The snow has melted. The first day of spring was weeks ago. It’s warm enough to enjoy the outdoors without a jacket. Spring is finally here! To celebrate its coming and to get outside for a bit, we decided to spend Saturday day-hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
We live in the outskirts of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the designated halfway point for thru-hikers on the A.T. By vehicle, we are six miles from the Keys Gap, VA parking lot. My wife, all of our children and I enjoyed the short drive with the windows down while anticipating exploring on the trail. My wife had hiked a bit of the trail in North Carolina but none of us had been on the section passing through Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.
For those not familiar with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (abbreviated to Appalachian Trail or A.T.), it is a roughly 2,200 mile hiking trail in the Eastern United States. It passes through fourteen states going from Georgia to Maine. Although it is often day-hiked in local areas, many dream of section-hiking or even thru-hiking the entire trail (myself included.)
We reached the trailhead and gathered our gear. My wife and each child dawned backpacks full of snacks and water while I loaded Turtle (our 19-month old) into a backpack designed to carry toddlers. We took a few pictures at the trailhead sign and took our first steps onto the A.T.
This section of the trail was mostly easy hiking. It follows a ridgeline full of ups and downs but little climbing or technical skills were required. The trail was mostly free of obstructions and well maintained by volunteers.
A few miles of hiking and we passed a power-line right-of-way that provided some nice views of the surrounding area.
Out intention was to hike the six miles into historic downtown Harpers Ferry and picnic there. With a six and a seven year old who’ve spent the majority of the winter in a sedentary manner, this proved more than they could bare. The nine-year-old was ready to follow along with me and the Mrs., but we decided to stop about three miles in at a makeshift camping area. There we enjoyed the family time, the peanut butter and jellies, and the conversation with the passers-by. After riding in a backpack for a few miles, Turtle was ready to go! I’ve yet to see a grown-man enjoy nature as much as me and I’ve yet to see a child enjoy it as much as he does. He definitely takes after his old man in that regard. He ran, played in the dirt and genuinely loved life.
After about an hour-and-a-half break, we started the trip back to Keys Gap. The kids were well-rested and well-fed and were in a great mood for the hike back. For the first half of the trip, my 19-month-old conscious chattered continuously with a lot of gibberish broken by the occasional word. At some point, I noticed that the talking had stopped and looked back to see Turtle sound asleep with head bobbing back and forth as I walked.
When we returned home, we all felt great and were glad that we could get out and enjoy the beautiful day. The A.T. proved to be a great way to spend some family time outdoors. If you live near the A.T., I highly recommend that you get out and explore it as much as you can. If you’re not close to the trail, at least do some research about it. Maybe you’ll find that you’re compelled to plan and execute a several day hiking and camping trip, a section-hike, or even a thru-hike.