nearby.  I had stayed at this site back in 2013 when I did my bike ride from DC to Pittsburgh.  

A nice flat trail

I made my way through the throngs of people who had come out to enjoy the beautiful day and before too long, I had left them all behind and I had the trail to myself except for the occasional biker or two who would pass me by from either direction.

Heading up river across from town

The hike was nice.  Some clouds had rolled in, but the day was still warm.  The very flat trail let me move at a pretty quick pace (for me).  I enjoyed the fast moving and overfull river next to me and even got to see some baby geese along the way.

Goose family

After about and hour and three miles of walking, I came to the campsite.

I could see that others were already there, but I quickly found two trees that would work for me, dropped my pack and went to say hi.  They were two couples who were out for a Glamping weekend.  They had humped a Yeti cooler and some chairs in.  They were definitely going to have a comfortable night.

As I was setting up, a group of bikers came in.  This was another two couples with the addition of a one year old baby.  Everyone was super nice and we had some nice conversation. 

Chillaxin in the hammock

A little later on, another hiker came walking in.  He was an older guy with a pretty lightweight kit that I had seen at the Festival.  We got to talking over dinner and I learned his trail name was Uncle Walter and he was out for a few weeks hiking up the Trail.  I got the impression that he was out on the Trail a lot.  

A few more sprinkles came down as the day ended and we enjoyed the late afternoon next to the river.  I helped Uncle Walter with a small fire in the grill so he could heat his water and save some fuel and I went around picking up all the small sticks in the area and fed the small fire for awhile, just so I could enjoy the flames for a bit. Hiker TV.  

Late in the day, we kept seeing runners come by with numbers on their jerseys and found out that they were all running a 100 miler race.  It was a back and forth thing of I guess about 20 miles of the trail and they would continuously come back and forth all night long. 

As evening approached, I headed to my hammock to read some and before too long, I was dozing.  Night arrived and the wind picked up some.  It kept sneaking under my underquilt again and I had to put my puffy on halfway through the night.  I'm not sure what is up with my underquilt, maybe I need to redistribute the down or something, but it doesn't seem to be working as well as it did last year.  

Day 2 - Hiking to Breakfast

After approximately 11 hours in the hammock, dawn approached as a barred owl asked his perennial question, "Who cooks for you?", telling me it was time to roll out and start moving.  My sleep had been pretty uneven as usual when I first head out to the bush and the runners had come by throughout the night.  Most with headlamps blazing, some carrying on a conversation with their partner as they passed.  Most were walking now.

I did my usual leisurely pack up, as the camp slept around me.  It was a little chilly in the morning with a gusty wind running along the river.  I had my small breakfast and my coffee and was heading out only seeing the father and his child up and moving before I was heading down the trail.  The Festival was hosting a breakfast for the hikers and I was looking for a second breakfast, so once again my pace was quick.  I also wanted to warm up enough to take off my puffy, which I had started out with.  It's a little harder job to get warm on flat trail then when you have a climb in the mornings, but before too long, I was comfortable with just my shirt.

The walk back was nice.  I passed a few of the racers, slowly finishing up their last leg of the race.  I couldn't imagine doing 100 miles overnight, when it usually takes me a week or so to do that amount.  They all looked tired, but determined to finish.  

It was nice to see some spring flowers out and about on this hike.  My other hikes this year have very wintery to date.  The little bluebells, made me smile as I moved along the trail towards Harpers Ferry.  

Bluebells by the river

I also love the history that is this canal trail.  The old lock houses remain as ruins all along it.  This one was right before crossing the river again and entering the town.  

Old lockhouse

I crossed the river again and headed up the Trail out of old town that was much more quiet and sparsely populated this early morning.  It was a good climb up towards Camp Hill and I was quite warm at the top, when I veered off the Trail and headed for the church that was cooking the breakfast.

The breakfast was offered free to the Hikers, but even though I qualified as one, I donated a few bucks as I always do when I am out there.  If I can afford it, I'm going to give.  That's just how I am.  Pancakes, bacon and some juice, coffee and a banana were a nice second breakfast to my cinnamon swirls.  

I ate up and talked to another hiker who was starting the next day from Harpers Ferry.  I did all those things an experienced hiker does, giving my take on how to start and how to keep finding the enjoyable things that keep you going.  All the unsolicited advice that I have received over the years.  I hope I didn't annoy him too much.

I finished up and headed back to the truck.  On the way, a woman drove up and asked if I was a Thru Hiker.  I always answer yes to this, even though I personally don't think anyone is one of those until they have unlocked the Thru Hiker Achievement Badge after they have completed the whole trail in a 12 month period, but it is always easier to just say yes.  She gave me a small pack of goodies which I will take with me when I head out from Damascus in a short time.  Continuing my Quest and once again becoming an Outsider and Long Distance Trekker.  

What's Next?

The next few months will be full of the Quest. Pamola's Quest.  I enjoyed keeping my feet wet (sometimes literally) these first few months of the year.  Getting out into the bush and becoming an Outsider once again, even if it was just for a few days or so.  But now it is time to get back to it.  

My next postings will most likely be on Trail Journals, but I will still update here from time to time.  Until then.  Keep on Hiking.


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