Day +45, Friday

Photo of the Day: The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, as seen from Gathland State Park, Maryland and Crampton’s Gap. Nature, hiking, backpacking, trail running, time outside has been a big part of my life for the past 10 or so years, and regardless of what was happening in my life (illness, broken heart, scary diagnosis, divorce, medical and life complications, the NIH, cross country moves, new love, starting over) – trails such as this have always been there for me. I was really excited to get to the AT and share today’s 4-mile hike with Mom for a few reasons. 1) I’ve been to this spot before and picked out a favorite coffee mug from the pottery place that’s about 500 feet west of where this photo was taken 2) I’ve hiked through en route to completing the AT 4-State Challenge in 18 hours (which is why I got the pottery mug, to commemorate that accomplishment) and 3) Because if I walked 600-ish miles south from this sign, down the spine of the Appalachians, I would find myself near Asheville, NC, and all things that are Home for me. I love feeling connected in that way, through trails. It makes me believe in possibility and promise while reminding me of my strength, grit and resilience. This picture makes me want to set goals and plan for future adventures; but better yet, reminds me of who I still am, even in this new, post-transplant phase of my life – a girl with fire in her belly, who wants to explore, challenge herself, and stay busy living.

Today we played Whack-a-Mole with my skin. Mom applied the hydrocortisone cream liberally to a few patches on my head, neck and upper back both morning and evening. Nothing is really moving yet, nor does it feel bad yet, but we’ll do our best. We also spent time exploring, road tripping and hitting up not just one, but two Starbucks. Yes, we are living dangerously.

Why hello there, my little friend. I ordered the Peppermint Mocha. I’ve never had a Peppermint Mocha. It was delicious and I shall order more in the future.

Last night, Mom and I hatched a plan for today, that we confirmed over breakfast. Mom stuck with her dairy free yogurt and I branched out to scrambled eggs. In my pre-transplant life, I love scrambled eggs. Today they were, eh. Not the best, but then again, I scrambled the heck out of them, food safety and all. After sorting my pills for the week, chatting with Dad and Andy, we were off! Starbucks first – my Peppermint Mocha was divine and Mom enjoyed her Irish coffee Cold Brew – and then to Van Wilder Pottery, a 70-minute drive from Bethesda.

The 270 wasn’t bad, and eventually we merged with the 70. At some point, we exited towards Middleton, MD and then took something called a pike towards Burkittsville, MD. Yes, it was filmed for the Blair Witch Project and yes, people steal the town sign – especially around Halloween, according to the pottery folks. But the town and surrounding area is beautiful, in spite of it’s tragic history with the Civil War.

Maryland rolling country, between Middleton and Burkittsville. South Mountain is the range in the background and Crampton’s Gap/Gathland State Park is the small notch on the left side of the photo.
Van Wilder Pottery. This has to be my favorite pottery place ever – I love the feel of the mugs, the glazes, the creative genius that creates these works of art. And I love the fact that 5 years later, I’ve still got my mug. For the record, I bought a second – a way of commemorating my return to this spot, post-transplant.
They have added 2 lovely golden doodles to their family. The baby gate and chair usually work to keep them contained.

After pottery, Mom and I explored Gathland State Park and the War Correspondent’s Memorial (circa 1896, to memorialize journalists killed in wartime). The stone walls are incredibly old, and were, at times, used during Civil War battle for protection. The entire area is a beautiful commemoration; I’ve been very impressed at the historical descriptions, monuments, information centers and permanent fixtures that the state of Maryland has placed to denote historical significance during the Civil War.

War Correspondent’s Memorial
Stone Wall, Gathland State Park. Originally the area was the estate for George Alfred Townsend (1841-1914) who during the Civil War, wrote under the pen name of “Gath”.
Ruins on the northern side of the park, next to the AT. I’m not sure what happened here – I thought Christine and I read a sign about it, but was unable to find said sign. And it was cold and we had just hiked 4 miles, so we returned to the heat and the car (not in that order).

After looking around the park, Mom and I headed South on the Appalachian Trail, walking along the spine of South Mountain. The initial climb was slightly steep and had my heart and lungs pumping. Eventually things evened out and we walked, selecting our steps carefully. Maryland is rocky, not PA rocky, but rocky enough – especially for a 70-something dynamo who normally whoops things up in Water Aerobics. I’m continually impressed with Mom, that just needs to be said. After 2 miles, we hit our dirt trail intersection (not much of a view, if I’m going to be honest) and turned around, headed back towards the car and gap. The return was easier – no blinding sun and both of us having already slipped and slid at times, knew especially what to watch out for.

Hello AT!
Nope, we didn’t find her glasses. I let her use mine, as I’m stuck wearing my glasses for a few months, an effort to keep my eyes lubricated while being on the lookout for Graft vs Host of the eye.
I’ve always been a tree hugger ❤

Once back at the car, heater cranked, Mom and I drove back through Burkittsville and back towards Middleton, enjoying the bright colors of the setting sun, intermingled with the greens and golds of fields and farmland all around. Plus, I have a thing for red barns, so I stopped to take a few pictures. At some point, I even got a honk from a passing truck – I took it as a compliment and just waved. The light and trying to capture what I could envision in my mind was the trick, and I loved the challenge.

And then it was home. The 70/270 wasn’t bad, and I mostly sang in between conversations with Mom. We stopped for a second Starbucks for the road, and traffic behaved. I inhaled my chicken noodle soup for dinner, relished the iced gingersnaps for dessert, and had fun watching Pride & Prejudice with Mom. What a classic.

I’m feeling good, as a whole. Tired, and my eyes are tired because it’s late. My eyes, especially my left (even under my eye) is a tad puffy, and for bed, I put on my lymphedema wrap around my lower right leg. Sure, there was car time and my right leg does tend to swell a bit, but I just want to keep things as manageable as possible. Mom Whack-a-Moled my back and later, I chatted with Andy and edited some photos from today. Now it’s time for bed – I can’t wait.

Tomorrow…? Technically it IS tomorrow. No clue, but I’m sleeping in. Goodnight!

  1. The two of you are definitely making the most of your time as you explore the countryside. I’m glad all is going well, despite the loss of the sunglasses.


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