Thursday, November 1, 2018

Maryland Rocks: Part 3 - Runners On The Battlefield

We must have been the luckiest guys in the world...almost. From what the locals told us about the weather in the mountains this summer, we picked the single week when the weather wasn't terrible. In fact, the whole time we were on the hike, the only rain happened while we were laying in our sleeping bags in a shelter. The first night, after the dragstrip closed it's track for the evening, and the snoring/dog barks had become an integral part of my life, it started to rain. Rain on a tin roof is loud, but peaceful and did a lot to mitigate the other noises that I thought were keeping me awake, and then about, I'm sure it was 3:30am, something more happened..
Four people came rushing into the shelter, headlights on full, asking if we minded if they lay down for a minute. I distinctly remember a girl with a folding pad, collapsing in one movement onto the little bit of real estate that I had considered the right amount of distance to keep between me and a stranger. There was a lot of talking, lights in my eyes and movement, but I must have fallen asleep in spite of that, because the next thing I know, she was getting up and they were off back into the rain. I thought, "This is another one of those mysteries I will never figure out, like crop circles, and why Paul is such a picky eater." But, I did find out why, no, not about Paul, but about the short break and back into the rain for the hikers. 

The next day, we got up early, and danced around, trying to get warm, and quite happy that all of our stuff was dry, while the ladies nearby, that had smartly decided a wet tent was preferable to loud snoring guys, stuffed all of their wet gear into their backpacks. We were heading up to see the Washington Monument, which I had pictured as a large peak where you could spot the real monument in Washington, DC off in the distance, but this was a local tower, with a parking lot nearby and loads of tourists, enjoying one of the apparently few days of sunshine lately. The group of about 50 people milling about were all Asian, and the first thing I noticed was that for bus riders, they had some incredible backpacking gear. We were all about the crowd, getting looks as if we were 'pros' at backpacking, or merely homeless people. I was pretty sure that after only one day on the trail and it being so cold, that we didn't smell...yet. was about this time that I began to understand about the 3:30 people in our shelter. I started seeing very fit-looking folks with very small backpacks, jogging by us on the trail, the difference between a semi-truck and a Corvette immediately came to mind. A local explained to me that there was a challenge that weekend: 50 miles on the AT in 24 hours. To help you understand the difference here, we were planning to 70 miles in a week, and I was feeling really good about that. Paul told me that it didn't really mean they were better than us, "They get to eat real food, and sleep in real beds, they don't have what it takes to rough it in the wild!" I watched another 40 something guy go dancing up a hill that had me on all fours. "Yeah, they don't know what hardcore is, do they?", I grimaced and pulled out a smashed up protein bar for lunch.

The Washington Monument wasn't the only tourist item of the day. We came to a Civil War battlefield where large armies had faced each other and just started firing their rifles. Over 6,000 men died there in one day. I was thinking, how could brothers do that to each other? We were in the beautiful woods, far away from politics, the city life, all of it. Then Paul started talking about Trump, and those lousy South Americans that were being paid by the dirty democrats to walk up to the border.....oh yeah, I could see how it happened....

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