Tombstone in grass with the St. Mary's River in the background.
I was excited to hike to Leonardtown today and to start the day in St. Mary’s City, which was Maryland’s first state capital. It’s also the site of Historic St. Mary’s, a living history museum. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal with peanut butter (and coffee!) at my campsite, I was off.

Since I’m shuttling, I first parked my rental car at the College of Southern Maryland – Leonardtown Campus ­– it’s right off Hwy. 5 and there’s free parking ­– and hailed an Uber. The chatty driver distracted me, and I didn’t realize until he left that he’d dropped me off in the middle of the living history museum. (It sort of merges in with the local college.)

My starting point was a few miles back at the visitor center; the trail basically winds through the historic site. So I hiked it backwards, then took a direct path back on Hwy. 5 to the point where I’d started. From there, it was all northbound.

Hiking Toward Leonardtown

During those first few miles hiking through Historic St. Mary’s, I’d been chatting with Cashmere, a hiker I met last year on the Arizona Trail. She was holed up in her son’s tiny apartment in the D.C. area, wondering if I thought it was safe for her to hike on the Appalachian Trail back to Georgia.

Apparently the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is asking thru-hikers to stop hiking, as trail towns, shuttle services, etc. are closing or closed due to the coronavirus. I told her I wasn’t sure what was wise. That I was taking it day by day, hoping to at least reach D.C. and maybe hike the Circle Forts portion of the PHT. And that I was guessing Ed wouldn’t be able to fly out and meet me, as planned, and maybe I’d have to bail then.

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Interestingly, she told me there was a run on freeze-dried backpacking meals – regular people stocking up – so she wasn’t sure she would be able to get food. We decided to keep in touch.

Plans Quickly Change

The hours flew by as I hiked along the highway toward Leonardtown. They flew by because suddenly everything began to change. It started with a string of family text messages. My older daughter works in Wisconsin’s State Lab of Hygiene, and she said the number of View of Macintosh Run waterway with red-brick path and streetlights lining the waterfront in downtown Leonardtown.coronavirus cases in the state is blowing up.

Then I called my son just to catch up. He said he’d listened to some podcast that said the U.S. today is where Italy was two weeks ago. In other words, things were going to get bad, and soon we’d all likely be housebound like the Italians. Next, my older sister called and begged me to come home. She told me San Francisco is now on a lockdown. Shortly after that, my younger daughter texted that a Midway airport worker (Chicago) tested positive for COVID-19 and so flights in and out of Midway were being limited.

That did it. As much as I wanted to stay on the trail, I knew I couldn’t. I don’t want to get stuck out here away from my husband. Especially if, God forbid, he contracts coronavirus. Or I do! And even though I could stay with my daughter and her boyfriend in D.C. in an emergency, they only have a small, one-bedroom condo.

So I spent several hours having Ed book me a flight home tomorrow, cancel motel, campsite and car rentals, etc. I’m SO disappointed, as this hike took so much time to plan. And although I can return later within the next 12 months and still officially complete a thru-hike, I really wanted to do it all at once. But, I can’t complain. People are dying, people are losing their businesses and savings, and others are giving up their dreams too: destination weddings, graduation ceremonies, sports competitions, etc.

Arriving in Leonardtown

The trail winds into downtown Leonardtown, where I found a giant chair with a shamrock on the back. I’m guessing it was a throne for a St. Patrick’s Day king or queen, or a leprechaun, or some such thing. I’m also guessing that celebration was cancelled yesterday.

I walked down to the waterfront as the temperature plunged and the sky turned cloudy. It’s pretty, and the town seems to be in the midst of reviving its riverfront. And thus ended the start of my PHT thru-hike.

Back at Dennis Point Marina

Back at Dennis Point, I ran into the owners and asked if I could move my tent from the campground to the spacious porch of their restaurant, as it was supposed to rain tonight and I didn’t want to pack up and fly home with a wet tent. They said sure. I’m the only camping guest here.

So I re-set up my tent, showered and did some laundry before making dinner on the porch. I was able to relax in one of the comfortable rocking chairs sitting out on the porch.

Stay safe, everyone!


P.S. What went wrong today? Well, besides cancelling my hike, I discovered I’d dropped my rental car keys in the Uber car! Luckily the driver was able to meet up with me on the highway and hand them back.

Today’s Miles: =18.5 (29.8 km)
PHT Miles to Date: 108.9 (175.3 km)
PHT Miles to Go: =641.1 (1,031.8 km)

Get your freeze-dried backpacking meals here!


©2018 Melanie McManus – All Rights Reserved

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