Trip Report: 4-State Challenge, 2017

Posted by Will on

4 State Challenge 2017

This was another one for the record books. With an incredible 18 participants, you knew it was going to be epic.

We all trickled into our prearranged campsite that conveniently straddled the Virginia/West Virginia border by various means. We had the shuttle setup and the bailout vehicles in place; everything was good to go for the next day.

Everyone dispersed and settled into their cowboy camps while Michael and Jen got some interviews. I was feeling pretty unsure of myself; something Iím not accustomed to. But settled into my hammock and got a solid 4 hours of sleep. I awoke sometime after midnight to see the first of the headlamps flicking on. About an hour later most people were up and ready to get going. Worry about finishing in the rain was the main motivator.

I figured I was unlikely to get anymore sleep, so said the hell with it and got up myself. I hit the trail at 1:52am. My legs felt squishy on the descent, but I set a fairly reckless pace anyway. I passed a few people on the way to Harperís Ferry, and was passed by James who rocketed down hill. Then I was on my own after catching up with Shane at the railroad bridge.

I stumbled my way through the morning darkness despite my double headlight setup. It got worse when my main lamp inexplicably started to die. I messed up a turn when I couldnít find the blazes in the dark, but didnít want to stop to change batteries. I started to feel more like myself by the time I approached the Washington Monument and caught the sunrise in the open fields.

I only stopped briefly in the park to top off my water, then pressed onto the I70 check-in where Michael and Jen were grabbing some footage. They told me James was just 10 minutes ahead. I was feeling reasonably ok, and set a decent pace onwards to Wolfsville to try to catch him. My lack of physical conditioning started to catch up with me on the rocky ridgeline, however, and my pace rapidly dwindled. My left foot felt like it had been beaten with a sledgehammer. Max cruised by me somewhere in this section.

When I finally got to Wolfsville to check in, I was feeling pretty shitty but never considered bailing. I kept up a slow pace which led to some unfortunate chafing. I caught up to Max briefly at the stream crossing just before the second to last climb. He had taken a short break to vomit and was spraying down the rocks with his hydration bladder in an effort to clean it up. We started the next climb together but he quickly left me in the dust. I was looking on to Raven Rock and the descent from High Rock with dread.

After crawling over the climb, I tackled the fracture hell that followed. I did reasonably well at following the terribly blazed path by correcting the previous two yearsí mistakes in route finding. I rejoiced when I hit the soft path that announced Pen Mar was just ahead. I knew I was really slow when I couldnít overtake a couple of day hikers meandering up the path! I emerged from the tree line to find James, Christy, Max, Jen, and Michael. Max had smashed the record with an 11:30ish run, and James edged out my previous record at 13:12. I managed 13:37, which Iím ok with, all thing considered. After having my 3rd completion memorialized by Michael at the PA line register, we returned to Pen Mar and I immediately started eating brownies. Joan and Nala appeared to help cheer us on. One by one, other finishers began to arrive, though I am fuzzy on the order: Dy, Russ, Dave, Sophie and Trevor. Gen cruised in with another incredible time of 11:50ish. He had wisely chosen to sleep in until 4am.

Ali (who had planned to exit at I70), Carrie, and Alex returned with all the bail-out cars, and Jen arrived with 6 pizzas which were quickly devoured. A thru-hiker rolled up headed southbound and gladly accepted our offer of pizza and beer. Sometime after dark, Evan and Andrew emerged from the darkness, and those who hadnít already, started making their way to camp in PA.

I passed out the moment my head hit the hammock and never heard the arrival of Brian, Shane, and Steve. My phone died in the night and I didnít stir until Andrew woke me up at 7:30! All the threatened rain amounted to little more than a few brief showers, so we had a dry walk back to Pen Mar and our cars. Then it was off to Mountain Gate to devour a breakfast buffet.

Congrats to all the finishers! This event is always fun, but also gruelling. Everyone is to be commended on getting to the finish. Max! takes the Gold, with Gen and James getting the Silver and Bronze. And EzBake extends his record of consecutive finishes to 4! Those who bailed all made it to an exit point in fine style, which is still one hell of a long day. Champagne and medals for everyone!

Stay tuned for the upcoming documentary, which should recount the suffering in great detail.

There was also more serious talk of a yo-yo attempt next year as we drove to Harperís...we shall see!

Everyone, please add your own story here! Also, get me your exact finish times so I can add them to the Hall of Fame.


Andrew L. posted on

Steve lead the 41mi hike across MD last month, so we could make an estimate as to how long it would take to finish based on our typical day hiking pace. Based on that, we figured on leaving at 2am so as to get to Pen Mar at the end of civil twilight if things went OK. I setup my tent at the VA line as I get cold easily, so got up at 1:25 and on the trail at 1:57am. With rain projected for the late afternoon, it was either get up early and hike in the dark while fresh or get up later and hike in the dark and rain after doing 40+ mi.

Despite being a nice campsite, I didn't sleep all that well the first night, so I was quite tired until around 9am when my sleep / wake cycle kicked in and I felt OK. Until then, I thought way too much about ways I could curl up and take a nap by the trail. Or nap on my back on my pack. Or pull out my small foam sit pad and nap on it. Or nap in the seated position. Or just close my eyes for a few minutes...

Many folks started right around 2am, so we had Steve, Alex, Cristy, Russ and Sophie through Harper's Ferry. In Harper's Ferry, some of us stopped for water at the water fountain before the foot bridge by the train tracks. Russ and Sophie went ahead here and we didn't see them again until PA. The remaining four of us hiked together until I-70. Max passed us in the dark and Gen passed us while we were taking a snack break. We saw Shane when we got to Washington Monument, but he started hiking about 10 min ahead of us. I didn't see him again until Wolfsville Rd.

Despite a copious lunch on Friday involving pig products and multiple appetizers, the Baconator was starting to slow down after I-70. He had run a 100km two weeks prior and hiked around 40mi the previous weekend, so it's impressive that he managed to finish regardless. When he finally listened to his body and stopped for a brief rest, I hiked ahead and picked up the pace. I ended up doing the final 10mi faster than the 7mi that I had just hiked and wound up at Pen Mar two hours ahead of the Baconator. While Steve may disagree, there's only so many problems that bacon can fix.

I ran into Even about 2mi or so from Pen Mar. He's always good company, so we hiked together to Pen Mar in the twilight and start of the night. It was lovely to be greeted by Will, Michael, Jen, Alex and Gen with pizza at Pen Mar around 7pm. I figure around 17 hrs total for the distance, which isn't a great time, but I enjoyed hanging out with people for most of the hike. While I didn't take any videos for Michael, I snapped some still photos and enjoyed the fall colors.

Jen pointed out some flat areas to camp and I was able to find a reasonably nice site that was even elevated in case we got a lot of rain. After setting up, I went to sleep after greeting Shane and Steve on their way in. I slept well enough that someone could have murdered Russ in the next tent with a chainsaw and I would have just rolled over and kept sleeping.

All-in-all, it was another memorable DC UL outing. Thanks to all of the people who helped make the event happen as smoothly as it did.

- Andrew L (Camel)


Dy Tourn posted on

I arrived at Harper's ferry around 3:45pm on Friday and made a brisk walk to the VA/WVA campsite on the ridgeline. After setting up my hammock and underquilt, I tried taking a nap with just my thin camping blanket, only to discover its uselessness against the wind. Shortly thereafter, Dave arrived and we had a brief conversation before I decided to return to my truck to swap my blanket for my sleeping bag. I knew this swap would cost me an additional 3.32 miles and 2.5lbs to my pack weight for a combined total of 30.6 lbs. On the way back, I ran into Gen, exchanged pleasantries, and continued on my way. At the 340 bridge crossing I came across a large group of DC ULers, said Hi to Shane and briefly met Will. The rest of the night was uneventful as I greeted some DC ULers in the darkness back at the campsite, some new, some familiar.

I slept 4 hours, on and off, until at 12:50 am I awoke needing to use the restroom. I decided to quickly break down my camp and get ready for the trip ahead. I desperately relieved myself on trail before setting off on my journey, and logged my start time - 1:15 am. I felt I needed the extra time since I estimated 44 miles would take me approximately 16 hours at my average, old-man pace and I would need the daylight near the end of the trip for High Rock.

The first few hours of my solo hike went without a hitch except for the menacing, leering eyes of feral deer in the pitch-black, decrepit forest of the Appalachian Trail. There was an occasional noise that sounded like a witch's cabin door creaking open or a deep, bloodthirsty grunt from a fox or racoon that would send me into a panicked sprint along the trail. During my seemingly endless solo hike in the dark, I had an early exit up and back down some stairs on the C & O Canal trail and some confused wandering in the streets of Harpers Ferry like a homeless person.

Navigating past countless ferocious creatures, I didn't come across another mortal being until the 8.5 mile mark where James caught up to me. We intersected at Ed Garvey shelter and I asked about water availability there. We both agreed it was probably dry and he was swiftly on his way. I tried keeping up for a few minutes and quickly gave up to eat my cold beef taco MRE packet in the cold, lonely darkness.

During sunrise, I started to see trail runners and dog walkers whom I'd greet with an out-of-breath "Mornin'", and they would reply back with a greeting combined with a subdued chuckle. I finally came across another DC ULer shortly after the Deaths of Two Generals wayside marker at the 18 mile point. Trevor passed me as well as Max. I began to pace Trevor in my fatigue, as I could no longer gauge my own pace. I followed Trevor and kept him company with my loud flatulence all the way to the 36 mile mark, where I really lost my steam. I'd wanted to yell "you go on ahead without me" like soldiers do in war movies, but alas I had to settle for silent abandonment as he kept pace and I slowed to a crawl. He did, however, give me a complete run down of the trails to come before we parted ways; "wandering in the woods for a while, then down a little, then uphill, then a dirt road, then a really step uphill, some rock hops then High Rock and home free". This made the rest of the course easy, mentally, as I walked like a zombie for my final 8 miles.

My finish time was 16:45 and no, I won't be trying to set a personal best next year. Never again, one and done.

This is only my fourth meetup with DC UL, but I maintain that it's still my favorite. Thanks Will and everyone for such a great experience.


Steve G. posted on

Began @Loudoun Hts, 0157; Signed the register at the Mason-Dixon line 2115. I was a little delirious, and didn't record how much longer it took me to reach camp.

I concur with everything Andrew already said, and thank him much for sticking to Wolfsville with me as my pace slowed to a turtles crawl. Continuing the theme I started last year, October is for overuse. I aim to do better next year, by taking a least one weekend off between the Oil Creek 100k and the 4 states challenge. For comparison, I ran/hiked the 62 miles (11,010ft gain) of Oil Creek two weeks prior in 20 hours 22 minutes. Sure I had less in my back, but far more gas in the tank.

It was an awesome endeavor and I look forward to doing it again next year. I'd totally like to hit those rocks at Pen Mar in the light. I knew it was poorly marked, and thought I knew where I was going well enough to blindly follow my gut. That got me at least 500 ft off trail. Google maps saved the Baconator's bacon, but probably cost me at least a half hour.

Thanks, Will, for putting this together!


James posted on

Wrote up a detailed trip report, decided it was way too long. So, abridged:

Started too fast, kept going fast, pain from mile 12, hell from mile 30, only finished thanks to Advil. 13:12 trip time, ~13 minutes not moving.