Maryland Challenge



Let me start by saying that we failed. Let me rephrase that. We didn’t accomplish the task we set out to do, so we failed. This was a training mission. And the POINT of a training mission is to learn your strengths and weaknesses and determine what you know and don’t know, right? In that I didn’t fail, although I learned I have more weaknesses than strengths when it comes to hiking.


So what was the Maryland challenge? We set out to hike from the middle to the Mason-Dixon line and back to the car and then to Harper’s Ferry and back to the car. It was gonna look like this.


D1. 5.5 miles
D2.13.1 miles
D3. 14.7miles
D4. 12 miles
D5. 21.7miles
D6. 11.1 miles
(Plus side trips)


We did a lot of prep work.


Made snacks and packed before the big day 🙂


planning is exhausting yo


Lots and lots of planning and prep. Finally came the big day, putting the finishing touches on packing.


Making sure the essentials are easy to get to… dates… pig jerky… chocolate covered coffee beans… Carcassonne… sandals


(I ended up not taking my sandals (SO HEAVY!) and I didn’t eat many of the dates (TOO SWEET) and the coffee beans I was stupid and left in the sun so they melted and were gross 😦 )



TIRED packing!!! I got off work at 0730 and got home and packed the rest of everything into the car before taking what felt like the world’s shortest nap.



Zombie’s bag, that he ended up not taking because plans changed.


She was inspecting things to make sure we did a good job 🙂





Trying out the pack. It didn’t seem so heavy at home!


After the car was all packed I laid down for a nap. And this was the beginning of frustration and where stuff started to fall apart. Although it was apparently that I misunderstood. We were supposed to go when my friend got off work around noon. Which I took to mean that we would be on the road by 1 or 130. I think we left my house closer to 230. Then we drove FOREVER! (Actually it was only 2 hours when we stopped for food).


We got some prehike noms.


and COFFEE!!!


We finally got to the parking lot and got our bags MOSTLY ready and then ran into town to use the bathroom and get one last cold drink. Then the torrential downpour. With MASSIVE lightning and thunder. It stopped raining at about 830 and at that point I didn’t want to go hike 5.5 miles AFTER dark after a torrential downpour when it would be all wet and mud and we didn’t know the terrain and and and. My thought was that we could just add the extra to the next day. (it seemed like a good thought at the time.) We were really close to Dalgren campground so we walked the 0.2 miles and set up camp near the car. Called it a zero day essentially.


We went to visit the Dalgren Chapel


(NOT MY PHOTO! my phone was dying 😦 it doesn’t like to charge in the car anymore)

We went inside and saw the beautiful stained glass windows and alter.



this is the map that shows the elevation for the hike. We parked at the red line and hiked to the left.



Got up nice and early 🙂 and Zombie and Ezra and I left the car at about 7-730.  My friend didn’t leave until later. The plan was to meet him at the Washington monument parking lot. We walked for what seemed like a million miles (but was really less than 2) and came to a road crossing. I sent Zombie on ahead up the road to see if it was where we were supposed to meet. (LESSON ONE: don’t send Zombies to scout) He said it was the parking lot so we waited there for our friend. It wasn’t, so we still had more than a mile to get to the parking lot.


We did a lot of splitting up. Zombie went ahead then I usually started in the middle, then my friend would wait and start and then pass me and we would meet. So we got to the monument area (really beautiful btw) and I told Zombie to let our friend know that I was using the bathroom. (LESSON TWO: don’t trust Zombies to deliver messages) Apparently our friend went on ahead to the monument and I spent the next almost hour waiting for him when Zombie knew he had went ahead 😦




It was hot and I was already tired. After we got the waiting situation figured out we went on ahead to the monument. It’s the first monument for George Washington, built in 1827 by the people of Boonsboro.


It had this really narrow spiral staircase that went out onto the landing.




(I don’t know why he NEVER looks happy in the pictures 🙂 )


Then we kept walking. I don’t have many pictures because of my phone dying 😦


I learned on this trip that there are multiple levels of “rocky”. Most of the trail was just “regular rocky”. That is a nice trail with some rocks thrown in. Then there is “crappy rocky”. That’s just enough rocky to make you feel like every step is going to potentially be your last as the sliding rocks make you fear for your ankles and you mentally prepare yourself for what happens when you fall and have a compound fracture of the tib/fib and you go through what the wilderness first aid would be for that. Then there is “HELLA rocky”. Those are the rocks that you basically have to throw yourself over. Like God decided to leave his giant pile of legos (legos for a 35 foot tall mountain giant) and we all know how difficult it is to walk over REGULAR legos!!


Anyway, on the way to the Ensign Cowall shelter we ran into crappy rocky. It felt like a million miles of horrible sliding rocks and I mentally prepared myself for what would happen when I fell and broke my leg because ALL my people were far ahead of me. The plan was to make today a 18.6 mile day. Friend was supposed to go on ahead to the shelter at 18.6 miles to wait for us. HAH! It ended up being 14.3 and the last two miles or so I prayed SO HARD that my friend would realize that I was incredibly stupid and wait for me at the first shelter and not the second.


He did. So we slept at the first shelter. I laid there and wanted so bad to walk the 0.2 miles to the road and hitchhike to my car. I felt like I was going to die. My legs and back hurt so bad that I couldn’t move without deep breathing and crying and biting my lip so I didn’t wake the other campers.


There is some discrepancy between my fitbit and the three different guides we used as to EXACTLY how far we went….

said it was 14.3 miles


said it was 14 miles


(LESSON THREE: 14 miles is WAY to far for Jenn to walk)



Woke up feeling very stiff and sore and having a difficult time moving. There was a hostel 0.3 miles (supposedly, I think it was closer to 0.5) down the road and there was delivery pizza! My friend wanted to go down there and I really really didn’t and we argued about it. After a while of arguing (and my being up and ready to walk to the next shelter) he was like “well maybe we can get a trail angel or a shuttle to the park at the end and cut some miles off” (well why didn’t you say that in the beginning rather than arguing with me for an hour) (LESSON FOUR: Jenn needs better communicating skills)


We walked down to the shelter and ordered pizza (for the boys) and fajitas (for me) and called a shuttle guy. We ended up waiting there FOREVER! But he was just a guy with a truck who helped us out 🙂 after a while he took us to the park and let us stop at a grocery store first. (got more gatorade and a coffee for in the morning to drink at the park and some fruit!) (LESSON FIVE: sometimes we need to recuperate when we over extend and 25$ is a good price to pay to cut 10 miles from the trail) walked from the park down to the mason-dixon line and camped there.




That cooler there was some trail magic left by frankenstein. Ice cold sunkist and a yuengling.


so this day we walked down from the park and set up camp then walked back to the park to watch the sunset and play a game 🙂


between the walk in the morning to the shelter and the hike two/from camp I think we did maybe 1.5 miles? Fitbit disagrees





Also known as “why the hell am I doing this?!”


At the pen-mar park feeling a bit crazy before hiking.


The rocks between the pen mar park and High Rocks were intense. (my friend and I disagree as to which part was the worst. This was my worst section) It was worse than hiking old rag (I know you have seen pics from THAT hike… I have a blog post or three with pics) but HARDER! AND there was a 40# back pack involved. This was the hardest point of the trail for me. I was in the middle again, Zombie had gone up ahead and my friend was behind. I had just gone up a particularly hellish section and I was looking up at the million miles I still had to climb and I sat down and sobbed. I couldn’t climb anymore and I just wanted to die.  Then I looked down and saw what I just came up and was like totally discouraged 😦

At high rocks

Got to Raven Rocks and played a game with my friend before continuing on. I think this is the prettiest shelter I have encountered on the AT (granted I have only been to ~10 of them 😉 )

We finally got to the Ensign Cowall shelter around 8. Set up camp and then walked down to the hostel for more fajitas and pizza.


Between the hike and the hostel CNY says we did 10.8. Hiking upward says 11. fitbit says 13.47


Camping at Ensign Cowall the second time, before the boy woke up. Can you see him all curled up in his hammock over there?  Ezra isn’t usually allowed in the hammocks but she was digging and scratching at stuff and we couldn’t sleep so I let her climb in so I could keep her quiet.

Zombie woke up and wanted in on the snuggling 🙂 He left his sleeping bag at the car to save weight so he was sleeping in my teeshirt for warm.



Also known as “I just wanna be done and have my heating pad”


The plan today was to go from Ensign Cowall to Pine knob shelter and finish the last five miles on monday. This was the section with the ankle breaking rocks though that made us all super sad. (Well…. not Zombie, because he is a super billy goat when it comes to rocks and he loves them but he is crazy and shouldn’t be allowed in polite company!!)

So we started walking and right before we got to the crazy rocks my friend was like “I could go ahead and get the car tonight and meet you at that road by the pine knob shelter. and we could have hot showers and stuff tonight!” so the arrangement was that friend would meet Zombie at black rocks and leave his bag, then do the extra 5.5 miles and drive back to meet us at the road. Which meant  that for the last 3 miles I carried my bag AND his. That didn’t go far towards making me feel strong.

This time though the crazy rocks weren’t as bad as they were the first day. Probably because the first day I did them I had already done eight miles and I was feeling dead tired BEFORE I got to them. This is the section that my friend thinks was the super hardest.

My favorite quote? There was this group of teenage kids sitting taking up the whole trail to rest. I hear one of the leaders telling the one boy that he needs to get out of the trail because hikers. He didn’t move and as I came up I said “there is a little known bit of trail etiquette that says that if you are resting over the whole trail when I am trying to walk it I get to step on you.” He kinda moved a little bit, then as Ezra passed he kinda freaked out (not sure if he was afraid of dogs or if she gave him the evil eye because she had to go off the trail to get around him) and said “that dog is MAD did you see that? It has MAD EYES!” I replied “yeah she’s mad because you’re taking up the whole trail!” 🙂


The last miles were the hardest. I think his bag was ~20-25# and mine was still ~35-40# and if you look again at that topo map, right before the last giant uptick (well… right after the SUPER giant uptick and before the giant uptick and tremendous down slope) is where I picked up the extra bag. The funny thing is I still averaged just less than a mile an hour. It was hard it was heavy but it was doable when I took my time and sat every half hour or so.

CNY says 8.8 miles. Hiking upward says 9 miles. and fitbit says 10.13. I have NO clue



I intend to write another post with more of the things I have learned. I figured out some stuff about equipment and about me and about life and the trail and whatnot but this post is already >2k words and kinda long so I will save that for another day 🙂


all in all I have zero clue how far we actually walked.