Report from our 2022 Section Hike of the Appalachian Trail
Mathews Arm to Harpers Ferry Saturday, May 14 to Friday, May 20 (7 days)
After a fun weekend with Bob, who dropped us off at Mathews Arm Campground on Saturday, we embarked Sunday morning and hiked about 15 miles per day. The weather was amazing Tuesday to Thursday, with just an overnight storm on Wednesday evening. (We were camping at Bears Den so it was hardly a problem.) We stayed in three shelters: Tom Floyd Wayside, Manassas Gap, and Rod Hollow. We crossed the bridge into Harpers Ferry around 6:45pm on Thursday, to a majestic view. I barely took any pictures this time, but below are a couple highlights!
Here we are, looking fresh at the start of the trip.
- Estimated starting pack weight: Buckaroo 30, Tan 20.
- Highs: The little paradise of waterfalls and ripples that we found just south of Bears Den (which was itself a really fun time). Seeing the pileated woodpecker on the last day.
- Lows: The trail on the last day, the approach to Harpers Ferry, was so rocky that Tan’s feet were sore for three days. Also, the Roller Coaster was more strenuous than we expected.
- Gear that I didn’t find useful and probably won’t bring next time: MSR 2-person stove kit is getting to be a bit much. So is my old Katadyn pump filter. We brought two Kindles… wtf?
- Gear that I was thankful for: Shorts! And our tent system worked amazingly again, although the quilt was too hot for Buckaroo this year.
Tuesday was Buck’s birthday, and we found many meadows. This field near the day’s finish at Rod Hollow was quite relaxing. Buck looks happy because we were just treated to some trail magic by Hollywood, Shredder, and a third 2021 thru-hiker whose trailname I didn’t catch.
Buck’s nanny also left him this heartwarming voicemail.
On Wednesday, we decided to take it easy after a hard time on the Roller Coaster. We decided to camp and shower at Bears Den, and walked the half-mile down the road to Bears Chase Brewery, with its lovely view east. The family in back was so kind. We chatted with them for a while before the grandpa offered us a beer.
On Thursday, we woke up and hiked a relatively easy 22 miles from Bears Den to Harpers Ferry. Here we are looking quite happy to have had so much good fortune this week: great thru-hiking companions, trail magic, and weather, to say nothing for the blessed opportunity to take another week off from our “real-world” obligations.
On Friday, we toured around while waiting for Jim and Maureen to join us from New Jersey. Here’s Tan looking pretty refreshed and very happy to not be wearing boots.
We might reflect on three things: pace, meals, and gear.
We covered about 15 miles per day. That was a bit too ambitious for this stretch of the AT, which included the Roller Coaster. Next time, we’re planning more days, about 12 miles per day, to keep things even.
We need to get more creative with our backpacking meals. Ramen Bombs are great, but it would be better to simply eat the same things every day, for simplicity’s sake. We also need to do a better job anticipating the extra meals we’ll pick up on the trail.
Buckaroo’s preferred dinner is Skurka’s Rice and Beans. But, it requires cheddar cheese, which will only last about 4 to 5 days outside. Would a chicken packet taste good in this? Try at home. I can add some ramen bombs for variety. As a third option, start experimenting with a Thanksgiving Dinner (stuffing, mashed potatoes, chicken packet, dried cranberries, gravy packet).
Buckaroo’s preferred breakfast is the super overnight oats, which contains some balance of:
- Steel-cut oats
- Carnation Instant Breakfast (High Protein)
- Dried cranberries or cherries
- Walnuts or sliced almonds
- Chia seeds (or flax seeds)
- Peanut butter
- Salt (perhaps mixed in with the nuts or berries)
- Trader Joe’s instant coffee mix (for caffeine and extra sugar/milk)
Both of these meals need to be tested. Bring lots of snacks for lunch.
At first I thought that I needed three things:
- Camp sandals
- Lighter, cooler hat
But I will continue to use my puffy as pillow (in a smaller bag), I’ll pick up a trucker hat somewhere, at some point, but continue to use the Reds hat until then, and I will switch to trail-running shoes. This is all way cheaper.
Tumblin’ Tan could actually use one or two new items to better match our new style:
- A smaller, lighter pack, like the Eja 48.
- Lighter boots.
In 2023, I hope we can practice lean hiking: bringing less gear, less food (with the idea of resupplying or eating at some restaurants), less water (using two Sawyer minis instead of my Katadyn), and lighter shoes. We tended to approach this last hike as if it were the JMT: lots of back-up supplies, heavy boots, heavier bear bag than necessary, etc.
Buckaroo, signing off until next year.