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AT 2017: Day 82, Ensign Cowall Shelter to Pa. Route 16

Farewell to you old southern sky, I'm on my way

Hike with Gravity

Thru-hikers like to invent games and “challenges”. For example, there’s the Four State Challenge, which involves hiking from Virginia, through West Virginia and Maryland, before reaching Pennsylvania. To complete this you hike 44 miles in under 24 hours.

A slightly shortened version of that is the Maryland Challenge, which covers 41 miles from state line to state line.

Is that too tame for you? Then try the Rocky’s Pizza Challenge, which starts from Curley Maple Gap Shelter in Tennessee. Within two hours you must race down the mountain to the town of Erwin, order two large pizzas at a local pizza shop, run next door to the liquor store and buy a case of beer, then haul the pizza and beer the five miles back up to the shelter.

Weather Cloudy to mostly sunny and warm, high in mid 80s; mid-afternoon heavy thunderstorm
Trail Conditions Easy terrain, with one challenging section of rocks
Today's Miles 12.3 miles
Trip Miles 1,067.2 miles

I’m not participating in any of those challenges. Just hiking more than 1,000 miles has been a challenge enough for me. Each day and every mile adds to the challenge.

So instead of hiking through Maryland in one day, today we’re on our third and last day.

This isn’t a race.

We began walking before 8 a.m. under an almost-misty sky. Thick clouds hung low as we walked through an open meadow.

We soon reached a road. Just beyond it was a small cache of water. According to a note attached, my hiker friend from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Dotcom, had left it here.

In the next 90 minutes the sky cleared and the temperature began to rise. We entered a rocky and steep climb that was a big contrast from the smooth, nearly flat or gently rolling trail we’ve become used to.

We moved along better than yesterday, without the fatigue we felt then.

At 11:30 we arrived at a spot called High Rock, and it was unlike anything I had seen on the trail so far.

I’m sure many people are disgusted to see this spot covered in spray-painted graffiti. I found it fascinating and beautiful.

To be sure, I don’t condone graffiti anywhere, let alone here in a spot of natural beauty. Still, the painting was kept mostly to the concrete remnants of a three-story observation tower, which stood here from the late 1800s to 1943.

Stick, Ralph and I spent about 30 minutes here enjoying the view and wandering about.

The view from here was one of those that make you want to just stop, sit and look for as long as possible.

After leaving High Rock, the trail became rocky again as it traversed down the mountain. Along the way there were a number of side trails made by day hikers and hang glider enthusiasts. These made the descent a little bit confusing.

At the bottom the trail entered Pen Mar Park. There were only a few reminders of what this park was like when it was first built more than a century ago.

There was a time when the Pen Mar area was one of the most popular resort communities in the eastern U.S. During the early part of the 20th Century there were first-class hotels and more than 100 boarding houses here, which not only catered to regular folks, but also attracted celebrities and dignitaries like President Grover Cleveland and actress Joan Crawford.

Railroad executive John Mifflin Hood, built a large amusement park here to promote the westward expansion of his railroad from Baltimore. In its heyday the park contained a roller coaster, carousel, miniature train and railroad station, photography studio, large dining hall and a dance pavilion.

On some summer weekends 20,000 people or more would flock here. By 1930, however, the park was in decline. It was closed for good in 1943.

A 46-acre county park is all that remains here today. It was established in 1977, 100 years after the opening of the resort area. We stopped here to eat lunch and refill our water bottles.

As we prepared to leave, it became obvious from the rumbling sky that a thunderstorm was approaching. We decided to seek shelter under one of the covered pavilions.

Indeed, it did storm. Rain came down like a cascading waterfall. Besides Ralph, Stick and me there were a couple other hikers here. One of them was Anvil. I met him on Day 23 and had not seen him much since.

Once the rain began to subside we got back on the trail. We passed the foundation of a small building, which once served as a station at the end of a trolley line. In its day, the trolley was the primary means of transportation for weekend visitors heading to Pen Mar Park.

From there the trail continued for a short distance on the former bed of the trolley line’s tracks.

At 3 p.m. we arrived at the state line, which may be the most historically significant of all state lines.

Astronomer and surveyor Charles Mason, and his business partner, Jeremiah Dixon, were hired in 1763 to help settle an on-going border dispute between Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Their survey, which took the better part of four years to complete, remains as the border of what is now four U.S. states, with the addition of West Virginia (originally part of Virginia).

The demarcation line they mapped out, of course, is still known today as the Mason-Dixon Line.

The line took on greater importance and meaning when Pennsylvania abolished slavery in 1781. The line became a division of lands where slavery was legal and illegal.

After crossing the line into Pennsylvania, the trail remained mostly flat and easy. Within 90 minutes we reached Pennsylvania Route 16, where we stuck out our thumbs for a ride to Waynesboro.

It didn’t take long before a friendly couple stopped. They were willing to take us to our motel, even though their small car was already hauling a bicycle.

Sockfat and his girlfriend, Harshini, dropped us off at Cobblestone Inn on the outskirts of Waynesboro.

If you hadn’t already guessed, Sockfat was his trail name. He thru-hiked the AT in 2014, and told us he was glad to pick us up as a way to give back to the trail.

We didn’t arrive at the motel until 5 p.m., but we were still able to do everything we needed to get done while in town.

After showering, we headed first to Monterey Pass Pub and Eatery, a spot recommended to us by the receptionist.

On the way back, we stopped at Walmart to resupply, which was conveniently located a short distance from the motel.

When we returned we saw a familiar face. Mechanic was staying at the same motel.

Stick agreed to do our laundry because he wanted to work on his journal, so Ralph and I went to bed.

Stick discovered Splat and Dory were also staying here.

The trail continues to weave with interesting and fun intersections of people and landmarks.

Today we entered our seventh state of this hike. Ralph will leave us tomorrow, as Stick and I continue on in Pennsylvania.

Half-step Mississippi Uptown Toodleloo
Hello baby, I'm gone, goodbye
Half a cup of rock and rye
Farewell to you old southern sky
I'm on my way
On my way


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine." ref.