For almost any hiker in the East, the Appalachian Trail has a curious draw. Colleagues of mine have spent their weekends hiking portions of the trail, and of course, I've read Bill Bryce's book, "A Walk in the Woods," detailing his AT experiences (followed by the movie in 2015).
The AT has an almost mystical attraction for our East Coaster imaginations, but I think I've figured it out, because I also have fallen prey to it. To paraphrase a favorite author of mine, the forest is my church: Mother Nature has decorated the glade and God has filled the air with peace and wonderment.
We picked up the AT near Boonsboro, off of U.S. 40 (exit 42 off of I-70), but for our planned hike, the AT was simply a means to an end, vice the entire point, as it is for the several "nobo" (north bound) through hikers we encountered. We were headed to Annapolis Rocks. From the parking lot, head toward the old US 40 pavement, then take a sharp left. Very quickly, you can hear I-70 traffic. In a minute or two, the AT I-70 overpass comes into view; turn right, following the AT north.
Although you parallel I-70 for a few minutes, soon you veer away from the highway, and start the uphill portion of the hike.
The hardest part of the hike is about a quarter mile in -- that's when you do the full elevation in roughly half a mile, but you're still fresh and have a lot of energy. The good news: it's doable, even for those less than optimally fit.
The tree cover provides plenty of relief from the warm summer sun as the trail levels off and allowing you to cool off from the exertion. However, there are plenty of patches not fully shaded, so prepare accordingly.
After that ascent, it's about another half mile of short rises and descents. Once you see the neighboring ridgelines to the right, you are on the ridge and it is easy walking to Annapolis Rocks. It's well marked, but you do turn left off of the AT to head to Annapolis Rocks; from that point, you again follow the blue blazes. At this point, you will pass the "caretaker's" campsite as well as, slightly further on, a privy -- convenient for those early morning hikers still processing their two cups of coffee!
Shortly after the privy, you come to Annapolis Rocks. The view is well worth the ascent! You can see west to Greenbrier Lake (in Greenbrier State Park) as well as northwest over the Cumberland Valley.
However, you don't go on this hike for solitude -- you just won't find it. Annapolis Rocks is one of the most popular day-hikes in the region, and for good reason: the view is amazing.
|Two day hikers had the right idea: contemplate the view in complete comfort!|
I read the reviews of this hike on several forums, and there were a lot of comments about the litter. Since that's a pet peeve of mine, I braced myself for the worst. But the worst never came. The trail was clean and litter free, although we did come upon the Caretaker, and he had a grocery bag filled with bottles and such, so it's through the efforts of Good Samaritans like him that the trail is so enjoyable.
You'll also notice several areas, immediately adjacent to Annapolis Rocks, that are fenced off. We are loving Annapolis Rocks to death -- killing the trees and plants immediately around the area. In 2002, a committee formed to address the problem, resulting in camp sites being located away from immediately adjacent Annapolis Rocks and the two privies being installed. The area is recovering quite nicely -- vegetation is again growing back.
While on the hike, getting there, keep a lookout for the beauty around you. In appears in small ways, from the toad hopping across the trail to mushrooms and wildflowers.
Know before you go: The distance is 4.9 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of 875 ft. You can expect the hike to take you 2.5 to 3 hours.
Getting there: The trailhead is located off of US 40, just East of Greenbrier State Park. From I-70, take exit 42 onto MD Rt 17 North. Follow into Meyersville and as Rt 17 turns right, until you come to US 40 west. The parking area is located on the south side of Route 40 (left side heading west, right side heading east). The only real good identifying sign is a Smokey Bear fire condition sign across from the parking area. From the parking lot, head to the West side of the lot where you will find a trail sign. Follow the blue blazes a short distance until you meet with the Appalachian Trail (AT) near the I-70 overpass. Turn right (heading north) onto the AT and proceed.
Hours: Dawn through dusk.
Dogs: Practically mandatory!
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