"A True Story"
As a solo section hiker, I've completed about a third of the trail. Quiet three-to-five day sections in the offseason are a precious escape from a busy schedule. A few summers ago I planned the short 40-mile section through Maryland, from Harpers' Ferry to the Mason-Dixon Line near PenMar Park. It was a perfect late summer weekend, on a laid-back section of trail, with my favorite boots and a forecast for warm sunny days and cool nights.
I am also an amateur student of civil war history and was looking forward to the trail in Maryland with parks and monuments and proximity to the great battles at Antietam and Gettysburg.
On a lovely still-summer September morning I headed north from Harper's Ferry. After following the C&O Canal towpath and the sparkling Potomac River for a few miles, the trail climbs the ridge of South Mountain and makes a beeline north. It makes for a pleasant long walk, with rare vistas across the Maryland countryside.
A few miles later the trail dips to pass Crampton's Gap. As the trail leads down from the ridge to the road crossing it passes through a series of old dry-stacked stone walls. Some still standing, others reduced to heaps of rubble, they remind us of the labors of those who toiled here long ago. Although this was my first visit here, a sense of déjà vu dawned as I approached the gap. As the trail left the trees, I stepped across an opening in an old wall and felt an intense pain in my left shoulder...
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