On the surface, it was a good plan. Especially with good friends like Jim & Ginny kind enough to cart us back and forth and host us at their home. Plus, I really wanted to see the Appalachian Trail Museum and not take another zero day to visit it.
We’d only slackpacked once before – a crazy 15 mile day to Hot Springs – and we knew that day, even in the dark, we could reach our destination. When you have friends dropping you off and picking you up, deadlines to meet, and miles to hike, things are a little different. This time, we borrowed day packs, which lightened the load. I tried to estimate when we’d reach the end of our first day’s hike, knowing we had to get to the museum before it closed and that my cell phone wouldn’t work at trail’s end.
We dallied only once – for a stop at a country store – but otherwise pushed. And pushed. We tried to keep a 2 mph going, including stops. In some places, where the trail followed an old rail line, it was plenty easy. In other, more rocky spots, it was not. Moving faster meant different muscle movements, different muscle aches. And my feet hurt. Bad. I miscalcuated on water sources and we passed our last guaranteed spring about an hour before our water nearly ran out. It was a hot day, and I was parched. Rationing the last of the water added to the stress. Thankfully, we found a rain-fed source, not in the guidebook but certainly beneath our feet, and grabbed a gallon out of it.
Arriving back at the state park, it was crazy busy, as if we’d dropped out of an airplane into the midst of humanity. Bicycles whizzing past, mothers pushing strollers, a photographer snapping glamour shots, and the inviting cool waters of the swimming area packed with people. Memorial Day weekend marks the kickoff of summer in Pennsylvania, and on this wonderfully sunny day, everyone who could was taking advantage of it! Every picnic table full, every barbecue grill smoking.
We didn’t tarry, however tempting it was to yogi a burger. It was on to the museum, where – wouldn’t you know – the sign said they closed at 4 pm and here it was 4:15. Fortunately, so many people were at the park that the museum volunteers kept it open. And so we snuck our peek into AT history.
Collapsing into a chair to wait for our ride, exhausted, I mulled over the value of slackpacking. It would be a longer day tomorrow, but a flatter one.