The penultimate day of hiking on my Tuscarora-Appalachian Trail loop brought me a day of great weather and views.
The morning started like yesterday, overcast, with fog in the treetops. As I hiked up the first hill of the day, after leaving the shelter, the rocks were wet, and the ground betrayed a recent light rain. And as I hiked further up, I’d occasionally get sprinkled on by raindrops (or fog collected on tree leaves falling to the ground).
The only part of the day that was particularly slow or difficult was a rocky section of trail on the ridge after the shelter, and that was really only particularly slow since I’m rather cautious while hiking on wet rocks.
Along the way, I passed an older guy hiking the Maryland section of the AT, who said he’d met “Anish” in 2018. In 2018, Anish completed a Calendar Year Triple Crown, hiking the AT, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail in one season, making her the first woman to both hike all three trails in one year, and hike all three trails three times. I’d also met her in 2018, in northern California. It’s funny how the trail manages to connect people.
The late morning brought me to the Black Rocks Cliffs, a nice viewpoint I’d skipped in 2016. I’m unclear why, but it might be because I missed the sign then; it’s positioned to only be visible to southbounders. I wasn’t the only person to make that mistake, though; as I was hiking uphill towards the side trail to the views, I met a couple that were trying to find the view. They’d noted two side trails (that went to different parts of the cliffs), but didn’t see the sign for it and so didn’t investigate them and hiked past them.
By this point, the fog had mostly lifted, though while we were at one of the overlooks, a cloud blew right past us.
I stopped for a break about half an hour later at Annapolis Rocks, another view I’d skipped in 2016, likely because it was a quarter-mile off-trail. It was one of the nicer views I’ve had in Maryland, but it didn’t come without its drawbacks. Above the rock outcrops, swarms of bugs were blown around with the wind, which was nice to look at until the wind blew them at me.
Also at the outcrops were an incredible number of stinkbugs. It was particularly jarring, since, so far, I’d not seen any on the trail, but here, they were almost everywhere.
What really surprised me, though, was the large number of people at Annapolis Rocks (and out hiking in general), on a Monday. Later, it occurred to me that, since it was a Jewish holiday, schools in Maryland probably had off for the day.
The trail the rest of the day was relatively easy, and I made good time to my next break at the Washington Monument, near Boonsboro, MD. Unfortunately, the tower itself was closed due to the coronavirus, but the view from the rocks behind the monument was still good.
Three bird watchers at the monument were busy looking out for birds-of-prey (and calling out when they spotted one), though it wasn’t until they’d called out a few that I was sure they were bird watchers and not airplane watchers.
One of the bird watchers turned out to be a former AT trail maintenance volunteer, and we had a brief chat about the Tuscarora (and it’s relative lack of maintenance in Pennsylvania, compared to Virginia).
As I left the monument, a nice breeze picked up, which followed me at least part of the way to the Rocky Run Shelter, where I stopped for the day. There were actually two shelters in the area; a new one, built almost exactly the same as Raven Rock Shelter, and a much older (and likely CCC built) shelter that was one of the more interesting (and cramped) shelter designs I’ve ever seen.
I hadn’t been intending on finding the old shelter, but I wound up there while looking for water. A path from the new shelter led downhill to a small creek. Investigating the creek, I slowly worked my way upstream, trying to find a larger drop in the creek so I could more easily collect water in my water bag. I finally found a suitable drop, and was able to fill my water bag, and then I noticed the shelter. After taking a look at the shelter, I happened to notice the source of the creek: a spring forming a pool of water, which fed into a pipe that was the source of all the water for the creek. If I’d have actually seen that first, it’d have saved me a minute or two (and inching my way up the creek on wet rocks trying to get to a better position to collect water).
Back at the new shelter, I noticed that, like Annapolis Rocks, it too was nearly overrun with stinkbugs. I swept the floor (and the walls) to get many of the bugs out of the shelter, but they were literally coming out of the woodwork as I swept, so I just had to hope they weren’t going to get into everything overnight.
Cody and Rita arrived probably an hour after I got there, and we continued our conversations from previous nights. Sometime after dark, we saw a headlamp approaching, but it turned off the trail as it approached the shelter. We thought that maybe they saw the bright light Cody had hung from the shelter entrance and the three of us being not terribly quiet, and decided that they wanted someplace quieter to camp. Later, around ten, we saw another headlamp, and this one came to the shelter. It was "Mushroom”, who was attempting the Four State Challenge. He’d started around noon, and was here to take a two or three hour nap, before continuing on. With about 18 miles to go to complete the challenge, he still had plenty of time left, even if he took a longer-than-planned nap.
Tomorrow: The weather forecast looks concerning, with rain forecast for most of the afternoon. But with less than 17 miles to go to complete my loop of the Tuscarora and Appalachian Trails, if I leave early enough in the morning, I should be able to beat the rain.