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Rise and shine! It's Day 3 of backpacking across Maryland on the Appalachian Trail!

Rise and shine! It’s Day 3 of backpacking across Maryland on the Appalachian Trail!

The Plan:

Back in 2013, two buddies and I set out to hike Maryland in four days.  We did this mostly to enjoy our time on the trail, and didn’t do any big mile days, despite friendly terrain.  Our trek could be done in three days pretty easily by pushing through where we stopped the last night (heck, thru-hikers are know to do this stretch in one day to complete something called the Maryland Challange), but take your time and enjoy this really nice stretch of trail.

Check out Maryland AT Day 1 for background info on this one

DAY 3:
Rocky Run Shelter to Ed Garvey Shelter
START –  Rocky Run Shelter
FINISH – Ed Garvey Shelter
DISTANCE – 9.1 trail miles (about 9.4 miles for the day)

Day 3 was a relaxing day after our push the day before.   We could have made it out to Harpers Ferry pretty easily, but wanted to stay here because this shelter was named for Ed Garvey, author of Appalachian Hiker: Adventurer of a Lifetime, published in 1971 as the first Appalachian Trail thru-hiker memoir (Note: My copy was a quarter at a yard sale, my wife has good eyes!).  I’d finished reading it the year before, and who wants to rush back to civilization anyhow?


We slept in and took our time this morning, knowing that we didn’t have a tough day.  Really, there is only one climb the whole day, up South Mountain, and that starts immediately from the Rocky Run Shelter.

This is what backpacker mornings never look like for us... taking it easy!

This is what backpacker mornings never look like for us… taking it easy!

It’s about a mile uphill before you hit the high point, which has a view with it.  Enjoy it, it’s the only real view of the day!

Still, it's a nice one. They are all nice views.

Still, it’s a nice one. They are all nice views.

Heading downhill, you’ll pass the side trail for the Potamic Appalachian Trail Club’s Bear Spring Cabin (locked, don’t get ideas!) and, about three miles after the summit of South Mountain, the side trail for Crampton Gap Shelter. Less than a half mile from the shelter side trail, you’ll hit Gathland State Park.

Gathland is named for civil war journalist George Alfred Townsend (GAT in his writings), who bought this property and built the home that is now the museum.  He also erected the large War Correspondents Arch in honor of journalists who go into battle areas during war time.  If your timing is right, you can duck in the museum and take a walk around.  There was also some fighting here before Antietam, as there was at all of these mountain passes (Antietam Battlefield is about a 20 minute drive from this spot).

With a lack of challenging climbs or long distances to cover, we dawdled here for two hours, relaxing and drinking non-filtered water.  My buddies went to buy smore materials at a local camp store, and we explored the park.

Coming in on the AT.

Coming in on the AT.

War Correspondents Arch from near the trail.

War Correspondents Arch from near the trail.

Currently the museum.

Currently the museum.

The joys of water that doesn't need to be purified. Incidentally, load up on water here if you can to avoid a not fun trip for water at the shelter. More on that later.

The joys of water that doesn’t need to be purified. Incidentally, load up on water here if you can to avoid a not fun trip for water at the shelter. More on that later.

Past the graveyard and back onto the trail.

Past the graveyard and back onto the trail.

Finally, it was time to cover the last 3.7 miles to the shelter. There are two brief waypoints along the way.  The first is a granite monument about 1 1/2 miles from Gathland that was placed by a father whose son died in a car accident.  The two of them used to maintain this section together and the family raised money to buy this bit of land for the train and dedicate the monument.

maryland309

The second is a small, unmarked road only a 1/4 mile from the plaque.  It doesn’t look like much, because it isn’t now, but this was once the Brownsville Gap Road, which Confederate Armies used to cross the mountains and seize the Maryland Heights above Harper Ferry in 1862.  We must be close to the end!

Not until Day 4 though, first its a final two miles to the side trail (left side) for the Ed Garvey Shelter.

Ed Garvey Shelter- This shelter is high on the ridge, just a short thirty second walk from the trail.  It’s very new, two stories tall (each story with sleeping options!).  There’s a large fire area, a hint of a view, an elevated outhouse, and sites for tents.  Everything is totally awesome about this shelter… except the water.  To fill up at the spring (which is very reliable, it’s a 380 climb down over 0.4 of a mile… one way).  If you can load up on water ahead of time, do it (Gathland is probably your only option)!

Beautiful shelter built by Ed's family and friends in his honor.

Beautiful shelter built by Ed’s family and friends in his honor.



Photo collage of Ed inside the upper floor.

Photo collage of Ed inside the upper floor.

Elevated outhouse.

Elevated outhouse.

You'll need to drink a lot of water when you get to the spring.

You’ll need to drink a lot of water when you get to the spring.

Artist's interpretation of water trip.

Artist’s interpretation of water trip.

Fires and smores make getting water more bearable.

Fires and smores make getting water more bearable.

Other options – Crampton Gap Shelter is the only other camping in this stretch. Treehouse Camp at Maple Tree Campground is also a short stroll around the corner (less than half a mile) from Gathland State Park, which is a nice campground I’ve stayed at with the Scouts before.

The Good

History, museum, beautiful views, amazing Ed Garvey Shelter.

The Could Be Better

The trip to get water at the Ed Garvey Shelter is the worst trip to get water ever.

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Bottom Line

It's amazing, and I wish I was there this very moment.

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