Spring Hiking (Part 1)

I already wrote a spring hiking post, but I’ve been fortunate enough to go twice this spring. Here’s what I did for my first trip, which I took with my friend Easter weekend. We were both pretty busy at that point (my friend was in the final stretch of law school, and I was in Budget season), so we decided to make it easy by going to the AT in Maryland. The AT goes through a pretty narrow section of Maryland, has a lot of entry points, and is only an hour or so from both DC and Baltimore, so it’s easy to get to and requires little planning.


***Quick aside: I generally spend a lot of time planning these trips. That was true when we lived in Atlanta (and similarly would plan at least one trip each spring and fall), and it’s true here. I think my criteria are fairly simple:

  • Within max 3 hours drive (here in Maryland, we sometimes stretch this a bit since most of the VA and WVA hiking is juuuust a little further)
  • Reasonable length for two at-least-partial days of hiking (so… anywhere from 8-20ish miles)
  • Has backcountry camp sites

In addition to those essentials, I have some additional preferences:

  • Loop. But out and back is fine
  • Elevation change
  • Water source
  • Campground or other car camping available near trailhead for Friday night
  • Haven’t done before

I have a hard time finding ideal candidates, and then it takes a long time to find ones that meet some of the criteria, to compare them to each other, to find nearby car camping spots, to make sure there are backcountry camping spots, to figure out permits if necessary, etc. If you have suggestions for resources, let me know! I frequently use midatlantichikes.com and backpacker.com.

In any case, I hope this blog can be a resource for you for hikes that generally meet those criteria. Aside over.***


Needless to say, I did not put a lot of time or effort into planning this trip. And you get what you plan for. While the AT in Maryland is nice and convenient, it is not the most memorable nor scenic part of the AT. And the easy access means that it’s easily accessible to lots of people. I wouldn’t say the trail was crowded exactly, but it wasn’t very remote. We were never very far from a road, and our campsite (near the Crampton Gap shelter at mile 1029.4 of the AT, according to cnyhiking.com) was only 0.5 miles from Gathland State Park and its access road – which allowed for our nearby campers (we were one of maybe six groups in this camping area near the shelter) to haul in beer their friends brought for them and have a pizza delivered by one of their mothers.

Still, lovely to be in the out of doors, as always, and to spend quality time with my good friend and dog.

We hiked from South Mountain Inn to the Crampton Gap shelter (with an additional short addition to Gathland State Park), which was a little over 7 miles, and hiked back the following day – we essentially did this hike backwards.

On Saturday, we took a break (after only 2 miles) at the recently renovated Rocky Run shelter. We met a volunteer there who was hiking out from another shelter further down the path that he said was used more by locals for partying and therefore had a lot of crap. We took the same break on Sunday on our way back, this time going further to check out that other shelter (and let Clio run in the water that was down there to cool off – it was over 90 degrees that Sunday!). It was definitely much more rundown. No pictures of that one.

The trail itself was largely on a ridge. There wasn’t a ton of elevation change. It was pleasant and walkable.

The main points of interest were Lamb’s Knoll and White Rock Cliffs. We stopped at White Rock Cliffs both ways for pictures.

After arriving at the shelter and claiming our campsite, we continued on without our packs to Gathland State Park. The land used to belong to a Civil War journalist named George Alfred Townsend, who for some reason was nicknamed Gath. It has a monument to Civil War correspondents. It had a few other buildings and nice open spaces as well. There were some people in costume and filming (I think) in one of the ruins. Or maybe just taking photos. I only got a picture of the monument.

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After that, we relaxed at our campsite. We had a fire in the evening, watched the sunset, and I enjoyed early morning coffee and relaxing by myself before others started to get up.

On Sunday, we hiked back to the Old South Mountain Inn. It was hot. I got sunburned. After the hike was over, we stopped for lunch at Brew’d Pub on our drive home. I had a saison and a local wild boar kielbasa (sans bun). Clio rested her overheated and weary body on the patio. Mm mmm.

Dan and I are booked pretty solid this summer. We’re already talking about when to go in the Fall, but we have been invited to four weddings in five weeks between September and October (prime fall hiking months). At this particular moment in time, I’m feeling way too busy and reluctant to give up weekends at home. Plus, Dan will have just started a new job in August and won’t be able to get so many weekends off. So. We’ll see. Maybe it’s a really good thing I went twice this spring.

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Spring Hiking

I want to tell you about two hiking trips I’ve been on recently, but first, a few updates, mostly about my general state of mind:

  • My job is to assist in developing the President’s Budget (or rather, the small portions of it that fall into my portfolio area, which are all health policy related). The FY 2018 President’s Budget (which is a proposal to Congress for how to fund the government and a grand statement of the White House’s priorities) will be released soon. So I have been working more than usual. This time of year is usually in January, but because this is a new administration, it’s now.
  • I ran the Sole of the City 10K (pace: 8:09, although the last five miles were 7:51 – the first was so crowded) and the North Face Endurance Challenge trail half marathon (pace: 9:34) in April. They were both so fun!

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  • I am tired. Not physically so much (though a few weeks ago, I was that too – sleeping better now). But mentally. Emotionally. I haven’t had a lot of recharge time over the past month, month and a half, and I’m feeling it. I’ve been working a lot, busy on the weekends, around people a lot a lot, and just going going going. I haven’t meal prepped since I wrote about meal prepping, and I’ve run out of pre-made meals in the freezer, so this week I’ve been eating lunch out (hallelujah for sweetgreen order-ahead-and-pickup). This week feels a little better, even though I’ve had something every evening which has meant that I’ve had only around an hour at home each night before trying to get to bed. We have guests coming into town for the weekend tomorrow. Next weekend I’ll be in Denver (BolderBoulder and sister visit!) and the following weekend I’ll be in Grand Rapids (family trip and fishing!). The weekend after that is already super-packed. It’s just a lot. I’m trying to figure out strategies to recharge as I go, instead of needing a whole day (or even a whole evening, because those are rare too) with nothing planned and little human interaction.
  • Last week might have been less stressful and busy in the evenings had we not bought a new car! Mine broke the previous Friday night. On that Saturday, we made the decision to get a new car instead of fixing it. And we planned to shop on Sunday… but dealerships (and things like CarMax) are closed on Sundays in Maryland! ARGH. So we spent five hours on Tuesday and four hours on Thursday night dealing with that. And now. New car!! Hooray!

Hiking Trip 1 (most recent)

Despite feeling very tempted last weekend to stay home (see above), I joined Dan and another couple for a short (9-mile) backpacking adventure on the AT outside of Harrisburg, PA to Pulpit Rock and the Pinnacle. We originally planned to drive up Friday night, but due to stress of car shopping (and not being able to pack on Thursday night), we decided to go early Saturday. Our friends were driving down from Rochester, NY and had spent Friday night further north in Pennsylvania. Saturday’s weather forecast was for steady rain, but we met up at the trailhead around 11am anyway. We decided to give the weather a chance to resolve itself, and headed first to Hijinx Brewery then Taqueria Los Amigos in Allentown followed by Funk Brewery in Emmaus, PA.

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We made it back to the trailhead by 4 (still raining), made a plan to hike only to the AT shelter about a mile away and hang out there till Sunday morning, and set out.

Unfortunately, the shelter was super-crowded. So we continued on, hoping the rain would let up soon.

We made it to Pulpit Rock, enjoyed the almost-view, and continued on….

The rain never let up, so around 7pm and maybe 4.5 or 5 miles in, we finally called it quits and set up camp. My sleeping bag and pad had gotten a little wet around the edges (note to self – buy a rain cover for my backpack), but they were fine. It was lovely to take off all my wet clothes. Dan and I ate a sad dinner in our tent (sandwiches he’d made for himself, trail mix and a Larabar for me) and were asleep by 9. The rain ended sometime overnight. I of course work up early and was out of the tent before 6. It was chilly, but nice to just sit and enjoy the surroundings (and coffee with hot chocolate). By the time my fellow campers were up, it had become overcast again. We stopped at The Pinnacle further along our way and again enjoyed almost-views. But as we hiked on, the sun finally came out. We stopped to enjoy a mid-morning coffee (spiked with fireball that our friends brought) in a field before finishing the hike.

So that was that! As tired as I was (and annoyed at the rain), I’m still of course glad I went. This got long, so I’ll write about my other spring hike in another post :-).