Ahh.. The ups and downs of life on the trail. Highs and lows. Achievements and disappointments. You'd think I'd be used to them by now but today really bummed me out.
I'm not going to get to do the Four State Challenge. It just wasn't going to work out. Mostly due to this damn tropical depression (one news source mentioned Hurricane Joaquin - not sure if it was referring to the same storm). I've been getting pounded by rain for two days now and all my gear is soaked.
As some of you know, the plan was to camp at Pen-Mar Park right at the PA/MD border (hence, the name) and to start early in the morning. Well, I arrived there today in the (still) pouring rain. There were 'day use only' signs everywhere and no where really to stealth camp (not even for the King!). Half the park was flooded with big puddles. There was a pavilion that I thought about camping under but I had seen notes earlier in a shelter journal that a caretaker routinely visits that pavilion and even busted some hikers for sitting on top of the picnic tables. Ideally, I would have found a dry, quiet place to camp, got a good night's sleep and got up at 4am for a 5am start time. None of that was going to happen. Plus, in this kind of rain, you can't even take out your map or your phone to make sure you're headed the right way. That also means no pics or videos to document the experience, either. Standing in the rain, soaking wet, staring at the sign for the Mason-Dixon Line, I had to make a decision. "Maybe some other time." I told myself. "This is just not the year to make this happen."
I put my head down and kept hiking, feeling the sting of not just trying and failing, but not having tried at all. I almost turned around a dozen times but I knew that the same obstacles would still be there. I did get a break from the rain this evening and a chance to set up my tent here on the banks of Litttle Antietam Creek.
Trying to look for the positives, at least I'll be able to spend some time in Harper's Ferry, WV, one of my very favorite trail towns. The Four State Challenge had me blasting right through there, probably at night. I'll remind myself to see the beauty in all kinds of weather - even the rain - and that these are the kinds of experiences that I'll remember most.
I give thanks to everyone who wished me good luck on the challenge. Especially those of you who have been sending me care packages and good will. I'm going to continue to hike south, knowing that this rain has got to eventually give way to sunny skies. I'll dry out my boots and all my gear and smile at how much lighter it feels. I'll take the good with the bad and remember that if I'm lucky enough to be on the trail, then I'm lucky enough.