Lucky Day

Thursday, July 15, 2016
Caledonia State Park (1082.3)

We have a nearly 20 mile hike set for today. The breakfast at the B&B both days has been substantive: fresh fruit, coffee, orange juice, pastry, and an egg-bacon-cheese sandwich. All the major food groups for a successful day on Trail.

Owner brings us back to Pen Mar Park for the trail head, which we are on around 8:00 AM.

Starting another day.

Two tenths of the way in we hit the Mason-Dixon line. Sketch asks for a picture, and as he is settling in he seems to be bowing to the Line - my favorite. Take a more traditional picture as well.

"I am not worthy!"

Another waypoint reached.

Hike today, not surprisingly, is hot and humid. We hike separately as we always do, but meet up at Old Forge Park (1071.2) for lunch. There's a potable water faucet here (we have had to rely on springs and streams little during the last five days or so), a picnic table, and a group of supervised children playing in the field next to us. 

Its not until mid-afternoon our day takes a difficult and strange turn.

Come around a corner, ahead of Sketch by some distance (not sure how much), and see what turns out to be a young mother, two young children and a young dog sitting on a rock. They look beat. She asks if I have any water to spare, and I said "Yes, of course." Pull off a liter bottle (carrying maybe 2 1/2 total at the time) and they drink heavily.

I ask where they're going and she says they are hiking in the state park but can't seem to find their way out. Check Guthook and the park she's speaking of is 3.5 miles away. I ask if she knows she is on the Appalachian Trail, and she says no. Sketch arrives soon after and I fill him in. He also offers water to all four, including the dog.

Our adventure begins. Paul Bunion, Cary, and Ben (2 years old).

Cary, the Mom, has no water and no food. Will is six, Ben two, and Loki a german shepherd mix is seven months. Sketch checks them out, determines everyone appears well hydrated, so we get them turned in the right direction, and Sketch and I slowly head down the trail.

First Sketch, then I, drift back. We can't leave them here. We start down the trail with the family in tow but progress is slow. We pass the Rocky Mountain Shelter, which has a water supply below it. Sketch offers to take my two empty water bottles (a liter each) and get water. I'll continue on with the family.

Ben is running at about 3/4's of a mile an hour, which means it could take us four or five hours to get off trail (its around 3 PM). Cary tries carrying him, but can only do so for short distances. Luckily Loki is able to keep up without carrying. Will talks a mile a minute, he is a big sports fan (Ravens, Orioles, Capitals) and spouts out scores and statistics seemingly without end. Start to wonder if he's a savant of some kind or making things up, its hard to tell. Regardless, we're getting along fabulously. 

Loki, Cary, Ben (using one of my hiking poles)
Starting to get worried about Sketch, its been over half an hour. Its not until later that I realize what he'd signed up for. 0.2 miles to the shelter, plus 0.3 miles downhill to, then uphill from, the water source, so a mile of additional hiking, plus filtering what turned out to be six liters of water adding six pounds to his trail weight. No small feat. 

Sketch arrives with plenty of water for all. Adds in some Skittles candy for trail energy. 

Realize we will have a hard time getting off hill if we can't move Ben along, so offer to carry him on my shoulders which he gladly accepts (phew!) Start down trail then see a huge boulder field, and suggest to Sketch we take turns passing Ben up. Sketch takes Ben and scrambles up the rock field and continues on with him until the end.

Ben releasing the "steering wheel" (Sketch's head)
Gradually get down hill, with frequent breaks. 
Sketch, Loki, Cary, Will, Ben

Water runs out but we make it to Route 30 (four lane highway) around 5:30 PM. Hold up hands to slow or stop traffic so family and Sketch can get across safely. 

Sketch continues to state park where family van is, I go down highway to get some dinner since we had originally planned to stay at a hostel and I'm short one meal. We will meet and stay at the state park's campground.

They get to the park and Mom can't remember where she parked van, so takes another 30 minutes to get that settled. Sketch gets them packed into car, both children crying, and she says "Thanks."

Stay the night in a large, group rain shelter which eventually houses three other hikers. We are both surprised, concerned, and a bit shaken by this family's "hike". 

Sleep through a cloudless, cooler, night.


With 1,200 miles in long distance hiking on the Appalachian Trail as a backdrop, here's some things to consider, even if you're going for what you believe is a casual hike:
  1. Know where you're going. Find and review, and if possibly have with you, a map of where you're hiking. Are there elevations and are they steep? Does the path intersect with other trails and if so where, how will you know how to stay on your trail? If you need water or shelter on the trail, where is it?
  2. Stay on the marked pathways. If you get confused, stop, look around, review your map. Ask for help from someone.
  3. Know the weather. Heat, cold, rain, thunder storms, high winds all change the complexity and risk of your hike. Plan accordingly, or go another day.
  4. Consider bringing food and water. It doesn't weigh much, can fit into a "fanny pack" or light back pack, and could save your life.


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