Day 6 -- Campsite to Dahlgren Bacpacker's Campground
Distance - 24.3 miles
Time on Trail - 11:30
Speed - 2.1 mph
Yesterday had ended on a down note, sheltering in my tent from rain storms. But overnight the rain abated and I slept well until about 4 AM. By 5 I thought "why not?" and started packing my gear. At 6 AM, sans breakfast, I started off with only my headlamp to guide me.
It was eerie, walking through the darkness and seeing the eyes of owls/deer/raccoons/cougars/bigfoot reflecting in your headlamp's light (I think they were owls, actually), but soon I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line (no Trump wall yet) and struck south into MD.
At Penmar Park I grabbed a snack and admired the predawn lights of towns to the west. Proceeding south for 5 miles I stopped for my morning Joe at Ravens Roost Shelter. Knowing it was a big day, I also indulged in spoonfuls of peanut butter and trail mix - a simple but potent energy boost.
After some initial climbs and rough going, the trail smoothed out into long ridge walks on wide trails. I started making time, getting on schedule after a slow start in the darkness.
As I hiked, I heard a voice from behind - "Breezy", one of the small bubble of SOBOs I'd been traveling in sync with. She and I hiked along for a mile or so, shooting the breeze, then on a downhill she skipped away. Actually, literally, skipped away. The power of youth...
By now it was a glorious day, sunny but cool, with a touch of fall in the air. I crossed I-70, well caged in to protect the cars below. Beyond that was a quiet residential neighborhood. The oddity of passing well-maintained yards guarded by leashed dogs yapping at hikers was somewhat surreal.
A few more miles and I hit the original Washington Monument, a lovely state park (look it up!). Because of a lightning strike the tower was closed, so I admired the view and relaxed in the grass as compensation.
45 minutes later I was in the Dahlgren Backpacker's Campground, a somewhat unique establishment. No fee, ample tent pads, and hot showers. Best of all it's 1/4 mile from a fine restaurant on US 40 (the old National Road) -- the Old South Mountain Inn, a fixture since the days of the French and Indian War. And they love serving hikers (assuming you shower first).
So having showered, eaten (prime rib) , and had some wine, I retired to my tent to catch up today's journey for you. The trail ends for me tomorrow - thanks for tagging along so far with me!