After contending with a shutdown on 270 and metro delays, the DC group (Aileen, Lidia, Eve, Andrew, Anna, Seb, Nate, Sharon, and myself) headed north from Shady Grove. We got our Sheetz fix enroute to Caledonia State Park, and also passed a few bikers finishing up their Ride Across America tour.
A few u-turns later, we arrived at the park and rendezvoused with the northern troop (Caley, Max, Jeff and Timothy). 13 strong we hit the AT and started our trek north.
We were soaked with sweat in seconds as we immediately started climbing. Gratefully, it was short and the rest of the morning passed pleasantly. We took a quick break at the Quarry Gap Shelter, where the log book was nearly full.
Still sweating, and hungry for lunch, we pressed on to the Hosack trail where we hung a right then descended. At the bottom we found Locust Run, hung a left and shortly arrived at the Long Pine Reservoir. A long lunch was enjoyed on soft pine needles in the shade.
Eventually, we got a move on again. Stopping for a moment to enjoy the view further up. Here we met Grace the 3 legged dog and her two humans during a brief kerfuffle with two other dogs that were off leash and not listening to their owners.
We kept moving, reached Rocky Knob Loop trail, and decided to take the (harder) high road. We didn't get much of a view for a reward but at least we got in some exercise. My lower legs felt crampy, unused to exertion in the summer heat.
At the top we met even more dogs, and ran into Grace again. Everyone seemed to be headed to the same place, and I felt certain I would have to take us to campsite B. So the last 1.5 miles were crushed. We rolled into Birch Run to find it surprisingly (and fortunately) empty.
It was only 4pm, so there was plenty of time for show and tell, and the swapping of war stories and banter. After everyone had dinner, a roaring fire was eventually built with the bits of wood we could scavenge. Grace and her humans came over to visit as we chatted around the fire. Somehow most of us stayed up to almost 9!
The next morning we gradually rolled out of our shelters and had a laid back breakfast. Some trail magic came our way as some other backpackers wandered over with a box of donuts and a massive bag of grapes. We gladly partook.
We hit the trail a few minutes after 8 while the temps were relatively cool. Crushed the climb after Milesburn Road (which had us all dripping with sweat again), then cruised our way along the rolling white blazes. This section of the AT is very mild, and makes for a fast pace.
Quarry Gap Shelter was swarmed with hikers. We took a short break and then headed out in twos and threes. The last 2.6 miles were over before I knew it. We rallied at the trailhead, finishing the hike close together. Then it was off to hunt down burgers in Gettysburg.
Our first two stops were no goes - with wait times that would leave us dead from starvation. But Andrew came to our rescue with a recommendation to Farnsworth House Tavern just a few blocks away. So we got in a bonus walk in the hot sun, but it would prove to be worth it.
It took a minute to find our way to the right place, only to discover all the tables full. But the bar was totally empty. So we proceeded to occupy it after promising to take it easy on the bartender. We were fed and happy in no time.
Thanks to everyone for coming out on this hot and fantastic backpacking weekend!
Haha! GQ is going to wonder how he featured so prominently on a trip he wasn't even on.
No doubt! I'll have to try to explain it to him eventually.
I almost forgot about the "bump" of instant coffee also - sure to become another DCUL classic gag.