The alarm went off at 3:30 this morning and Greg had us to the trail by 4:30. It was warm and humid already and no one had slept very much or well so we were a little sluggish getting started. We had to backtrack .6 mile to the VA/WV border so we officially left Virginia at 4:50. It was me, Stretch, Brother Bear, and Odie. We decided to set checkpoints all day so everyone could hike at their own pace and we’d still make sure everyone was doing okay. We set the first checkpoint for five miles in and got started.
I only needed my headlamp for a couple of miles and the sun was up by the time I hit historical Harpers Ferry, which the trail goes straight through. There were historical sites all day that I skipped looking at in the interest of time but I plan to go back some time later (probably in a car) and check them out. We crossed a bridge over the Potomac River and went from West Virginia to Maryland, the longest state of the day.
We had heard the four state challenge was doable because it’s all flat, even trail. That’s partially true. I could certainly never do that many miles in Georgia for example. There were still some hills, although most were not too bad. And there was a fair amount of level-ish, clear path. There were still plenty of rocks though. About two thirds of the time, the rocks weren’t plentiful enough to really get in the way, but the rest of the time they definitely slowed me down.
We made good time all morning and stopped for lunch at the halfway point, 21.5 miles, right before the original Washington Monument. I was still feeling great and ate the foot long sandwich I’d packed out. We found out Brother Bear was dropping out, due to a previous ankle injury acting up. He would try to hitch up to the end point to meet us later.
After lunch I did go off trail twice, to check out the monument itself, and to check out Annapolis Rocks, a scenic overlook that a lot of climbers hang out on. Then it was back to hiking and we made 33.5 miles by dinner. I had slowed down from my earlier average of 3 MPH pace at this point but still felt pretty okay. I needed to reapply the Benadryl gel on the poison ivy on my feet (and this stuff rocks for lasting from the morning until then). I also doubled up on cold medicine since I was getting more congested as the day went on. And some ibuprofen for good measure since my feet and knees were definitely swelling.
We made a few more miles before dark then it was back on with the headlamps for the last 6.7 miles. I slowed way down after this. Of course the steepest, rockiest portion of the day was at the end, in the dark, when we were all exhausted already. There was a really steep downhill rock scramble that felt like it took forever, but was probably less than a mile in length, that I slipped on several times, falling once. I was so tired I was stumbling more than usual, plus my right knee had been twinging occasionally all day and after dinner my left shin started hurting so I was trying to walk so as to avoid causing more pain on them. Even when we did get level, clear path for the last mile or so into PenMar Park, I was walking very slowly. We made it to the MD/PA border and Mason Dixon Line sign at 12:45am then backtracked into the park to get to the car.
We had good weather all day. We were on the edge of a storm for most of it but never actually got rained on. We did benefit from the cloudiness and storm winds though, cutting down on the heat and humidity slightly. I drank nine liters of water and sweat most of it out but I probably should have drank a few more.
The distance between the borders of the four states is 43.3 miles but when adding the backtracks to and from the borders and the couple of side trips I took, I actually hiked 45 miles. Which answers the question I never in my life asked myself: Can I hike 45 miles in a day? Yes. Would I do it again? Probably not. Will I be able to move tomorrow? To be determined.