As before all of my AT trips, it started with a longing for the trail I couldn’t ignore anymore. After weighing some options, and reeling from an incredible trip to Gettysburg in May with my mom, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
Maryland isn’t close to us by any means (about 12 hours driving), but with Brian laid off for 2 months and my flexible schedule, we decided to head east for a cheap week to celebrate the 4th of July in Gettysburg (he really let me embrace my inner history nerd. I got to see a Gettysburg battle reenactment!) and then we would proceed to tackle the 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. With endeavors like the “4 State Challenge” and the “Maryland Challenge” – how hard could this section really be?
When I was researching the Maryland section of the AT, I couldn’t find much info outside of the fun stuff like those linked above. Of course you have Guthook app (if you’re an AT or long trail newbie, this app is a MUST) and some blogs, vlogs and Facebook groups to check out – but with it being an only 40 mile section (enough for a long weekend for us section hikers but nothing to write home about, blink of an eye for thru-hikers) I wanted a detailed trip report. When I plan a hike I want to know exactly what to expect so that I can mentally prepare for it!
I joined a Maryland Hikers Facebook group and of course was already part of the always helpful Appalachian Trail Women’s Group to ask a few questions, and one of the most beneficial tips I received was to hike Maryland Southbound. I will say I am beyond happy with this choice on a hot, hot 2.5 days. Some of the descents we did were very difficult, and I can’t imagine climbing up in 100° weather. On that note, Southbound still had it’s challenges. I will share more of that in Part 2.
In a sequel, I will try to guide you mile by mile on our trip, with corresponding photos if I have them! There were some miserable stretches where my phone didn’t come out for a few hours. What I wore, how we prepped, and what we brought will also be featured.
Monday July 5th: Day 1 // 18.5 miles // 88°
SLACKPACK: we parked our truck at Highway 70/Boonsboro Road trailhead and got a shuttle to PenMar Park. (7:30am – 6:30pm) ***A wonderful gal I met in the Women’s AT group, Kim, shuttled us. I won’t leave any information for her as she was just a kind volunteer***
“Slackpacking” is hikerslang term essentially meaning you get to hike without your backpacking gear to make your day easier. We were on the final day of our rental at an Airbnb about 15 min from our ending point trailhead, so we parked at that TH and got a shuttle to the beginning. At the end of our day instead of setting up camp, we got to drive back to our Airbnb and shower and sleep in a bed.
All we carried was our food for the day, water, first aid stuff and the water filter. Some may argue this is a day hike. Sure, it technically was. But also most people don’t put in 20 miles for a day hike – we ditched our gear for day 1 so we could go as far as possible to make day 2 & 3 easier! We were on a mission to do the whole state, and we would have typically camped – but the luxury of an Airbnb night after a long hot day was much more appealing.
Tuesday July 6th: Day 2 // 12.2 miles // 95°
BACKPACK: parked at Harper’s Ferry Station and got a shuttle to Highway 70/Boonsboro Road trailhead, where we left off Monday evening. (9:30am start) *** Mark “Strings” Cusic shuttles VA, WV, PA, MD! (304) 433-0028 text or call***
BREAK: at Rocky Run Shelter (2pm – 3:30pm lunch/nap)
CAMP: at Crampton Gap Shelter (6:30pm end)
Wednesday July 7th: Day 3 // 11 miles // 94°
BACKPACK: left camp at 6:30am and made it to Harper’s Ferry before 12pm
I don’t know what our pack weights were for this trip. We each carried about 3L-4L of water consistently due to the weather. I also omitted a few things I normally take because it was a quickie and because of the heat. For example, I only brought a 40L backpack as opposed to my 60L, a 2 person tent vs. our 3 person, we shared a quilt (that we really only needed in the early morning chill) so that saved weight and space, we didn’t bring pillows or any extra clothes besides fresh socks and each of us brought one shirt and bottom. Honestly, we could have skipped the extra clothes all together. We ended up just sleeping in what we hiked in all day. So. Tired.
In Brian’s 48L Osprey Kestrel pack:
In my REI Co-Op Trail 40 Pack:
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We pretreated our clothing with Permethrin. We switched what we wore between Day 1 to Day 2 because we stayed at an Airbnb so we had the luxury of putting on clean clothes. Guys have it so much easier than women do to be honest. Brian just wore running shorts and a dri-fit tee both days.
If you are chesty or have thick thighs, you have to really be aware of chafing in the heat. Bike shorts are your best bet in this case! On a bit of a thick girl clothing rant – I think I’ve tried every sports bra under the sun, having a 40DDD bust. I have sensory issues so I hate the way racerback bras feel, and I hate underwire. But I have to have support. Cue in TomboyX with their compression tops!!! An absolute win. Mesh inlay, full support, moisture wicking and very comfortable. Woohoo!
A few things I’ll touch on for clothing: merino socks are a must. Wool “sounds” terrible, but it truly keeps your feet dry and helps prevent blisters. (More on blisters in Part 2…)
A COOLING TOWEL. You can use a bandana to dunk and keep around your neck as well, but the material these cooling towels are comprised of is impressive to me. It would stay wet and chilly for about 2.5 hours, even in the extreme heat. It also doubled as a snot rocket bungee jump rag. (Again…Part 2 holds many things.)
Among the very few things I wish I brought – my bug head net. The gnats and flies were relentless in the July heat. For some reason they LOVE swarming your face and eyes. I also wish I had brought a bug spray for the evening hours when mosquitoes were out. I did use Picaridin lotion but I believe it had beyond sweat off by camp time.
The Appalachian Trail is 2,190 miles long. Traditionally, hikers start South at Springer Mountain Georgia. This is hiking Northbound, or NOBO. Southbound hikers begin at Mt. Katahdin in Maine, Baxter State Park. Or, SOBO. There are also “Flip Flop” hikers, who begin at either end, hike to a mid-point such as Harper’s Ferry, and “Flip” to the opposite end and hike back to the mid-point. Section hikers, hike the trail in sections at a time. That’s me!Typically, miles would be referred to in full trail miles. Northbound, the Maryland section begins in Harper’s Ferry at Mile 1167 and ends at Mile 1126.1 at the Mason Dixon Line on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. For this guide I am referring to Maryland section miles only from North to South. 1 through 40.
These are points of interest that I found helpful. Mileage listed behind each item. Italic indicates bathroom/running water. Bold indicates viewpoint. Majority of shelters will have a water source like a creek and a rustic privy. There are also a few creeks you’ll pass along the trail for water filtering. The only one we didn’t see water flowing was the spring at Pogo Memorial campsite.
This trip shouldn’t warrant a resupply of any sort since you can carry enough food for a few days with no problem. There are a few towns off trail however.
If you’ve made it this far, good for you! Part 2 will be up in a few days. I will share more photos, a detailed trail report and my personal account of the trail over 2.5 days. Stay tuned!