Trains, History, and a Shower

May 12, 2018

Destination: Dahlgren Backpack Campground Today's Miles: 15

Start Location: Stealth Campsite at Mile 1027 Trip Miles: 1042

AT symbol carved in a log on the trail in Maryland
Well, last night was interesting. We didn’t make it very far out of Harpers Ferry and ended up camping by the Potomac river bank.

Yay! On our other side were the train tracks.... Hiking out in the afternoon we only saw one or two trains. After dark, it was like we were at Penn Station or something. Train after train after train came by. I had my earplugs in, but they were deafening and shook the ground. At one point a train slowed down to an almost stop and we could hear the cars banging together. The best was when one of the trains somehow shined lights on us. We aren’t sure how that happened, but Wallace said in the morning that he thought the train was coming into camp. I woke at 5am and thought about going back to sleep for 30 minutes, but then two more trains came through so I decided to just get up. I could hear the others moving too. Whitewater was out first, and Day Hiker, Wallace and I headed out not too long after. Happy Feet was still at camp when we left. 

It was nice getting going early because it was cool out. We were all aiming for the Dahlgren campground 15 miles away because it had a shower. I hadn’t showered since Waynesboro before the Shenandoahs, and the last time Wallace showered was in Glasgow. It was time. It’s funny how after a while I really don’t care that much about being dirty. I’m gross, but I notice it less. Showers after it has been a while do feel amazing though! We walked along and climbed out of Harpers Ferry, and eventually caught up with Whitewater. We stopped at the first shelter and got water and a snack. Water was a quarter mile down a hill. Wallace and I joked that we shouldn’t have gone down there but we were too far down the hill to turn back. At the shelter, we met a Canadian flip flopper heading north. I forgot her name unfortunately, but it was her second day on the trail. It was cool to see someone on her second day as I am approaching the halfway point. She has so much adventure to look forward to! I thought about my second day and what that was like, leaving Three Forks and staying at my first shelter where a mouse ate the hat of the guy next to me. Good times!

We left the shelter and at some point I pulled ahead. The day’s hiking was humid and rocky. I passed lots of day hikers, runners, section hikers, and groups of people out in nature. The trail passed through Gathland State Park and also Crampton Gap, so there were a lot of informational plaques to read about these sites.  Crampton was really interesting in how it played into the siege for Harpers Ferry during the Civil War. I also enjoyed reading about General Lee’s lost orders that fell into Union hands. They basically detailed his plan to take Harpers Ferry and were found by union soldiers and delivered to General McClellan. The irony is that there was a time delay and so McClellan still couldn’t move fast enough to destroy Lee’s army. That’s the cliff notes version anyway. It was neat to actually hike through these locations and read about the history there. 

When I got to the Dahlgren campground it was only about 1pm, but I had hiked 15 miles and I had work to do. I needed to wash clothes and shower! The bathrooms there were awesome and had two showers in each bathroom. They also had an electrical outlet to charge phones, hot water, toilet paper and real toilets, and potable water. I showered with my Dr. Bronners soap and it felt amazing. I was so dirty! I washed my hair three times and scrubbed myself. I used my buff to pat dry, out on my pants, and then set about washing my daily hiking clothes and socks in the sink. It was hot and sunny out, so I was able to set my clean clothes in the sun to dry. The others were at camp as well, taking care of the same chores. We all sat at a picnic table and ate lunch in the shade, and pretty much stayed at that picnic table through dinner. The campground filled up and a ridge runner named Kiki (his trail name from his 2015 thru hike) stopped by and brought us pizza! It was an awesome and unexpected surprise!! He was just starting his job as a ridge runner. For only walking 15 miles today, I definitely had a lot of food!! It was a great day. Happy Feet showed up, but pushed on a bit farther after showering. Zia camped here as well. 

I was grateful to have a great day of hiking through a historic park and by so many landmarks. I was also super grateful to have a wonderful campsite to clean up at. Tonight it is storming and there is a severe thunderstorm watch, so I am listening to the wind and rain as I prepare for sleep. Tomorrow is supposed to be wet, but with any luck maybe it won’t be too bad. The trail always gives me what I need.... Lastly, today was my Mom’s birthday, so I am grateful that I had a signal and could call her to wish her happy birthday. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day so I hope her fun weekend continues since she is the best mother ever! Thanks for all the love and support Ma!!

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