Becoming a Backpacker, Chapter 6: Our Appalachian Trail Adventure Begins

About a year from the time we’d hatched our plan to section hike 100 miles on the Appalachian Trail, Robin and I were in my car, headed towards Maryland, our starting point. I drove from Holland to Lansing to pick her up, and we spent the night doing one last gear shakedown, setting up her new tent in the living room, much to her cat’s delight, and then the next morning we were off bright and early. As we drove through Ohio, I was surprised at how quickly the terrain changed to mountains. By evening, we were checked into a hotel for our last night of civilization, basking in the warm shower and comfy bed. In the morning, we could barely eat at the hotel’s continental breakfast, we were so excited to get out on the trail. We dropped my car off with some friends, and they delivered us to the trail head. 

It was hot and sunny and I was sweaty in no time. After climbing our first few hills, I wondered how I was going to do this for the next ten days. After a mile or two, we arrived at the original Washington Monument, caught our breath, and enjoyed the breeze and view. We were already realizing that hiking in Michigan had not prepared us for hiking mountains. We were going to have to take care not to overdo it, as it was in the 90’s. But, the forest was green and lush, and every white blaze and AT logo carved into a trail marker made me smile. We were finally doing this!

The original Washington Monument.

We passed our first shelter way too early in the day to actually stop, and since it seemed likely that the pack of girl scouts we had been leapfrogging with all day would be staying there, we decided to save ourselves a night of group songs and probably no sleep, and moved along. What had seemed like a shelter option several miles further down the trail turned out to be something that was opened up mainly for groups that had made pre-arrangements, which left us pondering our first night of dispersed camping. When we were both too tired to go any further (17 miles for the day), we headed a bit off trail and found a site that had clearly been camped in many times before. There was an old tarp on the forest floor, and closer inspection revealed a wire grill on the fire ring, a skillet hanging from a nail on a tree, and a pizza stone leaned against a rock. We hadn’t crossed a road in quite a few miles, and the idea that someone had hiked in a legit pizza stone seemed crazy.

We set up our tents, opting to leave the rain flies off since no rain was in the forecast, had a few celebratory sips from the single-serving cardboard carton of wine I’d brought, and ate some nuts. Both of us were more tired than hungry. As the sky grew dark, we began to see and hear 4th of July fireworks from one of the nearby major cities. Just as the numerous planes in the sky had let us know throughout the day that we weren’t actually that far from civilization, the fireworks too served as a reminder that they weren’t far from Washington, DC.

The following morning we breakfasted on Mountain House granola and blueberries, which was delicious, and Robin broke out her stash of flavored creamer scavenged from the gas station to doctor up our coffee.

Yes, we carried packets of liquid creamer. The coffee was delicious.

We packed up and headed toward Harper’s Ferry, where we planned to stay in a hostel for the night because camping was not allowed within the historic town. We had survived (and enjoyed) day one!

Published by lovesmichiganoutdoors

Hiking, backpacking, kayaking, stand-up-paddle boarding, sailing... exploring Michigan is my passion!

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