Day 72. The extra mileage I hoped to put in yesterday was made up today. I got up early and hit the trail before 7:30, allowing me to leisurely make my way up the 25 miles to my destination tonight with plenty of rest breaks in-between and daylight to spare. And what a place it is! There is something special going on with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) that maintains the couple hundred miles of trial around Harpers Ferry. This is another great shelter they support with amenities galore. In fact, this one even has a bit of B&B style appeal that could even make my mother consider a backpacking overnight. :-).
The Quarry Gap Shelter is maintained by Jim “Innkeeper” Stauch, who has clearly put work in to this haven. It’s a peaceful oasis in the rhododendron forest you hike through on your way uphill. It’s technically 2 small shelters that hold 3 people a piece, but are connected by a large overhang covering and picnic table. Beyond that, there are elevated tent pads, a separate covered picnic area, benches, games, a bear box and flowery accoutrements everywhere you look. It would be very easy to grow roots here and enjoy this tranquility permanently if I wasn’t on a mission. I mean, look at the cute detailed additions below!
I am not alone here, but it’s not too crowded either. About 7 people are spread around different parts of the shelter area (a dad and his 6 year old daughter walked up as I wrote that, bringing the total to 9). As I sit here writing this, there is a hiker playing guitar near the shelter, two more swinging on the bench, and 2 more wandering the paths that curiously stretch out like fingers from the center. I’m telling you, it’s a special place. Once again, I’ll be adding this to the king growing list of places to come back to in the future.
It was worth the long day to get here, although (of course) the last 2 miles are straight up. This morning started with calm blue skies and it didn’t change all day. Early on, I got a nice view at High Rock (though unfortunately the vista’s rocks were covered in spray paint graffiti … a sad sight to see). That rock cliff has a road that goes right to it from Pen Mar Park below, so it must be a common teenager hangout.
Down at Pen Mar Park, a couple miles further along, a beautiful picnic area with the same incredible western view greets you. Normally, this is a great place to stop, as it has a concession stand and bathrooms for the public … but they were closed, even though the guidebook said it should be open. Harrumph.
Just after the park, you cross some railroad tracks and come to a signpost identifying the MD-PA state line – and with it, the Mason Dixon Line. Continuing the trend of awesome history separating this part of the trail from the rest, I sat at the border and pondered it’s significance while I enjoyed a snack. Along with this line that divided our county, I saw signs for Antietam, Gettysburg and other relics of our nation’s soiled past as I walked today. It is both humbling and empowering to hike through places where so many American soldiers killed each other to secure our nation’s future. You read about it, you watch movies about it, you imagine it … but you can’t truly understand it. Standing right at the spot where blood was spilled is a different feeling altogether. Truly powerful stuff for the mind of a Minnesotan to ponder, whose state barely existed in the same world.
I passed a few other shelters and campgrounds today on my trek northward, all showing off the good graces of the PATC some more. I saw a few day hikers as I went as well (startling most of them as I turned the corner singing to myself). But i didn’t see any other thruhikers until the end. Even with my long day, filled with breaks and pauses, I still was able to call it quits before 5pm. I almost considered going further, but this shelter was too beautiful to pass up for the night. It’s one issue is lack of trees to hang, so I’m sleeping in one of the shelters tonight. But, it’s so clean and pretty, I’m ok with that.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start Mile: 1060.8
- Start Time: 07:30
- End Mile: 1086.2
- End Time: 16:15
- Miles Hiked: 25.4
- Miles to Go: 1104.7
- Lodging: Quarry Gap Shelters