Rocky Run Shelter to Gathland State Park and Harpers Ferry
Total miles hiked 5.5/15 miles
We all woke up refreshed to the beautiful weather and enjoyed hot chocolate and oatmeal. Our plan was to hike approximately 9 miles to the Ed Garvey Shelter and camp the night there. Knowing we didn’t have to hurry, we settled into a lazy morning. It was a lovely and relaxing day with blue skies and crisp air. Sharing the campground was a solo section hiker out with his dog. His trail name was Lazy River and our family enjoyed talking to him about his sleeping hammock and other lightweight gear. He was really friendly and spent a lot of time explaining the hammock to us. Trail names are an AT tradition and the we all talked about what our trail names would be if we had them.
Rocky Run actually has two shelters, one is an older, smaller structure close to the water source. The other is a large two level newer looking structure. This newer section was where I had hoped to sleep the night before. Dave arrived at the shelter just before the rest of us and felt like he didn’t want to intrude on the family already staying inside. I was tired and didn’t feel like setting up the tents and so we had a cause for an argument. After resting up overnight I knew Dave was right. The tent sites are just beyond the new structure just up a ridge. The sites are particularly great with flat tent spaces and fire pits. It was a very nice place to camp. After packing up the tents and gear, and Dave and I making up from our spat the night before, we went down the ridge from the tent sites to the water source to fill our bottles. The water is a nice flowing pipe spring and we quickly and easily had enough good water with the use of our SteriPEN.
The older shelter area has a porch swing out front and we spent some time there looking through the trail journal and enjoying the morning. The slow morning was especially welcome since we were all a little tired and sore as the 16 miles the day before was a lot for us- a new hiking distance PR! I was pretty impressed with the kids.
Happy and content and with full water bottles we headed up the trail. There is a steep climb right away but we got through it quickly and got into a good groove. There were a lot more people on the trail today as the weather was beautiful and we were closer to town. After an hour or so of hiking, Dave, Sophie and Naomi were trying to convince Garret, Maya and me that we should hike the full distance to Harper’s Ferry and not stop for the night. This would be another 16 mile day and I was pretty adamant that this was too much for us. When hiking with our kids I try to maintain a good balance of challenge and comfort. I want them to love backpacking and worry that if we push them too hard they will protest future trips. While our kids are all very active, Maya and Garrett were only 9 years old and not used to such long distances. Honestly, I was tired too! Added to the discussion was the fact that Dave’s 20 year old pack was starting to show its age and he had to stop several times and repair the shoulder straps with duct tape and a bungee cord. Sophie and Naomi though were feeling strong and wanted to take on the challenge of another long day. We went back and forth on this for the next couple miles until we arrived at Gathland State Park where we stopped for lunch at a nice picnic shelter.
After much discussion we decided to compromise. The younger kids and I would hang out at the park for the afternoon and the older girls and Dave would hike on. They would leave their packs with us and hike a fast pace all the way to Harper’s Ferry where they would pick up the car and come get us. I was a little disappointed but knew that another long day was not the best goal for my group. So we gave the girls some extra snacks and they sped off with Dave. The twins and I played tag, hide and seek and cards and just enjoyed the afternoon while the others hiked hard and fast to Harper’s Ferry. They finished quickly and came to get us. This compromise was the best decision for all of us and we all felt happy with it. We headed to a local motel to get some rest and clean up. In town we saw some trail magic out for thru hikers.
The next morning we walked over to the Appalachian Trail Headquarters and explored the small store. One of the exhibits was a topographical map of the entire AT which was impressive. This was a nice way to end the hike. It was a great success in that all the kids felt like they accomplished something big but none feeling like they had been pushed too hard. I know we will have future hikes on the AT together!