Saturday, November 19, 2022

Appalachian Trail Overnighter: Gathland State Park to Harpers Ferry

My brother and nephew at Gathland State Park, MD

My nephew collecting water at the spring near the shelter

large afternoon gathering at the shelter

we found a nice quiet camp along the ridge

weaverton cliffs

footbridge into Harpers Ferry

shuttle bus

My brother contacted me and told me that my nephew was interested in some backpacking on the AT. We chose a 10 mile section of trail: Gathland State Park to Harpers Ferry. It was a perfect section to introduce my nephew into the backpacking lifestyle. I met my brother and nephew at the Harpers Ferry Visitors Center lot at 9:00am last Saturday. There was a 20 dollar entrance fee. After filling out a permit to leave my car overnight at the lot, my brother, nephew and I drove my brother's car to Gathland State Park and parked his car there, no fee. After packing up our backpacks, we hit the Appalachian Trail at 10:00 am. Our goal was to hike about five miles and camp, then do five miles on Sunday and call it good. 

It felt great to be back on the trail. We took our time, temps rose into the 60's, gray and overcast. After lunch we came upon the shelter. There was a large group gathered there for a cookout. Our goal was to get some water and hike another mile or so and camp on the ridge. The water was about .4 miles down off the mountain. By 3:00, we were ready to find a place to camp.

We found a nice semi flat area off the trail and set up our tents and made a little fire. After eating dinner, it was already getting dark shortly after 5:00. We managed to stay up until about 7:00 before heading to our tents for the night. Minutes after getting into our tents the wind began to pick up. It was literally old man winter bearing down on the mountains. Temperatures plummeted. The forest was absolutely howling in the middle of the night as a cold front was passing though, I can't recall ever hearing it roar like that before. 

When we woke up in the morning, it was hat/glove/down coat weather. Wind was blowing most of the day Sunday and temperatures stayed in the 40's. After breaking down camp, we hiked down the ridge to Weaverton Cliffs where we enjoyed a nice view. Then we hiked off the mountain to the C&O Canal and hiked a leisurely 3 flat miles to Harpers Ferry. There we picked up a shuttle bus right as we arrived in town which drove us back to the Visitors Center and my car. There we drove back to my brother's car at Gathland State Park. Everything went off without a hitch...

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