If you love to hike, come to Maryland.
From Frederick, Maryland, which is just 45 miles northwest of Washington, DC, Hannah and I drive west on Route 340 to exit 17, following signs to Gathland State Park. Driving the winding country roads of the Maryland countryside the first week of November, we have hit bucolic pay dirt. Together Hannah and I will hike in mid-60s weather, ready for any unexpected adventure that comes our way. Freedom of the open road is a cliché, but it’s what I was hoping to purchase when I retired. I get that and more today.
Today we’ll hike south toward Weverton Cliffs (near Harper’s Ferry, WV) on the Appalachian Trail (AT) where we hiked just a year ago. Driving up the Gapland Road from Burkittsville, we come upon a 40 foot stone arch dedicated to the war correspondents of the Civil War in truly the middle of nowhere. And Nowhere, Maryland is just where we want to be today. No traffic nor list of things to do.
With no one in sight, we cross the road and find a welcome path to the AT. Today we are in for unexpected treat – ridge hiking. We’ll have a mostly level terrain across mountain tops, where the trail is wide enough for Hannah and me to maintain a rockin’ pace as we walk side by side.
Today on the trail I introduce the topic of how to share our riches. What is truly being generous? Giving what you have? Tithing? Giving til it hurts? What do we really need anyway? Are we letting prudence get in the way of our giving? Is our faith greater than our fear?
Without a conscious, frontal lobe focus on the giving-away-money part of our life, we just don’t seem to make it happen as much as we’d like. Here’s a thought: Let’s pick a dollar amount to give each month and the last day of every month see how we’ve done. If we haven’t reached our giving goal, we don’t leave the room until we find a home for the balance of the month’s giving. Let’s talk about being generous the next time we meet.
Side by side on dried brown leaves we walk through the Maryland countryside on this sun-dappled fall day. From time to time, branches with green leaves from a recent storm block our path, but they are easy to circumvent and return to the trail. We hear geese squawking south this November day and feel few rocks beneath the dried leaves. In seventy minutes we arrive at the turn to the Ed Garvey Shelter after 3.7 miles of ridge line hiking. By the way, Ed Garvey was a thru-hiker (hiked from Georgia to Maine in one calendar year) and a former president of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.
The shelter is a two story building of wooden floors with a loft above that is reached by a back entrance. Climbing the stairs to the loft we find a pristine room; the broom hints at why. At the picnic table out front we lunch on our Subway subs, scanning the valley below through a thicket of saplings. The raised privy lies to our south while benches on three sides in front of us face the campfire. Each shelter has a log for hikers to record impressions of their hike.
The latest entry is October 29th from a couple hiking during the snowstorm just a few days ago.
The firewood we collected was damp (even with flammable toothpaste) however we discovered skin-on-skin is a wonderful way to stay warm. – LaChelle and Tim
From October 4th
I was here 4 months ago. It was naked hiking day (editor’s note – hiking sans clothes on June 21st) and hot. How I miss the trail. – Yinz
Hannah adds to the log.
Dan and Hannah from York, ME – ½ day hike to and from Gathland State Park. What a beauty-full spot and shelter. Thank you Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. And here’s to Ed. Garvey. 2-Ply (Hannah)* and Jersey (Dan) [Our trail names.]
Today is hiking at its best: Hannah, warm temperatures, and ridge hiking on a trail wide enough to walk and talk side by side. We are blessed with this Maryland hiking escape.
As always when hiking, know thyself, thy limits, and the conditions. Be prepared.
*Hannah’s trail name is between you and her. Email her.