Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Day 78: And into the North!

May 24: Despite the huge numbers of people camped at the shelter due to it being Memorial Day weekend, I’m pretty sure I was the first to leave the shelter for the day because I had to break all sorts of cobwebs. They were bad and extremely annoying. The problem with those people who are out for just a weekend—they tend to quit hiking early in the day (filling up shelters before thru-hikers can get to them), they sleep in late (so thru-hikers end up breaking the early morning cobwebs) and carry too much crap (so maybe we can get some free food out of them, but you really aren’t supposed to be feeding wildlife like that!)


View from High Rock, just before Pen Mar Park.


Anyhow, while struggling through the cobwebs and wiping them off my face, I managed to sprain my left ankle pretty badly which left me with a pronounced limp for the rest of the day. My ankle was going to be tender for a few days!


I stopped at Pen Mar Park, which lies on the Pennsylvania (the “Pen” in “Pen Mar”) and Maryland (the “Mar” in “Pen Mar”) to admire the wonderful views, which is where Superman and Heavyweight caught up with me. Superman I knew was right behind me, but this was the first time I’d seen Heavyweight since early the previous morning. The park was still quiet this early in the morning and they asked a man if there were vending machines around we could use. There weren’t, but the man was selling cold sodas out of the back of his truck so we all got one. (I didn’t actually realize he was selling the drinks because I missed part of the conversation and Heavyweight and Superman walked off to get the drinks asking if I’d like one. I sat around nursing my ankle and watching our backpacks and only later realized that they had actually bought the drink for me. Thanks, guys! I feel a bit like a smuck for that, though.)


We drank our drinks and threw our trash in the trash cans and continued onwards a quarter of a mile to the Pennsylvania/Maryland state line better known as the Mason-Dixon Line. We had left the south and entered the north! Or, as Blueberry wrote a day earlier in the border register, we had entered the “land of Northern aggression.” (I still hadn’t caught up with Blueberry despite him being so close ahead of me so the “surprise/trap” had set up for me was still a mystery.)


Heavyweight and Superman took off their shirts and hiked across the border topless. I blame myself for that. Early on, I told them a story that I had heard of three women who would hiked across each border topless. Although I believe the story is fake, I still like the story and hope it’s true! And when I shared it with them, they (along with Blueberry and Bostrich) decided to hike across each border “topless” to start a tradition and hopefully get some girls to start following in their example. I didn’t really think that would work, but I was more than happy to get photos of them making their ceremonial crossing into Pennsylvania without their shirts on. =)


The graffiti on High Rock was actually so extensive, it was strangely hypnotic!


The day was a warm one, and the humidity was thick, but the trail was mostly easy hiking. I lost the trail for a bit at the Old Forge Picnic Area, missing a sharp turn. I wandered around for about 5 minutes before I found my error and got back on track.


For the night, the three of us—Heavyweight, Superman and myself—set up camp in the Rocky Mountain Shelters. We were a bit surprised when we arrived and found absolutely nobody in the shelters at all. Where did all of the people go?! There were a few people we could see through the trees just downhill of the shelters in tents, but the shelter area seemed remarkably empty. More hikers eventually did arrive, but all things considered, it wasn’t in massive numbers and we were all left scratching our heads wondering what happened to all of the Memorial Day weekend hikers. It was only Sunday and Monday was the actual holiday. They should still all be out here! But none of us complained about the mysterious disappearance of all of the weekenders. =)


This sign at Pen Mar Park is a little dated… By this point, we had already hiked 1064.0 miles (not 920!) from Georgia and had 1125.2 miles (not 1080) left to Maine! Both numbers listed on the sign are significantly smaller than the mileage today! But still, I love signs like this. =)


I didn’t bother to cross the border topless because frankly, I didn’t see the tradition taking off. If it was a real tradition, though, I’d have totally done it!


Heavyweight (in front) and Superman (in back) crossed the border topless, however.


This is an interesting register entry at a shelter register. It reads: “(In reference to Bismark) He may have committed fraud and killed his wife but at least he stayed true to the trail. Now he’ll do a purist thru hike of the 9 circles of hell. Happy trails!”

The big news on the trail around this time was that Bismark, a fellow thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, had been arrested by the FBI in Damascus during Trail Days. I’d heard something about it, all of which was really hearsay, and it was hard to separate what was fact from fiction from the talk on the trail. Later I did some Google searching and learned more about Bismark and his crimes: AT thru-hiker Bismarck arrested. He had embezzled nearly 9 million dollars! And went on the run by thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail multiple times. What a great way to escape from the law. A place where almost nobody uses their real names, where you can grow a big, bushy beard and not seem suspicious for it, a place where nobody questions your lack of a job or home base.

I never crossed paths with Bismark on the trail (not as far as I know!), but it makes you wonder… how many more criminals are hiding out on the trail that I have met and chatted with? ;o)








Anonymous said...

I want to hike the AT - and I would love friends to do it with, not comfortable hiking alone... and as I started reading this post - I thought - cool... it's nice that Tortuga has passed so many hikers that he catches up with now and then (Heavyweight/Superman, etc.) and there must be some really nice down-to-earth hikers out there that wouldn't make hiking alone seem so scary... and then... BAM....fraud and murder. Yep...back to needing to find friends to hike with again!

Andrea Palma said...

Virtual hiking is quite enough for me! I like the walking and seeing sights part, but not the schlepping and camping part. Lol!

Andrea Palma said...

Virtual hiking is quite enough for me! I like the walking and seeing sights part, but not the schlepping and camping part. Lol!

Unknown said...

Ever since I've started reading this blog.. I've always wanted to thru-hike the AT.. doing it alone sounds fascinating to me.. but even before reading this entry, it frightened me a little bit.. Now i know I'd want a friend to hike it with me. Lol

-only dreaming *