Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Maryland Challenge

Dallas and I took the kids on a 4 and 1/2 mile hike last weekend up to "Black Rock Cliffs." Since it's not an overly hiked trail in our area, we had to do a little research to find out where to start. In our quest to find the trail, we found out about this hike called the "Maryland Challenge" aka the "4 State Challenge." After hearing about this, my interest peaked-mainly because when anyone describes anything as "borderline insanity," you can pretty much count me in. We told some of our old Young Life guys about it, and that was it. We were officially doing it...four days later. Training? Training is for sissies...or so we thought.

WHAT IS THE MARYLAND CHALLENGE? It is a 41 mile hike along the Appalachian Trail from the Mason-Dixon line in PA to Harper's Ferry, West
Virginia. Only the mentally strong survive-no training in the world could have prepared our bodies for what was to come.

The first "challenge" to the Maryland Challenge was to find a babysitter. My mom quickly obliged but hurt her knee. Babysitters came and went, and then I thought
I was just not meant to go on this trip, but when the guys heard THAT, they quickly got on their phones and remedied the situation! At 9 pm the night before the hike, we officially had sitters lined up again.

Dallas printed out all the maps, marked out every mile and laminated them since it was supposed to rain for the last 8 hours of the hike. We had our ponchos ready. We had the huge pasta dinner the night before, and we all had our Camelbacks packed. Waking up at 3:30am, we were at the Mason-Dixon line by 4:30am, and were on our way.

It was the middle of the night, folks, but here we are at the Mason-Dixon line-pumped and ready to go! One thing we regretted later was not eating a 3:30am breakfast!

By the time we made it to Black Rock Cliffs, we had hiked 15 miles and it was noon. This is where the intermittent rain began. We broke for lunch. I changed my socks. We carried on.

This is the footbridge over I-70 at mile 18 of our hike. It looks cool, but it was super scary! All these cars rushing underneath you...honking! I don't know the guy who designed that bridge! I don't know how old it is, or if I should have trusted its internal structure. This is not the part of the hike I was most proud of. I ran across the bridge screaming like a girl. (I have to say, ladies, that for pretty much the rest of the hike, I represented...except the part when I stepped on a baby frog, the parts where I ran through spiderwebs...OH...and when we passed other hikers who had OBVIOUSLY been out there for an extended time sans showers)

We had a minor victory at mile 21. First, we were slightly over halfway there! Second, we had officially arrived at the first Washington Monument! It was awesome! John prompted us to pray for the rest of our trip, so we prayed! We refilled our Camelbacks down below at the parking lot. And then, feeling pretty good...we set out for the next 20 miles.

I have to say, for the rest of the trip, THESE were our best friends! Power in gummy form! The lunch and dinner and snack of champions! Ladies and Gentlemen, SHOT BLOK.


When we got to what we called "marathon point" (ie. 26.2 miles), we stopped, ate a snack, and I changed my socks again. At this point, I was done. Tapped. The tanks had officially been drained. We drank a 5 hour energy at this point, which is pretty much the only explanation as to how I finished this hike. Shot blok, teamed with 5 hour energy, literally became my source of energy. We had been hiking for 12 hours, and we were officially feeling it. David's feet looked like death run over. We kept on hiking. Here we are at 28 miles. "Lambs Knoll" had a beautiful view! Let me tell you. After this, it got ugly. Really, really ugly. So ugly, that we did not waste anymore energy taking pictures...

When we arrived at the 31 mile mark, we were at Gathland State Park, where a large picnic was ongoing. We were out of food, excepting two PB&Js, shot bloks, and two granola bars. These people had a LOT of food. Remind me to offer food to anyone and everyone I see if I have food a'plenty and they look like death, would ya? We somehow scrambled up enough money to buy two Powerades from the vending machine to split. It was 6pm at this point. I changed my socks again. We hiked on, and it started raining again.

We revved up our engines and really kicked it into high gear after that because we had a flat area for quite some time. Shocking, because the first 31 miles were painfully hilly-go figure! And then it got dark again. At this point, we had done two night hikes in one day. Silence set in as we each went to our own depths to retrieve any and all strength we could muster up. Then we finally heard the train coming from Harpers Ferry! We made our final decent into the town below, crossed over some railroad tracks, and began our last three miles along the C&O canal. These three last miles were extremely hard. We saw the lights of the city. Something happened to my pinkie toe. Systems in our bodies were beginning to "shut down." Dallas became extremely nauseous. We were officially spent. I could no longer hear voices, only the high pitched screaming of the cicadas, beckoning the mosquitoes to attack. So we hiked in the silence...for three more miles. Finally, we arrived at the footbridge that crossed over into Harpers Ferry! We made it!


We thought about taking a picture, but that's when the blank hit the fan. Dallas started throwing up, David took off his shoes (I'm pretty sure he took the skin off of his feet, too), and John and I set off to pick the car up. John and I began what I thought was going to be a leisurely walk to the car. We walked and walked (some would say waddled and limped) and finally made the turn to the parking lot. Reading the road sign that said, "Visitors Center parking lot 1 1/2 miles," I almost lost it. I could have cried...and we carried on. (This time on a lonely uphill road) We finally made it to the car, having traveled another 2 miles, making our total for the day 43 miles.

Our feet were bloody, blistery messes. Our joints were in pain. Our muscles in shock. There are no t-shirts to show off our day of glory. We did not get a "finisher's medal." No one was there cheering us on at the "finish line." All we have are the blisters and the self satisfaction of having hiked a challenge that hardly anyone knows exists.

Thank you, Dallas, John, David and Chris! I had a great time! 'Til next year...when we do this over a weekend instead of 16 hours! !)

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