Brian and I drove from my apartment in Baltimore to Harper’s Ferry to hike the Loudon Heights trail. This was not our first adventure of the summer or our first adventure of 2014, but it was our first time on the Appalachian Trail. In reflection, I wish I had better chronicled this year. Brian and I have had the most wonderful adventures together.
In brief, the Loudon Heights trail, though hyped as being a very challenging hike was an enjoyable, easy to moderate day hike with several great views of the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. The hike begins in Harper’s Ferry, a very interesting, historic tourist driven town nestled between Maryland Heights and Loudon Heights. Being in such a historic location, parts of the trail featured plaques describing events and battles that occurred.
Brian and I used this hike as our first “trial” with our new 40-liter backpacks; he even went as far as packing his sleeping bag and sleeping pad. As funny as it sounds, it became instantly apparent that our backpacks gave us trail clout. After passing several couples [evidently out for day hikes] that cleared the trail to make way for us, we came upon an entire Cub Scout Troop that parted to either side of the trail for Brian and me to come through. At first we were impressed with ourselves and then we realized: the big packs made us look like thru-hikers- gods of the Appalachian Trail world. We quickly laughed that we had unknowingly duped other hikers that day.
Along the trail there were numerous scenic lookouts and a couple of points where the trail crossed open fields for power lines. The final vista on the loop hike was a rocky drop-off to the confluence of the Rivers. Though the trails weren’t very populated, swarms of people taking advantage of the beautiful, sunny day were floating in colorful tubes down the Rivers. They looked like a bunch of fruit loops- literally, a bunch of Fruit Loops.
We decided to take advantage of the open space at the vista and cooked our lunch. Using the Whisperlite we made our first ever freeze-dried meal: Chicken a la King. We weren’t fully sure what to expect. What exactly is "a la King"? When we opened the rehydrated foil pouch of food, it smelled surprisingly appetizing. Though we had packed for a trip much longer than an 8-mile day hike, preparing to eat noodles out of a bag made it apparent we had forgotten utensils. Left with no other option but to use our hands, Brian and I improvised by cutting green twigs off of a nearby tree and making chopsticks. I can’t think of a better, more appropriate way to eat Chicken a la King and I certainly can’t think of anyone I’d rather have shared a foil-bag packaged freeze-dried meal with.
The hike back to Harper’s Ferry was quick. We stopped on the way at a small duck pond tucked away off the trail and we also detoured from the trail to visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Outpost in Harper’s Ferry. Though visiting such a place is cliché and kitsch, I appreciated being surrounded by other people who are as excited and passionate about being outdoors as I am. I also found being their incredibly inspiring because there were handfuls of small children accompanied by parents in the ATC. It is so important to raise children with a love for the outdoors.
Naturally, Brian and I finished the hike with a round of beers at a little pub in Harper’s Ferry. All-in-all, a beautiful little day hike that comes with my highest of recommendations.