If anyone ever asks, yes I have hiked the Appalachian Trail. Have I hiked it from end to end? Oh, hell no, but I have strolled, climbed, walked, and tripped and fallen along stretches of its roughly 2,190 miles. I walked my first stretch near Great Barrington, Massachusetts, but it was already late in the day by the time I embarked, so I cannot claim to have made it even a half mile north before I needed to turn back. But I wanted to take time in the midst of an otherwise full itinerary (see Forty-Nine from August 2021) for the tranquil, autumn outing.
West Virginia & Maryland
While visiting Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (see Baltimore Nevermore from October 2014), the Appalachian Trail crosses the Potomac River, and so did I. The foot bridge shares its spans with the train bridge, which provides a bit of a rumble at times, but this particular crossing also allowed Son Number Two and me to move from West Virginia to Maryland and back again. We also descended the spiral staircase at the northern end and skipped rocks across the waterways near the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. How spectacular were the views at this location? They were enough to pull me away from the Meriwether Lewis site from when he requisitioned the U.S. Army for supplies before embarking on his journey to the Pacific, and that’s saying a lot.
Along the top of the Fontana Dam on the south side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (see The Tail Of The Dragon from May 2021), another stretch of the Appalachian Trail mixes waterways on its path from Georgia to Maine. It’s a cold morning, near freezing, so I have this particular stretch to myself. Mid-March isn’t the time to tackle the trek, but for this short distance, I can manage for awhile, or at least until I realize the daylight won’t last long enough to travel northward by foot. I opt for my car and know I still have many more states through which I ought to explore the Trail.
My beautiful hiking dog, Pompey, joins me in Shenandoah National Park (see Finally Making Time from April 2020) and she urges me onward even as I trip and fall as I climb towards the granite rock field in Virginia’s western region. It’s October, and again, I traverse the Appalachian Trail in the autumn just over eight years on from my first outing in Massachusetts. I’ve seen the northern terminus from atop the Penobscot Bridge (see Penobscot Narrows from February 2015), and while I may never tackle the path from Springer to Katahdin, I know I am tackling the most famous trail in America in bite size bits. You bet there’s more to come.