A couple weeks ago I had to work in West Virginia all week. Over the weekend Cara, Kaya, and I went hiking in the area.
Saturday morning we put on a few layers and went to the base of Weaverton Cliffs, the first climb in Maryland on the Appalachian Trail. Rain had been falling as we had driven to the Park'n'Ride at the base, but the rain had stopped but the day was still gray and misty. I'd been hoping for some nice views up the Potomac River to Harpers Ferry, but were not going to see any!
How different a few months can change the perspective of an area. Last time I was in Harpers Ferry, thru-hiking the AT, was last June. The temperature was over 90 before noon, now I had layers on and was glad I did while standing still. We made the short, steep, ascent up Weaverton Cliffs to the 'Blue Blaze' to the overlook, though there were no grand views, the fog ff in the valley was still pretty and made for a good back-drop for pictures.
On our way up we passed a few guys that were staying at the Ed Garvey shelter and had left their stuff there to hike a friend out before returning for the rest of the weekend. I would've liked to have been camping too, enjoying some backpacking and campfire chilling! Soon I'll get back out to make some miles.
ATC HQ to shoot the breeze with other hikers - always a treat to go in there. I found my polaroid in the album from last year, and wistfully paged through remembering faces and names of other hikers. I re-newed my membership (I had let it lapse last year on the grounds that hiking the Trail was more relevant than paying to be a member). I bought a AT hiking medallion for my walking stick, and a Christmas ornament backpack... I remember the days, not so long ago, that I would buy nothing that I couldn't eat because I would have to carry it! How the times have changed.
The following day the skies were blue and the sun was shining! We rode up towards Thurmont and went to the always popular Wolf Rock/Chimney Rock combination hike. We parked at the Catoctin ParkVisitor Center and ascended the hill. The weather was cool enough that I didn't over-heat but warm enough I could still feel my ears and fingers! Spring is in the air, nearly! I, again, looked down the 30 foot deep crevice my brother had crawled into and my Dad pulled him out with rope when we were kids - these are my roots, these are the places that have a lot of meaning to me. It was also here that I spoke to a guy that had said he had taken off of work to hike the AT, consequences be-damned. It was him saying that that lit the fire under me. It was here that the desire of a whim became concrete. I don't know who that guy was but now I can say nearly the same thing to others. I made my dream a reality.
From Wolf Rock we walked over to Chimney and actually got a nice view this day! After enjoying the sun and the view our stomachs told us it was time to go! I hadn't ever done this trail as a loop and so we went down to the HQ and followed the trail next to the road. For those interested in this hike, I would say go back the way you came. The trail from the HQ to the visitor center parallels the road so it's noisy, there aren't any nice views, and it's rather rocky.
Small world moment: Flip and his S.O. were on the same trail on the same day unbeknownst to the either of us! Had we turned and gone back the same way we had come in we would've run into them. I would've loved that, but alas, mere minutes separated us and it did not happen.
After this Cara had to go home and I still had some daylight. What to do? More hiking, of course!
I had done some research for hikes that I hadn't done in the area and on HikingUpward.com I found the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (or BRCES) - I saw that Microsoft had provided grant money to start the place up. I hiked around the trails on the property and would like to go back and see some more. The place seems oriented on field trips for schools, which is great. There were also some equestrian trails and a couple big fields for camping, and a lean-to type shelter as well. The property backs-up to the forest land that the AT passes through on the top of the ridge, but as far as I could determine there were no connector trails.
From here I headed back towards Martinsburg, but decided to take the Rt 9 approach so I could pass the AT one more time. And being that it was only 4 o'clock and all I had to look forward to was a hotel room, I hiked some more - yup 3 hikes in one day, it's a sickness. And at the end of this one the Trail called my name forward to re-see what was around the next bend, come see the David Lesser Shelter, sit in the swinging bench, look at the spot where your hammock hung, remember the spider web that was strung across the path and how you nearly walked into it, remember the conversations you had had with people at the shelter, and remember the cold clear water source down over the hill. I get on the Trail and these memories flood my conciseness, I remember all these details that I can barely recall normally, my mind goes back to the backpacking mentality, where my thoughts turn inward and I "expand" inside.
Time grew short, as it does so quickly when Saturday and Sunday are bookends to working, and I had to beat the darkness and get back in to the work frame of mind before I was completely overtaken and kept walking...