So, when all was said and done ... Friday at about 10:30am, Evan, Steve, Ben, Leiah, Carrie, Christy and I all met up at the visitors center for Green Ridge State Park, out I-68 in the western arm of Maryland. To be entirely frank about it, I really didn't have much idea what I was getting us into. A few months ago, while I was working on my AT-Mt. Catoctin chapter, I spoke to a Maryland ranger and told her about my book project. She said, "As a lifetime Marylander and an outdoorswoman, I have to tell you that the best backpacking in Maryland is in Green Ridge." I ordered the map, spent some time studying it, but every time I mentioned to people that I was doing this trip, their faces expressed either skepticism or were just blank.
We took some time in the parking lot, weighing packs and stripping away weight. Giggles (that's Carrie Price) had a pack that weighed 38 pounds, and we soon got it down to 28. Then we dealt with the permitting situation, and were off, walking the little link trail that would take us to the Pine Lick trail. We walked along the interstate for a bit, but then left civilization, and plunged down into the basin of 15 Mile Creek, crossing it on an amusingly cattywompus bridge. From there, we took the Deep Run / Big Run trail south. It winds its way through a river valley, crosses creeks many, many times. I, of course, plunged right on through, as did many others. Steve showed great determination in keeping his feet dry, and no small amount of skill. We happened upon snakes, clusters of butterflies, and innumerable flowers in bloom.
After taking a break at an Adirondacks shelter, we continued south. Eventually the Deep Run / Big Run trail meets a road, turns west, and climbs to the Log Roll Overlook, a lovely little view of pastoral Maryland. Annaconda (Leiah), Giggles, and Tenderfoot (Christy) took turns modeling for me on the overlook, while the men groused about sexism. Sorry guys! Then we headed south on the Log Roll trail, which sidehills along the mountain. We witnessed a VW Golf that had plunged off the precipitous road above some time ago. The trail then drops down to rejoin the creek. The next miles were some of the most rugged we walked, as the trail was only haphazardly maintained. There were lots of creek crossings, awkward blowdowns, and angry brambles. Steve's arms and legs looked like he'd been a fight with an angry racoon.
But eventually, we pushed through, reached the C&O canal, and began walking east along it. These last miles flew by, and soon we came to the Purslane Run campsite ... a beautiful open field by the Potomac. 19.5 miles for the day. The taping of blisters and removal of ticks ensued, but we enjoyed a fun camp. Ben showed great aptitude at getting the fire started, with Evan's assistance. Giggles and Annaconda both contemplated sleeping under the Trailstar, but passed on the "opportunity." Admittedly, there were a lot of bugs, and I was glad to have a bug bivy.
Saturday morning, we were off walking at 8am, and soon passed through the Paw Paw Tunnel, one of the highlights of this trip. While I had feared that walking along the canal would be monotonous, it was actually very pleasant, as the scenery does vary alot. We saw a ton of wildlife ... Beavers, snakes, frogs, birds, deer. We got passed (and passed) some boy scouts on bikes. By around 1pm or so, we had completed our 12 miles (17 total) of canal walking, and were ready to turn onto the Long Pond Trail.
Here, the group split as Evan, Annaconda, and Steve all needed to get back to town for events on Sunday. We discussed a short cut for them and they blasted off to complete the trail. Giggles, Tenderfoot, Unicorn Dust (ask Ben), and I fell asleep in the sunshine at the Devils Alley Camground. We chatted with a PCT thru-hiker who was cycling the C&O Canal. His buddy loaned Tenderfoot some duct tape for her feet.
After a lazy afternoon, we left the canal and joined the Long Pond Trail, reputed to be the toughest in the park. There was some steep climbing and descending before we reached 15 Mile Creek and the shelter there. It was already taken by some fishermen so we settled into a questionable campsite on the shores of this beautiful creek, and enjoyed a raucous campfire, with Unicorn Dust almost doing a stand-up comedy routine, and regaling us with tales of Prince playing basketball. We fell asleep to the sounds of a frog orgy. Shelob did not carry Giggles off into the woods, screaming, but it was a close thing ...
The next morning, we hiked the remainder of the Long Pond Trail. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, as the trail is scenic and more challenging, rising high above the creek only to dip down again to a series of lovely campsites. Soon enough, we completed the extra curlicue on the Pine Lick Trail and return to the cars. A note stated that the others had made it to the cars at about 7pm the night before, and that they had had to do an interesting crossing of 15 Mile Creek to do the short cut.
We four headed off to lunch and beer at Barefoot Bernie's in Hagerstown. Somehow, this turned rather bawdy, as Ben and Giggles started groping the wooden pirates that decorate this fun, Caribbean style joint. Oh well. The hostess did look at us oddly, but c'mon, they're pirates and we're backpackers.
So, our final splits were about 19.5 / 17 / 5.8, for 42.3 miles in 48 hours. About 4,000 feet of gain and loss (my GPS didn't handle the tunnel correctly, and treated it as if we walked over the ridge, which we didn't do, plainly).
I have to say that this was a really fun route. Unicorn Dust and I agreed that we'd do it again, and that the trip could go into DC UL's repertoire as an MO loop. It really was quite pleasant walking. And I was pleased to put up an entirely new route for us.
Thanks to everyone for making it happen. We had a great group, a bunch of fun new people, and just excellent camraderie! Hope everyone gets on the trails again with us soon!