Ten years ago on my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I hiked 38 miles through a day and most of a night to reach Harpers Ferry in time to catch the Friday morning 7am train into Washington, DC.
I will never forget the events of this day, and on our Airstream adventure around America, I just had to share the story with Jane and Wilson.
It was an absolutely brutal 18 hours on my feet. Hiking with another thru-hiker, we pushed ourselves to our physical limits. At some point in the night, we lost the trail and had to walk many miles along a road and then several miles along the railroad tracks, which led through a tunnel and over a trestle bridge to Harpers Ferry. Passing through the tunnel and over the bridge was dangerous. If a train came, there wasn’t much room to avoid it.
Across the bridge, we had to climb over a chain link fence to get into the city. We threw our packs over and then climbed over after them. It was nearly 5am so we searched for a place to rollout our sleeping bags for an hour. We found a public walkway along the Potomac River, and we slept behind some shrubs on the river bank. It was uncomfortably cold as the wind was ripping through the gorge.
My hips were bleeding where my backpack wore away the skin through the day, and the muscles in my legs, confused after 38 miles hiking, suffered painful contractions while I tried to rest for an hour before the train.
We made the 7am train, though we were wasted for our weekend in DC. We had intended to spend the weekend relaxing with friends, and instead we spent it recuperating.
I shared this story with Jane and Wilson while we were looking out over the rivers near the spot where I slept that night. I showed them the train tunnel through the mountain and the trestle bridge spanning the river. I showed them the exact spot where I climbed over the fence, and the exact spot where I slept on the ground by the river.
To my dismay, they were completely unimpressed. They stared at me blankly and with boredom.
So, I had one of my first moments in which I was really excited about something, wanted to enthusiastically share it with the kids, and got their blank, bored stares in return. I’m sure there are many more moments like this one to come as they age.
This encounter, however, is exactly the reason that I spend so much effort documenting my travels. The stories may be boring to them now. At some point in the future, perhaps after I’m long gone, Jane and Wilson, or maybe their kids, might be interested in these stories and can revisit them on this website.
A message to Jane and Wilson in 20-30 years: If you want the full story, here it is, Blazing through Maryland in a Day, AT Thru-Hike Day 109