A Walk Across America: Road to DC

You don’t have to know what you’re doing; no one ever does. It’s just about getting comfortable with that uncertainty, and making the best of it.

Day 14

I gathered up my clothes, left to dry in the nighttime breeze. I tracked down the sock that had blown into the grass.

It was a cold morning, so I packed up quick, just to start moving.

Rising Sun in Rising Sun \ \ 4/8/17

Rising Sun in Rising Sun \ \ 4/8/17

I stopped down the hill, where the wind couldn’t reach me. Sat down at a picnic table and ate a pack of graham crackers. Truly, I was living the life.

I walked out of Rising Sun, with the rising sun on my back. It was a quiet walk. Too quiet. I desperately needed new headphones, as soon as possible. I had walked that week in February, without music, and sure it was fine, but after having walked with the rhythm, and then to lose it? Music, is like color; you can live without it, but after knowing the difference, why would you want to live without it?

I got to Highway One, which would take me all the way to Washington DC.

Green Streak \ \ 4/8/17

Green Streak \ \ 4/8/17

Outside a roadside diner, a man gave me six bucks. “For a coffee,” he said. I got some tea instead, can’t stand coffee; it did not cost six dollars. I think he was just one of those decent type of people, you hear about on occasion.

The walk came to a sudden and abrupt halt a few miles later, when I came to the Conowingo Dam. A long narrow strip of concrete and speeding cars. Two lanes wide, one for either direction, it divided the Susquehanna River, and offered exactly no way for me to cross. No footpath, no shoulder, hell, there was barely a two foot buffer between the cars and the railing, separating traffic from the 40 foot drop into water. I stared at that damn dam for a while, trying to find some creative solution across. Maybe I could time it, I thought, until a truck zoomed by, the full width of the lane, and all I had was the mental image of Ishkabibbel paste, and a 10 car pile up. Big fat Nooope.

It’s one thing for my stupidity to get me killed, I wasn’t going to risk anyone else on account of it.

But there wasn’t any other way across, without maybe an entire day’s hike to get to another road, which might, for all I know, look exactly the same. When I left, my family had told me exactly one thing to avoid: hitchhiking. I hadn’t explicitly agreed, I figured it’d be necessary at some point, in a situation exactly like this. I just didn’t expect it to come up so soon. Of course, I had no idea how to go about this. How to convey, help! I need a ride, I won’t try to murder you. While at the same time saying: don’t try to murder me either. Thanks. I wouldn’t have stood a chance trying to flag down a car on this road, but for my luck, there was a stop sign on just before the dam.

The Dam \ \ 4/8/17

The Dam \ \ 4/8/17

I stood at the intersection, waving at drivers, and approached any that didn’t immediately break eye contact. If not for the fact that it was chilly out, and their windows were already rolled up, I imagine I would have caused such a reaction. Definitely a humbling experience. I felt like a goddam leper. To be so readily discarded, so easily ignored, and looked over with sheer contempt. If I wasn’t a New Yorker, it might’ve damaged me emotionally.   

The stigma around hitchhiking is so prevalent, I actually felt like I was doing something wrong, just asking for a short ride. That feeling of uncomfortable guilt and social embarrassment. This was the first and only time, I was glad to have shaved my beard at the start of this. The less negative stereotypes you conjure in the person’s head, in a 3 second glance, the more likely you might get a ride. At least that was my thinking, still without a ride. Not so self-reliant now, are ya? One guy that did roll down his window, flat told me, “no, I don’t know you.” How well do you have to know someone, to give them three minutes in your passenger seat? I wonder.

“Hi, there's no walkway here, I’m just trying to get across to the other side. Can I get a ride?” For the half hour I was out by that stop sign, I probably only got to ask the question four or five times. I only got a response three of those times.

I was caught off guard, when a guy responded with a shrug, “sure, come on.” Quick as I could, I tossed my pack in the backseat, and hopped in. I introduced myself (still going by Michael at this point), and shook his hand. He was a twenty-something, clean shaven; his name was Scott. We chatted for a few minutes, crossing the dam. On the other side, he dropped my off in the parking lot for the visitor center.

Random Barn \ \ 4/8/17

Random Barn \ \ 4/8/17

I thanked him for saving my hike.

I spent my break at the visitor center. There was a small photo exhibit of some incredible eagle shots, taken by some local photographers. They’d wait by the river for hours, day after day, with their lenses like telescopes, waiting for one of those birds to dive towards the water to pluck their meal from the current.

I was still walking, late in the day. It was Saturday, and I was trying to position myself to reach Baltimore by Monday.

Rolling Hills \ \ 4/8/17

Rolling Hills \ \ 4/8/17

Route One, took a climb up a long hill. At its peak, I got an incredible view of miles of rolling hills, with the sun hovering above. I wanted to stay there, but I had to go a little further yet. I lingered just a bit longer, before turning back to the road.

A scattered stack of Uno cards littered the roadside.

I was running out of daylight, in a neighborhood with large mowed lawns, and tall maintained hedges. I saw a treehouse, and picked my mark. The treehouse peeked out onto the road, between the trees, blocking the house from view. My hopes sank as I saw how extravagant the property looked. No way, some rich folks gonna let me camp by their swanky looking house. Like, this place was nice. Really nice. These people weren’t decorating their lawn with bushes, and flowers, instead they decorated with 30 foot high evergreen trees.

I’d already walked up, so I was committed, to asking, if only to avoid looking like I was casing the place. As I approached the door, I had one last thought to just walk away, and then a dog started barking in the window. And then another. It’d look real weird to walk away now. I rang the bell. I waited for a bit, and a little girl peeked out the window. I waved, but was super nervous. I started backing away from the door; maybe they’re home alone? Then a big man opened the door, he had a mustache like my dad’s.

I said my practiced words, half expecting him to threaten me to leave. He had one of those stern faces, and looked like he was sizing me up. He seemed to relax when I finished talking, and to my surprise, he agreed. He showed me to a spot below a large tree in the middle of the yard. He even asked if I needed anything, or even a ride to the store to buy provisions. “No, no,” I said, “I’m pretty well set, just more than grateful to have a spot to set up.” He gave me his name, Brian, and I thanked him again.

He’s a landscaper contractor, which explained why his property looked so nice. He’s got two young daughters, and 3 loud dogs. I could tell he was trying to balance that worried parent instinct, to keep a stranger away from his family; but also wanting to set an example for them, to help someone in need. I apologized, if I had scared the girl through the window. He told me, he hadn’t heard the door, that his daughter had told him someone was outside.

Leftover Feast \ \ 4/8/17

Leftover Feast \ \ 4/8/17

He came back out, a few minutes after I’d set up my tent. Said his family had just eaten, and offered me “some of what was left.” I agreed readily enough, expecting some scraps and morsels. “Leftovers,” turned out to mean, four slices of pizza (dominoes, if I remember right), a plate of spaghetti some cookies and gatorade. I was a happy hiker that night, to not have to crack open the usual jar of peanut butter.

Full & happy, asleep by 9pm.

I was trying to get within 30 miles of Baltimore (specifically where I’d be staying in Baltimore), and I was spending the night 28 miles away. I’d put in 17 today. At 189 total.

Day 15

Morning Air \ \ 4/9/17

Morning Air \ \ 4/9/17

I’d made eight miles by noon.

Nothing to write home about, (although, checking the archive, apparently I did) but I usually dawdled a bit in the mornings. Also after the mornings. I took a long hour and a half break at another Wawa; which were becoming my primary source of sustenance, with both hot and cold food options, and spaced conveniently every few miles along the highway.

Lens Flare \ \ 4/9/17

Lens Flare \ \ 4/9/17

The week was catching up with me, the miles, and the hard sleeping. It slowed me down the rest of the day. My feet were sore, and I was exhausted. I needed a break. A day off, or two. I needed a bed, and a shower, and to do my laundry.

I needed to get to Baltimore.

I was walking around a suburban neighborhood, in Nottingham, Maryland, just scoping for a good house to approach again. I hated to rely on this so soon after doing so the night before, but no other options presented themselves, and I didn’t want to keep walking into the night.

Two elderly women struck up a conversation, as we all walked down the sidewalk. They asked where I was heading with that big pack? “Well I’m trying to walk across the country. Too early to tell how far I’ll get though, so who knows where I’ll end up?”

They asked a few more questions, and I tried to pivot the conversation, all sly like, hoping this conversation would lead to some type of trail magic. I asked if they knew of any parks, or something nearby, where I might be able to camp for the night. Hint, Hint. They said, no, nothing like that. I said, “well sometimes what I have to do, is knock on a door, hope they’re friendly, and camp in someone’s yard . . . .” Super overt hinting. Suddenly those old ladies, were wishing me luck, and turning down the next corner. I sighed my weary sigh, and kept moving.

Nottingham Sky \ \ 4/9/17

Nottingham Sky \ \ 4/9/17

The neighborhood was too clean. An HOA, no doubt (HomeOwners Association; a neighborhood committee of sticklers, who tell you how your home and property must look, and be maintained). All the houses weren’t identical, but they all looked the same; no personality, no individuality.

How was I supposed to correctly guess which door didn’t house a Psycho-Killer?

The minutes stretched as I wandered up and down the cul de sacs, on my aching legs. Just pick one! I thought to myself. But not that one . . . . Or that one . . .

As I was about to circle back around the way I’d come, a car pulled into a driveway. A man began unloading a kayak, and what looked to be tools, into his garage. The kayak was a good sign, adventurous and outdoorsy; the tools were less a good sign,  bludgeoning and burying a body. I was still far enough off to make up my mind, but I was heading in his direction. Something about it just made me nervous. I wasn’t going to ask, until I saw a woman in the garage. It satisfied the No-two-psychos-theory. At that point I made the direct approach, as he was finishing unloading.

It was almost too easy. And I felt kinda weird again. He had just immediately agreed, and showed me into the backyard. He had an accent, I couldn’t place. It was a big backyard, stretching all the way to the desolate looking road behind the row of houses, powerlines hung high over it. The patio along the house, led to a pool, and he opened up the small pool house. There was a kitchen, and a half-bathroom. He came back with a couple of slices of leftover pizza, and I caught his name as Lou. I set up midway through the yard, away from both the house, and the road. My exhaustion might’ve been making me paranoid, but I couldn’t shake this uneasy feeling, and I had a hard time getting to sleep.

In my tent, I always kept a few things close at hand: my phone, my flashlight, and my knife. Tonight my hand stayed close to the knife, and my ears were keen to the sound of the gate, should it be opened.

Add another 18 miles for the day. 207 total.

MoonLight PowerLines \ \ 4/9/17

MoonLight PowerLines \ \ 4/9/17

Day 16

Lou was a really good guy, but not too talkative. I felt like shit, for thinking he might try to murder me all night. And then he handed me 40 dollars. Well, he’s the nicest guy ever, and I felt even worse.

Aside from a few bucks, I hadn’t been offered money to this point, so I hadn’t decided how to handle it. I remembered my mom, she would often drive friends home, and when they’d try to offer cash, it’d invariably lead to that incredibly awkward exchange, her insisting not to take it, them insisting she should. Depending on who it was they might even end up throwing money back and forth at each other, competing to be the better friend. I wasn’t going to do that. If someone wants to help in some way, that’s their decision. And I wouldn’t pretend I didn’t need it. I just asked if he was sure. He insisted, so I took it, gratefully.

Pay it back, or pay it forward; good needs to flow. That’s important to know.

Baltimore Bench \ \ 4/10/17

Baltimore Bench \ \ 4/10/17

I had just 10 miles to go, to my destination in Baltimore. It was a rare occasion, for me to know  where I would be spending the night ahead of time, instead of the usual improvised chaos method. It was at 10:30am, I realized I had crossed into Baltimore, when I passed a bench, with big letters written across it: “Baltimore, the greatest city in America.” So far, I hadn’t seen anything particularly “great,” but hey, I just got here, maybe it was further in.

I stopped a few times to talk with strangers on the street; a man on crutches named Frank, a Jehovah’s Witness named Sandy, a woman at a bus stop named Tammy. They were brief conversations, and I don’t quite remember what any of us said, but it was encouraging just to share a few words. Another guy, younger, and working at a car lot, called out as I passed. “Where you comin’ from?” He asked.

“New York. I walked.” I watched as his mind was blown, with disbelief.

“No way! How long that take?”

“16 days of walking.” (And one month of recovery, I didn’t mention that part.)

“How far ya goin’?”

“As far as I can. Trying for California.” Again his eyes went wide.

“How long that gonna take?”

“I have no idea.” The most honest words I could ever say.

“Why?”

“Cuz I’m broke; ain’t got a car, so I’m doing it the long way.”

He thought for a second, like he was deciding whether to ask his next question or not. “You meet any chicks doing that?” I’m laughing real hard on the inside, at that, but only a chuckle slipped out.

“Nah. Chicks like guys with cars.”

“Yo, word.” He was laughing as he got back to work. And so was I.

Old Church

Old Church

It hit 70 degrees (fahrenheit = 21 C), which was suddenly warmer than I was dressed for, with my layers, and all the walking. I was definitely feeling the miles, wearing on my body.

A lot of the outskirt buildings seemed burned out, rundown or closed off. But heading downtown, the buildings got progressively taller, and the crowds grew denser. I got to HI Baltimore (Hosteling International), around 2 in the afternoon. At the front desk was a young woman named Navi. (She was well aware of the Legend of Zelda.) Her father was a navigator in the Navy, hence the name.

HI Baltimore Bunks

HI Baltimore Bunks

For less than 30 bucks, I had a bunk, and settled in. My gear wouldn’t all fit in a locker, so I chose to forego it, and pushed my pack under the bed, hoping in the mutually beneficial relationship of travelers trusting each other not to steal each other’s stuff. I took a shower, and went back out to walk around the city.

The first thing I hear, back outside, is a driver cursing out a pedestrian, and she cursed him right back. Just like home.

I had to check the post office, I had ordered a replacement set of headphones, to be sent there. (Because idiot me, didn’t think to have them sent to the hostel. I’d never gotten mail while traveling before, so sue me.) There were complications. My first attempt at general delivery, and I learned there was maybe more to it, than I’d been led to believe.

Comic Shop

Comic Shop

I walked through different shops and outdoor spaces. Feeling light as air, without 30-something pounds weighing me down. I stopped in a comic shop, just to look around, and wound up in a 30 minute conversation about Star Wars, with the girl behind the counter.

Back at the hostel, I spoke to a traveler from France. Ashoune, he’d been, for the last four/five months, traveling from city to city, country to country. He told me he would move to Montreal, for the love of his native tongue, but he preferred the heat of Florida. His favorite place so far was NYC. (We traded Instagrams, and a few messages back and forth since then; he’s still traveling two years later. Algeria, Kenya, Egypt, Zambia, Cancun, India, Germany, just to name a few. Hasn’t yet settled down.)

I went to the basement and put my laundry to wash. Reordered my headphones, this time for pick up at a walmart, just outside Baltimore. But that would mean an extra day waiting for it.

My parents let me know that their friends in DC, weren’t much interested in putting me up for a day or two.

No sweat lost, hoping on old acquaintances.

Just waiting on the dry cycle to finish, then it was off to bed.

I’d walked 12 miles throughout the day. 219 total.

Day 17: 0 Day

Flowers in the City

Flowers in the City

My first zero day.

(A day without walking miles on trail, typically spent in towns, doing errands, or relaxing.)

I started by making myself some pancakes in the communal kitchen. Across from the hostel, was  the Baltimore Basilica, a big dome topped catholic church. I tried to go in for a tour, but the grumpy security guard turned me away, with my walking stick; “might be considered a weapon.” Which was the flimsiest wording I’ve ever heard, to be barred entry. No water bottles allowed either.

Thwarted by Catholicism.

Blossoms at the Fort

Blossoms at the Fort

I kept walking, until it was time to meet up with a group from the hostel, going on a short trip to Fort McHenry. Crystal, who worked at the hostel, and Joseph and Steven, traveling from Austria. The guys were waiting for an RV rental, they were going to drive across the states. (And for over five months they did, all the way into September, from the east coast to the west.) Meanwhile Crystal gave us perspective on working at a hostel, and making friends from all over the world. (A really unfortunate circumstance, convinced her to leave the city, some weeks after I passed through. She moved back home to the woods, working with little kids and baby animals, and just being an all around decent human being.)

Through the Circle

Through the Circle

We played frisbee on the grass fields outside the fort, and walked along the water. Crystal said, she didn’t think I’d make it to California, because I walk too slow. To which all I can say is, I definitely won’t make it if I’m in a rush. And besides, it was my day off. Then me and the Austrians, hit an art museum, which was definitely not worth the price of admission. I split off on my own to get a burger and some cheese fries.

I spent some time walking around the city after dark too. Went up to the top of a parking garage to check out the skyline. (Most cities, just feel small and empty, compared to New York, I would find out.) I hunted for some late night ice cream, but after too long searching, I settled for a slush at a 7/11.

Baltimore Skyline

Baltimore Skyline

I headed back, and was asleep at midnight, despite some loud snores, from one of the guys in the room. I was used to noise, and it didn’t keep my still exhausted body from shutting down.

Zero day, yet I still wound up walking about 11 miles. So screw it, I’m counting them. 230 total.

Day 18: 0 Day

Blue Drums

Blue Drums

More pancakes, because why not? I walked around a library, hit aa art history museum, way better than the last one. Checked out a music shop, and got some ramen. Then I got a chunk of pure fudge, from a candy shop. All that only took me until just after 2 in the afternoon. So I cut it short, and went back to the hostel, and read a book, The Wayfarer’s Handbook. It was a really good book, and funny, about why to, and best practices for, a traveller lifestyle. I read it cover to cover. And I backed up my pictures onto my flash drive.

And that was the day. Walked about 2 miles. 232 total.

Lexington Market

Lexington Market

Konstant Candies

Konstant Candies

Day 19

Rec Room

Rec Room

It was as I sat in the lobby, packed and ready to go, that I realized the sad truth of travelling.

It’s not just home you leave behind, but every single place you form connections along the way. I’d made friends in Baltimore, locals, as well as others on their own adventures. Our paths crossing only for a small while, before parting to far corners of the world.

There’s still more to see; more to explore; & more to leave behind, further down the road.

“The Journey is the Destination”

“The Journey is the Destination”

I got the email, that my headphones were ready to be picked up, just as I got to the Walmart; lucky break. I plugged ‘em in and hit the road.

Sunset on the Lines

Sunset on the Lines

I stopped by a police station, and then a fire station, both to ask if there was anywhere I could camp for the night. The officer told me about a rest stop,, but it was off the interstate, I found out, and inaccessible to me. The firefighters were running drills. One told me about a field a few miles up the road, where I could hide out for the night. This turned out to be one of those instances, where people don’t really know how to measure distance, because they drive everywhere, so they kinda just pull a number out of their head. Fortunately it was a mistake in my favor. It was about half a mile to the field.

It was already dark when I’d stopped at the fire station. I had my flashlight out as I walked along the wide highway. I found the field at 9:30. It was a wide strip of grass, below power lines. When traffic was scarce, I slipped over the thin wire fence, which held a “No Trespassing” sign. I set camp as far in the clearing, away from the power lines, as I could get. A small stream ran along the edge of the field, by tall stalks of grass. The moon shone bright through sparse clouds.

Late Nights

Late Nights

Starting at 11am, and losing an hour to the Walmart pick-up counter, I still managed 17 miles; clearly I needed those zeroes. 249 total.

Day 20

Phone Booth

Phone Booth

Up at 5 in the morning, I was packed and gone just as the sun peeked over the horizon. But I was missing my spare traveler wallet. I looked everywhere through my pack, and couldn’t find it. It had my flash drive, my emergency contact card, and over a hundred bucks. So that sucked. I thought maybe I’d left it at the hostel, somehow, but I rarely took it off my person. I couldn’t believe it. Of all the things to lose, literally the thing tied to me? How? It pretty much soured the mood, right from the get go, but I tried not to focus on it.

I called the hostel, later in the morning, and asked them to keep an eye out for it. But I had no hope that it’d be turned in.

I passed an old payphone, that morning. The phone had literally been ripped out, the cable snapped. The base of it, had also been tampered with, the cover plate removed, exposing the wires below, as well as an outlet. I tried it, and it worked. So I recharged my phone, for a while. It wasn’t urgent or anything, I had charged everything in Baltimore, and DC was pretty close. Mostly it was just to take a break.

16 miles this day, got me right across the DC/ Maryland border. 265 total.

Barnard Hill

Barnard Hill

Being cheap to justify my laziness, I decided, since it was already 7pm, I didn’t want to walk 2 more hours to get to the hostel in DC, and have to pay 45 dollars, for such a late arrival. So instead, I walked a couple blocks over, to Barnard Hill park. Exactly what it says on the tin, it was a big steep hill. I walked up and at the top, it was a large clearing with a short trail, looping around some picnic tables.

A family sat at one table, closest to the climb. I settled in at another, and ate my dinner. I waited for the rest to clear out, then I got to work finding a spot.

Camping would have been easy, dead center of the clearing. But stealth camping, not so much. The hilltop was flat and wide open, off the top it was sloped steep and thick with brush and trees. I should have looked for a different location, but I guess all my quiet nights had me complacent. I set up by a tree, on the far edge of the hill, where the incline was more gradual.

I woke up to red flashing lights.

It was 10:30 at night, and there was a police car outside my tent. I've never been prone to panic, and torn from my slumber, the only thought my brain could muster was, well shit.

I called out first, because maybe he was busy calling for backup, or busting out the riot gear. “Hello?”

“Yeah, can you come out here?” yelled back, the officer.

I unzipped the tent, and opened the flap. The headlights were aimed directly at me, blindingly bright, that's the point.

“Uhh, sure.” Then I added, “can I put my shoes on first?” Me trying to keep things light, and casual.

Him, deadly serious, from somewhere in the white glare, “as long as I can see your hands.”

That was the sentence where my half-sleeping brain woke up.

The last few years had seen a lot of tension between law enforcement and minority groups. Misunderstandings, poor judgment, and just the wrong person for the situation, could turn any interaction into a fatal one.

I’ll tell ya, it’s not so easy to put your shoes on without using your hands. I could’ve just walked over without them, but if I step on broken glass, the hikes as done as if I get arrested.

I walked over shielding my eyes from the high-beams of interrogation. Stood to the side of the police cruiser, by the diver side, was Officer William.

I’ll admit, I felt a bit relieved to see it was a black cop.

I can’t really explain why, I’ve never really had a bad encounter with cops, myself; it just put me more at ease with the situation. Might be just a touch of racism, on my part.

The questions started easy enough: “Who are you? Where you from? Got any ID, on you?” The big question came while he ran my card, “Why are you out here?”

“Just sleeping.” I told him that I was hiking across the country, and was just too tired, and lazy, to keep walking today, when I stopped in the park.

He raised an eyebrow, and looked me up and down real quick. If he thought my story was bs, he didn’t say so. Just kinda nodded, and he said, “Alright, I’ll let you stay, since you’re not causing trouble,” meaning, I wasn’t drunk or high. But he also warned me, “if another cop comes through, they’ll kick you out.”

“I appreciate it,” I said, “honestly, I’m just gonna sleep. And I’ll be gone before the sun comes up.”

From the open flap of my tent, I watched the headlights disappear. Then I settled back in, and went right back to sleep.

Day 21

I woke up in a jail cell -- Nah, I’m just kidding.

Bambi down the hill

Bambi down the hill

Even more startling, I found my traveller wallet. It was just right there next to me. I have no idea how it got there, or how I missed it. I tore through my stuff searching for it, and then it just appears like it plopped out of a wormhole in the night. I tried to wrap my head around the conundrum for a while, before I snapped back to reality, and just started packing up. To this day, it's the most bizzare thing that happened.

Streets of DC

Streets of DC

5 miles to the HI hostel, in downtown DC; I was there by 9 in the morning. I checked in, and immediately took a shower. I stashed my pack in the locker room, not in an actual locker I just stuffed it out of sight in a little nook. I had breakfast in the trendy little cafeteria; nothing to write home about, just some cereal, a bagel, and some yogurt.

By 11, I was out on the streets of DC.

I’d been to DC once before, as a kid. I don’t remember any of it, aside from remembering it happened. So most of my knowledge comes from FallOut 3, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic ruined version of the city. Fewer super mutants in real life; disappointing.

I hit the National Mall, the long strip, with all the Smithsonian Museums. I wouldn’t have time to go through all of them, so I had to choose. Natural history, had too long a line so I passed. I got through the Art Museum, and of course the Air & Space Museum, because it’s the coolest one.

Motion in the Museum

Motion in the Museum

Aero

Aero

Entry is free into these museums, but I did pay $10, to do a flight simulation. I teamed up with a kid named Mattel, he wanted to pilot, so I was on the gun. I shot down two of the (nondescript) enemy aircrafts.

It was about this time, I was hit with a powerful craving for some fried chicken.

I got to a highly rated place just after 5. Only to find that they closed at 5. . . . What kind of restaurant closes at 5? That’s when people get off work, feeling hungry. It was another mile to the next place, which catered to my need, for a pile of deep fried meat.

I went back towards the Mall, and around the Washington and Lincoln Monuments, the Reflection Pool, and the WWII memorial.

Wander DC

Wander DC

In just the single day in DC, I’d seen no less than three protests, aimed at the newly elected President Trump. And one woman, stood outside the White House, holding a single sign, “release your tax return!”

Again I felt the need to explore the city at night. Get a sense for it. The streets were largely empty, save for a few of the larger avenues. There was more neon light, and more bars than I’d seen in Baltimore. Still it was remarkably quiet.

DC Streets

DC Streets

I walked at least 10 miles all day. 275 total.

Back at the hostel, after 9pm, I had a brief exchange with a girl from London, after we’d both caught the same elevator twice in a row. She was heading to New York City next, the place that wouldn’t let me forget it.

And I, I had decided, was heading next to Harpers Ferry, and the Appalachian Trail.

Day 22: 0 Day

The place was too big, I’d realized. The hostel in Baltimore was small, interactions were natural, just by matter of proximity. This one was eight stories tall, and people seemed more inclined to keep to themselves. It was also more expensive, for less of an experience. So I’d decided not to stay an extra day. I was done with DC. Time to move on.

Union Station

Union Station

Originally, I had thought to just walk west from the city, and hop on the Appalachian Trail, wherever I wound up crossing it. I’d since decided it would be best to get a sense for it, a primer, and some advice. It’d still be walking, but the setting would be wholly different, and I had to be ready for it. So instead I was going to head west and a bit back north, to Harpers Ferry, where the Appalachian Trail Conservancy was based. What better place could I get pre-trail prep, than the headquarters.

I was eager to start this next section of the hike. So I’d forego walking there, and instead catch a train right from DC, out of Union Station.

Before that I hit up an REI. I bought a new tent. The kind with those snap hooks, instead of sleeves to slide the poles through, which was the slowest part of the setup with my current one. I bought a water filter, to screw onto a water bottle. Wouldn’t be relying on tap water out in the woods. And I bought a bear bag. Bullet-proof food bag, to keep my candy safe, even from bears with guns. Just like that, I’d spent $265.

Walking towards Union Station, I’d hoped to pass a homeless person. The night before I’d seen some tents set up in a park. Sure enough, I walked by an overpass, and below were a bunch of homeless people living in tents. The closest one to me was a short middle-aged woman. I went over and asked if she could get some good use out of my old tent, or find someone who could. It was in decent shape, though I’d had to tape one of the poles, which had cracked. There was no way I was going to carry two tents anyway, and it’d never be used again if I sent it home. This seemed the best thing to do with it. And she was grateful for it.

Train Ride Transition

Train Ride Transition

At Union Station, I bought a ticket for the train. It was 3:40, and the train was leaving in just 25 minutes.

Boarding that train, felt like a really big step. A bit of adrenaline pumped through my veins. I stowed my pack, and found my seat.

Next stop: something totally different.

To Be Continued . . . .


Absolute certainty, is the sole domain of super villains, war criminals, and politicians. A little self-doubt is good for you.

Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Monument’s perspective

Monument’s perspective

Art Way Stairs

Art Way Stairs

Space Man

Space Man

Air & Space Museum

Air & Space Museum

Light on the Planes

Light on the Planes

USS Enterprise

USS Enterprise

Limo Under Sun

Limo Under Sun

Taxes??

Taxes??

Police Cruiser

Police Cruiser

DC Skies

DC Skies

Girl by the water

Girl by the water

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Boots Perspective

Boots Perspective

Resting on the Capitol

Resting on the Capitol

Lantern Alley

Lantern Alley

Lantern Alley: Day

Lantern Alley: Day