Maryland Outdoor Club
Sat, Apr 2 2005 - Expert Shuttle Hike on the AT (Snickers Gap) (View Original Event Details)

Event Organizer(s): Jesse Allen
Participants:Jesse Allen, Emilio Ungerfeld, John Hughes, bartlett rhoades, Wil Bruce, Douglas Smith

Write Up:
It was cold and rainy and cold and wet and did I mention it was cold? The sky was pouring down buckets, but our interpid hikers needed their training hike to prepare for the Hike Across Maryland on May 7, so even in the cold and the rain and did I mention it was cold? Anyway, we met up at Snicker's Gap to head off north through the last three hills in the famous "rollercoaster" section of the Appalachian Trail (17 hills in 27 miles). Doug was running a little behind, but called us to encourage us to head on ahead without him.

After some brief, chilly, wet introductions (and a quick lesson in Russian from Emilio about how to say "It is [expletive] cold!"), we headed off up the trail.

Perhaps trail is a generous term. In a number of places, it was more of a shallow stream. Making it rather different from the small streams at the bottom of each of the valleys we crossed which were running rather swiftly.

Not only was it cold and rainy and did I mention it was cold? Ah, yes. A few minutes into the hike as the walking warmed us up, we got our first distant roll of thunder. Not close, not threatening, but not pleasant. As long as we kept hiking, we were fine. We even forded the first couple of streams without mishap.

Right up to the point when there was a brilliant flash of lightning and a thunderclap almost at the same time. That was no gentle inter-cloud strike miles away, but a vicious stab to the ground and somewhere not too far away from us. This was all the more disconcerting for happening as we were climbing up towards Raven Rocks, one of the most high and exposed spots on the trail.

We high-tailed down from the ridge and across the rocky scramble of Devil's Racecourse and regrouped there and discussed our options. On the one hand, we had come in only 3.5 miles of our total planned 20 for the day and several of us were very keen to get in a long hike needed to be ready for our 40+ mile adventure in a month. However, the trail from Devil's Racecourse goes up onto a ridgeline and stays there the rest of the hike, something we were not so keen on with lightning. So we made the choice to turn back and not linger at any high spots.

We caught up with Doug around Raven Rocks. Naturally within half an hour of turning back, the rain eased off some and we did not hear any more thunder. Still, we all preferred safety to hiking.

Emilio, John, and I celebrated surviving the experience with a good lunch in Frederick at the MOC regular feasting place, Brewer's Alley. After a while, we even managed to thaw out a little...

--Jesse Allen

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