Friday, June 23, 2017

Thank you, West Virginia; hello, Maryland!

I can hardly believe it, but I crossed into Maryland yesterday.  However, I'm not quite done with the wonders of West Virginia, which for me were mostly about amazing people and steep, leafy mountains!  For a good part of the distance walking the North Bend Rail Trail I was taken under the wing of West Virginia's ADT coordinator Sharon, and the network of people she and her husband know along the route.  After the aforementioned encounter with the couple in Salem it was pretty regular random acts of kindness as I covered the last three days to the Maryland state line.

These were rather ambitious days, as it turned out.  I'd been 'sheltered' from many of the hills while walking on a converted railway line, and although some real challenges were expected, I'd flattered myself that the Rocky Mountain crossing was pretty good training(!)  Anyway, the most mountainous part of West Virginia is in the eastern part.  From a conversation I had with a support person who was following a cross-country bicycle race (Race Across America), I learned that the slopes of the Appalachians include the most elevation gain per mile of any of the U.S. mountain ranges.  We're not talking about elevations at all comparable with the height of those in the west.  The highest point, Mt. Mitchell is 'only' about 6700', but I now have a new understanding of what Appalachian Trail walkers are dealing with.   During the past three days of  'hill climbing' I ascended and descended more 8, 9, and 10% grades than I wanted to count, and today I am feeling the accumulated effort! Have made it here (to Oakland, MD) in time for a week-end of stormy weather (which actually started early, raining both evening and morning on the camping place I left yesterday!)  And, BTW, I do know that I'm not finished with hill climbing yet...

There has been a real shift in my thinking in some ways, during the course of this endeavor.  For example, abandoned/ruined buildings have always fascinated and drawn me with the impulse to explore. But now this attraction is mixed with a certain poignancy as I pass so many shuttered businesses, houses falling to rubble, trash-strewn properties with (I imagine) no one left to care for them.  And I guess what's even sadder is that so many teetering buildings that look abandoned are, in fact, occupied. One listens to the rants of so many of our politicians and can only wonder, "What in the world are we thinking?"

Cool Springs Park.  Interesting camping spot, with a water wheel, antique farm equipment and an assortment of animals across the creek.

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