Just as I crossed the creaky, one lane wood bridge to leave Maryland and enter West Virginia, I stopped to take a picture of the sign that had the quote above in giant bold letters. I can’t help but feel accomplished after reaching this first momentous milestone, but I am quick to stifle my excitement as soon as I see the mountains I will soon be climbing. While taking my first couple steps up what would eventually feel like an endless ascent, I briefly wonder whether or not this is all worth it. What could possibly make my swollen, blistered feet and aching body, my constant and unending hunger, my mosquito bites on mosquito bites, and my sweats and shivers and stenches and solitude all worth while?
For one, it is exactly that which makes me most uncomfortable that brings me the most wholesome peace. Take the words from my Nana’s favorite Kelly Clarkson song for example- “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
As if that isn’t enough, I have already seen more vivid, National Geographic quality natural surroundings in the past 23 days than I have in practically my entire life. Yesterday alone, I saw thousands of frogs, caterpillars, and their butterfly brothers; hundreds of birds from ducks to woodpeckers to geese and even a bald eagle that snatched a fish from the Potomac, and spiders that would nearly fill the palm of your hand; dozens of turtles both in and out of the water, deer from the smallest fawn to a massive buck that didn’t back down till the last second, and fish of all shapes and sizes; a handful of snakes of varying colors, groundhogs or woodchucks or whatever you call them, and seemingly wild cats and dogs that roam where they want to; and last but certainly not least a pair of beavers that posed for my camera right until I was ready to take their picture. Take all of this and surround it with a landscape of rocky mountains and towering trees straight out of a Paul Bunyan-style folk tale, and it’s easy to see how breathtaking the world (or at least that part of Maryland) truly is.
But hands down the most pleasantly surprising and motivating aspect of my trek so far has been the unquestionably friendly and compassionate people I have had the chance to meet. To Ann and Jim, who made my first night on the trail one that i will never forget; to Serinda and her family for EVERYTHING and more; to Lee and his family for teaching me that we are all living our own adventures and sometimes they intertwine; to James, Gero, Ethan, Steve, and Miami Jack for being total bros; to Kathy for spotting me from afar and making sure i had a good day; to Sam and all my boys from back home for a wicked sweet party in College Park; to the Central Union Mission for housing me, but more importantly for housing everyone else; to Tim and Ron for an unexpected and extremely appreciated gourmet lunch; to the female AT hikers whose names I have forgotten for the quick tips on how to better manage my pack; to Rob and his sons Noah and Evan who treated me to a heap of inspiration and a warm rehydrated raspberry dessert; to Sami, her family, and her boyfriend Alex for a shower, clean clothes, delicious food, and the feeling of being home away from home; to Bill, Tony, Betsy, and John for the company, the conversation, and the pizza; to Steven Walker, who was extremely easy to talk to, and taught me that the Paw-Paw tunnel has 7 million bricks in its ceiling, and that sdrawkcab seton fo lanruoj eritne na etorw icniV aD odraneoL; and to the literally countless others I have met along the way- Thank you so much.
Stats for all 5 days
Day 1: 18 miles, High of 94, 0 dollars spent, sunset at 7:33, bed time at 10pm
Day 2: 20 miles, High of 91, 1.70 dollars spent, sunset at 7:32 bed time at 11:35pm
Day 3: 21 miles, High of 89, 0 dollars spent, sunset at 7:31, bed time at 12:00am
Day 4: 19 miles, High of 89, 2 dollars spent, sunset at 7:29, bed time at 12:30am
Day 5: 0 miles- rest day at Washington College in Chestertown
After crossing the state line, i realize that the past 23 days have flown by. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun. So as I lie here under the stars, snuggling up in my sleeping bag, I can’t help but wonder what exciting new adventures will present themselves in the days to come. Welcome to wild and wonderful West Virginia.