Maryland in a Day

8 Oct

Jen:

Today was an amazing day, as Emily and I were able to accomplish one of our huge goals of this trip- hiking the state of Maryland in a single day. There are a variety of “challenges” along the trail that you can choose to participate in, including eating a half-gallon of ice cream at the halfway point, hiking four states in one day and completing all 41 miles of Maryland in a 24-hour period. In all of our planning we knew that the Maryland challenge would be something to shoot for when the time came. However, injuries, hospital stays and lower-than-planned mileage had us doubting ourselves. After my foot gave me trouble a couple weeks ago I put the thought of doing such a big day out of my head, thinking that the possibility for injury was just too high. We stopped even discussing it, though I could tell Emily was holding out hope that things might turn around.
Then yesterday evening

we found ourselves 20 miles into the hiking day standing on the Mason-Dixon line at the Pennsylvania- Maryland border on the AT. We had been hiking the afternoon with a new friend named Alabama and all three of us stopped to take pictures and enjoy the moment. I’m not sure who brought it up at that point, but before I realized it the three of us were sitting in a circle staring at the map of Maryland thinking “can we do this?” A prolonged discussion (and some heavy peer pressure) made up our minds- we were going to try. We then had to backtrack 0.7miles to a campsite and set up camp so we could be in bed by 6:30pm to prepare for a 2:30am wake up call.

When the alarm went off at 2:30am none of us were alert enough to realize how ridiculous this plan had become. Instead, we packed up and set off at 3:15am in the dark with our headlamps leading the way. We hiked 3.5 hours in the dark stopping here and there to find a rogue blaze and hiking in total silence. We took 10 minute breaks every 1.5hours, timed by yours truly with military precision. When we arrived at the first shelter 10 miles into the day it was still only 7:45am. To the dismay of some of the late sleepers we woke everyone up, not realizing that some people prefer to sleep past sunrise. We had some coffee and ate a quick snack before hitting the trail again.

The rest of the day soon settled into a blur of endless miles, intermittent landmarks and a steady light rain. It was only in the upper 40s so all of us were bundled up in long sleeves, hats, gloves and rain jackets that had to work hard to keep us dry. Around 25 miles into the day we stopped near a shelter and all came to the same sad realization that had been growing throughout the day- we did not have enough food. I was down to 10 peanut butter M&Ms with 16 miles left to go, and Emily and Alabama were in similar situations. However, once again the trail provided. A young couple out for the weekend came upon us as we stared dejectedly into our empty bags and started asking us about our day. I hinted that our day was going well, but our calories were sadly lacking. Within moments a huge bar of dark chocolate appeared in Emily’s lap and an even larger bag of trail mix landed in mine. We thanked the trail angels profusely between bites of food and let them go on their way to camp.

Newly energized we knocked out the next 6 miles, before slowing down a bit on the last ten. After over 30 miles we all felt pain in our legs and feet, but were able to push on, knowing that the next 7 miles were downhill and then last 3 miles were a flat walk on the C&O Canal. It wasn’t easy as our legs got shaky going downhill, but when we hit the flat we cruised. We did the last 3 miles in 40 minutes, much to the surprise of my parents who were meeting us at the end and didn’t think we would have it in us after the previous 39 miles! Alabama, Emily and I took several pictures after crossing into West Virginia and then I had a wonderful reunion with my parents. Emily and my folks finally got to meet and got along great. We were immediately whisked away for celebratory beers and fried food to recoup some of the 6,000+ calories we burned today. All in all it was an incredible day- challenging, rewarding and somehow both energizing and exhausting all at the same time!

Emily:

Well, it seems that I have lost my ever loving mind. As many of you know I am an idea person, a dreamer if you will. I have always dreamed of hiking the AT and cannot be happier that I am currently living that dream. Even with all of the things that have gone wrong, being on the trail with Jen has been the experience of a lifetime. When we were planning this trip months ago we learned about all of these different trail “challenges” that have become trail traditions. It turned out that the “Maryland in a day” was a big enough challenge that the dreamer in me caught hold of the idea and would not let go. (As if we needed any other challenges added to our trail experience.)

Originally we had wanted my brother to come and slack pack us through MD thus increasing our chances of making it through quickly and without injury. But since we were not able to set a date in stone he was of course busy working. Plus, Jen’s foot had hurt after the previous long day and she was hesitant, rightly so, about doing the longer hike.

So there we were. We had finished our state line dance, which is a sight to be seen, and we were planning on going forward to the next shelter. Then the idea of the challenge came back to the table as a possibility. It happened exactly as described above. I even agreed hike back 0.7 miles! Something we never, ever, want to do. But my main concern was Jen. We do a lot of things to appease each other while spending so much time together, but if she was nervous about injury then it just wasn’t that important to me. She assured me that she wanted to do it so together we made a plan.

Jen did a great job at describing our day but she was kind in leaving out a few details that I will share. I was silent for the first 10-15 miles due I being tired and grumpy. When we passed the first shelter I suggested that we abandon the idea of the long day and go back to sleep. I was serious. When we had accomplished 20 miles by one o’clock I was excited. I felt good and was happy. At the thirty mile mark we sat under a pavilion in the rain and drank soda from a machine that was obviously placed there by God. We desperately needed the calories, the sugar, and the caffeine. When descending the last steep, rocky, switchback downhill I was cursing and mumbling under my breath that this was not something a grown woman should be doing at night, with a dying headlamp, in the rain. Then when we got the C&O canal I was proud to be able to keep stride with my friend Jen.

There are things that you may not know about Jen. Her drive and perseverance are greater than anyone that I have ever met. When Jen sets her sight on a goal there is no stopping her. It is pretty amazing to be a part of this on a daily basis. With Jen I have been able to accomplish more on this hike than I ever thought to be possible, including a 40+ mile day with full packs.

While I now know that it is not necessary to include any challenges that make the AT harder, I am so excited to have done this “challenge”. I know that Jen and I will take the knowledge of our ability to accomplish such miles and apply it to the rest of our hike. I am sure that there will be longer mileage days in our future. Maybe not 40 miles but miles that require an early wake up. However, you can rest assured that Jen’s determination is the only thing strong enough to get me out of my sleeping bag before dawn to start the day that I am probably dreaming about.

5 Responses to “Maryland in a Day”

  1. Kristen October 9, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Ya-HOOOOO!!! Nice accomplishment, ladies. Lotsa love to you, k-hub

  2. Papa Bear October 9, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Unbelievable! Your Richmond fans are all in awe!

  3. Rush "Agent Orange" Blaine October 9, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    Wowwww, I’m super impressed. You gals are amazingly tough. Good writing! Good luck and i’m proud of yall!!!

    • robert cusimano October 9, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

      You two were AWESOME! Toughest chicks on the AT.
      -ALABAMA
      P.S. Stay at bears den lodge hostel, it is unreal!

  4. Jim Wentzel October 11, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    This is a high among so many highs on this journey. And btw that 6,000 calories you burned kinda blew my mind. Take THAT Maryland!!!

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