The third morning began with me glancing down at my watch, which was silent and distinctly NOT beeping. I’d amazingly woken up just before my watch alarm went off. Even more amazing, I’d gotten a full 8 to 9 hours of sleep on the trail despite the chilly temperature! I’ll chalk that up to securing my rain fly much lower than the night before, which kept out any drafts and reflected a bit more of my own heat back at me. The result was one of the better nights of sleep I’ve ever had out on the trail.
Completing the trip’s itinerary today meant huffing it ten miles back to Pen Mar Park from where we were at Ensign Cowall Shelter. Wanting to get back early, I hopped out of my hammock and quickly packed up to go. My feet were feeling better due to the rest I’d given them, so I was hopeful for a less-than-painful day. I made breakfast and coffee for myself near the shelter, and my meandering slowly woke Chris and Jerry up from their slumber inside.
Jerry and Chris were lightning fast with their packing this morning, mostly due to their choice to stay inside the shelter. We set out from camp around 8:20 and immediately went up a half-mile incline. In no time at all we crossed a powerline cut, giving us a gorgeous view of the sun painting its rays across the trees. Those same rays were cutting through the trees even when under the canopy, which gave the morning an ethereal quality that I loved.
We soon came across a beautiful open field. It was a relief to both our feet and our eyes, having been in the trees for most of the trip. The colors here were stunning, with the whole spectrum of fall leaves on display. The sight made for a great morale boost.
After crossing Warner Gap Road, we went straight uphill towards Raven Rock.
Opting to pass by Raven Rock Shelter (Jerry might have gone down for a peek) we encountered more of the terrible rocks we’d come to loathe. It was a waterfall of medium-sized rocks for almost the entire descent down to Pen Mar. To our fatigued legs and feet, it was brutal. We spent the time cautiously making our way down, using the flattest footfalls we could find to avoid turning our ankles. I cursed the state of Maryland frequently. Eventually we made it to a flat and comfortable section, after which Pen Mar came into sight. We’d made it back in one piece!