From start to finish, this hike hit me like a ton of bricks. It took about two and half hours, and I ended up crossing six and a half (6.5) miles with an elevation gain of just over 1,600ft.
Honestly, I hadn’t thought much into it, I had been in downtown Frederick and made the spur of the moment decision to go out for a hike instead of going home. Originally I thought of Sugarloaf Mountain, but since Maryland Heights was closer than usual I decided “why not?” I’d been doing some research into local hiking trails, and Maryland Heights seemed to be pretty popular and was said to have a stunning view over Harpers Ferry.
The thing with Maryland Heights, there are two main trails over the ridge, the first heads about 2 miles up the mountain, and the other goes down to the Harpers Ferry overlook. When I realized this… I stopped for a few minutes at the map and decided that I’d take the two-mile path up to the old fort on the top of the mountain, and it’d force me to complete the full four-mile loop and then head down to the overlook. Unbeknown to me, the first two miles are practically straight up the side of this mountain. It was incredible to be able to stop along the way and hear how the soldiers in the civil war would be tasked to drag hundreds of logs and cannons up this trail, and it was extremely sobering to see their stories and know that even Lincoln turned back when he looked up the trail’s slope.
As I crested the hill and made it to the top, I was able to stop and take a moment to catch a breath and have some water. Looking out over the surrounding area I was able to see just how much the area has transformed even over the last few hundred years. From a forested mountain to a large military fort clear cut across the top, back to an incredibly beautiful forest, relics of the war were visible with each step. On my way down I reflected on how quickly things can change, and it gave me a new appreciation for all the things I have, but also led me to see how each action we have, even if it’s incredibly small, can make a huge impact.
I spent the remainder of my hike all the way down to the overlook listening to a podcast from Tim Ferris with Alex Honnold and was able to learn about his “dirtbag” lifestyle and how he looked at fear. Once I made it to the overlook I couldn’t help but climb out to the farthest ledge and take a breather. The view was more incredible than I could’ve imagined, and I’m hoping to take the time in the upcoming year to kayak down the Potomac. Once I finally got headed back I was surprised how much harder the hike back up was, but I made it in one piece, and met a very personable mother and daughter pair and heard of their upcoming summer plans and their desire to make it back home and take a nap after their hike.
Finally, I made it back to the base, and the walk along the Potomac back to the car was so refreshing. With my adventure coming to a close it really solidified for me how closely connected we are with nature, and the relaxing and restorative effect it has on us. I realized no matter how long the trail seems, if you head up the mountain, you’ll have to come back down. The same applies to our own struggles, they may seem incredibly menacing, but if we face them head on, we’ll realize it wasn’t as bad as we initially thought.
I’m looking forward to getting out into nature more and making a point to get out and take some time just to myself, to reflect on all that’s going on around me and just have a moment to breathe.