The Appalachian Trail, Kinda: Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland

All these small states. It’s so easy to go between them. After growing up in California, it’s like moving from an Olympic sized pool to doing laps in your bathtub: one stroke and you’re there. So we hopscotched through four states in order to find the hikes we wanted to do. Things didn’t go quite as planned, but I still got to check a major item off my U.S. Bucket List—hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

We started in Columbus, Ohio. Not particularly because we wanted to be there, but because of a work obligation. The capitol of the state, Columbus is also home to THE Ohio State University (we get it, people, you invented the “The.” Now shut up already) and some cute downtown-y type areas. We weren’t in town for a football game and thanks to a flight delay, only had a few hours to explore. We decided on walking the Short North, a cute shopping and dining area the city is trying to develop. We found it as advertised: only a few blocks and on the north side of downtown. It was also, unfortunately, under construction. The entire street was a mess of noise and dust and machine beeping and no sidewalks, which was a bummer, because it was apparent how fun this part of town could be. But I still spent a considerable amount of time touching pretty things in Jolie and we had a great lunch at North Star Café (Mexicali salad FTW!). The whole area’s vibe is brick buildings, bars and boutiques. It looks to be catered to college students, but being so close to the convention center, I bet it’s crawling with middle-aged people wearing name badges at night.

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Hiding the construction from you. The rest is cute!

After the work was done, it was time to play. One short flight and an hour drive later, we were in the Virginian countryside. And then West Virginian countryside. And then Maryland countryside. Seriously, we were where All States Combine.

Our goal was to hike around Harper’s Ferry, in West Virginia on the Appalachian Trail, where the Shenandoah River meets the Potomac. However, Harper’s Ferry is a small, quaint, historic (read: expensive) town, so we got a hotel 20 miles away in Martinsburg. Blessedly, on the way to our hotel we found 868 Estate Vineyards and learned that not only do Virginians make good wine, they also make good sunsets.

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868 at sunset

We headed into Martinsburg for dinner at Brix 27, which is surprisingly hip. Then we had the distinct pleasure of having Christian serve us wine at Boyd’s Steakhouse, even after closing. The man is a delight. Go visit.

The next morning we were rarin’ to go. Time to hike! Or, time to drive angrily around Harper’s Ferry looking for parking. Then time for angrily giving up and paying for parking in a distant lot and taking a bus. As we (angrily) left the bus, we noticed that the river had come up pretty high. Stupid settlers! Couldn’t they see that a high water level would affect their lives?? We walked smugly up to the starting point for the Overland Cliffs trail. Time to hike!

 That high, fast-moving water will never be a problem for us

But nooooooooooo. We got to the bridge and it was closed. The flooding had damaged the Maryland side of the river and it wasn’t safe to hike. Why didn’t I know that a high water level would affect my life??

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The mighty Potomac was too mighty that day

Surprisingly, the park rangers didn’t open the bridge even though we told them that we were very buoyant, so we went across the other other side (the Virginia side, although technically we stayed in West Virginia—these states, I tell ya) and did the Loudon Heights trail. Which was fine? It was technically a hike and technically on the Appalachian Trail. It did not feel like I really checked the AT off my to-do list.

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Me, making Loudon Heights Trail look more fun than it was

We had to adjust our weekend plans. The Harper’s Ferry hike was going to be our big hike, maybe even two days’ worth of hiking. Now we had to scramble to find something that looked fun and was on the AT and near an actual hotel but also not three hours in the opposite direction of the airport. This was a tall order. We settled on exploring South Mountain State Park in Maryland. It wasn’t ideal but since we wanted to both hike and sleep in a bed, it was the right choice. Also, we bought ice cream so I wouldn’t stay cranky (thanks, Scoop-A-Licious), which honestly helps in most circumstances.

The next morning we set off for South Mountain. It was an easy, albeit muddy, hike up to Annapolis Rock. At 5 miles out and back, it may sound long but was really more of a stroll—at least as fast as we were going. (Our speed is generally “ooh, I wonder what’s next,” not “the McCallisters running for their plane in Home Alone.”)

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A not-muddy part of the Appalachian Trail

The trail is pretty popular. People camp along the trail, bring their dogs for morning walks, practice rock climbing. Which meant that by the time we got to Annapolis Rock, it was filling up with people. But, clever bunnies that we are, we walked south just a minute more and found our own rocks to clamber over. No other people. The view was definitely the best part of the hike, so we took a ridiculous amount of pictures and then slid back down the mud to our car.

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Yes, we boomed; no, it was not the motivation behind my falling pic

The next day we headed back to the airport through the windiest country roads we could find, looking for more wineries and garage sales with unidentified Rembrandts for $10. We found the wine, missed the art, and took a quick stop in Boonsboro, MD, for killer burgers at Dan’s Restaurant and Tap House. Also, one of us may have completely geeked out when we drove by Turn the Page, a bookstore dedicated to local author Nora Roberts–aka Mecca for fans of romance novels.

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Hi Nora!

3 states, 2 hikes, 1 bookstore. 0 bad days.

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