Potomac Heritage Trail 2020-21

  • One Week to Go! (3/7/2020) - In one week, I'll be on a plane headed for Washington, D.C. and the start of another thru-hike. This time it will be the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, the fifth National Scenic Trail that I'll be tackling. As always, I'm freaking out a little. I'm not fully prepared yet – life always seems to get in the way of my hike-planning and packing.
  • Day 1: Smith Point Terminus (3/13/2020) - I wasn't sure I'd make it to Smith Point today, one of the Potomac Heritage Trail's two southern terminuses. That's because over the last 24 hours, there has been a huge shift in nationwide concern and action over COVID-19. Suddenly schools are closing, major sports tournaments are off and all sorts of things.
  • Day 2: Reedville to Heathsville (3/14/2020) - I thought today's hike from Reedville to Heathsville would be easy. I guess because it was a road walk on the bike trail. Boy, was I wrong! I guess I can't say it was a hard walk. It was all roads, after all. But here's the thing. The route was constantly going up and downhill, and a lot of the uphills were those sneaky, long-but-gradual climbs.
  • Day 3: Heathsville to Montross (3/15/2020) - Drove to Heathsville this morning to drop my car. It's interesting – I'm not seeing anyone parking on the street in this area. So I gassed up at a station and asked the attendant about that. She said I could park my car there, so I did. And then I began walking.
  • Day 4: Northern Neck Is Finished! (3/16/2020) - The Northern Neck is a done deed! The one nice thing about the PHT being a braided network of trails is that you can cross off these little sections at a time. The first section I tackled was Virginia's Northern Neck, and today I crossed it off the list.
  • Day 5: Point Lookout to St. Mary’s City (3/17/2020) - Today I moved down to Point Lookout, the southernmost point on Maryland's Potomac Heritage Trail miles. The drive took about 90 minutes. I'd been trying for weeks to find someone to shuttle me between Point Lookout State Park and St. Mary's City with no luck. On impulse, I asked a young park ranger I spotted as I drove into the park if she knew of someone.
  • Day 6: St. Mary’s City to Leonardtown (3/18/2020) - I was excited 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.
  • Day 7: Dynard Elementary to Leonardtown (8/24/2021) - This afternoon I hiked from Dynard Elementary School to Leonardtown, Maryland, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Because I’m back on the PHT, baby! In my previous post, dated March 18, 2020, I’d arrived in Leonardtown just six days into what was to be a five-week thru-hike of the Potomac Heritage Trail.
  • Day 8: Dynard Elementary to Capt. Billy’s Crab House (8/25/2021) - Today’s destination was Capt. Billy’s Crab House. Thanks to my Lyft driver last night (Charlene), I learned I could schedule a ride. So I scheduled one for 8:15 at Capt. Billy’s, to be shuttled back to Dynard Elementary. I got there plenty early, so I had time to check out the great views of the Potomac River.
  • Day 9: Capt. Billy’s Crab House to Doncaster State Forest (8/26/2021) - Today’s destination was Doncaster State Forest. But first, last night. My campsite at Goose Bay is nice. I’m tucked among a gazillion RVs whose owners aren’t around. The bay is so pretty (see photo), but my tent is in a site right by huge spotlights. That bothered me all night. I decided I’d drape my towel over that portion of my tent tonight. 
  • Day 10: Doncaster State Forest to Lantana Drive (8/27/2021) - Today’s goal was Lantana Drive, some 18 miles (29 km) away. Maura was going to pick me up at 4 p.m. at Budget Car Rental, where I was dropping off my car. To make sure I’d be there in time, I arranged a 7:30 a.m. Lyft ride from Doncaster State Forest. I prayed the car would come on time.
  • Day 11: Lantana Drive to Oxon Hill Manor (8/28/2021) - Today's goal was Oxon Hill Manor. We're still battling horribly hot temps, so that was a bummer. But I'm trying to think of it as another day down. Maura shuttled me to my start at Lantana Drive. I got going at 8:11 a.m.
  • Day 12: Oxon Hill Manor to Fort Bunker Hill (8/29/2021) - Today's goal was Fort Bunker Hill, part of D.C.'s Circle Forts. I was excited because John was coming with. He's Andy's dad, and Andy is our daughter Maura's boyfriend. Maura dropped us off at Oxon Hill Manor, where I'd ended yesterday. And then John and I were off.
  • Day 13: Fort Bunker Hill to Glover Archbold Park (8/30/2021) - Today’s goal was the southern end of Glover Archbold Park, which would conclude the bulk of my Circle Forts exploration. I took the Metro back to Fort Bunker Hill, then continued on from my stopping point yesterday.
  • Day 14: Mount Vernon Trail (8/31/2021) - I was pumped to be hiking the Mount Vernon Trail today for a variety of reasons. First, Maura was going to hike several hours with me in the morning. Shortly after that, my good friend Colleen was going to join me once again (she’d been with me a few days on the PHT back in 2020). Finally, I’d be staying in an old CCC cabin in Prince William Forest Park.
  • Day 15: Prince William Forest Park to Neabsco (9/1/2021) - I didn't plan to hike to the Neabsco area today from Prince William Forest Park. I'd hoped to pick up where I'd left off yesterday (Pope Leighey House), then hike the trails in the Mason Neck area and a little beyond. So why the change in plans? Well, I didn't realize how remote my cabin was in Prince William Forest Park.
  • Day 16: Marine Corps Museum and Mason Neck (9/2/2021) - Today’s goal was Mason Neck, although that wasn’t the original plan. Yesterday, today and tomorrow were/will be scattered itineraries, thanks to Hurricane Ida and some other issues. So today, I’d hoped to hike yesterday’s planned itinerary, which was to hike from the Pope-Leighey House to a few miles past Mason Neck.
  • Day 17: Occoquan Area (9/3/2021) - I was stoked today to hike through the Occoquan section of the PHT, since this would mark the end of my exploration in this area of the trail. Before heading there, I first hiked a few miles out of the park in the opposite direction that I'd taken a few days ago, to officially finish this area.
  • Day 18: Ball’s Bluff to Algonkian (9/4/2021) - Today starts a new section of the PHT – an angled path along the Potomac (Virginia side) from Ball's Bluff to D.C. As it's a Saturday, Maura decided to join us for the day. So we headed out for Ball's Bluff Regional Park bright and early in the morning. 
  • Day 19: Algonkian to Scott’s Run (9/6/2021) - Today’s goal was Scott’s Run. For those of you (like me) who aren’t from this part of the country, a “run” is a small creek. This may not be a totally accurate definition, but I’m not finding one online. Anyway, Maura drove us to Algonkian Regional Park, where the NPS app indicated we’d have to […]
  • Day 20: Scott’s Run to Civil War Forts (9/7/2021) - Today’s goal was to finish the PHT along the Potomac in Virginia, plus pick off the last few miles/kilometers of the Circle Forts tour. So yesterday, we finished in Scott’s Run on a PHT detour in the park, due to flooding. Maura wouldn’t let us hike the connecting road route – the dangerous Georgetown Pike from Scott’s Run to Turkey Run – and planned to drive us to Turkey Run to start the day.
  • Day 21: Start C&O to Swain’s Lock (9/8/2021) - Today’s destination was Swain’s Lock on the C&O Canal Towpath. Yes, I’ve made it onto another major section of the PHT! Woot, woot! It’s also my 60th birthday, a major milestone.
  • Day 22: Swain’s Lock to Marble Quarry (9/9/2021) - Today’s goal was the Marble Quarrycampsite along the C&O Canal Towpath. I’ve been having so much fun with MK, Andy, John and Ed that it was hard to leave them this morning at Swain’s lockhouse. But that’s the way it goes.
  • Day 23: Marble Quarry to Huckleberry Hill (9/10/2021) - I was nervous about today’s destination – Huckleberry Hill– because it was nearly 25 miles (40.2 km) from Marble Quarry. At least the high was only supposed to be 75 F (23.9 C). I got up before 6 a.m. and was on the road before 8, despite moving rather leisurely.
  • Day 24: Huckleberry Hill to Big Woods (9/11/2021) - Today’s goal was Big Woods campsite, just under 20 miles (32.2 km) away. This is predicted to be the last nice day before the awful 90s F (+32 C) drift in for a few days. I got up and on the towpath by 8:30, which is kind of late.
  • Day 25: Big Woods to Williamsport (9/12/2021) - Today’s hike from Big Woods to Williamsport was exceptionally hard, but I’m not sure why. I felt well-rested this morning and made sure to eat more than I usually do. But I was wiped out just halfway into the day. To backtrack a bit …
  • Day 26: Williamsport to Little Pool (9/13/2021) - I wasn’t super stoked for today’s hike, as it was supposed to be hot and humid as I made my way to the Little Pool campsite. And with so many campsite pumps being out of operation, I had no idea what I’d be facing. But first, a look at last night.
  • Day 27: Little Pool to Devil’s Alley (9/14/2021) - Today’s hike to Devil's Alley nearly killed me. OK, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But it did a number on me mentally. It wasn’t the day in and of itself, but rather the culmination of hiking so many, many days in temperatures around 90 F (+32 C), with high humidity and a too-heavy pack.
  • Day 28: Devil’s Alley to Paw Paw Campground (9/15/2021) - I needed a great night’s sleep to prepare for the hike today, which featured the Paw Paw Tunnel. Or should I say, featured the steep climb up and over the mountain that the tunnel goes through, as the tunnel is undergoing repairs.
  • Day 29: Paw Paw Campground to Cumberland (9/16/2021) - The big question for today: Should I hike all the way from the Paw Paw Campground to Cumberland, a roughly 30-mile (48.3 km) trek, or stop a few miles/kilometers short and tack them onto tomorrow? I decided to take it hour by hour.
  • Day 30: Cumberland to Frostburg (9/17/2021) - I was feeling pretty good about today’s trip to Frostburg. First, yesterday’s long hike had gone well, with one exception. I’m starting to feel some pains in my right leg that are reminiscent of the leg issues I had on the Natchez Trace earlier this year.
  • Day 31: Frostburg to Meadow Mountain (9/18/2021) - Today’s trek to the Meadow Mountain Overlook was actually on the itinerary for tomorrow. Here’s what happened today, which will affect my entire experience of the Easter Continental Divide Loop (ECDL) of the Potomac Heritage Trail.
  • Day 32: Meadow Mountain to Deep Creek Lake State Park (9/19/2021) - Today’s destination: Deep Creek Lake State Park. I slept great last night in my wooden aerie. I heard the usual birds and bugs at night, but no mammals or humans or even cars. It was such a quiet night! The temps were nice and cool, too.
  • Day 33: Meadow Mountain Overlook to Hoyes Run (9/20/2021) - On the itinerary today: a road walk to Hoyes Run, which is a stone’s throw from the popular Youghiogheny River, or the Yough (Yock), as locals call it. The day dawned sunny and cool – perfect conditions.
  • Day 34: Meadow Mountain Trail to Frostburg (9/21/2021) - Today was my final leg of the Eastern Continental Divide Loop: Hiking the remainder of the Meadow Mountain Trail to its northern terminus near Frostburg. Josh with Garrett Trails shuttled me to the spot near the overlook where I’d hopped on the trail two days ago, heading south.
  • Day 35: Frostburg to Meyersdale (9/22/2021) - My trek to Meyersdale today could be considered a loss. But I’m choosing to view it as a win. The forecast called for rain starting last night around 4 or 5 p.m., and not ending until tomorrow morning.
  • Day 36: Meyersdale to Rockwood (9/23/2021) - Today’s trek to Rockwood was an easy one. I took my time this morning, since the hike was a mere 12 miles (19.3 km), or about four hours of walking. I once again had my bags shuttled forward; why not slackpack when you can?
  • Day 37: Rockwood to Youghiogheny Outflow Camping (9/24/2021) - Before I describe today’s hike to Confluence and the Youghiogheny Outflow Camping site, I have to mention last night. After mailing my food box back home, I grabbed some onion rings and a small salad at a local restaurant.
  • Day 38: Youghiogheny Outflow to Laurel Highlands (9/25/2021) - My hike to the Ohiopyle shelter along the Laurel Highlands Trail was certainly a memorable one. As was last night. So, I was camping at the Youghiogheny Outflow Campground along the Youghiogheny River.
  • Day 39: Laurel Highlands to Grindle Ridge (9/26/2021) - My hike to Grindle Ridge today was intense. But let’s start with last night. I thought I heard critters on and off all night. That is, critters in/near my shelter. I hadn’t left any food out, but I do know mice are often in shelters. UGH.
  • Day 40: Grindle Ridge to Route 30 (9/27/2021) - Today’s trek to the Route 30 shelter took everything I had. And then some. But first, last night. I slept quite well, in that I didn’t hear any mice or critters outside my tent or in the shelter. Phew! 
  • Day 41: Route 30 to Route 56 (9/28/2021) - I must be thankful for today’s hike to the Route 56 shelter. It could have been so awful! So here’s what happened, starting with last night.
  • Day 42: Route 56 to Eastern Terminus (9/29/2021) - OMG, I was so excited to hike out to the Eastern Terminus of the Laurel Highlands Trail today, because that meant I'd have finished a thru-hike of my sixth National Scenic Trail. Woot, woot!


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