Report from the C & O One Day Hike

By The Lame Bard, Harpers Ferry, WV - May 2007


Since there was support and interest from the Indy Hiking Club for their intrepid entrants in the C& O One Day Hike, the lame bard journeyed to Harpers Ferry, WV, to provide an eyewitness report on the hike and our hikers.


The course: The One Day Hike goes on a portion of the tow path of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal that parallels the Potomac River for about 180 miles. The 100K (62.1 mile) course started at Georgetown in the Washington DC area and goes to just past the 60 mile maker on the tow path. The course then crosses the Potomac on a foot bridge and goes for more than a mile through historic Harpers Ferry, up a couple of steep, seemingly interminable hills and ended at a local community center. A great advantage of the course is the soft natural surface is foot and leg friendly. It was particularly soft this year since there was rain the night before, but that also had the disadvantage of making gravel and sand sticky and some invariably ended in hikers’ shoes. The tow path is between the canal and the Potomac and in portions is very scenic. The last third is not very scenic and is rather monotonous, but after 40 miles the hikers tend to be rather focused on the trail directly ahead and on making that next step. Since the hike starts in darkness at 3AM, the hikers walked for over 2 hours in pitch dark. Hiking in the dark was described as cool and surreal, and the miles just send to speed by. One could see the moon reflected on the surface of the canal and hear the Potomac rushing by on the opposite side. About 5:30 AM the light gradually appeared and the hikers were surrounded by water on both sides. Beautiful gray rock formations bordered the canal and hikers walked by the rapids at the Great Falls of the Potomac. What a sight. However, the best sight is seeing the pedestrian bridge over the Potomac signaling that the hike was nearly ended.


A local Sierra Club organizes the One Day Hike and does a very good job. They provide ample food and water at 7 support stations spread throughout the hike, so the hikers do not have to carry provisions. The support stations are staffed with friendly volunteers that can treat injuries and blisters. If in a moment of insanity the reader would consider doing a long hike, this is reportedly an ideal one.


The hikers and the day: Steve and Cindy West, Jeff Edmondson, Anthony Povinelli, Bonnie O’Connor, Frank and Rita Bymaster left Harpers Ferry at 1AM in a van bound for Georgetown. Three alumni from Arizona also participated in the hike. They were excited to be started after months of hard training, but also were concerned about the rigors of hiking 62 miles and the unknown challenges awaiting them. The temperature was about 55 degrees and it was quite humid at the 3AM start. This was very helpful since the hikers did not need to have extra gear to keep warm as required last year. Later in the day, the skies cleared and the temperature climbed to about 75 degrees. In the afternoon the sun came out and the hikers were becoming concerned about the heat. However, a providential cloud cover came and the temperature dropped. In the early evening a very light drizzle helped to cool the walkers.


Results: 218 hikers started the 50 and 100 K hikes and 172 finished. The first person finished in at 4:27 PM and the last at 12:45 AM. Rita, Frank, Cindy, Jeff, Steve and our two friends from Arizona triumphantly finished the 62 mile hike. Anthony and Bonnie finished 42 miles after struggling with knee pain, foot pain and serious blisters. Rita, Frank and Cindy finished in under 15.5 hours which was an average of faster than 4 miles/hour including breaks.


Wonderful Women Walkers of the Indy Hiking Club: The hiking club is blessed with some wonderful women hikers. Our gracious and lovely 79+ triplets are amazing hikers. We also have less mature females who can hike with anyone for any distance. For example, Rita and Cindy were the first female finishers and were at the front of the pack in this event. Congrats to our talented women on a great hike.


The Coveted Lame Bard Awards:

The lame bard closely observed the event and after several interviews awarded to the following participants The Coveted Lame Bard Awards based on outstanding accomplishments (in most instances).


Superman Award: Steve West is awarded the top award – the Lame Bard Superman Award - based on the amazing accomplishment on finishing 62 miles in spite of minimal training. In fact, Superman Steve did only 4 hikes in training – one can imagine he would have beaten Cindy if he would have done 4 more hikes.


Purple Heart Award: Bonnie and Anthony are awarded the Lame Bard Purple Heart Award for struggling through pain due to foot surgeries and knee injuries during training hikes. The physical challenges continued during the event, but they still bravely completed 42 miles.


Rookies of the Year Award: Jeff is awarded the Lame Bard Rookie of the Year Award. He fought blister issues throughout training and was unable to complete long training hikes due to the blisters. During this hike rookie Jeff was once again troubled by blisters and described his feet as hamburger at the finish (more on this later). He was walking with Frank for the first third of the hike and was walking at a fast pace. However, blisters and stone bruises became painful and Jeff had to stop for significant periods at several support stations to have his blisters wrapped. In spite of this tough guy Jeff finished in an outstanding time, particularly since this was his first long hike.


Iron Will Award: Cindy is awarded the Lame Bard Iron Will Award. Although not in top shape and still struggling with pain from recent surgery on both feet, Cindy again demonstrated the mental toughness and true grit that she is reputed for. She went out at a torrid 13-14 minute/mile pace and basically held it for the whole 62 miles. She was among the top finishers in the hike.


Finish-and-Faint Award. Frank is awarded the Lame Bard Finish-and-Faint Award. Unfortunately this takes some explanation. After finishing the event Frank was beating his chest and exalting over beating last years time by two hours. Across the room a male hiker fainted and Rita turned to look at that hiker and then turned around and found that Frank had slipped from his chair and lay pale on the floor (the rumor is that he has done this before in endurance events). If the lame bard’s memory is correct, he recently took a picture of two hikers recovering on the floor after Mary’s 80th birthday hike and harassed them with it – what goes around comes around. Unfortunately there is no photographic evidence of Frank’s faint. The aid workers made the pathetic, shivering patient lay on the floor next to the women’s restroom. His penance was listening to the finishing female hikers snicker at him as they walked to the john. He heard whispered remarks such as that old man should stick to 5Ks. In the meantime, Rita walked back to the hotel, returned with the truck, and poured Frank into it. He rapidly recovered by taking a hot bath in the hotel room. For the record, Rita assured this reporter that after walking 62 miles she definitely was not in that tub with Frank.


Clara Barton Award: Rita is awarded the the Lame Bard Clara Barton Award for compassion and nursing skills beyond the call of duty. Not only did she slow down so Frank could keep up with her during the last 10 miles, but R.N. Rita nursed him with true compassion after the finish and faint debacle. There was no mention of ‘tough it out big guy,’ ‘buck up,’ or ‘I see no blood so it can’t be that bad.’ Her compassion and forbearance as well as endurance are admired.


Serious malady in Harpers Ferry: Each year at this time there seems to be a serious malady afflicting hundreds of people in Harpers Ferry. It is described as the COGS (C & O grimace and shuffle) syndrome. It involves a number of sweaty people who are shuffling around in stocking feet and grimacing at each step.


Drama on the Canal: Each year there seems to some drama surrounding the Indy hikers at this event. Last year it was the furious search in the dark for the lost estrogen patch in the weed patch. This year it threatened to be a crime scene investigation drama. As mentioned above, Jeff’s feet were folded, mutilated, stapled and homogenized after 62 miles. He carefully cleaned and patted the wounded feet with a towel when he got back in the hotel room. As he was preparing to leave the hotel in the morning, he heard the maid call her supervisor to check something out. The maid was carrying the bloody towel and was imaging that some dastardly deed had taken place in that hotel room. Jeff quickly assured them that the blood was from his foot wounds and not due to some nefarious deed. (Did anyone happen to check on Penny’s whereabouts?)


Waxing philosophically: Interviews with tired and limping hikers the day after the hike, suggested a consensus that they would not do this hike again next year. The training involves long, time consuming hikes, and the hike itself requires an enormous mental and physical effort. However, this reporter looks for that attitude to wane as the blisters heal. He suspects that once again Indy Hiking club hikers will turn in some outstanding performances in the 2008 C&O One Day Hike.


Disclosure: The Lame Bard alone takes full responsibility for the contents of the report. Any truth or factualness in this report is purely coincidental.