One of my favorite things to do is to go hiking. I like throwing my pack on my back and taking off for a couple days to see what nature is up to. My favorite place to hike is the A.T., or the Appalachian Trail for those who are uninitiated in its splendor. I have hiked the Maryland section several times and I always manage to see something new each time I return. When I get back to the trail, it always seems like I'm visiting an old friend that didn't even know I ever left. Things just pick up from where they left off, as if we never parted ways...a welcomed homecoming every time I visit.
Last fall, my brother and myself and a couple of friends hiked a 90-mile section of the trail from where the trail crosses PA-94 south to Harpers Ferry, WV to raise money for the Save the Ta-ta's Foundation (a great organization that helps in the fight against cancer, check them out!). Due to our lack of fundraising knowledge, we didn't raise much money, but what we did raise was appreciated and we all had a good time. Except for those darned Chinese stinkbugs that were everywhere once we got south of I-70. They got into everything! From now on, I think I'll do my hiking in late spring/early summer before they become active.
Anyway, I yet again digress from the topic at hand.
One of the things I like most about hiking the trail besides the scenery is the people you meet along the way. I have yet to meet anyone on the trail that I didn't get along with or have a good conversation with. The people on the trail have so many stories, such diverse backgrounds, it is amazing the different people the trail attracts. Everyone I have met is friendly and generous. If you need help and they can assist, they will.
The shelters I have stayed in are, for the most part, well kept and in good condition. I have a couple favorites, one being the new Rocky Run Shelter. Water is a short hike down the hill, but the area is gorgeous, nestled in a valley, just north of Lambs Knoll. I have slept well there on a couple of occasions. My other favorite is the Quarry Gap Shelter that is situate a few miles north of Caledonia State Park. It is a beautiful shelter situated in a rhododendron grove. The caretaker for this shelter told us he hikes in to check on it just about every day and it looked like it, the place we very clean and there was plenty of TP in the bathroom.
Other things I like about the A.T. are the places we stop to eat lunch or take a break. Usually lunch is taken at a nice outcropping of rocks that gives us a good look at the scenery below or if we are in a lowlands area, we stop in a park or find a nice grove of trees to sit and relax in. Whenever we reach Harper's Ferry, we always go to the same restaurant to have a bacon cheese burger and fries with a coke to celebrate the end of our hike. It tastes so good every time, probably because we are tired of trail food by that time.
All-in-all, I would recommend anyone that can, take a hike on this magnificent trail. It is very close to so many of us and the outdoors can be so enjoyable. Also, it would be a good idea not to try too long of a hike on your first trip out. Try taking a couple of day hikes and see how much you enjoy it. Maybe take an overnight hike out to a shelter and back the next morning. If you feel like continuing or going farther, make sure you leave an itinerary with someone you know and arrange a pick-up or leave a vehicle at you destination. The last thing you want to do is get out there and have no way back. Also, carry a cell phone. So many areas have good signal that you can turn it on if you need it and keep it off the rest of the time to save the batteries. Anything else you'd like to know, just google "Appalachian Trail" and you can find more information than you will ever need.
Well, that's it for this time. Until next time, keep safe and warm and enjoy life to the extent you are able.