Like A Tree by Justin Rizzo
“I want to be unmovable and unshakable, So let my roots go down deep, unmovable and unshakable in You
I, I want to be like a tree planted by the streams of living water”
Finally, a little free time to hang (literally and figuratively) with the usual suspects (Paul Cummings w/ sons Sean, Matt, Brian and Josh, Dave Darrow w/ sons Dan and Noah, Dean Delfico, and Josh Gordon) as well as newcomers Mike Ryan and his son Shawn. We were looking for a trip with a little flexibility since some of us were out for three days while some needed to bail after two. After a bit of homework and discussion the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail seemed to be the best choice. We met at Calvary Chapel Bellmawr, and after stuffing our faces at Waffle House and spotting the cars at Crampton Gap and Turner Gap we started off southbound from Wolfsville Road.
The trail begins with a long, moderate climb to the ridge top.
Once on top we took a short break to regroup and headed on to the first overlook for lunch. It was nice to be able to catch some views and relax.
Once you are on the ridge top the trail between Wolfsville Road and Interstate 70 becomes a nice woods road that is fairly level for most of it’s length. After watering up at Pogo Memorial Campsite we were off to Black Rock Cliffs.
After we finished taking in the views we focused on our home for the night – Annapolis Rocks Campsite. The last mile flew by, and after arriving we spoke with the caretaker and chose a site that had the most level ground. I have to say, this campsite is very nice. Two very well kept privies, a good water source, and sunset views from Annapolis Rocks must make this a very popular destination in season. After everyone got their tarps rigged ( and I my new hammock setup – more on that later), dinner was on the agenda. I feasted on a concoction of rotini pasta, white cheddar powder, crumbled bacon, diced tomatos, and canned chicken. Mmmm, mmm, was that good! While some of the others enjoyed the sunset I fidgeted with my tarp stakes, since they kept loosening up in the soft soil. After a while I gave up and bunked down to the sound of a flapping cuben fiber tarp, aaaagh! I was just being lazy and would pay the price by waking occasionally to the crumply noise.
When I wasn’t being awakening by flapping I slept well – nice and warm and toasty. I forced myself into the 30 degree morning just in time to witness the gratitude in the men’s eyes as Dave’s coffee pot finished perking. All I heard was it looked like motor oil and tasted great!
I also quickly discovered that my bruised left heel ( from walking around the rocky camp in crocs the night before) was still a bit tender. Oh well, suck it up and keep moving.
It was definitely a beautiful day for a hike. The breeze from the day before had subsided and once we started moving with our packs on the morning didn’t seem quite so chilly. After a quick snack break we headed down from the ridge and across the one thing most folks don’t associate with a hiking trail – a bridge over an interstate highway.
I always get a kick out of how you’re never that far away from civilization on the AT, and yet at times you can feel so far away. The next few miles were pretty nondescript, and I remember when I hiked through here in 2004 I ran out of water on a 90 degree day. Then, as now, I was never so happy to see the “original” Washington Monument, only this time I was looking forward to a lunch break, not dying of thirst.
One of my favorite parts of hiking the AT in Maryland is all of the Civil War history. The trail passes many historic sites, and it’s worth slowing down to take a look. After taking the views from the top of the monument, I found a nice grassy spot and after lunch took a nap. Man, I love trail naps!
Before we packed up to move on I had the privilege of sharing from Ephesians 6:10-20, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness”. Truth speaks of God’s truth or faithfulness in keeping his promises. Righteousness involves a right relationship with God, and a sense of that makes us fearless. Put on that armor every day!
Once again we were on the move, and the last two miles were over before we knew it. As soon as we started the downhill I knew we were just about there. At the last minute Dalgren Chapel came into view and it was decision time.
The heel of my bruised left foot had been bothering me most of the day. I didn’t want to bail on the trip, but wasn’t completely sure I was up to the next part of the hike. Since Paul and Mike and their boys were leaving us at this point, I asked them to shuttle me to my truck so I could bring it to Turner Gap. After taking care of that Dean, Dave and I discussed tomorrows options. I told the guys they could slack pack to Crampton Gap without me, since they could leave their gear with me, and I would meet them there. When I brought up the idea of slack packing with them Dean said,” That’s not an option – I’ve never seen you hurting like this before.” He’s been with me on more than a few trips, so he knows me pretty good and I figured he was right. So on to plan “C”, camp on the AT at Dalgren Backpackers Campsite (since we were planning on doing that anyway), and hit Harpers Ferry in the morning. In the end this turned out to be a great choice.
We set up camp, along with 2 thru hikers and 3 fellows finishing up Maryland. The Dalgren Backpackers Campsite is a nice service provided by the state of Maryland. While it’s only 2/10’s of a mile from Turner Gap, it’s still a really nice site. There are showers and restrooms, running water, and each site has a bench, picnic table, and fire ring. And it’s FREE!
My first order of business was finding a place to hang. This was my first trip out with this setup and only my second night, but I was already lovin’ it. My old hammock setup was a Hennessey Hammock with 2QZQ’s mod# 4 (which I highly recommend to all you HH users), with a tewa breeze underquilt, and an End2End Trail Supply 8×10 silnylon tarp. My current rig is a Warbonnet Traveler single layer 1.7, Whoopie Slings with Dutch hooks, 1″ nylon tree huggers with Dutch Clips, a Hammock Gear Incubator underquilt (0 degree on this trip), Hammock Gear cuben fiber tarp with Tarp Flyz and Fling-it line.My bag of choice for this trip was a Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15. I was VERY warm, but look forward to a lighter bag and underquilt as the seasons progress. Also, I’m evaluating all the hardware my current setup has, and may simplify it as time goes on.
Before long dinner was past and the fire was dying, and it was time to bid farewell to another day on the trail. What a pleasant trip, what great company!
Dawn always comes too early it seems, but nothing gets one moving like calisthenics with Dean. It was great fun to watch Dean and Noah get pumped up for another day, and Dave’s coffee didn’t seem to hurt either.
Once we packed up and loaded my truck we decided to grab some real breakfast food. We hit a little place in Boonsboro called Bonnies at the Red Byrd. I will tell you this, if you ever get in the area, look Bonnie’s up. The food, service, and hospitality can’t be beat. Afterwards, we gathered up Dave’s truck, and off to Harpers Ferry we went. We parked by the 340 bridge and took the AT northbound towards town. A little ways along the trail we came upon five feeding deer, who seemed none too concerned with us.
A few hundred more yards and we were at Jefferson Rock.
If you’re ever in Harpers Ferry this is definitely one of the must see spots. There are views of the Shenandoah River one way, and the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers in the other. I hope to return and spend a weekend exploring the area sometime.
The rest of the day was spent roaming the town, and ended with a visit to ATC headquarters. The folks there are extremely gracious, and love catching up with all the AT hikers who visit.
Once again, we had another great trip, and the weather was as perfect as we could ask for in April. Can’t wait to do it again!