I awoke the second day of the hike with some cold spots in my hammock. The temperature had dropped significantly in the night and was most likely down in the low 40s. I responded in kind by putting on my beanie, wool socks, and down-filled vest to help fight the urge to get up super early. Eventually 7AM rolled around, and with it the came came alive. I quickly packed up all my stuff and waited for Jerry and Chris to venture out. I meandered down to the spring to get some fresh water, noting how clean Rocky Run looked in the process. It truly was one of the nicer looking shelters I’d seen in my trail-travels.
Everyone gathered their stuff and ate, then we hit the trail at about 9:30. We quickly hit an open cut for power lines which exposed a nice downward view of what we’d climbed the day before. We stopped briefly to let Jerry patch his battered feet near a civil war memorial.
We soon crossed I-40 and were treated to a wonderful view of the church there. The ground was bright green and healthy, and the cotton buds were all shining in the morning light that was hitting them at just the right angle.
Two more miles of hiking led us to the Washington Monument, which was unfortunately closed due to damage from a lightning strike during the recent storm. We opted to hang out on the grounds for a snack anyway. I took the time to prop my throbbing feet up on my pack on the grassy knoll, imagining that the slight breeze was blowing all the pain away. Reality then took hold of me, so I got up, stretched, and moved on.
We came upon the I-70 bridge two miles later, where a wrong turn led us into a parking lot full of emergency personnel. Firetrucks, ambulances, and park service vehicles clogged the area which was already chock full of people. Asking around, we found out that someone had fallen off of Annapolis Rock about an hour prior. Despite multiple attempts of CPR, the man died of his injuries. This added a significant gloom to our day, as we were all reminded of how fragile life can be. My heart goes out to the person’s family and all who were there on that day. I’m sure it will never escape their memories.
We tried to secure a ride to the next intersection of the AT beyond Annapolis Rock, but ended up getting back on the trail. We encountered dozens of young hikers heading in the opposite direction, but none appeared to be in bad spirits. Hopefully they were all unaware of what happened so close by. We arrived at Annapolis Rock at 1:45 to find police and other park officials still processing the scene and doing interviews. I snapped a few shots of the geology and moved on, not wanting to linger.
An hour down the trail brought us to another overlook. My feet were starting to ache badly at this point, so I moved quickly and with purpose in order to not take any wasted steps. The trail at this point was harsh and unforgiving, with sharp rocks everywhere that prevented you from making a flat footfall. I pushed through the final four miles in excruciating pain, having increased my pace by extending my stride length. I arrived at camp worn out and immediately set up camp.
The others arrived after a little while and we all gathered to eat in the shelter. We had good company in two women who were there for the night, so we told stories until the sun went down. Jerry and Chris opted to stay in the shelter, while I went around the corner to my hammock. Unlike the previous night, this time I brought my socks, beanie, and vest in with me for when the temperature dropped. I fell into a deep sleep after just a few minutes of laying down. It wasn’t much past 7:30.