The annual 4-state challenge in 2021 must not have felt challenging enough since it left a few, including me, thinking what if we stretched the challenge to 50 miles. To make it DCUL’s first trip with a 50-mile day – at least intentionally – we gave it a go this year. And boy, was it hard!
A good number of folks dropped out of the 50-mile version or the classic 44-miler leading up to the event. This left 5 of us still in: David O. (Spiderman), Jonathan (Shenanigans), Kyle (Waterdog), Steve (Baconator), and I (B.A.). Most of us had opted for the 50-miler and some got peer-pressured. We added 6 miles to the Southern side, which would still allow us to crawl to Pen Mar (crawl, we did!), so we would start at David Lesser Shelter. We also had an amazing trail angel crew: Adam (Too Early), Kristen and Shane (Dad Jokes) – more on them in a bit.
After setting up the shuttle, the night hike to the shelter was swift. We settled in and counted ourselves to be lucky to have the shelter to ourselves, until two guys showed up late in the night, with two dogs, heavily startling us, and decided that they needed to make a fire next to our crew. The thing I took away though was that if I was in a shelter, and there was a chance of bears coming into the shelter at night, man I would want Kyle to be there ‘cause he would most probably scare the hell out of the bears!
I am not going to write a lot about the hike itself: it was long, there were ascents, descents, and yes, there were stupid rocks! We all started between 12:45 and 1:45 AM, with the fear of not making it to the Pen Mar rocks before dark. The early AM headlamp hiking is always the toughest part for me, but I must have been really into my podcasts this year since I felt the night pass by briskly. Right after sunrise, there were a couple of really nice sections where the sun rays hit the vibrant trees – we did time it right to see peak colors in the Southern parts, although in the Northern sections, things were just past peak colors. The weather was perfect – with night temps in the 40s, with the days sunny and in the low 60s. Baconator and Waterdog decided to call it at I-70 and Wolfsville Gap road, with a very admirable 30 and 40 mile distances under their belt! Eventually, Spiderman, Shenanigans, and I finished between 6:45 and 7:15 PM, just barely needing our headlamps towards the end! Victory! Pizzas! And promises to never do this again!
The trail magicians played a huge role in our victory by lifting our spirits with cheers, food and drinks! There were many highlights, but probably the biggest one was Too Early unexpectedly showing up with hot coffee and doughnuts at Gathland State Park – it made Shenanigans, Spiderman and I giggle with joy when only a few minutes before, we were solemnly thinking about how far we still were from the first goodies at I-70. Kristen brought her A-cheer-game, celebrating each milestone with us with joy (and I can attest Pickles is great trail magic)! Shane brought some dope soft pretzels, and took amazing snaps of us that may actually make you all think we were having fun. Huge thanks to you all for your support!
Now, as many of you may know, DCUL has signs next to member’s names for hiking long distances, like ‘!’ for hiking 30 miles and ‘@’ for hiking 40 miles. With input from the group, I am excited to unveil the sign for 50 miles: ‘#’ because boy we took a ton of pound-ing on this trip!
All in all, it was great to challenge ourselves and get a sense of our limits. I am very eager to see if more folks would be willing to give this a try next year. I, for one, am not planning to do the 50-mile version again. Pretty sure. I think.
Pics from the trip: https://photos.app.goo.gl/KipYryUS1Q1xENhPA
Check-out the updated Hall of Fame (no asterisks this year): https://dculbackpacking.com/hall-of-fame/
Sign-in sheets at I-70 & Woflsville Gap Road:
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