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Hiker Reviews for the Maryland Challenge Hike - 1 to 20 of 20   
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By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 16, 2018
Two friends and I did this hike mid-June. We’re all in our late 20’s, hike very often, and are in decent shape. We started at 5:00 AM at the Mason Dixon line and crossed over into Harpers Ferry right after 8:00 PM. Factoring in a 45-minute break at the Washington Monument (pizza!!!) and various 5-10 minute breaks throughout our actual hiking time was just under 14 hours.

A few things to note about the trail. First, there really isn’t that much elevation gain/loss. There are 3 primary hills, High Rock, Black Rock, and Lamb’s Knoll. Aside from that, the trail is rolling hills and flat areas. The elevation was challenging at times, especially Lamb’s Knoll, but what got us even more was the rocky terrain. It seemed like miles would go by and we’d still be walking on rocks, and sometimes sharp rocks. Don’t do what I did and use beat up old tennis shoes. Proper footwear is a must for this trail.

Another thing to note is that the trail, although well marked most of the time, can be confusing. On one occasion, about Mile 7 or so, we were walking along a creek when the trail started to narrow. We became suspicious, so we double backed a few hundred yards and realized the trail actually crossed the creek. There was no bridge, just a few rocks to hop across. Looking back on it now I realize that the creek was just very high at the time so it’s most likely not much of an issue typically. Little things like this can set you back and also mess with you mentally if they keep happening.

Another area that was quite confusing was about Mile 2. When you get to the large rock beds at the base of High Rock pay close attention to the trees so you can find the white marks. There’s no real “trail,” you must rely on the white marks to navigate the rocks. This can be particularly difficult in the dark.

I would recommend doing this hike as close to the summer solstice as possible to maximize daylight. Both the start and the end of this trail have difficult terrain (base of High Rock and Weverton Cliffs) so operating in the daylight is ideal. That said, definitely have a headlamp for early morning hiking and in case you pace slower than expected. The hike down Weverton Cliffs is no joke, especially after hiking 35+ miles, and I can’t imagine doing it in the dark.

Anyway, a few random thoughts about the hike. From an emotional standpoint, you almost get the sense the trail will never end I remember thinking to myself around the 35-mile marker that this was getting a bit excessive. And it was. Especially when you’re literally walking for miles on the toe path to Harpers Ferry.

Another thought I have (or I guess I should say had), and previous writers have suggested this as well, is that prior to this hike I thought that since I’ve been hiking 10+ miles for a long time and have done 25-mile hikes before yada yada yada that this would be no biggie. Nope. Unless you’re in amazing shape and do long hikes/walks all the time, THIS HIKE WILL TEST YOU. Don’t get me wrong, expect that you will finish, just know that physically and especially mentally the hike will challenge you throughout.

Overall, I recommend the hike. It was great to spend time with friends not only doing the hike but also prepping and making plans. But just know what you’re getting into be prepared, get the right shoes and study the terrain a little. If possible, hike a few miles in advance of the challenge so you get an idea of what to expect. Bottom line is just go do it.

By: Kevin H. Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Completed the Maryland Challenge over the course of two days beginning the early morning of October 4th and finishing in the evening of October 5th. Day one was 18 miles to Pine Knob Shelter and day two was the remaining 24 miles to Harpers Ferry.

Began day one at around 5:30am at the Pen Mar County Park parking lot. It was very dark up there at this time for and a headlamp was absolutely necessary to walk safely to up to the Mason Dixon Line sign and to officially begin the journey. I had never traveled on this part of the AT before so it was a challenge to stay on the trail especially given that it was still dark outside. I found myself diverting from the trail a few times by accident because the white blaze was difficult to spot on the trees. Luckily I had downloaded the Guthook app on my phone (which can run on Airplane mode) and I was able to find the trail again.

The first miles between High Rock and the Raven Rock shelter were tough, it was a lot of steep, rocky inclines, followed by a steep decline past Raven Rock, so be prepared. I remember this beginning section as some of the more challenging of the entire first day. High Rock is a very nice view, and I took a few minutes to break and enjoy the view, just try to ignore some the graffiti on the rock itself, in my opinion it kind of takes away from the whole experience. Raven Rock was the next place I wanted to check out and it&rsquos one of the newer and nicer shelters along this section of the trail. I finally finished the first half of the day at Ensign Cowall Shelter for lunch.

Continuing along, Black Rock Cliffs and Annapolis Rocks are two great areas to visit along the way, the views here are probably some of the best along the entire trail and worth blue blazing a quarter mile to take in. These are also good places to drop the pack and ease the weight off your shoulders. I finally settled at Pine Knob Shelter for the night at about 5:00 or 5:30pm. Here you&rsquoll find tent pads, privy, shelter and the bear poles to stick your food on for the night. The major downside to this area is you can hear the traffic from Interstate 70 like it&rsquos in your backyard. I thought traffic would die down a bit as the night went on but it didn&rsquot. It was hard for me to get a good sleep at Pine Knob Shelter. I&rsquod consider Annapolis Rock&rsquos campsite (which isn&rsquot listed on the four day guide here) and you won&rsquot hear the traffic.

Day two began and I was on the Interstate 70 bridge very early on and heading towards the Washington Monument. The journey up to the momument is definitely a steep incline up, but I&rsquod suggest taking the extra small mileage and checking out the monument and the great view. There are also a number of historical signs to take in with regards to our first president&rsquos life. The next stop would be Dahlgreen Backpack Campground, but I&rsquod caution that this is fine for privy use, but the showers are pretty gross looking, I passed on showering here and on the entire journey for that matter.

Gathland State Park is at about mile 30 and it&rsquos has a large pavilion with picnic tables to rest and eat at. There are bathrooms just beyond the pavilion. From here, there was no more stopping for me until Harper&rsquos Ferry. I knew that coming down the very steep decline at Weaverton Cliffs is probably pretty tough at night so I wanted to make sure there was enough day light to get down safely. Having gone about 20 or so miles already that day, this was a major challenge to get down without any incidents.

Once I was down, it is pretty much flat and a straight shot to Harper&rsquos Ferry along the C&O Canal. At this point my feet were ready to fall off and I&rsquod probably would have paid any sum of money for one of the bikes that passed me along the way so that I could get to my end point. However, I pushed on and grinded it out and finished around 6:30pm.

This was the first time I had done anything like this, the most I had ever hiked was 9-10 miles in one day in Colorado. To hike 42 miles in two days was very taxing on my entire body including my hips and shoulders. This hike for an overnight hiker novice like me was more challenging than I imagined, but I consider it quite an accomplishment and would suggest it to those who are up for it.

Some additional tips-must haves on the trail are: trekking poles (can&rsquot tell you how many falls they saved me from having), plenty of water, a good understanding of water sources on the trail (Guthook app can help with this), good headlamp if you want to hike at night or early morning, and plenty of food for energy to keep the legs and feet going. Also like I said before consider other shelters besides Pine Knob, especially if you are a light sleeper. Prepare to walk through tons of spider webs. Take the time to enjoy the views.

By: Rachel S Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 6, 2017
3 of my classmates and I decided to do this hike as a last-hurrah during our Senior Year of college. We had minimal hiking experience but are all fit and more or less athletic individuals. We decided to do this as an overnight, hiking from Pen Mar to Dahlgren Backpacking Campground on the first day (about 24 miles) and then from Dahlgren to Harpers Ferry the second day (about 16 miles).

We began from Pen Mar in good spirits at about 8:30am and headed south (after touching PA). The weather was rainy and somewhat chilly, which made much of the uphills and rocks slippery, but not too bad. Our group woefully underestimated the toll that 24 miles would take on our bodies (and spirits), but decided to push through the whole way. Pine Knob shelter was our bail out point, if we thought we wouldn't make it all the way to Dahlgren, but we decided keep walking, knowing that we would be hiking in the dark for the last portion. I am glad we did this because we reached the Washington Monument just at sunset, and it was a GORGEOUS view. However that left us to go the remaining 1.5 miles in the dark. Finally we made it to Dahlgren around 10pm and quickly set up camp before falling right asleep. The bathrooms were a welcome sight.

Waking up on Day Two was difficult but we wanted to get an early start to the day. We left Dahlgreen around 8am and continued south. The uphill to Gathland State Park was brutal, but we made it with frequent stops. It was more or less flat after that, but our feet hurt with every step and the downhills were difficult on our knees. We were so focused on finishing the trip that we didn't stop to enjoy the views off trail- something I wish we took the time for, in retrospect. It felt like forever until we made it to the final switchbacks and then the C&O Towpath, but the level ground was welcome. By the time we reached Harpers Ferry I thought my feet would fall off.

All in all, the hike was HARD (especially for some inexperienced, but very eager friends) but so worth it in the end. The best part of the trip was some Trail Magic we experienced on Day 2. A family in the parking lot of Gathland had a picnic table set up with lots of food and snacks for the taking. It was the highlight of the trip. I would recommend, perhaps as a 3 or 4 day trip so to more enjoy the journey.

By: Soundmind Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, November 11, 2016
My girlfriend and I decided to do this one a single day (Veterans day). We parked a car at Harper's Ferry, and then drove to Pen Mar park, parked in the lot across the street, and slept for a few hours. After eating a little breakfast and packing up the rest of the items, we entered the park and made it to the sign for the AT at about 3:45 AM. It was 41 degrees outside at this time, we both had on wool leggings and hiking pants, a wool base layer on top, and a half zip pull over. She also had a thin rain/wind jacket as she runs colder. We had two pairs of light wool/synthetic gloves each, wool socks and hiking / tennis shoes, and beanies, she had a scarf which was a very good idea. We were not over dressed, though several times throughout the day we stopped to take off the half-zips or put them back on.

All the hike was just walking, staying on the AT, except to go to Annapolis Rocks, other views were interrupted due to no sunlight. I wouldn't say we underestimated this hike, as we knew what we were getting into, we just underestimated what hiking for 17+ hours actually meant. We saw about 160 people on the trail, though 90 of them were between Annapolis Rocks and the I-70 bridge, the others were mostly at the Washington monument. If not for these two places we likely would've seen about 15 people total.

For nutrition we each had four liters of water, 3L in our backpacks (Platypus Duthie 15 AM) and a 1L water bottle. We only filled up water at the Washington Monument and had 1-1.5L left apiece. We each had an apple, pb&j, 2 Clif Nut Butter bars, 1 Clif bar, 3 protein bars, 2 Cliff Bloks, 3x Sport beans, 3x Gels, and 2x bags of mixed nuts. It was the exact amount of food required for us. There were several streams that had water, and we had a filter, but it was not necessary.

For the hike, our feet were hurting by mile 10, but it didn't seem to get too much worse. She developed a lot of blisters, I escaped the blisters apparently, but my legs have felt drained of energy for two days now. We had headlamps starting out, which were good, and got to Weverton cliffs well after dark, however it is only about 0.8 miles of steep switch backs, and it didn't seem very sketchy to me walking down it at night. The ups and downs weren't too taxing, only three significant climbs that accounted for the elevation gain, with the hike up to the Washington Monument being the worst, because that was after 20 miles. And it seemed to go on forever. We used the directions from Hiking upward in addition to the Trails Illustrated map and had no issues, just stay on the white blaze and you can't get lost.

We did encounter a slight set back, due to being tired drunk when reaching the railroad / towpath. DO NOT WALK DOWN THE RAILROAD. We did, and it was miserable, and very sketchy. Cross the railroad and get on the C&O path, and save yourself so much heartache.

It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will only be doing once. I would recommend doing it in a single day when the sun is out longer, and temperature is more consistent, as stopping to delayer was probably the most significant cause of time delays.

By: grc Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 24, 2015
My friend and I broke this up into two separate trips. On the first trip we hiked from the 70 parking lot to Harpers Ferry and the second trip was Pen-Mar to the 70 parking lot. This was a fantastic hike, a bit warmer a month ago when we did the "second half" from this past weekend when we did the "first half". Our trip: Day 1, Pen-Mar to Ensign, solid foliage in late October, climb to High Rock is a true scramble and a solid climb. Definitely recommend going to High Point for the views and photos. Moved along to the Ravens Rock shelter for lunch beautiful shelter. Got to Ensign at about 4PM, fairly crowded for late in the year, but everything went smoothly. If using a water filter like a Sawyer for the still spring, make sure to bring something to scoop/pour water to the bags (I used my JetBoil w/ lid and worked like a charm). Day 2, Ensign to 70, pretty good climb up the ridge to begin the morning would rather tackle this early in the day. Stopped at Black Rock Overlook later in the hike... great views. Day 3, 70 to Treehouse Camp, we had great weather on this one in mid-September, stop at the overlook at the Washington Monument and there is one memorable climb. We decided to pass the shelter near Gathland and get a site at Treehouse Camp which gave us a little more room to spread out. Despite the ability to buy a steak there, we stuck to our Mountain House. This was my favorite day of the hike. Day 4, Treehouse Camp to HFWV, very reminiscent of Day 2. An initial climb up the mountain and then walking along the ridge until coming to a pretty solid descent to the Potomac River. Neither of us are in the greatest of shape or experienced on multi-day hikes, but we hobbled into town after 2 days/~24 miles of the 'second half'. I would prefer to tackle new sections of the AT, but living in Montgomery County, MD, this is a very manageable drive for great overnight hiking. Highly recommend this as a beginner backpacking trip to those in decent shape, either the 4day/3night approach on this site or broken up into two hike variety like we did. Challenging, but manageable.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, August 3, 2015
I section hiked this in 3 days from Harpers Ferry to Rocky Run Shelter then to the former Free State Hostel then to Waynesboro. I would recommend carrying plenty of water in the section from Harpers Ferry to Rocky Run. It is a lot of uphill and not a lot of spots to get water. Gathland has water but the drop over to Greenbriar may or may not be marked. Don't rely on this spot to get water. Also, there are bears near the Rocky Run Shelter. They didn't come in to the shelter but to be safe hang your bags. Another tip make sure you watch the trail sign at the Pogo campsite. You can easily drop down to another trail. It is a spur trail and is Rocky and all down hill. If you keep going you will have to road walk many miles to smithsburg to get back on the AT or walk a half mile or so back up to the top. I have met people who have done this. Where the water comes out of the spring at Pogo do not turn left going north continue on the AT. I forgot to mention I stayed at the Tea Horse Hostel in Harpers Ferry very reasonable and is about a quarter to half mile or so past the ATC on the same road in Bolivar, WV. Basically the high ground of Harpers ferry. Let's see...hit Waynesboro when you are done. Great burgers down hill from the Mason Dixon line at Blondies Tavern. Great sushi at Sapporo on the square in Waynesboro. Great wings and beer at the Dawg House on the West End of Waynesboro. If you stay in the motel in Waynesboro you can take a walk west about 200 yards west and look right there is a laundromat behind the Turkey Hill mini mart. Oh and make sure you walk 200 yards off the trail to see High Rock overlook it is the best view on this part of the AT. I think it's better than the Bears Den Overlook.

By: Carl Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 24, 2015
First time overnight hikers. I'm 52 and my son is 15. LOL - I have nice broken in hiking boots but since my son has grown so much and fast we have not bought anything for him. So since he's going to be wearing tennis shoes I will also. Dropped off at Pen Mar @0715 AM 5/23/15. Didn't know how far or fast we can go so made plan A, pick up in Harpers Ferry on 5/24. Plan B, pick up @Gathland State park on 5/24, Plan C, pick up @Dahlgren Backpacker campground on 5/24. Made it to Ensign Cowell shelter before 12 and Pine Knob shelter before 3. My feet were starting to hurt but we both decided that we had 6 more miles in us and plenty of sunshine. Make it to the Dalhgren campground by 6. Found some space and set up camp, cleaned up and had dinner. Walked up to the Inn and had a few cold beers, root for him, Sam Adams for me.  Up and going @~0715 on 5/24. My feet hurting a little but his were fine. Stopped a few times along the way to fuel up but still made it to the Ed Garvey Shelter by 12 on 5/24. My feet hurt worse on every stop but our goal of making Harpers Ferry in one night was going to happen so we just kept going (pain is only temporary) and arrived before 1500 on 5/24. Funny the last 3 miles on the C&O seemed to be the hardest.  Finished with major blister on left "pinky" toe and quarter size blisters on bottom middle pad of each foot. Took a few days to recover. We may have packed a little too much food and water but that's part of the learning curve as pack weight was not a problem. This is a great hike and we are now making plans to do another, maybe a up and back from Pen Mar. Doing this hike from North to South I think the first 12 miles are the hardest with it getting easier after that. Water is not a problem along the way.

eviltwin_1@msn.com   

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 23, 2015
I decided to do the 4 State Challenge on the spur of the moment (4 state adds an extra 2 miles or so past Harpers Ferry to the VA/WV state line).  I got droppped off at Pen Mar/Mason Dixon Line at midnight on Friday night/Saturday morning this Memorial Day weekend.  I parked my vehicle at Harpers Ferry Visitor Center (need to notify them of overnight parking via faxed form found on NPS/Harpers Ferry webpage). I did this hike solo with a 20 pound pack, most weight was snacks and water, but also brought toilet kit, water filtration, basic first aid kit, radio, phone and batteries/charger.  The trail was very well marked but I did make two wrong turns one coming out of a field missed the cut-in back into the woods and one going by one of the shelters-I went down hill instead of straight thru because I was trying to be curteous/quiet/keep my headlamp low and missed a White Blaze. Although this is a great hike with some great views, I missed many of those as the first 6 hours of my hike were in the dark. The only bad thing about this hike is there are some brutal sections of rocks with no way of avoiding them so your ankles take a beating. And that is ultimately what caused me to bail out on this hike. I made it to Washington Monument State Park, about 23 miles total with my detours. I texted for a pickup when I got to Black Rock overlook.

This would be a very nice 4 day hike, just make sure you have solid footwear with good ankle support. But to really challenge yourself, try the 24 hour challenge...I do recommend taking someone along because there is a good chance of twisting an ankle in the dark.  I ended up taking 11 hours to do my 23 miles, including a couple stops for some views (after I decided to stop at halfway) and a stop to replenish water, which was plentiful  this time of year as streams were flowing well, just have your filter with you.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 23, 2015
The 41.9-mile hike (the entire MD section of the AT) took our team of six just under 17 hours to complete. We started in Pen Mar at 5:00 AM and crossed the Goodloe Byron Memorial Footbridge into West Virginia just before 10:00 PM. For motivation and to maintain pace, we divided the overall hike into four roughly ten-mile sections (or “mini-hikes” as we called them) and had time goals for each. The goals marking the end of each section (maintaining at least a 2.5 mi./hr. pace) were as follows:

1. Ensign Cowall Shelter, 10 mi., 8:20 AM
2. Washington Monument State Park, 21.9 mi., 1:15 PM (midway point –refilled our water from a tap here)
3. Crampton Gap/Gathland State Park, 31.1 mi., 6:00 PM (also refilled our water here from a tap)
4. Goodloe Byron Memorial Footbridge, 41 mi.,9:45 PM.

We were extremely lucky to have perfect weather (high in mid-70s, low humidity, no rain), and hiking this time of year offered good coverage from a canopy that extends nearly throughout. The trail surface is rocky the majority of the time, making turning an ankle one of two serious liabilities –the other being blisters. We found the climb up South Mountain during the third leg and descending the Weverton Cliffs during the last leg to be the most challenging parts. Regarding the latter, it is highly recommended that you begin your descent of the Weverton Cliffs before dark.

The following are the supplies/gear we recommend:

• Backpack with at least a 2.5L water bladder
• Additional 1L water bottle
• Headlamp & extra batteries
• Adequate clothing and rain gear
• Sunscreen
• Hat
• Shades
• Insect repellent
• Tissues/TP and nontransparent Ziploc
• Sanitary wipes
• Broken-in running or trail shoes
• 2 pairs of socks
• A couple big Ziploc’s and trash bags to stash stuff in your pack in the event of rain
• Food to sustain you for 17ish hours (we had an assortment of energy bars, beef jerky, trail mix and candy).
• First-aid kit with extra moleskin, pre-wrap and tape, plus a light ankle brace
• Utility knife

As the name implies, this is a fun, challenging and rewarding hike across Maryland’s beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoy!

By: dances with pugs Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, July 3, 2014
We split this hike into 2.5 days, doing 17,13, and 10 miles respectively. The first day we stopped at the Annapolis Rocks camp site for the night and then followed the itinerary for the rest of the trip. This hike is no joke. Even though we are pretty experienced hikers, this trail provided quite a challenge. Its totally worth it though. Highly recommended for anyone thinking of doing the AT at some point in their life.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 12, 2014
Did the entire MD AT trail with a run/hike. Conditions were sunny and high of 74F. Started in PA at Pen Mar at 6:45 am and got to Harpers Ferry 10.5 hours later. Used Nathan HPL 020 vest with 85 oz of water (2L bladder and 1 20 oz bottle of AMINO), ate Gu, CLIF and PBJ sandwiches. Refreshed water and food at Rt 40 parking lot (I put a car here in a.m. with supplies). Toughest part of the entire day was the monster hike from Rocky Run Shelter (mile 25.7) up to top of mountain, it was very hot and no shade due to no leaves yet. Refreshed water again at Gathland and sat in the shade for 10 min to cool off (yeah!!) but had a hard time eating anything. Run from Gathland to Harpers was good. Suggestions: water, water, water. Due to the sunny, warm conditions much water was needed and I used SUCCEED salt tablets to stay hydrated. I had trained on all the sections so I was very familiar with the course, this helped a lot. What an awesome challenge - enjoy!!!

By: Aly Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, November 15, 2013
I did this with a friend and it was my first backpacking trip. We did it over three days by doing 10/21/10 to complete the 41 mile trip. It was a fantastic hike and has definitely catapulted me into the world of backpacking. It is an easily marked trail and the campsites were pretty easy to find. We had trouble the second night of the trip only because it was foggy and raining so that we couldn't see 15 feet in front of us. We stumbled upon a group of tents around 9pm and set up camp there for the night. The only other trouble we had was finding running spigots for water because we went so late in the season that most were turned off for the winter. However, there were a few springs that were running where we could fill up. I hope to do this hike again soon and recommend it for all ages and abilities!

By: lr3773 Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
This was my first AT section hike, and it got me totally hooked! I did the hike in the prescribed 4 days, and found it to be just about right for a newer (read as slow) hiker as myself. It is rocky though, so be kind to your feet!

During October, half the springs were dry, and those still flowing were just a silty trickle. Be able to pack extra water, just in case. Also, for newbies, all spring water needs to be treated or boiled! There is a bathroom/shower facility halfway through day 2 with potable running water if you need it. The shelters were great, although I didnt make it down to the Crampton Gap shelter, as it is a long ways off the trail down a very steep path, while the tent camping is only halfway down the spur.

All and all it was a great way to spend a few days, I met some wonderful people and I can now say I've walked across a state (albeit a very narrow part!)

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, July 21, 2013
in the past 2 weekends, my 11 yr old son and i have done the ~3.5 miles to High Rock from the PA border and back and from I-70 back up to annapolis rocks and back...all in prep for a July 27/28 hike of the first half of the MD challenge. We plan to do the 2nd half on a weekend on August. Thought it was great and a challenge for novice hikers like us, and some experienced explorer scouts we met along the way. i would note that the Mason Dixon Line sign at the MD-PA border appears to have been vandalized. Only the post and the MD-PA small sign remain. The trail was well marked with blazes especially during the tricky rocks climbs as you get close to high rock. The only partly negative comment i would make was there are no mile markers, so only way to tell where you were (especially with an 11 yr old asking "are we almost there") was by time or the guidebook. Otherwise very solid hike ut a gret time for my son and me.

By: Ophelia Titzoff Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 5, 2013
Do not take this trip lightly.  I tried this with a dozen of my best pals and it turned bad in a hurry.  Although it was only 42 miles over 2.5 days, most of the guys had never hiked more than 10 miles.   By mile 8 the blisters and cramping started, and then came the hills.  Guys started dropping like flies and getting separated to maintain the pace.  We packed ultra-light, but were also ultra-inexperienced.  Due to a lack of water and appropriate rations, two of the guys suffered from rhabdomyolysis - the breakdown of muscle fibers that leads to the release of muscle fiber contents into the bloodstream.   To top it off, a male black bear invaded our camp on the second night and made off with our food bag.  Be forewarned, if you think you're fit because your were a star high school athlete or do cross-fit three times a week, you better look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. 

By: Valentina Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 18, 2013
I found that I went into this thinking I knew a lot of things that turned out not to be true.

Some examples:

(1) I thought I wouldn't get blisters since I didn't get any when I ran a marathon. (I now believe it's not possible to walk 41 miles without getting blisters.)

(2) I thought the difference between mile 21 and mile 41 would be like the difference between getting stabbed once and getting stabbed twice – both would hurt, but there wouldn't be much of a difference between the two. (I now see that the last few miles take things to a whole new level.)

(3) I thought my daily runs would be adequate preparation. (I now see that it would have been better to run in those barefoot sneakers, since the trail is littered with sharp 6-inch rocks that stab your feet every time you misstep.)

As far as logistics, I do have a few pointers:

(1) It's important to plan your start time so that you finish the downhill section of the hike before dark (about mile 35). There's a lot of sharp rocks to stab your feet, not to mention that you don't want to trip off the side of the slope. We hiked in May, and we started at about 4:45AM.

(2) There is plenty of water. You shouldn't need to carry more than 1.5 liters at any one time if you have a water filter. If you don't, there's tap water at a few locations, including the original Washington Monument (mile 21) and Gathland State Park (mile 30). We hiked in May (65-70 degrees) with 2.5 liters per person, and didn't need to fill up until the Washington Monument. (Although the sun set a half hour earlier since we hiked in May, I preferred hiking in the cool weather, which meant we had to stop for water less often.)

(3) There's plenty of overnight parking across the street from Pen Mar Park (free), and if you're willing to pay $10, you can park at the Amtrak station in Harpers Ferry (about 50 feet from the bridge between Maryland and West Virginia). If you're trying to save $10, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is 0.60 of a mile from the Amtrak station, and they'll let you park there for free on the weekends if you call ahead.

(4) I recommend hiking from Pen Mar Park to Harpers Ferry, because of the thankfully flat tow path in the last 3 miles. However, Pen Mar Park doesn't allow camping. We ended up sleeping in the parking lot across from Pen Mar, by putting down the car seats so that we could set up sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and pillows. This was more comfortable than I expected, and made things logistically easier the next day.

Good luck!

By: VSOP Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, July 26, 2012
The Heathens completed the MD Challenge hike 7/26-29 starting at PennMar going southbound.  Because of some MD highway driving challenges we started on the trail at 1315 and given that it was around 100F that day we stopped at the new Raven Rocks shelter (very nice).  Water at the spring next to the old shelter (0.4 downhill) was running although not strong.  We used up our heaviest meal of gnocci and dehydrated venison meat sauce for dinner and bagged it.  We pushed to Pine Knob.  An older shelter but nice and also close to the spring - about 20yds.  Water was running better than at Raven and out of a pipe instead of the rocks. Dinner was Thai shrimp and soba noodles followed by after dinner cigars. Next stop was to be Crampton Gap but the spring which is posted as "sporadic" was dry.  So we pushed on to Gathland State Park a half mile further.  Plenty of water there at the spigot next to the drink machine.  Now cameled up we pushed to Ed Garvey.  That made for a 16mi day and put us closer to Harpers Ferry for our last day.  Water at Garvey is .5 downhill.  We stopped at other shelters along the way for breaks including Ensign Cowall and Rocky Run and at Pogo Campsite.  Both shelters had water although getting to the water at Cowall required walking thru and couple of mud holes to get to the stream.  Rocky Run had great water next to the old shelter.  Pogo had water running well also.  There were a lot of stretches that ran parallel with the contours that were flat fire road and some that were rock fields that required rock hopping and pounded your feet.  Stop and take in the view at Washington Monument State Park and a cold drink at Gathland.  If you arrive on a Sunday,  time your arrival in HF for 1300 or later as they still have their antique Blue Laws - no beer!  All in all a nice hike.

By: Gavin Berryman Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 5, 2011
I did this hike as the start of my section hike of the AT. I started at the Mason-Dixon Line (Being a MD resident figured it would be the  most appropriate place to start, home state first!) and finished in Harper's Ferry, WV in 2 days. Hiked 24.2 miles (according to my gps) to Dalhgren's Hiker's Back packing campground the first day ,and Hiked an additional 18.2 miles to Harpers's Ferry the following day....Great hike, Weaverton Cliffs is well worth the effort...not to mention it is very close to the end!..Walking to Harper's Ferry along the C&O Canal is a beautiful site...Hike your own Hike!

If I did it again I would break it into three days....One thing I got out of this AT hike is ...It's not about mileage per day its about enjoying your hike. Take it slow and steady. Keep on living!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, June 24, 2011
I have a love-hate relationship with this hike. I did it the first time in June 2009 with a buddy who thru-hiked the AT after college & he had way better equipment & more realistic expectations than I did. The results were quarter & half dollar sized blisters all over my feet & sore ankles/knees from over correcting my steps trying to avoid the blisters for the last 10 miles. Plus not having a Camelbak wasn’t; a good idea & it slowed me down quite a bit. To top it all off it didn’t help I went out drinking the night before & got a ride to Harpers Ferry after sobering up from one of my associates at 4am to drop his car off & then another ride to Pen Mar on 2-3 hours of sleep. Needless to say it wasn’t my best day.

We did it differently Friday June 24th. First off we slept near the trail. Second, I had better shoes, a 3 liter camelback & the proper nutrition the night before & during the hike this time around.

We started at 5:30am & took the obligatory picture at the Mason Dixon line sign. The first real test is the step climb up High Rock on Quirauk Mountain about 3-4 miles in. Leading up to the ascent a few portions of the trail here are very technical with tons of opportunities for ankle breakers. I believe this this the highest point on the AT in Maryland also. Two hours later we were passing the Cowall Shelter. We were hoping to stop for breakfast but there were tons of thru hikers still sleeping in & around the shelter so we continued on over Wolfsville Road & up the next incline. ½ mile later we took our first rest. This was a good place to stop, we were just under 4 hours into the hike.

We started flying&hellippassing the Washington Monument (water tap here to replenish the liquids & modern bathrooms) in under 7.5 hours, Dahlgren Chapel/US-40 at Turners Gap in under 8.5 hours. We were over 23 miles in. Then my Garmin GPS running watch died. I had & highly suggest bringing Map 5 & 6 of the AT across Maryland from the PATC. They provide very good detail of the trail.

On any normal hike South Mountain wouldn’t be that big of a deal for us but after 27 miles it was a decent test. After this summit it’s a roller coaster for the next 9 or so miles. We stopped at Gathland State Park at Gapland Road to check the feet & fuel up. All good. We were averaging about 5 miles in 1 hour 45 minutes but these 5 miles from Gathland to the Weverton Cliffs seemed like an eternity. Every hiker we encountered we asked, “How much further to Weverton Cliffs?&rdquo Yes, I know I had the map but at this point I was too lazy/tired to stop & pull it out. When they learned we were doing, “The 3-State/Maryland Challenge&rdquo they were impressed & excited for us. Even though we weren’t thru hiking & going ultra-light on this mission, it seems this accomplishment is a badge of honor on the trail.

One of our goals on this hike was to hit the nasty Weverton decline before nightfall. Its 2 downhill miles of pure hell on spent, weary legs & we didn’t want to do this in the dark. We made it down & under US-340 just as the sun disappeared. The headlamps came out & we were about to cross the railroad tracks but a train was stopped there & just getting moving. We rested for a few minutes till it passed. It was one of the loudest things I’ve ever been around but I could of slept for a few hours while that thing rumbled by.

Finally the C&O Canal Towpath! Just under 3 miles of flat, slightly uphill hardpack. I must have been delirious because I suggested we run it because our ride was waiting for us in the Harpers Ferry NHP Visitor Center parking lot. We did & hit the G. Byron Memorial footbridge & set foot into Harpers Ferry just shy of 10:00pm. 16 hours, 10 minutes! If that train hadn’t stopped us we could of done it in sub-16 hours.

Only 2 nickel sized blisters on the insides of my heels. Other than that, just tired legs & sore feet.

We like doing this hike around the Summer Solstice toward the end of June to get the longer days of daylight. Oh & wear very comfortable, light, breathable shoes for this one. Next time we will incorporate Virginia into it so we can call it the, “4 State Challenge”. If you’re crazy enough to do this hike or are a glutton for punishment like me feel free to email me if you have any questions about the hike. Tim

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 13, 2010
This was my first introduction into longer distance day hiking - and it nearly broke me!  Did this hike as part of 1 Voice Trekking to raise awareness for abused and neglected children.  6 of us did the hike.  We started at 4:30am on Saturday and ended 9pm that night.

We stayed out Friday night at PennMar Park north of Frederick at the Mason Dixon line.  Took our Eagles Nest Outfitters hammocks and strung them up in the pavillion and slept for a few hours on Friday night.  Since we did this as an awarness raising event, they let us stay the night in the park, although we ran into a few college students that had the same idea and were camping out.  Normally the park does not allow camping - if you want to camp, I would call ahead of time.  

Did the first 6 mile section in the dark at a 3 mph pace after a healthy dose of caffeine.  We broke up the 41 miles into a few sections and had goals for each of those sections so we could keep our sanity tackling smaller hikes at a time.  We wanted to stick to a 2.5 mph pace to keep the juices flowing.  I feel like my body was "broken in" with this hike for future long distance day hikes. 

As someone told me who did this hike before, "you will be so happy when you get to Weaverton Cliffs."  Uh, he was right.  In November there was also not much daylight so it was tough hiking to the cliffs in the dark over rocks covered by leaves.  Not much talking amongst us at this point, but a lot of yelling when someone kicked a rock!

a few things I learned:

1.  I trained for this hike by running, strength training, and with a sprint routine.  Almost a waste.  Cardio was not the problem.  The issue was structural.  If you have time in your schedule to hike all day on a few Saturdays, that would work.  Hike the Catoctin Trail first (I did the reverse) and then do the MD challenge if you are not in thru hiking shape already.  

2.  don't bring too much food.  clif bars, goos, and pbj and 3 liter resevoir worked for me.  

3.  wear boots/trail runners with a toe guard.  Keen Obsidians worked great for me. 

4.  body glide - a must

I will never forget this hike!  A great experience

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