Day 83 – Tuesday, May 31: Annapolis Rocks to Stealth Camp (Pen Mar Road), 16.5 miles, 1,064.1 total AT miles.

I woke early and immediately checked my phone for cell service. It was 5:30 and the skies were just starting to brighten in the east. I had good (but weirdly intermittent) coverage and decided to spend the morning updating the site.

As I uploaded pictures and journals from within my tent, I watched as Juan, then McDoubles, broke camp and left. At 8:00, I stuck my head out of my tent and was surprised to see that Black Santa had already left. He had been talking about getting an early start one morning and I guess this was gonna be it. I continued updating the blog and responding to emails.

It was 10:00 by the time I was finished – I really couldn’t believe it had gotten so late. I quickly broke camp and made my way back up to the AT. Annapolis Rocks is such a popular destination, the PATC staffs the campsite with a caretaker – this morning the caretaker was a former AT thru-hiker named Miss America. She offered me a cup of coffee and gave me some tips moving forward.

Another hiker approached and asked if I was Cood Dad – he had just left the cliffs and told me there were a few hikers down there looking to catch up to me. I grabbed my cup of coffee and made the short walk down to find Savage and Champa relaxing on the outcropping.

They ended up camping just a few miles back last night near the Washington Monument – they woke early to catch up. I told them I needed to hitch into Waynesboro for a quick resupply this afternoon and started hiking north at 11:00.

I hiked alone for next two hours, focusing on gaining ground – the road crossing I needed to hitch from lay 16 miles from Annapolis Rocks. The trail was still rocky and very overgrown – not a complaint at all, I enjoyed walking in the shade.

I paused to take a small break about five miles north of Annapolis Rocks when I found a large black snake slithering across the trail. I tried to get a picture, but it was too fast, quickly disappearing into the underbrush.

I heard another hiker approaching and turned to warn them about the snake (it ended up being a harmless rat snake) – to my surprise, it was Get Weird hiking up. She had been hiking with Champa for as long as I’ve known her and was now pushing hard to meet friends a few days ahead. As we chatted, another hiker walked over – it was Black Santa. I was confused – I thought he left early. He did leave early, but decided to have a long breakfast on the south end of Annapolis Rocks. He was as surprised to see me – he didn’t realize I took the morning off to work on the blog. The three of us departed, heading for Ensign Cowall Shelter for lunch.

We crossed a beautiful grassy field before making the rapid descent to the shelter.

It was 2:00 by the time we made it to the shelter. I cooked and ate quickly – Waynesboro was still nine miles away and I didn’t want to hitch in the dark.

The AT did not cooperate with my plans – the trail moving forward was very rocky.

Black Santa and I continued hiking north. We passed the Raven Rock Shelter at 4:00 noticing a note calling for a group of hikers to stop there. Neither of us recognized the trail names – we had definitely hiked into a new bubble of thru-hikers.

Rarely do I hike with others during the day. It’s not that I don’t want to – it’s more an issue of pacing than anything else. Today was different. Black Santa and I stayed neck and neck all the way to Pen Mar Park.

We talked about life after the trail in detail. He’s planning on moving to Austin when he gets done – I know I’ll be back in Seattle, but beyond that, I have no idea.

We made it to the park at 6:00. I knew McDoubles was somewhere ahead and Savage and Champa were behind. It was getting late and Black Santa and I decided we’d better hitch into town before it got too late. The road crossing was only a half mile ahead – on the way, I crossed a unique milestone – the Mason-Dixon line.

I was now in Pennsylvania, my seventh state. Pretty damn cool if you ask me. I couldn’t believe I had walked this far north. We made it to Pen Mar road and started thumbing it east. We quickly caught a hitch and were dropped off at the Walmart two miles away.

I bought way too much food. I also finally bought batteries for my headlamp (and a backup set), Velcro for my gaiters, and a sewing kit. On the way to check out, I saw the perfect answer to my long beard – a cheap set of hair clippers. I stopped a manager and asked, if I indeed bought these clippers, could I use an outlet so I could shave off my beard. He looked puzzled but agreed.

I paid for my resupply and walked outside to look for an outlet. I found Black Santa hanging out by the vending machines, cans scattered by his feet. And right there, in the Walmart parking lot, I slowly trimmed off my beard. It felt great – there was a lot of hair. I know a few people who will be disappointed to hear this, but I simply can’t care. Having a short beard in this heat feels awesome.

We quickly caught a hitch back to the trail head. McDoubles texted, relaying he had just gotten back from Walmart (how did I miss him?) and was now camped just a few miles away. But it was dark and I was not in the mood for another night hike just yet. Luckily, we found Savage and Champa at the crossing. Champa had knocked on a door and asked if he, and others, could set up tents in the backyard – the owner said no problem.

Pretty cool – I laid out my sleeping pad and started organizing my resupply. After a quick dinner, I decided that the night was so nice, I should just sleep under the stars. I pulled out my solar lamp and started typing.

* * *

I’m looking forward to tomorrow big time. I’ll be in Caledonia State Park and will get to take a shower. I really couldn’t be more excited – I smell terrible.

Demographically, I’m in a cool hiker bubble. I’ve recently been running across more hikers my own age. Hikers aged 30 to 40 make up a small percentage – most hikers are younger (early to mid 20s) or older (over 50).

I was asked about female hikers in an email I received – it’s hard to put a number on the percentage of women attempting a thru-hike. I asked the volunteer at the ATC office in Harper’s Ferry and he said women make up about 15 to 25 percent of thru-hikers.

Breakfast: coffee, 20 gram protein bar

Snack: 12 PB crackers, lots of raisins

Lunch: Stroganoff Pasta Side with two tuna packets

Snack: the rest of the raisins

Dinner: half pound of ham and half a loaf of French bread with mustard

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

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