The following is the short report I posted on Hikingupward.com:
“16-18 Dec 11, 3 day backpacking trip from Lower falls parking to The Priest and return the same way. Temps were upper 30’s during the day, dropped to 21 Saturday night on The Priest. The stairs were icy going up on Saturday buy dry on Sunday going down. Weather was clear with sunshine. The priest has a very nice camping area suitable for multiple tents, the shelter can take a pretty good sized group. The spring at the shelter was flowing strong. From the top of the falls to the upper parking lot were 3 very nice camping areas on the creek. The area around the upper parking lot is not well marked at all and I didn’t see any signs making it clear the direction to the AT. The views from the Priest were pretty terrific and well worth the 15 minute walk from the campsite.”
Our hiking group, Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers (meetup.com), drove up with the intent to camp friday night at the Waynesboro, Va YMCA field located on the banks of the river flowing thru the city. However, the field had been recently paved over for a road, so we were forced to drive to the crabtree falls lower parking lot and search for spots to put up the tents. We barely squeezed in two tents next to the start of the paved path. In the morning I was able to locate 4 or 5 much better potential tent sites adjacent to the parking lot (if there is a next time.)
The falls are terrific and a true must see to anyone living in Va., They’ve got to be over a 1000′ tall, but over the course of 1.7 miles, You don’t see them all a once, they are a series of giant falls.
It was only 4.4 miles from the parking lot to the Priest. From the upper crabtree falls parking lot you follow a road for a short distance, then pick up the AT to the Priest shelter. It’s a terrific place to camp.
We collected deadfall and made a huge campfire. We started hiking about 0930 and reached the priest about 1330, visited the priest overlook, then collected firewood. About 1600 we were joined by a newly formed hiking group, on their first hike, from CNU. They were all wearing blue jeans and had only light coats, I thought they were very under prepared. Their plans were for a 5 day hike! Yikes.
It got down to 21 Saturday night. On Sunday, we packed up and hiked out, taking only about 2.5-3 hrs.
Jimmy S. arrived at the crabtree falls late Friday night and slept in his truck. He also got up early and prepared egg and sausage biscuits for everyone saturday morning! My Hero!!!
He also carried biscuit mix to the shelter, I made a large glob of a blueberry muffin, on my bakepacker, it fell apart, but we ate it anyway.
We were met at the upper parking lot by Bonnie Sherpa-San and Mike. Amazingly Bonnie had completed a trek in Nepal last year, just like Meghan Sherpa, so they had that to discuss. It is extremely interesting and educational to learn from their experiences.