Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Backpacking Trip: Day 2

View from Annapolis Rocks
The second day of our trip dawned on an overcast morning.  The rain from the night was long gone, and the sky had a promise of sun.  Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my disposition.  I did not sleep during the night.  Between the privy runs in torrential downpours, the changing of wet clothes, the worry about getting my new down sleeping bag wet, the worry my tent would leak and the ever increasing pain in my butt, it's a wonder I didn't wake up mutated into a shorter version of Godzilla ready to destroy Tokyo grumpier than I was.  We ate breakfast and packed up camp and got ready to head down the trail.  I was personally trying hard not to cry and failing.  It really was not a good morning.  I didn't care about the view, all I wanted to do was get moving.  I knew that my aunt had planned to meet us at our stop for the night at Dahlgren Campground.  All morning, I struggled mentally about whether or not I should make the choice to end my hike.  The pain was pretty bad, especially on any inclines, and I knew I had some inclines coming in the next couple of days.  I kept thinking that if I ended my trip, I would be failing, and then I was fighting back the tears again, which made it difficult to breathe while carrying 30 pounds with a bad ass.  I tried to keep quiet and push on.  As we hiked south, we began meeting up with day hikers heading north to Annapolis Rocks.  Annapolis Rocks is a popular destination for the view, hiking and rock climbing.  These people carried nothing except small hydration packs or day packs and some were wearing nothing more than flip flops.  I hated each and every one of them on sight.  The happier they were, the more I plotted their demise resented them.
My cousin, myself and my husband

Finally, we made it to the Interstate 70 overpass.  This was my husband's thrill of the trip.  As a kid (and adult) he passed under that bridge on trips to visit his grandparents, and he always wanted to walk across it.  My cousin and I did our best to muster pleasant faces for the photos that we weren't thrilled about having to take.

Once we crossed over the bridge, we meandered around people's backyards before deciding to take a break and have a snack.  We met a few people out for a day hike who were headed the same direction we were.  One was a Hispanic man in a bright yellow shirt (he's important later).  After resting and eating some snacks, we got up and headed back on the trail.  Our plan was to hike the roughly 3 miles to the Washington Monument (the original one in Boonsboro, MD not the one in DC) and eat our lunch there.
It was a grueling 3 miles because 1. It was the longest 3 miles I've ever hiked and 2. There was a never ending mountain hill.  As we climbed the mountain hill, I had to stop every couple of feet to rest and stretch my butt.  It was about this time that my mom began feeding me lifesavers.  My cousin swore several times that we were "almost there" and several times she came near death when each time we were nowhere near almost there and more mountain hill lay in front of us. Then I spotted something bright yellow making its way down the hill.  It was the Hispanic man we had met earlier.  He took one look at me and said "Jew are berry close, berry close" in his accented English.  I think I said "God bless you" 4 or 5 times to him as I realized that I wasn't in the 4th level of hell  going to be hiking this mountain hill forever.  I now refer to that man as my "Little Ray of Mexican Sunshine".

We did finally make it to the top.  There we met 2 men headed north on a hike and we stopped to chat with them.  I asked how far it was to the Dahlgren campground.  One said less than a mile and his partner said, "No it isn't, remember you can't trust information from other hikers on the trail"  Turned out it was more like 2 miles.  I thought about all the horrific stories we heard about upcoming terrain from The Wannabes and Eeyore and realized the guy was right, you can't trust the information.  They assured us that the hike wasn't too bad and that we wouldn't have any trouble getting there after we ate. 
We got to the monument and sat on the bench for lunch.  The Monument was still closed for repairs.  Prior to our trip, the monument was struck by lightning and damaged.  There were 2 women in it at the time, and one was seriously hurt.  That afternoon it was a sunny, though windy, day.  There were 2 men there bird watching.  I assumed they were watching peregrine falcons, but I was too tired to bother to go ask them.
The vultures were there. Circling.
Normally I would be interested in walking around and looking at the view, but all I wanted to do was die not move.  My mom walked around and took pictures, thankfully.

After lunch and a rest, we headed out.  At this point, I had made the decision that I needed to end the hike.  My cousin had also come to this decision as she was dealing with some pain as well.  My husband is the one who really pushed that I needed to stop.  So the choice was made, my cousin and I would be heading to her house for the remainder of the trip while my mom and husband continued on.  As we made our way down the trail, we discovered that there was more to the Washington Monument State Park than we realized.  Down the hill from the monument, there are pavilions, picnic areas, a museum and bathrooms.  Had we known, we might have eaten our lunch comfortably at a picnic table. 
As we hiked on, we that we would all have dinner at the Olde South Mountain Inn which was where we were meeting my aunt.  The thought of a hot meal that didn't require me to boil water and a soft bed I didn't have to blow up gave me a little extra energy (not to mention all the extra sugar from the lifesaver candies my mom was handing me). We reached the parking lot of the restaurant and my cousin and I sat on the curb and waited while my mom and husband went to set up their camp at the Dahlgren Backpacking campsite.  When my aunt pulled in, my cousin and I were all smiles and waving.  My aunt commented that we made it past MD 77 which was further than she thought we would make it (like I said, she's hilarious).
When my mom and husband made it back, we all headed into the restaurant.  We weren't exactly dressed for the occasion, though luckily, none of us stunk too bad.  There was a wedding rehearsal dinner going on, and we were all a little self conscious about our clothes.  The staff at the Inn were very nice and treated us just like any other customer who might be in better attire.  Our meals were awesome as was the dessert.  Starting back on day 1 about an hour into the hike, we were all dreaming about food.  I guess when you're hiking through the woods with little to no signs of civilization carrying everything you need to survive on your back, food becomes an obsession.  My mom, cousin and husband started talking about Key Lime pie and continued talking about it right up until we were seated at the table in the Inn. And wouldn't you know it, the South Mountain Inn had Key Lime pie.  I had the chocolate Godiva cake and it was awesome.  This turned out to be a surprise gem in our trip.  We had a great time, ate great food and had a great waiter.  The only odd treatment we received was some hoity toity blonde woman who turned her nose up at us as we walked out (I swear we didn't stink).  For those planning hikes along the trail here, note that the menu is pricey (though so worth it).  After dinner, we said our goodbyes and my cousin and I headed to her place for showers and clean clothes.  It was up there in my top 5 showers (hard to beat the shower I had after living in a field for several days at the UFO Ranch in Washington or the one I had after a weekend of Scout Camporee and nothing but Port-a-Pottys)
Day 3 coming up!

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