The Four State Challenge

I am currently in Harpers Ferry, WV with 5.8 miles remaining in this thoroughly idiotic accomplishment. I do not have the energy to find a good resource that describes what this is, beyond what you can probably guess it is. (I might continue an extra three miles to the first shelter in VA, which would also net fifty miles for the day, but that decision will definitely wait until after the state line.) If someone can find such a resource, I’ll update this post with it when I can. Four State Challenge will work about as well as anything for describing what the challenge is. After grabbing some food (wrapped deli sandwich or similar) to eat for dinner when I stop for the night, I’m heading back out to finish the day; hopefully I’ll be able to eat the food and get a bear bag or something going before collapsing into sleep from sheer exhaustion.

Tomorrow’s hike will be a shorter-than-average day.


  • There’s apparently some funky trail-winding near the border such that it’s only 1.9 miles to one crossing of the Virginia border, so in reality that was all the distance I actually needed to cover. The Thru-Hiker’s Companion book doesn’t really make this clear, and 5.8 is to the last of the “Virginia sections”.
  • I ended up completing the full 5.8 plus the remaining 3 to that first shelter, for 51 total for the day.
  • Even if you’re a thru-hiker, you can never let your ego grow too huge, or else it’ll be deflated when you read the register at that first shelter and discover another crazy southbounder started from even further into Pennsylvania and thus hiked a 60-mile day. I never had any illusions of extreme hiking prowess, but if I had, the southbounder Rock Layer would have trashed them completely.


  1. http://tgaw.wordpress.com/2007/05/17/appalachian-trail-four-state-challenge/

    On the one hand, people do ultramarathons, so *shrug*. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultramarathon

    On the other hand, I tried to walk from Germantown Square to the edge of the Mississippi River one time. That’s about 25 miles of completely flat terrain. My friend ran out of feet after we had gone about 17 miles. He had no feet left, I tell you.

    [I agree in some sense it’s not hard – but only if you’ve prepared for it. Anyone who’s walked half the trail, has pushed themselves a bit, and makes miles by speed rather than just by long days can reasonably do it. Your friend probably didn’t have quite that much training beforehand, I expect. 🙂

    What made it hardest for me was the presence of an arbitrary time deadline – the ATC office from which I made the post closed its doors at 17:00. If I didn’t make it that far by then, I would have had the dilemma of deciding whether to stop early, push on and not get my picture taken to be in the yearly roster of thru-hikers, push on and double back the next day, or some other similarly unpalatable option. I had to move a few tenths of a mile an hour faster than I’d preferred to have moved all day to get there in time, and those extra tenths are what really killed me. I arrived at about 16:20, and over the course of the daylight hours when I really pushed it, all it would have taken was 0.2 miles an hour slower to have prevented me from arriving in time.]

    Comment by Jason Orendorff — 02.09.08 @ 18:52

  2. Just Goes To Prove………….

    Comment by Dad — 02.09.08 @ 22:38

  3. I assume a whole slab of ribs would be an acceptable meal when we meet you next week?? Any other requests?

    [It might well indeed be acceptable, if potentially a bit small. At this point I find it’s very hard to ever eat enough to feel completely full; I can believe I might need to eat more than that for my hunger to be sated.]

    Comment by Dad — 02.09.08 @ 22:47

  4. Waldo,

    I live in central Virginia about 30 miles from Waynesboro. If you need anything while you are here in Virginia, let me know.


    [Okay, will do! Family plans to visit me about the time I’m near Waynesboro, so I may be okay through then-ish, at least. We’ll see…]

    Comment by bc — 03.09.08 @ 08:50

  5. Did you make it to VA?

    [Yep, he made it. (The very last line of the video, as I recall; I don’t have sound on the computer I’m using to double-check, alas.)]

    Comment by Stephanie — 03.09.08 @ 18:44

  6. I think you should get crab legs AND ribs since your dad is paying.

    Comment by Aunt Jan — 04.09.08 @ 08:04

  7. And you should make sure your aunt buys you two lobsters for dinner the next time you see her!

    Comment by dad — 04.09.08 @ 18:16

  8. HAVE YOU SEEN KARL ?? the guy trying to break the AT speed record ???

    [Nope, although I did see a woman trying to break the female record; I can’t remember if I mentioned it or not when she passed me at the Kennebec. As to the guy, I hear he was making consistent progress but well short of what he needed to make, and I hear he had two weeks left with a thousand or so miles to go, including the northern 400 that are the hardest, so he’s not going to break the record. Or so I heard.]

    Comment by JKal — 04.09.08 @ 18:29

  9. Nope. I don’t have to buy him dinner any more. He’s a college grad. He should buy me dinner.

    Comment by Aunt Jan — 05.09.08 @ 17:00

  10. He’s going southbound so it should get easier as he nears georgia … he had to take two whole days off due to a shin injury, then a couple very slow days, but had 51 miles the other day so kinda back on track, but still well off the record i think. never know though, if he can crank out a couple huge days he might be back close.

    Comment by JKal — 06.09.08 @ 19:22

  11. funny, the guy trying to break the record has multiple sponsors using up tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in support, media coverage, a motorhome… etc. and the lady has zip?

    Comment by JKal — 06.09.08 @ 19:23

    I am a “crazy southbounder” who has just finished the trail at Springer Mountain. I have to say that my ego was definitely boosted when I read your update to the Four State Challenge. Thanks. Rock Layer

    [Rock on! I knew by now at least a few people, you, Flashdance was another possibility, would have finished or been really close to it by now. I’m down in Daleville, 720ish left to go, going steady around 20-25 a day or so and in great shape to comfortably finish before November.]

    Comment by "Rock Layer" — 18.09.08 @ 21:24

  13. 20-25 a day? awesome! how long will the whole AT take you when you’re done?

    [At this point I suspect I’ll be done around the start of the last week of October, roughly, about 135 or so days, I think. There’s still a way to go yet, even if it’s a “short” way.]

    Comment by JKal — 19.09.08 @ 17:52

  14. […] (ten is the maximum count I can remember, although I probably exceeded this when completing the Four State Challenge) while hiking twenty to thirty miles daily. (NB: my chocolate bar rate of intake effectively […]

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  15. […] don’t know much about Maryland; I walked through it in a day with barely a stop. There’s nothing special to it in terms of trail that I recall, although I […]

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  16. […] dry out enough overnight to really help matters. None of this bodes well for attempting the Four State Challenge when I reach the border in a few days or so. Still, that’s awhile off; we’ll see what […]

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  17. […] now is to hike to just before the Pennsylvania-Maryland border over four days, and then I begin the Four State Challenge, about which I have previously written in passing and on which I’ll elaborate — so much as […]

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