OK, this isn’t really kids’ stuff, but it’s my blog, and I want to share. Every year in late April, the Sierra Club and a whole gaggle of amazing volunteers sponsor and put on the One-Day Hike. The 100k hike goes along the C&O Canal towpath from Georgetown in DC (the southern end) to Harper’s Ferry. The 50k version starts halfway up the same trail, at White’s Ferry, and ends at the same place.
This past Saturday (April 26) was the 2014 event. I’ve attempted the 100k twice before but unfortunately had to drop out both times. The first time was at 35 miles (blisters) and the second time was at 42 miles (exhaustion). This year, I finished!
The 100k starts in Georgetown at 3am. You need to finish by midnight. There are 7 support stations along the way, not including the very end. All have water and Gatorade, most have first-aid stations and snacks, and some have a pretty impressive spread of food. These stops are like shining beacons of sanity after a while.
Hiking 62 miles in one day is not for the faint of heart. Not only is it physically demanding, but most of the willpower you’ll need to keep going is mental. After 30 or 40 miles, you can’t allow any negative thoughts to creep in. If you do, the miles will stretch on forever, and you’ll quickly find yourself questioning why in the world you ever wanted to do this in the first place. It takes a lot of stamina (physical and mental) to keep walking for 18 hours straight.
After 50 miles, it’s really just a matter of keeping one foot in front of the other. It might be the home stretch, but it’s a LONG home stretch. The last 10 miles or so were the longest. It’s amazing how a mile can seem relatively short at the beginning but interminable by the end. There were many times when I thought maybe I’d missed a mile marker on the trail or maybe one had been knocked over. Then I’d pass one, and–lo and behold–it had only been one mile. Heartbreaking.
The trail itself is in fantastic condition. The C&O Canal (and the towpath) is owned and maintained by the National Park Service. The towpath actually stretches from DC to Cumberland, MD for 184.5 miles–more than 120 miles beyond Harper’s Ferry! The stretch from Georgetown to Great Falls is very heavily used and also presents some of the loveliest views of the whole trail. There are some spectacular views of the Potomac River, rocky cliffsides, and well-maintained historic locks on the canal itself.
The trail is relatively straight, incredibly flat, and very monotonous. It’s gorgeous, but it gets quite boring, especially in the doldrums of the middle 30 miles.
The only time the trail sees any incline is during the last 2 miles (of course). As you enter Harper’s Ferry, you leave the trail and walk through town to the Bolivar Community Center, which is where you’re finally allowed to collapse. It’s uphill the entire way and makes for quite an expletive-filled finish. However, the camaraderie shared by all hikers (whether they did the 50k or 100k) is incredible, and the welcome you receive at the finish is wonderful.
I’ll refrain from going on about the logistics and basics of the event, since the One-Day Hike website does that pretty well. If you’re a hiker (or just up for a personal challenge), it’s an incredible event that should be attempted at least once. Just know that registration is limited, usually opens up in January or February, and sells out very fast.
Thanks to everyone who helped make the event run so smoothly. The volunteers were fantastic and supportive of all walkers the entire way. Speaking as someone who had to drop out twice in the past–I know that not finishing can be a bitter disappointment. However, during those previous attempts, the volunteers never once made me feel inadequate or like a failure. They were supportive and encouraging to the end.
This is a great event run by great people. If you’re a masochist, I can’t recommend it enough.
My (mostly trail) photos are below. If you’re interested in seeing photos with actual people in them, check out this set from the event organizer: www.goo.gl/E3rQ7y